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What was your 'Sophie's Choice Oscar Moment'? 

Kyle here. We’re rapidly barreling into the holiday movie season—aka, the time when we plebeians can catch up with all the fare deemed Award Worthy. I’m sure you’re aware, just how amazing our lineup of actress contenders is this year, as Murtada recently talked about. How difficult it’s going to be to be a fan this winter! Which is to say is there anything more painful than those moments when we’re torn between competing loyalties? Or between loyalty and taste? 

My most painful instance of this came in 2000, when Hilary Swank and Annette Bening duked it out for Best Actress. I loved Boys Don't Cry. It was such an important film—even its nomination was important, given its low-budget indie status—and Swank was utterly heartbreaking. But then there was Bening in American Beauty, tap dancing on that high wire. Her Carolyn Burnham is broad and deep, tenderly tragic and yowlingly funny at the same time. Bening not only achieves this difficult balance, but shows us that it’s indispensable to this character’s, this type of person’s, reality. 

So, what was your most painful Sophie’s Choice Oscar moment?

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Reader Comments (58)

Meryl Vs Viola!

I wanted Viola to win for so many reasons, but I really didn't want to sit there and watch Meryl lose again. I thought it was so important that Viola won, but at the same time, Meryl really wanted it and who could really deny her another one? Still to this day, I wish they had gone for a tie. It was painful watching Viola lose, but it would have been just as painful if Meryl had lost again (to me). Either way, it was going to hurt and I really couldn't have chosen a winner.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

1987 Best Actress. I've seen four of the five performances. Sally Kirkland in Anna is the only performance I need to see. But Streep, Hunter, and Close are all statuette worthy. Cher's victory is only irksome because it came at the expensive of Close. Who is all levels of iconic in Fatal Attraction.

1988 Best Actress. The un-nominated Genevieve Bujold (Dead Ringers) and Susan Sarandon (Bull Durham) should be competing instead of Foster and Griffith. Of course Glenn Close should have collected her second consecutive Oscar win.

1990 Best Actress. I think Huston is fantastic but Kathy Bates in Misery is Brando in Godfather territory for me.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

BA 1995, because all of them were worthy imo.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Sonja -- yeah that 95 lineup was stellar. I'm trying to think of one but i usually have a favorite. Though the Best Actor 2008 (Penn vs. Rourke) was really close in my head... and possibly close in real life.

November 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

2000 Burstyn VS Roberts I suppose what they are both doing is totally different but in their own way both performances are ones we won't see the likes of again.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

I agree with many of the choices above, but here are two that have not been mentioned yet:

Best Actress 1950 - Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson. Two legendary performances.

Best Actress 2004 - Even though Eternal Sunshine is my favourite film of all time, I simply cannot choose between Kate Winslet & Imelda Staunton.

Honourable mention to:

Best Supporting Actress 1962 - Patty Duke gave the best performance, but she was clearly lead, which gives the stunning Angela Lansbury the edge, for me anyway.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAditya B

MARK: It was Julia's turn esp since her previous losses were to character actress unknowns. And though Burstyn is my preferred winner I understood why it was Julia's turn and the best time to award her. I also think her August nomination doesn't match the quality of Erin.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

So many. The biggest is basically 2001's Fellowship of the Ring vs Moulin Rouge! in all of those technical categories. Both so amazing in such different ways.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

Honestly? Probably The Incredibles vs. Shrek 2.

But seriously, the toughest for me was Winona vs Rosie Perez vs Anna Paquin. It was early in my Oscar watching and I loved Winona (still do, of course - I rewatched Age of Innocence recently, and I still think she's perfect in it), Rosie Perez was becoming a fave of mine, and she really moved me in Fearless, and The Piano was a life-changing experience, and Paquin was such an asset. It was sad to watch two of them lose.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

There's also the classic Jessica Lange in Frances vs. Meryl Streep in, um, you know...

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

It's not Roberts vs Burstyn. It's Roberts vs Linney.

And in my book Bening is bad in American Beauty. I can't see depth, only caricature.

That in best actor was tremendous. Spacey vs Crowe vs Penn.

But the biggest of every Sophie's Choice situations was O'Toole vs Peck. Two of my top 5 male performances of all time in the same year?

