Throwback Thursday Oscar Edition: Who Should Have Won?

Carry and Oscar

The Academy Award is the most coveted award in the film industry.  When one receives this award, it translates to more parts, more fame, and bragging rights that for one year, “I was the best.”  Or not.  Since its inception, the Academy Awards have been known to be a bit of a popularity contest.  This is not to say that it doesn’t get it right sometimes (Vivien Leigh winning for Best Actress in Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List winning Best Picture, etc.). However, the Oscar prognosticators spend time analyzing the awards and looking to see who the Academy deems the most popular for that year, but not necessarily the best.  There are classic Oscar missteps that have been addressed by many (see Shakespeare in Love winning for Best Picture instead of Saving Private Ryan or How Green was My Valley winning Best Picture over Citizen Kane).  For this Throwback Thursday, managing editor John David West and awards season guru Ariadne Ansbro look back at some of the lesser known Oscar mistakes and tell you who they think should have won.

 

1950 Best Actress
From top left: Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, Bette Davis in All About Eve, and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

1950 Best Actress

Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

Anne Baxter, All About Eve

Bette Davis, All About Eve

Eleanor Parker, Caged

Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd.

Ari’s pick: This is a tough one for me.  Judy Holliday was excellent at playing the dizzy blond Billie Dawn who starts to receive an education in Born Yesterday, but she was not even in the same league as Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson. Pitting Davis and Swanson against each other in career defining roles is an almost impossible choice.  However, I am paid to make impossible choices, so I would have to say that the winner that year should have been Bette Davis.  Her performance in All About Eve was the stuff of legends.  Can you imagine anyone else saying, “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”?

David’s pick: Judy Holliday?  Holliday is solid as Billie Dawn, the same role she played on Broadway, but let’s have a reality check here: Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. Choosing between those two is unfair (like Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange in 1982)—and that’s probably why Holliday won. They cancelled each other out. Since life is unfair, I’m going to make a choice and say that the 1950 Best Actress should have gone to Gloria Swanson for her larger than life performance in Sunset Blvd. Her movie icon status was solidified when she said, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

 

1959 Best Actor
Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur and Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot

1959 Best Actor

Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur

Jack Lemmon, Some Like it Hot

James Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder

Laurence Harvey, Room at the Top

Paul Muni, The Last Angry Man

Ari’s pick: I am going to start by saying one of the most unpopular things I could ever say: I don’t like Ben-Hur.  This does not mean that I cannot see past my dislike for a film, yet see the brilliance in a performance (i.e. Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, don’t hate me).  However, Charlton Heston played Charlton Heston.  He was the exact same tough guy that he played in every movie before, and all of the Bible epics he did after.  Laurence Harvey was wonderful in Room at the Top.  I generally think that Harvey is an actor who is largely forgotten about, mostly due to his untimely death at age 45.  James Stewart really played against type in Anatomy of a Murder as a slightly dubious defense attorney who defends a man accused of murder.  In the end, I have to go with Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot.  There are so many great things in this film, but Lemmon is a true stand out.  Sadly, Oscar is not big on honoring comedic performances.  

David’s pick: I have to confess, I’m not familiar with many in this category and not a fan of the tediously long Ben-Hur. My choice is Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot for his comic performance as a musician who is forced to dress as a woman in order to hide from the mob. It’s a solid iconic comic performance in one of cinemas great classic comedies. 

 

 

1962 Best Actress
Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate

1962 Best Supporting Actress

Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker

Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate

Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird

Shirley Knight, Sweet Bird of Youth

Thelma Ritter, Birdman of Alcatraz

Ari’s pick: Patty Duke won an Oscar for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.  This film was poised to pick up acting Oscars for both Duke and Anne Bancroft in the lead actress category, as the Oscars love to reward people for playing real people and characters who must overcome some sort of physical or mental disability (check and check).  The problem is that years later, the performance that stands out the most in this category is Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate.  These days it is hard to think of Lansbury playing someone so diabolical.  Lansbury’s performance is so memorable that AFI named her portrayal of Mrs. John Iselin as one of the 50 best villains of all time.  

David’s pick: Of all the fine supporting performances in 1962, it’s Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, who should have won for her performance as the cold and calculating, communist agent who is part of a plot to brainwash her son to commit murder. Yes, that’s right, our beloved Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote played an evil communist operative. It’s an unforgettable performance that still holds up today. It’s a damn shame that Lansbury was overlooked for her most deserving Oscar.

