Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Screw 2020, Amber Ruffin's still mad about Angela Bassett's Oscar snub from 1993

Amber Ruffin
Amber Ruffin
Screenshot: The Amber Ruffin Show

Some great news didn’t stop Amber Ruffin from getting all mad on Friday. Sure, her delightful and insightful The Amber Ruffin Show just got an order for some new 2021 episodes from her NBC overlords at Peacock. Apparently Peacock doesn’t just go ahead and give you an entire season’s order like a normal network, but, hey, more Amber is nothing to sneeze at. (Seriously, don’t sneeze anywhere near Amber Ruffin. She’s delightful, and she’s got a show to do.)

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But while Ruffin’s deceptively ebullient and adorable demeanor has reliably tackled some truly horrible events and people in this back half of 2020, she wasn’t up for re-litigating all that mess on Friday’s show. At least not when she could get an entire, cathartically furious segment out of re-litigating the 1993 Oscar race for Best Actress. Noting up front that even she has found the relentless avalanche of 2020 awfulness overwhelming at times, Ruffin shared her coping strategy. “Healthily processing your feelings?,” guessed Ruffin’s stalwart sidekick Tarik Davis. “No,” Ruffin responded, smiling, “I focus all of my anger on a trivial thing from the past. One thing that I can do nothing about.” Hence, 1993.

That’s when, according to Ruffin, Angela Bassett was robbed of a Best Actress Oscar (an honor she’d already received from the Golden Globes) for her all-in performance as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It? Touting the film’s 96 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, Bassett’s still-awe-inspiring arms in the role, and that scene where the abused but defiant Turner flees full-tilt from husband Ike through busy traffic, Ruffin worked up a good head of harmlessly distracting steam on the actress’ behalf. Showing that traffic-dodging clip, Ruffin proclaimed that Bassett should have not only won the Oscar, but an Olympic track medal (she was wearing heels, for chrissakes), and something called the “Frogger Award.” (People can point to Eddie Murphy’s highway dash in Bowfinger, but there was definitely some CGI performance-enhancement going on there.)

Now, Ruffin knows full well that nobody needs to stand up for the estimable Ms. Bassett at this point. “Angela Bassett has transcended any award, in my opinion,” conceded Ruffin, adding sagely, “And winning does not dictate her worth.” Still, though—Holly Hunter in The Piano!? “Learning how to look sad on a beach” isn’t the same as channeling one of music’s legendary powerhouses, and Holly Hunter knows it, according to the half-joking Ruffin. Setting off a sputtering flame war between fans of two unquestionably amazing actresses concerning a 27-year-old Oscar race between two good-but-not-great movies might be pointless, silly, and futilely diverting, but, well, as Ruffin posited, it’s better than stewing in the daily swamp of GOP sedition, COVID, Trump, and Trump’s murderous non-leadership on COVID. “Why be mad at the things that happened in 2020?,” asked Ruffin, finally, “when I can be mad like it’s 1993?” For crying out loud, Holly Hunter won the Emmy that year, too. How many awards does Holly Hunter need in one year, anyway?! Man, that does feel strangely better.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.