Oscars 2015 Reaction

Well – after months of prognosticating the nominees and the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the season officially came to a close last night. This was a truly unpredictable year at the Academy Awards and it bore out with my so-so performance at just 13/21 on predictions. There were some REAL surprises last night and plenty of races that went according to plan. Let’s break it down with my various takes on the telecast and the winners:

  • The three picture race for the top category was just that with Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight winning over presumed front runner The Revenant (which was my prediction). The journalistic expose won only one other category (Original Screenplay, which I correctly predicted) and it’s the first Best Picture winner to be victorious in only two categories since 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth.
  • Speaking of history, expected recipient Alejandro G. Inarritu is the first Director to win (for The Revenant) twice in a row (2014’s Birdman) in 65 years.
  • The sixth time was finally the charm for Leonardo DiCaprio as he picked up a golden statue for The Revenant, as he was widely expected to.
  • The female acting competitions went according to plan: Brie Larson in Actress for Room and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl in Supporting. Same goes for Foreign Language Film (Son of Saul), Animated Feature (Inside Out), Adapted Screenplay (The Big Short), and Documentary (Amy), even though I went with the upset pick of Cartel Land.
  • Sylvester Stallone was the heavy favorite in Supporting Actor for Creed, but the Academy instead went with Mark Rylance’s work in Bridge of Spies. This category has had a history of upsets (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine over Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls circa 2006) and this is indeed another one.
  • It was a good night in the technical categories for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road as it picked up six awards: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Costume Design, Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It was nominated in Cinematography, but that went as anticipated to The Revenant. The big shocker in the tech categories was Ex Machina‘s out of nowhere win for Visual Effects. This truly was a massive upset as I would have picked it fifth to win over competitors Mad Max, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Martian.
  •  While Best Score went as planned to legendary Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight (for which he learned a long and deserved standing O), the Song category honored Sam Smith’s Spectre theme “Writing’s on the Wall” over expected winner “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga from The Hunting Ground, just moments after her peformance was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden.
  • As for the show itself, Chris Rock’s handling of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was handled with the edgy humor you’d expect from one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time. The telecast, per usual, was way longer than it should have been. The idea, however well intended, to allow winners to thank various people via a scroll at the bottom of the screen didn’t serve its intended purpose. Look for it to be gone next year. As solid as Rock was in his hosting duties, I couldn’t help but watch Louis C.K.’s brilliant introduction of the Best Documentary Short Subject race and hope that the Academy tabs him to host like… next year.

And there you have it! Another Oscar season that’s come and gone. Before we know it, I’ll be predicting the 2016 films and performers that could be recognized a year from now…

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Oscar History: 2011

For the Academy Awards, 2011 will forever be known as the year when a French black and white silent film came out of nowhere to win three major categories, including Best Picture. That would be The Artist and it picked up momentum over its rivals, becoming one of the more unlikely recipients of the prize in some time.

During that year, the number of Picture nominees was nine and it beat out The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. 

As for some others I may have considered, my favorite film of the year was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Another personal favorite: David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, the expanded list of nominees could have given the Academy a chance to nominate some of the better blockbusters that year: Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for example.

The Artist‘s auteur Michel Hazanavicius would win Director over stellar competitors: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). Again, Mr. Refn and Mr. Fincher would have made my cut.

The Artist love continued in Best Actor where Jean Dujardin took the prize over Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman in his first (??) nomination (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball).

I may have found room for Ryan Gosling’s silent but strong work in Drive or perhaps even Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love – in which he showed off real dramatic acting chops coupled with his comedic abilities for the first time.

Awards darling Meryl Streep took Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (no relation) in The Iron Lady. Othern nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

The Academy’s penchant for ignoring comedy was shown here as Kristin Wiig should have merited consideration for her megahit Bridesmaids.

Beloved veteran Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for Beginners over Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Two others I may have made room for: Albert Brooks in Drive and especially the brilliant motion capture work of Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Octavia Spencer was victorious in Supporting Actress for The Help over her costar Jessica Chastain, as well as Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy in the rare nod for comedy in Bridesmaids, and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).

Two other comedic performances worthy of consideration: Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids and Jennifer Aniston’s scene stealing work in Horrible Bosses. I also would have found room for Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

And that’s your Oscar history for 2011, folks! I’ll have 2012 up in the near future.

Oscar History: 2010

In my ongoing series of Oscar History posts, we arrive at what happened during the year 2010. This was quite a strong year for movies and, unlike other years, I can’t really quibble with the ten pictures that were nominated.

I can, however, differ with what won: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. While this was a very solid and entertaining picture, I would have definitely put at least three of the other nominees above it: Black Swan, Inception, and my favorite of the year, The Social Network. Other nominees were 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. 

