Well, here it is, 5 A.M. again, and I'm writing about yet another significant snub in Oscar history. This time it was the Best Supporting Actor category (my perennial favorite) in 1993. The competition was pretty fierce that year. The actual nominees were:
Tommy Lee Jones as U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive (won)
Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape in What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Ralph Fiennes as Amon Geoth in Schindler's List
John Malkovich as Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire
Pete Postlethwaite as Giuseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father
I can say without hesitation or a shadow of a doubt that Malkovich was the weakest entry here. While I don't dislike Wolfgang Petersen's film (it was pretty much a comic book handling of would-be Presidential assassins and Secret Service Agents) I still think Malkovich sleepwalked his way through the movie, especially compared to his esteemed competition.
That leads me to Robert De Niro as Dwight Hansen in This Boy's Life. Based on the acclaimed memoir of the same name by Tobias Wolff, Michael Caton-Jones (Rob Roy, 1995) crafted a film of blistering honesty. Essentially a film about abuse, De Niro gave a miraculous performance as a despicable man you almost love to hate; a man that the actor intentionally keeps at arm's length from fully deserving of our sympathy. DiCaprio was on fire in those days, totally earning his nomination that same year for Gilbert Grape and being truly Oscar-worthy (and snubbed) a few more times in the subsequent years to come; namely for Marvin's Room (1996). But it was his legendary costar with a flattop that deserved the nom in '93, not Malkovich.
In fact, '93 was a ripe year for supporting actors. Below is a short list of personal favorites:
Bill Murray in Mad Dog & Glory
Robert Patrick in Fire in the Sky
Robert Redford in Indecent Proposal
Frank Langella in Dave
Chaz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale
Alec Baldwin in Malice
Richard Jordan in Gettysburg
Sean Penn in Carlito's Way
Sam Neill in The Piano
Val Kilmer in Tombstone
Denzel Washington in Philadelphia
the entire cast of The Sandlot
Incidentally, De Niro was originally offered the Malkovich role in In the Line of Fire, but was directing A Bronx Tale at the time. It makes me wonder if that's the reason De Niro chose the part of a similarly obsessed psycho in Tony Scott's forgettable The Fan (1996) a few years later?