37 MPH / Relitigating the 67th Academy Awards

With IndieWire Editor-at-Large Anne Thompson

Everybody is doing their post mortems on the 96th annual Academy Awards today, but here at 50 MPH, we’re relitigating the Oscars of 1995! As discussed last week, Speed walked away with top honors in two categories that year, with one other nomination besides. Those wins were well deserved, but did the Academy get everything right three decades ago?

IndieWire Editor-at-Large Anne Thompson dives in with us to discuss that very topic this week. And it’s a bit of a reunion of sorts, 10 years (nearly to the day) that the popular Oscar Talk podcast was shuttered — podcast she co-hosted with 50 MPH‘s very own emcee!

Looking at the list of five (back when it was five) Best Picture nominees, for example, did the Academy make the correct call?

Robert Zemeckis Steven Spielberg Oscars
Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis with presenter Steven Spielberg. The film won six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Tom Hanks).

“It’s really obvious that Forrest Gump, Four Weddings [and a Funeral], Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption are all a certain kind of movie,” Thompson says. “I would call them all relatively mainstream. I would say Forrest Gump was the least conventional of them all. You could argue that it had some innovative stuff going on. The movie that’s been left out, the movie that we would all say should have won, and I agree, is Pulp Fiction.”

Indeed, Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump was the big winner in multiple categories that year, including Best Director where, alas, Jan de Bont was nowhere to be found. How dare they?

“The thing about Zemeckis is that he’s one of the rare directors who combines heart and humanity with a great technological expertise, and he’s also one of those directors, like Ang Lee or James Cameron, who’s pushing the envelope all the time,” Thompson says. “He made a lot of mistakes along the way, but they were mistakes in pursuit of something new, and I’ve always respected him for that.”

We go through each of the Academy’s major feature categories, including the acting fields, where the four-year-old (long story) Blue Sky nabbed the Best Actress prize for Jessica Lange.

“That was one of those unusual cases where a movie that nobody saw and nobody liked and, you know, it didn’t do that well, ended up delivering the Best Actress winner, and she was incredible in it,” Thompson says. “But she had been in other things and people were rewarding her.”

Lizzy Gardiner Tim Chappel The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Oscars
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert costume designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel with presenter Sharon Stone.

What about the crafts categories? That’s where Speed found purchase in areas like film editing, sound and sound effects editing, but one of the best wins of the evening had to be the scrappy Australian indie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert grabbing the costume design prize.

“It was just one of those cases where you’re reminded, you don’t have to be one of the big, multi-nominated movies with an enormous Oscar campaign behind you,” Thompson says. “If they think you did the best costumes, they might give it to you!”

This kind of dissection can only conjure a sense of nostalgia for the kinds of movies Hollywood used to make. It was an era when movies like Speed could, first of all, be produced in the first place and at this level of craft, but they could also be recognized by audiences, critics and the Oscars alike. Gone are the days of mid-budget genre entertainments as the industry, more and more, focuses on massive budgets that inevitably lead to disappointment. Thompson is always on the beat with her ear to the ground, and she’s taken note of a ripple of industry sentiment in that regard.

“I talked to one studio at one of the Oscar parties. He said, ‘I would take $200 million and make four movies in a moment,'” Thompson says. “He was saying that everybody wishes that they could capture lightning in a bottle and have Everything Everywhere All at Once, you know? Make that movie. None of the studios are ever going to make that movie, but it was interesting to hear somebody say they would like to accord some budget to non-franchise, original movies that might have the ability to surprise people. I’d love to think that they’re going learn from their mistakes.”

All of that and more on this week’s episode of 50 MPH!


Kris Tapley Your Host:

Kris has covered the entertainment industry for nearly two decades, with bylines at Variety, The New York Times, Empire and Vanity Fair. He now works as a writer and consultant in Los Angeles, where he lives with his loving wife, lively son and lazy cat. He likes Speed.