5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 1992

Just before Barbara Streisand announced Clint Eastwood as Best Director she said something like “This award is not for a man director, or a woman director, it is for the best director”. Did her absence in the previous year’s Best Director line-up still sting? Or was she telling them she was not hurt by that? Not one bit? Some argue, too, this was one of the weaker years for movies in contention.

The Crying Game was the biggest surprise (and indeed had the biggest surprise), and was part of the great showing for British talent. They made it a double in the screenplay awards (with Howard’s End taking Adapted). Al Pacino finally won, also nominated in Support for Glengarry Glen Ross. Another shock was Marisa Tomei winning Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny ahead of four non-Americans. Coincidence I assure you.

There were many omissions here. I have not put it in my list because had there been (if there was today) 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. Here are five anyway that could easily have made the cut in 1992.

Best Original Screenplay – Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs)

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 it was the core of the movie and a sign of a great talent with more of the same to come.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men)

A Few Good Men was one of the unlucky few to gain a Picture nomination but miss out on Director. It also missed out on Adapted Screenplay, which in my view was a surprise when you look at the competition. As already said though many of the nominations that failed to follow the Best Picture nominees (not usually to this extent) were absent – and so Sorkin was one of the ones to be left out. The screenplay, his first for motion pictures, was based on his own play, but was clear and solid in its serious execution, even if a few of the lines are quoted in jest these days.

Best Adapted screenplay – David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross)

Again based on his own play, David Mamet could have lost out on a nomination here (even with the Writer’s Guild support) because of his cruel characters and their potty mouths. But I would like to think that is not the case. Rather it was just simply that they found the screenplays for Howards End, Enchanted April, and A River Runs Through It much more clean-cut, wholesome adaptations at the time. I have to quote the movie when I say Fuck you to that. Mamet’s screenplay (and the movie itself) is full to the brim with big shot and mean dialogue that is nothing but brilliant.

Best Picture – The Last of the Mohicans

A movie that could have been a contender. It is not to everyone’s taste (but neither was Braveheart or most of the Best Picture winners from the eighties), but Michael Mann’s film ticked a lot of boxes that could have forecast this doing rather well. We could even be talking now about it as one of the weaker Best Picture winners perhaps. But it was nowhere near. It won a Sound award on the night, but a consolation prize does not fix the fact that the movie only managed that single nomination. A pretty surprising state of affairs when there were no real spectacular contenders that year, and this successfully weaved together many of the elements with love about cinema.

Best Picture – The Player

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.

Originally published October 2014.

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