Saturday, May 19, 2007

Denzel's 3rd Oscar

Today is Malcolm X's birthday. And because I am a movie nut all things are filtered through the cinema... which means today is really all about wishing Denzel Washington had won the Oscar for Spike Lee's Malcolm X . (I know I know. it's pitiably reductive but again: movie nut. What can you do?) To me it's one of three insufferable mistakes they made (post nominations) in the Lead Actor category in the 90s:

1992 Denzel Washington (Malcolm X) losing to Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman)
1993 Anthony Hopkins (Remains of the Day) bested by Tom Hanks (Philadelphia)
1998 Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) defeating Sir Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters)

In all three cases it's hammy stars beating more resonant and accomplished acting. Arrrrgh. Thank goodness we have several months left before all the cycles of mediocrity begin again. Are those the three that bug you most or do you have another 90s actor peeve to share?

32 comments:

Scott Eggleston said...

In 1993, I was pretty miffed that Hanks beat out Liam Neeson in Shindler's List. I like Hanks, but thought Neeson gave the performance of his life, with all due respect to Hopkins.

Victor S said...

I know you´re probably talking the Leads but, Raplh Fiennes losing .... to Tommy Lee Jones. They can't be serious

The Movie & Music Xpress said...

Well, I think that the 97 Best Supporting Actress win for Kim Basinger (LA Confidential) over Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) is a huge crime!

NATHANIEL R said...

that it is. but don't get me started on the actresses! i was just talking about lead actor.

Joe R. said...

I always like to follow the paper chain:

- if Art Carney doesn't beat Al Pacino (Godfather II) in '75, then Denzel beats Pacino in '92

- if Nick Nolte beats Anthony Hopkins in '91, then Hopkins beats Hanks in '93, which means Hanks beats Russell Crowe in '00, which means Crowe beats Denzel in '01

Barry said...

Though this is not in the 1990's I am still pissed about Ellen Burstyn losing to Julia Roberts. Ellen's performance in Requiem for a Dream does not compare to Julia's in Erin Brockovich. While Julia was excellent, Ellen was earth-shattering.

Ali said...

I think you've got the three most glaring oversights/blunders, but I'd also add Tom Hanks (again) over Morgan Freeman for The Shawshank Redemption. And if they had got that one right, they wouldn't have had to give Freeman a career Oscar for M$B, which would have allowed Clive Owen to scoop up the prize for Closer.

So complicated...

rural juror said...

The fact Robert Benigni has an Oscar at all makes me cringe. And Ralph Fiennes should be one Oscar richer

Brian said...

I can't believe folks are already branching out to other categories when just those ten years of Best Actor winners is enough grist for plenty of griping, in my book. You single three out that I'd agree with, though the 1993 blunder was not nearly as big as the other two, or several others I could name. Like: Geoffrey Rush winning with that awful role in Shine (admittedly his competition wasn't as strong as some other years) or Kevin Spacey and Jack Nicholson winning their 1999 and 1997 Oscars while the weakest in their field. In fact, the only time my favorite best Actor performance of the nominees won that decade (with the qualifier that I still haven't seen Reversal of Fortune, Prince of Tides and a couple other films in play) was 1991 when Hopkins won.

The worst thing about Washington's loss in 1992 was that losing to Downey, Eastwood or Rea would have been a comparatively minor ignobility. But he had to fall to Pacino's truly unwatchable performance. People talk about Oscar vote-splitting and I have to wonder if that year the "tasteful" vote was split between the other four performances, giving undue influence to the minority of voters who prefer stereotyped, ham-fisted disability gimmicks over interesting acting.

On the subject of Malcolm X and Spike Lee, I recently read somewhere about Lee's frustration with critics who praise the 25th Hour to the exclusion of his other recent work. Have you head much about that?

Luke said...

"In all three cases it's hammy stars beating more resonant and accomplished acting." At least in case of Hopkins he had already got his statuette for the hammiest (if excellent) performance of the decade, so the 1993 loss was somewhat deserved. ;)

joe r.: Your second chain is spot on! That would be so much fairer. Except I'd substitute Robin Williams for Nick Nolte.

That said, I must join the apparent bandwagon and name Benigni's chair-leaping victory as the most upsetting indeed. Ugh.

Marius said...

Yeah, it’s a shame that Sir Ian McKellen didn’t win the Oscar in 94. He deserved it! I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

Paul C. said...

Nicholson in '97 over the great Robert Duvall is pretty egregious, I'd say.

And while I enjoy Benigni's work with Jarmusch, never has he demonstrated that he's more than just a larger-than-life personality. Which is fine, but not what Best Actor performances are (or should be) made of. McKellen was much more deserving that year, although I'd argue that Nolte was even more so. Not just because of his searing performance in AFFLICTION but also because he finally managed to break out of the string of glossy Hollywood vehicles the studios kept trying to squeeze him into back in the mid-90s.

But then, I don't really agree with most of the Best Actor wins in the 90s. Even the better ones- Cage in LEAVING LAS VEGAS, for example- weren't the best of the nominees. I suppose the closest would be Hopkins- though while his performance was undeniably great, it's nonetheless a massive case of category fraud.

