An Alternative Oscar History: 1990-Present

Whether or not you agree with the considerable power that the Oscars have in the world of film, there is no question that it does. When a movie wins Best Picture, it almost always adds millions to its box office gross. Actors who win their categories are granted instant access to better projects (have you noticed trailers love to tout “Oscar winner” so and so?). I have been tracking the awards closely for quite some time as you may have noticed from my 2013 Oscar predictions… round 4 coming soon!

So – this post focuses on an alternative Oscar history. If the pictures and directors and actors and actresses and supporting actors and supporting actresses in their respective categories hadn’t won that year, who would have? This speculation is based on what was happening during those years prediction wise and who I believe was the likely runner-up. In some cases, the winners truly were surprising over a more obvious candidate. Marisa Tomei was not expected to be awarded Supporting Actress in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. Neither was Anna Paquin a year later for The Piano. Many were surprised when Crash won Best Picture in 2005.

Of course, there’s also times when the winner seems preordained and nobody really thinks anything or anyone else has a shot. Schindler’s List in 1993 comes to mind. Or Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor in Lincoln last year.

We’ll cover the years 1990-2012 and I hope you’ll find it interesting to see what might have been. For each year in the six major categories, I’ll list the “alternate” winner with the real recipient in parentheses.

1990

Picture: GoodFellas (Dances with Wolves)

Director: Martin Scorsese, GoodFellas (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves)

Actor: Robert De Niro, Awakenings (Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune)

Actress: Anjelica Huston, The Grifters (Kathy Bates, Misery)

Supporting Actor: Bruce Davison, Longtime Companion (Joe Pesci, GoodFellas)

Supporting Actress: Annette Bening, The Grifters (Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost)

1991

Picture: Bugsy (The Silence of the Lambs)

Director: Barry Levinson, Bugsy (Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs)

Actor: Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs)

Actress: Susan Sarandon, Thelma&Louise (Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs)

Supporting Actor: Harvey Keitel, Bugsy (Jack Palance, City Slickers)

Supporting Actress: Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides (Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King)

1992

Picture: Howards End (Unforgiven)

Director: James Ivory, Howards End (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven)

Actor: Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman)

Actress: Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo’s Oil (Emma Thompson, Howards End)

Supporting Actor: Jaye Davidson, The Crying Game (Gene Hackman, Unforgiven)

Supporting Actress: Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives (Maria Tomei, My Cousin Vinny)

1993

Picture: The Piano (Schindler’s List)

Director: Jane Campion, The Piano (Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List)

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Remains of the Day (Tom Hanks, Philadelphia)

Actress: Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day (Holly Hunter, The Piano)

Supporting Actor: Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive)

Supporting Actress: Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence (Anna Paquin, The Piano)

1994

Picture: Pulp Fiction (Forrest Gump)

Director: Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction (Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump)

Actor: Paul Newman, Nobody’s Fool (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump)

Actress: Jodie Foster, Nell (Jessica Lange, Blue Sky)

Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction (Martin Landau, Ed Wood)

Supporting Actress: Rosemary Harris, Tom&Viv (Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway)

1995

Picture: Sense and Sensibility (Braveheart)

Director: Michael Radford, Il Postino (Mel Gibson, Braveheart)

Actor: Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking (Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas)

Actress: Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking)

Supporting Actor: Ed Harris, Apollo 13 (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects)

Supporting Actress: Joan Allen, Nixon (Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite)

1996

Picture: Fargo (The English Patient)

Director: Joel Coen, Fargo (Anthony Minghella, The English Patient)

Actor: Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire (Geoffrey Rush, Shine)

Actress: Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies (Frances McDormand, Fargo)

Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Primal Fear (Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire)

Supporting Actress: Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces (Juliette Binoche, The English Patient)

1997

Picture: L.A. Confidential (Titanic)

Director: Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential (James Cameron, Titanic)

Actor: Robert Duvall, The Apostle (Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets)

Actress: Julie Christie, Afterglow (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets)

Supporting Actor: Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting)

Supporting Actress: Joan Cusack, In&Out (Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential)

1998

Picture: Saving Private Ryan (Shakespeare in Love)

Director: John Madden, Shakespeare in Love (Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan)

Actor: Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters (Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful)

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth (Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love)

Supporting Actor: Ed Harris, The Truman Show (James Coburn, Affliction)

Supporting Actress: Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters (Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love)

1999

Picture: The Insider (American Beauty)

Director: Michael Mann, The Insider (Sam Mendes, American Beauty)

Actor: Denzel Washington, The Hurricane (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty)

Actress: Annette Bening, American Beauty (Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry)

