I don’t know if I could pinpoint exactly when my love for cinema was born, but I do know that some of the seeds were sown twenty years ago this year, during my freshman year of high school, when I began going to the movies with friends on a regular basis. One of the first I remember seeing on my own was UNFORGIVEN, which at the time had been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar but hadn’t yet won. Because of this, I really felt like I had a horse in the Oscar race for the first time.
Of course, I’ve had something of a love-hate relationship with the Oscars in the past couple of decades, but I always feel kind of sentimental about the idea of the Oscars, even if they almost always disappoint me in some way or other. Therefore, to commemorate the last twenty years of Oscar, I’ll be posting retrospective ballots from 1992, plus other anniversary years- 1997, 2002, and 2007- leading up to my final Oscar predictions on Sunday. I’ll include the “Big Eight” categories- picture, director, screenplays, and the four acting categories- plus animated feature when applicable. And if you have any additional remarks about your choices, don’t hesitate to post them too.
The Crying Game
A Few Good Men
Scent of a Woman
Should have won: UNFORGIVEN, no contest. Awesome as CRYING GAME is, UNFORGIVEN is a masterpiece, and one of the rare really deserving winners here.
Should have been nominated: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is twice the play A FEW GOOD MEN is, and twice the movie too.
Best Lead Actress
Catherine Deneuve, Indochine
Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish
Michelle Pfeiffer, Love Field
Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo’s Oil
Emma Thompson, Howards End (winner)
Should have won: Sarandon and McDonnell gave the best performances of the bunch, although part of me would award this to the great Deneuve, who got her only Oscar nomination here. Then again, it’s for effing INDOCHINE, so maybe not.
Should have been nominated: Not exactly a banner year for female lead performances, eh? Although if RAISE THE RED LANTERN was eligible, Gong Li definitely deserved a nod.
Best Lead Actor
Robert Downey Jr., Chaplin
Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman (winner)
Stephen Rea, The Crying Game
Denzel Washington, Malcolm X
Should have won: Washington still has yet to top this, although anyone but sympathy vote Pacino would have been fine.
Should have been nominated: Gary Oldman’s Dracula was one for the ages, and it’s too bad the Academy has never been cool enough to go for a performance as crazy as John Lithgow in RAISING CAIN.
Robert Altman, The Player
Martin Brest, Scent of a Woman
Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (winner)
James Ivory, Howards End
Neil Jordan, The Crying Game
Should have won: By this time, it was no longer a surprise that Clint Eastwood was an honest-to-goodness filmmaker, but he has yet to top UNFORGIVEN.
Should have been nominated: Spike Lee, who reinvigorated the old-school epic form with MALCOLM X, and on a non-epic budget no less.
Best Supporting Actor
Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game
Gene Hackman, Unforgiven (winner)
Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men
Al Pacino, Glengarry Glen Ross
David Paymer, Mr. Saturday Night
Should have won: Hackman. He’s almost a co-lead in this, but he gives good, un-fussy villainy and gets a surprisingly pathetic fade-out.
Should have been nominated: Sydney Pollack won Best Director for OUT OF AFRICA, but he never got his due as an actor- a shame, because his performance in Husbands and Wives is every bit as good as co-star Judy Davis’.
Best Supporting Actress
Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives
Joan Plowright, Enchanted April
Vanessa Redgrave, Howards End
Miranda Richardson, Damage
Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny (winner)
Should have won: Judy wicked-awesome Davis.
Should have been nominated: Michelle Pfeiffer got nominated for the wrong movie, dammit! Sorry, Anne Hathaway- Michelle’s still the Catwoman to beat.
Best Original Screenplay
The Crying Game (winner)
Husbands and Wives
Should have won: UNFORGIVEN's script is one for the ages, although I can’t begrudge the Academy its change to recognize the masterful misdirection of CRYING GAME’s script.
Should have been nominated: Quentin Tarantino's become an Academy perennial of late, so it's easy to imagine that RESERVOIR DOGS might have gotten nominated here today, though it's not like the voters would have paid him any mind back then.
Best Adapted Screenplay
A Few Good Men
Howards End (winner)
Scent of a Woman
Should have won: THE PLAYER. Altman’s effortless direction and Tim Robbins’ performance are aces, but Michael Tolkin’s acidic storytelling sets the tone nicely.
Should have been nominated: Alec Baldwin's "Always Be Closing" monologue was famously written just for the movie version of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, but it's become such an integral part of the text that it's actually been used in the majority of subsequent stage productions. If that's not strong adaptation, I don't know what is.