Best Actress – 1974

Official Nominations: Ellen Burstyn. Diahann Carroll. Faye Dunaway. Valerie Perrine. Gena Rowlands.

This is a tight one, because there are at least three terrific lead performances you can pick from, and another two decent options. Ellen Burstyn got her win here for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – it’s not as iconic as The Exorcist but she arguably does more here and gets more of the spotlight. After the death of her husband, Alice travels across the US with her son hoping to find light at the end of a dark tunnel. Burstyn is funny and sympathetic and you feel like the film and the performance should be better known than it is. Faye Dunaway joins Nicholson in an acting masterclass with Chinatown, Dunaway bringing the noir Femme Fatale into yet another decade and crafting a more sinuous, slippery archetype. Gena Rowlands stars in her husband’s A Woman Under The Influence as a woman deemed to be crazy, for lack of a better word. Through the inner workings of her family, and husband in particular, we view her actions in a more sympathetic vein although it’s clear she is batshit, desperately so. It’s an audacious, largely extraordinary performance, though it does become tiresome and slips into over the top theatrics at times.

The final two choices were never going to win against the previous three, but deserve mentions. Claudine is a decent film, and the cynic in me says the performance feels like The Academy bowing to pressure rather than them honouring a good actor. It is a good performance and it does deserve a nomination, it makes you think of the actors in previous years who missed out but deserved equally. Finally, Valerie Perrine, better known as Miss Teschmacher from Superman, gets a dubious nomination for Lenny as the woman Lenny Bruce stalks and marries. She’s good, no doubt, but is in the shadow of Hoffman’s performance.

My Winner: Faye Dunaway

My Nominations: Ellen Burstyn. Faye Dunaway. Gena Rowlands. Lauren Bacall.

Having said all that, I struggle to choose any additional performances who would be on par with the three above, at least in the lead category. Lets add one more anyway, with Lauren Bacall’s moaning motormouth in Murder On The Orient Express.

My Winner: Faye Dunaway

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Best Actress – 1973

Official Nominations: Glenda Jackson. Ellen Burstyn. Marsha Mason. Barbra Streisand. Joanne Woodward.

Glenda Jackson won this year for A Touch Of Class – an entertaining farce basically about two horn-bags trying to have sex, then continuing an on-off affair. The main problem I have with the film is that the main characters are, well, dicks. The affair is slapstick stuff but eventually settles into a more typical relationship with all the guilt and jealousy you would expect. Still, Jackson is good, shows a talent for comedy, and deserves the nomination. Ellen Burstyn is the tortured mother in The Exorcist, helplessly clutching for some sort of salvation for her daughter. She comes across as cold in the early parts of the film but once the vomit hits the fan she is the concerned, terrified parent watching unimaginable trauma inflected on her child – Burstyn is the winner, no other choice.

Martha Mason earns her first of four nominations for Cinderella Liberty. The cynic in me looks at her marriage to Neil Simon who just happened to write most of the films she was nominated for, but that’s not the case here. She’s good here but there’s something too showy or theatrical about the performance? I don’t know. The film itself is a strange one too – good cast, decent drama, but forgettable. Barbra Streisand is Barbra Streisand, so you know exactly what you’re going to get – lots of scenery chewing and arm waving, while Joanne Woodward is a weird choice in a weird movie. It’s the requisite veteran vote, but she’d already won an award previously. Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams feels like a Bergman movie – even the title sounds like one, and isn’t a film anyone is ever going to seek out. It’s actually a genuine, accurate portrayal of depression and I think there is a great movie in here somewhere – it just doesn’t come off very well.

My Winner: Ellen Burstyn

My Nominations: Ellen Burstyn. Sissy Spacek. Julie Christie. Margot Kidder. Raquel Welch.