Picture/Director matched up as Tom Hooper’s work in King’s Speech would win over Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), and David O. Russell (The Fighter). I may have found a spot for Christopher Nolan’s visually striking work in Inception. 

The love for The King’s Speech continued in Best Actor as Colin Firth was honored for his portrayal as King George VI. He triumphed over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and James Franco (127 Hours). It’s worth noting that Franco co-hosted the Oscars that year with Anne Hathaway. It wasn’t too memorable.

While his supporting players were showered with love, Mark Wahlberg was snubbed for his anchoring performance in The Fighter. Others worthy of mention: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island and Robert Duvall for Get Low.

Natalie Portman was a bit of a no-brainer pick for her tour de force work in Black Swan in the Actress race, beating out Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

I was a little surprised to see Bening’s Kids lead costar Julianne Moore left out. Franco’s co-host Anne Hathaway would’ve been a solid choice for her fine work in Love and Other Drugs. The Oscar voters rarely honor comedy, but they could have here with Emma Stone in her hit Easy A, as well.

Supporting Actor honored Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother in The Fighter. The other nominees were John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech).

I might have found room for either Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And keeping the snubbed comedy theme going, here’s an outside the box mention: Rob Corddry for his hilarious work in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Fighter also won in Supporting Actress with Melissa Leo, who edged out her co-star Amy Adams. The other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. The voters could have certainly nominated either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for their roles in Black Swan.

And that’s your Oscar History of 2010, my friends. We’ll get to 2011 soon…

Oscar History: 2009

It’s been a little while, but this evening on the blog – we continue with my ongoing series of Oscar History posts and we’ve arrived at 2009. That year’s Academy Awards are notable for a couple of reasons. First, this was the year where the decision was made to expand the list of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. It’s likely not an accident that this occurred just one year after 2008’s commercial and critical smash The Dark Knight failed to make the five pic cut. This was the Academy’s way of including more commercially successful ventures. After all, there’s a direct correlation between hit pictures being nominated and the ratings of the telecast itself. Secondly, the real battle of nominated entries came down between the efforts of a couple that was married and divorced – James Cameron for his smash hit Avatar (which demolished all box office records) and ex wife Kathryn Bigelow for her war drama The Hurt Locker.

It would be Bigelow who would come out on top as The Hurt Locker would take Best Picture over her ex-husband’s blockbuster. The other eight nominated features: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air. The success of Hurt Locker would relegate Avatar to winning only the tech categories.

Up would mark the first animated flick nomination (and first and only Pixar one) since 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and it hasn’t happened since. Basterds would mark Quentin Tarantino’s second pic nod after Pulp Fiction fifteen years prior.

As for movies that might have made my personal cut, I advocate for Steven Soderbergh’s underrated and hilarious The Informant! And if the Academy wanted to include high profile pictures, why not consider the acclaimed Star Trek reboot or comedy smash of the year The Hangover? I’m also a big fan of Zack Snyder’s graphic novel adaptation of Watchmen.

Bigelow would go onto make history by becoming the first female Best Director winner in Oscar history over Cameron, Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and Tarantino. I may have found room for Neill Blomkamp’s impressive work in District 9.

Beloved actor Jeff Bridges would score his first Best Actor win for Crazy Heart, beating out George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), and Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker). Firth would go onto win the prize the following year for The King’s Speech. Once again, my Informant! love would have meant an inclusion for Matt Damon’s terrific work in it.

Sandra Bullock would receive her first ever nomination and a win for her hit football drama The Blind Side. Other nominees: Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). Two names I would’ve considered: Alison Lohman’s great scared crapless work in Sam Raimi’s horror tale Drag Me to Hell and Zooey Deschanel in the rom com (500) Days of Summer.

Quentin Tarantino’s knack of finding the perfect actor in the perfect role landed an at the time unknown Christoph Waltz a win in Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds. Other nominees were Matt Damon for Invictus, Woody Harrelson for The Messenger, Christopher Plummer in The Last Station, and Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones. As I’ve mentioned in these posts before, the Academy usually ignores comedies and this race would have given them an excellent opportunity to nominate Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover. Also, I may have included Jackie Earle Haley for his work in Watchmen.

Mo’Nique would win Supporting Actress in Precious over previous year’s winner Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (both nominated for Up in the Air), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart). I would have given consideration to either Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger for their roles in Basterds.

And that’s 2009 for you, my friends! I’ll get to 2010 at same point in the future…

Oscar History: 2008

The 2008 Oscars will likely go down as the final year when only five films would compete in the granddaddy category of them all, Best Picture. The following year, the Academy would change it to ten and a couple years after that, developed a formula where anywhere from 5-10 movies could be recognized.

