trav·es·ty n. 1. An exaggerated or grotesque imitation, such as a parody of a literary work. 2. The fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. is an Oscar winner and Edward Norton is not.
Are there only five major Oscar travesties in the 1990's? That's like asking if there are only five people that have filed restraining orders against Mickey Rourke. Obviously, there are countless more, but if I didn't whittle it down to five, this would wind up reading like The Odyssey or the screenplay to Meet Joe Black. Now it goes without saying that the Academy blows Best Picture almost every year, so I'll not go in that direction. I'm sticking with actor-related travesties, of which there are more than enough to go around. Sure, once in a while the academy gets it right, but let's not delude ourselves. In the 90's, the Academy has gotten it wrong more times than Heather Graham on Celebrity Jeopardy. Hence, I present to you, the top five Oscar travesties of the 1990's.
In 1990, Whoopi Goldberg became the first African American actress since Hattie freakin' McDaniel to win an Oscar. Let me say in advance, the way the Academy has completely ignored deserving African Americans and only awarded the most vanilla, Hostess Twinkie actors is a whole other diatribe. I'll save that for another day, k? Back to the subject at hand, just say the following sentence out loud: "Whoopi Goldberg has won an Oscar; Alfre Woodard and Angela Bassett have not." Did you feel prickly things on the back of your neck? That's not dead people, it's the realization that the Academy blew it for the umpteenth time. Goldberg was funny in Ghost, don't get me wrong. But c'mon, Whoopi does the same thing in every single one of her comedies. You can't possibly think that Whoopi was robbed for an Oscar for her oh-so-different and nuanced performances in Burglar or Sister Act, do you? In my perfect world, Annette Bening would have easily won for her throwback to the noir days in The Grifters. She displayed the perfect combination of ditsy sex-pot and conniving bitch needed for the role. Years like 1990 that make me actually think that the Golden Globes are smarter than the Oscars in that they have separate awards for comedies and dramas. And when I start praising the Golden Globes, you know it's a dire situation.
Jump two years to 1992, to perhaps the biggest Oscar travesty of all time. When Marisa Tomei won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, the skies darkened, babies wept, and I'm pretty sure that was the day that the Heaven's Gate bunch started investing in black Nikes. Marisa Tomei deserves an Oscar like Halle Berry deserves to drive a school bus. To say that Marisa is not a very good actress is like saying O.J. is not a very good husband . I could keep going eternally, but I have a feeling you can tell by now my feelings about Ms. Tomei. Now you may think I have something against supporting actresses in comedies, but that ain't it, I tell ya. Because the person who should have won, if there was any justice in the universe (which obviously there is not...what other explanation is there for Fight Club, Magnolia or Being John Malkovich not getting nominated for best picture this year?), is Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives. Besides being one of the best, and certainly most under-appreciated actresses of all time, she is, quite simply, the master of having a crying obscenity-laden screaming breakdown. Hearing Judy Davis swear is, to quote Bad Lieutenant, "a holy thing, a holy thing."
Fast forward one more year to 1993 to best supporting actor, and you've truly got a heinous blight on Oscar's permanent record. The fact that the Fugitive got a Best Picture nomination is travesty enough, but at least it didn't win. The fact that Tommy Lee Jones won is unforgivable. I know I bitched about Whoopi Goldberg, but this guy has been phoning in the same performance for the last fifteen years. I have a little game that I play with my wife Jennie. One of will face away from the television and we'll make either the other one guess what movie is playing . I can distinguish between every Sam Jackson movie that was ever made, she can do the same thing with Lili Taylor, but when we hear Tommy Lee Jones...we're utterly clueless. I guess U.S. Marshalls, it winds up being Small Soldiers. She guesses Volcano, it invariably ends up being Blown Away. The only one we can distinguish him in in the last eon is JFK, and that's only because of his god-awful accent. Do note, I actually like watching Tommy Lee Jones on occasion, and I'll readily admit that he was the best thing about The Fugitive. But that doesn't make his performance Oscar-worthy. If being the best thing about a movie guaranteed somebody an Oscar, then Bob Barker would have one on his mantle for his work in Happy Gilmore. And although Bob can probably act circles around the Chris Kleins and Neve Campbells of the world, he certainly does not deserve on Oscar. Both DiCaprio in Gilbert Grape and Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's gave the best performances of their careers in '93, if either one of 'em picked up the gold that year, I would have been satisfied.
For travesty numero 4, I'll start with the first of two blights that have tainted our very souls and resulted in Edward Norton being Oscarless. First, let's take 1996, the year that made the star of such fine fare as Lightning Jack and Chill Factor a Best Supporting Actor winner. Cuba Gooding Jr. was great when he was playing an actual human being in Boyz N The Hood, which is one of my favorite flicks of 1991. And yes, seeing him play the fool in Jerry Maguire was a guilty pleasure; I actually would have preferred that Jerry ended up with bouncy Cuba in the end than pouty Renee Zelweger. At least Cruise and Gooding Jr. had chemistry. Besides, if being an over-the-top goofus merits an Oscar, where are the statues for fellow thespians Chris Tucker and that Rocketman guy? And c'mon, don't those Pepsi One commercials just make you want Marsellus Wallace to get medieval on his ass for being such a sellout? This was Edward Norton's year, and like Robert Downey Jr.'s Narcotics Anonymous partner, he was completely disregarded. William H. Macy was deserving as well, but it's abundantly clear that the Academy doesn't have enough savvy to ever vote for such a talented fella.
And on to Number 5. Just when you think that nobody could possibly be more annoying, the guy who acts like Cuba Gooding Jr on crystal meth comes along and swipes Best Actor. Feh. The highlight of Roberto Benigni's career was his soliloquy on his sexual relationship with pumpkins and sheep in Night On Earth, which I'll readily admit cracks me up every time I see it. But seeing Benigni schmucking around in a concentration camp made my stomach turn more than when I get flashbacks from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, which is no small task. And personally, I don't buy that "Aren't I cute, I don't know English so I'll ramble about wanting to make love to everybody's bellybuttons upside-down in a a Vietnamese monsoon" schtick. I just know in my heart of hearts than when he's at home eating dinner he asks his wife to pass the Grey Poupon in perfect English. Nolte was superb again, but it seems that the Academy has been punishing him for that small period of time that he was in some of the most terrible movies ever made. We call that period of time the 80's. And Ian McKellan was perfect as James Whale, but expecting Academy voting for an unapologetic gay man? Get real. There's a better chance that Jennifer Love Hewitt will win an Emmy for her portrayal of Audrey Hepburn. Once again, Edward Norton turned in the performance of the year that knocks your socks off, and once again, he winds up dissed.
You may notice that there's a certain two-time Oscar winner that I did not mention, even though his being a two-time winner is the biggest travesty of them all. The reason for this is that after the first win, I had a nervous breakdown and they locked me up in Claymoore where I shared many Rotisserie chickens with my buddy Daisy. The only reason I recovered and they let me out was because I vowed never again to mention "the man whose name must never be spoken." One thing though...how long is he going to have that stupid freakin' beard, anyway? Didn't Mr. "I'm a schoolteacher" start shooting that new movie in 1998? I'd love to take that little puky mouse and shove it up his big fat...I'd better go now. Time for my 3:00 sedative.
Think I'm a kook? Right on target? A poor, tragically misguided soul? Drop me a line at email@example.com and let me know, daddy-o.