Ah yes, it’s that time again; the Oscars are upon us! Truly the biggest film event of the year, the Oscars provide many things. Not only do they celebrate and award the best films of the year, but they also entertain us with humorous sketches and presenters, anger us by leaving out our favourite films in the nominations and enrage us even further when the ones we actually do like don’t win. But I have to be fair to the Academy; when it comes to the acting awards, it always seems well deserved.
But before we celebrate the winners of the future, let’s take a look at the winners of the past. Now, I still have a lot of classic films to catch up on so don’t attack me if I’ve missed your favourite stars, but here are the people I believe truly deserved the Oscars they were awarded. So, let’s kick off with my top 5 ‘Best Actor’ winners.
When I first found out that Nick Cage was an Oscar-winner, I genuinely thought I had been lied to. But come on, can you blame me? Whilst right now I like Cage more than I did previously, his track record in recent years hasn’t been the best (Ghost Rider 1 and 2, Drive Angry, Season of the Witch… THE WICKER MAN) and I once considered myself a very big hater of him. I would slate him for having no acting ability – Which wasn’t very fair of me as I hadn’t considered his earlier films – and would scoff if his name ever came up in conversation. So when I found out he won an Oscar, I HAD to find this film.
Leaving Las Vegas tells the story of Ben Sanderson (Cage), a failing, alcoholic screenwriter who decides there’s nothing left in life for him and goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a hardened prostitute who also struggles with life. The two form an odd relationship on the grounds that she can never ask him to stop drinking and he can never be judgemental of her career, and they both rejoice in their doomed relationship.
I never thought the day would come where I would feel emotion during a Nicolas Cage film. The movie itself is outstanding, but Cage in particular shines out. His portrayal of a broken man is so believable and so engaging.
Ah, Silence of the Lambs, the thrilling tale of Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she attempts to track down a psychotic murderer, but can only do so with the help of another one: Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). The film is arguably one of the best of all time and is one of the only three films to win the five major Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original/Adapted Screenplay). The direction is superb, the script is great and the acting is flawless. Whilst Jodie Foster is definitely a great screen presence, Hopkins takes the cake for me.
As Lecter, he is chilling, he’s interesting and he’s a delight to watch. Not many people realise this, but Hopkins is only ever on screen for 16 minutes of the entire 1 hour and 53 minutes of the film. Can you believe that? I certainly couldn’t when I first found out. His presence is so brilliant that you feel like you’ve felt it for the whole film. An Oscar for 16 minutes of screen time, that ain’t bad (Though not as good as Dame Judi Dench’s Oscar winning 8 minutes in Shakespeare in Love). Although he went on to star in the sequel and prequel (Hannibal and Red Dragon), where he was a major character throughout and dominated screen time, he never quite reaches the heights of the performance he gave in those 16 minutes. Bravo, Mr. Hopkins, bravo.
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with so Fava beans, and a nice Chianti *does thing with tongue*”
Robert De Niro’s waiting, talking Italian... Oops, sorry! Anyway, Bobby D got his second Oscar for playing real life boxer Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Now, Robert isn’t unknown for his collaborations with Marty; He’s also been Oscar nominated for the director’s films Taxi Driver and Cape Fear, and also starred in Marty’s crime classics Mean Streets, Casino and of course, Goodfellas. But there’s something about Raging Bull that blows me away every time I watch it. De Niro really put effort in for this role; he had a lot of intense physical training and entered three genuine Brooklyn boxing matches, winning two of them.
For the later scenes of the film he gained 60 pounds of weight and held the record for biggest weight gain in a film for quite some time. But on top of all that, his acting is just brilliant. He’s aggressive, abusive, confused and broken. He allows us to see a tough guy stripped down to his barebones and we’re able to see just who he is. This year, Bobby D has delivered his first Oscar nominated performance in over 20 years and even though I haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook, I don’t think he’ll ever top the tour de force that was Jake La Motta.
Nearly there! Mr. Hanks won his first Oscar for Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. Demme seems to have a magic touch for actors, also directing the afore mentioned The Silence of the Lambs. Tom stars as Andrew Beckett; a gay lawyer diagnosed with AIDs who is soon fired from his job after losing important documents for a trial. Believing that his bosses sabotaged his case so as to have an excuse to fire him for his condition, Andrew seeks help from homophobic lawyer Joe (Denzel Washington) to fight this act of discrimination as his health slowly deteriorates. A powerful plot indeed, helped greatly by a powerful performance. Andrew is a nice guy; He’s kind, he’s a good boyfriend and he is damn good at his job, but as the trial goes on and his condition worsens, we can even see it in his face that he is crumbling.
Now, there’s a scene in the film, which I’m pretty much convinced, won him the Oscar; whilst going over some stuff with Joe, one of Andrew’s favourite pieces of Opera comes on. He closes his eyes and stands up. Walking around the room he translates what is being sung. The lighting changes, the music becomes more powerful and Andrew’s voice becomes more and more emotional. This, in my opinion, is one of the finest pieces of acting of all time. Absolutely astonishing.
And so we arrive at my number one spot. If you ask me, there is no contest. In Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jack Nicholson stars as R.P. McMurphy, a criminal who fakes being insane as so he can stay at an Insane Asylum rather than go to prison, but he soon finds that this is just another place for his free spirited ways, and convinces his fellow cast of colourful characters to rebel against authority, with both hilarious and serious consequences.