People think of Carrie when they think of Sissy Spacek’s breakout role, but the makings of her illustrious career can be found in Badlands – acting as both narrator and lead. As a slightly more passive character she is in danger of being overshadowed by Martin Sheen, but manages to more than hold her own. Julie Christie finds herself in a similar position in Don’t Look Now but her quiet turn to obsession is just as unnerving as what happens to Sutherland’s character. Margot Kidder gives perhaps the most impressive performance of my nominees in a dual role in De Palma’s Sisters while Raquel Welch appears this year in both The Last Of Sheila and The Three Musketeers – either of which is worthy of a nomination.

My Winner: Ellen Burstyn

Let us know in the comments which Actress you think deserves the Award this year!

Best Actress – 1972

Official Nominations: Liza Minnelli. Diana Ross. Maggie Smith. Cecily Tyson. Liv Ullmann.

This one was never in doubt – Minnelli’s first singing role for Bob Fosse’s comeback movie? Never in doubt. If you’ve read this blog or my Oscars posts for any length of time then you’ll know I’m not a Musical fan. I’d go out of my way to not watch a Musical. I’m not a fan of Minnelli either and as objectively great as Cabaret is, it’s just not my thing. Some people don’t like Musicals, some people don’t like action movies, some people don’t like Police Academy (seriously, there are people like that out there). Minnelli gives herself over to the performance completely and gets the deserved nomination and win, and yet it’s such an obvious performance… I think that’s one of the many places where me and Musicals part ways – I know I’m watching an actor, I know I’m watching a show, and I’m entirely disconnected from it to the point that it would make a difference if I was watching it on screen or seeing her swinging her hips in my face in my own kitchen.

Diana Ross, another singer/actor delivers probably her best work in Lady Sings The Blues as Billie Holiday. It could have, well, it should have been grittier but it’s a performance I enjoy more than Minnelli’s. Maggie Smith is back again, another performer I’m not a fan of, being another bird-like eccentric creature with a minor collection of physical ticks. Cecily Tyson is in with a chance for her honest, non showy performance in Sounder while Liv Ullmann doesn’t need to be here at all due to her film coming out the previous year, ignoring those wacky Academy rules.

My Winner: Diana Ross.

My Nominations: Liza Minnelli. Diana Ross. Ruby Dee. Susannah York. Maria Schneider.

There isn’t really anything from the official list I’d want to have on my list. I mean yeah, Minnelli should be here and there’s no use in me being a dick about it, but still… not my thing. Is there going to be anything else this year that was ever going to legitimately beat her win – nope – but I’m basically picking my own favorites here as long as they’re not awful. There’s a case for Diane Keaton here, but I don’t think she does enough in The Godfather to warrant a nomination in lead or supporting categories. Ruby Dee is here for Buck And The Preacher – not a huge role or a huge film, but I’m not spoiled for choice. Susannah York is great as the tormented lead in Images while tormented is perhaps not a strong enough word for Maria Schneider in Last Tango In Paris. 

My Winner: Maria Schneider

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Let us know in the comments who you would pick as your winner for the best Actress of 1972!

Best Actress – 1971

Official Nominations: Jane Fonda. Julie Christie. Glenda Jackson. Vanessa Redgrave. Janet Suzman.

Jane Fonda was the runaway winner this year for her performance in Klute. It was the performance which launched her career and was a modern revision of those noir heroines of old invoking tradition, mystery, sympathy, and sensuality. Julie Christie received her second Oscar nomination this year, playing Miller versus McCabe, an opium addicted raconteur and opportunist while Glenda Jackson gets a nod for the unhappy, disappointed Alex Greville in Sunday Bloody Sunday. The final two choices are fine, but feel a little like ‘we have to pick these performances because of the film’ – Redgrave for Mary, Queen Of Scots and Janet Suzman for Nicholas And Alexandra. 

My Winner: Jane Fonda

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My Nominations: Jane Fonda. Julie Christie. Glenda Jackson. Jennifer O’Neill. Mia Farrow. Jenny Agutter.

I can’t really improve upon the three main choices from the Official Nominations, so I add a random trio – Jenny Agutter for the challenging Walkabout, Mia Farrow in the Wait Until Dark rip-off See No Evil, and Jennifer O’Neill for Summer Of ’42. 