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I am such a bad luck charm to performers that whenever I am really torn between two performances, both of them lose.

Best actress 1941 - Torn between Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck (lean towarss Stanwyck). Joan Fontaine wins.
Best Actress 1950 - Torn between Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson (lean towards Davis). Judy Holiday wins.
Best Actress 1961 - Torn between Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood (lean toward Wood). Sophia Loren wins.
Best Actress 1980 - Torn between Mary Tyler Moore and Gena Rowland (lean toward Moore). Sissy Spacek wins.
Best Actress 1998 - Torn between Cate Blanchett and Fernanda Montenegro (lean toward Montenegro). Evil wins.
Best Actress 2001 - Torn between Sissy Spacek and Nicole Kidman (lean toward Kidman). Halle Berry wins.
Best Actress 2012 - Torn between Emanuelle Riva and Jessica Chastain (lean towards Chastain). J-Law wins.

And the kicker, of course, is Best Actress 2006 - Torn between Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep (lean Dench > Streep > Cruz). Helen Mirren wins.


November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

The 2008 Cinematography lineup is like if Sophie had 5 kids instead of 2.

November 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

So many to go through, so I will just stick with the most recent: last year, it was Blanchett v Dench for me. So many people dismissed Dench's role as cliche old-person, but for me the amount of hurt in her eyes was as good as Blanchett's turn. I still think, because of deteriorating eyesight, that maybe it should've gone to her (so she actually has a Best Actress statuette), but boy, you can't take it away from Blanchett either.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

My biggest disappointment was Natalie Wood's loss to Sophia Loren...

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterrick

2007 was such an exciting year for Best Supporting Actress. Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan, Saoirse Ronan. All such complicated, fascinating performances for such different reasons. Oh yeah, and Ruby Dee.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I have to agree about 2006. Helen Mirren was perfectly competent in The Queen, but Cruz in Volver and Streep in TDWP are two of my all-time favorite performances. Throw in Judi Dench and Kate Winslet and it was a great year for women.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

A recent one for me was best actor between Joaquin in The Master vs. DDL in Lincoln. I leaned Joaquin, but I think that was maybe more of a spread the wealth type of vote.

Another best actor one was the brutal Hoffman, Ledger, Phoenix, Howard, Strathairn year. Hoffman and Ledger were clearly out front, but I would not have been mad about any of those 5 winning. (Even though Howard has proven himself to be a crazy person, a win for him in Hustle & Flow would have been fun)

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I feel the one that I have the hardest choice with is 1968 which is why the tie was so good cause those two performances are just so perfect.

1944, 1950, 1962, 1972, 1978, 1982 & 1987 are the years in which I would be glad giving at least the top 2 the win.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Emmanuelle Riva vs Quvenzhané Wallis vs Naomi Watts, 2012 Best Actress

I mean... come on, you have the youngest and the oldest Oscar nominated lead actresses ever, giving two absolutely perfect and nailed performances, in addition of an overdue Watts, in the only nomination of one of the best films of the year (and a Mallickian disaster film), in also, probably her best performance. Add to this Chastain who was the only saving grace of the propaganda film... and they gave it to the taylor-to-Oscar role performed by Lawrence... don't get me wrong, Lawrence gave an ecellent performance, if not specially challenging or daring. My order, that year was...

1. Wallis (what a force of nature)
2. Watts
3. Riva
4. Chastain
5. Lawrence

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

2007 Best Actress: I was pulling for Julie Christie for so many reasons. In addition to her brilliance in the role she's my favorite living actress. I was hoping she could snatch the crown for the longest time between Oscar wins and I was also hoping it would encourage her to work more.

However Marion Cotillard was breathtakingly brilliant in La Vie en Rose and if Julie wasn't going to win she was the only one I was okay with taking the prize.

It was such a nail biter as well since they split the precusor awards about evenly. A tie would have been the best result though that's such a long shot.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

@Sonja & @Nathaniel--- YES, 95 Best Actress! Such a good category that a whole new one coulda been made outta those that missed: Moore, Delpy, Leigh, Kidman, Silverstone, Hunter even. Great year.

