Oscar winners of the past (1996 – 2000)

Around a few months back, I looked up the Oscar winners from a couple of decades back to see how recognisable they are in the current times, and what sort of career they are having. I had sought the Oscar winners from the years 1991 to 1995, and you can read that article here. I am now trying to expand this further by looking up Oscar winners from 1996 to 2000. That is a bit closer to the current times, but still 15 to 20 years away. Let’s see what we dig up…

Oscar winners (1996-2000)_Jack Nicholson & Helen Hunt

Best Actor Category

Nicolas Cage, Leaving Last Vegas (1996): Wow! A year when Nicolas Cage was an Oscar winner must have passed long time back or existed in a different universe altogether. But if you do have a good memory, then you would remember a time period when Nicolas Cage was stealing the show in Hollywood, which was sometime around when he won the Oscar too. Good times do come to an end though. Serious financial difficulties erupted around five years back, and since then we have seen Nicolas Cage in really lousy films that get universally panned. There are exceptions, like Kick-Ass and Joe, rare moments when the Nicolas Cage of old is seen again. He has no less than seven films in various stages of production at present, though few of interest.

Geoffrey Rush, Shine (1997): The talented Australian actor won his only Oscar for Shine, and even though he was 46 then, it could still be seen as being early in his acting career for he had limited body of work till then. Of course things have changed much over the past two decades. Rush has had three more Oscar nominations since then, and has become quite popular for playing the part of Captain Barbossa, the one who is frequently at loggerheads with Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean series. He will reprise the role of this beloved captain in the fifth instalment of the franchise scheduled for a 2017 release.

Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets (1998): We do not have to talk about the popularity of this amazing star. Jack Nicholson is one of the undisputed kings of Hollywood, who recieved his eleventh Oscar nomination with As Good As It Gets. He did bag the Oscar too, with competition from some fellow veterans like Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall and Peter Fonda, making it his third Oscar win. Nicholson was already 60 by then, but scored another nomination five years later for About Schmidt. Ever since delivering another impeccable performance in The Departed in 2006, we have seen little of Nicholson, with no movies listed against his name after 2010. Age seems to be catching up, but the man’s quality as an actor still stands tall.

Roberto Bengini, Life is Beautiful (1999): The Italian actor/director Roberto Bengini gave us one of the most memorable films of the decade with Life is Beautiful and received a well-deserved Oscar for it in 1999. But he never came in the limelight again in Hollywood since then, and in fact his 2002 directed movie Pinocchio has the rare distinction of a 0% score on Rottentomatoes. How things can change in a few years!

Kevin Spacey, American Beauty (2000): The Oscar for his role in American Beauty was a vindication of what we already knew, that Kevin Spacey is a terrifically good actor. It was his second Oscar win, and while no nominations have come in the last 15 years, Spacey continues to be in the limelight with the extremely popular TV series House of Cards for which he won the Golden Globe this year, and has been nominated for an Emmy thrice. Movie roles haven’t dried up, if that is what you were wondering, and soon we will get to see him play the former US President Richard Nixon in Elvis & Nixon.

Best Actress Category

Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking (1996): Veteran actress Susan Sarandon won her first Oscar in 1996, after having seen it slip out of her grasp on four previous occasions. She was already a well-established figure in the industry then, and has continued to work on good projects subsequently. She’s 68 now, though her movie appearances have not dimmed. She was Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother in he comedy hit Tammy of 2014, and played the lead role of a detective in The Calling. She has a number of projects lined up, including another mystery investigation in Kid Witness.

Frances McDormand, Fargo (1997): Ah, that classic Coen brothers’ movie Fargo got Frances McDormand a well deserved Oscar win, though she was already a recognised and respected actress by then, having been nominated for the first time way back in 1989 for Mississippi Burning. McDormand has not been able to stand out as a leading actress since Fargo, but there has been no dearth of supporting roles. Two of such roles got her Oscar nominations as well – Almost Famous and North County. She has worked again with the Coen brothers in Burn After Reading, and also starred in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. We will hear her voice in Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and then see her reunite with the Coen brothers once more for next year’s Hail, Caesar!

Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets (1998): If you can put up with Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie), then you deserve an Oscar! Helen Hunt took hers home in 1998, and rightly so, but her career has not really hit that sort of a high again so far. She did receive an Oscar nomination for The Sessions in 2013 as a supporting actress, but few would have heard of this film. She recently wrote and directed as well as starred in the movie Ride, which has not received a wide release. A pleasant and likable actress, hopefully she will get her hands on some good projects.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare (1999): Gwyneth Paltrow was well known even before her memorable performance in Shakespeare, but that Oscar win – her only one so far – did cement her credentials as leading lady material. Her career has gone through its ups and downs since then, until she bagged a role in Iron Man as Pepper Potts, and ultimately became part of the massive Marvel cinematic universe which has brought her back in the limelight. But a performance like the one in Shakespeare seems unlikely to follow.

Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry (2000): It was an Oscar win for a gritty performance in an indie movie, which was followed up by an Oscar win for another gritty performance in a box-office hit film Million Dollar Baby in 2005. And yet we see little of Hilary Swank now. The 2010 film Amelia where she played Amelia Earhart was being talked of an Oscar contender, but that never came close, and her other movies too have not achieved any remarkable success. Swank is ready to take the plunge to another form of entertainment, as her upcoming drama TV series The One Percent along side Ed Harris, and created by Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, will debut in 2015. We would love to see the Hilary Swank of old rise up again!


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