Just before Barbara Streisand announced Clint Eastwood as Best Director for 1992 she said commented that the award was not for a man director, or a woman director, but the best director. There mus have been some sour grapes here, given her absence in the previous year’s Best Director line-up. My own chip on the shoulder this year would be the lack of a category to accommodate a performance like that of the Genie in Aladdin (voice performance), then Robin Williams would have been nominated, and won for certain. Twenty-five years on, and a vast development of that kind of technology as well as motion capture performance, and not much has changed. Anyway…
Original Screenplay — Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) 1992 — Robin Write
Quentin Tarantino as an unknown was a gamble perhaps, and the Academy had not yet got to grips with the indie rising. Oh, and it was very violent and everyone said fuck a lot. It would later arise that Tarantino borrowed the plot from Hong Kong movie City On Fire. Those that don’t quite understand him would use the term ripped off. Tarantino is not always original in his influences (and he would be the first to scream this at you) but he is original in the way he constructs his ludicrous scenarios and streaming dialogue – it was in places laughable in some of his later work – but in Reservoir Dogs, a blazing debut, it was the core of the movie and a sign of a great talent with more of the same to come.
Sound — McCabe & Mrs Miller 1971 — Steve Schweighofer
Robert Altman’s revolutionary take on the western experimented with every facet of filmmaking, from actors choosing and taking responsibility for mending their own costumes to shooting chronologically while the town of Presbyterian Church was built (by Vietnam war resistors in British Columbia), all in the search for authenticity. The biggest and most notable chance was taken with the sound design of the film. Altman wanted overlapping, occasionally inaudible dialog coming from all directions that accurately recreated a realistic atmosphere. He succeeded so well that the effect initially left critics and audiences scratching their heads, calling it “muddy.” That “mud” was stylistic gold, however, and was adopted by many auteurs from that point onward. The effect is present in M*A*S*H, Altman’s previous film, but it was with McCabe & Mrs Miller that he took the full plunge, and all of a sudden, the exhausted western genre was very much alive and real again. Oscar didn’t notice.
Make-Up — Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949) — Robin Write
One of the great black comedies of all time for sure, Kind Hearts and Coronets features, among others, Alec Guinness. Although he does not play the protagonist who vengefully takes it upon himself to murder the eight people ahead of him to the family’s aristocratic title, Guinness portrays nine characters in sequence of the plot’s journey. A remarkable feat, the veteran actor was shockingly missing from the Best Actor list, but also there was no Make-Up nomination for the distinct excellence in the multiple guises. Why? Well, other than a couple of special occasions in the 1960s (7 Faces of Dr. Lao; Planet of the Apes), there was no rostered Make-Up award until as late as 1981 when Rick Baker started his cosmetic Oscar legacy with An American Werewolf in London. An Oscar history missed opportunity in hindsight.
Cinematography — Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance) 1972 — Steve Schweighofer
McCabe & Mrs Miller, The Long Goodbye, Images and The Ghost and the Darkness. These are all films that owe their visual reputations to cinematographer Zsigmond’s considerable artistry, yet none of them landed him an Oscar nomination. He did get a nomination for The Deer Hunter and eventually won for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but his most egregious snub came with John Boorman’s Deliverance where his eye and camera were actually able to capture nature in its many moods, from sun-dappled daylight to dank, turquoise dawn. It’s not just pretty pictures he’s presenting us with, either, as his shots are dramatic and go to great lengths to accentuate the tension of the story. With the twist of a camera angle he can take the mood from “suitable for framing” to foreboding danger in the extreme in a matter of seconds. It just took Oscar awhile to recognize what most of us knew in the early 70s – Zsigmond was a pioneer in the visual arts.
Director — James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) 1991 — Robin Write
This is about as far out as you get, that is until you actually think about it. James Cameron may or may not be the greatest living action director, but with Terminator 2 it is fair to say he was right at the top of his game. And the impact this movie had on its arrival surpasses anything else that year. With nominations and wins in a lot of more technical categories suggests the Academy lapped it up for a lot of its excellence, but once again it appears their ability to break down doors and acknowledge these kinds of movies (action / sci-fi) is still lacking. Forget his head-shaking win for Titanic, but rather look at the subsequent win for Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), do we feel Cameron would have been nominated for this today?
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