 

1985 Best Actress
Geraldine Page in A Trip to Bountiful and Whoppi Goldberg in The Color Purple

 

1985 Best Actress

Geraldine Page, A Trip to Bountiful

Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God

Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams

Meryl Streep, Out of Africa

Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple

Ari’s pick: Over the years, the Academy has given out awards to actors for their body of work instead of their individual performance in the film for which they are nominated.  For example, Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.  Both are fine performances, but no one would say that those were necessarily the “best” performances of their careers.  Geraldine Page’s win in 1985 is much the same.  She had been nominated seven times prior to this win and, as it turned out, didn’t have much longer to live (she died in 1987).  So the Academy felt that it was her time.  I don’t.  Whoopi Goldberg should have won for The Color Purple.   She was perfect as a woman trapped due to her circumstance, who eventually learns to find her voice.  The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars, and didn’t win any.  What a shame.

David’s pick: This is a tough one for me because I’m pretty happy with Geraldine Page, but I have to admit that her Best Actress win does kind of feel like a lifetime achievement award. Streep and Lange are fantastic, and I was almost ready to go with Lange as Patsy Cline. But I have to go with Whoopi Goldberg for her breakout performance in The Color Purple. She was the most authentic and heartbreaking thing in a film that tended to be a bit stagy, over the top, and even silly; Goldberg kept it real.

 

 

1993 Best Sup Actor
Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive and Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List

1993 Best Supporting Actor

Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Ari’s pick: This is a great category.  Each of these performances were so intricate and mesmerizing that they are all memorable.  However, there was one that was better than all the rest: Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List.  In life, most people are not all good or all evil; everyone has nuance.  Fiennes plays Amon Goeth as an evil, conniving, murderous bastard, but he also shows a human side to him.  Fiennes was asked about how he could play Goeth as a human being and not as a mustache twirling villain.  He said, “I mean, I could make a judgment myself privately, this is a terrible, evil, horrific man. But the job was to portray the man, the human being. There’s a sort of banality, that everydayness, that I think was important.”  The best scene that illustrates this is when he attempts to show a human side and does not immediately punish a Jewish worker for not getting the stains off his bathtub.  Watch it here.

David’s pick: 1993 was a great year at the Oscar, and this category is a difficult one. There’s not one clunker here. But Tommy Lee Jones Oscar for The Fugitive feels like he won for one of those big performances that inspires Academy voters to award more for career achievement than a specific performance. Without a doubt the Oscar should have gone to Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List as Amon Goeth, a Nazi concentration camp commandant. His portrayal of Amon was not just a two-dimensional evil Nazi that’s a pleasure to hate, but rather he played him with depth and complexity, which adds a level of tension and intensity.

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MoviefiedNYC’s Top Ten Movies that make you Ugly Cry (Part 1)

The end of the year always brings a plethora of very interesting films looking to nab an Oscar nomination.  Typically, these films tend to play on your emotions.  For instance, I saw 12 Years a Slave six weeks ago; I have still not recovered enough to write a review of it.  Too soon.


During the last ten minutes of Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson begins to cry during her viewing of Mary Poppins.  No, I did not say “spoiler alert”.  If you didn’t know that Walt Disney was able to make Mary Poppins into a film, I am very sorry for your lost childhood.  This prompted me to think of the movies which have made me cry.


For the record, I am kind of a sap.  I cry during most Pixar movies and I also teared up during Deep Impact.  Oh, the shame!  However, this list is not merely of films which make me cry, but films that made fat tears roll down my cheeks, made my mascara run, and sob uncontrollably before I turned to my movie-going partner and cried, “Oh, WHYYYYY?????”  This is known as the “ugly cry”.  I dare you not to tear up a little reading this list.

***THIS LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS!  If you do not want to know how the movie ends and what made me lose it in a movie theater, then do not read further!!***

1.) Finding Neverland (2003)
Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland
Similar to this year’s Saving Mr. Banks, this is the story of how J. M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan.  Barrie (Johnny Depp) meets widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons in a London park on a sunny summer day.  Due to this chance meeting, Barrie is inspired by the Llewelyn Davies family to write the story of the boy who never grew up.  Towards the end of the film, Barrie brings the cast of Peter Pan to Sylvia’s deathbed so that she can see what she and her family inspired.  After her death, Peter Llewelyn Davis (Freddie Highmore) tearfully asks Barrie why his mother had to die.  Watching this young child experience the death of his mother makes your face crumple and heart ache.