My Winner: Jane Fonda

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actress of 1971!

Best Actress – 1970

Official Nominations: Glenda Jackson. Jane Alexander. Ali Macgraw. Carrie Snodgrass. Sarah Miles.

The official winner this year was Glenda Jackson for Women In Love – a contentious decision in many eyes. I’ve never had a problem with the performance and Jackson was a perfect fit, bringing a sexual prowess and theatrical force to create a whirlwind whole. Jane Alexander is fine in The Great White Hope, bringing her Tony Award winning performance to the screen alongside her stage colleague James Earl Jones – Jones is the one you pay attention to here though. Ali Macgraw’s nomination is a strange one – Love Story was a huge success so I guess all the buzz around her and the movie was enough to entice everyone – it’s an okay performance, but nothing you would ever pick. Carrie Snodgrass burst onto the screen with her sort-of-debut Diary Of A Mad Housewife – a frustrated and ironically funny performance in a strangely depressing comedy (notable for an early appearance by Alice Cooper and friends). Finally, David Lean returned with another epic in Ryan’s Daughter – a film much maligned at the time but which still garnered a nomination for Sarah Miles – it’s fine, but feels like a pity nomination.

My Winner: Glenda Jackson.

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My Nominations:  Glenda Jackson. Carrie Snodgrass. Eva Marie Saint. Jenny Agutter. Candice Bergen.

This was a pretty poor year for leading actress performances in all honesty. I’m adding Eva Marie Saint for Loving because I like the idea of her being nominated instead of some of the official ones – it’s as good a performance as those anyway. In that vein, I’m also nominating Jenny Agutter for The Railway Children – not a film I love, but a good performance by someone I do. That means I just need one more to round up to five aaaand, why not – Candice Bergen in the graphic Soldier Blue.

My Winner: Glenda Jackson

Let me know in the comments who your pick for the Best Actress of 1970 is!

Best Actress – 1969

Official NominationsMaggie Smith. Genevieve Bujold. Jane Fonda. Liza Minnelli. Jean Simmons. 

Although nowadays Maggie Smith is known for building nests in your neighbour’s trees and swooping down to gobble up stray worms and centipedes, back in 1969 she was winning an Oscar for her performance in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. It is an excessively ugly film with many bizarre accents, topped off by the dead eyed stare of Maggie as she gives it her all. Genevieve Bujold is the best thing about Anne Of The Thousand Days, Jane Fonda gets a deserved nomination in the bleak, bizarre, and still shocking They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, and Liza Minnelli is just on the verge of irritating in The Sterile Cuckoo. Jean Simmons is the final pick, very strong in the unusually frank The Happy Ending. 

My Winner: Genevieve Bujold.

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My Nominations: Genevieve Bujold. Jane Fonda. Jean Simmons. Natalie Wood. Shirley Knight. Diana Rigg.

Not too many changes for my personal nominations this year – three existing and three new. Ted and Alice got nominations for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, so why not Carol? Natalie Wood stars as the liberal Carol who is okay with her husbands extra-marital antics so decides to have some of her own, before eyeing up a more dedicated commitment to swinging. Shirley Knight goes on a personal odyssey encountering various characters and reflecting the frustration and stress of someone who has not yet worked out what they want out of their own life. Finally, long before she was trading barbs and quips with royalty in Westeros, Diana Rigg was hanging out in equally dangerous snake-pits. Her performance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is good, but it is in the same year in The Adjustment Bureau that she earns my nomination, a strong woman driven to personal and public gain through moral and dubious ventures.

My Winner: Shirley Knight.

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Let us know in the comments who gets your pick as the Best Actress of 1969 – any of the above, or someone I have missed?

Best Actress – 1968

Official Nominations: Katherine Hepburn. Barbra Streisand. Patricia Neal. Vanessa Redgrave. Joanne Woodward.

