Best Actress – 1983

Official Nominations: Shirley Maclaine. Meryl Streep. Jane Alexander. Julie Walters. Debra Winter.

A very, very Oscars category this year. We have four time losing nominee Shirley Maclaine getting her win at the fifth and final attempt, beating out former winner Meryl Streep and former nominees Julie Walters, Jane Alexander, and Debra Winger. With this calibre, you know each of the performances is good even if I’m not personally a huge fan of any of the related films. The only film I ever feel the need to re-watch is Testament, because I’m a glutton for pain. But Alexander is very good in this little known film as the mother trying to keep her family alive in the aftermath of a nuke.

My Winner: Jane Alexander

Testament (1983) | Smith's Verdict

My Nominations: Dee Wallace. Renee Soutendijk. Bonnie Bedelia. Debbie Harry. Jane Alexander.

Anybody reading this knows how I feel about Horror and that Horror is consistently overlooked by The Academy. Me nominating Horror movies is partly trying to address that imbalance, and partly because I feel the choices are fully merited. Dee Wallace is great in Cujo as the cheating Mom who is trapped with her car in the sun by a rabid dog. The performance just verges on being as over the top as the story itself, and in a stronger year I probably wouldn’t have her here.

The Academy has also been less than forthcoming with regards to foreign films outside of the Best Foreign Feature category, a shame given there have been so many worthy picks over the years in so many categories. My vision of The Oscars is one which is focused on the best in World Cinema, rather than 90% Hollywood. No matter. This year, The Fourth Man was one of the best films and Renee Soutendijk is sultry and ambiguous as the potential femme fatale.

Biographies meanwhile, are a stalwart of The Academy and you’re almost guaranteed to get a nomination if you play a significant, famous real life figure. Bonnie Bedelia unfortunately played someone whose impact was large, but was in a sport no-one cars about – drag racing. She’s good, even if the film isn’t the best in the world.

Debbie Harry makes a potent vixen, a near object in Videodrome who appears both as passive and controlling. It’s powerful stuff for someone known more for her music. Jane Alexander makes it over to my list too.

My Winner: Renee Soutendijk.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1982

Official Nominations: Meryl Streep. Julie Andrews. Jessica Lange. Sissy Spacek. Debra Winger.

It takes a brave person to go up against or vote against Streep in any year, but particularly for 1982. Jessica Lange has the balls and the talent to win any year and found herself pitted against Streep here, but also was nominated for a different film in the Supporting category. Frances is a little seen film but one I has chased down years ago due to being a Nirvana fan (the band has a song named after Francis Farmer). The film isn’t amazing, but Lange is at the top of her game. Unfortunately for Lange, this is a powerhouse year.

Sissy Spacek gives one of her most acclaimed performances as the wife of a missing journalist as she clashes with her father in law while they look for her husband. It’s Sissy Spacek, she’s never not awesome. Next up is Julie Andrews, another Oscar darling ding what she does – Oscar bait musicals. Debra Winger received some acclaim for Urban Cowboy, but took it to the next level in An Officer And A Gentleman – she’s definitely bottom of the list here, but that says more about the character she’s playing and the strength of the category rather than her being poor. But you know there’s only one winner here – it’s Streep in maybe her most famous role, and beyond the ‘simple’ stuff like building the character, bringing the emotion, and being convincing, she also perfects another language and accent. This is the winner.

My Winner: Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep's Incomparable Performance in 'Sophie's Choice' | PopMatters

My Nominations: Meryl Streep. Jessica Lange. Sissy Spacek. Rosel Zech. Sigourney Weaver.

The three big hitters make it to my list, and are joined by another big hitter and someone unknown in the West. Weaver stars as Mel Gibson’s love interest in The Year Of Living Dangerously and while not the focus of the film, is as good as ever. Rosel Zech stars as the titular Veronika Voss, a pseudo-biographical portrayal of a German actress struggling to find work after WWII and spiralling downwards. It’s a terrific and tragic performance which few have seen.

My Winner: Meryl Streep

Let us know in the comments who your winner would be!

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!

Best Actress – 1980

Official Nominations: Sissy Spacek. Ellen Bursytn. Goldie Hawn. Mary Tyler Moore. Gena Rowlands.

That’s a pretty great line-up for any year, with mostly very strong performances across the board. Few of the films the performances can be found in are personal favourites and some of the films are both less memorable and less remembered than others. I could see three of these being respectable winners, but it’s difficult arguing against Sissy Spacek being the best choice. I’ve gone on the record plenty of times saying I’m not a fan of biopics and the Academy’s predictable, inevitable voting for these performances, but Sissy Spacek is one of the finest performers of her generation with this being up there are one of her finest showcases. It’s a film and performance made with love.

