Saving Private Ryan vs. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
The battle it's easiest to compare last year's Best Picture race to is the one between "Saving Private Ryan," an edgy Second World War drama, and "Shakespeare in Love," a fluffy British period romp. "Ryan" had the momentum going into the Oscars, and even won Best Director for Steven Spielberg. It tells the harrowing story of a group of soldiers who go into post-D-Day France to bring home a private whose three brothers have just been killed. They save him, but most of them die trying. There's no romance in sight. "Shakespeare in Love" came up from the rear to win the Oscar, and we think that's because it seemed fresher and more fun than Spielberg's dour drama - the Academy may have rebelled against voting for what's good for them. The film follows a wannabe actress and a soon-to-be-legendary playwright who fall in love and put on a really great show before being separated. Viewers didn't even have to feel bad about their separation because it inspired more great art. No actors from "Saving Private Ryan" inspired the Academy enough to win anything, but Gwyneth Paltrow and Dame Judi Dench (who played Queen Elizabeth I) gave such lively turns that they took home both Actress prizes.