Emily Watson: Breaking the Waves
Kristin Scott Thomas: The English Patient
Frances McDormand: Fargo (winner)
Diane Keaton: Marvin’s Room
Brenda Blethyn: Secrets & Lies
A lot of my initial thoughts with great actress performances in 1996 would end up being Supporting Actress performances. Dianne Weist in The Birdcage comes to mind as a prime example of this; I love her performance, but there’s not enough of her for Best Actress. The ones I like that aren’t mentioned tend to be ones that aren’t likely to get a nomination. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Pena and love her in Lone Star, which is probably the biggest miss here in my opinion. Both Dee Wallace Stone and Neve Campbell (The Frighteners and Scream respectively) were in movies typically ignored. I also really like Renee Russo in Tin Cup, but that film doesn’t have the gravitas that Oscar wants. The Long Kiss Goodnight with Geena Davis was ultimately probably just too silly.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: I like Diane Keaton, but I really didn’t care much for Marvin’s Room. In fact, the most noteworthy thing about this nomination is that it went to Keaton and not Meryl Streep. The movie itself is predictable and maudlin, though, and I didn’t care for it much at all. Elizabeth Pena should have gotten this nomination, which seems more or less like a placeholder, like either Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep needed to be here, so one of them got picked.
4: I like The English Patient far more than I expected to. (Shut up, Chip.) Certainly part of that was the performance of Kristin Scott Thomas. But this is much more a movie for Ralph Fiennes. Further, I like Juliette Binoche in the film more than I like Kristin Scott Thomas, and I would have been happier with her getting a nomination. This isn’t a terrible nomination overall, but it’s not one that should have won, and I’m satisfied that it didn’t.
3: Breaking the Waves is not a film I would plan on watching again. It might well be the best work of Lars von Trier. I could probably make a case for Emily Watson winning this Oscar, but my heart wouldn’t be in it. It’s a hell of a tough performance, though, one that has to walk a very fine line between heartbreak and complete camp, and Watson manages it about as well as I can imagine it. I like the nomination a lot, even if this is a movie I never plan on watching a second time.
2: Secrets & Lies was a complete shock to me in the sense that I expected nothing from it and came away completely impressed. Brenda Blethyn manages something incredibly difficult to pull off. I find the character of Cynthia Rose Purley annoying in the extreme, and yet I also find her heartbreaking and completely sympathetic. In any other year almost, Blethyn would get my vote. Her performance is really that good and that worth seeing. Unfortunately for her, she had the bad luck to do this film in the year that contains my favorite single performance of the 1990s.
1: But let’s get real for a second here. There really was no other choice beyond Frances McDormand’s performance as Marge Gunderson in Fargo. Marge Gunderson is one of my favorite movie characters ever. Part of that comes from the script, but almost all of that comes from McDormand, who is perfect in this role. Marge could have easily become a caricature or completely farcical. Instead, she is fun, funny, real, comic, and competent. There’s no way to not love her just a little, and I love her a lot. When Oscar gets it right, it’s a wonderful thing, and any other choice would be almost unthinkable.