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: Tom Cruise in Magnolia
1989 Best Actor, Born on the Fourth of July – Lost to Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot
1996 Best Actor, Jerry Maguire – Lost to Geoffrey Rush, Shine
1999 Best Supporting Actor, Magnolia – Lost to Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules
Tom Cruise was nothing more than an extra on Taps in 1981, but after viewing Cruise as a military cadet, director Harold Becker offered him one of the primary supporting roles, and the rest was history. Two years later, Cruise would star in All the Right Moves, The Outsiders and his ticket to stardom: Risky Business. Cruise was a movie star and there was no stopping him.
Following his time as an action star, Cruise turned to more serious fare and starred in 1988’s Best Picture winning Rain Man and earned his first Oscar nomination in 1989 for Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. The 90’s started, and it was officially Tom Cruise’s moment.
You have to remember what kind of roll Cruise was on at this time. Cruise’s last five films (A Few Good Men, The Firm, Interview with the Vampire, Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire) all made over $100 million and Jerry Maguire had earned him his second Oscar nomination. Following the success of Maguire, Cruise took a smaller role as the dynamic spokesperson for toxic masculinity in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. In the midst of a sprawling ensemble, Cruise leaps off the screen with anger and repression like he had never shown before. His third Oscar nomination awaited him, but he would be a runner-up yet again.
Cruise seems much more content being a global action superstar these days. He has yet to find himself again in Oscar’s good graces, but who knows what his latter years have in store.
Tom Cruise defeats Michael Caine at the 1999 Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
The 1999 Best Supporting Actor race is a real quagmire. I remember the night of the ceremony many pundits were throwing their hands up in the air, thinking that four of the five nominees had a real chance to win. The only one who was “happy just to be nominated” was Jude Law for The Talented Mr. Ripley. Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment were the sentimental favorites, but in my mind, Cruise gave the best performance.
Cruise was at the peak of his critical and commercial success and was extremely likeable. He decided to subvert that persona in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, playing the physical embodiment of toxic masculinity coming to grips with the impending death of his father. This is the anti-Tom Cruise performance, pushing against everything we expect from him up to this point. The performance is a critical peak of which Cruise has yet to attain again or has even attempted to reach.
Meanwhile, Caine is doing his usual Michael Caine performance and breezing through on his genial likeability. The Oscars decided to go with the least interesting of the nominees and with the most traditionally Oscar performance by awarding Caine.
Just like Michael Keaton, this is pretty straightforward. Michael Caine already has a well-deserved Oscar in 1986 for Hannah and Her Sisters, so he had an Oscar to spare. He will have to live with his one statue and six nominations.
Tom Cruise wins Best Supporting Actor in 1999 over Michael Caine
Oscar Justice is going to take a little Summer vacation, but we’ll be back soon