OWF Oscars 1999 – SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Wins Best Picture

We’ve been asking you all week to vote for your Oscar picks from the year 1999, twelve years on as…

Matt Holmes


We’ve been asking you all week to vote for your Oscar picks from the year 1999, twelve years on as we retrospectively take a look back at all the Academy Award ceremonies in the 1990′s to see if time has been kind to the winners and losers.

28 of you voted, a little less than the amount who voted last time (which I think is to do with the problems with the form as we had a few complaints, I will try and fix this for next time) including a handful of OWF writers, who have collectively, like Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, gone back in time to ‘put things right, that once went wrong’.

The number in brackets is the amount of points that film/actor/director gained (that system is explained here). Let’s take a look at the winners, shall we?

1999 OWF Awards


Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II action drama Saving Private Ryan begins with a 27 minute extended opening sequence depicting thousands of terrified young men in a battle of survival against thunderous German artillery during the Omaha Beach Assault of June 1944, D-Day. It is perhaps the most graphic, intense, smartly directed and I imagine despite having never been to war myself – the most realistic depiction of what it must have been like to be on the front-line during those terrible days. It’s a breathtaking sequence that upon first viewing, especially in the theatre, haunts you and takes a good while to shake off.

The sequence immediately accomplishes the message that hundreds of Hollywood war films previously had taken hours to convey, and that’s the utter banality and bewilderment of war, where men were taken out of their daily lives and ordered to hold a weapon and fire against faceless men, until they were all wiped out.

And that’s the ultimate message to be taken from Saving Private Ryan. Throughout the film, Spielberg accomplishes the difficult task of tackling great philosophical questions and thoughtful themes, all through the use and the language of cinema; whether through excessive and mindless violence, to his actors performances & their faces in time of deep peril or life-or-death action and dialogue.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Tom Hanks as Capt. Miller, the soldier who must take leadership of his loyal men on a mission that he doesn’t believe in, fighting a war he doesn’t believe in or anyone else doing a better job with the cinematography than Janusz Kaminski, whose piercing direction elevated the war picture to the 21st century.

A joint Dreamworks/Paramount production, Saving Private Ryan was a commercial and critical success but was snubbed at the Oscars, shamefully, by a mediocre picture with 1/10th of the ideas in Shakespeare in Love. It was a mistake the Academy has struggled to live down over the years but congratulations to you as you have re-wrote history today.

Saving Private Ryan, an entertaining, thought-provoking, exhilarating and thrilling experience about a truly unimaginably painful subject. It deserves the OWF Award.


Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski (62) has grown in stature over the years and here ran Saving Private Ryan close, taking just four short of Ryan. It shamefully wasn’t even nominated by the Academy ten years ago.

The other war picture of that year, the more poetic and lyrical picture The Thin Red Line (54) votes and was also Oscar nominated in 98.

Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (47) votes and American History X took (39) – neither were Academy Award nominated.

Congratulations on choosing a nicely diverse set of pictures as your top movies of the year!

Omissions: Oscar winner Shakespeare in Love took a pathetic 17 votes, proving the Academy totally got it wrong awarding the fanciful period rom-com the top prize. Also nominated that year was the other costume drama Elizabeth which took 20, the same amount as Todd Solondz’s dysfunctional suburban drama Happiness and Wes Anderson’s off-beat Rushmore. Italian WWII drama nd Oscar nominated Life is Beautiful took just 12.


Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan (14)

Strangely the recipient of the Oscar statue in 1999 but his film Saving Private Ryan not being awarded Best Picture, Steven Spielberg’s war picture might well go down in the history books as being that moment in time when he was at the pinnacle of his talents. Whether it be his grasp of technology, getting the best out of his actors, his skill conceiving and then staging mass and breathtaking set pieces of action but also those quieter performance moments, and his God-given ability to heighten the visuals he shoots to convey themes of resonance and thoughtful moments of wonder.

The film was Spielberg’s first colloboration with actor Tom Hanks, who in 1998 was at the height of his talents and he handpicked Spielberg to direct. In many ways this was the film he had been building towards after 1941, Empire of the Sun, the Indiana Jones Trilogy and Schlinder’s List.

Nominated –

Terrence Malick (6) for his ambitious direction on The Thin Red Line. He was also Oscar nominated, as was Peter Weir (5) for his innovative and emotional take on The Truman Show.

Relative newcomers at the time, Todd Solondz (2) and Wes Anderson (2) finished off the OWF noms. Neither were nominated in ’98, the Academy choosing John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and Roberto Bengini (Life is Beautiful) instead.


Edward Norton (77) for American History X

Becoming something of an OWF Award favourite having been nominated also for his role in Fight Club when the Academy snubbed him, Edward Norton loses himself in the role of skinhead Derek Vinyard, a guy who descends into a neo-Nazi gang as an act of vengeance when his fire fighter father his killed.

