Edward Copeland has the “winners” up in his Worst of the Best Actors competition, and if you’re an Oscar maven you owe it to yourself to go and check it out. (I don’t qualify as a maven; in fact, I think I’m helping with the Bingo tournament at the Golden Age Center that night.) Ed takes a couple of side streets in his survey that I found particularly interesting; here’s a list of contenders who failed to receive any “Worst” votes (oddly enough, I named three of these on my Best Best Actor list) and under “Not Hated Enough” we have the also-rans. As always, Eddie is generous to provide some choice snarky comments with these, and I’ve jotted a few down that made me snicker more loudly than usual:
1) Of Art Carney—who tied for 12th place with Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Sean Penn (Mystic River) and Kevin Spacey (American Beauty)—for his role in Harry and Tonto: “EXTRA! EXTRA! Ed Norton whacks Michael Corleone! Quite possibly the greatest true crime in cinematic history." (David Puterbaugh)
2) Spencer Tracy—who tied for 20th with Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond) and Jack Lemmon (Save the Tiger)—for Captains Courageous: “Sometimes it’s good to be out of character. But it’s better to be good at it.” (Veronica Kleist). (NOTE: I had actually expected Tracy to rank higher with this performance, since he seemed to be confused as to the difference between a Portuguese fisherman and Chico Marx.)
3) Ronald Colman, in 27th place for A Double Life: “Didn’t believe him as a Shakespearian Method actor and I didn’t believe him as Othello.” (I must be in the minority; I liked Colman in Life…though I would have given the Oscar that year to John Garfield for Force of Evil.)
4) Lee Marvin—who tied for 28th with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)—for Cat Ballou: “Liberty Valance would eat both of his characters for breakfast.” (David Cassan)
5) Paul Muni—who tied for 36th with Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg)—for The Story of Louis Pasteur: "In one of our collections of New Yorker cartoons, a woman on a radio quiz show says, ‘I don’t know what he did, but Paul Muni played him in the movie.'” (Sally Box)
Of the actors on my "Worst" list, I only had two crack the Top Ten; I’ve already mentioned that Hank Fonda tied at #20 (and Ed was nice enough to quote me on that one…guaranteeing me some hate e-mail within the next week or so) but my choice Nicholas Cage (of who Michael Maccarone jokes, “Chewed more scenery than Godzilla on a Hollywood backlot”) clocked in at #23 and the “King,” Clark Gable, wound up tied for 56th with Adrian Brody (now I know I’m in the minority on this one…either that or it may be that no one else was bothered enough to list him). So without further ado, let’s check the top of the charts:
10) A tie between Denzel Washington (Training Day) and John Wayne (True Grit) – Of Wayne’s performance, Robert Schlueter observes: “He put the reins in his teeth because there wasn’t any scenery available.” I have no quibbles with the choice of Wayne (everyone knows it was a career Oscar) or Washington, particularly since Denzel did much better work before Day and, in fact, already had an Oscar at the time.
9) Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady) - To quote the only funny thing I've ever heard Meg Ryan say in a movie: "I have no response to that."
8) Cliff Robertson (Charly) – “Any idiot could have done what Robertson did here and would have been just as convincing." (James Henry)
7) Jack Nicholson (As Good as It Gets) – “Jack, return this one now, and we'll give you another lead for anything you did from 1970-1974." (Dan Callahan)
5) A tie between Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur) and Russell Crowe (Gladiator) – The only reason why Heston didn’t make my list is because of the honor system, I’ve never actually watched the film the whole way through…so it wouldn’t have been right. And the reason why Crowe didn’t make my tally is because my answer to Peter Graves’ question in Airplane would be “No.”
4) Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) - "A preposterous award for a collection of ticks and actorly tricks with no depth or soul. Tom Cruise actually gave the much deeper and more intuitive performance in this film, which shows just where the Academy's brain is most of the time." (Jeffrey A. Anderson). (NOTE: I don’t know who this Mr. Anderson is, but since he agrees both with me and Toby at Tubeworld re: Cruise giving the better performance he would appear to be a very perceptive individual.)
3) Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) – I knew Tom would make the list with this one. Maybe I should have chosen him instead of picking on Henry Fonda.
2) Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) – “He’s blind and he yells. Look! He dances the tango! I wish I were deaf.” (Isaac Bickerstaff)
1) Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) – I knew this performance would win all the marbles (a grand total of 232 points) even though I’ve never watched the movie and probably never will. A “comedy” about the Holocaust seems impossible to pull off; hell, there are still people today who argue that there’s nothing funny about Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (as to Benigni’s comparison to the Little Tramp, Daniel L. cracks: “He ain’t Chaplin, he’s Charlie Callas”) or Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be. The knives come out in the form of suffer-no-Italian-fools-gladly comments for this atrocity over at Eddie’s, so be sure not to be drinking any liquids when reading them—my personal favorite comes from Daniel Fienberg: "Something very weird happened to award voters in the winter of 1998. It's one thing that they became entranced by a mediocre Italian comedian and his grossly superficial and sappy Holocaust comedy, but they also became really amused by what said Italian comedian would do if they kept giving him awards. It was like a psychotic babysitter thinking it was cool to give a six-year-old coffee and Pixie Stix knowing that the kid would be the parents' responsibility later.”