Nobody remembers Resurrection but Burstyn is suitably brilliant in it as the widow who discovers healing powers and becomes an overnight celebrity, a beacon of hope for the sick and religious alike, and an object of cynicism and ridicule from sceptics. It’s an interesting movie, and unusually not the sort of thing The Academy would usually go for. It doesn’t always hit the right balance between tone and subject matter, but the cast is great – Sam Shepard, Richard Farnsworth, Lois Smith, Jeffrey DeMunn. Goldie Hawn’s turn in Private Benjamin basically set her up for life while Mary Tyler Moore played against type in Ordinary People – as good as she is, it does feel like a nomination to prop up the film or to acknowledge her TV work rather than strictly role and performance based. Finally, Gena Rowlands earned another nomination working under her husband – I’m always pleased to see Rowlands nominated for awards because she was never a typical actress and she rarely picked traditional material. Both of these points ring true for Gloria.

My Winner: Sissy Spacek

The Silver Screen: Coal Miners Daughter - Second Home

My Nominations: Sissy Spacek. Ellen Bursytn. Goldie Hawn. Gena Rowlands. Angie Dickinson.

This should be fairly easy – I replace Mary Tyler Moore with Angie Dickinson from Dressed To Kill as the ill-fated housewife Kate who becomes the pray of Norman Bates a psychotic killer. She’s good, film’s good, all good. I’m not sure who else you would pick this year.

My Winner: Sissy Spacek.

Let us know in the comments who you would pick as winner!

Best Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Sally Field. Jill Clayburgh. Jane Fonda. Marsha Mason. Bette Midler.

Clayburgh and Fonda are back again from last year, along with Mason from the year before that – Mason doesn’t leave much of an impression on me in Chapter Two – the film itself is instantly forgettable, and Clayburgh and Fonda’s performances aren’t as strong or interesting as 1978 – Starting Over and The China Syndrome not exactly being exceptional. That leaves the two more iconic roles – Sally Field, who picked up the official win as Norma Rae, and Bette Midler as ‘not Janis Joplin’ in The Rose. I love both of these and either would be a winner in any of the last three years. I’m not a huge fan of either actress, but there’s no getting away from how good they are here, both are full-blooded, couldn’t give any more, energetic performances and while they are a product of their time they haven’t lost any of their power.

My Winner: Bette Midler

Bette Midler Breakout Film The Rose Being Adapted into a Broadway Musical | Broadway Buzz |

My Nominations: Bette Midler. Sally Field. Isabella Adjani. Sigourney Weaver. Natasha Kinski.

1979 was not the most interesting year for me where the Best Actress category was concerned – I take my two favourite performances from the Official category and add a couple of oversights. I was tempted to add Meryl Streep here for her dual performances in Manhattan and The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – but both are supporting roles. Isabella Adjani gets a nomination for one of the more sexual and seductive takes on Lucy Harker rather than the usual passive damsel – Nosferatu being vital watching for all Horror fans, while Natasha Kinski’s Tess is one of the better examples of a 19th Century heroine being brought kicking and screaming into the 20th Century. My winner is an example of a supporting character becoming the lead, and while her performance in the sequel is perhaps more worthy of the win she is my standout favourite this year. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley broke down many barriers and expectations for what an actress could portray on screen and almost single-handedly created a generation of female characters who could command a movie and drive a plot.

My Winner: Sigourney Weaver

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1978

Official Nominations: Ingrid Bergman. Jane Fonda. Jill Clayburgh. Ellen Burstyn. Geraldine Page.

This year it’s another fairly weak category. Fonda got her win for the underrated Coming Home, but I feel like the male performances are so strong as to make everyone else seem on a lower level. Ingrid Bergman delivers her final big screen performance, it’s good but I don’t rate it as highly as some from previous decades. Jill Clayburgh is great in An Unmarried Woman, running the gamut of emotions as her marriage, and life unravels catastrophically. The final two performances get votes more because of who the performers are rather than the performances themselves – fine again, but nothing special.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

My Nominations: Jill Clayburgh. Lynn Holly Johnson. Margot Kidder. Jamie Lee Curtis.

Only Clayburgh makes it to my choices, and to be honest I’ve struggled finding a collection of worthy performances. Ice Castles isn’t the best film in the world, but it’s sweet and where it does succeed is down almost entirely to Lynn Holly Johnson’s performance as a young woman who dreams of becoming an Ice Skating champion only to suffer a freak accident. Margot Kidder became just as iconic as Lois Lane as Christoper Reeves did as Superman, a performance often overlooked. Finally, Jamie Lee Curtis makes up the numbers as one of the most famous horror movie survivors Laurie Strode, whose screams and strength and perseverance essentially created both the Scream Queen and Final Girl archetypes. She wasn’t the first, but she’s the poster girl, and for a debut performance few have become more famous.

My Winner: Jill Clayburgh

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1977

Official Nominations: Diane Keaton. Anne Bancroft. Jane Fonda. Shirley Maclaine. Marsha Mason.

This is a strange one for me – obviously the Academy was going to pick Diane Keaton but for me the performance is kind of… meh? She smiles an awful lot, she sings well, but there’s too much whining to shroud the fact that there is little emotional depth. It’s a weird performance which ranges from perfectly natural in places to incredibly forced in others. It’s a pity there isn’t another truly great choice. Anne Bancroft and Shirley Maclaine are both good in The Turning Point while Jane Fonda is great in Julia as a woman trying to track down her titular childhood friend. Finally, Mason is largely overshadowed by Richard Dreyfuss in an okay performance – the general consensus is that we have 5 good actresses delivering five performances that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick.

