oscar rehash: best supporting actor 1994

In the name of double-checking the academy’s work on a few past winners, the following is a brief analysis of what woulda and shoulda been based on the Oscars’ choices in nominees:

Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction
Well, if it were an award for best line reading from a book of the bible, Mr. Jackson would most likely take the cake. And though his performance in Pulp Fiction is very likely his career best, we’ve realized through his later work that Jules is one character that frequently pops up in Jackson’s movies. So, the fearless badass may be Jackson’s go-to sure thing, but it must be said that it’s been perfected in this performance. I mean, who could possibly retain their badass cred after sporting those little shorts and t-shirt? Grade: B+

Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood
The eventual winner (presumably serving as a lifetime achievement award), Martin Landau is surprisingly hysterical as the bizarre 1930s film star Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton‘s quirky Ed Wood. A far cry from his work on Mission: Impossible, the performance is both slapstick gold and uneasy in its insightfulness into the actor’s later years. Landau is buoyed by his co-stars (Johnny Depp is particularly notable as the zany title character), but he claims the position of true star of the show. Grade: A-

Chazz Palminteri as Cheech in Bullets Over Broadway
Typically Woody Allen‘s work is something I can truly appreciate. Bullets Over Broadway is no exception. The problem with Chazz Palminteri‘s performance in the film, though, lies in its apparent mediocrity and, even more so, in his fading into the background. Unfortunately for Palminteri, the cast is rounded out by the gargantuan talent of Dianne Wiest (the year’s winner in the Supporting Actress category). And to top things off, Palminteri doesn’t often stray from his hardened mobster character, so this performance is hardly unique or impressive. Grade: C

Paul Scofield as Mark van Doren in Quiz Show
Though his performance is somewhat minimal, the stage experience of veteran actor Paul Scofield is very apparent in Robert Redford‘s television politics piece, Quiz Show. Scofield, playing the formidable yet supportive poet father to Ralph Fiennes‘ Charles van Doren, plays his unfortunate overshadowing by his own son with the ease made evident by his past performances as Thomas More and in various Shakespeare productions. Joined in the category by fellow senior Landau, Scofield held his own on the less-hammy front of 1994 performances. Grade: B+

Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump
Sure, Forrest Gump may’ve been slightly over-praised back in 1994, but the supporting performance from Gary Sinise is still a relatively respectable one. Lt. Dan is a hard-boiled piece of work, and he plays well against Tom Hanks‘ dopey but lovable Forrest. His comic performance is probably his best work, and it’s clear he’s being wasted on CSI: NY. The bottom line, however, is that Sinise, much like his fellow nominees (and much of the larger group of Supporting Actor nominees throughout the years, it turns out) suffers from often one-note performances. Grade: B-

The Verdict: I guess the Academy had this one right. Landau is the clear winner here (with a second-place finish going to Jackson), offering a rare victory to an out-right comedic performance.

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