Monday, November 27, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actor 1993

The Contenders:

Daniel Day-Lewis: In the Name of the Father
Tom Hanks: Philadelphia (winner)
Anthony Hopkins: The Remains of the Day
Liam Neeson: Schindler’s List
Laurence Fishburne: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

What’s Missing

We’ve got five good performances for 1993, which makes wanting to add different ones in a little more difficult. Still, ’93 was pretty good for actors, so I have a few suggestions. The biggest stretch is probably Federico Luppi in Cronos, since it’s a directorial debut, a horror movie, and in Spanish. Both Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer are great in Tombstone (Kilmer is probably supporting), but it’s likely not serious enough for Oscar consideration. The same could be said of Raul Julia in Addams Family Values, and Joe Mantegna is more a supporting actor for Searching for Bobby Fischer. Hollywood didn’t take Bill Murray seriously as an actor in 1993, which got him ignored for Groundhog Day. There are four that I think I could make a legitimate case for. The first is Kevin Kline in Dave, a sugary concoction of a movie, but a wonderful performance from Kline. The second is Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, since so much turns on him being over his head but still believable. Third, Denzel Washington in Philadelphia, since he is absolutely the equal of Hanks in every scene. Finally, there is David Thewlis in Naked. I hate the film, but it’s impossible not to be impressed with what he did in the role.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. It’s difficult for me to want to put anyone in fifth place here, because it feels like no one deserves to be in last. It feels almost heretical to place Daniel Day-Lewis in fifth, but that’s where he’s going. The reason for this is simple: he’s not the most interesting character on the screen in many scenes. That person is Pete Postlethwaite, who takes every scene where he is on screen as the most compelling person to watch. He has nothing but his dignity and he makes every moment count. Day-Lewis is great, but it’s Postlethwaite I remember.

4. I can say almost the same thing about Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, although in his case the actor who is his equal is Denzel Washington. It’s perhaps unfair to expect Hanks to hold our attention when sharing scenes with one of the great actors of his generation, and he does have that one miraculous scene where he describes his love of opera that is memorable and beautiful. Hanks’s problem here is that there isn’t a bad performance in the film, so it’s difficult for him to truly stand out. It’s a good performance, but it’s surrounded by equally good performances.

3. Schindler’s List feels like a movie that was created specifically to win Oscars, and Liam Neeson is great as Oskar Schindler. I won’t dispute that. In this case, he’s hampered by his director. Spielberg has long been a director who would pull any emotional string he could find. Schindler’s List didn’t need that sort of emotional manipulation, but we got it anyway. Without it, Neeson’s performance would have itself been less manipulative. It’s not his fault, but it’s the reality of what is on the screen.

2. The strength of Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day is that it is perhaps the most emotionally repressed performance I have come across in a long time. There is so much going on behind his face throughout the film, so much working under the surface that only comes out in spare moments. It’s a brilliant performance in a film that is all about keeping those feelings closed off and hidden. In a different year, I’d be willing to give Hopkins the Oscar, but in this year, second place is as close as he can get.

My Choice

1. In What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Laurence Fishburne does something that is nearly impossible to do. He plays a character that is completely loathsome in almost every possible way and yet is still compelling in every scene he is in. He is purely awful to watch, and yet there isn’t a moment here where he isn’t the character and isn’t horribly fascinating. It’s hard for me to want to give the statue to such a terrible character, but Fishburne is tremendous and so worth watching in every frame. He’s my winner.

Final Analysis


  1. I am so with you on this one. What Fishburne accomplished in this movie is amazing. Of the noms, Neeson would be my runner-up. To be honest, I'd probably drop Hanks from the running all together. His win reeks of the Academy trying to be progressive and rewarding an actor for playing an AIDS victim at a time when the disease meant sure death within a couple years. Watching the film, as I have recently, Hanks gives nowhere near the best performance in his own film. Washington is not only his superior in this case, but carries the movie and much more worthy of a nomination. It's not Hanks's fault. Other than that one scene you mentioned his job is just to sit around and look sick while other people talk about him. I would have love to see Ford or Murray get a nod here, too.

    1. Fishburne has been an actor I've liked since the first time I saw him, and for all of his performances I've seen, this is my favorite in the sense that it's his best. It's my least favorite in terms of the character he's playing. Getting me to dislike him is probably this biggest achievement here.

      And I agree on Hanks. I'd drop both Hanks and Day-Lewis from this. I like Washington better in Philadelphia and I like Antonio Banderas more as well. It's a case where I think the role was rewarded far more than the performance.

      I'd definitely want Murray here, and either Ford or Kevin Kline.

  2. Thewlis in Naked. Thewlis in Naked. Thewlis in Naked. Thewlis in Naked.