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…

 

BADFELLAS – 1990: The Year of the Crime Movie

A quarter century ago, Hollywood was in a criminal state of mind. The year 1990 marks perhaps the banner year for crime movies. All kinds of nefarious activity was displayed on the silver screen that year with the Mob as the biggest offenders. Yet there were also crooked cops, psycho neighbors, con artists, and rich husbands maybe offing their wives.

The king of crime movies in 1990 belongs to Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, an absolute genre classic that rivals the quality of the first two Godfather pictures. It inexplicably lost the Best Picture Oscar to Dances with Wolves. It shouldn’t have.

Speaking of the Godfather, perhaps the most anticipated Mafia tale that year was The Godfather Part III, which came out sixteen years after the second entry. It did not match expectations but it did still score a Best Picture nod. I still maintain it isn’t a bad movie at all yet just pales in comparison to what came before it. Like nearly all films do.

The Coen Brothers were in on the Mob mentality with Miller’s Crossing, an offbeat and beautifully filmed tale that has since become a genre classic. If your knowledge of Coen crime pics is limited to Fargo and No Country for Old Men, do yourself a favor and view this.

Like Miller’s Crossing, Irish gangsters populate State of Grace, Phil Joanou’s worthwhile effort that stars Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright. It’s worth a look.

Finally on the gangster tip, English mobsters get their turn in Peter Medak’s critically lauded The Krays. It may be tough to find, but it’s solid.

One year before Nino Brown became one of the most notorious movie drug dealers since Tony Montana, Christopher Walken killed it as Frank White in the cult classic King of New York. The solid supporting cast includes Laurence Fishburne and Snipes himself.

Not one, not two, but three 1990 flicks focused on crooked cops and they’re worth watching. Bad cop pic #1 is Sidney Lumet’s Q&A. Nick Nolte is said bad cop. Bad cop pic #2 is Mike Figgis’s Internal Affairs with Richard Gere as the crooked boy in blue. Bad cop pic #3 is Miami Blues with Alec Baldwin in one of his most interesting and creepy roles.

Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening earned Oscar nominations in the darkly funny The Grifters, which also comes highly recommended. John Cusack costars.

Jeremy Irons won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Claus Von Bulow in the true life story Reversal of Fortune. Glenn Close costars as wife Sunny.

As for Best Actress, it was Kathy Bates as an author’s crazed #1 fan in Rob Reiner’s claustrophobic and effective Misery, based on the Stephen King bestseller.

Speaking of psychos, Michael Keaton turns in a supremely creepy performance as the tenant from hell in Pacific Heights.

And before recent commercials showed us a funny Creepy Rob Lowe, there really was one in the underrated Bad Influence, with James Spader.

Oh there’s more. Jack Nicholson returning to his private eye role he made famous in the classic Chinatown with its long delayed sequel The Two Jakes.

Kevin Costner battling Mexican crime lord Anthony Quinn in Tony Scott’s Revenge.

The Dennis Hopper directed film noir The Hot Spot with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and Jennifer Connelly.

Desperate Hours, a remake of a Humphrey Bogart thriller starring Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins, a year before he became an international sensation in The Silence of the Lambs.

Harrison Ford as a lawyer who may or may not have murdered his mistress in the taut Alan J. Pakula pic Presumed Innocent.

All of these crime laden tales are worth seeing if you haven’t done so. And it serves as a reminder of the glorious illegality occurring on the screen 25 years ago.