It won’t be long before Oscar nomination time is upon us.  If I could give a special super-duper Oscar — made of chocolate, fairy dust, and pure unadulterated love — to my all-time favorite nominees, these would be my choices (notated <*> if he/she/it actually won the Oscar).


Picture: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975*)

I first saw this around 1982 at my college’s theater and immediately thought, “that’s my favorite movie.”  It just blew me away like no film I’d ever seen, and Jack is brilliant.  I own the DVD and watch it at least once a year.  It was the first movie since 1934’s It Happened One Night to win picture, actor, actress, director, and screenplay.

VERY VERY CLOSE RUNNER-UP: Pulp Fiction (1994, lost to the inferior Forrest Gump)


Director: Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List (1993*)

I think most critics would agree that this is a monumental achievement in filmmaking.  It’s one of those movies that’s so grueling and emotional you can’t imagine anyone wanting to make it.  Right after it came out, a friend told me she’d heard that Spielberg, while filming, would sometimes get so depressed he’d call Robin Williams to cheer him up [citation needed].

SUPER-CLOSE RUNNER-UP: Spielberg (again), Saving Private Ryan (1998*)


Actor: Denzel Washington, Training Day (2001*)

If Denzel weren’t in this, it would be a 7.5-out-of-10-star movie.  But Denz (he lets me call him Denz) puts it over the top.  Electrifying performance, and his character is incredibly morally ambiguous: one minute he’s cracking heads, the next he’s helping somebody.  Very volatile.  Kind of like Walter White.

JUST-MISSED-IT RUNNER-UP: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty (1999*)


Actress: Charlize Theron, Monster (2003*)

Holy crap, what a frightening character.  It’s based on the true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and Ms. Theron plays her to scary perfection.  Her physical transformation is incredible.  Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best movie of 2003; he said he liked to know as little as possible about a film before seeing it, and he had no idea it was her until the ending credits.

REALLY REALLY CLOSE RUNNER-UP:  Kathy Bates, Misery (1990*)


Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Twelve Monkeys (1995)

I wish he’d won, but he lost to Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, so that’s really not a bad thing. I just truly enjoy this performance – he’s a great wacko — and it propelled Mr. Pitt (in my mind) from “pretty boy” to “really quite a good actor; keep an eye on that feller, he might be goin’ places.”

RUNNER-UP (IN A STUNNING DRESS): Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club (2013*)


Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious (2009*)

Another vile character done extraordinarily well.  Miss ‘Nique plays the contemptuous, abusive welfare queen to the hilt.  She took me completely by surprise.  I think much of my appreciation for the performance is that I always admire people who start as stand-ups and successfully progress to serious drama.

GROOVY RUNNERS-UP: Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite (1995*); Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby (1968*)


Original Screenplay: Alan Ball, American Beauty (1999*)

Ever walk out of a theater, stunned, thinking “what a fucking great movie”?  This is another that I own and watch fairly often.  And while the direction is wonderful (Sam Mendes won Director) and the acting is phenomenal (Spacey won Actor), it’s the writing that makes it work.  Every time I watch, I dissect it as a writer, and everything about it’s great.

WAY COOL RUNNER-UP: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery, Pulp Fiction (1994*)


Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network (2010*)

I think Mr. Sorkin’s easily one of the best screenwriters of my generation — although I don’t always get into his stuff.  But this is a very smart and entertaining adaptation of the book The Accidental Billionaires, about how Facebook came to be.  Great script, David Fincher directs, superb cast – it’s a winner.

THEY MADE ME AN OFFER I CAN’T REFUSE RUNNER-UP: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather (1972*)