Revisiting the Oscars* – The 1990’s

Awards season has descended upon 2017. The Golden Globes and SAGs have come and gone. The BAFTAs are upcoming. Throw in a little Grammy action to break it up. Yes it all leads up to the granddaddy of all awards shows, the Oscars. I have found the Oscars fascinating for quite some time in my young-ish adult life. For 12 years I worked for the accounting firm that tabulates the votes for the MPAA and leadership would make a big deal about this each January and February as the regular people in the firm slugged it out though another busy season wrought with 18 hour days and sleepless nights. Apparently, I left my former employer too early as the firm has stepped up their rah-rah game this year by touring the “briefcase” around the country. Work perks indeed.

One of the things that I do find fascinating is how often the Oscars seem to get it wrong. Not like fully wrong, I mean it’s not like Gigli won anything, just a little bit wrong. Decent, but not great, movies win best picture all of the time (and I happen to think we are headed for another one of these outcomes this year…but that’s for another post). So I wanted to take a look back at our friend the Oscar and revisit some of its decisions. I figured a great place to start would be the decade of the 1990’s. It has been almost 20 years since that decade ended, so plenty of time to sit back and digest what was, what is, and what might have been.

For reference when listing movies I will include their rating if they are in the IMDB 250 and their Tomatometer score from

1990 – The 63rd annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Dances With Wolves – WINNER, 82% RT
  • Awakenings – 88% RT
  • Ghost – 97% RT
  • The Godfather Part III – 67% RT
  • Goodfellas – 8.7 IMDB (17th all-time), 97% RT

HOLY SHIT. This is a damn travesty. Seriously how in the hell did Kevin Costner win a best director Oscar prior to Marty Scorsese? Goodfellas is in my personal all-time top 3 and is almost as perfect as The Godfather in my opinion. Needless to say the Oscars got this one WRONG. Literally may be the worst decision in Oscars history. No this is not funny and it doesn’t amuse me.

Best Actor – Jeremy Irons – Reversal of Fortune

Best Actress – Kathy Bates – Misery

Best Supporting Actor – Joe Pesci – Goodfellas

Best Supporting Actress – Whoppi Goldberg – Ghost

Best Director – Kevin Costner – Dances With Wolves

I don’t have a lot of comments on the acting awards, mostly because I haven’t seen a lot of the nominated performances of the other actors. Irons beat out Bobby D in Awakenings and Costner in Dances. I guess when in doubt go with Bobby back then. Bates beat out Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge. I suppose the Julia role is probably more iconic now, but Annie Wilkes is a mean cuss so I won’t go against that. Pesci deserved it hands down. Whoopi…sure I guess. Costner is just a damn joke to have won this over Marty.

1991 – The 64th Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Silence of the Lambs – WINNER – 8.6 IMDB (23rd all-time), 95% RT
  • Beauty and the Beast – 93% RT
  • Bugsy – 85% RT
  • JFK – 84% RT
  • The Prince of Tides – 73% RT

So overall they got it right this year in my estimation. Silence swept the Oscars that year winning picture, actor, actress, director, and screenplay. In the process it joined It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest as the only films to sweep the “big five” Oscars. One small thing to note is the exclusion of Boyz n the Hood from the best picture nominees. This is one of those looking back on it situation where you realize that given the time and place we were in as a society that movie would never get nominated. However, it’s damn good and holds up still to this day. Now go and eat some liver and fava beans…

Best Actor – Anthony Hopkins – Silence

Best Actress – Jodie Foster – Silence

Best Supporting Actor  – Jack Palance – City Slickers

Best Supporting Actress – Mercedes Ruehl – The Fisher King

Best Director  – Jonathan Demme – Silence

No big complaints here. Palance beat out Tommy Lee Jones for his role in JFK as well as Havey Kettle and Ben Kingsley from Bugsy. John Singleton did get a nomination for director for Boyz which is nice. Overall 1991 got it right.

1992 – The 65th annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Unforgiven – WINNER – 8.2 IMDB, 95% RT
  • The Crying Game – 97% RT
  • A Few Good Men – 81% RT
  • Howard’s End – 92% RT
  • Scent of a Woman – 88% RT

Overall another year where Oscar probably got the winner right…at least not tragically wrong. The bigger issues are two classic films in Reservoir Dogs and Glengarry Glen Ross not garnering a nomination. GGGR is seriously one of the best overall ensemble acting performances that we have on film from the past 30 years. Powerhouse Pacino, Baldwin, Lemmon and Spacey. It produced the line that defined Baldwin’s career.

Best Actor  – Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman

Best Actress – Emma Thompson – Howard’s End

Best Supporting Actor –  Gene Hackman – Unforgiven

Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny

Best Director – Clint Eastwood – Unforgiven

So overall, I’m not a fan of the career Oscar and that is exactly what Pacino got here. Not even close to his best performance and he likely got jobbed in the 70s of a statue. He was up against Downey Jr. for Chaplin, Eastwood for Unforgiven, and Denzel for Malcolm X. This career award likely lead to Denzel getting his career award for Training Day a few years down the line. Hackman beat out Nicholson in A Few Good Men for his statue so some may take issue with that, I don’t. It is stunning that Tomei has an Oscar, but it wasn’t a murder’s row she took down either.

