1998 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
There were two notable firsts for this year's Oscars awards ceremony broadcast on ABC-TV. The 71st annual Academy Awards show was held on March 21, 1999 and hosted by Whoopi Goldberg to honor 1998's films. It marked the first time the ceremony was held on a Sunday, and it was the longest ceremony ever held up to this point, clocking in at 4 hours and 2 minutes.
The Best Picture nominees for 1998 included five films with only two major subjects areas or settings: World War II and Elizabethan England.
The Best Picture Oscar winner and over-all Oscar champ, in a major darkhorse upset, was the light-hearted, factual and fanciful romantic comedy/costume drama Shakespeare in Love about the struggling, writing-blocked, and romantically-afflicted bard in 16th century London. It told the fanciful background story of how the romantic love story, Romeo and Juliet, was composed, when the the bard was writing an earlier version titled "Romeo and Ethel, the Sea Pirate's Daughter". The film was a hybrid blend, but could be considered the first romantic comedy to win Best Picture since Annie Hall (1977). [It was the last comedy film, to date, to win Best Picture.]
The film had thirteen nominations and seven Oscars (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay (co-written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard), Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Musical or Comedy Score). [It has the most Oscar awards (7) for a film that didn't win Best Director.] Shakespeare in Love gave Britisher John Madden his first Best Director nomination - his previous work consisted of only three little-known feature films, one of which was Mrs. Brown (1997). [Only two other films in Oscar history have had more nominations: Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) - each with 14.] Two of the film's three performance nominations were awarded Oscars - only Geoffrey Rush failed to win his bid.
The second runner-up in Oscar awards and nominations was Best Director-winning Steven Spielberg's realistic war epic Saving Private Ryan with eleven nominations and five awards - mostly in technical categories (Best Director, Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects). (Five-time Oscar winner John Williams received a nomination for Best Score - his 36th nomination. He had already won the Oscar for Best Score three times for previous Spielberg films - Jaws (1975), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Schindler's List (1993).)
Saving Private Ryan was a harrowing tale of eight WWII soldiers sent into enemy territory to rescue the sole surviving son of a family. Its vivid opening sequence of the blood-bath attack on Omaha Beach on D-Day was cinema verite at its finest, based on actual veterans' accounts of their experiences. [Spielberg had bounced back, after misfiring with the contrived sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and the uneven slavery saga Amistad (1997). He had returned a fourth time to the war film genre, after three previous attempts at war films: 1941 (1979), Empire of the Sun (1987), and Schindler's List (1993).]
The remaining three Best Picture films tied with seven nominations each, and the first two earned only one Oscar between them:
The Italian film Life is Beautiful, which won three Oscars (Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Dramatic Score), was the 12th Italian film to win for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the second film in Academy history to be nominated both as Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film in the same year. It opened as the comedic story of Benigni as a clownish, accident-prone Jewish waiter and bookshop owner named Guido and his eager, clumsy courtship of upper-class Dora (Benigni's real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi), a Catholic schoolteacher. After their marriage, they were deported with their five-year-old son Giosue to a WWII concentration camp, where the inspired, Chaplin-esque Guido disguised the fear of the horrors of the extermination camp and bravely shielded his son with an inventive game of hide-and-seek with the Nazis, by promising a tank for the winner.
[Life is Beautiful was the first foreign language film to receive seven nominations - the most-honored foreign-language film in Oscar history up to that time (until surpassed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) with 10 nominations). Previously, Das Boot (1982) and Fanny and Alexander (1983) had received six nominations. Z (1969), director Costa-Gavras' French political thriller, was the first film nominated as Best Foreign Language Film that also received a nomination for Best Picture. It also won the Foreign Film Award, but not the Best Picture Oscar.] Life is Beautiful was only the third sub-titled film in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Picture. [The previous two subtitled, Best Picture-nominated films were Z (1969) and Il Postino (1995).]
With his fifth Best Director nomination (and sixth career nomination), Steven Spielberg won the Best Director award for the second time for Saving Private Ryan (his first directorial Oscar was for another war epic - Schindler's List (1993) and previous nominations were for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)). Spielberg's win marked the first time in nine years that the Best Picture Oscar was awarded to a film whose director was not also honored. (In 1989, director Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy (1989) won Best Picture when Oliver Stone was named Best Director for Born on the Fourth of July (1989).)
Curiously, of the five Best Picture nominees, only Elizabeth's director was not nominated as Best Director. Although Australian film-maker Peter Weir (who had previously been nominated as Best Director for Witness (1985) and Dead Poets Society (1989)) was nominated as Best Director (his third nomination) for the big-budget satire on celebrity, The Truman Show, his film was not nominated for Best Picture. [His fourth Oscar nomination was a Best Screenplay nomination for Green Card (1990).] Terrence Malick, who had previously directed the lovers-on-the-run film Badlands (1973) and the cinematically-gorgeous Days of Heaven (1978) received a Best Director nomination (his first career Oscar nomination) for The Thin Red Line. It marked his return to film-making after two decades. (Malick was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for the same film.)
