Well, if there was ever a year that was not really up for debate. The incredible Schindler’s List dominated, and was never in doubt, taking seven Oscars from a possible twelve. The Piano, the biggest rival, took three Oscars, for both Actresses, and Screenplay. Spielberg’s other huge success (he’ll never have a year like this again) was Jurassic Park, smashing box office records and winning all three of the technical Oscars for which it was nominated. In Philadelphia meanwhile, Tom Hanks turned to drama with ease, and Bruce Springsteen won Best Song (Neil Young would also have been a worthy winner). A couple of surprises would be Farewell My Concubine not winning Best Foreign Language Film, and the multi-nominated The Fugitive (including Best Picture). But no damage done.
Best Original Score – Michael Nyman (The Piano)
This omission still makes me rub my eyes and look again. The Piano, with characters that love music, with a narrative driven by music, and a movie score that is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most heard in cinema history. And Michael Nyman was not nominated for Best Original Score. I am not going to bash the other nominations in this category, there is no point – this should have been there. The explanation for this derives from part of the music is an old folk tune, thus not wholly original. Oh dear. The Piano was nominated eight times, and won three of the biggest awards of the night, so it was clearly loved across the board. So shocking is this I suspect there are those out there who when asked would say this won the Oscar that year for music. One of the great snubs.
Best Picture – Short Cuts
They did it again. Robert Altman makes a near-masterpiece ensemble piece, and the Academy nominate him for Director but miss out the movie from the Best Picture list. And no nods for any of the actors, we can only assume they cancelled each other out as Short Cuts could easily have filled three or four of the Supporting slots. The movie clearly did not have much support with voters as Best Director was it’s only nomination. I do feel though, as much as there were some darker, more alternative movies getting recognized, the Academy were playing it quite safe in the nineties. Robert Altman was not a safe choice.
Best Supporting Actor – Sean Penn (Carlito’s Way)
I’m not sure Hollywood took Sean Penn very seriously in the early nineties. Perhaps they just saw that bad boy image he had for a while. I think with Dead Man Walking they finally opened their eyes fully and saw Penn acting. Really acting. Well, he happened to pull off a memorable supporting turn in Carlito’s Way – opposite Al Pacino I might add. Penn’s time would come though.
Best Actor – Robin Williams (Mrs Doubtfire)
With the Academy’s history of favoring drama over comedy you can understand characters saving thousands of lives, or wrongly imprisoned, or being fired for having AIDS, might carry more credibility than a character who puts on a dress. It is not always as black and white as that, especially not with the likes of Robin Williams. There are comparisons, of course, to Tootsie, but that notched an impressive ten nominations to Mrs. Doubtfire‘s one (which it won for Make-Up). Williams is in terrific form though as the dad who wants desperately to make amends and see his kids, but also as the flamboyant housekeeper – and at times hilariously in between. When comedy performances get rewarded, this is where you look.
Best Picture – Philadelphia
You get the feeling when it came to the crunch they just did not go for Philadelphia as first expected. Tom Hanks was a sure-thing for some time, but Denzel Washington was not nominated, and neither was director Jonathan Demme (who was surely still hot off the press from his win two years prior). It came away with two Oscars, but many feel at the time that Philadelphia, with its heart-felt and well executed story, would have made the Best Picture five.
Originally posted 13th October 2014.