Around Grammy time, I am reminded of two young upstarts who, being moderately attractive but wholly lacking in talent, were ultimately humiliated and ostracised. I’m speaking, of course, of Milli Vanilli. Over 20 years later, they are still regarded as the epitome of raw talentlessness and having been stripped of their Grammys. And over 20 years later, Grammys and the like are still being bestowed upon the attractive and talentless who enter the studio with the voice of Rosie O’Donnell or Chris Tucker and come out sounding like Jennifer Hudson or Otis Redding or Roger bloody Daltry.
Being as it’s also Oscar time, the acting equivalent to this would be Andie MacDowell in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, a pretty face moving her mouth to the voice of Glenn Close. Presumably this is because that southern accent of hers wouldn’t have matched the upper-class, noble, Englishwoman she was chosen to play. Honestly, who would you rather look at for 2 hours?
I gave up on Oscar when Gwyneth Paltrow won for Shakespeare in Love. As endearing a character as she may be, she maintains that same look in every film- the look of trying to suppress the fear that someone will finally crawl out from one of Harvey Weinstein’s chins and yell, “YOU SUCK” and she’ll be forced to teach high school drama in a part of Brooklyn without an American Apparel or a bar serving PBR in a can for 7 bucks (yes, there are parts of Brooklyn like that!).
The 90s were a shameful era for the Oscars, not the least of which was evidenced by the win of the sulking vanilla jell-o pudding pop that is Ms. Paltrow. Interestingly, most actors who Milli Vanilli-ed their win or nomination just disappeared into the straight-to-DVD world of obscurity and in-flight entertainment.
Some learned from their shame and some just never came back again. Like Jennifer Tilly who parlayed her losing the 1994 nomination for Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway into quite a lucrative career as a professional poker player. This is what I’ve dubbed the “close-call latent admission of talentlessness”. To put this in perspective, imagine Keanu being nominated for his work in Much Ado About Nothing, or his modern-day counterpart, Luke Wilson.
Others went away for a while and came back to retroactively deserve their win. Marisa Tomei’s 1992 win for playing Fran Drescher was cemented by roles in such films as The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Only You and A Brother’s Kiss. So, until the 2000s, you would only have seen her on Nickelodeon, Lifetime or Moosejaw local TV at 4am.
And still others remain an anomaly: Cuba Gooding Jr’s win in 1996â€¦ well, besides unleashing a catch phrase with a shelf-life second only to whatchutalkinboutwillis, what about that performance was Oscar worthy? Before you answer, let me remind you that his co-nominees were:
William H. Macy Fargo; Armin Mueller-Stahl (who, besides being an amazing actor is also named Aaahr-min Moo-lahr-Shtaaal) Shine; Edward Norton Primal Fear; James Woods’s face Ghosts of Mississippi
Good thing he made such a great awards speech because it was the last time that many people wanted to watch him do anything having to do with acting. And lest you think I’m being too harsh, I give youâ€¦ the trailers:
And the final Oscars atrocity of the 90s- Angelina Jolie for Best Supporting Actress without a Supporting Undergarment Eating a Cherry in Girl, Interrupted. If you saw this movie you were either an angsty teenage girl or a dude dating an angsty teenage girl hoping when she decided to get even with her parents she’d do it by having sex with you; you’d also know that Brittany Murphy was robbed. Probably because she was wearing a braâ€¦ and Angelina Jolie wasn’t.
The Academy Awards may be a farce of a popularity contest, but not watching has never stopped me from entering an Oscar pool I enter sports pools too without being able to tell my sack from my hat-trick. Here’s the Oscars secret: only really, really pretty women playing ugly women and really, really ugly men playing really, really ugly and intense men, ever win these things. The nineties were an anomaly (The Academy was probably being aggressively apathetic at a Pearl Jam concert or something).
So find an Oscar pool between now and Sunday- without seeing any of the movies, you still have a better chance of winning than the Ugliest Actress in a Leading Role.
I’m Tania Fox and as the only winner of the Kermie Award, I believe it is the last award based solely on merit.