5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 1994

Oh how I would like to write about how Forrest Gump won over more voters than Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. That alone is worthy of an article, an essay, Hell, a book. Forrest Gump is not awful by any stretch of the imagination, but Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption are movies with much more depth, have grown like wine, and become classics, just makes looking back on this even harder.

So what else happened? The four acting categories felt like they were decided two months prior to the Oscars. Tarantino won his first Oscar, and rightly so, this would have been like Network not winning. The Lion King won “Original Score” as well as “Original Song From The Lion King”. So The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction won one Oscar between them – Speed won two. But alas, that was not the only injustice that year.

Best Director – Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

Seven nominations for The Shawshank Redemption, and Frank Darabont was one of two directors with Best Picture nominations to be left out (Mike Newell also left out for Four Weddings and a Funeral – not nearly as big a surprise). Darabont would suffer the same omission again when The Green Mile was nominated for Best Picture a few years later. And they really didn’t like Tim Robbins back then did they. Forget how the movie is now in top ten lists everywhere, at that time this was still deserving of having it’s director nominated. They nominated Woody Allen and Krzysztof Kieslowski without Best Picture nods, so they had some gusto. For me, not even Zmeckis would have made my list, Darabont most certainly would have.

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hudsucker Proxy)

Oddly enough, and if I recall correctly, this was the year Jennifer Jason Leigh came the closest she has ever been to an Oscar nomination with a Lead Actress bid for Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle. She unfortunately missed out this time. I, though, have not been as impressed as I was seeing her as the brash, snappy, fast-talking Amy Archer a la Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn in The Hudsucker Proxy. I am pretty sure that was intentional by the Coen brothers, in their homage to the very early days of cinema. This was a great mini-era for her, what with her turns in Georgia and Dolores Claiborne the next year, and Short Cuts the year previous, an Oscar nod here could have jet-fired her career into a different direction. Unfortunately the movie was not well received by the box office or critics, so she had little chance.


Best Supporting Actress – Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire)

Speaking of firecrackers, I suspect there are not many that can blow the roof off the room occupied by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Let alone a child. But in their company Kirsten Dunst as Claudia is pretty mesmerizing, and really packs a punch. But, alas, kids rarely do well in the industry – I remember Jeremy Irons making some negative comment or other about children winning Oscars following Anna Paquin’s win the previous year. It was hardly a weak year though for actresses in supporting roles, some consider Sally Field’s omission a bit of a shock too for Forrest Gump, a movie that was over-loved all the way to Best Picture. 

Best Director – Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers)

I can tell you why this was not nominated right away. For a start Oliver Stone had already won two Best Director Oscars, not to mention opinions of his ability and the quality of his movies at this time was waning. The Academy were never going to succumb to Natural Born Killers. Though it is very much a director’s movie, with it’s channel-hopping, MTV, splatter-house pace, it is just a little too violent and far out to even believe it had anything of a chance. It would have been a great surprise choice though, especially alongside Tarantino.

Best Foreign Language Film – Three Colors: Red

A personal favorite of mine so I will try not to get too sentimental or bitter about this one. It is a credit to the Academy they managed to sort-list this, the final color of the trilogy by Kieslowski, in Directing, Cinematography and Original Screenplay. Not many non-English movies achieve this kind of feat. Even now, twenty years plus on, it rarely happens. In fact it is usually a refreshing or sour surprise when any American movie manages a Director and Screenplay mention with no Best Picture nod. But Red did not make the Foreign Language Film nominations either. On a personal note I would have liked to have seen Irene Jacob nominated for Best Actress (in what appeared to be a rather weak category), and the music by Zbigniew Preisner.

 Originally published 14th October 2014.


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