The 1997 Academy Award Results

Commentary by James Berardinelli
March 24, 1997

When it comes to the Academy Awards, I feel like Scrooge at Christmas. I watch them more out of a sense of responsibility than out of any great joy for or interest in the proceedings. Sitting in front of a television set for three hours, watching painful song-and-dance numbers and listening to endless speeches is only a step up from the dentist's chair, as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, I do my penance every year so that I don't seem like a complete ignoramus when someone comes up to me a day or two later and wants to discuss the results.

Occasionally, a result or two will give me an apoplexy, but most of my violent reactions to the awards process have been worked out long before the actual telecast. I did quite a bit of ranting in my "Comments, Gripes, and Assorted Musings" piece, which was written on the day the nominations were announced. Over a month later, I'm still elated that Madonna got snubbed and irritated that Hamlet's recognition came only in smaller categories.

Anyway, here are the results, accompanied by the obligatory commentary.

Random Comments:

BEST PICTURE (Nominees):
The English Patient
Jerry Maguire
Secrets and Lies

Winner: The English Patient Gee, what a surprise. *Retch* At this moment, I hate this movie. Can I go back and revise the rating downwards to about a 5? (I'll probably get over it in a few days, and may even go to see it again.)

Anthony Minghella, The English Patient
Joel Cohen, Fargo
Milos Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt
Mike Leigh, Secrets and Lies
Scott Hicks, Shine

Winner: Anthony Minghella This, of course, means that The English Patient is a lock for the Best Picture Award. Maybe I should turn off the TV now so I don't have to watch the inevitable victory. Too bad about Mike Leigh. Not to take anything away from Minghella, but Leigh is the one who really deserved this award.

BEST ACTOR (Nominees):
Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire
Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient
Woody Harrelson, The People vs. Larry Flynt
Geoffrey Rush, Shine
Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade

Winner: Geoffrey Rush Here's one I can agree with. At least Shine wasn't shut out. And it was interesting to get a chance to listen to Rush speak in a relaxed, un-Helfgott-like manner.

BEST ACTRESS (Nominees):
Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies
Diane Keaton, Marvin's Room
Frances McDormand, Fargo
Kristin Scott-Thomas, The English Patient
Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves

Winner: Frances McDormand This one irks me, because I can't see that her performance was anything remarkable. I once (or twice) described it as "one-note", and I haven't changed my opinion. Blethyn and Watson were far more deserving. I liked McDormand's acceptance speech, though, even if it ran on a little long.

Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire
William H. Macy, Fargo
Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shine
Edward Norton, Primal Fear
James Woods, Ghosts of Mississippi

Winner: Cuba Gooding, Jr. Exactly as expected. No surprises here. What's more, in the case of this first award, it was actually given to someone who deserved to win. I thought Mueller-Stahl's performance was more powerful, but Gooding not only placed a tremendous amount of energy into his role (and into his acceptance speech), but had the single best line of the whole year.

Joan Allen, The Crucible
Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces
Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
Barbara Hershey, Portrait of a Lady
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets and Lies

Winner: Juliette Binoche. Well, this probably screwed up everyone's Oscar pool. According to just about everyone, Lauren Bacall was such a shoe-in that the handing out of the award was a mere formality. Now, while Binoche's performance wasn't very impressive, it was better than Bacall's feeble turn in The Mirror Has Two Faces. This was the weakest category to begin with, so a modicum of disappointment was almost guaranteed (Marianne Jean-Baptiste being the only deserving nominee). Still, it was kind of sad seeing Bacall trying rather unsuccessfully to hide her disappointment. I suppose this foreshadows a big night for The English Patient.

Jerry Maguire
Lone Star
Secrets and Lies

Winner: Joel & Ethan Coen, Fargo. Now Siskel & Ebert can sleep easily. Fargo got an award. I don't think it deserves it, but about 95% of America seems to disagree with me, so what do I know?

The Crucible
The English Patient
Sling Blade

Winner: Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade. All I can say is thank God someone finally stopped the tide of English Patient wins. I would have preferred Hamlet, but it never really had a chance.

Next: "A Force-ful Return"

© 1997 James Berardinelli

Back Up