Recall the Gold: The 1993 Best Actress Oscar race

Thepianohunter_lIt’s too bad the Academy could give out only one Best Actress Oscar for 1993, since there were several landmark performances that year. Angela Bassett pulled out all the stops, physically and emotionally, for her starmaking portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. Terms of Endearment‘s Debra Winger had to die with dignity again as Joy Gresham, wife of Narnia author C.S. Lewis, in Shadowlands. Stockard Channing reprised her Broadway role as a deceived socialite in Six Degrees of Separation and again served as the story’s wounded, emotional core. Emma Thompson was impeccable as the housemaid who tries to shatter the stoicism of butler Anthony Hopkins in the Merchant/Ivory literary adaptation The Remains of the Day; in fact, she might well have won, had she not earned the Oscar the year before for another role opposite Hopkins in a similar Merchant/Ivory period piece, Howards End. Plus, Thompson may have siphoned votes away from her Remains nomination by earning a nod the same year for Best Supporting Actress for In the Name of the Father.

The front-runner, however, from the moment of her film’s release, was Holly Hunter in The Piano. (This even though Hunter was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress that year, in The Firm.) Her performance (pictured) in Jane Campion’s otherworldly romance required her to play the piano like a pro (or at least appear to do so), bare herself physically and emotionally, and express a whole spectrum of feelings without uttering a word onscreen. She may have won the award on sheer technique, but any of these five would have been a justifiable winner.

Looking back from today’s perspective, which of these performances doyou think is the best? Vote in our poll, and list your comments below.(For a refresher, watch the clips embedded after the jump, whichmay contain some NSFW language.) Remember, we’ll be running the Recall the Gold surveys every Tuesdayand Thursday until January, so you may go back at any time and vote inthe other polls (click hereto see them all), reexamining the Oscar races of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25years ago. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, we’ll look at the 1993 Best Supporting Actorcompetition. Watch also for commentary and context throughout,including on Dave Karger’s new Oscar Watch blog.

addCredit(“Everett Collection”)

Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do with It

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Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation

Holly Hunter in The Piano

Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day

Debra Winger in Shadowlands

Comments (28 total) Add your comment
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  • moviefan

    Angela Bassett should have taken this award hands down. While Hunter did an amazing job, Angela Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner will go down as one of the best performances of all time. Don’t believe me? Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner was the only one from this list included in the 100 best Performances of all time.

  • Anonymous

    Angela Bassett should have taken this award hands down. While Hunter did an amazing job, Angela Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner will go down as one of the best performances of all time. Don’t believe me? Bassett’s performance as Tina Turner was the only one from this list included in Premiere Magazine’s List of the 100 Best Performances of all time!

  • scar2

    I loved all 5 performances, but Holly Hunter deserved it. Her performance & the film were both astounding.

  • peaches

    Holly Hunter deserved the win that year but damn Angela Basset was a total revelation as Tina Turner! It’s a performance that still gives me chills to this day.

  • Cara

    Hunter was certainly worthy of it, but I think Stockard Channing was too — she did amazing, subtle work, full of truth. I haven’t seen Angela Bassett’s performance, so I can’t comment there, but I wasn’t overly impressed by that year’s performances from either Thompson (who’d done better work before, and would again) or Winger.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Emma Thompson’s performance was also listed in Premiere Magazine’s list, and it was much higher. I’m not saying Thompson deserved it over Holly Hunter, but I am saying that you should check facts before posting opinions.

  • joe

    I give major points to Holly Hunter, but it’s been my mission since 1993 to get Angela Bassett an Oscar. She is a PHENOMENAL actress and What’s Love Got to Do With It? is her tour de force. She should have won 2 Oscars for that performance.

  • Martin

    Emma Thompson was excellent in “Remains”. To say her performance wasn’t good means you haven’t seen the movie. When Anthony tells her character off and she slinks slowly into the shadows, it is painful. It’s unbearable when he can’t admit his love for her as she is carried away on the bus, the complete embodiment of despair (In my opinion, one of the more heartbreaking moments in cinema in the ’90’s). If you haven’t seen the movie is suggest you rent it. Beautiful movie with moving performances. And as much as I like “Remains of the Day”, Holly Hunter’s win was right on the money that year. Strong year for Best Actress us an understatement!

  • pai

    What a great year this was.
    I’m sticking with Holly… un-LESS she gets the Broadcast News Oscar recalled from Cher/Moonstruck. And in that case I’ll go with Angela. It really is all political.

  • Dawn

    It’s just a measure of Hunter’s brilliance that she won for The Piano while also nominated for a completely different role in The Firm. She is awesome.

  • Alex

    I have a very special place in my heart for Remains of the Day – glorious, heartbreaking novel and a wonderful film adaptation that was perfectly performed by Hopkins and Thompson. But I do think that Holly Hunter was a deserved winner that year. So while she didn’t have as memorable a career as Thompson did post-1993, she and Anna Paquin were fantastic in The Piano.

  • bootsycolumbia

    The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite books and I loved the movie as well. I’ve never seen Shadowlands, so can’t comment on Debra Winger’s performance. Stockard Channing was great in Six Degrees, but I don’t believe she deserved an Oscar for the performance. At the time I thought Holly Hunter really deserved the Oscar, but the performance that stands the test of time for me is Angela Bassett’s. She was incredible as Tina Turner.

  • Anonymous

    Angela Bassett was brilliant in What’s Love Got to do With It. She should have been the first black actress to win best actress.

  • Jemma

    Emma Thompson hands down. I love that movie.

  • pop off

    all of them were awesome, it was a really good year for women, but i think angela should have won, for some reason her performance stands out above the others

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