Overtime, there have been acting wins that some have seen as more of a career win rather than for the role itself. What Oscar winning performances fall within that realm?
Let me get the ball rolling:
Paul Newman-The Color of Money (1986)
Don Ameche-Cocoon (1985)
Alan Arkin-Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
George Burns-The Sunshine Boys (1975)
James Coburn-Affliction (1998)
What are your opinions ?
The big Hooahh you missed is Al Pacino for just about the worst performance he ever gave. Of your list, I’d say only Coburn really earned it (although it can be a career win and deserved.) Was Ameche that big a star, that Hollywood was just itching to honor him?
@ Brad S.
I think Ameche’s name just came up on the ballot and the voters were in your words “itching to honor him”. I saw “Cocoon” and thought that his part was just a regular presence in the picture, nothing of a highlight, A true example of a “career win”
Pacino (Scent of a Woman)
Jack Palance for whatever that movie was he won for in the 90s. He was great, doing one-arm pushups on stage there.
Helen Hayes for Airport.
@Girlfriend In a Coma
I agree about Helen Hayes, but she was funny and comical in her role as Ada Quanset. Sometimes all you need to win an Oscar is charisma, which Hayess showed a lot of in her performance. Also because she was the First Lady of American Theater that gave her a slight advantage on the Oscar ballot
Michael Caine. Decades of complicated parts (and admitedly, some crap). And he wins for playing a cad with no complexity in Hannah and Her Sisters (Great movie, but the easist part) and having a so-so accent in Cider House Rules.
He even admited in his speech that they gave it to him as a way of retirement. He gave much better performances later on in Little Voice, The Quiet American and Quills.
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
Though looking back, the only time he EVER won any award previous to Crazy Heart was a Saturn Award for Starman. For some reason I thought he had always been a critics darling. Is that not right?
If there is ever a rarity for veteran actors to win an Oscar for roles they actually deserved the honor for, its Michael Caine. I saw both movies and I can safely say that out of all the films released that year, he was the best supporting sctor of both. Sure some people would easily characterize it as a career win, but I felt that both performances were some of the best that Caine has ever done in his career (and mind you I’ve enver been dissapointed by any performance he’s given)
I think Jeff Bridges has a lot more pepper in him so I can’t agree on that one at all
Sean Connery – THE UNTOUCHABLES
John Wayne – TRUE GRIT
Don Ameche – COCOON
James Coburn – AFFLICTION
Jack Palance – CITY SLICKERS
Alan Arkin – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
George Burns – THE SUNSHINE BOYS
Henry Fonda, definitely, in 1981’s On Golden Pond, and, even though she’d been rewarded a lot already, Katharine Hepburn in that same movie. Not that they were bad – which could be said for everybody already mentioned, save, perhaps, Helen Hayes in Airport – but Diane Keaton in Reds was far better than Kate that year, and Burt Lancaster’s in Atlantic City was one of the best of that decade and of his extraordinary career. Come to think of it, the Supporting awards that year could also be mentioned. The great Sir John Gielgud basically just walked through Arthur (c’mon, sure it’s cute, but was that really acting? And especially from Gielgud?), as opposed to much more demanding roles handled by Jack Nicholson in Reds and Ian Holm in Chariots of Fire, which is about the only sign of life in that stiff stuffy film. And the thrice-before nominated Maureen Stapleton was certainly in line, although it is easily argued she deserved her win.
One that is usually categorized as a “sentimental win” that I will always argue otherwise is Art Carney’s superb turn in 1974’s Harry and Tonto. That is a masterful performance in what I consider to be one of the greatest years of screen acting we’ve ever had. Carney’s competition was Nicholson in Chinatown, Pacino in The Godfather, Part II, Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, and Dustin Hoffman in Lenny. Not even nominated were Gene Hackman n The Conversation, _*Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, and Peter Falk in A Woman Under the Influence, which, if you can find better acting than that, please step to the front of the line. An amazing year, and Art Carney’s performance remains one of the best we’ll ever see.
And that’s just the guys …!
All of the above and Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger.
Jaspar said: “I think Jeff Bridges has a lot more pepper in him so I can’t agree on that one at all”
I am not familiar with the term “pepper” used this way. What does it mean?
