The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

Oscar Watch: Lady Bird

The Telluride Film Festival over the weekend has showcased yet another Best Actress hopeful. This time it’s Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan and the buzz is loud enough that she looks like a real contender for her third nomination.

The coming-of-age drama marks the directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig. Reviews from Telluride suggest it’s a winner. If Ronan can emerge from an increasingly crowded field in Best Actress, it would come a decade after her first nod for Supporting Actress in Atonement and two years following her lead nomination in Brooklyn. Critics were also quick to praise the supporting work of veteran performer Laurie Metcalf, who could find herself in the Supporting Actress derby. Gerwig also wrote the screenplay and may have a better shot at Original Screenplay recognition over her direction.

If Lady Bird‘s distributor A24 mounts a major campaign, it could even be a long shot player for a Picture nom. One thing seems certain, though. Ronan is once again in the mix for three nominations at just the age of 23.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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.