Sunday, February 27, 2011

And the Oscar should have gone to . . .

At the 1991 Academy Awards, we would have given the Oscar for Best Actress to Michelle Pfeiffer for her role as Katya in The Russia House (below).

The Russia House

Tonight ABC airs the Academy Awards and we thought it would be interesting to look back at the last 20 years, and offer who we would have given one of the Academy Awards to each year instead of the winner.

1991 -- No one gave a finer performance that Pfeiffer as Katya and she wasn't even nominated. "1991" refers to the year the Awards were handed out, not the year the films were released. No performance carried more weight , the mother living in Glasnost Russia, hoping that her sacrifice and risks will provide a better life for her children. Heart breaking moment, after the party, when Katya tells Barley (Sean Connery), "I hope you are not being frivolous Barley, my life now only has room for the truth." And, later, when Barley tells her, "You are my only country now."

1992 -- It only seems more obvious with each passing year, Best Director should have gone to Barbra Streisand for The Prince of Tides. Though she received a Directors Guild Nomination, Streisand didn't get an Academy Award nomination.

1993 -- We roll our eyes at both lead actor winners. Al Pacino and Emma Thompson are deserving of awards -- including Oscars -- but we wouldn't have given them the statue this year -- not for Pacino's way-way over-the-top Hoo-haa! Scent of a Woman performance and not for Thompson's feisty walk through of a Merchant Ivory production that has so little to distinguish it from every other Merchant Ivory production. With Emma, she had some strong challengers and we would have gone with Catherine Deneuve for Indochine. With Pacino, looking at his fellow nominees, we're forced to agree he was the best choice. But he still won for his weakest/worst performance of his entire filmography (and, yes, we have seen Revolution).

1994 -- Sigorney Weaver and Jessica Lange are among the actresses who've been nominated in a single year for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. In Lange's case, she won Best Supporting Actress (for Tootsie) while Weaver lost out in both categories. No double nominee, in the history of the Academy, has ever picked up both awards. In 1994, Holly Hunter won Best Actress for The Piano and we don't dispute that win for a moment. However, we would have given her -- not Anna Paquin -- Best Supporting Actress as well for her role as Tammy in The Firm. The two roles were as far apart as possible and she excelled at both.

1995 -- Of the five nominees for Best Actor, we would have gone with John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) and not given Tom Hanks (the winner for the reactionary Forrest Dump) even a nomination. But the reality is that the strongest male lead performance of the year didn't even net a nomination: Johnny Depp in Ed Wood. It's with that role that he becomes one of the country's most talented actors.

1996 -- Would Susan Sarandon's colorless and lackluster performance have landed Best Actress if she'd been forced to compete with some of the year's strongest performances? We doubt it. And, no, Elisabeth Shue does not give strong performances and Sharon Stone's brilliant turn in Casino was in a supporting role. Among the women who should have been nominated for Best Actress that year but were not? Vanessa Redgrave (A Month By The Lake), Toni Colletee (Muriel's Wedding) and Nicole Kidman (To Die For) who should have won the award.

1997 -- Looking over the male acting nominations will not impress you and the actresses will only impress a little more; however, the big theft of the night was when Billy Boy Thornton walked away with the award for Best Screenplay Adaptation. Not only did all the other nominees actually write a film you can still watch, the best adaptation of the year didn't result in a nomination. The award should have gone to Elaine May for The Birdcage. Not only is it hilarious, the script remains the best film dissection of the press ever.

1998 -- Can someone please explain how neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Kate Winslet walked off with a best lead statue for Titanic? Leo didn't even get nominated. Titanic was the film of the year and would win Best Director and Best Picture. How did Leo and Kate both get robbed?

1999 -- If there was a war movie to award it was not Saving Private Ryan (which shoots its wad in the first 20 minutes and then goes on a long, long slumber) but The Thin Red Line. Terrence Malick should have called LAPD and filed a robbery report when Steven Spielberg was announced as Best Director.

2000 -- Hillary Swank is a fine actress but this year, we would have given the award to Annette Bening for her brave performance in American Beauty. Hopefully, tonight, history will correct the omission.

2001 -- She sports a push up bra and some confused it with acting. One of the least deserving wins of the last 20 years has to be Julie Roberts and her one-note performance in Erin Brokovich. Whether informing her boss (Albert Finney) that she has breasts or warning that toxins are in the water, Julia delivers every line in the same nasal jab. Not the child actors, not Aaron Eckhart as a love interest can flesh out the character because it's Julia Does Dead Pan. She won the Oscar and America bid her farewell. She's not been able to carry a blockbuster since and that's not just because her hair's been so bleached for the last decade it looks like dry straw.

2002 -- Having given it to the worst actress the year before, this go-round, someone must have said, "Hey, who's worst director." Which is how Ron Howard won for the controversial life story (the film was very creative with the facts) told in A Beautiful Mind. Peter Jackson, David Lynch and Robert Altman must have cancelled one another out allowing Opie to win for this snooze-fest.

2003 -- Though Roman Polanski does have talent, his work was the weakest of all the people nominated for Best Director. Stephen Daldry's work in The Hours still haunts.

2004 -- Let's share a little secret with you. Judy Garland? Never won Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. But before she was an adult, in 1939, the Academy did give her a Special Award for Outstanding Performance as a Screen Juvenile (for playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz). Shirley Temple got a similar award. In fact, from 1934 to 1960, this award was given out to keep cute little children confused with actors. We're bothered that Bill Murray lost Best Actor for his work in Lost In Translation and that Sofia Coppola lost as Best Director of the same film; however, we're stunned that Scarlett Johansson didn't even get nominated. Past time for 11-year-olds and other children to be given a special award (as done in the past) or just ignored.

2005 -- Again, Hillary Swank is a talented actress. We'd certainly have given her one of the Best Actress statues she won. But what we notice is that she keeps taking them away from Annette Bening (Being Julia). We think Swank's real acting chops were on best display in Million Dollar Baby and we're really glad she's not nominated this year.

2006 -- The clear choice for Best Supporting Actor was Jake Gyllenhaal who not only had the more difficult role in Brokeback Mountain, he didn't resort to some grotesque "Buffalo Bill" (serial killer in Silence Of The Lambs) voice to hide behind the way his co-star did. Gyllenhaal gave the performance of the year which was why it was so distressing to see TV actor George Clooney win for yet another of his many flop films.

the black dahlia

2007 -- If ever Vilmos Zsigmond deserved a second Oscar for cinematography, it was this go-round. He'd previously won for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and had two other nominations when he was nominated for The Black Dahlia (above), nominated for it and should have won for it. Four nominations, one win, really not solid enough for one of the greats whose non-nominated works include Blow Out, The Long Goodbye, Obsession, The Sugarland Express, The Hired Hand, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Body, The Crossing Guard, The Ghost and the Darkness, Playing By Heart, The Two Jakes and The Witches of Eastwick.

2008 -- Marion Cotillard demonstrated she could blend into the scenery, not that she could become an interesting character. When the one-word summation of her performance as Edith Piaf is "bland," the Best Actress statue should have gone to Julie Christie for Away From Her.

2009 -- One of the worst years for films and for the Academy. Best Picture should have gone to Milk (not the 'Up With People if you don't think about it too hard' Slumdog Millionaire). Repeating, worst year ever. Sean Penn and Kate Winslet may have been the only deserving winners. A lot of people nominated for talking heads performance in talking heads films. Very little cinematic about the year.

2010 -- An almost perfect year marred by Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) losing Best Supporting Actor to Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds).

Will this year be another 2009 (boo) or 2010 (incredible)? We'll find out tonight.
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