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Six Spot #7: Best Actor 1997

The Contenders for The Six Spot

 Djimon Hounsou Amistad

As much as I’d like to say Jim Carrey had a shot at an Oscar nomination for his hilarious performance in Liar Liar, I’m not foolish enough to think the Academy voters even saw his film. Likewise, I think a few of these precursor nominees are more red herrings than contenders for the Six Spot. Since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction follow-up, Jackie Brown, received a tepid precursor reaction and an even colder reception from the Academy, I think it’s safe to eliminate Samuel L. Jackson as well. Since Al Pacino cashed out all his Academy credibility with his “overdue” win in 1992, I think his performance (and non-Globe nomination) in Donnie Brasco was never going to happen. And finally, despite the fact that In & Out allows us to rank Joan Cusack as one of the most unlikeliest two-time Oscar nominees, I doubt Kevin Kline was that close to a nomination given the film’s overall Academy reception.

The weird thing about the 1997 Best Actor Six Spot contenders is that four of them are actors working in the days before they became extremely well-known like they are today. It featured Daniel Day-Lewis before he was “DDL,” Leonardo DiCaprio before he was “Leo,” and Djimon Hounsou before he was a two-time Oscar nominee. Also, it had Ian Holm before he was Bilbo Baggins, but it’s not like Holm was an unknown prior to 1997.

Being the lead in a movie that was nominated for 14 Oscars and won 11 of them almost makes you a contender for the Six Spot by default, with or without precursor nominations. But thankfully for Leonardo DiCaprio (and 2012 Best Supporting Actor Six Spot champ!), he has…well, some precursor mentions to support his inclusion on this list. The Golden Globes were very kind to Six Spot contenders this year, so perhaps that’s why the nominated him. But do we think Leo was close for Titanic? This was the film that broke Leo into superstardom. Nevertheless, Leo would have to wait until 2004 to land his first leading Oscar nomination. It does seem odd that he was left off the Best Actor shortlist despite the fact that the Academy nominated Titanic in every imaginable category. But does that speak to a strong year…or a general dislike for his performance? 

Before Daniel Day-Lewis was “Daniel Day-Lewis,” he was a well-respected character actor who had some critical hits in the 1990s.   Much like Amistad in 1997, The Boxer performed much better at the Golden Globes than it did at the Oscars. Landing a grand total of zero nominations from the Academy, I wonder how close Day-Lewis could have been. Did they see the movie? Was Day-Lewis a must-see draw like he is is now? Of note, all five of Day-Lewis’ Best Actor nominations have resulted in a Best Picture nomination for the film. Considering The Boxer did not register with the Academy, I wonder…

Djimon Hounsou was the main character in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 slave drama far before he was a two-time Oscar nominee for his work in In America and Blood Diamond (in which he co-starred with fellow Six Spot contender, Leonardo DiCaprio). For his breakout performance in Amistad, Hounsou received a Golden Globe nomination. Indeed, Amistad performed extremely well through precursor season: 4 Globe nominations (Picture, Director, Hounsou, Hopkins), BFCA Best Picture nomination, DGA nomination for Spielberg, and a PGA nomination for the film. Yet somehow, it ended up with only a quartet of nominations, three of which were in the technical fields and the fourth of which resulted in Anthony Hopkins’ most recent Oscar nomination.

Well…there has to be a fourth. A stalwart character actor (and Oscar nominee for his work on Chariots of Fire), Ian Holm starred in one of the more interesting Oscar contenders of 1997, The Sweet Hereafter. Atom Egoyan’s crushing drama landed shocking nominations in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, over more popular contenders (and former winners) James L. Brooks and Steven Spielberg. But what of Holm? He missed the Globes and SAGS, but got critical runner-up mentions from two of the three most important critics’ groups: NSFC and NYFCC. Along with Sarah Polley, Holm most likely was the choice actor to represent the film’s strong ensemble. But the question is: how deep did the Academy’s love for The Sweet Hereafter go?

Without further ado, I think the Six Spot for the 1997 Best Actor race was….

What do you think?

Written by Sam Coffey

Attorney-at-law, Oscaroligist, coffee lover, Fantasy Football silver medalist, soccer fan (Orlando City SC), Geoffrey Rush enthusiast, and Time's 2006 Person of the Year.

Sam joined The Awards Circuit in January 2014, predicting all award shows with 100% accuracy ever since. A.K.A. "the stat guy."


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