5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 1991

This was a great year for Academy Awards in the sense that it somehow broke free from convention of what we and anyone associated with movies and Oscars consider to be the rules that apply when they choose their winners.

The film with the most nominations was Bugsy, and it failed to take Best Picture (not even close to doing so I suspect), which rarely happens. No, that award went to crime thriller The Silence Of The Lambs, winning all five of the major awards (Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Screenplay), a feat only achieved previously by It Happened One Night and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

The five Best Picture nominees this year also included an animated feature for the very first time – Beauty and the Beast. And John Singleton’s Best Director nomination for Boyz N The Hood meant not only was he the youngest director to be nominated, but also the first black director on the list in the history of the Academy Awards. The Academy, though, did not really stray this far from their comfort zone for many years after. Here are five I feel they could have stretched to.

Best Foreign Language Film – The Double Life of Veronique


Krzysztof Kieślowski was renowned for being frustrated with film-making as he could never quite make the movie he saw in his head. No disrespect to the man, and I understand his notion, but that was pretty wasteful thinking when you look at what he visually achieved. The Double Life of Veronique cemented his place on the list of high caliber directors working at that time. The cinematography too by Slawomir Idziak ought to have found its way to an Oscar nomination (Golden Palm nominee at Cannes) – but certainly, as the Golden Globes did, this should have been given a Foreign Language Film nod.

Best Picture – Thelma & Louise


Director Ridley Scott, both actresses Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, as well as the film’s editor and cinematography grabbed nominations for this – and it won its only Oscar for Callie Khouri and her original screenplay. So why did it fail to make Best Picture? Did the love for Beauty and the Beast squeeze it out? It’s a real shame, as some would argue it was the best movie of that year – it certainly wasn’t The Prince Of Tides (which is partly why Barbara Streisand is not on this list for her failure to be nominated as Director).

Best Actor – John Turturro (Barton Fink)


Oh dear voters, you were, and perhaps always will be so far behind what many of us consider to be truly great cinema. They went bananas for Barton Fink in Cannes, picking up Best Actor, Best Director and the Palme d’Or. But the Oscars bottled it somewhat by nominating the movie for it’s costumes and sets (and rightly so), and head-scratchingly able to nominate Michael Lerner (good, but not John Goodman) for Supporting Actor. That they failed to nominate John Turturro for owning this movie will always remain a mystery to me – even though it does appear he was drowned out by five heavyweights at the peak of their game (Hopkins, Beatty, De Niro, Nolte, Williams).

Best Original Score – Howard Shore (The Silence of the Lambs)


Considering what a great night The Silence Of The Lambs had it is relatively easy to suggest it could have managed a further nomination for it’s music score by Howard Shore. That said, the music is another terrific element of the movie that kind of haunts you long after you have seen it. Even watching the movie again twenty five years on. A perfect companion to the narrative, and a worthy entry in the year’s Best Original Score category.

Best Director – James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)


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?

Originally published October 2014.


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