Roberto Benigni's Best Actor Oscar win (his first nomination) was only the second time a nominee won an acting Oscar for a Foreign Language film role. His win made him the first male actor in Oscar history to win for a foreign language film role. (He was also the first Italian (foreign-born) to win an Oscar for Best Actor.) [The first occurrence of an acting Oscar for a Foreign Language-film role was Sophia Loren's Best Actress win for Two Women (1961) - thirty-seven years earlier. Italian actress Anna Magnani also won the Best Actress Oscar for The Rose Tattoo (1955), in an English-speaking role.] Benigni was also the first director in 50 years (since Laurence Olivier for Hamlet (1948)) to win a Best Actor Oscar under his own direction - in other words, he was the second performer-actor to direct his own Oscar-winning performance.
Double-Oscar winner Roberto Benigni was a three-time nominee in 1998 as co-author, star, director - and husband!, and officially nominated as Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay (co-written directly for the screen with Vincenzo Cerami) for Life is Beautiful. [Benigni's triple-nomination was a rare achievement - only Orson Welles (in 1941 for Citizen Kane), Woody Allen (in 1977 for Annie Hall) and Warren Beatty (in 1981 for Reds) have also received simultaneous nominations as actor, director, and writer.]
The other Best Actor nominees were:
In 1998, it was the first time that two nominees in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories were chosen for playing the same character in the same year but not in the same film: England's monarch Queen Elizabeth I - at two different stages of her life. (In 1997, both Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were nominated for playing the role of Rose (as a 17 year old and as a 101-year old survivor) in the same year and in the same film! -- Titanic (1997). This would also reoccur in 2001 when Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were both nominated for playing Iris in Iris (2001).):
Gwyneth Paltrow (with her first nomination) won
the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the struggling bard
Shakespeare's irresistible love-interest Viola De Lesseps,
who hid her real gender as Thomas Kent through female-to-male
cross-dressing, in Shakespeare in Love.
The other three Best Actress nominees included:
In the Best Supporting Actor category, James Coburn with a long acting career, the only first-time nominee was the winner (his first career Oscar win!) - for his role as Nick Nolte's tyrannical, abusive and alcoholic father Glen "Pop" Whitehouse in the poignant film Affliction.
Three of the actors in the Best Supporting Actor category (Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton, and Ed Harris) were second-time nominees:
The final nominee in the Best Supporting Actor category was one-time Oscar-winner Robert Duvall (his sixth career nomination after previous nominations in 1972, 1979, 1980, 1983 and 1997) as Bostonian corporate defense attorney Jerome Facher opposed to John Travolta's crusade in A Civil Action. [Duvall won the Best Actor Oscar sixteen years earlier for Tender Mercies (1983).]
Four of the five Best Supporting Actress nominees were experiencing their second nomination:
This was the controversial year that Elia Kazan, who 'named names' during the McCarthy hearings for the HUAC, was given an Honorary Oscar award "in recognition of his indelible contributions to the art of motion picture direction." In his career, he had been nominated as Best Director five times with two wins: Gentleman's Agreement (1947) (win), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954) (win), East of Eden (1955), and America, America (1963). He also had one unsuccessful nomination for Best Original Story and Screenplay for America, America (1963).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Jim Carrey was denied a nomination as Best Actor for his central role as unwitting TV show star Truman Burbank in Peter Weir's The Truman Show (a film also denied a Best Picture nomination), and Bill Murray for Best Supporting Actor as eccentric business millionaire in love with first-grade school teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) in Wes Anderson's off-beat comedy Rushmore. [Bill Murray was also solid as a lawyer in the trashy film Wild Things.]
And Joseph Fiennes was denied a nomination in the title role as Will Shakespeare in the Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love. Lisa Kudrow was un-nominated for her role as uptight school teacher Lucia DeLury, and Christina Ricci was also unrecognized for her role as bitchy, manipulative, and cunning teenager Dede Truitt in writer/director Don Roos' black comedy and independent film The Opposite of Sex (with no nominations). James Urbaniak was ignored for his performance as a janitor named Simon Grim who discovers his gifted talent for writing in Henry Fool.
Jane Adams was not nominated for her role as eternally-optimistic Joy Jordan, and Dylan Baker was also snubbed for his courageous performance as the disturbed and sick pedophile and psychologist Dr. Bill Maplewood - who was obsessed with his 11-year-old son Billy's classmate Johnny Grasso (Evan Silverberg), in writer/director Todd Solondz's controversial study of sexual humiliation titled Happiness.
None of the ensemble cast members of Malick's The Thin Red Line were nominated for acting awards: Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, or Jim Caviezel. American History X (with one Best Actor nomination) had other notable, unnominated performances by Beverly D'Angelo and Edward Furlong. Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters (with three nominations: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and a win for Condon's Best Adapted Screenplay) ignored Brendan Fraser's performance as hunky gardener Clayton Boone. And the great actress Meryl Streep was ignored for her role in the Irish drama Dancing at Lughnasa, as the oldest of five spinster sisters, a schoolteacher named Kate, awaiting a missionary brother's return from Africa in the mid-30s.
And there was no nomination for The Celebration as Best Foreign Language Film, or for the following: the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski, Darren Aronofsky's directorial debut feature film Pi, Alex Troyas' tech noir thriller Dark City, or Alfonso Cuaron's modern-day retelling of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations featuring Robert De Niro's supporting performance as Magwitch-like crook Lustig.
A nomination for Best Score (Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell engaged an 85-piece orchestra and 25-member chorus to perform the lively music) for Antz was displaced by the Best Musical or Comedy Score nomination (for Randy Newman) given to another insect-related score, A Bug's Life.