As the Oscars approach, let’s revisit some of recent history’s most famous—or infamous—Oscar upsets. And wonder...will we see anything like these this year? By Stacie Hougland
Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, 1993)
Forget Area 51, 9/11 and wikileaks--the real conspiracy that remains up for debate after all these years is Tomei’s win for Best Supporting Actress over such venerable competition as Vanessa Redgrave (rumored to have really won), Joan Plowright and Judy Davis.
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, 1996)
Most assumed the Academy would hand an Oscar to sentimental favorite Lauren Bacall (The Mirror Has Two Faces). Instead, Binoche was so sure she wouldn’t win that she didn’t have an acceptance speech prepared and graciously declared Bacall should have won.
James Coburn (Affliction 1998)
Coburn looked almost as surprised as everyone else to hear his name called out as the Best Supporting Actor winner when Ed Harris (The Truman Show) or Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) were considered clear favorites. Coburn’s win furthered the suspicion that age is a factor in the supporting categories.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This was the first year it was unclear whether Academy campaign tactics like marketing and schmoozing trumped movie quality when Miramax’s Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture over Steven Spielberg’s war drama Saving Private Ryan.
Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful, 1998)
The 1990s belonged to the Weinstein Company, and toward the decade's end came the inexplicable awarding of its Life Is Beautiful with a number of nominations and wins, capped by Roberto Benigni's unbelievable Best Actor win over Nick Nolte (Affliction) and Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan).
Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, 2000)
For only the fifth time in more than 50 years, the Academy broke ranks with the Directors Guild of America: the Oscar for Best Director went to Soderbergh instead of DGA winner Ang Lee for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the highest-grossing foreign language movie ever.
Jim Broadbent (Iris, 2001)
Ian McKellen was was clearly the favorite to win Best Supporting Actor for his role as the wiz in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Instead, it went to another Englishman, Jim Broadbent for the little-seen Iris, and the disheveled actor looked as stunned as the audience.
Adrien Brody (The Pianist, 2002)
Rookie nominee Adrien Brody swooped in from behind to beat both Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt) and Daniel-Day Lewis (Gangs of New York). The reasons for this shocker hardly mattered after the dip-and-smooch maneuver Brody pulled on presenter Halle Berry.
Roman Polanski (The Pianist, 2002)
Polanski, who hadn’t made a movie in the U.S. since the '70s, was in France and not talking. But the Academy awarded him with the Best Director award anyway for his holocaust survival story, a triumph over Rob Marshall (whose Chicago won Best Picture) and Martin Scorsese.
Brokeback Mountain Best Director winner Ang Lee was devastated when Paul Haggis’s ensemble drama was announced as 2005's Best Picture winner. Many wondered if Brokeback was over-publicized or the film’s gay romance was too much for conservative Academy voters. Questions still linger.