The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1988

Best Director month is over. Back to the potpourri. It’s all gonna be jumbled again. Random category every day. This is where most of the work gets done on this. Hopefully, by the time the summer is over, I’ll have knocked out many of the categories. I’m trying to save the Best Pictures for last — or at least, at the point where there are only unavailables left and no more finished categories to do. Until then, let’s go back to the well. I’ve got lots of categories finished.

1988. We talked about this a little while ago. Rain Man won Best Picture and Best Director. Good film, product of a weak year. (Probably.) Solid choice, though, based on the category. Best Actor was Dustin Hoffman. Didn’t go full retard. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda and Best Supporting Actress was Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist. It feels like a solid, low-key year. Nothing overtly spectacular, but on the whole, good. Like a Best Picture nominee film, but one that clearly was never going to win.


And the nominees were…

Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons

Jodie Foster, The Accused

Melanie Griffith, Working Girl

Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark

Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist

Close — Glenn Close is one of those actresses who, I never really saw much of growing up. That’s one. She was in a bunch of films I’d seen, but I never really took notice of her. She was Cruella De Vil in the live action 101 Dalmatians, was in Mars Attacks!, and was the Vice President in Air Force One. That’s about all I saw her in. So when it came time to start this Oscar Quest, I saw she was nominated for five Oscars, I was like — “Well I’m never gonna vote for her. They probably put her on the list because they liked her.” Yeah — that was stupid of me. That accounts for like, two, maybe three nominations spread out over the course of a career. Like Julia Roberts. She never really did incredible work over her career, yet — three nominations. Five nominations is the kind of thing where — yeah, at least 80% of them were earned. And guess what? They were.

This was the last of Glenn Close’s nominations. After this was when she kind of faded into obscurity. She did Reversal of Fortune right after this, but, she spent most of that movie in a coma and narrating the whole thing. Then she went through the 90s, mostly popping up in those three films (along with a small cameo in Hook where she plays a man. Very small cameo), before disappearing entirely and showing up on television recently in The Shield and Damages.

So, anyway — this movie. Dangerous Liaisons is a great film. I didn’t expect much, going in. I was like, “Oh great, a costume drama.” Typical Oscar fare, usually boring as shit. This one wasn’t. Mostly because of Glenn Close. She plays a French noblewoman, who is a huge cunt. That’s really the best way to describe her. She sleeps with younger men and lives very decadently. Her most recent lover leaves her for a much younger woman (Uma Thurman), and she vows revenge. So she partners up with John Malkovich, who is kind of a scoundrel, but not entirely, to seduce Uma Thurman. Malkovich is kind of the guy who is willing to do despicable things, yet also has semi-good intentions. The kind of character who is set up to redeem himself. He wants to get with Michelle Pfeiffer, but agrees to help seduce Uma Thurman while also sleeping with Glenn Close. And the whole thing is about how they’re all fucking and lying to one another, and it’s all nasty business yet they’re all nice to one another in the open. All that business. It’s a really good movie. And Keanu Reeves is in it and that’s the most hysterical part. Him and Malkovich have a sword fight in it.

Anyway — Glenn Close is really good in this movie. She’s wonderfully bitchy and gets to show of her chest for he entire fucking movie. Seriously, I’ve never seen a lower neckline in my life. But, she plays a really good bitchy noblewoman. Unfortunately, though, I can’t vote for her. Which really sucks, since, she should have had an Oscar by this point. Which one I’ll say when I get to the specific category, but, definitely one. However, this is not the one. There are two better (one for certain, one that may be up for personal preference) performances that are worth voting for. However, if we’re going for complete fairness, voting people who don’t have Oscars over people with, then she is actually second choice. Still, not enough to vote for. Which fucking sucks. But, great performance, great film.

Foster — This is a movie I actually had never seen until about — three weeks ago. And I figured, “Okay, I’m sure the performance will be good and all. But 55% of this win is probably because it’s one of those “her time” deals.” Example: Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon. All Oscar winners. None really turned in extraordinary performances. They were all varying degrees of good. Except Bullock. That should have never came close to the Oscars. But, anyway, all actresses were well-liked, and the stars aligned for them to win the Oscar. It wasn’t so much the performance as it was the actress herself. That’s what I figured here. However, given the career Jodie Foster went on to have (and the fact that she won another one two years later), I’m actually gonna go and compare this one to Natalie Portman. The actress who had already proven her credibility as an actress, already had a nomination for Supporting Actress (that they possibly should have won), and delivered a fucking phenomenal performance that really did deserve the award.

The movie is about Sarah Tobias, who is kind of promiscuous woman. Not to the point of “she deserved it,” but, a fair amount. And one night, she’s in a bar, tipsy, a little high, and starts flirting with the men in there. It’s not uncommon behavior. But, one thing leads to another, and all of a sudden, she starts getting assaulted by one of the guys. And out of nowhere, all the men are cheering him on and encouraging him to go further. And then it becomes a gang rape. Another guy starts raping her and the rest of them are cheering them on, meanwhile nobody does anything and she’s screaming “no” the entire time. It’s fucking sickening. It really is an insane scene to watch. You wonder how something like that could possibly happen. But, it does.

So now, she’s pressing charges. And Kelly McGillis, aka chick from Top Gun, aka Tom Cruise’s Bottom Gun (the one that wasn’t Goose), is the lawyer who represents her. And they end up pleading down the case against the actual rapists, but that ends up not being enough, so the crux of the movie revolves around a trial against the guys who cheered the rapists on, and whether or not their actions constituted a crime. It’s a fascinating movie. I do really recommend it. It’s a proven fact, trial movies are always interesting.

