Shakespeare in Love (1998)
At First: With a literate, funny script by Tom Stoppard and a star-making performance from Gwyneth Paltrow, this was the delightful surprise of late 1998.
But Then: This flimsy stupid costume-y girl movie took away awards from a big important man movie! About World War II, no less!
Notable Competition: Yes, that WWII movie was Saving Private Ryan, for which Steven Spielberg won a second Best Director Oscar but which lost in a surprise upset to the Harvey Weinstein Oscar machine.
Strength of Backlash (1-10): 7, in large part, I think, because of Weinstein’s later reputation, perhaps not undeserved, as an Oscar strong-armer (see this year’s Lion). Also, the kind of sexism that suggests Private Ryan did more work by having more blood on the beach.
Strength of Deserving (1-10): 3. Weinstein may be a final-cut-withholding middlebrow vulgarian, but Shakespeare in Love is basically a romantic comedy, a form that rarely gets to shine at the Oscars. Even better: It’s a damn good one. That doesn’t take anything away from Saving Private Ryan (which had its own backlash about pretty much any part of the movie that’s not the D-Day invasion sequence); the picture/director split actually made total sense.