February 5, 2014

What A Year 1996 Was...
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

What A Year 1996 Was...

As part of Awards Season we’ll be taking a look at some of the outstanding years in Oscars history, whether packed with great actors and actresses or featuring a particularly strong set of film contenders.

To kick things off, we head back to the 69th Academy Awards, covering the films of 1996.

When Paul Simon won the Grammy for Best Album in 1976 with Still Crazy After All These Years, as part of his acceptance speech he thanked Stevie Wonder “for not making an album” that year. Wonder had taken the prize in 1974 and 1975 for Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale, then went on to win it again in 1977 with Songs in the Key of Life.

We mention this because sometimes timing is everything, and so it is at the Oscars. In the year that preceded the 69th ceremony at the beginning of 1997, there were a raft of films and performances that could arguably have taken home the biggest prizes in any other year, but competition was very stiff indeed…

Who were the winners?

Not too many people could complain about the Best Actor award going to Geoffrey Rush for his outstanding portrayal of Australian pianist David Helfgott in Shine, but director Scott Hicks missed out on the gong for Best Director, which was instead taken home by Anthony Minghella for his work on The English Patient. Frances McDormand was deservedly handed the award for Best Actress for her role as Marge Gunderson in Fargo.

Other highlights from a stellar year at the Oscars included awards for The Coen Brothers (Best Screenplay) and Independence Day (Best Visual Effects), but if there was any real overall winner it would have to be The English Patient, which also took Best Picture, as well as Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing and Original Score, not forgetting Juliette Binoche’s award for Best Supporting Actress.

Geoffrey Rush in 'Shine'
Geoffrey Rush in 'Shine'
Tom Cruise in 'Jerry Maguire'
Tom Cruise in 'Jerry Maguire'

Who were the losers?

Probably the most high profile actor to miss out was Tom Cruise for his role in Jerry Maguire - although Cuba Gooding Jr. did pick up the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in the same movie – but a similar fate beckoned for Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flint) and Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade), all of whom lost out to Geoffrey Rush.

The obscenely talented Kristin Scott Thomas was also very unlucky to miss out on Best Actress and, perhaps to a lesser extent, so were Diane Keaton, Emily Watson and Brenda Blethyn, all of whom were left trailing in Frances McDormand’s wake.

Despite being nominated in a number of categories, Alan Parker’s Evita almost went home entirely empty handed, saved only by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice being awarded Best Original Song for ‘You Must Love Me’. Meanwhile, Madonna didn’t even get a look in for the Best Actress gong. Poor old Madge…

Missing in action?

One film notable by its absence from the list of winners was Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, nominated only once for Best Adapted Screenplay, but losing out to Billy Bob Thornton, who wrote his own adaptation for Sling Blade.

Perhaps most surprising though, considering how well the franchise has gone on to perform at the box office, is Brian de Palma’s Mission: Impossible, which didn’t even receive so much as a single nomination in any category. In a weaker year, perhaps it might have done better, but as Paul Simon will tell you, sometimes it’s all about timing.

Got any suggestions for partuicularly strong years at the Oscars? Get involved in the conversation on twitter using #hmvawards

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