Revisiting the Oscars – The 1990’s Vol. 2

Alright, the other day I came at you with the first half of the 1990’s and my thoughts on whether or not the Oscars went to the correct movies and individuals. Now I’m coming in hot with the back half of the decade and some thoughts surrounding who the Academy bestowed Oscar glory to. Sometimes they get it right, other years it is way off. So strap your reading caps on friends and take a voyage through the late 1990’s films with me.

1995 – The 68th Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Braveheart – WINNER – 8.3 IMDB, 78% RT
  • Apollo 13 – 95% RT
  • Babe – 97% RT
  • Il Postino: The Postman – 93% RT
  • Sense and Sensibility – 98% RT

So out of the nominated pictures, I’m not overly upset with the winner. Braveheart is a great story about William Wallace who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence from England. It is a typical over dramatized version of the story which is fine when it is well done and this is. Apollo 13 also follows this model and tells one of the most harrowing stories of America’s space program. Both are well done and either would have been a deserving winner, but of the two I think Oscar probably got it right. The bigger surprise in 1995 is the number of very good films that didn’t even garner a nomination. Toy Story, the first major Pixar hit, is considered one of the finest animated films of all time. Also snubbed were Casino, Se7en, The Usual Suspects, Leaving Las Vegas and Dead Man Walking. All of the films except Se7en were nominated for major awards (acting, directing and screenwriting) and Leaving Las Vegas garnered nominations for Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay. Relatively amazing that this film didn’t garner a Best Picture nomination given the other praise heaped on it.

Best Actor – Nicholas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas

Best Actress – Susan Sarandon – Dead Man Walking

Best Supporting Actor – Kevin Spacey – The Usual Suspects

Best Supporting Actress – Mira Sorvino – Mighty Aphrodite

Best Director – Mel Gibson – Braveheart

Man remember when Nick Cage was a well respected actor? It’s sort of amazing to think that he has been nominated for multiple Oscars and won this one. Now we only think of him for his crazy over-acting capabilities. I mean the man who won the Oscar for 1995 follows up his trophy with Con-Air and one of the worst accent jobs in recent movie history. Put the bunny down Nick…put the bunny down.

Susan Sarandon’s win capped off an amazing run. From 1991 – 1995 she was nominated 4 times finally winning for Dead Man Walking. Kevin Spacey is freaking amazing in The Usual Suspects and totally deserved this win. It’s a great film that didn’t get enough credit at the time but has fully morphed into cult classic now. Gibson’s win for Director is fine. The other’s nominated aren’t some who’s who of great film directors so I can live with it.

1996 – The 69th Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • The English Patient – WINNER – 84% RT
  •  Fargo – 8.1 IMDB, 94% RT
  • Jerry Maguire – 82% RT
  • Secrets & Lies – 94% RT
  • Shine – 91% RT

I know that my opinions on this year are gong to strike a chord with fellow Forum Magnum contributor C. Smith as he has expressed his feelings towards The English Patient multiple times to me, but guess what…the Oscars got it wrong! I actually believe that both Jerry Maguire and Fargo are more deserving of the honor with Fargo being the most deserving and the movie that should have taken home Oscar glory. The Coen brothers would eventually break through with a win for No Country for Old Men. However, Fargo remains one of their best films and one that was certainly snubbed from a deserved Best Picture win.

Best Actor – Geoffrey Rush – Shine

Best Actress  – Frances McDormand – Fargo

Best Supporting Actor  – Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire

Best Supporting Actress – Juliette Binoche – The English Patient

Best Director  – Anthony Mingella – The English Patient

Best Actor was an interesting category this year. Rush’s win denied Tom Cruise’s best chance for an Oscar when Cruise was nominated for Jerry Maguire. Rush also held off Ralph Fiennes for The English Patient, Woody Harrelson for The People vs. Larry Flint and Billy Bob Thornton for Sling Blade. It does surprise me some that the Oscars didn’t reward Cruise in this category. He had a previous nomination in 1989 and was probably the biggest movie star in the world at the time. This seems like it would have added up to a win, however, it wouldn’t be the last time in the decade that Oscar would elude Cruise. The other acting categories didn’t really surprise this year, even though you could tell that Cuba likely doubted that he would ever get a nomination, let alone a win. I guess his future film choices seem to support this doubt. Snow Dogs anyone? The Coen’s were snubbed for director as well…just sayin’. I leave 1996 with this:

