Diane Keaton (Marvin’s Room)
Madonna – Evita
My Overall Thoughts:
This is a year with a nice group of nominees where any of them could have conceivably won the award, but two of them stand out more than the rest as being the most powerful performances.
5. Diane Keaton
4. Emily Watson
3. Kristin Scott Thomas
2. Brenda Blethyn
1. Frances McDormand
5. Breaking the Waves – Pretty boring story that like with most von Trier films, it starts off with an interesting idea before proceeding into the kind of philosophical and religious realm where there are many more questions than answers. The story throws a few very far-fetched notions at us which aren’t all completely understood since they try too hard to attempt to shock the audience more than ever. Watson was nominated for a Best Actress at the Oscars that year, but I think that Skarsgard was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nod. They show that making someone else happy is essential even to someone suffering from a sort of paralysis no matter the morality of the issues they face be it from a religious or social perspective.
4. Marvin’s Room – Interesting story that is enhanced by great performances. Keaton does a great job in the lead and is helped by supporting roles by Streep, DiCaprio, Cronyn and DeNiro. The characters are all a bit weird and have distinctive quirks, but they are brought together by the story and realize the importance of family above all else. The dialogue is great and allows for the story to move forward at a great pace as we slowly learn more and more about each of their problems and how much they truly need the support of one another. Keaton was deservingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for her role here. Recommended!
3. Secrets & Lies – Great idea that works really well because it gives us characters that are easy to relate to. The idea that we all have some kind of secret that we keep from others is very universal and the way this story unfolds keeps us interested the entire time. Nominated for 5 Oscars; Picture, Director, Actress (Blethyn), Supporting Actress (Jean-Baptiste) and original Screenplay but didn’t mange to win any of them.
2. The English Patient – Amazing film that is able to blend together so many genres in order to enhance the story. Fiennes is superb in the lead and we slowly get to understand everything that happened to him prior to the war which eventually led up to where he is now. The story is told in flashback quite well and is able to develop these characters so uniquely that each of them feels real and genuine. The film is a bit long yet that helps establish the characters and setting and also allows time for love affairs to grow naturally between characters instead of us feeling as if it is all rushed for time. The kind of love that these characters have is felt in every scene where they are shown or described and it all comes across in a very plausible way. In addition to Fiennes, Thomas, Binoche and Dafoe are all spectacular in these somewhat complex kind of roles. Very deserving of its 9 Oscars including Best Picture and Director and remains one of the last true epics to take home the top prize at the Oscars over the past 23 years. They expertly jump back and forth in time in order for us to get an understanding of the two eras that bookend this story because despite them not being that far apart, the world that the characters all live in changed drastically in those intervening years.
1. Fargo – Excellent crime thriller that really takes the story to the level of a dark comedy because of its characters, locations and situations. The Coen Brothers really know how to take a story slightly beyond the extreme and give us a tense, enjoyable story that also makes us laugh at the stupidity and absurdity of it all. Amazing cast all fit in perfectly with this storyline. The Coen Brothers have created a movie that IMHO will always be difficult for them to top because it is done so well in all aspects. Not only is this my favorite of their movies, but it is also IMHO the best movie made in 1996.
Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Most Definitely! FM is superb in Fargo and gave the most powerful performance of the nominees and was a great choice!
Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!