Nora Ephron’s career was never the stuff that Oscars are made of. For one thing, the Oscars don’t support women who create their own genres, as Ephron did. Hollywood barely opened the door that let her in. Three Oscar nominations for Ephron don’t hardly say it. When you deconstruct what it takes to win an Oscar for, say, writing or directing, you know you are dwelling in not only a man’s world, but a group of people whose idea of a narrative pathway is usually centered around a man. This is especially true lately, because there was a time in Oscar/Hollywood history when that wasn’t necessarily true. But it is true now, and it was mostly true during the time Nora Ephron became one of the only “bankable” female writer/directors.
But Oscar/Hollywood never really knew what they had in Ephron. They couldn’t have been aware of who was among them, a Mark Twain/Jane Austen/Dorothy Parker amalgam who never felt satisfied with doing what was expected of her. If they’d known, they would have showered her with awards the way they have Woody Allen.
The truth of it is, Woody is closer to home for the voters because his voice is distinctly male; Ephron’s was unapologetically female. Vive la difference.
Ephron was nominated three times for an Oscar. Once for Silkwood, then for When Harry Met Sally, and finally for Sleepless in Seattle. She was not nominated for Hanging Up, Julie & Julia and Heartburn.
Silkwood did not win because it went up against Tender Mercies by Horton Foote. I’m not saying Silkwood should have won, necessarily, but Tender Mercies was just okay. It was mostly about Robert Duvall’s performance, which won him an Oscar.
The other nominees were Fanny and Alexander, War Games and The Big Chill. Because of Ephron’s passing, it seems harder to not say she should have won that year.
The screenplay for When Harry Met Sally was that film’s only nomination. I don’t know how Meg Ryan wasn’t nominated, nor Carrie Fisher for supporting. This film might be only second to Annie Hall as one of the most memorable of the modern romantic comedies. The critics were not kind to it, as I recall. Critics. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.
Dead Poet’s Society won instead. That was a major movie during its time but it didn’t last anywhere near as long as When Harry Met Sally. The other nominees were Crimes and Misdemeanors, Sex, Lies and Videotape and the film that should have won this category, Do the Right Thing.