Norton’s transformation into a violent, racist and aggressive bully is such a physically demanding challenge for the slenderly built actor that his dedication into looking the part, transcends into you actually feeling like he is the character he is portraying. It’s a truly frightening performance and it’s so convincing you forget all the other roles he ever had. In the vein of Robert De Niro, he put on thirty pounds of muscle… and in a way, it was his prop to perhaps his career best performance.


Tom Hanks (69) for Saving Private Ryan had been nominated in 98, but once again, possibly surprising to some – comes up short here. In another year, he would have walked it.

Jeff Bridges (64) for The Big Lebowski wins the nomination he should have received ten years ago as The Dude.

Johnny Depp (55) for Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and Jim Carrey for his emotional turn in The Truman Show (41) also receive noms where they failed ten years ago, taking the place of Academy Award nominated Ian McKellen (49) for his troubled homosexual portrayal of film director James Whale in Gods & Monsters and Nick Nolte for Affliction (32). Academy Award winner Roberto Begini (19) earnt less votes than those (and others) for Life is Beautiful, another winner from 1998 which indicates they made a mistake first time around.


Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth (103) –

Totally running away with the category, Cate Blanchett’s performance as the coming-of-age Queen Elizabeth I is her early, defining screen moment. It was the beginning of what would prove to be a fruitful career for Blanchett, reprising the Queen of England nine years later and even eclipising her earlier performance. In this film, she seems to grow as a performer as her character gains confidence in her position and

In 1999 she won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe for her performance as Elizabeth but on that weird Oscar night, where everything seemed to be backwards, she lost out to Gwyneth Paltrow and Shakespeare in Love. How could the Academy live with themselves?


Meryl Streep (69) for One True Thing fared the best out of the rest with;

Brazilian veteran actress Fernanda Montegrano (51) as ex-schoolteacher Dora in Walter Salles’ Central Station, Emily Watson (47) in Hilary and Jackie and Gwyenth Paltrow (45) as the love interest in Shakespeare in Love, rounding out the rest of the noms.

All those who were nominated, were also chosen by you this time around – the only difference being Paltrow giving up the statue to Blanchett.


John Goodman – The Big Lebowski (75)

In undoubtedly his most beloved screen performance, American comedian John Goodman portrays The Dude’s best friend and bowling team mate in the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski. He always brings up Vietnam, is devout to his Judaism faith,has a violent streak and puts bowling on the highest pedestal of priorities. Simply put, he could only be played by John Goodman.

An excellent performance that was completely overlooked by the Academy (as was The Big Lebowski in general in 1998) but it’s re-playability has meant the film has stood the test of time, and Goodman has been rewarded.


Running Goodman very close was Ed Harris (70) for his God-like portrayal of the creator of The Truman Show, a stunning performance for which I personally nominated for as the winner.

Actual Academy award winner James Coburn (56) for Nick Nolte’s abusive and alcoholic father in Affliction.

Bill Murray (44) receives an OWF Award for his turn in Rushmore, replacing Robert Duvall (2) in A Civil Action and Billy Bob Thornton (4) for A Simple Plan who had both previously been Oscar nominated.

Geoffrey Rush (26)’s Oscar nomination sticks with an OWF Award for Shakespeare in Love.


Kathy Bates – Primary Colours (79)

In Mike Nichol’s ‘on the nose’ political satire of the office of Bill Clinton, vet screen actress Kathy Bates plays Libby Holden – a long-time Presidential adviser who not long out of a mental institution, comes out of a retirement as a dirt digger.

She loses herself so much into her role that she scene-stealers from the rest of the acting ensemble in the movie and is the most enduring aspect of Primary Colours. Indeed, her performance is the only aspect of the film you have nominated.

However I must say Judi Dench’s role as Elizabeth I was probably the only Award the Academy managed to get right on that bizarre February night of 98, and it’s a shame her performance in Shakespeare In Love hasn’t endured more than the film itself.


Judi Dench (71) for Shakespeare in Love, her performance as The Queen of England actually winning the Oscar in 1999.

Joan Allen (48) for Pleasentville, a performance snubbed by the Academy.

Brenda Brethlyn (48) for the drunk mother in Little Voice. She was also nominated for this role by the Academy.

Beverly D’Angelo (45) for American History X replaces Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie) and Lynn Redgrave (Gods & Monsters) who had been nominated in 1999.

And that’s a wrap for 1999. Here’s a list of all those who voted this time around;

Matt Holmes, Jan Kiml, Giogoris, Christian Bergsten, Alex, Rodrigo Fuentas, Lisa, Karim, George, James Stewart (surely not THAT one?), Adam Whyte, Norbert, Nate, Chaz Greedmonkey III, Jose Morales, Phil Concannon, Katie, Outlawone1000, Dan Balvin, Simon Gallagher, Mike Thompson, Chris G, Kevin Simpson, Jazza13, HeroTino, Peter B, Santiago Luca, Tarantinofan84

Check back next week when we will take a look at the Oscars from 1997.