Sean Penn: Dead Man Walking
Nicolas Cage: Leaving Las Vegas (winner)
Richard Dreyfus: Mr. Holland’s Opus
Anthony Hopkins: Nixon
Massimo Troisi: Il Postino
This is a strange year and a very strange collection of nominations given the year we have. It’s the year of Waterworld among other things, and also the year where we got a movie named after a Warren Zevon song (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead), which has a title better than the actual movie. While I don’t love Braveheart, I’m honestly surprised at no nomination for Mel Gibson given the other success of that film. It was a very good year for Robert De Niro, since he was in both Casino and Heat, for which we could also discuss Al Pacino. But those are the safe choices. Tom Hanks for Apollo 13 is a safe choice as well, but a surprising miss. Johnny Depp in Dead Man feels like a miss as well. So let’s think outside the box and talk about John Travolta in Get Shorty, one of his most entertaining roles. Let’s talk about Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise. Or, let’s get really crazy and discuss the possibilities of Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days and especially Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys.
Weeding through the Nominees
4. I like Anthony Hopkins, and he was an interesting choice to play Nixon in, well, Nixon. But I have trouble saying I love the film in general. Oliver Stone is hit or miss with me in general, and Nixon is more of a miss than a hit. It’s far too long, and suffers far too much from Oliver Stone-itis. The performance from Hopkins is fine, even very good, but with the number of interesting and worthy snubs, it’s not one I would nominate. There are plenty listed above who deserve it more.
3. The final three nominations are very difficult for me to distinguish between. I like all three a great deal and could happily understand a vote for any of them. I have no issues with Massimo Troisi in Il Postino, but I think it’s a case where the story of the film is better and more tragic than the movie itself. Troisi, if you didn’t know, finished filming the movie and died less than 24 hours later, mainly because he postponed treatment until the movie was done. It’s a sweet movie, and Troisi’s nomination is a good one.
1. I’m going with Sean Penn for Dead Man Walking. In terms overall quality, Penn is on a par with Cage and Troisi for this role. The decider for me is just how terrible of a person Penn is playing and how compelling that person becomes in the course of the film. This is the best work Susan Sarandon has ever done, and Penn’s work is better. I’m entirely satisfied that any of my picks here are worthy, but Penn is the most worthy of the group. Even in an open field, I’m picking him (or one of the other two)