Best Actor: A Look Back

My look back at the major Oscar categories from 1990 to the present arrives at Best Actor today! If you missed my posts covering Actress and the Supporting races, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/31/best-actress-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/25/best-supporting-actor-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As with those previous entries, I am picking the three least surprising winners of the last 28 years, along with the three biggest upsets. Additionally, you’ll see my personal picks for strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the winners from 1990 to now:

1990 – Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune

1991 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

1993 – Tom Hanks, Philadelphia

1994 – Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

1995 – Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

1996 – Geoffrey Rush, Shine

1997 – Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

1998 – Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

1999 – Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

2000 – Russell Crowe, Gladiator

2001 – Denzel Washington, Training Day

2002 – Adrien Brody, The Pianist

2003 – Sean Penn, Mystic River

2004 – Jamie Foxx, Ray

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2006 – Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

2008 – Sean Penn, Milk

2009 – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

2010 – Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

2011 – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

2013 – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

2016 – Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

2017 – Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Let’s begin with the three that I’m deeming as the non-surprise winners. Whittling this down to that number was a challenge. The double wins by Hanks and Penn and even last year’s winner Oldman could’ve easily been named here, too. Here goes…

3. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman

The legendary thespian was 0 for 6 when it came to nominations and wins entering 1992. He picked up his 7th and 8th nods that year with his supporting role in Glengarry Glen Ross and lead role as a blind former colonel in this Martin Brest directed drama. By Oscar night, it was clear he was finally going to make that trip to the podium.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Like Pacino, DiCaprio had been an Academy bridesmaid before… four times. His fifth nod for The Revenant guaranteed he’d finally be a winner against weak competition (more on that below).

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

I could have named the Method actor’s victory in 2007 for There Will Be Blood as well, but his win five years later as the nation’s 16th President edges it out. From the moment the Steven Spielberg project was announced, Day-Lewis was the odds on favorite and it never changed.

Now – my selections for the upsets:

3. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs

While it might seem an obvious win nearly 30 years later, Nick Nolte’s work in The Prince of Tides had nabbed him the Golden Globe. Additionally, there was some controversy about Sir Anthony’s inclusion in the lead race due to his approximate 16 minutes of screen time. This is truly evidence of a performance so towering that it couldn’t be ignored.

2. Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

The Italian director/writer/actor was an underdog against competition that included Nick Nolte (once again) for Affliction and Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters. Mr. Benigni seemed a bit shocked himself when his name was called, as he famously bounded exuberantly to the stage.

1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist

The smart money in 2002 was with Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York. Brody’s win was pretty shocking, as was the giant smooch he planted on presenter Halle Berry.

When it comes to overall fields, I’m going recent history with both. For strongest, I’ll give it to 2012. That’s the year Day-Lewis won for Lincoln. All other nominees were rock solid as well with Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

For weakest, I’m picking 2015. This is the aforementioned year of DiCaprio’s overdue win. The rest of the field, however, was a bit lacking. It consisted of Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl).

And there’s your Actor look back, folks! Keep an eye out for Best Picture soon as the final post in this series…

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Review

Director Wes Anderson is known for being in acquired taste and I’ve always found myself somewhere towards the middle with him. The strongest proponents of his work find Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and others to be brilliant. Frankly, I do not. However, I’ve yet to watch an Anderson picture and not come away with giving it a recommendation – some more highly than others (Tenenbaums is my personal favorite).

There is nothing about The Grand Budapest Hotel that changes that dynamic. Like his aforementioned efforts, some have found this to be a masterpiece and I disagree. Yet again – the aspects that are great are truly remarkable. The majority of the pic takes place in the 1930s when The Grand Budapest Hotel is a thriving business located in the made-up European Republic of Zubrowka. The head concierge is Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), with a penchant for romancing the wealthy older (much older) female clientele of the establishment. One current conquest is Madame D (Tilda Swinton with one heckuva old lady makeup job). It is Madame D’s murder that leads to her concierge lover being framed and he must clear his name with the assistance of his best Lobby Boy Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori). This is all set against the backdrop of the outbreak of World War II and Anderson’s screenplay manages to occasionally integrate the tragic elements of the war with the madcap events happening before us. The story is told in flashback with 1980s Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) recounting the pic’s events to a writer played by Jude Law. And even the Abraham/Law dynamic is a flashback itself with a modern-day Tom Wilkinson as an older version of Law.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is loaded with actors in supporting roles that Anderson has used many times. They include Adrien Brody as the Madame’s conniving son, Edward Norton as a police inspector, Harvey Keitel as an inmate helping Gustave, Jeff Goldblum as a lawyer tasked with the Madame’s complex will, and smaller roles from Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. There’s also Saoirse Ronan as Mustafa’s love interest. The cameos by Murray and Wilson felt a bit perfunctory to me, as if Anderson simply felt the need to include his usual standbys, but the director’s biggest admirers will probably appreciate their inclusion.

For all the considerable star power inhabiting Hotel, it’s the Gustave/Mustafa relationship that fills most of the brisk 99 minute running time. And it’s the until now unknown impressive comedic chops of Fiennes that is by far the highlight. Known for being a serious actor, the actor seems to relish playing this zany character and spouting Anderson’s dialogue. I suspect he may become yet another staple of the director’s troupe (I hope so).

The production design and cinematography are fantastic. This is an absolutely gorgeous picture to look at and Anderson evens shoots Hotel in three different aspect ratios in relation to each time setting.

As already stated, the most rabid aficionados of Anderson’s work will adore this. Somewhat surprisingly – Budapest managed to breakthrough to the mainstream more than any other of his pictures with a wonderful $162 million worldwide gross. I say surprisingly because I put this on the same level with most of his other efforts. This is a consistently amusing comedy with spots of true hilarity. The moments where Anderson injects emotion into all the craziness feels a little forced, more so than it did in Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom. And any comedy that puts Bill Murray in a scene and doesn’t let him do something funny earns a demerit.

Bottom line: if you’re in the Anderson makes pretentious fluff camp, you’ll still be. If you’re in the Anderson is a God camp, you’ll worship again. Or if you’re like me… you’ll appreciate its finest moments without coming close to uttering the word masterpiece.

*** (out of four)

 

 

Oscar Watch: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yes, the Oscar ceremony celebrating the best of film in 2013 was just four days ago. Yes, it’s entirely too early to start speculating on next year’s Oscars.

Or perhaps not because tomorrow brings us what could be the first legitimate Oscar contender of 2014. It comes in the form of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Director/writer Anderson has a very loyal following that include most critics. Some of his acclaimed works include Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. All were favorites in the critical community. None have received a Best Picture nomination.

There may a feeling that Anderson is due and Budapest could be that movie. It stands at a solid 87% so far on Rotten Tomatoes. It also has one heckuva cast – with lead Ralph Fiennes joining Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwarztman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Owen Wilson. In early reviews, Fiennes has particularly been singled out and we could hear his name mentioned as a Best Actor candidate.

The picture has a great shot at a Best Original Screenplay nomination where Anderson has been nominated twice before for Tenenbaums and Kingdom. It goes without saying, but there’s no way to currently know how good a year 2014 will turn out to be. It’s not even out yet, but I’ll say with confidence that Budapest wouldn’t have been nominated in 2013.

However, 2013 was a rather strong year. With the combination of an overdue feeling for Anderson and current positive buzz, this is 2014’s first Oscar contender.