There are very few Oscar years like 1993, when Schindler’s List won Best Picture. Inevitability took hold in the decades before, say, the 1970s frequently. But after the 1970s, when everything changed, surprise winners were more likely. Then, after Chariots of Fire all bets were off. But the Schindler’s Lists in Oscar history are few and far between. That is, a perfect storm of an overdue director, subject matter and execution. Very few films rise to the level of Schindler’s List, not in Spielberg’s career, not in Hollywood at all. But for this Academy, you might think of Schindler’s List as the ultimate Oscar Best Picture winner.
It’s funny how the (supposedlymostlyJewishAcademythoughwe’renotallowedtosaybecauseitsnotpoliticallycorrect) Academy and Hollywood had avoided stories of Jews. Even the New York Times buried stories of Jews being massacred in Germany before we entered the war. Anti-semitism was real and it permeated Hollywood and the Oscars. Gentleman’s Agreement revolved around a gentile posing as a Jew and even Schindler’s List was about a gentile. Annie Hall, Ben-Hur, Driving Miss Daisy and Chariots of Fire were among the few films that revolved around Jewish characters at all. Schindler’s List is the only film about the Holocaust to win. Compare it to the others and you can see what kind of impact that film made. Its win was about the subject matter, but it was also about Steven Spielberg embracing his heritage and paying respect to his people in a very public way.
And yes, 12 years a Slave has a Schindler’s List kind of impact, in case you were wondering.
There have been very winners since Schindler’s List that were as unequivocal. The only surprising thing about its win is that it didn’t win as many Oscars as it should have. It won only 7 out of 12. My Fair Lady, The English Patient and Slumdog Millionaire have more Oscars than Schindler’s List.
The real injustice that year was that Tommy Lee Jones should not have won for The Fugitive. Ralph Fiennes should have won in a walk. Jones should have won last year for Lincoln.
But 1993 had other films worth noting that we’ll be discussing, most notably its biggest competition, Jane Campion’s The Piano. The Remains of the Day was also one of the year’s standouts. Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, Altman’s Short Cuts, Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, Sally Potter’s Orlando, Demme’s Philadelphia and many more gems from that year. But there was just no film that could beat Schindler’s List and it sits right at the top of the best ever winners, alongside The Godfather films. We will be discussing this subject over the weekend. If you’d like to call in and leave a question for us to answer we’ll try to play it on the podcast and answer it. Otherwise, you can leave them here. Our number – (323) 963-4160.