As for the performance — wow. Jodie Foster is fucking great in this movie. First, what I notice about Jodie Foster’s best performances — which, by default, in this case, need to be her Oscar-winning performances — they do a good job of showing you how small she is. Because she’s tiny in both this and Silence of the Lambs. They make her out to be this almost-defenseless little thing, and yet, she’s a really strong person in both cases. And both of those things really work well together. Because, here, there are shots where you’re like, “Holy shit, she’s so small,” yet, she holds her own in both situations, which adds to both of the characters. What I really liked about this performance was how she refused to make the character glamorous. She plays her somewhat trashy, but very, very three-dimensional. I really liked this performance a lot and think she 100% deserved this Oscar.

Griffith — Yeah, I don’t know how this fucking movie got nominated for so many awards. Anyone? Anyone?

It’s a romantic comedy, for one. Two, Melanie Griffith is a secretary. She wants to be an executive. She gets assigned to work for Sigourney Weaver. She confides in her her dreams and ideas. Sigourney Weaver says she likes her and that her idea is idealistic and won’t work. Then Sigourney Weaver breaks her leg in a skiing accident. Melanie must take over going to meetings for Sigourney. This is her chance to shine. She meets Harrison Ford. They start fucking. Melanie discovers Sigourney stole her idea and is using it to give herself a promotion. It’s up to Melanie and Harrison to maintain that it was her idea even in the face of Sigourney being an evil bitch. That’s basically the movie.

I don’t know how this got on here. I don’t see anything in this movie that says Melanie Griffith should have been nominated for Best Actress. But you know what? The film only won an Oscar for Best Original Song, so it really doesn’t matter that it’s on here. It makes my decision easier. So, not vote.

Streep — Hey, Meryl. This is like the sixth of her 95 nominations. She already won one, and I think since it was still the 80s, giving her another one would need to have been a really fucking great performance since the other film she won for was Sophie’s Choice. You need to compare to that performance. Not exceed it, but at least compare favorably, in order to win the second one so soon. Now enough time has past where she can win another one and it would be okay. But back then, she wasn’t winning for this.

Oh, yeah, this is the movie about the mother who — let’s put it this way — “The dingo ate my baby!” That’s right. Not only was this an actual movie (which you probably knew), Meryl Streep was nominated for an Academy Award for it.

I don’t think I need to describe this movie past — dingo, takes mother’s baby. The police don’t believe her. They think that’s impossible. They put her on trial for murdering the baby. It puts her under a lot of stress. She goes to prison. Then at the very end they realize a dingo did take her baby. Meryl is freed, but at what price?

That’s the movie. It’s not very good, but the performance is fucking spectacular. Meryl is the queen of perfecting accents. Even if her accent isn’t very good, she’s built up credibility to the point where you just believe her. It gets to the point where, Sam Neill, an actual Australian (aka the main dude from Jurassic Park), who plays her husband — you think that maybe he’s the one who isn’t actually Australian. It’s fucked up how good she is at accents.

Anyway, the performance is really good. I liked it second best, behind Jodie Foster’s, but in terms of who should have gotten the Oscar (playing their game), she’s third choice behind Glenn Close, since she has one already. That’s just in the voting, though. Jodie Foster is still the choice.

Weaver — It’s about Dian Fossey. That lady that went and talked to gorillas and then was killed by poachers. That’s the film. She goes, studies, interacts, fights poachers, is killed. You know the drill. It’s mostly about the gorillas though. The poachers bit isn’t so big. It’s there, but the focus is on the gorillas. Sigourney is really spirited in the role and she definitely earned this nomination. Trouble is, that’s all the performance is — a nomination only performance. And that’s a shame. But on the other hand, makes my life easier. (Plus, voiceover. Eww.)

Also, I do want to point out — I may be wrong on this but, I’m doing it off the top of my head — I think this may be the first time an actor or actress was nominated for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in the same year and came away empty-handed. I know Jessica Lange did it in 1982, but got a Supporting Actress out of it. And Al Pacino got Best Actor in 1992, and Jamie Foxx got Best Actor in 2004 after being nominated for both. I think Sigourney Weaver was the first to come away empty-handed. The second was Cate Blanchett in 2007. I think those are the only two. If somehow somebody reading this is as up to date on this useless trivia as I am and knows if I’m wrong, let me know, because once I publish this, I won’t think about it anymore.

My Thoughts: Foster is really the choice. Streep was great, but I think the slight over-the-top nature of the film (I know it was real, but who can’t not think of that Seinfeld episode with Elaine making fun of the movie?) compounded with the fact that she won takes away from her getting a vote. And Glenn Close just didn’t do as good a job as Foster did in my eyes. So, for me it’s Jodie all the way.

My Vote: Foster

Should Have Won: Foster

Is the result acceptable?: Yup. Great decision.

Ones I suggest you see: Jodie Foster gives a great performance, and The Accused is a great movie. Well worth seeing. Dangerous Liaisons is also a great movie. Though some people might not like the costume drama part of it. But, if you watch it like high school in the 18th century, you’ll really enjoy it. Because it is like Mean Girls taking place amongst the social elite. That’s what’s so great about it. The Meryl movie is just great because it’s about a fucking Dingo taking her baby. How crazy is that? On the whole, though, not a very great movie. It’s real point of interest is watching Meryl perfectly pull off another fucking accent. Seriously, you’d think she was Australian. It’s almost embarrassing to see her put this much effort into something when everyone else is just two notches below.


5) Griffith

4) Weaver

3) Close

2) Streep

1) Foster

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