1996. When the Coen brothers realized the Academy liked them, they really liked them. Kind of. In the end they liked big, romantic, sorrowful, war-time epics. A beautiful painting. The liked The English Patient. It was good, but it was not nine Oscars good. And it was not Fargo good. In other news, Geoffrey Rush and Frances McDormand won in their respective lead acting categories for their supporting work. Not that I can grumble at those performances – it just meant Tom Cruise and Brenda Blethyn missed out. Kristin Scott Thomas and William H. Macy were also seemingly in the wrong categories. The superb Juliette Binoche seemed to surprise people when she won – but this was one of nine Oscars I won’t be complaining about. The English Patient pretty much steamrolled the Oscars. Even the Thalberg Award went to Saul Zaentz – that must have been a clue. When Evita won Song Andrew Lloyd Webber commented gratefully that The English Patient did not have a song. I laughed at that. Anyway, five more diverse none-nominees coming your way:
Supporting Actor — Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) 1996 — Robin Write
While the Trainspotting gang choose drugs as their extra-curricular pastimes, the one and only Francis “Franco” Begbie is fueling his overly-aggressive nature at all that stand in his path – including being more vocal than anyone about the disgusting heroin habit. An all-guns blazing performance from the Scot, with his fuck-this-fuck-that, chain smoking, while starting fights in pubs or acting out his cautionary hostility to his “friends”. Had Carlyle received an Oscar nod for this, finding a nomination clip were he was not cursing or pulling a knife on some c#nt would have been a challenge.
Foreign Language Film — A bout de soufflé (Breathless) 1960 — Steve Schweighofer
I’m not sure which fact is more absurd: that France did not submit Breathless as its entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar or that Jean-Luc Godard has never – ever – been nominated for Best Director, settling instead, O’Toole-style, for an honorary trophy and likely an extra cookie at the Governor’s Banquet fifty years later. He did not attend, of course. Breathless, as we all know, is a seminal work, launching Godard’s career, firing the starter’s pistol for the French New Wave, and inspiring the generation of filmmakers who would change Hollywood in the Seventies. Knowing AMPAS conservative tastes as well as Godard’s disdain for the movie factory in general, Breathless and it’s doomed love affair story is probably the director’s most accessible work and should have been right up their alley, and when this ship sailed past, it wasn’t coming back.
Original Screenplay — Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy (Best in Show) 2000 — Robin Write
This is bonkers. An ensemble character piece about a group of mismatched dog owners journeying to a dog show. This being docu-comedy genius that is Christopher Guest, it comes over as a mesh of hilarious moments and dialogue, delivered by a cast of performers in their wackiest form. And they have to be, these are everyday folk who just want the best for their talented dogs, and they all have varying degrees of enthusiasm, expectations, and personal problems. The feel that we are there to watch these brilliant people at this vital time of their lives (including them being directly interviewed to the camera) is nailed down so expertly. The script paces back and forth between these misfits, and Guest here uses many of his regular actors and actresses, so fans like me are familiar with all of this lively nonsense, and want to soak up every second.
Leading Actress — Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond The Lights) 2014 — Matt St. Clair
Back in 2014, hardly a brighter star was born than Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She had two very distinctive lead performances. One as a mixed race aristocrat in the costume drama Belle and the other as a modern-day, Rihanna-esque pop star in Beyond The Lights. As Noni, a rising singer poised to be the next big thing, Gugu Mbatha-Raw excels at showcasing her inner torment whether it’d be through the use of her sorrowful eyes or the way she passionately yet tearfully sings “Blackbird” by Nina Simone. Even though she may have been a long-shot in the Best Actress race, given how the song “Grateful” from the film’s soundtrack was nominated for Best Original Song, it’s evident that voters were familiar with the film and the rather fluid Best Actress race could’ve benefited from a strong performance such as hers being in the conversation.
Picture — The Player 1992 — Robin Write
The fact it was nominated in Editing, Directing and Screenplay (three big, gratifying categories in this business) meant, in a way, that voters really fell for this movie. As did many of us. A terrifically dark satire on the Hollywood pitch, and cram-packed with famous faces. One of Robert Altman’s finest, without a doubt. This snub (as well as that of Tim Robbins) has been making people’s head shake for years, but it missed out on Best Picture I suspect because it just did not make Hollywood look particularly good. They loved the movie for it’s craft and impact, but they just simply did not like the message. In omitting this for the five best movies of the year though, The Player kind of got that message half right on this occasion. A real shame.
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