Seinfeld was in the zeitgeist in 1996. I know this because they had an episode wherein Elaine can’t stand the movie The English Patient. It would, in time, win Best Picture for the year. I have, admittedly, never seen it. Do I believe, like Elaine, I will be bored? Well, yeah. I mean, when have you heard anybody espousing the virtues of The English Patient? Time is finite, at least the time we have. That being said, I have seen plenty of films from 1996, enough to give out these awards.
Best Supporting Actress: Drew Barrymore, Scream
Scream works because of Drew Barrymore. The franchise was born because of her. Without her character, and her performance, Scream falls flat. Yes, spoiler alert, she’s dead right off of the bat. That’s the point. Here is this star opening up the film. Then, just like that, she’s gone. Everybody knows Barrymore is in Scream. She is the indelible performance in that film, and the movie needs Barrymore more than anybody else in that movie.
Best Supporting Actor: Owen Wilson, Bottle Rocket
Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers were making their debut film. Owen, in addition to writing the movie with Anderson, plays foil to his brother Luke, the protagonist. However, it’s Owen’s Dignan that stands out as a character. Bottle Rocket does not quite feel like a “Wes Anderson” movie, aside from Dignan. Here, the director, and actor, were locked in.
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Fargo
I have zero beef with the Academy here. McDormand was a great pick for Best Actress. Her turn as Marge is one of the iconic performances of the 1990s full stop. She’s, of course, one of the most-talented actors of her generation. To date, though, Marge in Fargo is McDormand’s best performance, which is really saying something.
Best Actor: Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks!
This is not a great year for leading men. Mars Attacks! is an ensemble film, and normally I don’t consider those for lead awards. However, let’s be honest. If Nicholson submits himself for an award, he’s doing it as a lead. Plus, Nicholson plays two roles in Mars Attacks!. He does double duty in the ensemble. In one, he plays the straight man with aplomb. With the other, he goes wild. Two distinct, but funny, performances.
Best Picture: Fargo
This was neck-and-beck between Bottle Rocket and Fargo. While the former is Anderson’s first film, I think it is really strong. To me, it’s one of Anderson’s top four or five movies. That being said, there are aspects of it that feel like a first film. That isn’t an issue with Fargo, which is the Coen brothers firing on all cylinders. It’s a rock-solid crime thriller, but also kind of funny. Oh, and it’s definitely not boring. Elaine isn’t falling asleep during Fargo.