Today's magic number is... 20! I couldn't find a statistic from this year's race involving the number 20 so what were Oscar fanatics like me (and you if you're weren't an infant) obsessing about 20 years ago in the Oscar race? 1993 was a fairly astonishing film year but there wasn't much drama in the Oscar race. Everyone knew that Tom Hanks and Holly Hunter would win the lead Oscars and the night would be all about Steven Spielberg with multiple wins for both Jurassic Park (recently revisted right here) and Schindler's List. Even Supporting Actor, in what one could argue was its best shortlist ever, didn't contain much drama. Though Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List) and Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) were giving major star-is-born performances, it was pretty clear that the industry wanted to honor Tommy Lee Jones for his whole career and for co-starring in a huge hit (The Fugitive).
So was there any drama at all? Why, yes, I'm so glad you asked.
If I recall correctly -- 20th anniversary memories can be cloudy -- there were three categories that night that looked like they could go any which way or which resulted in a surprise winner: Supporting Actress, Foreign Film and Costume Design.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The Nominees: Anna Paquin (The Piano), Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Rosie Perez (Fearless), Emma Thompson (In the Name of the Father), Holly Hunter (The Firm)
The Favorite: Winona Ryder was just cresting (she'd have another big year the following year) and was the "it" young actress at the time) though people knew she was vulnerable. Though Emma had just won and Holly was certain to win in lead, Rosie & Anna had their devout fans as well.
The Winner: ...And the Oscar went to hyperventilating Anna Paquin.
Trivia #1: Tatum O'Neal (who is just great in Paper Moon) still holds the title of youngest Oscar winner but if you discount Category Fraud, as you know I like to, Anna Paquin would hold the title.
Trivia #2: This is the only year in the history in which double acting nods were, uh, doubled. Both Emma Thompson & Holly Hunter were nominated in both of the female acting categories
BEST FOREIGN FILM
The Nominees: Belle Epoque (Spain), Farewell My Concubine (Hong Kong), The Wedding Banquet (Taiwan), The Scent of Green Papaya (Vietnam), Hedd Wynn (UK)
The Favorite: The majestic and moving Farewell My Concubine, a big hit at Cannes, had considerable momentum with a very successful arthouse run ($5 million in the States), a Golden Globe win, multiple critics prizes for Foreign Film and a second Oscar nomination (for cinematography). Gong Li even got a small degree of awards traction in Supporting Actress. People were talking about her at least which is exceedingly rare both for Asian actors and for supporting performances in subtitled pictures.
The Winner: But Oscar surprised with a win for the sunny Spanish Belle Epoque which was an international breakthrough of sorts for two actresses who are still big deals today: Penélope Cruz & Maribel Verdú
Trivia: This was the most Asian of all Oscar lineups, a full 60% of the nominees! (Oscar prefers Western European films with their three favorite countries in this category being 1. France, 2. Italy and 3. Spain)
The Nominees: Orlando, The Age of Innocence, The Piano, The Remains of the Day, Schindler's List
The Favorite: I can't recall if there was one. The Age of Innocence was not universally well-liked (having missed in most of the big categories despite assumptions before it opened that it would be among the frontrunners) and costume design gave the voters an opportunity to give another prize to either of the two most acclaimed Best Picture candidates (The Piano & Schindlers) or to insure that The Remains of the Day didn't go home empty-handed despite 8 nominations, or to honor the edgiest and coolest and best of the nominees Orlando (Sandy Powell's first nomination... and there would be many more)
The Winner: ...but here is where The Age of Innocence won its only Oscar. The statue went to Gabriella Pescucci who is now hogging Emmys for The Borgias
What's your strongest movie or Oscar memory of 1993? If you were not born yet or just a wee bairn, what's the first 1993 movie you ended up latching on to in retrospect?