1997 – The 70th Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Titanic – WINNER – 88% RT
  • As Good as it Gets – 86% RT
  • The Full Monty – 95% RT
  • Good Will Hunting – 8.2 IMDB, 97% RT
  • L.A. Confidential – 8.3 IMDB, 99% RT

Ok so everybody and their brother saw Titanic this year (except me). It grossed over $600 million upon it’s initial release in the US and was the first movie to crack $2 billion globally. At the time of it’s release the only movies to crack $400 million domestically were Star Wars and E.T., which both needed multiple releases to hit that number. So yeah it basically dwarfed the box office competition. Yup Jack and Rose captured the imaginations of pretty much every teenage girl across the globe and the MPAA voters. Guess what? They were WRONG! Seriously, this one is probably the third worst decision made by the Academy during the 1990’s (Goodfellas #1 and we haven’t got to #2 yet). This is another year where two nominated movies, Good Will Hunting and  L.A. Confidential, would be more deserving. Throw in the non-nominated Boogie Nights and you have three films that deserved Oscars glory more than the eventual winner.

Personally, I would have gone with the riveting L.A. Confidential. This is a seriously amazing movie about a few rogue cops taking down corruption in the 1950’s Los Angeles police force. Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincennes the Hollywood cop who puts it all on the line to help out Guy Pierce’s Ed Exley who is the Boy Scout cop who’s moral code is above all. Russell Crowe as Bud White the bruising enforcer for Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) who is the crooked police captain that uses the police as his own murder squad. Throw in Kim Basinger’s Lynn Bracken, a high class hooker who eventually falls for Bud but also takes the payday to set up Exley. It’s an explosive twisting plot surrounding the Night Owl murders and should have been recognized.

Best Actor  – Jack Nicholson – As Good as it Gets

Best Actress – Helen Hunt – As Good as it Gets

Best Supporting Actor – Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting

Best Supporting Actress – Kim Basinger – L.A. Confidential

Best Director – James Cameron – Titanic

When in doubt vote Jack. I abide by that decision. Solid line up of other venerable actors nominated (Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Duvall, Peter Fonda) and newcomer Matt Damon. Not sure who came in second there, but I would guess Damon who got a screenwriting Oscar with Ben Affleck for Good Will Hunting. Hunt, Williams and Basinger are all deserving of their awards and the supporting categories both held off great performances from Boogie Nights with Burt Reynolds getting a nomination for Jack Horner a venerable director of 1970’s porn and Julianne Moore as Amber Waves a 1970’s porn star who was the pseudo “mother” of the other actors in their merry band of players. Finally, fuck James Cameron. I don’t care how much I enjoyed Aliens, Terminator, T2, etc… I’m still pissed off about Avatar. That movie was a serious piece of shit. Gus Van Sant or Curtis Hanson should have won for Hunting or L.A., respectively.

1998 – The 71st Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture 

  • Shakespeare in Love – WINNER – 92% RT
  • Elizabeth – 82% RT
  • Saving Private Ryan – 8.5 IMDB, 92% RT
  • Life is Beautiful – 8.6 IMDB, 80% RT
  • The Thin Red Line – 78% RT

I alluded to it earlier, and this is the second worst decision by the Oscars during the 1990’s. Seriously, Saving Private Ryan is one of the finest war movies ever made and likely the finest World War II movie ever. The first 30 minutes of that film are some of the most tense ever recorded. I remember seeing this in the theater in 1998 and walking out everyone was just silent. I had never experienced anything like that before. It was a surreal feeling to share in something so heavy with everyone in that theater. It really made me think of movies in a different light and shaped the way I have continued to view films from that point forward. Beyond Ryan there are a few interesting films that were snubbed of a nomination this year. American History X, The Truman Show and The Big Lebowski all missed out on a nomination. Now I realized no one thought of Lebowski as a contender in 1998 and this is another film that history has shined a brighter light on. However, isn’t that part of this? How we look at films after 20 or so years of history with them. History has shone brightly on Lebowski and Bridges  is likely a Best Actor winner if we judged this now. I mean, he’s The Dude man or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing…