J.D. Judge said...

I probably shouldn't do this because it might start a firey riot, but... Kate. HOW?!?!?! and the sad thing is she'll probably get it for something that's horribly undeserving and the cycle starts anew.

Can someone trace back to the first "Career/undeserved" Oscar? My guess would be John Wayne, but there is probably someone earlier...

Anonymous said...

Can people not read? This is about Lead Actor of the 90's, not fanboys complaining about Julianne Moore and Kate Winslet.

Arkaan said...

"Can someone trace back to the first "Career/undeserved" Oscar? My guess would be John Wayne, but there is probably someone earlier..."

It is generally thought to be far earlier in fact - way back to the second annual oscars.

Mary Pickford had given a generaaly acclaimed performance in "My Best Girl," but was overlooked for a nod (the brilliant Janet Gaynor won, alongside nominees Gloria Swanson and Louise Dresser). While she was fine with that, she was determined to win an oscar the following season with "Coquette." She did by inviting all the voters over for tea.

I think Nathaniel's grevious oversights are pretty spot on. It's not like other years where I had a favourite and someone else won (I mean, look at 1995. You try deciding between Cage and Penn). The academy actually chose the worse nominee.

Anonymous said...

I think that "Philadelphia" is one of Tom Hanks' most accomplished roles, so I'm fine with that Oscar win. I still pretend Morgan Freeman won the following year for "Shawshank". Roberto Beningi winning for that shitastic spectacle called "Life Is Beautiful" is gross, and Ian McKellen should demand retribution for everytime Roberto Beningi is referred to as an Oscar winner. Al Pacino's win was the makeup of all makeup wins, and Denzel was furiously robbed. The blow is lessened a bit since he isn't Oscarless, but robbed is robbed.

JS said...

I agree about the Malcolm X loss. Frankly, I want both of Hanks's Oscars to be reclaimed.

I just went through the list of winners for Lead Actor in the 90's and aside from Anthony Hopkins's win (sorry Jeremy Irons), the 90's probably has one of the worst cast of Oscar winners in regards to their movie roles.

16 year old blogger said...

I might get burned at the stake for this here, but I thought Roberto Benigni deserved his Oscar(S) for Life is Beautiful...

Anonymous said...

First of all, Reversal of Fortune was 1990, giving a much deserved Best Actor win to Jeremy Irons. Second, of all the things it is, how can you say Tom Hanks in Philadelphia was a "hammy" performance? Not in the 1990s, but the most egregious Oscar of all time was Cliff Robertson winning for Charly over O'Toole in Lion in Winter. If that hadn't happened, we all wouldn't have had to feel so bad about Forrest Whitaker this year. Nat, you should considering doing a Best Actor contest, though its not nearly as much fun as the goddesses, I know.

Kamikaze Camel said...

In terms of 1993, I wouldn't have chosen Hanks to award the statue to, but I wouldn't have given it to Hopkins either. I would have given it to Daniel Day Lewis for his amazing twofer of The Age of Innocence and In The Name of the Father. My silver woulda gone to Bill Murray and then bronze to Hopkins. That year doesn't annoy me so much as the the two you mentioned though.

Denzel was astonishing. Pacino must be embarassed that he has a trophy for that movie (which I dare no utter, ala the Z). And to think he then won for Training Day? Ugh.

And, yeah, well, McKellen's is even more amazing than Denzel but I haven't seen Life is Beautiful, so...

vince said...

Oscar had a streak going with getting it right in the Best Actor category in the late 80's/early 90's (Lewis/Irons/Hopkins), with Hopkins being my personal fave from the 90's.

92-94. I divested myself from those particular races.

95. Cage losing to Penn!!!? WTF? That was just plain wrong. And it gets more wrong as the years go on, especially considering Penn ended up winning for River.

96/97 ... don't care.

98. I would have like to have seen Nolte win.

99. I don't take exception to the Spacey performance, but Farnsworth was heartbreaking. And, frankly, I thought Crowe PR'd with "The Insider."

NATHANIEL R said...

well the reason the other years were ignored is generally because I didn't care as much. I mean Penn over Cage for me in 95 for sure (i'd have reversed the Oscar wins genderwise on those two films) but Cage was still doing awesome work.

but if you think about the non nominated it all changes of course. But you can't think about that all the time it's crazy making.

Anonymous said...

Denzel absolutely should have walked it for Malcolm X. However, consider this...

If Joel Grey hadn't won Supporting Actor in 1972, Al Pacino wouldn't have felt so overdue in 1992. If Al Pacino hadn't felt so overdue, Washington would likely have won an Academy Award. Because he didn't, he felt overdue by the time of Training Day, thus depriving Russell Crowe an otherwise highly probably 2nd Oscar for A Beautiful Mind.

Now, occasionally in life, Russell Crowe is a good thing. However, in the latter case, we potentially avoided an Oscar to one of THE all-time hammiest performances.

Thus, whilst Washington was simply the best in 1992, sometimes things happen for the greater good. Thank you Joel Grey!

