5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 1998

The year Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan to Best Picture. That sentence in itself stirs up all kind of emotions and potential Oscar debates. I remember calling this split, and not particularly proud to say that. It seems campaigning was the real winner then. Roberto Benigni went on to win Best Actor over Tom Hanks, Nick Nolte, Edward Norton, and favorite Ian McKellen. And Gwyneth Paltrow won Best Actress – does this mean voters really believed that performance was better than that of Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth? No it does not. There were also no Oscars for Hans Zimmer or John Toll (The Thin Red Line). A couple of notable exclusions would be Kathy Burke and Ray Winstone (Nil by Mouth), though as excellent as Gary Oldman’s directorial debut was, it was quite far out there for this Academy. A little more surprisingly perhaps, is that there was also no room for Christina Ricci or Lisa Kudrow (The Opposite of Sex). As mad as it might sound, There’s Something About Mary may have sneaked in somewhere or other – but there was only room for one comedy this year. So what else did they miss?

Best Actor – Jim Carrey (The Truman Show)

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This was so obvious a snub I almost removed it from my mind to choose another option (likely Out of Sight for Best Picture). However, I could not resist this omission, for The Truman Show, which seemed a contender throughout the race but never quite made its mark as one of the best five movies of the year. Which is was. It had Peter Weir directing, Andrew Nicol penning one of the most thought-provoking and original screenplays of the decade, and it had, right in the center of the world, Jim Carrey. I’ve seen his name on many a snub list – one in particular I read recently suggested Carrey was not quite up to the drama side of things, which I could not disagree with more. His every-man living a lie that he believes is the reality, is pitch-perfect, and is completely up to the task of growing more suspicious of his surroundings, before having to truly come to terms with what must be a truly shocking and emotional change of reality. Carrey is asked to show the heartbreak and sadness of a man who has (nearly) everything pulled out from under him. Nobody can truly know what it must really feel like to be Truman Burbank at those moments of realization, but Jim Carrey takes us as close as we can to possibly imagine.

Best Actress – Jane Horrocks (Little Voice)

Back then you may not really known who Jane Horrocks was. You may not know who she is now. People from the UK should know her from her TV work (like Absolutely Fabulous). You may or may not know she performed in the stage version of Little Voice. Or that she was the muse for the play (Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress), having been heard singing like Judy Garland. Yes, that is her singing in the movie. And as the roaring lion hidden under the posture of a little mouse, Jane Horrocks is superb. L.V. mimics Marilyn Monroe at times when speaking, and spends a lot of her time away in her room singing to old records. She barely speaks, and her facial expression remains timid, but she is very much acting the whole time. Horrocks was nominated at the Globes, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild to name a few, but AMAPS thought otherwise. Sadly.

Best Supporting Actor – Bill Murray (Rushmore)

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Playing a tycoon in Rushmore, who at first befriends a fifteen year-old high school flunker, Bill Murray is treading on relatively new ground here. In the Wes Anderson film, the relationship between Blume (Murray) and Max (Jason Schwartzman) is that of mutual respect and admiration, until they lock horns for the affections of teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). It is impossible to dislike Murray in this kind of form. Let’s not forget Murray does bring that poker-face to many of his prior roles, memorably in his back-to-back recent work on Groundhog Day and Mad Dog and Glory – albeit to varying degrees. And as he ages gracefully, he would continue to play it a little more straight, but we love him no less for it.

Best Supporting Actress – Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski)

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Prior to her Still Alice triumph, Julianne Moore was an actress who kept turning up in conversations regarding should-have-been-nominated for an Oscar. Same could often be said for the Coen brothers. Following the Academy’s partial love for them with Fargo, they decided to completely ignore The Big Lebowski. It is the wacky side of the Coens, sure, but many of their fans consider this their favorite. As do some critics I suspect. Julianne Moore is just perfect here, in a rather peculiar role that requires her to deliver some juicy dialogue (no pun intended, honest). Moore is totally up for this, big time, and she devours this role in one gulp.

Best Original Score – Thomas Newman (The Horse Whisperer)

Today, Thomas Newman is on the cusp of being a little bit forgotten and so far being one of the biggest Oscar losers in the Original Score category. He currently has thirteen nominations in this field with zero wins. In 1998 I would argue he was verging on the peak of his ability. With four exceptional scores in two years, only American Beauty would receive an Oscar nod. Arguably, the other three (The Green Mile, Meet Joe Black, and the one I have chosen) may well be better compositions. I was not a huge fan of the Robert Redford movie (amazingly nominated for Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globes), a little too artificial and dreamy in it’s photography, and there was little chemistry between Redford and Kristen Scott Thomas. That aside, Newman’s music makes up for where the film lacks – and more. A strong romantic and western feel, and several solid music themes running though it. I have listened to the score a thousand times while writing, and adopted this as a soundtrack for my screenwriting.

Originally published 23rd October 2014.

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3 thoughts on “5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 1998

  1. I don't mind Shakey in Love, if I've had a long week and want to watch something that doesn't tax me too much, but seriously?
    The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, on its own, is better than Shakey in it's entirety!

    Like

  2. As a movie Shakespeare In Love is fine, but as far as the Oscar race was concerned I think a lot of voters were not voting for what they actually believed to be the best movie. But then do they ever do that?

    Like

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