My Winner: Jane Fonda


My Nominations: Diane Keaton. Carrie Fisher. Shelly Duvall. Jane Fonda. Isabelle Hupert.

A ha! I pick Diane Keaton anyway, but not for Annie Hall – for Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Shelly Duvall is not far behind with her manic portrayal of a woman on the verge in 3 Women, while Isabelle Hupert shines again in The Lacemaker – one of her more successful earlier roles. Finally, Carrie Fisher entered the hearts and minds of millions as the feisty Princess Leia, a woman who defined a decade and a genre. Any of the performances here are worthy of the win, but as I’m a selfish so and so and this is my little slice of the internet, it’s going to be Fisher FTW.

My Winner: Carrie Fisher.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1976

Official Nominations: Faye Dunaway. Marie Christine Barrault. Talia Shire. Sissy Spacek. Liv Ullmann.

I love and hate this category this year. There are at least three people I’d love to pick or can see winning officially. Faye Dunaway finally got her win this year, starring in Network as a clinical ratings whore, someone who will do and allow anything as long as it gets people watching. Dunaway heightens the satirical tone of the role, but it’s a powerful, convincing, and alarmingly accurate depiction of what we now see as commonplace in big business, and especially entertainment and media. Talia Shire stars as the mousy Adrian, the pet store worker who steals Rocky Balboa’s heart – her growth from extremely shy to coming out of her shell, while not extraordinary, is done with such honesty, heart, and conviction that you can’t help be swept up in it. The third front runner is Sissy Spacek as the shy, bullied Carrie White – mocked by her classmates, hounded and caged by her territorial zealot mother, she snaps and wipes out her entire school thanks to her telekinetic powers – you know the drill. Any of these three are deserving winners.

Marie Christine Barrault is more a staple of the French TV movie, occasionally appearing in wider big screen releases such as Cousin Cousine – I generally don’t enjoy films which resolve entirely around affairs but this one works because of its charm – Barrault being good as the wife of a cheating husband. However, it’s a 1975 movie and as per my rules, that means she’s out. Finally, Liv Ullmann gives a typically strong performance as yet another broken woman in yet another Bergman film – it’s definitely one of her best performances, my only issue being that it’s not all that different from what we’ve already seen her do for Bergman.

My Winner: Talia Shire

My Nominations: Faye Dunaway. Talia Shire. Sissy Spacek. Jodie Foster. Lauren Bacall.

The three main front runners make it over, and joining them in arguably her biggest and best year is the young Jodie Foster, who gets my nomination here for The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane. Lets not forget that this year she also made Taxi Driver, Freaky Friday, and Bugsy Malone – though the less said about those final two, the better. Nevertheless, these are each iconic films in their own way, but her lead performance in the creepy and little known The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane shows a mature command of the screen. Lauren Bacall adds some class to John Wayne’s final film The Shootist – a widow and mother who comes to form a mutual understanding and respect with the dying lead character.

My Winner: Talia Shire

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Actress – 1975

Official Nominations: Louise Fletcher. Isabelle Adjani. Ann-Margret. Glenda Jackson. Carol Kane.

Louise Fletcher won this year, and there isn’t really any other choice. Her Nurse Ratched is one of Cinema’s most notorious villains, all the more startling because of the fact that she is human – not murderous or outlandishly evil, just evil in the plainest sense – someone with power but a complete lack of compassion in a position which requires the highest levels of human understanding. She’s exquisite and holds her own against Nicholson like few others have.

In another year, Isabelle Adjani could have been winner, but here she had to be content with being the youngest nominee in this category. The Story Of Adele H is a Truffaut movies for people who don’t like Truffaut movies, and Adjani is great in her breakout role as Victor Hugo’s daughter. It’s always interesting when a foreigner in a foreign film gets nominated for an Acting Oscar, this one is all the more so given it was basically her breakout, big screen lead debut. Ann-Margret is another weird choice for this year, in what comes close to being a bewildering British romp that you imagine would alienate most US viewers. Again, it’s a great performance but it’s amusing that it saw a nomination. Glenda Jackson is a much more traditional vote and The Academy loved Jackson in the 70s, but it’s not something you’d pick for the win and the film is largely forgettable. Finally, Carol Kane stars as Gitl, a Jewish woman who moves to America, specifically New York and struggles to fit in while also trying to hold her family together. Another good performance, but not a hope against Fletcher.

My Winner: Louise Fletcher

My Nominations: Louise Fletcher. Isabelle Adjani. Karen Black. Veronica Cartwright. Susan Sarandon. Katharine Ross.

Only Fletcher and Adjani make it over to my list. Karen Black joins her for another standout performance in the maligned Day Of The Locust and Veronica Cartwright as the heroin addicted ex star deciding to resort to porn in the under-appreciated Inserts. Susan Sarandon gets her first major hit and major cult success as Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, holding her own in a memorable cast, while Katharine Ross both charms and chills as the original Stepford Wife(ves).

My Winner: Louise Fletcher

Let us know your winner in the comments!

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