Anna Paquin: Did she really deserve an Oscar?

Annapaquinoscar1994_lWhen 11-year-old Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress at the 1993 Academy Awards, she became the category’s second youngest winner (only Tatum O’Neal was younger, at 10). Paquin hesitantly stepped onto the stage and, in true oh-my-gosh-I-just-won-an-Oscar fashion, was speechless for 20 seconds. Then, after thanking a few individuals, the preteen promptly skipped down the stairs and returned to her seat, leaving presenter Gene Hackman with no one to take backstage.

It all made for a precious Oscar moment, but did Paquin truly deserve the Oscar for her performance as Holly Hunter’s daughter in The Piano? It’s especially tricky to gauge the true talent level of young actors in breakout performances: Are we witnessing one-trick pony material or the real thing? Paquin has since offered numerous examples of acting ability, and there’s no doubting that she held her own against Hunter. But was she more worthy than fellow nominees Winona Ryder (The Age of Innocence), Rosie Perez (Fearless), Emma Thompson (In the Name of the Father), and — gulp — Holly Hunter herself (The Firm)? That’s the question we’ve been asking the entertainment industry in our Recall the Gold survey of all the major Oscars from 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years ago, and now, PopWatchers, it’s your turn to have a say.

Ryder was the odds-on favorite going into the ceremony. Her introverted turn as Daniel Day-Lewis’s wife-to-be in 19th-century New York won her a Golden Globe and her first Oscar nomination. Yet the leisurely pace of Innocence may have put off some voters, and Ryder’s character didn’t capture people’s hearts in the way that Paquin’s did. Rosie Perez was also a strong contender for dialing down her "Fight the Power" intensity to play a mother who loses her baby in a plane crash. But Fearless was a box-office flop. Also in the derby were Thompson and Hunter, but they were considered longshots. Thompson had a small but memorable part in In the Name of the Father as Gareth Peirce, the real-life British lawyer who fought to clear the names of the Guildford Four. However, voters were probably suffering from Emma Thompson fatigue — she was also up for her leading performance in The Remains of the Day and had just won Best Actress the previous year for Howards End. As for Hunter, she was practically assured to win the Best Actress Oscar for The Piano, so voters had little incentive to also award her snazzy but less striking performance as a secretary in The Firm.

So, PopWatchers, take out your Oscar pens and tell us whom you thought should have won in our poll below. If you need a reminder of each performance, check out clips from each film after the jump. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, vote in all the other polls from our ongoing walk down Oscar’s memory lane. Tomorrow, we’ll examine the 1983 Best Actor race, and you can check out coverage of this year’s awards contenders in Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.

Holly Hunter, The Firm

Anna Paquin, The Piano

Rosie Perez, Fearless

Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence(trailer)

Emma Thompson, In the Name of the Father

Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • O. C. Cupant

    Anna Paquin most certainly deserved that Oscar.

  • Anonymous

    Anna Paquin all the way. Winona Ryder could never act.

  • Kurt

    Boy, I’d be on the fence this time last year, but since “True Blood”, I am a big Paquin fan. I’d love to see her sweep the awards for the show now, including the Emmy. She makes the show work. The other performances were okay, but Paquin’s is the most timeless, I think.

  • Anonymous

    Emma Thompson deserved it. She had the most difficult role and she was magnificent. Anna Paquin was very good and natural but she didn’t deserve the Oscar.

  • Nihilistic

    Paquin deserved it and I’m sick of these posts asking whether this person or that person should have won. The fact is they did win and any attempt to question the validity of their victory bears all the futility of a pecker on a Pope.

    • unipsychler

      Nihilistic-u r brilliant! Still ROFLMAO!!! ;-) And Anna was none other than precious when she accepted her Oscar…no acting there, which made it all the more adorable.

  • Ken A.

    On this one I actually don’t have a problem with any of the nominees; however, I vote for Holly Hunter all the way for her role in “The Firm”. What a terrific performance!…and since I had another pick for Best Actress, she definitely deserved an award for something that year. I just preferred her in “The Firm” rather than “The Piano” which gets somewhat tedious to watch when I see it now.

  • Sally in Chicago

    Well, I remember the Piano and it was a beautifully photo’d and acted story…and didn’t Holly win for best actress? so what’s the question for?
    as for Paquin, yeh, she deserved it…and every year there’s going to be a discussion, who deserved it more?
    I just wish Rosie Perez had a high flying career…she’s such a great actress. I guess having good management counts, because she could be at the top of the food chain, she’s such a good actress.

