Oscar's Top 10 Biggest Landslides
Oscaralogists love a suspenseful clash – sometimes the winner is crystal clear. Absolutely no chance of an upset. It seems foolish even to open the envelope at the Oscar ceremony because everyone knows whose name is inside. In recent years, runaways have become quite common. Let's take a look at the Top 10 Biggest Oscar Landslide Victories (in the acting categories) from the past two decades
The pretty woman received two Oscar nominations early in her career, but to many observers they probably seemed like flukes. That was until "Erin Brockovich" debuted in March of 2000, instantly drawing comparisons to Sally Field's award-winning performance in "Norma Rae" more than two decades earlier. Fortunately for the red-haired and red-hot Roberts, voters didn't forget about "Brockovich" at the end of the year, as she earned Best Actress honors from the L.A. Film Critics Assn., the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and SAG. Her film even garnered nominations for Best Picture and Director, making it all the more apparent that Best Actress was Roberts' race to lose. Her competition was quite solid, including strong dramatic work from Ellen Burstyn in "Requiem for a Dream," Laura Linney in "You Can Count on Me" and Joan Allen in "The Contender." Roberts could still count on the Oscar going her way, and it did. As far as most pundits were concerned, Julia was the only real contender.
It seemed like Jeff Bridges might go through life without ever receiving Oscar glory. He received his first nod for 1971's "The Last Picture Show," but lost to his co-star Ben Johnson. Three more nominations followed over the next several decades, but he was never seen as having a real chance to win. Then in late 2009, his "Crazy Heart" came out of nowhere and his portrayal of Bad Blake was described as the performance of a lifetime. He edged out his biggest rival, George Clooney in "Up in the Air," at the Golden Globes and then repeated at the SAG Awards. It quickly became clear that this was finally going to be his Oscar year. Bridges received a thunderous standing ovation at the Kodak Theatre, and paid special tribute to his actor father, the late Lloyd Bridges. Surely this was one of Oscar's craziest landslides.
He completed against Jeff Bridges for the 2009 top thespian title, only to go home empty-handed from most of the showbiz ceremonies. But one year later, Colin Firth would have his revenge. As Britain's King George VI, his performance seemed tailor-made to win an Oscar. He played a real person, had to overcome a physical obstacle, and triumphed against great odds. Even the late Sir Laurence Olivier would have had a hard time taking down Firth that year. The former "Bridget Jones" love interest claimed most of the critics' prizes, along with the Globe and SAG trophies. It seemed like a mere formality when he was finally declared best actor on Oscar night. Had another man's name been called, Firth would have most certainly been left speechless. (Only this time, for real.)
It's hard to imagine anyone playing a sadistic Nazi becoming an awards darling, but the European actor Christoph Waltz did just that after "Basterds" opened in the late summer. While writer-director Quentin Tarantino and leading man Brad Pitt received good notices, most of the attention was given to the relatively unknown Waltz. Award after award started to go his way. His fellow Oscar nominees knew that they were pretty much there for the ride, and on the big night Waltz practically waltzed to the stage to collect his prize. There's nothing inglorious about a clean awards sweep.
A flashy portrayal of a flashy New York socialite by a not-so-flashy New York actor. It had Oscar written all over it. Philip Seymour Hoffman won the lion's share of the critics' awards, and the Globe and SAG trophies soon followed. Even though his category included heavyweight performances from Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain" and Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line," Hoffman was considered a virtual lock for the Academy Award. When his name was announced, there was almost boredom at the ceremony because he had already given so many acceptance speeches. Hoffman may well be in contention again this year, along with former rival Phoenix, for "The Master." While he may not prevail this time, at least he proved to be the master of the 2005 Oscar sweepstakes.
The trophy was pretty much called for Heath Ledger six months before the film even opened, when the Australian actor's untimely death shocked both Hollywood and the world. When the highly anticipated "Knight" finally premiered in July, his Joker was hailed as the one of the most memorable villains in cinematic history. Ledger's performance was honored at both the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, resulting in long standing ovations. His Oscar competition was relatively weak, including the likes of Robert Downey Jr. in the comic "Tropic Thunder" and Michael Shannon in a small (albeit memorable) role in "Revolutionary Road." Virtually every pundit on the planet picked Ledger to win. The vote totals will never be known, but it's conceivable that more than 50% of the ballots were marked for the late actor. Ledger's family somberly accepted the statuette on Oscar night, and spoke poignantly about their beloved son and brother. Hollywood was crying, but somewhere the Joker was surely smiling at his awards bonanza.
Two-time Oscar nominee (and two-time loser) Helen Mirren was instantly declared the derby frontrunner the moment her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II was first witnessed at the Venice Film Festival. Mirren's transformation was nothing short of uncanny, and she virtually swept the critics' awards before being presented with Globe and SAG trophies. Her fellow nominees were all respectable, but there seemed to be little reason for the Academy to turn elsewhere after Mirren's romp through the awards season . As expected, she was crowned the queen of actresses on Hollywood's big night. Any other outcome would have been a truly royal surprise.
After suffering through six humiliating losses over the course of the previous 20 years, the scent of Oscar suddenly surrounded Al Pacino in late 1992. While the critics' awards went to the likes of Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven," Stephen Rea in "The Crying Game" and Denzel Washington in "Malcolm X," Pacino easily won the more coveted Golden Globe. He proved to be so popular that year that he also reaped a supporting actor nod for his acclaimed turn in "Glengarry Glen Ross." By the time the ceremony rolled around it was so obvious that he was going to win the Oscar that even his blind "Scent" character could have seen it coming. Pacino's win was greeted by a long and raucous standing ovation that night. There's nothing quite like the scent of a blowout.
Christopher Plummer was pummeled by Christopher Waltz in the 2009 derby when he received his first-ever nomination for "The Last Station." Lucky for Plummer, it wasn't his last shot at the gold. He was back two years later for his sensitive portrayal of an elderly gay man in "Beginners." The critics took notice, and before long he was beginning to look like an Oscar slam dunk. His category, which included a surprised Jonah Hill in "Moneyball," was not considered particularly competitive. Plummer's fellow veteran actor Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was probably his only real threat. In the end, the former Captain von Trapp heard the sound of Oscar – in a race which was anything but incredibly close.
It was considered one of the worst years in history for women's parts in film. Host Billy Crystal even joked that the most talked-about women's parts were Sharon Stone's in "Basic Instinct." The dearth of female film phenoms made Emma Thompson's portrayal of heroine Margaret Schlegel the talk of Tinseltown, as she claimed almost every pre-Oscar prize. The Academy struggled to even fill the category, nominating Michelle Pfeiffer in the long-shelved and little-seen "Love Field" and Catherine Deneuve in the French import "Indochine." Thompson tried to act surprised when her "Howards" co-star Anthony Hopkins announced her name at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It might have been the worst acting ever by a Best Actress winner.