1993 – The 66th annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Schindler’s List – WINNER – 8.9 IMDB (6th all-time), 96% RT
  • The Fugitive – 96% RT
  • In the Name of the Father – 8.1 IMDB, 94% RT
  • The Piano – 90% RT
  • The Remains of the Day – 97% RT

Pretty solid line up of good films in 1993. As much as I love In the Name of the Father the Academy nailed this one again. Schindler’s is an all-time classic and potentially Spielberg’s best work. It’s amazing what happens when talent grabs a hold of a story that is deeply personal to them.

Best Actor – Tom Hanks – Philadelphia

Best Actress –  Holly Hunter – The Piano

Best Supporting Actor – Harvey Keitel’s schlong – The Piano Tommy Lee Jones – The Fugitive

Best Supporting Actress – Anna Paquin – The Piano

Best Director –  Spielberg – Schindler’s List

Actor was a heavyweight battle this year between Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis. As good as Liam Neesons is in Schindler’s List he wasn’t going to take down two of the top 4 actors of this generation (Sean Penn and Denzel being the others). Personally, I would have voted for DDL in this category, but Hanks’ win is well deserved. Not much to say in the other categories other than Tommy Lee Jones handed Leo his first taste of Oscar defeat that would last until last year’s win. Oddly enough Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson were both nominated in both female acting categories. Also nominated for supporting actress was Rosie Perez…how the fuck did that happen? I mean she was likely my first big screen boobs that I saw in White Men Can’t Jump but man Academy Award Nominee…wild.

1994 – The 67th Annual Academy Awards

Best Picture

  • Forrest Gump – WINNER – 8.7 IMDB (13th all-time), 72% RT
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral – 95% RT
  • Pulp Fiction – 8.9 IMDB (7th all-time), 94% RT
  • Quiz Show – 96% RT
  • The Shawshank Redemption – 9.2 IMDB (1st all-time), 91% RT

WOW. Talk about a murder’s row of filmmaking. I have argued that 1994 may be the best all time year for movies. Three of the top 13 movies on the IMDB rankings. A highly underrated movie in Quiz Show that includes Ralph Fiennes best performance and quality Turturro work. You also have Disney’s best work in The Lion King which wasn’t nominated. Just a great year…but did Oscar get it right? In reality you can quickly throw out Quiz and Four Weddings, they are fine films but don’t stack up to the other three.

Forrest Gump gets major play for including one of Tom Hanks’ top 2 performances by any measure. It’s a great feel good story that mirrors the issues that surrounded our country throughout the 1950’s – 1980’s. There are great characters that Forrest encounters through his years. His never-ending love for Jenny, his devout friendship to Lieutenant Dan, his loyalty to Bubba, and Momma, his rock that keeps him centered on his hero’s quest.

Pulp Fiction it’s still to this day Quentin’s best work. He took home his first screenplay trophy for this one. It resurrected Travolta’s career and launched Sam Jackson into the mainstream. It also introduced us to Uma Thurman, has an iconic side character in Winston Wolf, some great Ving Rhames, above average Bruce Willis, and Walken talking about storing an uncomfortable hunk of metal in his ass. The non-lienaer cut of the movie was innovative as hell (or at least felt that way). The script is poetic. There are too many classic scenes to even count (Jack Rabbit Slims, the adrenaline needle, the gimp, Walken, etc…). Plus the soundtrack…perfect.

Then there is ShawshankShawshank probably holds the all-time record for Bill Simmons’ TNT views theory. It is one of those movies that no matter where it is when I turn it on, I’m in. It has one of my favorite lines in movie history, “Get busy living’, or get busy dying.” Red and Andy are probably my favorite movie buddies. Books was here. The warden is a great villain. All of the side characters of Shawshank State Penitentiary work, whether it be Tommy the greaser who wants to better himself and has the smoking gun for Andy, Captain Hadley’s authoritarian rule of the prision yard, or Heywood’s dumb country ass. I still want to find my way to Zihuatanejo, to find that boat and to work on it with Andy and Red.

It’s tough to say that Oscar went wrong here because there is noting wrong with Forrest Gump winning best picture in just about any year. Still this is 1994 and it’s not good enough to be great in 1994, you had to be classic, iconic, all-time. Also, are you going to argue with this guy when you say this isn’t the best picture?

Yeah, Pulp Fiction is the best movie of 1994. Time to dominate a royale with cheese.

Best Actor  – Tom Hanks – Gump

Best Actress –  Jessica Lange – Blue Sky

Best Supporting Actor – Martin Landau – Ed Wood

Best Supporting Actress – Dianne Wiest – Bullets Over Broadway

Best Director – Robert Zemeckis – Gump

No issues with Hanks winning for Gump, he beat out Morgan Freeman for Shawshank and Travolta for Pulp. Both of those guys would have been worthy as well. I’ve never seen any of the movies that got a nomination for their female lead so no comments there. Best Supporting Actor should have gone to Sam Jackson. Ed Wood is a fine enough movie and Martin Landau is good in it, but he is not Jules “bad motherfucker” Winnfield. Gary Sinise was nominated as well for Lt. Dan. Oddly enough Tim Robbins wasn’t nominated at all (although I assume it would have been for actor and not supporting). Out of the nominees I would have probably gone Quentin for director, oddly enough Frank Darabont wasn’t nominated for Shawshank which is a big miss by the Academy.

Well I was going to try and crank out all of the 90’s tonight but it’s late and I’m tired. I’ll try to post 95-99 tomorrow.

See ya on the flip.

*I believe that “Oscars” is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Feel free to sue me from the profits I make off of this article…suckers!


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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