Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ACADEMY AWARDS REVISIONIST HISTORY: Fixing the 1990s

Last year, I went back through the 2000s and adjusted the Best Picture winners from the decade with the advantage of hindsight. I took the nominees, reexamined them, and picked who should have won. You can check that list out here . This time around, let’s hop back one more decade to the 90s, a pretty solid, pretty groundbreaking decade for film overall. Surprisingly, the Academy awarded the right nominee more than once or twice, a pretty good average for them. But there are some glaring mistakes, oversights, and corrections that need to be made.

1990

WINNER: DANCES WITH WOLVES. This was a loaded year to kick off the new decade, with fairly strong nominees from top to bottom. We all love Dances With Wolves, okay? Let’s get that out of the way. But there is a more deserving film here, we all know this too. Awakenings is a strong film on an emotional level, but not Best Picture caliber. Same thing can be said for Ghost, the box-office smash of the group that couldn’t be denied a nomination. The Godfather, Part III is, of course, a Godfather film so the fact it picked up a nomination in spite of its many flaws speaks more towards the respect of the franchise than the quality of this individual entry. No, this year should have belonged to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, his entry into the list of the 90s best films. It is one of his best movies, one of the finest gangster films of all time, and should have been recognized as such. Alas, the Academy cannot pass up a good historical epic. CORRECT WINNER: GOODFELLAS.





1991

WINNER: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. No qualms here. The night the awards were handed out there may have been some shock and surprise that The Silence of the Lambs brought in the big five (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), but it doesn’t seem out of the question now at all. It is one of the best films of the decade without question. Up against films like Bugsy and The Prince of Tides, The Silence of the Lambs stands apart. Oliver Stone’s JFK was a solid entry into the list, as was Beauty and the Beast, which broke ground becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. But neither of these latter films carried the impact of Hannibal Lector. CORRECT WINNER: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.




1992

WINNER: UNFORGIVEN. Again, the Academy chose correct in picking Clint Eastwood’s magnificent Western opus. Unforgiven is another excellent picture deserving of the award. The field is significantly thinner for 1992, with Howard’s End and Scent of a Woman seeming less deserving of a nomination these days than they were at the time. A Few Good Men is a tense courtroom drama and probably the most quotable of the bunch. Not deserving of the award however. The Crying Game was a film riding on a wave of controversy at the time, hence the nom. But I challenge anyone to put it in the twenty best films of the 90s. Unforgiven definitely deserved everything it received, and maybe more. CORRECT WINNER: UNFORGIVEN.





1993

WINNER: SCHINDLER’S LIST. The Academy was on a roll in the early 90s, picking right time and again. And there was no denying Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust epic, a deeply personal film that is one of the most unforgettable pictures of all time. Heartbreaking and beautiful, Schindler’s List had no real competition in a decidedly foreign field that included In The Name of The Father, The Piano, and The Remains of the Day. None of these films held a candle to Schindler’s List. The Fugitive, the fifth entry into the group, was the box-office hit of the year and an excellent picture in its own right. But again, there is no way it was going to beat Spielberg’s film. It is a great film; it just came out in the wrong year. CORRECT WINNER: SCHINDLER’S LIST.





1994

WINNER: FORREST GUMP. Boy oh boy, what a year! I’m not sure if there is a correct answer for 1994 when you consider the field. Forrest Gump was the crowd pleaser of the decade, and a great historical film. It’s well rounded and well acted. But look at these nominees. Four Weddings and a Funeral never really deserved the win, but a nomination made sense. And Quiz Show was a small film that has since gotten smaller. But Pulp Fiction revolutionized the film industry at the time, and The Shawshank Redemption is widely considered the world’s “favorite” film according to imdb. My heart wants to go with Shawshank as the correct winner, but my brain is making me go with Quentin Tarantino’s game changer. On an emotional and personal level, Shawshank is the deserving winner; but if logic is to prevail, there wasn’t a more important picture in the entire decade than Pulp Fiction. CORRECT WINNER: PULP FICTION.





1995

WINNER: BRAVEHEART. Here is another year where one film stood above the rest. Braveheart is a stirring battle epic which most assuredly deserved Best Picture. I don’t see anything here that stands on the same level as Mel Gibson’s film. Il Postino was a strange entry into the field, one film that I have still never seen. Babe is a sweet film with wonderful heart, but Best Picture? I think not. Sense and Sensibility, much like Howard’s End, is mostly a forgettable piece of period fiction. Apollo 13 was a rousing adventure based on a terrifying true story, and it continued the run of Tom Hanks’ great films. But, much like Schindler’s List and The Fugitive, Apollo 13 was no match for the power of William Wallace and Braveheart as an epic masterpiece. CORRECT WINNER: BRAVEHEART.





1996

WINNER: THE ENGLISH PATIENT. I have tried to make it all the way through The English Patient, honestly I have. It is a terrible bore. I am with Elaine on this one. 1996 was another thin year for Best Pictures. Shine is forgettable outside the performance from Geoffrey Rush. Jerry Maguire is a charming film, and still fun to watch, but I cannot imagine prefacing Jerry Maguire with “Best Picture Winner.” Secret & Lies is, yet again, a film that has faded from our memories. But then there is Fargo, the quirky crime drama from the Coen Brothers. Fargo is an excellent film, one which is head and shoulders above the field in 1996. It has more staying power than any of the other films, and is a true testament to the freshness and originaly of Joel and Ethan Coen’s direction. CORRECT WINNER: FARGO.


1997

WINNER: TITANIC. There really was no denying Titanic. Say what you will about the film, it deserves the win on technical prowess alone. Titanic is not just the best film of 1997, it is a transcendent picture that will forever be recognized as perhaps more than just another movie. 1997 was a stronger year than the last few, with a handful of deserving nominees. LA Confidential is arguably right behind Titanic on the list in terms of quality. As Good As It Gets is a solid film as well, and was given love with Actor and Actress statues for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. The Full Monty rode a wave of popularity all the way to Oscar night, and Good Will Hunting introduced the world, formally, to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The Awards were spread evenly throughout the night for all of these films, but I still contend they got Best Picture right. There was no other choice. CORRECT WINNER: TITANIC.

1998

WINNER: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. I need to try and keep my blood pressure in check while I work through this disastrous year. Shakespeare in Love is a farce, a sham of a Best Picture winner that won on the lobbying strength of its producer, Harvey Weinstein. It is better than Life is Beautiful, no doubt, and more lasting than Elizabeth. But we all remember the two World War II films that came out that year. The Thin Red Line is an excellent ensemble war film from Terrence Malick, better than stupid Shakespeare in Love. But the winner in my mind, and in most people’s minds, should be Saving Private Ryan. What a complete mishandling by the Academy to overlook Spielberg’s masterpiece, his second in the decade. Saving Private Ryan was one of the biggest mistakes Oscar has ever made. Ever. Okay, I have to stop now. CORRECT WINNER: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.


1999

WINNER: AMERICAN BEAUTY. This is a tricky year, because I think the Academy went with the only option it could go with even though I am not quite convinced American Beauty was the best film of the year. It was definitely the most discussed, and it is still a very good picture. It is better than The Cider House Rules, more lasting than The Green Mile, and maybe a better overall film than The Sixth Sense. But still, The Sixth Sense is a good film. Maybe the disappearance of M. Night Shyamalan has ruined it a bit for me. I am going to go with a personal favorite from this year, Michael Mann’s true-life drama The Insider, about Jeff Wigand the whistleblower who took on big tobacco. It is a wonderfully tense and intricate drama, and one I would pick up to watch again before I grabbed my copy of American Beauty. CORRECT WINNER: THE INSIDER.