Friday, May 18, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1993

The Contenders:

Holly Hunter: The Piano (winner)
Emma Thompson: The Remains of the Day
Debra Winger: Shadowlands
Stockard Channing: Six Degrees of Separation
Angela Bassett: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

What’s Missing

As seems to happen now and again, 1993 is a fine year for film but not a substantially great one for this specific category. There are some changes I’d love to make here, though, or at least a few suggestions that might be worth bringing up. Emma Thompson is nominated already for The Remains of the Day, but I could also see her nominated for In the Name of the Father. I’m never really considered myself a huge fan of Michelle Pfeiffer, but I like her quite a bit in The Age of Innocence. I’m even less of a fan of Andie McDowell, who has had only a couple of noteworthy roles in her career. One of those happens to be from Groundhog Day from this year. I’m generally always game for Sigourney Weaver to be nominated, but for Dave, I think her role is more supporting. The big miss for me is Juliette Binoche in Three Colors: Blue.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. It’s taken me a long time to learn to appreciate the talents of Holly Hunter on screen. I think this is because my first contact with her was in Broadcast News, a film I truly hated on a first watch and hated again on a rewatch. With The Piano, admittedly, my problem is more with the film as a whole. I don’t buy the romance in the film, and that more or less means that I don’t buy much about the film itself. Since Hunter is responsible for at least a part of that romance, she pays the penalty here despite her ultimate win.

4. Next we have Emma Thompson, who I typically like on screen. I liked The Remains of the Day perhaps a little more than it deserves, but, rather strangely, not a great deal of that is Thompson, although she is her typical brilliant self. Thompson may be suffering here from expectations. I expect her to be exquisite in everything she does, and thus, even when she’s brilliant, she’s going to be viewed as merely acceptable. That being said, I like her in other roles more and I like her other roles more.

3. Of all of these nominations, Stockard Channing is perhaps the strangest nomination here. When I first sat down to this, I initially figured her for the fifth spot until I recalled that she was the only thing about Six Degrees of Separation that I liked at all, and even then, it took until well into the movie to get there. Channing is an interesting actress, and despite the fact that I hated just about everything having to do with this film, I rather liked her by the end. Still and all, I’m not putting her above third.

2. Debra Winger is an actress who never really got the sort of roles that best suit her and never really got the sort of credit that she deserved. I like Debra Winger and wish that the industry had been a lot kinder to her. As evidenced by her work on Shadowlands, she was quite the talent. Winger was in a number of notable films and earned three Oscar nominations across her career. I’ve seen all three, and I’m pretty convinced that this is the best of them. In a lot of years, I’d hand her this award without question. Just not in 1993.

My Choice

1. It’s not often that the world gives us a perfect combination of actor and role, but Angela Bassett appears to have been born to play Tina Turner. In What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Bassett is absolutely magnetic on the screen at all times. She has the sort of gravitas that the role requires. While the movie is far from perfect, the problems come in the screenplay. Lawrence Fishburne and especially Angela Bassett make this film far more than the screenplay would let it be. In an open field, Bassett would compete with Juliette Binoche, but even in that world, I’m going with Bassett four times out of five.

Final Analysis


  1. There really was no one more deserving this year than Angela Bassett and that she lost and has had far from the career worthy of her talents since is just sad.

    I adore Stockard Channing and loved her in Six Degrees. It would be a tighter race for second between she and Winger for me than it is for you but those two are the only ones that belong here besides Bassett.

    I think I've mentioned my unexpected loathing of Remains of the Day before and unfortunately it takes Emma with it. You mentioned a possible nomination for her for In the Name of the Father but she did receive a nod for that performance in Supporting Actress, although I would have rather seen her there for Much Ado About Nothing where she is delightful.

    I liked Broadcast News and Hunter in it but as a rule a little of her goes a long way and even as a mute in The Piano there was too much of her in that awful film.

    I haven't seen Three Colors: Blue (or any of the Color trilogy-a big hole in my viewing) but glad to see the mention of Sigourney Weaver for Dave-love her, loved her in the film as well as the entire movie but she does skirt supporting.

    The only other suggestion I have for consideration is Lara Flynn Boyle in Red Rock West.

    However I have to say I loved Bridget Fonda's badass assassin in Point of No Return though I'll be the first to admit its not award caliber just good fun work.

    1. The best joke I know about Point of No Return is one from Kevin Murphy's book "A Year at the Movies." When comparing foreign titles with American remakes, he goes down a list of "which should you watch." When he gets to La Femme Nikita/Point of No Return, the correct answer is "neither." As someone who counted himself a Bridget Fonda fan when she was working, there's a reason I didn't include it here (and I still say A Simple Plan is her best work).

      Three Colors is magnificent. As much as I love Juliette Binoche, it's Kieslowski's work that is monumental. As for Holly Hunter, I don't think I really appreciated her in a role until I saw Copycat, where she is great, and matched well with Sigourney Weaver, who is a damn international treasure.

      All of that said, this was so much Angela Bassett's Oscar that it hurt me to write this post since she didn't win it.