I was all Sophie's Choice for Streep v Davis in 2011, though I leaned Davis.
BP last year: Birdman v Boyhood--- loved both, would've been thrilled with both.
Had it been for The Departed, I would've been Gosling v DiCaprio in 2006--- but Gosling is an EASY winner over that field.
1985 Actress- Goldberg v Page--- Page is legitimately excellent in Bountiful, but Goldberg was a revelation, even though the movie fails her (and the book). Happy Page got one, in part bc it's 30 years later and I know Goldberg has one too.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hall

For me, the 2006 Best Actress lineup. The eventual winner, Mirren, was fantastic, but I would've preferred Penelope Cruz, who was a revelation in Volver or Meryl Streep's iconic performance in The Devil Wears Prada, or even Judi Dench's creepy turn in Notes on a Scandal.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermiguel

Goldberg was a revelation, even though the movie fails her (and the book)

The book fails her? There would be no dramatic role for Whoopi Goldberg to showcase her early talents had it not existed.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

2007 Best Supporting Actress. All of them, even the least of them (Saoirse Ronan) was a worthy contender. I switched camps multiple times in the run up to the ceremony and on Oscar night I switched a final time from Team Blanchett to Team Dee. At first I figured she didn't have a chance but after her SAG win I thought "well why not?". Of course taking an Oscar away for from Tilda seems like an unforgivable sin but that's how freakishly great that line-up was.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

@/3rtful, the movie fails the book.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hall

Best Supporting Actress 2013: Loved that Lupita Nyong'o won, yet I was also crossing my fingers for a Sally Hawkins upset.

Best Picture 1976: I dig the optimism of Rocky, but...Network, man. Network! They also had Taxi Driver in the mix! Agh, I miss the 70's :(:(:(

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

Best picture 76:

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Barry Lyndon
Dog Day Afternoon

Best line-up ever

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

1979: sally field v bette midler - my first oscar experience and, immediately, my first actress conundrum

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I'm not the Sophie's Choice type. I do change of opinion, tough. I was Team Anjelica back in 1990 and now I'm more Kathy Bates, despite Lilly's marvelous hair.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

For me it's definitely the Best Actress fields of 1983 (Debra Winger vs. Meryl Streep vs. Shirley MacLaine) and 1991 (Geena Davis vs. Jodie Foster vs. Susan Sarandon). I don't know you choose between any of those triplets.

And on the subject of 1991, Beauty and the Beast and Silence of the Lambs couldn't be more different and more perfect in their own respect. I would've been satisfied with either as the Best Picture champ.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

2005- Hoffman vs Ledger. Both equally brilliant. Equally tragic. 10 years later I still flip-flop between them.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Mareko - oh man. you are so correct. both years were incredibly BUT WHO? in terms of quality.

Jake -- i nominated them both here at TFE's awards but i never had any trouble deciding. Ledger was way out front for me. one of my fav best actor perofrmances ever.

Cal -- yep. my god that year

JJ's diner -- the funnest thing about that was how indecisive everyone was. I wish wish wish there were more races like that where the precursors disagreed and Oscar night was a nail biter with a happy ending.

November 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I LOVED the 2009 Best Actress nominees, minus Helen Mirren. Depending on the day, I could argue that Meryl (such a warm performance; leagues better than her Iron Lady impersonation), Carey (charisma for days), or Gabourey (affecting and out-of-character) should have won. I even see the appeal in Sandra's performance. It's a shame they can't all have Oscars.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I rarely can't decide which performance I think is more deserving, but I do face this scenario when I really want someone to win who didn't give the best performance. As someone said above, Meryl vs Viola is still a nightmare for me because I am so thrilled that Meryl finally has her third Oscar, but Viola deserved it so so so much and now she doesn't even have one Oscar yet (and she should have two).

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

McDormand vs Emily Watson. Have to go with Watson but I so loved McDormand too!

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrooooke

3rtful already said it: 1987 Best Actress. I don't know when I'll die, but whenever I do, I fully expect to be thinking, "I never decided about 1987 Best Actress."

Also, some live for Janet McTeer? She's phenomenal in Tumbleweeds, and for me Swank's only competition among the nominees. Though I do love Meryl in <I>Music</I>.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Ugh, Bette Midler v Sally Field. Like, yeah's NORMA RAE, but Bette Midler in The Rose just really changed me. And Sally Field got another one five years later!

