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The Shortlist: The 6 Worst Oscar Winning Performances

6.) The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009) – Sandra Bullock [Main Picture]
Sorry, what? Now, I like Sandra Bullock. She’s a charming screen presence, has good comic timing and is inconceivably beautiful. But she was in Speed 2 (1997). She doesn’t win Oscars. I mean, what is there in this performance that you can’t find in Crash (2004), which, despite playing a stereotype, she managed to draw some emotion and honesty from? The Blind Side is nothing but a pandering awards movie anyhow; the tale of triumph in the face of adversity, racial prejudice, motherly love and the uniting power of sports. It’s custom built for mainstream American audiences, and custom built for Sandra Bullock’s ‘for your consideration’ campaign, which could just have well have started with Forces Of Nature (1999), because she hasn’t really changed her shtick since then. Honestly, it’s like Erin Brockovich (2000) all over again… not a bad performance per se, just the same one we’ve been seeing for almost twenty years.

5.) The Fugitive (Andrew Davis, 1993) – Tommy Lee Jones

Much like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (2009), Tommy Lee Jones isn’t so much bad in The Fugitive as he is just thoroughly unremarkable, turning in a well-crafted performance no more distinctive than any other in his oeuvre. In fact, most of his work from the last decade, especially No Country For Old Men (2007), has been much more substantial and awards worthy. The screenplay gives him very little to work with, and the actor does create a rounded and watchable character from it, but the award isn’t for being good in bad material, it’s for being exceptional at the art of acting, and the finest in your category. The Fugitive allows Jones a straightforward platform for thrills n’ spills, but an Oscar? Honestly, I’ll bet he laughs himself to the shower every morning after seeing that shockingly undeserved golden baldie sitting on his mantelpiece. A paycheck role turned to solid gold, before his career ever truly began…

4.) Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994) – Tom Hanks

Life is not like a box of chocolates. I’m sorry. It just isn’t. A world comparable to the delight found in a good box of chocolates could never produce a film as bloated, annoyingly patriotic and narrow-minded as Forrest Gump, which is an active atrocity in the world of cinema. But at the centre of this mess is a career worst performance by the everyman Tom Hanks, turning in a laughable portrayal of a good ol’ simpleton from Alabama, who sees the world clearer despite the adversity of all them smart folks. Somehow he understands naturally what others have to learn throughout life, which leaves lots of time for him to loiter around on park benches recalling sentimental hogwash and rewritten history. His performance is as simple as the film itself and would look more at home in an episode of Mork And Mindy.

3.) Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990) – Kathy Bates

And here begins the descent of Rob Reiner, one of the finest writer/directors of the 1980’s, who went completely off the boil when he allowed Kathy Bates free reign to overplay the role of Annie Wilkes, an obsessive fan of the injured writer (James Caan) she takes into her home. More hammy than a pig pen, she overplays the role to a hysterical level, almost to the point of turning in a Rosie O’Donnell performance. In fact, did you ever see that TV movie, Riding The Bus With My Sister (2005), where O’Donnell played a mentally disabled woman? Yeah, well Bates’ performance here is like that one turned down a few notches, but equally as embarrassing. All surface and no depth, it’s a shallow, unengaging and loud performance which I found damn near unwatchable. And the beginning of the end for Reiner…

2.) The Silence Of The Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) – Anthony Hopkins

I’ve discussed my dislike for Silence Of The Lambs on Shortlist before, but a performance as hammy as this one bears mentioning again. I like Anthony Hopkins, even when he’s scenery chewing in the likes of The Elephant Man (1980), but Lecter is such a coldly composed and intellectual character that a degree of subtlety is required, à la Brian Cox in Manhunter (1986). Yet Hopkins appears positively phobic to the idea of subtlety – his portrayal is one of flickering eyes and tongues; like a Shakespearian lizard queen, with no barometer of sense or realism. It’s such an obvious performance of a psychopath that I don’t know how the Academy members ever fell for it. It’s a cartoon so OTT and attention grabbing that Clarice, had she any sense, would have given him a good slap and told him to grow up before conducting her interview. I mean, what’s he gonna do? Exit stage left?

1.) Fargo (Coen Brothers, 1996) – Frances McDormand

Good god she’s awful. I know how many people love Fargo, but I find it irritatingly kooky and far too pleased with itself; by far the Coen’s worst work, excluding The Ladykillers (2004). But worst of all is McDormand’s portrayal of Marge Gunderson (even the name annoys me), a simple-minded, whiny law officer who responds to everything with an “oh yeahhh, right.” Her wide-eyed performance is yet another entirely without depth, almost as if she’s playing a mime who’s learned to speak, and even her poignant final speech on the cruelty of the world (which, I confess, is a nice bit of writing) rings false. I like McDormand when she has the right director, but often the Coen’s can allow her to visit self-indulgent places which anyone else would quickly correct. They should be stricter, because this performance is completely off the rails.

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  1. Fargo is a brilliant film. You clearly dont know anything about movies or acting. Worse performances than Mcdormand’s include Cliff Robertson, Rex Harrison, Ed Begley, John Mills, Hugh Griffith, Red Buttons, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cher, etc.

  2. I can’t comment for Mike, but I absolutely hated Fargo, and completely agree with that entry on this list.

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