Many believe the reason is 2008’s exclusion of the critically lauded superhero sequel The Dark Knight, which had become the year’s highest grossing feature and was considered a major milestone in the burgeoning genre. Yet with the exception of its acclaimed Joker, Knight was shut out in the major categories.

Best Picture instead went to a true “little movie that could” – Danny Boyle’s out of nowhere critical and audience pleaser Slumdog Millionaire.

It would win out over David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, Gus Van Sant’s Milk, and Stephen Daldry’s The Reader. It is a bit surprising that Oscar voters left out Knight and I would put forth that a decent argument could also be made for Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, which also stands as a creative high point in the comic book canon of movies.

In the Best Director category, it was a rare example of the five nominated auteurs matching the Picture nominees and Boyle would take home the gold over Fincher, Daldry, Van Sant, and Howard. Once again, Christopher Nolan would be on the outside looking in for his Knight direction.

Sean Penn would win his second Best Actor statue (2003’s Mystic River being the first) for playing gay activist Harvey Milk in Milk.

Other nominees: Richard Jenkins in The Visitor, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button, and Mickey Rourke in a career comeback role as The Wrestler.

Certainly Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man could have been considered along with Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road, Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, and the Slumdog Millionaire himself Dev Patel.

After a number of nominations with no victories, Kate Winslet would win Best Actress for The Reader, beating out Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married). Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and the omnipresent Meryl Streep (Doubt).

It was a bit surprising to see Cate Blanchett’s work in Benjamin Button go unrecognized.

The Dark Knight would win its Oscar with the late Heath Ledger taking Supporting Actor as the Joker. Other nominees: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).

While it was refreshing to see the Academy nominate a comedic performance like Downey’s in Tropic Thunder, an equally good argument could have been made for Tom Cruise’s role in that picture. Same goes for James Franco’s exemplary work as a stoner in Pineapple Express.

Woody Allen has directed several actresses to Supporting Actress wins and he did it again with Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona.

She would be victorious over Amy Adams in Doubt, Viola Davis – also for Doubt, Taraji P. Henson in Benjamin Button, and Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler.

I might’ve found room for Frances McDormand in the Coen Brothers Burn After Reading.

And that’s all for now on the Oscar History front! I’ll be back with 2009 in the near future…

Oscar History: 2007

Tonight on the blog – we review the Oscars from 2007, continuing with my series of Oscar History posts. 2007 was a year in which the brilliant Coen Brothers finally received some Academy love. Their critically lauded No Country for Old Men won Best Picture and earned the twosome the Best Director prize. It’s hard to argue with the Academy’s choice of this terrific pic for the top prize.

In my view, There Will Be Blood would’ve been another deserving recipient and it was nominated for Best Picture, along with Joe Wright’s Atonement, Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton, and Jason Reitman’s Juno. I likely would’ve left Atonement and Juno off the list and considered David Fincher’s meticulously crafted Zodiac and/or Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.

A running theme of my Oscar posts has been the Academy’s consistent lack of comedy inclusion and, for me, the genre’s 2007 highlight was Superbad, one of the finest raunch-fests in quite some time.

I was also a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ode to B movies, Grindhouse.

There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson was included in the Best Director race along with Gilroy and Reitman. Atonement director Joe Wright was the lone director left out whose film was nominated and Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was a bit of a surprise nominee. As mentioned, they all lost to the Coens. I would have certainly included Fincher’s work in Zodiac.

The Best Actor race was over as soon as Daniel Day-Lewis’s work in There Will Be Blood was seen and it would mark his second win after being honored for My Left Foot eighteen years earlier. Other nominees (who truly can say it was just an honor to be nominated after Day-Lewis’s tour de force): George Clooney in Michael Clayton, Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd, Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah, and Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises.

Nobody plays a calculating bad guy better than Denzel Washington and I probably would have found room for him with his turn in American Gangster.

In the Best Actress race, Marion Cotillard would win for La Vie En Rose – beating out Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages), and Ellen Page (Juno).

Leaving out Keira Knightley’s work in Atonement was a surprise. For my dark horse contender, Christina Ricci’s fearless work in Black Snake Moan might’ve made my cut.

Like the Best Actor category, the Supporting Actor race was over when audiences and critics saw Javier Bardem’s amazing performance in No Country for Old Men. Other nominees: Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War, Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild, and Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton.

Paul Dano’s performance in There Will Be Blood certainly should’ve been acknowledged here. Two others to consider: Robert Downey Jr.’s work as a boozy reporter in Zodiac and Kurt Russell’s hilarious and sadistic role in Grindhouse.