There is no way to truly describe why Jack’s performance is the best. But just watching the film, everything hits you like a brick. He’s so charming. He’s so cool. And despite his actions, he’s so damn likeable. It’s amazing. When he needs to be funny, he’s hilarious. When he needs to be angry, oh boy... I’ve never seen anything like it. There are scenes towards the end where he COMPLETELY blew me away!
Despite the film coming out in 1975, I shall not post spoilers, but if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. Just like Silence of the Lambs, Cuckoo’s Nest also picked up the five major Oscars and couldn’t have deserved them more. So all in all, there is no possible way to know how good Jack is in this movie unless you’re watched it… Ah to hell with it! I would even go as far to say that Jack Nicholson in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest could possibly be the greatest film performance of all time.
So, we've seen the best of the Best Actor category, but so many movies would fail miserably without their leading ladies!
Shakespeare in Love was considered to be quite controversial at the time of Oscar season. When Harrison Ford read out the title as he presented Best Picture, millions of people around the world were enraged at the fact the award didn’t go to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Of course, this was the magic of Harvey Weinstein and his mystical campaigning but, as much as I enjoy the film, you can say what you want on that front.
I won’t however have you insulting Miss. Paltrow. In Shakespeare in Love she plays a young woman who dreams of acting in a William Shakespeare play and disguises as a man in order to star in one, beginning a relationship with old Bill. Gwyneth is astonishing; she acts to a level I never knew she could reach. While most people remember her teary Oscar speech, I will always remember the brave, romantic character she graced our screens with.
Slotting in the same place as her co-star, Foster is an excellent leading lady. Clarice Starling is a very interesting character; she’s head strong, determined and confident in everything she does even if she still feels fear. Her chemistry with Hopkins is outstanding. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch these 2 brilliant minds converse from each side of the glass.
But she truly shines towards the end of the film. The incredibly tense scene in which she enters Buffalo Bill’s house is superb. We can feel the fear though our screens just by looking at her trembling. Considering how scary the scene is, I’m surprised I wasn’t trembling with her. The look in her eyes as she scans the room, the fast pace in which she moves, all a big ball of excellence. Starling was portrayed on film again in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal by Julianne Moore and though she did an excellent job, no one could ever reach the heights of Foster.
I watched Black Swan just last night – The first time in over a year. And before I had done that, I had already planned to include her in this list. It was actually a good thing, as whilst I was watching it, I realised I would never have remembered most of the astonishing things about her performance. Natalie plays Nina Sayers, a ballet dancer who is cast the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. Dancing is her life and she has a true passion for it, but as she struggles to cope with an overpowering director and an overprotective mother, Nina finds herself on a slow descent into insanity, a journey littered with fear, paranoia and obsession.
She is absolutely incredible. The arguments she has with her mother, the chemistry between her and her director and the eventual hate for her friend Lillie all pull together to create an amazing performance. But that’s not all. During the final performance of Swan Lake, it’s her facial expressions that do it all. The look of pain, fear and the genuine notion of not knowing what on Earth is happening, it all shines brightly in her face and she sure as hell deserved an Oscar for that scene alone. Truly, truly remarkable.
I’ll be honest with you; first (and only, actually) time I watched Terms of Endearment, I didn’t like it. I found it slow, boring and just kind of dull. It took a few weeks for me to realise that it’s one of the best films of all time, but when watching it, the only merit I felt the film had were the performances. You had Debra Winger as Emma Greenway, who was nominated Best Actress that year and was a worthy contender. Then Jack Nicholson as Garrett Breedlove, who gives the best performance of the film and is once again absolutely amazing, bagging his second Oscar (and I would’ve included it but he won for Best Supporting Actor).
Then you have our main character, Aurora Greenway, played beautifully by Shirley MacLaine. Aurora is a strong woman, yet anxious, paranoid and lonely. She can be somewhat over protective and shows a huge disdain for her son in law (Jeff Daniels). There’s something about Shirley that really blew me away; I think it may have been how easily she changed her tone. One scene, she’s slagging off Jack, the next she’s lying on her bed with Debra laughing her butt off about the sex they had. It’s crazy how good she is.
Yep, Cuckoo’s Nest again. This time, we focus on the leading lady and the baddie of the film, Nurse Ratched. Still in my top ten film villains of all time (coming soon…), there’s something about Ratched that makes my blood boil. Whilst I feel a bit sorry for her at times due to the backlash she gets from the characters for doing her job, most of the time she is just a horrible, horrible person. Fletcher embodies this character so well that she makes it fun to hate her. Everything she does, it just makes you angry. And it certainly R.P. angry, as those who have seen the film will know.
The chemistry between her and Jack Nicholson is absolutely outstanding, the way she manages to frustrate him with only a few simple sentences is really brilliant. I’ll admit, I’ve never seen Louise Fletcher act outside of this film. But I can only hope she’s as amazing in every performance as she is with this one. Louise Fletcher takes my pick for the most deserved Best Actress award of all time (And her speech was quite lovely, too!).
Well that’s it from me folks! Hope you enjoy the Oscars! I myself won’t be able to watch them, but you can be damn sure I’ll be keeping up! Who do you think will be walking away with the acting gongs? Let me know!
Don’t forget, Cookie ‘N’ Screen will be live blogging the event!