Best Actress – 1981

Official Nominations: Katherine Hepburn. Diane Keaton. Marsha Mason. Susan Sarandon. Meryl Streep.

One the surface, this is a great list of nominees – three actress I rate very highly and enjoy everything they do, and two I’m ambivalent about. Katherine Hepburn got the official win – I can’t complain about it too much but it’s clearly a veteran nom, a veteran win, and a veteran movie. My opinion of this particular film and performance – meh. They’re fine. I just don’t care much about either. 

Diane Keaton is an actress who I don’t tend to care for and who has a knack for appearing in films I either actively dislike, or actively avoid. Reds is Oscar-bait, so therefore is also just fine, nothing more nothing less, and Keaton is… you see where this is going… fine. Marsha Mason is back again, for the fourth and final failed attempt. She didn’t win me over in better films so stands no chance here. 

Susan Sarandon is great in Atlantic City – not the most exciting movie, but she builds it up. The exact same statement is true for Streep and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, except that Streep is (kind of) playing two roles. I think the issue I have with this category this year is more the films themselves than the performances or performers. Still, better on both counts than the Supporting category.

My Winner: Meryl Streep.

The French Lieutenant's Woman **** (1981, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Leo  McKern) – Classic Movie Review 2116 | Derek Winnert

My Nominations: Jenny Agutter. Kathleen Turner. Natja Brunkhorst. Barbara Hershey. Karen Allen. 

An entirely different list of nominees from me this year. We kick off with Jenny Agutter, primarily for her performance in An American Werewolf In London as the film’s emotional and logical grounding, but she also appeared in the little seen Amy as a woman who leaves an abusive marriage to teach deaf and blind children. Kathleen Turner is the most likely official alternative pick for her debut in Body Heat as a New Wave femme fatale. Natja Brunkhorst gives maybe the most powerful performance, and perhaps the most underseen in Christiane F as the teenager who succumbs to addiction and prostitution and eventually watches her friends die through overdoses. It’s a terrifying performance and film. 

Barbara Hershey stars in the more traditional Horror movie The Entity in which she is repeatedly attacked and raped by an unseen force. It was Hershey’s return to mainstream performances and kicked off a successful run in the 80s, showcasing an ability to convey confidence and fear against a foe she can’t fight and a society which won’t believe her. Finally, we have an energetic and invigorating Karen Allen being a match for Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While the movie is a celebration of Cinema, storytelling, and history with the characters and tropes to support these celebrations, Spielberg and Lucas are smart enough to subvert these tropes just enough to make them fresh – Allen is a love interest but feisty and strong, while also being a comedy foil and getting some of the best lines. It’s arguably her best performance.

My Winner: Karen Allen

Let us know your winner in the comments!

One thought on “Best Actress – 1981

  1. John Charet January 10, 2022 / 4:25 am

    Great post 🙂 Any of these choices would be fine 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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