The Supporting Actress race belonged to Tilda Swinton as a ruthless attorney in Michael Clayton. She would win over double nominee Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There, Ruby Dee for American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan in Atonement, and Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone.

I would’ve included Kelly MacDonald as Josh Brolin’s wife in No Country for Old Men.

And there’s my take on the ’07 Oscars, my friends! I’ll have 2008 posted soon.

Oscar History: 2006

Rocky over Taxi Driver. Ordinary People over Raging Bull. Dances with Wolves over GoodFellas. These are all examples where, in hindsight, pictures directed by Martin Scorsese and the auteur himself probably should have received Oscars wins and not just nominations. In 2002, Scorsese’s Gangs of New York was seen as a Best Picture frontrunner until Chicago stole its thunder. The same held true two years later with The Aviator until Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby had a late surge and took the prize. By 2006, Scorsese was undoubtedly the most acclaimed director whose films had never won the gold statue. And neither had he.

This would finally come to an end with The Departed, his crime thriller that won Best Picture and this kicks off my 2006 Oscar History.

The other four nominees were Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s Babel, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Feris’s Little Miss Sunshine, and Stephen Frears’s The Queen. The voters got it right. The Departed was the Best Picture of the year.

As for other pictures I would’ve considered: Alfonso Cuaron’s terrific Children of Men, Guillermo del Toro’s visual feast Pan’s Labyrinth, the Ryan Gosling drama Half Nelson, and Todd Field’s Little Children. And for an outside the box pic – why not Casino Royale, which brought the Bond franchise back in grand fashion and ranks as my 2nd all-time 007 pic after From Russia with Love?

Scorsese, as mentioned before, would win Director over Inarritu, Eastwood, Frears, and Paul Greengrass for United 93. Once again – my list would’ve found room for Cuaron and del Toro.

In the Best Actor race, Forest Whitaker expectedly won for his performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Other nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond (many thought he’d get nominated instead for Departed), Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson, Peter O’Toole for Venus (his final nomination), and Will Smith for The Pursuit of Happyness.

Once again, my ballot might’ve listed Daniel Craig for his electric take on James Bond. Others to consider: Clive Owen (Children of Men), Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking), or Matt Damon’s work in The Departed.

No surprise in the Best Actress race as Helen Mirren’s work as Queen Elizabeth II was honored in The Queen over Penelope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), and Kate Winslet (Little Children).

That’s a strong Actress category, but I would’ve also had Natalie Portman’s fine performance in V for Vendetta included.

The only true surprise at the 2006 Oscars occurred in the Supporting Actor category where Eddie Murphy’s acclaimed work in Dreamgirls was expected to win. Instead the Academy honored Alan Arkin’s performance in Little Miss Sunshine. Other nominees: Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), and Mark Wahlberg (The Departed).

Instead of Wahlberg, many believed it would be Jack Nicholson for Departed that received the nomination. I was cool with it – considering Nicholson had already won three times before and this marked Wahlberg’s first nod. Other names I would have possibly included: Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Sheen (The Queen), and for his brilliant comedic work – John C. Reilly in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Jennifer Hudson had the distinction of being the first “American Idol” contestant turned Oscar winner with her lauded role in Dreamgirls – winning out over Babel actresses Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, young Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine, and Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal.

My list would have absolutely included Shareeka Epps with her fabulous work in Half Nelson and probably Vera Farmiga in The Departed.

And that’s your 2006 Oscar history! I’ll be back soon with 2007 where another beloved director (s) would take home their first Oscar gold.

Oscar History: 2005

The 2005 Oscars showcased easily the biggest Best Picture upset since 1998 when Shakespeare in Love won out over Saving Private Ryan. This time around, Ang Lee’s cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain was widely expected to take the top prize.

However, at the end of the evening, it was Jack Nicholson reading the name of Paul Haggis’s Crash as the winner. Other nominees were Bennett Miller’s Capote, George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, and Steven Spielberg’s Munich.

The ensemble race relations drama Crash has since garnered the reputation of one of the most undeserving Best Pic recipients of all time. While I agree it wasn’t the year’s best, it’s a pretty damn good film in my estimation. Other flicks I would’ve considered: Woody Allen’s Match Point and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which I rank as the greatest superhero flick of all time.

While Mountain was snubbed for the big prize, Ang Lee did take Best Director in a category where the nominated directors matched the pictures honored (this was rare before the Academy switched to five to ten nominees in 2009). Lee won out over Haggis, Miller, Clooney, and Spielberg.