I echo the Meryl v Viola sentiments...I literally felt torn when they said Meryl's name. I wanted Viola to win so badly, I really thought she was going to, and I know Viola thought she had it too. But damn if someone deserves a third Oscar, it's Meryl, and who knows when it was gonna happen. It's strange that it happened for such a horrible film and playing a horrible person, but who knows why that year went down the way it did. Kirsten Dunst should've been nominated anyway, but that's a different story ;)

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

@Brooooke - the whole line up - all of them are terrific - I mean what can you say if the weakest is a Keaton
Watson it is for me, but then there is Blethyn and then there is Scott Thomas and oh McDormand

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterclaudehiver

Best Actors

1969: Hoffman vs. Voight (and Burton vs. O'Toole to a slightly lesser degree). Winner: Wayne. AARGH.

1975: PACINO vs Nicholson. Dog Day Afternoon remains among my all-time top five movies.

1998: McKellen vs. Norton. And then...AARGH.

Best Actress 1995: Streep vs. Thompson. Two of my favorite nominated performances of the '90s (and still not even my favorite Thompson of the decade). And both lost (to a worthy performance in the film Sean Penn should also have one for, but that's another story).

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

LOL though, for me it is Cher vs. Close. It still hurts me knowing that Cher has an Oscar and Glenn doesn't, but damn I was "moonstrucked" by her, not that I wasn't "fatally attracted" to Close.

And what do you guys think about THE TIE? Hepburn or Streisand?
This actually feels like the quintessential actressexual question.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

The under rated Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake over Hilary Swank. More people should watch Vera Drake.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

What? Brandz, that competition was Winslet v Staunton v Bening. No Swank anywhere in sight!

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hall

Craver -- agreed about Close & Cher. Both are such iconic performances. Close's loss would have hurt a lot less if they had just given her one the following year when she was best in her (nominated) category.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Regarding "the tie," Craver, I don't know what I'd do if the Academy hadn't given Streisand special permission to become a voting member early. (I assume she voted for herself.) I ADORE her in Funny Girl: iconic, indelible, etc. But I also think Lion in Winter is Hepburn's best, which means it is THE best...

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

Ones that I was alive for:

2007 Best Picture/Best Cinematography/Best Director/Best Adapted Screenplay
There Will Be Blood vs. No Country for Old Men

My favorite living filmmakers square off, and, personally, not with films I'd consider their best but still great American movies that are about American identity. The Coens' relationship to the Academy was a strange one, with the Academy always being chilly toward them. PTA's film were previously nominated but that was primarily in the first phase of his career. There Will Be Blood was the first prestige film done by him in his second phase (post-Punch Drunk Love) and strangely enough, this was his most commercially success film to date. Anyway, because both did adaptations the Coens and PTA faced off in many categories. Elswit and Deakins are such a wash in Cinematography, but I'm glad Elswit finally got his due even if it meant Deakins needs to wait longer. As far as adaptation is concerned, I still think PTA should've won for that than Joel and Ethan based on the fact of what the source material was. But while people seem to think the win by the Coens was some kind of mistake here and that TWBB was so much better, I think the films are evenly great and I don't mind that Joel and Ethan finally got their due, particularly with a film like No Country for Old Men. It still boggles the mind that it even figured in the Best Picture race, let alone won. This might be the closest PTA will get to winning though, so that somewhat stings.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

This article was perfectly timed because this year's Best Actress Nomination Race is basically a Sophie's Choice without end. How am I supposed to pick only 5 from...


and I haven't even seen Jennifer Lawrence in Joy yet !

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Craver and Nathaniel - I feel the same about that category, but for me it's more Cher vs. Holly Hunter. Close is iconic, agreed. And it's not like Hunter later won for the wrong performance (unlike the unrewarded Close), but I am a complete sucker for "Broadcast News". A strong year, but how could it win NOTHING?

November 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Nathaniel: If Rampling makes the final five she's the only reasonable option for the winner. She's overdue and she's Charlotte Rampling.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

@claudehiver true Blethyn would also have been a worthy winner.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrooooke

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