Ralph Fiennes should have had this one all locked up. He played a sadistic and scary Nazi officer in Schindler's List that has been frequently named one of the best performances in film history. So has Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as a mentally ill child in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? John Malkovich's performance in In The Line of Fire was scary and creepy. Pete Postelthwaite's performance in In The Name of the Father was powerful and his scenes with Daniel Day-Lewis (who earned a Best Actor nod for his performance in the film) were amazing. But, as history shows, the Oscar went to Tommy Lee Jones for his mediocre performance in The Fugitive. His performance, IMO, was the worst out of the five nominees, and should not have won. If he should have won an Oscar, it should have been for JFK (1991). I think that Ralph Fiennes easily wins this year in this category. His performance is chilling, especially since this man was a real Nazi commander. Amon Goeth is an incredibly disturbed man who smiles when Jewish people are massacred. If that's not an Oscar-winning performance, I don't know what is.
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I agree with every single one of your points, msnowden1, with the exception of the "Jones was mediocre" part. He was good in the film despite the fact that most of his performance was just him telling other people what to do. However, The Fugitive had 7 nominations and was loved by critics AND audiences, so they had to throw it something. Nevertheless, Jones should easily have Palance's Oscar and Fiennes should easily have this one. One of the greatest performances ever recorded on film. He was even playing a real-life person AND he had a villain role. It was a recipe for Oscar. Oh, and a lot of people will use the "Fiennes was unknown at the time" argument. That's bull, considering this was the same year that they gave 11-year-old Anna Paquin Best Supporting Actress.
They had to give it to TLJ, and I dont begrudge him one little bit. And Fiennes, who imo is one of the best working today and who I've never seen give a subpar perf (except maybe, The Clash/Wrath films, but how can you blame him?), was an unknown. And like it or not that's often a deciding factor. We can look back and marvel at his performance and know that he could have been the most worthy winner, although that is entirely subjective. But what I find even worse is that he still hasnt won. And he's received two nominations when he could have been cited for his work in the little-seen Coriolanus, or The Duchess (he's the very best thing about this film) In Bruges, and esp The Constant Gardener, Quiz Show, Spider, and others. He's terrific as Voldemort and is as versatile as heck. He makes his costars look good as well.
He's got projects coming up, and my fingers are crossed hard for him. He, and Tom Wilkinson deserve an Oscar.
This was actually a very good set of nominees chosen by Oscar in this category. Fiennes was of course outstanding and the best of the group, but Jones, DiCaprio and Postlethwaite were all excellent in their own right. Malkovich wasn't up to par with the quality of the others but he still gave an effective performance.
I agree that Tommy Lee Jones should have won for JFK and that his work in The Fugitive was really only adequate at best. The only moment I remember is (not surprisingly) the "I don't care!" scene....he did a fine job but it was shocking that it even caught on as an awards contender.
John Malkovich has always been a unique and intriguing performer, and he definitely left an impression as the villain of In The Line of Fire, but I agree that I wouldn't give him an Oscar for it.
The work of Pete Postlethwaite was strong and definitely worthy of its nomination and I could see him being even more of a contender in other years.
Leonardo DiCaprio really burst onto the scene in a big way with What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a movie that was underrated and deserved more nominations in itself. DiCaprio was a true class act and very believable as Arnie. Had he won, I would have supported it....but...
Ralph Fiennes should have won....hands down....case closed. It was such a brave performance, especially with it being his first major high profile role. Amon Goeth was a despicible and truly evil man and Fiennes brought him to the screen with not only that disgusting evil nature in tact but also gave him a suave and almost oddly charming side which just added to how truly horrible of a man he and those men were. It was a vicious portrayal and a master class of acting.
After watching The Fugitive and Schindler's List, I can't believe Fiennes lost to Jones that year. Forget supporting actor 1993, Fiennes' performance in that film was one of the best performances I have ever seen in any movie from anyone, ever.
As mentioned, the only reason I can fathom why Jones was able to get an Oscar for The Fugitive was because of his work in JFK.
Always felt Malkovich was just a little too much here. Never a fan of DiCaprio's, althoug I much prefer him in anything prior to Titanic. Also I don't see roles like this one and Hanks in Forrest Gump, Hoffman in Rain Man and Penn in I Am Sam as the most challenging. It seems like they found the note of the character and that's it, not much else going on after that one note and frankly I don't care about him being 17 or 18 years old and pulling it off either.