Rob

NATHANIEL R said...

Rob you are a wise and optimistic man!

Piper said...

Denzel was robbed. Malcolm X was and still is an overlooked movie.

crazycris said...

I don't remember the year, but the one that still rankles to this day was Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) over Cate Blanchet's increadible turn as Elisabeth!!! I still haven't forgiven the Paltrow for that steal... grrrrrrrr

Hopefully will be rectified this season! ;)

crazycris said...

oops! sorry, posted my comment before reading the others and didn't realised you were insising on the male variety!

it's just that when stolen wins get mentioned that's the first one that pops in my head! :D

Nick Davis said...

I'm surprised no one has championed Edward Norton as the deserving winner of 1998. I still have a hard time deciding between him and Nick Nolte, both of whom I thought eclipsed McKellen by a wide margin. (I find Gods and Monsters pretty hammy all around.)

Nicholson '97 is, to me, one of the worst perfs ever to win Best Actor (even worse than Pacino's), though I'm not as excited as I'd like to be about his competition. I love The Apostle, but Duvall pretty much let his performance go anywhere. He and Damon and Fonda are about equal for me that year.

I haven't seen The Field or Cyrano de Bergerac (both from 1990), but otherwise I've covered all the Best Actor nominees that decade, and I'd vote like this:

1990. Irons in a walk (but again, I haven't seen two of his peers)
1991. Hopkins, easily
1992. Washington just barely over Rea (both v.v.good)
1993. Hopkins in a walk, with apologies to Fishburne and Neeson
1994. Good field, but I still go with Newman over Travolta and Freeman
1995. I'd actually have 3-peated for Hopkins, even though Cage and Penn were brilliant
1996. Fiennes or Cruise; no truly great perfs here
1997. As I said, depends on the day: Duvall, Damon, or Fonda
1998. I once would have said Norton, but Nolte has aged even better with me
1999. Can you really go wrong? At the time I said Crowe, but I might go for Farnsworth

NATHANIEL R said...

yeah that 99 field is pretty amazing. and they didn't even nominated Jim Broadbent for TOPSY TURVY! what a year.

my votes go like this

90 IRONS
91 BEATTY or HOPKINS -i change my mind... but mostly i don't care because I'd have put the not nominated River Phoenix as one of the five best of the entire decade)
92 WASHINGTON
93 HOPKINS (not just one but two great performances that year. His peak for me)
94 TRAVOLTA ?
95 PENN (w/ apologies to Cage)
96 CRUISE
97 DAMON ?
98 MCKELLEN
99 SPACEY

Anonymous said...

My list (NB: have chosen from nominees initially, then cited preferred winner in brackets in circumstances where actor was not nominated)

1990 - Richard Harris (James Spader, White Palace)
1991 - Anthony Hopkins (River Phoenix, My Own Private Idaho)
1992 - Denzel Washington
1993 - Anthony Hopkins
1994 - Morgan Freeman (Linus Roache, Priest)
1995 - Sean Penn
1996 - Geoffrey Rush (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting)
1997 - Robert Duvall (Philip Baker Hall, Hard Eight)
1998 - Edward Norton
1999 - Kevin Spacey
2000 - Javier Bardem
2001 - Tom Wilkinson (John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig)
2002 - Daniel Day lewis
2003 - Bill Murray
2004 - Leonardo DiCaprio (Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education)
2005 - David Strathairn (Jack Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain)
2006 - Ryan Gosling

Rob

Anonymous said...

I'll play the "who should have won" game too.

1990: Jeremy Irons, "Reversal of Fortune"
1991: Anthony Hopkins, "The Silence of the Lambs"
1992: Denzel Washington, "Malcolm X"
1993: Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia"
1994: Morgan Freeman, "The Shawshank Redemption"
1995: Sean Penn, "Dead Man Walking"
1996: Billy Bob Thornton, "Sling Blade"
1997: Matt Damon, "Good Will Hunting"
1998: Ian McKellen, "Gods & Monsters"
1999: Russell Crowe, "The Insider"
2000: Javier Bardem, "Before Night Falls"
2001: Denzel Washington, "Training Day"
2002: Adrien Brody, "The Pianist"
2003: Bill Murray, "Lost in Translation"
2004: Jamie Foxx, "Ray"
2005: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
2006: Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

AdamWaldowski said...

1992
01. The Crying Game - Stephen Rea
02. Chaplin - Robert Downey, Jr.
03. Unforgiven - Clint Eastwood
04. Malcolm X - Denzel Washington
05. Scent of a Woman - Al Pacino

1993
01. In the Name of the Father - Daniel Day-Lewis
02. The Remains of the Day - Anthony Hopkins
03. What’s Love Got to Do with It - Laurence Fishburne
04. Schindler’s List - Liam Neeson
05. Philadelphia - Tom Hanks

1998
01. Gods and Monsters - Ian McKellen
02. American History X - Edward Norton
03. Affliction - Nick Nolte
04. Life Is Beautiful - Roberto Benigni
05. Saving Private Ryan - Tom Hanks

Fuck so-called "winners."