Katherine Hepburn picked up another win for The Lion In Winter, while Barbara Streisand picked up a nomination for her first movie Funny Girl. As proof that The Academy was just making it up as it went along, Streisand was actually joint winner this year. Patricia Neal does her best in The Subject Was Roses, Redgrave globe-trots rambunctiously in Isadora, while Woodward is a polar opposite in Rachel, Rachel. 

My Winner: Vanessa Redgrave

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My Nominations: Jacqueline Bisset. Barbra Streisand. Claudia Cardinale. Faye Dunaway. Vanessa Redgrave.

Only Redgrave and Streisand make it over to my nominations and won’t stand a chance of winning versus my other three picks. Jacqueline Bisset made a pretty big impact in 1968 being nominated for a Golden Globe in the interesting surfer movie The Sweet Ride and appearing in the very good The Detective (based on a novel whose sequel would be adapted into Die Hard). However, it is her performance in Bullitt which earns her my nomination – she holds her own along side the veteran McQueen and ensures that the movie isn’t only remembered for him and the car chase. Also holding their own along side McQueen is Fay Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair, creating a smoldering partnership as the cool and intelligent Vicki. Claudia Cardinale also appeared in a bunch of movies in 1968, but it is undoubtedly Once Upon A Time In The West that she is remembered for – her performance (baked up by her theme) providing the heart and soul of the movie and is never less than captivating – make no mistake, this is a film about Jill rather than Harmonica or the others.

My Winner: Claudia Cardinale.

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Who do you pick from the Official list of nominees, and who would be your choices of Best Actress of 1968 from those who were not nominated – let us know in the comments!

Best Actress – 1967

Official Nominations: Katherine Hepburn. Anne Bancroft. Faye Dunaway. Edith Evans. Audrey Hepburn.

An interesting blend of old and new both in the actresses chosen and the films they represented – with Edith Evans receiving her third and final nomination as the eccentric and downtrodden Mrs Ross in the ever bleak The Whisperers, a fine performance but not a film that you’d want to go through more than once. Katherine Hepburn picked up her second win in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner as the supposedly liberal parent forced to examine her inward and outward beliefs, while Audrey Hepburn is excellent in a rare horror related role as the tormented, blind Susy. Anne Bancroft symbolizes the age gap if not necessarily a generational one as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, while Faye Dunaway blasted her way on to the scene with an unforgettable performance as Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde. Worthy nominees and worthy winners for all.

My Winner: Faye Dunaway

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My Nominations: Anne Bancroft. Faye Dunaway. Audrey Hepburn. Catherine Deneuve. Jane Fonda.

I’ve dropped Evans and Katherine Hepburn for my nominations and added Finda and Deneuve. Fonda excels in the enjoyable but not always successful Barefoot In The Park, while Deneuve gives a stunning performance as the titular Belle De Jour who fantasizes about darker, fringe sex games.

My Winner: Faye Dunaway

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Who is your pick for the Best Actress of 1967? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actress – 1966

Official Nominations: Elizabeth Taylor. Anouk Aimee. Ida Kaminska. Lynn Redgrave. Vanessa Redgrave.

Like much of the latter half of the 60s, 1966 was an important year for Women, the major moment being the founding of the National Organization for women. In the Media and in the Arts, Women were blurring and breaking boundaries and crossing divides – Janis Joplin was the voice of a new generation while the likes of Nancy Sinatra and Cher were going toe to toe with The Beatles and The Stones. Many of the year’s highest grossing, well-received and most important movies featured actresses in defining performances and symbolizing the wind of change sweeping across the Western World and beyond.