I think Jaspar meant gusto or feeling in his performance. I know, it’s not a term I would use to describe a performance.
yes…gusto is a good way of putting it…he followed CRAZY HEART with his trememdous TRUE GRIT performance. I really meant that he will likely have many more great performances to come
…and how could we forget Henry Fonda…good call Christopher….Fonda was terrific in ON GOLDEN POND, but certainly MUCH better in things like 12 ANGRY MEN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH and THE LADY EVE
1981 WAS an odd year…Maureen Stapleton’s work in REDS was excellent & much deserved of all the awards she got. Gielgud was very funny in ARTHUR, but yes…there were quite a few great supporting performances that year (Holm, Nicholson, and the NON-Nominated Nicol Williamson in EXCALIBUR, Richard Crenna in BODY HEAT, Robert Joy in ATLANTIC CITY)
“he will likely have many more great performances to come”
Oh, yeah, I agree with that. When I was thinking of the term “career win”, I was thinking that it was when a great actor is given an award for a particular film, but though the acting in that film is not necessarily bad, it’s not great (such as Crazy Heart, IMO), but that the award is more of an appreciation of the actor’s previous work, and serves a belated acknowledgement of that actor’s career.
So if that is what it means, then I think that Bridges’ award for Crazy Heart would be a career win, as more of an acknowledgement of his past work in great films such as The Last Picture Show, Fat City, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Big Lebowski, and The Door in the Floor (though it often seems like I’m the only one that appreciates that one), but by no means does that mean that he has no potential for great roles in the future (such as True Grit, and hopefully for years to come).
I also think that the Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall wins could be “deemed” career wins. Both have done better performances before and won due to their name. Both have also done better performances since their wins. Jones with No Country… and Duvall with The Apostle.
I think in the case of Duvall, he was due…not necessarily as a career win, but because it was his 4th nomination. He’s also brilliant in the film and his competition, with the exception of Albert Finney in THE DRESSER were NOT.
Tommy Lee Jones’s win is a real headscratcher…it’s not his best work or even the best that year by an actor in a supporting role…that was, after all, the year Ralph Fiennes (SCHINDLER’S LIST), Pete Postlethwaite (IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER) and Leonardo Dicaprio (…GILBERT GRAPE) were also nominated. It’s as if Jones won because he’s so well-liked and had been floating around as a near “A” name without making much headway despite his brilliant work in THE EXECUTIONERS SONG.
I don’t mean to go off topic but Tom Courtenay should’ve won over Duvall. If the acting in the last scene of a film leaves you speechless and on the verge of tears then by Jove you deserve the top honor from your peers. Unfortnately if Courtenay wins at this point it would be seen as sympathy because he was robbed twice before (Dresser and Dr. Zhivago).
Danny…I’d have to argue though that Courtenay’s role was a supporting role. And frankly, he was a tad too Roddy McDowell-ish
I think he was surely robbed for Dr. Zhivago and IVAN DENISOVICH & OTLEY as well.
Can’t possibly agree about Courtenay in THE DRESSER being more deserving than Duvall. Courtenay’s performance is terribly stale to me, with the exact same line readings he’d used in the play, which he’d done for years in England and on Broadway. I only watch the film now to watch the great Albert Finney’s work as Sir. He’s fresh and funny and very much alive — those wonderful frustrated grunts he makes as he puts on his Lear makeup always delight.
But even then — the Oscar should have gone to Duvall. Few of those little statues have gone so deservedly where they belonged.
Dame Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love
I would think this would have been obvious right away, considering her screen time in the picture.
“I think Jeff Bridges has a lot more pepper in him”
I don’t think anyone has more “pepper” than John Wayne and you listed him on the career win list
Dutch — Dame Judi hadn’t had much of a film career before doing SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, though. And I think her win was entirely deserved, for what it is worth. No one has ever done so much with so little. I don’t see it is being a career payoff, it is more like Peggy Ashcroft’s win in PASSAGE TO INDIA..
Dennis….That’s not what I meant…
Wayne gave all of his great performances prior to TRUE GRIT (THE SEARCHERS, RED RIVER, FORT APACHE, THE QUIET MAN)…what followed was a lot of regurgitations, two dull cop films and the very rare good film (THE COWBOYS, THE SHOOTIST)…
RE: Judi Dench…a late bloomer in films to be sure, but very deserving (and she’s gone on to give one great performance after another)…her win for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was less a career capper and more to make up for not giving her the Oscar for MRS BROWN (beat out by Helen Hunt in AS GOOD AS IT GETS).
Judi Dench was robbed for Mrs Brown. I would call her win for Shakespeare in Love as a consloation prize, not so much a career win.
that’s what I’M SAYING ^
On the issue of Tom Courtenay, how can you say robbed for Otley and not for The Dresser. Otley was a stupid spy comedy, and The Dresser was a wonderful piece of theater brought to the screen. Mind you I thought Otley was funny, but The Dresser is just exceptional in every way. Duvall’s performance couldn’t hold a torch to Courtenay that year.
Courtenay got so few really good leads…OTLEY is surely one of them.