Best Actor – Roberto Benigni – Life is Beautiful

Best Actress  – Gwyneth Paltrow – Shakespeare in Love

Best Supporting Actor – James Coburn – Affliction

Best Supporting Actress – Judi Dench – Shakespeare in Love

Best Director – Steven Spielberg – Saving Private Ryan

Best Actor should have gone to Hanks in my opinion for Saving Private Ryan. He was pretty terrific in this film. I feel like I should be more angry than I am about Paltrow, but honestly I haven’t seen much of the other films that garnered a nomination for their leading lady. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth was probably the one who has the most to be upset about here. Meryl Streep was also nominated, but that was likely because she put out a film that year. I think it’s in the Oscars’ by-laws that if she is in a movie she has to be nominated. I mean how else do you explain 20 nominations? The supporting actor awards, no real comments. I think there was some controversy at the time with Judi Dench because she is in the film for all of like 2 scenes and 3 minutes. I guess she made them count. Spielberg of course is totally deserving.

1999 – The 72nd Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • American Beauty – WINNER – 8.4 IMDB, 88% RT
  • The Cider House Rules – 71% RT
  • The Green Mile – 8.5 IMDB, 80% RT
  • The Insider – 96% RT
  • The Sixth Sense – 8.1 IMDB, 85% RT

This is a year when I do think that the Oscars got it right, and that may actually be the unpopular opinion for this year. I have met a lot of people over the years who think that American Beauty is terrible and honestly I just don’t see their argument. It features three powerhouse acting performances from Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning and Chris Cooper. The story telling is well paced and contained good visual queues. I still enjoy this movie a ton and think it holds up. For those that support The Green Mile, I think that story is pretty damn thin. Basically, the mystical man who is wrongly accused cures Tom Hanks’ UTI with his kung-fu grip. Then he gets fried. For The Sixth Sense camp, has there ever been a movie where your opinion of it drops as dramatically upon the second viewing? Nope, didn’t think so. Once we know Bruce (spoiler alert) is deader than Bill Belichick’s soul the whole reason this movie was riveting is lost. That’s why I roll with my bro Lester Burnham on this one.

One other quick point, Fight Club (10th all-time IMDB), Being John Malkovich (director nomination for Spike Jonze) and Run Lola Run (seminal film from Germany) were not nominated for Best Picture. All three would have been deserving of the nomination over Cider House.

Best Actor – Kevin Spacey – American Beauty

Best Actress  – Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry

Best Supporting Actor  – Michael Caine – The Cider House Rules

Best Supporting Actress  – Angelina Jolie – Girl, Interrupted

Best Director  – Sam Mendes – American Beauty

No issues at for actor, Spacey is plenty deserving of the award. For actress I would have gone with Benning over Swank. It’s sort of amazing that Benning hasn’t got the career award at this point. She has 4 total acting nominations, and this was probably the closest she came to the actual hardware. Swank’s win prevented American Beauty from sweeping the major awards in 1999 so maybe there was that. Michael Caine beat out Tom Cruise for Magnolia, Michael Clarke Duncan for The Green Mile, Jude Law for The Talented Mr. Ripley (totally underrated film) and the kid from Sixth Sense. This is another one where I am a bit surprised Cruise didn’t win. I actually love his turn as Frank T.J. Mackey, self-help pick up artist extraordinaire. He is manic character who is full of shit. It’s a great performance and should have brought home the Oscar.

Well that’s all I’ve got for you on this topic…for now. There is a rumor of a challenge to some of my thoughts so we shall see how that pans out.

See ya on the flip.

Jeff

Author: Jeff

There was some latin shit here once, but nobody uses that language now except the Pope…and I am no Pope. What I am is a student. Not a student in the literal sense, but someone who believes that you have to always be challenging yourself to learn. Not necessarily things we have learned from textbooks. My learning is more about putting myself in difficult situations to understand more about me and the world around me. It is the challenge that allows you to grow as a person. That is my philosophy. Some of the things that I will eventually get around to posting may focus on that, reflections on a life that has seen me through the rust belt to the new (and not so new) south and through a life abroad. However many of these posts will focus on the lighter things that interest me. My obsession with 80’s/90’s pop culture, my obsession with sports especially of the Cleveland and Ohio State variety, and maybe even my obsession with musical theater…who knows. Maybe somebody will read this, maybe they won’t…but that isn’t the point. The point is that if I find something interesting I will try to dissect it here, maybe not timely (I do have a day job) but eventually.

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