Best Actor – 1983

Official Nominations: Robert Duvall. Michael Caine. Tom Conti. Tom Courtenay. Albert Finney.

In an unimpressive year, the Academy falls back on one of its favourite ‘bits’ – chucking the Best Actor award over to someone who should have won one already. Robert Duvall wins at the fourth attempt, for Tender Mercies. It’s a good performance – it’s Robert Duvall for fudge’s sake – and it feels a little cynical to say that it’s a heritage award. That’s what it is, but I’m not sure anyone else deserves the win over him, in this particular category in this particular year. He’s certainly not losing to Michael Caine in Educating Rita, a film I’ve never had much affection for.

In fact, the whole category is a little bit ironic; it’s like the non-movie version of the Hollywood villain trope – all British people are evil. You see, Robert Duvall, the sole American is the winner against Caine and three other Brits. Tom Conti, like Duvall in Tender Mercies, plays something of a soulful drunk and scumbag. Guess what – he’s good, but not winning against Duvall. Finally, Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney team up in The Dresser as <insert title here> and the actor he… dresses. Guess what – both good.

It’s a very ‘these actors are good and give good performances, but the movies are a little dull’ category.

My Winner: Robert Duvall

Tender Mercies (1983) starring Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin directed by Bruce Beresford Movie Review

My Nominations: Robert Duvall. Jeroen Krabbe. Robert De Niro. Tom Conti. Al Pacino. James Woods.

Look, I’m all for nominated people who deserved to have won or should have been nominated in a previous year, but not to the detriment of others in the current year. Especially when those people are Robert De Niro for The King Of Comedy and Al Pacino for fucking Scarface. 

So Duvall gets a nomination from me, and Conti does too, but for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, a film which doesn’t and didn’t get the credit it deserves. James Woods is manic, but not sheer insanity, in Videodrome while Jeroen Krabbe gives one of those full blooded, all-in performances in The Fourth Man. 

Which leaves an equal choice between De Niro and Pacino. Both actors are hamming it up to the extreme, in places, but between those extremes is some of the finest characterisation of their careers. Who do you go with? Who did I go with?

My Winner: Al Pacino

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Melvyn Douglas. Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Micky Rooney. Frederic Forrest.

The most notable thing about this category this year is in the age differences of the nominees – Melvyn Douglas won for Being There at age 79 and Justin Henry for Kramer vs Kramer at age 8. It’s difficult on the surface to see how an 8 year old could be nominated, but then you see his performance and get it – he’s fully committed and even though his parents probably still brushed his teeth for him, he achieves something few of us ever will. You get the sense he understands the character and he’s convincing. Douglas, there’s an argument for him being the lead in Being There depending on how you view the film, plays a dying businessman and adviser to the President who strikes up a friendship with the simple-minded Peter Sellers. It’s a gentle comedy and a quiet veteran performance.

Robert Duvall would normally be the sure-fire winner; it’s Apocalypse Now and he delivers one of the most famous, quotable speeches in movie history, strutting around topless as bombs drop and bullets whiz by. The problem is, it’s short a small role – pivotal and iconic, but he’s not on screen for long. Then again, he’s just so damn good. Mickey Rooney is another veteran nod – he’s good but doesn’t deliver anything out of the ordinary, while Frederic Forrest (also in Apocalypse Now) got a deserved nomination for The Rose as the driver who gets it on with Bette Middler’s ill-fated character. I’m torn between two here, but when I factor in who is the most memorable….

My Winner: Robert Duvall

Armed Storytelling: The Weaponry of Apocalypse | Apocalypse Now 101

My Nominations: Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Frederic Forrest. Marlon Brando. Ian Holm.

Look, we get it. Brando spurred you. It hurts. Get over it. There’s no way he doesn’t get nominated for Apocalypse Now – it just makes the whole thing look like a sham. Of course we know it is, but they could be less obvious. Brando as Kurtz – similar to Duvall’s Kilgore – isn’t on screen for a long time, but manages to squeeze more intensity and a more memorable performance into a few minutes than many actors do their entire careers. There’s iconic, then there’s Brando. My only other addition is Ian Holm for Alien, a performance played so straight that the revelation behind his character is still a shocker for newcomers. It’s one of the best quietly creepy performances you’ll ever see, with Holm calculating every word and movement to the extent that, when you watch it again knowing the twist, you’re looking for clues. This is a close one out of the main three, and any is a worthy winner.

My Winner: Ian Holm