Supporting Actor: Tom Cruise, Magnolia (Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules)

Supporting Actress: Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry (Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted)

2000

Picture: Traffic (Gladiator)

Director: Ridley Scott, Gladiator (Steven Soderbergh, Traffic)

Actor: Tom Hanks, Cast Away (Russell Crowe, Gladiator)

Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream (Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich)

Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire (Benicio del Toro, Traffic)

Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson, Almost Famous (Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock)

2001

Picture: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (A Beautiful Mind)

Director: Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind)

Actor: Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind (Denzel Washington, Training Day)

Actress: Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball)

Supporting Actor: Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast (Jim Broadbent, Moulin Rouge)

Supporting Actress: Helen Mirren, Gosford Park (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind)

2002

Picture: The Pianist (Chicago)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York (Roman Polanski, The Pianist)

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (Adrien Brody, The Pianist)

Actress: Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven (Nicole Kidman, The Hours)

Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can (Chris Cooper, Adaptation)

Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep, Adaptation (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago)

2003

Picture: Mystic River (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

Director: Clint Eastwood, Mystic River (Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

Actor: Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (Sean Penn, Mystic River)

Actress: Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give (Charlize Theron, Monster)

Supporting Actor: Alec Baldwin, The Cooler (Tim Robbins, Mystic River)

Supporting Actress: Holly Hunter, Thirteen (Renee Zellwegger, Cold Mountain)

2004

Picture: The Aviator (Million Dollar Baby)

Director: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby)

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator (Jamie Foxx, Ray)

Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia (Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby)

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways (Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby)

Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, Closer (Cate Blanchett, The Aviator)

2005

Picture: Brokeback Mountain (Crash)

Director: Paul Haggis, Crash (Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain)

Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote)

Actress: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica (Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line)

Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man (George Clooney, Syriana)

Supporting Actress:  Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner)

2006

Picture: Babel (The Departed)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel (Martin Scorsese, The Departed)

Actor: Peter O’Toole, Venus (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland)

Actress: Kate Winslet, Little Children (Helen Mirren, The Queen)

Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls (Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine)

Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine (Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls)

2007

Picture: There Will Be Blood (No Country for Old Men)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood (Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men)

Actor: George Clooney, Michael Clayton (Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood)

Actress: Julie Christie, Away from Her (Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose)

Supporting Actor: Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men)

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton)

2008

Picture: The Reader (Slumdog Millionaire)

Director: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire)

Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (Sean Penn, Milk)

Actress: Meryl Streep, Doubt (Kate Winslet, The Reader)

Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk (Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight)

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt (Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona)

2009

Picture: Avatar (The Hurt Locker)

Director: James Cameron, Avatar (Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker)

Actor: George Clooney, Up in the Air (Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart)

Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious (Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side)

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, The Last Station (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds)

Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhall, Crazy Heart (Mo’Nique, Precious)

2010

Picture: The Social Network (The King’s Speech)

Director: David Fincher, The Social Network (Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech)

Actor: James Franco, 127 Hours (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech)

Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right (Natalie Portman, Black Swan)

Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech (Christian Bale, The Fighter)

Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (Melissa Leo, The Fighter)

2011

Picture: The Descendants (The Artist)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo (Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist)

Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants (Jean Dujardin, The Artist)

Actress: Viola Davis, The Help (Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady)

Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte, Warrior (Christopher Plummer, Beginners)

Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo, The Artist (Octavia Spencer, The Help)

2012

Picture: Life of Pi (Argo)

Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (Ang Lee, Life of Pi)

Actor: Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables (Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln)

Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook)

Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained)

Supporting Actress: Sally Field, Lincoln (Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables)

**Updated with 2013 Oscars

2013

Picture: American Hustle (12 Years a Slave)

Director: David O. Russell, American Hustle (Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity)

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club)

Actress: Sandra Bullock, Gravity (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine)

Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club)

Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave)

2014

Picture: Boyhood (Birdman)

Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman)

Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything)

Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Wild (Julianne Moore, Still Alice)

Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Birdman (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash)

Supporting Actress: Emma Stone, Birdman (Patricia Arquette, Boyhood)

2015

Picture: The Revenant (Spotlight)

Director: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant)

Actor: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant)

Actress: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn (Brie Larson, Room)

Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone, Creed (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies)

Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl)

2016

Picture: La La Land (Moonlight)

Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (Damien Chazelle, La La Land)

Actor: Denzel Washington, Fences (Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea)

Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle (Emma Stone, La La Land)

Supporting Actor: Dev Patel, Lion (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight)

Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, Moonlight (Viola Davis, Fences)

And there you have it! My Alternative Oscar History since 1990!

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