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I like this article quite a bit, but most of all for this observation:

In 1994, Tom Hanks won his second Oscar playing Forrest Gump, a skillful enough but predictable rendition of a marble-mouthed simpleton. He beat Paul Newman, whose performance in Robert Benton's "Nobody's Fool" may be one of the few perfect performances in American screen history.

I have noticed this trend for a number of years - if you play the retarded person, the handicapped person, a member of the opposite sex, or any other person with some kind of obvious eccentricity, you are seemingly automatically nominated for an oscar, and will frequently win. Linda Hunt, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, etc., come to mind. And I like many of these performances and consider them good enough for accolades, but not enough "normal" portrayals win awards. It is EXTREMELY difficult to act "normal," more so than it is to play someone blind or mute, which can fall into the trap of being "over the top," as this article indicated. Some of the most egregious mistakes in the Oscars have been overlooking Paul Neuman in this instance, Anthony Hopkins in "The Remains of the Day" (he did win for playing a diabolical cannibal, however), Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List" (he lost to Tommy Lee Jones!), and Peter Fonda in "Ulee's Gold." Their seemingly simple, but very complex portrayals of their characters in these films sometimes makes my jaw drop in awe. I cry every time I watch the scenes in "The Remains of the Day" when Ms. Kenton approaches Mr. Stephens as he is "caught" reading a romance novel, and when Mr Stephens learns of his father's death. They are so understated that the true pain and emotional turmoil of the character, which are aggressively suppressed, comes out tenfold for me. This is the sign of the true tearjerker for me. Debra Winger dying in "Terms of Endearment" is less emotional than how Shirley McLaine reacts to it afterward - her energy is sapped so greatly that it even effects how she merely stands up. Could it be that it is more emotional powerful to watch an actor who has been sapped of energy, instead of one who overexerts to portray the eccentricities?