The Best Actor category went as planned with Philip Seymour Hoffman winning for his spot-on portrayal of Capote. Other nominees: Terrence Howard in Hustle&Flow, Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line, and David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck.

I might have considered Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man or Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence. Of course, the Academy rarely honors comedy which left out someone else I would have thought about – Steve Carell for his terrific work in The 40 Yr. Old Virgin.

As June Carter Cash, Reese Witherspoon was victorious in the Best Actress category in Walk the Line, over Judi Dench for Mrs. Henderson Presents, Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Keira Knightley in Pride&Prejudice, and Charlize Theron for North Country.

My list would have certainly included Scarlett Johannson in Match Point.

George Clooney won Supporting Actor for Syriana over Matt Dillon in Crash, Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man, Jake Gyllenhall in Brokeback Mountain, and William Hurt in A History of Violence.

Clifton Collins Jr.’s fine work in Capote should have been included and, for an outside the box pick, Mickey Rourke in a memorable role in Sin City.

Rachel Weisz’s win for Supporting Actress in The Constant Gardener showcased a weak category that included Amy Adams in Junebug, Catherine Keener in Capote, Frances McDormand in North Country, and Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain.

Two performances jump out in my mind that I would’ve had: Maria Bello in A History of Violence and Taryn Manning in Hustle&Flow.

Ultimately the 2005 Oscars will be remembered for that Crash upset. This would also not be the last time where Ang Lee would take home Best Director without his project winning Best Picture. We’ll get to that in an Oscar History post in the future.

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!

Oscar History: 2004

In 1976, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver was seen as a strong possibility to win Best Picture at the Oscars until a boxing movie unexpectedly captured audiences attention and took the prize. That would, of course, be Rocky. Fast forward to 2004 where Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator seemed to be the odds-on favorite for Best Pic until, yet again, a pugilistic tale surprised moviegoers late in the awards season.

Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby wasn’t even talked about much as an awards contender during 2004’s calendar year. It was released very late in the year, but it turned out to be great timing. 

Baby would win the top award over The Aviator, as well as Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland, Taylor Hackford’s Ray, and Alexander Payne’s Sideways.

As for other contenders not recognized, the Academy would ignore Quentin Tarantino’s fantastic Kill Bill and its Volume II after snubbing the first installment the year prior. It’s also worth noting that the greatest Harry Potter flick in the franchise (in my view) Prisoner of Azkaban could have been honored too. And there’s Michel Gondry’s highly original critical favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And a favorite of audiences – Mel Gibson’s mega-blockbuster Passion of the Christ. Any of one of these pics should have at least replaced Finding Neverland, which was decent but doesn’t belong in the category.

The Baby boom would extend to Eastwood, who won Best Director exactly a dozen years after winning the same award for Unforgiven. This prevented Scorsese from winning his first Oscar. Other nominees included Hackford, Payne, and Mike Leigh for Vera Drake. 

Once again – Gondry, Tarantino, and Gibson are names worth mentioning that didn’t get in the mix.

Jamie Foxx would take Best Actor for his dead-on portrayal of the legendary singer Ray Charles in Ray, winning out over Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator, Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda, Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, and Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland.

One major snub was Paul Giamatti for his fine work in Sideways. The Academy yet again snubbed Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine.

Hilary Swank won her second Best Actress award in five years for Baby (in 1999, she was victorious in Boys Don’t Cry). Other nominees: Annette Bening in Being Julia, Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace, Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake, and Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine.

Once again, it was Uma Thurman left out for her work in the Kill Bill franchise.

Morgan Freeman would win his first Oscar in the Supporting Actor race for Million Dollar Baby over Alan Alda in The Aviator, Thomas Haden Church for Sideways, Jamie Foxx in Collateral, and Clive Owen in Closer. 

Not to keep bringing up Kill Bill, but the late David Carradine should have been nominated.

The Aviator would finally receive some Academy recognition with Cate Blanchett winning Supporting Actress with her portrayal as Katherine Hepburn. Other nominees: Laura Linney in Kinsey, Virginia Madsen for Sideways, Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda, and Natalie Portman for Closer. 

After all my mentions for Kill Bill and Eternal Sunshine receiving snubs, there’s one other 2004 pic that demonstrates the Academy’s constant ability to ignore comedies. So I give you the following snubs –

Best Actor – Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Supporting Actor – Steve Carell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Supporting Actor – Paul Rudd, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Supporting Actor – David Koechner, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Scene Involving a Cannonball – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Scene With a Dog Being Punted – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Best Rendition of “Afternoon Delight” In a Movie: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

I’ll be back with Oscar History: 2005 soon, my friends!