  • Martin

    “The Piano” is great, the second best movie released that year after “Schindler’s List”. I don’t mind rewatching it because each scene is packed with detail, each performance top notch. Hunter deserved her Oscar, not many will say she didn’t, but her character played off Paquin’s and vice versa. At 11 years old, Paquin showed a lot of range and it turns out that her acting wasn’t a fluke performance. I will say that Rosie Perez was brilliant in “Fearless” and I was happy she was nominated. She was also fantastic in “White Men Can’t Jump” (a decent movie), so her nomination here shouldn’t be seen as a revelation. I would like to see her in more movies these days, but I have a feeling her best years may have come and gone. All in all a great year for supporting actress nominations. Remember, this Recall the Gold exercise doesn’t claim past winners are undeserving, just whether or not they would hold their votes nowadays.

  • Anonymous

    It just dawned on me that I have never seen a memorable Wynona Ryder performance :) She is extremely forgetable in almost everything she does. I remember seeing Girl Interupted a while ago and thinking “Oh yeah, Wynona Ryder was in that, wasn’t she”. Think about it, in both her bad and decent performances, she is always overshadowed by another actor. Dracula, overshadowed by Keanu’s spectacularly bad performance. The Crucible, overshadowed by a lot of other actors. Reality Bites, definitely overshadowed by Ethan Hawke. Girl Interrupted, Angelina Jolie, say no more. She all just seems to have supporting actress written all over her.
    True Blood isn’t strong because of Paquin. In fact I find her character to be a bit annoying at times, and the accent is a bit strong (Sounds more like Texan, than New Orleans). She suffers a bit from “Much better actor as a child than an adult” Syndrome (See Kirsten Dunst, & Tatum O’neal).

  • David

    Why are we suggesting that Anna Paquin shouldn’t have won? Am I the only one who would consider this insulting for a (then) little girl who poured more into her role for veritable chump change than most “grown-up” actors who barely called their part in for millions? There’s nothing more irritating than *anybody* (not just you) questioning the Academy’s voters when they themselves disagree with the outcome. People did the same thing with Marisa Tomei the year before (“My Cousin Vinny”) – OH God, Jack Palance must have been drunk, etc. – and that’s truly obnoxious, particularly when one considers that Tomei scored herself another nod for a murdered boy’s girlfriend in “In The Bedroom” and will likely score a third nod this year for “The Wrestler.” Paquin has held her own nicely these last 15 years, but with mostly fluff pieces (bits in teen comedies or horror films). On the other hand, her more serious work *has* scored her SAG, Emmy, and Golden Globe nods; that’s not a one trick pony!

  • CJ7

    nope. anna shouldn’t have won

  • RDF

    The Piano is a classic movie and Paquin’s performance was remarkable. In different hands, that character could have been unwatchable. But Paquin revealed an astonishing range of authentic emotions – protectiveness, innocence, jealousy, mischieviousness, devestation, wonder, fear – it was a fully fleshed character. One of the best child performances ever captured on film.
    I have to comment on the complaint that the accent in True Blood is more “Texas” sounding. She actually NAILS the accent of NORTH Louisiana. You can divide Louisiana into the Cathlolic, Cajun south and the Baptist North – both of which have very different accents. I believe the series takes place in the north Louisiana (Fangbangers is in Shreveport) – so she actually gets the accent right – people talk like East Texan there.

  • Kirk Palmer

    Anna Paquin definitely deserved the oscar. As already mentioned without her acting Holly Hunter could never have done the outstanding job she did. They played off each other exceedingly well. To say that Winona Ryder ever deserved an Oscar is again giving the grossly overrated director of Age of innocence even more undeserved credit. The Piano Player was real story with characters we can respect and relate to. That movie is still something to be proud of and watch over and over again for its performances as well as wonderful story.

  • Henry

    For child actors, I’d always go back to the 1999 Best Supporting Actor race, which had Haley Joel Osment being nominated for The Sixth Sense. Honestly, how can they nominate him in the Supporting category when he was a lead in the film? Osment could have beaten (eventual winner) Michael Caine. He was arguably better in that year’s zeitgeist film. Judge child acting by the standard Osment set (and hasn’t equaled since).

  • Henry

    Honestly, I think this pick by the Academy was a gimmick. They wanted to do something memorable so they picked Paquin to join Holly Hunter’s sure win in the Best Leading Actress category.

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