2.) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life
This classic Christmas film has many beautiful moments.  However, this film is in the category of films that not only make me ugly cry, but make me ugly cry in the first 15 minutes.  Early in the film, George Bailey (Robert J. Anderson) is working for the druggist, Mr. Gower (H. B. Warner).  Gower receives a telegram telling him that his son has died.  Driven by intense grief, Gower gets drunk and decides that the best way to end the ache in his soul is to commit suicide.  He fills several capsules with cyanide and, accidentally, puts them in a prescription for a sick patient.  Realizing the mistake, George does not make the delivery and confronts Mr. Gower.  Before he can speak, Gower starts slapping George in his deaf ear.  A tearful George begs him to stop and tells him of the mistake.  The look on Gower’s face as he realizes what he almost did and how this young boy stopped a greater tragedy is one of the sweetest and saddest moments of the film.  This coupled with James Stewart’s impassioned “I want to live again,” speech on the bridge make this one of those movies that make even men cry, though they are loathe to admit it. 

3.) Imitation of Life (1959)

Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, Imitation of Life
This classic melodrama stars Lana Turner as Lora and Juanita Moore as Annie, two struggling single mothers whose relationships with their daughters parallel one another.  It is not the relationship of Lora and her daughter, Sandra Dee, that cause my ridiculous sob fest; that honor goes to Annie and her daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner).  Annie is a black housekeeper and Sarah Jane has such fair skin that she can pass for white (which she often does).  Sarah Jane runs away to live a life of more opportunity, and Annie hires a detective to find her.  She finds her daughter working as a chorus girl in a sleazy review, but Sarah Jane would rather do that then return to a life where she does not fit in.  Annie absolves her daughter, telling her that she only wishes her happiness.  As Annie turns to leave, she runs into one of the other chorus girls and plays along by saying that she was Sarah Jane’s nanny.  The resignation of a mother realizing that her very existence causes her daughter pain and shame is palpable in this scene.  While this scene makes me start crying, it just primes me for the sucker punch at the end of the film.  Annie dies and at her funeral Sarah Jane runs to her mother’s coffin, flinging herself on it, sobbing, saying that she always loved her mother.  While I am a quivering mass of snot and tears, I usually pick up the phone, call my mother, and, incoherently, try to tell her that I love her through my sobs.  She usually asks me if I have been watching Imitation of Life again.  Touché.

4.) The Color Purple (1986)

Whoopie Goldberg, The Color Purple
This is the other movie that makes me start the ugly cry in the first fifteen minutes.  After stopping her abusive and boorish brother-in-law’s (Danny Glover) attempted rape, Nettie (Akosua Busia) and her sister, Celie (Desreta Jackson), are physically forced apart.  Glover’s character, Albert, pulls them off of the fence posts that they are clinging to, throwing Nettie off of the property.  Nettie screams, “WHYYYY?!”, and Celie, through her tears, begs Nettie to write.  As they separate, they recite the words to a game they used to play together, “You and me must never part.”  Yeah, there is no way I am not bawling through this scene and their reunion at the end of the film. I am basically rocking myself back and forth in the fetal position.

5.) Titanic (1953)

Titanic
Let me preface by saying that I have seen this movie one time, because this ugly cry lasted for two days.  Hey, give me a break, I was seven years old!  Knowing that my brother and I like history, my mother decided that it would be ok if we watched this film about the doomed ocean liner.  After all, we knew how it ended.  Married couple Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck say good bye to each other as she boards the life boat with her teenage son and daughter.  The son is seated a bit away from his mother and sister and hears a woman being turned away from the lifeboat because it is full.  The young man gets up and says, “She can have my seat,” and gets off of the lifeboat.  After the boat is lowered, his mother realizes that he has gotten off the boat and issues forth a wail of unbridled anguish.  The son stands with his father as the boat goes down, singing “Nearer my God to Thee”.  As she weeps, the people on the lifeboat pass over the gloves that the son left behind.  To say that my brother and I were inconsolable is an understatement.  We were both a mess for a few days.  Needless to say, my mother only watches comedies with us now.


Now I need to go find some Kleenex.  Stay tuned for part two…


-Ariadne Ansbro

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