Liz Taylor gives a Daniel Day Lewis turn by performing as Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? – the antithesis of every other role she had played until this point, piling on the pounds, and ultimately makes the film more energetic and enticing. Taylor earned her second Oscar with her performance, no doubt helped by the on and off-screen antics between her and Burton. Anouk Aimee was already well known to critics thanks to 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita, but with A Man And A Woman she was able to take centre stage as the sympathetic widow and mother Anne. In a film where the beauty of the visuals threatens to overcome the story and the cast, Aimee holds her own. On an entirely different note, The Shop On Main Street sees Ida Kaminska as an old shop owner under threat from Aryanization during WW2. Her performance, coupled with the grim nature and resolution of the film were enough to get the film considerable notice in the US. The final two nominations go to the Redgrave sisters, Lynn and Vanessa for Georgy Girl and Morgan! respectively. The two British films share quite a few similarities, but the characters each play are near opposites with Lynn playing a naive, ‘pure’, imaginative young woman and Vanessa as a bored housewife seeking divorce. Both characters however are objects of extreme desire for the male characters, and hilarity ensues.

My Winner: Elizabeth Taylor.

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My Nominations: Elizabeth Taylor. Francoise Dorleac. Virginia McKenna. Anne Bancroft.

Only Taylor makes it over from the official list this year. Dorleac gives another forgotten, energetic performance in Cul-de-sac which was another stepping stone towards what should have been a greater level of stardom before her untimely death. Most people only remember Born Free for its song and visuals, but that is doing a disservice to McKenna’s performance as Joy Adamson. Finally, Anne Bancroft stirs up trouble at a Chinese Christian missionary as the newly arrived, anti-religion Doctor Cartwright, a role which she joyfully sinks her teeth into.

My Winner: Elizabeth Taylor.

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Who is your pick for the Best Actress of 1966? Let us know in the comments!

Best Actress: 1965

Official Nominations: Julie Christie. Julie Andrews. Elizabeth Hartman. Simone Signoret. Samantha Eggar.

The big shock this year was that Julie Christie pipped Julie Andrews to the post, though I believe this was the right decision. Andrews basically gives the same performance in The Sound Of Music as she gave in the previous year’s Mary Poppins while Christie gives a rollercoaster showing in Darling, portraying the ups and downs of fame and life in 60s Britain. Her performance is often harrowing, frequently innocent, equally knowing, and says a lot about the unfortunate celebrity culture which still thrives today. Add to this the fact that she also stars in Dr.Zhivago this year and we have a definitive 12 months for the actress. Elizabeth Hartman gives an honest, touching performance in A Patch Of Blue as a blind teenager who falls in love with Sidney Poitier’s character. At the time she was the youngest ever (22) nominee for the award. Rounding up the nominations are Signoret for Ship Of Fools and Eggar for The Collector. Signoret gets a deserved 2nd nomination for her gloomy addict, while Eggar earned her only nomination as a kidnap victim in Wyler’s effective thriller. It’s a tough call between all of the nominees, excluding Andrews.

My Winner: Julie Christie.

My Nominations: Catherine Deneuve. Julie Christie. Natalie Wood. Patricia Neal. Tura Satana.

Christie makes my list of nominations too, a list which features some obvious choices and some debatable ones. Catherine Deneuve gives one of the best performances of the decade in Repulsion where she subtly appears as shy, withdrawn, terrified, haunted, confused, and murderous. The film and the performance was arguably the most important at bringing her to a worldwide audience. Natalie Wood does a Hilary Swank 30 years earlier, shocking the US with her honest portrayal of a tomboy broken by stardom in Inside Daisy Clover, although most of the film’s commercial failure came from Redford’s homosexual character. It’s another relationship and film which the world was not ready to witness. Patricia Neal (in a year when she basically was dead for almost a month) starred as more than John Wayne’s love interest in In Harm’s Way, one of the last old school war epics. My final nomination is sure to shock some, but I feel it is justified given the long-lasting notoriety of the film. Satana effectively makes Faster Pussycat, kill kill! work. She is the driving force behind the plot, the energy, and most of the film’s best moments. She created the character from scraps of information, and makes a grindhouse absurdity almost believable. Improvising most of her best dialogue, she commands the screen and should have gone on to bigger, better things.

My Winner: Catherine Deneuve.
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Let me know who you think was the Best Actress of 1965!