Oscar Justice: Ralph Fiennes

Welcome to Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at Ice Creams for Freaks.  It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.

This week on Oscar Justice: Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List


1993 Best Supporting Actor, Schindler’s List – Lost to Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive
1996 Best Actor, The English Patient – Lost to Geoffrey Rush, Shine


Ralph Fiennes came out of relative obscurity in 1993. Following a series of Shakespeare theater productions in England, Fiennes made his film debut in the 1992 adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The film was unsuccessful, but it caught the eye of Steven Speilberg, who cast Fiennes as the Nazi antagonist of Amon Goth in the holocaust epic Schindler’s List.

Fiennes’ role earned him near-universal acclaim, earning him a BAFTA award and nominations from the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. When it came to Oscar night, Fiennes bad guy lost out to Tommy Lee Jones’ good guy for The Fugitive.

Fiennes would find himself the star of two Best Picture nominees in the next three years, including a Best Actor nomination for The English Patient. Despite the meteoric success, Fiennes has yet to re-enter the Academy’s world, despite delivering great performances and appearing in three more Best Picture nominees through the years.


Ralph Fiennes defeats Tommy Lee Jones at the 1993 Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.


Never has evil been so effectively used and justified than that of Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth. He is obviously an evil man, but he does not adhere to the natural banality of evil, but rather tries to push against his evil nature. When his relationship with Oskar Schindler grows and he sees power does lie solely in the ability to destroy, he attempts to be forgiving. The resulting scene shows his attempts at empathy, but he realizes it is not in his nature and he returns to his evil side.

Fiennes does such a superb job of embodying the charm of evil as well as the physical exhaustion of it all. During the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto resulting in untold deaths, despite supervising the liquidation, he is not taking any joy in it. Rather, he sees it as more of a chore.

Fiennes has never been better and I challenge anyone to find a better example of human evil personified in film.


My biggest issue with giving Fiennes his Oscar was taking the win away from Tommy Lee Jones. His performance as US Marshall Sam Gerard is iconic and I hate that it ran up against such a performance as Fiennes. Luckily for me, Jones almost had two Oscars after just missing a second statue in 2012.

The Best Supporting Actor race in 2012 was getting someone their second Oscar. Jones, Alan Arkin, Christoph Waltz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro already had one Oscar (De Niro had two). Someone was getting a second, and many (including myself) thought it would be Jones. When Waltz walked away with another trophy, this opened up my possibilities. So, Jones gets his statue in 2012. Waltz can hold on to his well-earned win for Inglorious Basterds in 2009.


Ralph Fiennes wins Best Supporting Actor in 1993 over Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones wins Best Supporting Actor in 2012 over Christoph Waltz

Next week on Oscar Justice…Elizabeth Taylor gets her first Oscar for a classic performance, and a long-time Oscar loser finally gets her statue

All Oscar Justice category fixes

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