Saturday, February 6, 2010

If They Had Ten Nominees for Best Picture During the 1990s......

To clarify how I'm coming up with these lists: Obviously, the five Best Picture nominees remain. I then go to the Best Director category and look at the nominees that aren't tied to a Best Picture nominee. If the Director nominee's film also received a screenplay or acting nominations, it is automatically included. If not, did the film have multiple nominations in the technical categories? If there were at least two, it makes the list. (Example: Robert Altman was nominated for the film Short Cuts, but that was the film's only nomination and was left off the list.)

Then I skipped to the screenplay nominees. Again, how many other nominations did the film get, with added weight for acting nominations.

Then I went to the acting categories, since most Best Picture nominees get at least one. Were there multiple technical nominations as well?

Most likely, that would cover most years, although, you will see, that I had to cheat in at least one year.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1990 could have been.....

Cyrano de Bergerac
Dances with Wolves**
Dick Tracy
The Godfather Part III*
The Grifters
Reversal of Fortune

Ten nominees would not have looked good for 1990. That Ghost and Awakenings made the top 5 told us that. That forgettable films like Avalon and Cyrano are here just add insult to injury. But it was amusing to look back 20 years later, not realizing Dick Tracy was that well represented at Oscar time with 7 nominations. Eventual winner Dances with Wolves was the only nominee with more noms than Dick Tracy.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1991 could have been.....

Barton Fink
Beauty and the Beast*
Boyz N the Hood
The Fisher King
The Prince of Tides*
The Silence of the Lambs**
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Thelma & Louise

YES! I KNOW! I CHEATED! Terminator 2 was not nominated for ANY of the top 8 categories. I base its inclusion on two factors. One, the only other movie that came close to qualifying under my rules was Fried Green Tomatoes. It was FGT's 2 noms vs. T2's 6. Two, I vividly recall the Oscar night during the acceptance speech of one of T2's FOUR Oscars, the winner exclaiming that James Cameron should be given an Oscar for his film and the thunderous applause the comment received. One thought that keeps recurring in my mind: What if John Singleton had directed a Best Picture nominee? Would his career have turned out differently? It's a thought I have again later with Oliver Stone.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1992 could have been.....

The Crying Game*
Enchanted April
A Few Good Men*
Howards End*
Husbands and Wives
Malcolm X
The Player
Scent of a Woman*

One thing I'm discovering, going back and breaking down the Oscar of the early 1990s: There's just not a lot to choose from. Unforgiven is a classic. As is The Crying Game. I'll even throw in The Player. But good Lord, the drop off after that. Eeek. I can't help but wonder if this era is what gave rise to the independent film boom that hits two years later.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1993 could have been.....

The Age of Innocence
The Fugitive*
In the Line of Fire
In the Name of the Father*
The Piano*
The Remains of the Day*
Schindler's List**
What's Love Got to Do with It

This was another tough year. Films like What's Love.... and Shadowlands scored multiple nominations in major categories but were left out everywhere else. I can't help but wonder if Jurassic Park might have come close to making this list.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1994 could have been.....

Bullets over Broadway
Forrest Gump**
Four Weddings and a Funeral*
Little Women
The Madness of King George
Nobody's Fool
Pulp Fiction*
Quiz Show*
The Shawshank Redemption*

It's funny how one's memory can fail you on trivial things. I TRIPLE-CHECKED to make sure I had my actual Best Picture nominees correct. I totally remember Bullets over Broadway being a nominee. Shocking that it received 7 nominations and not Best Picture. Especially considering that Four Weddings... only had 2 nominations.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1995 could have been.....

Apollo 13*
Dead Man Walking
Il Postino*
Leaving Las Vegas
Mighty Aphrodite
Sense and Sensibility*
The Usual Suspects

I don't buy this list at all. THIS was a crappy year for film. But there wasn't much else to put on the list. Dead Man Walking and Leaving Las Vegas were gimmes. Both had directing and screenplay nominations as well as nominations for the lead acting categories. But after that? Ouch.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1996 could have been.....

The Crucible
The English Patient**
Jerry Maguire*
The People vs. Larry Flynt
Secrets & Lies*
Sling Blade

Another case where once you get past the obvious contenders, there is a HUGE drop off. Evita makes the list for its five nominations, despite none in an major category. Most of the nominees in the Big Eight were either nominated for a Best Picture contender or were its film's only nomination. It didn't make it easy. At least Hamlet was up for screenplay. So was The Crucible, which had the benefit of its only other nomination being for Supporting Actress. But we are talking about a year where Oscars went to films like Independence Day, The Nutty Professor and The Ghost and the Darkness. Not exactly a banner year.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1997 could have been.....

As Good As It Gets*
Boogie Nights
The Full Monty*
Good Will Hunting*
L.A. Confidential*
The Sweet Hereafter
Wag the Dog
The Wings of the Dove

It's years like this one that I'm even doing this research. A lot of people bitched about Boogie Nights being passed over for lighter fare like The Full Monty or As Good As It Gets. But when you look to see where the other nominations landed, it becomes apparent that Boogie Nights probably came really close. Films like Wag the Dog and The Wings of the Dove were also considered strong contenders. The Sweet Hereafter, with only two nominations (Director and screenplay) would have been a nice surprise. I think people would have griped about Amistad making the list, arguing "Of course it's there. It's Spielberg."

And the Best Picture nominees for 1998 could have been.....

Central Station
Gods and Monsters
Life is Beautiful*
Out of Sight
Saving Private Ryan*
Shakespeare in Love**
A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line*
The Truman Show

I really had to stretch on this one. It's funny to me because it's one of the few years where I really liked all five nominees (although William Goldman's article for Rolling Stone about how much he hated all five is still a classic.) The fact that I had to resort to a film like Out of Sight and it's whopping two nominations (Screenplay and Film Editing) or A Simple Plan (Screenplay and Supporting Actor) shows what a weak year it was overall and makes the argument why there SHOULDN'T be ten nominees.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1999 could have been.....

American Beauty**
Being John Malkovich
Boys Don't Cry
The Cider House Rules*
The Green Mile*
The Insider*
The Sixth Sense*
The Talented Mr. Ripley

This last one would have not made Kevin Smith very happy. But Magnolia aside, the four other add-ons could have replaced a film like The Green Mile. Boys Don't Cry and Topsy-Turvy each won more awards than the Green Mile, The Talented Mr. Ripley had more nominations and Spike Jonze was nominated for Best Director over Frank Darabont. It had to have been close.

Thanks for reading. It was a fun way to kill a dull Saturday waiting for the Super Bowl.


C.L.J. said...

Fascinating analysis; I haven't really followed the Oscars, and this article shows me why: a lot of good films get passed over.
The 10 slots will improve this immensely.

El Derelicto de Oscar said...

I think so too. There will be bitching in weak years where really mediocre films make the list, but it will definitely keep great films like Boogie Nights or The Dark Knight the recognition they deserve.