1994's Unsatisfying Best Actress Race
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 5:09PM
NATHANIEL R in Best Actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jessica Lange, Judy Davis, Juliette Lewis, Kathleen Turner, Linda Fiorentino, Miranda Richardson, Oscar Trivia, Oscars (90s), Winona Ryder

1994 was our year of the month for June so before the month closes, a couple of more forays into that year. Here's Nathaniel R responding to a reader requestduring the Supporting Actress Smackdownto discuss the actual leading nominees.

It's an age old question and the answer is (nearly) always the same.

Q: What happens when all the best stuff in a film year is within genres Oscar doesn't care for?
A: The Academy sticks to their traditional loves even if it means providing history with a weak shortlist that they'll judge harshly!

Some recent years have suggested that Oscar is loosening up in this regard. The swell of new members might be helping along with the increased visibility of critical passion (the plethora of precursor awards constantly saying "but this is great! won't you please look at it?" seems to have shifted Oscar votersa bitmore towards critical passion and away from "Oscar Bait"). But overall they stick to what they love (dramas, message movies, epics, biopics, etcetera). This is especially true of the Acting branch which rarely met a teary face it didn't fall for and continually sticks up its nose at laughing or screaming orunusualfaces given their aversion to comic genius, horror films, and auteur experimental or sci-fi/fantasy work.Which brings us to 1994's BEST ACTRESS LIST...

They got the nominee right but nominated her for the wrong film!

这不是为了贬低任何actresses nominated but just that it was an absolutely frustrating year wherein the Academy refused to look at the wide variety of work that was out there and just stuck to traditional fare. As a result the media called it a "weak" year for female leads.

As we've long argued at The Film Experience there really aren't "weak" years when it comes to acting. There are, it's true,weakeryears but that's a huge semantic difference. Given the amount of films released in a given year it's virtually impossible to not find five outstanding performances in any given category if you're willing to look for them. It just depends on how many films you're willing to watch and whether you're willing to leave your comfort zone and think about acting accomplishments outside of traditional dramaoroutside of your home country.

FOR 1994 THE ACADEMY CHOSE

It's not that there was much wrong with the individual performances but collectively they inspired a lot of 'ho-hum' proclamations. It's certainly not a year, like the year's sandwiching it that Best Actress aficiandos regularly fawn over.

But who could they have chosen that they didn't...and why didn't they?Here were several other options. Your mileage will vary on each performance but the general "weak" field didn't need to be at all had they gone for a risky performance or three.

OTHER OPTIONS (AND OUR PRESUMPTIONS ABOUT WHY OSCAR VOTERS PASSED)

Golden Globe Nominees Oscar Passed On

It's shocking in the 21st Century to realize that there was once a time -- even in a "weak" year where they'd pass Streep by but they did! That one time. But there were two real missed opportunities among the Globe nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh's divisive but memorable take on the caustic wit Dorothy Parker and Jamie Lee Curtis's wondrously deft physical comedy and character arc inTrue Lies. Alas it was an action comedy and Oscar voters don't think about acting within either of those genres, let alone both of them at once! Still, she ran circles around most of the nomniees they chose that year, and she did it in bra and panties with her hair impromptu slicked back by a water vase!

Indie Spirit Nominees Oscar Passed On

The Last Seduction

Other Interesting Options

The Ref featured one of Judy Davis's funniest performances. She's amazing in it. Not even a Globe nod. Ugh.

Contrary to popular belief the Oscar voters could not have chosen Toni Collette inMuriel's Weddingthat year (people always bring her up as a 1994 snub) because the film was not released anywhere but in its home country and a few festivals in 1994.

Our longwinded point is this. There were a LOT of female leads to choose from, many of them quite interesting.Oscar just chose poorly because most of their strong options were in genres they don't much care for or by actresses that they either were unfamiliar with or have weird histories with.

The Best Actress list didn't have to be weak. The trophy didn't have to go to someone who'd already won in a role she could do in her sleep for a film that was delayed for years because no one was excited to release it.

Nathaniel's Ballot.
I would have to watch a few of these again to settle on just five but I consider ALL 10 of the following performances superior to ALL of the nominees but for Jodie Foster. I know her work inNellis divisive but i'm on the side of it being a very risky and earnest out-of-the-box performance by her that earned the nomination. I think Richardson's "Viv!"performance (you'll get that title jokeif you listened to the podcast) is admirable and easily the second best of the Oscar nominees but I prefer the following ten if we're talking "best". It's probably no accident that it's a very young list. Though Oscar doesn't have the same reservations about young actresses that they do about young actors, it still can make a difference with how seriously they take you when you have a lot of competition.

Juliette Lewis was touched by the gods... or demons I guess... while inhabiting Mallory Knox in "Natural Born Killers"

WHO WOULD YOU HAVE SELECTED FOR 1994?Do you agree that there's no such thing as a weak year?

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (//www.cfp-vi.com/).
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