The last time I examined the decisions of Oscars past – 1997 – I promised to do another in the series within three months. I wrote that back in September, so I guess you can say I lost track of time. But the main reason I haven’t written one sooner is that the next year in the series was 1996.
When I look back at the films nominated in 1996 – and indeed the winners and nominations for the major acting categories – I get a deep sense of ho hum.
Now I do like the Best Picture winner of that year, The English Patient – yes it is long; no it’s not as good as the book – but I’ve only watched it a couple of times on DVD, so it’s not like I would die in a ditch over whether or not it should keep the top Oscar. Here were the other nominees:
Fargo is excellent, but I never felt it was as good as everyone seemed to think (and it’s not the Coen brothers’ best film). Jerry Maguire was okish – but far too long, with far too many Cameron Crowe aspects – the whole “you complete me” speech; also the ending is a total crock that no person who watches sport can seriously enjoy. I haven’t seen Secrets and Lies (one for the ‘I should get around to watching it one day’ pile). And Shine? It’s good, but I have to say I don’t own it on DVD, and have no real compulsion to buy it any time soon.
Here were the top 30 earning films in the US that year:
1. Independence Day $306,169,268
2. Twister $241,721,524
3. Mission: Impossible $180,981,856
4. Jerry Maguire $153,952,592
5. Ransom $136,492,681
6. 101 Dalmatians $136,189,294
7. The Rock $134,069,511
8. The Nutty Professor $128,814,019
9. The Birdcage $124,060,553
10. A Time to Kill $108,766,007
11. The First Wives Club $105,489,203
12. Phenomenon $104,636,382
13. Scream $103,046,663
14. Eraser $101,295,562
15. The Hunchback of Notre Dame $100,138,851
16. Michael $95,318,203
17. Star Trek: First Contact $92,027,888
18. Space Jam $90,418,342
19. The English Patient $78,676,425
20. Broken Arrow $70,770,147
21. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America $63,118,386
22. Jingle All the Way $60,592,389
23. The Cable Guy $60,240,295
24. Courage Under Fire $59,031,057
25. Jack $58,620,973
26. Executive Decision $56,569,216
27. Primal Fear $56,116,183
28. Tin Cup $53,854,588
29. Sleepers $53,315,285
30. Dragonheart $51,367,375
No help there. Broken Arrow is a fun, dumb film; Primal Fear is a good courtroom drama, and I enjoy Tin Cup because it has Renee Russo and Kevin Costner being the guy he was before he decided to make Waterworld and The Postman
The Golden Globes? Other films they nominated were Evita, The People Versus Larry Flint, Breaking the Waves, Everyone Says I Love You and The Birdcage.
Yep, a hell of a lot of dross there.
In short it was a pretty dire year for film. There are those I guess who would be jumping up and down demanding I give Trainspotting or Sling Blade their due, but they never really rocked my world. So I’m leaving all as it is. Yeah Geoffrey Rush was lucky to get Best Actor given he really was only Best Supporting Actor, but none of the other nominated performances were that great anyway (I would have given it to Ralph Fiennes, but again I’m not too fussed as it’s not Fiennes’ best role).
The only change I would make is to strip Cuba Gooding Jr of his Best Supporting Actor Award for Jerry Maguire, if only because of his woeful career since then. Also, two other actors gave great performances that year – only one of which was nominated – Edward Norton for Primal Fear and Noah Taylor in Shine. Taylor was in reality the lead actor of Shine, but seeing as Geoffrey Rush took that Award, I have no problems giving the supporting statue to Taylor.
Noah Taylor is one of the best Australian Actors never to really crack it in the US. Yeah he has had some good supporting roles in Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he got to hang around and be the male non-love interest in the Lara Croft movies, but he deserves much better. He was brilliant in his first major role as Danny in the absolutely wonderful The Year My Voice Broke but most likely because he isn’t exactly a matinee idol he never seemed to get any other big roles (also he was probably a victim of losing out to Ben Mendelsohn for the few roles that would have suited him).
But in Shine, Taylor is the rock on which the film is built. Had his performance been less brilliant, Rush would have had little to work with – the audiences would have had little care or interest in what happened to the young piano prodigy, David Helfgott. So good was Taylor, that when Rush enters the scene all that is left is for him to come in and waltz away with the Oscar (yeah I’m being a tad harsh on Rush – one of the all-time great character actors).
Unfortunately there are any great scenes of Taylor on YouTube, so you’ll just have to take my word for it – he gets the Oscar, just in front of Norton.
So that was 1996, not a great year, and in Oscar terms one that came and went without too much fuss, and is probably now only useful for trivia nights. 1995, however, is much more interesting… (and I promise to get to it soon!)