When the Oscars Were Interesting (In the 90s)

It’s hard to pinpoint when, exactly, the Oscars became so intolerably dull. Was it after Björk’s swan dress? After Ellen bought everyone in the audience pizza? Who can really say? All we know now is that it’s gone to the bored birds with its utter lack of entertainment value. Even the red carpet seems to be missing any standout fashion statements–bad or good.

It truly makes one yearn for that decadent, stylish period of the 90s when, even though the movies were a lot shittier (e.g. Dance With Wolves and The English Patient), the celebrity class level was of far more interest. Let’s start with 1990:  Heavyweights like Daniel Day-Lewis and Oliver Stone hadn’t gone totally off the rails yet, and Italian cinema was making a comeback with the win of Cinema Paradiso. 1991: Madonna performed “Sooner or Later” and showed up with Michael Jackson. Biggest pop culture moment of any decade, really. 1992: Anthony Hopkins won for The Silence of the Lambs and Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to truly be taken seriously by the Academy. 1993: the best trans movie of all-time, The Crying Game, was considered for a nomination for Best Picture (which really just goes to show that the Academy was a lot more liberal back then considering they barely acknowledged Carol for as many awards), Marisa Tomei gave a lively acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress for, that’s right, her role in My Cousin Vinny and Aladdin won for Best Original Score for its fly soundtrack. 1994: the Academy proves it has a hard-on for drama that highlights social issues with the nominations of Philadelphia and Schindler’s List. 1995: Quentin Tarantino battles the schmaltz of Forrest Gump with his win for Pulp Fiction. Plus, he appeared in photos with Courtney Love and Madonna, whose after parties had by then become renowned. 1996: no one seemed to have any problem with the particularly large sea of vanilla faces nominated, including Mel Gibson for Braveheart. 1997: Cuba Gooding Jr. proves that black people bring way more excitement to the Oscars with their acceptance speeches. He also proves the curse of the actor who wins an Oscar the very first time he’s nominated (i.e. he never made a decent film again). Then there was the event of Madonna coming the closest she may ever get to Oscar accepting her into the film industry as a result of her win in the category of Best Original Song for “You Must Love Me” from Evita. And, oh yeah, even The Nutty Professor won an award for Best Makeup. 1998: Good Will Hunting, Titanic (which means “My Heart Will Go On”), As Good As It Gets and L.A. Confidential. 1999: Roberto Benigni rounded out the decade’s favoritism of Italian film, and gave an acceptance speech even livelier than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s.

And now, this year, what do we have? The “elation” of Leo winning only to have him speak about climate change, Chris Rock making a series of jokes about racism in Hollywood that will probably change nothing and Mad Max: Fury Road cleaning up, negating any chance the movie industry might ever have of actually believing in the good of original content. God, people used to have some fucking gumption. Especially when it came to partying afterward. But at least we’ll always have the 90s.