|"Geez, I lost? Waddya mean? I was workin' with ya here!"|
When I settled in to watch the 1996 Oscars, I just knew for sure that William H. Macy would win Best Supporting Actor for Fargo. With all the truly fine performances in that movie (including a well-deserved Best Actress award for Frances McDormand), Macy practically carries the show as the ultimate weasel, Jerry Lundegard -- a character who at first seems like a pathetic clown, someone to laugh at and pity. However, as the story evolves, Macy makes us shiver as he creates the true character of Jerry -- a greedy loser who can't even embezzle money successfully, a cruelly indifferent husband and father who puts his sweet, dimwitted wife in mortal danger and never even thinks of the effect his actions will have on his young son. Watching Macy's face carefully, the viewer can see that in every scene, every situation, Jerry's eyes are as dead as any killer-for-hire, not the eyes of a normal person. Jerry, the passive-aggressive criminal, eventually wreaks murderous havoc on every person he involves in his scheme. And yet, he still makes us snicker and snort throughout -- until his last scene, when we begin to laugh, then stare in shock at Macy's acting chops with Jerry's reaction to the punishment for what he has done. To my mind, it was the best performance of the year.
So what happened? "And the Oscar goes to....Cuba Gooding, Jr. for Jerry Maguire." What?!! You've got to be kidding... Now I know Jerry Maguire was a very popular movie, and Gooding was, well, good. Not great, but good. His performance paled against Macy's primo portrayal of a difficult character to play. I remember thinking that Gooding was new and popular that year, and so often that affects votes during Oscar time. So, in my opinion, a good performance was lauded over a great one.
Last month's movie for Overlooked at the Oscars post, White Heat, was an easy one in which to highlight one scene of fantastic acting. Fargo doesn't really offer that -- it's a totality of performance that shows it. However, I chose a favorite scene in which Macy runs most of the gamut of Jerry's character, all the time with those eyes that remain dead and expressionless, no matter what the face is doing.
My next installment in "Overlooked at the Oscars" will be a little different -- about a great film artist whose entire body of work was Oscar-snubbed!