The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1989

Haven’t had one of these in a while. A category where I actually, by my rules, need to look for alternatives. Since it has been a while — recap:

My rule is, in any given category, if I disagree with at least 3 of the nominees, and really think the category is weak, I’ll look up alternatives from other films of the year and see if the category is weak because the year was weak or because the Academy made shitty picks.

First, before I get into the category, let’s recap the rest of the 1989 Oscar year, because it’s not much better. Best Picture went to Driving Miss Daisy, and I think those three words already evoke a reaction. This is one of those movies that people know — “They fucked up.” The movie isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests, but — it was up against Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poet’s Society, Field of Dreams, and My Left Foot — it’s clearly not the best film from that list. Best Actor went to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot, in a no-brainer acting decision. Dude was incredible. Best Actress went to Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy, which is cool, I guess. She was like 90 at the time. Best Supporting Actor went to Denzel Washington in Glory, and Best Director, which I’ve discussed already, went to Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July.

Now, let’s get back to the alternatives. Honestly, I can’t find any. Wow. This year was weak for supporting actresses. The best I can do is, maybe, someone from Do the Right Thing? Ruby Dee? Either way, poor showing.


And the nominees are…

Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot

Anjelica Huston, Enemies, A Love Story

Lena Olin, Enemies, A Love Story

Julia Roberts, Steel Magnolias

Diane Wiest, Parenthood

Fricker — I’m gonna put this out on front street right now — this is the only nominee in this category worth voting for. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it’s the only one worth being nominated. At best Diane Wiest would be a number four or a five in a strong category. Here she’s a number two. That’s how fucking bad this category is.

Anyway, the film is a masterpiece. It’s about Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy. And the first hour of the film is him as a child with the disease. There’s no plot per say, it’s just scenes of him with the disease. And it’s fucking spellbinding. Brenda Fricker plays his mother, and many of the early scenes consist of her trying to keep her family together, all of the kids, the husband, and especially Christy. And she is fucking incredible. Seriously, just watch the performance, there’s really no one else you can vote for here.

The only real snag is that she’s sort of a lead role. But, you know, no one’s complaining here, because if she did go lead, this category would be barren. So, we’ll accept it. But really, she’s the only person to vote for here, and the film is fucking incredible.

This scene I’m about to post has nothing to do with Brenda Fricker’s or Daniel Day Lewis’s performance, but it is perhaps the best (and is certainly my favorite) scene in the film. This is why this film is so brilliant.

Do yourself a favor and check this film out. You won’t regret it.

Also, in case you don’t recognize the name Brenda Fricker off the top of your head, she played the bird woman in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and the foster mother of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield.

Huston — This is going to be a real quick article. Not only are there two nominees from this film, I hated the film, so, it’ll be even quicker than usual.

The film is about a Jewish dude who survived the holocaust, and he’s in New York and is dating this woman. That’s Lena Olin. I say dating, but fucking is more appropriately the word. They fuck a lot. Half this movie is sex scenes. I’m not kidding. They fuck a lot. And he’s upset and depressed because Anjelica Huston, his wife, he thinks died over in the concentration camp. But lo and behold, she shows up at his doorstep one day and now he has to deal with his wife and the woman he’s fucking. And he basically just fucks both for the rest of the film. That’s what I got out of this movie, I have no idea why it was made or how it managed three Oscar nominations. Nothing happens, and I think it was meant to be “realistic” for that very reason. All I remembered about this film was that he was depressed, had flashbacks, and they fucked, lots. And that was right after I got done watching it. That is not an exaggeration. Definitely in the top ten of my least favorite films I saw during this Quest. Oh, god this movie was painful to watch.

So, Anjelica Huston. She was — in this movie. She — did stuff. I honestly saw nothing here to warrant a nomination. She won five years earlier, so — yeah. I got nothing.

Olin — Oh hey, nomination number two. She gets to be #4 on the rankings because she’s in more of the sex scenes. I consider that more of a performance. I at least paid attention during those. Mostly because he was so hairy and they sweat, lots. I appreciate movies going that extra mile to show real sex sweat and not movie sex sweat. You know, when they look like they’ve been covered in oil? Yeah, this wasn’t that. Ron Silver’s a hairy dude. That shit was real perspiration. And that, to me, earns her #4. Otherwise — seriously — what the fuck do people see in this movie? I don’t get it.

Roberts — Well now, onto Julia. This is nothing more than an up-and-comer nomination. Pure and simple. She did nothing in this movie except act all Julia Roberts-y and die. That is it. Not a joke.

Okay, here’s the movie. Sally Field is a southern mother — big fucking stretch — and Julia Roberts is getting married. And the first, 45 minutes take place on the wedding day. And Sally’s going crazy while Julia is all happy and “I’m gonna be married,” and everyone else is helping in the chaos. Dolly Parton is a hairdresser, Daryl Hannah is a new hairdresser who shows up for her first day, Olympia Dukakis is either another hairdresser or just a housewife who hangs out with them, and Shirley MacLaine is an old geezer who is angry all the time. And they talk about women shit for a while. And then Julia is revealed to have seizures. It’s a diabetic thing. And you know she’ll be dead by it before the movie ends. And sure enough, that’s what happens. It’s a pretty generic film. I bet women love it, though. I can see it having that effect.

Honestly, Julia’s nomination seems like the Academy wanting to go for a young person they liked over the veteran. Just watching this movie you can see that they wanted the Shirley MacLaine nomination here. She was clearly the “Supporting” role in this film. It’s like The Departed. Pay attention folks, I’m making history here with this comparison. Julia Roberts is the Mark Wahlberg to Shirley MacLaine’s Jack Nicholson. I think that analogy pretty much covers it. And it connects to Terms of Endearment, which I like. Makes it have more depth, I feel. Anyway, Julia’s here. Nothing special. Probably gonna get nominated anyway, even if I don’t agree with it. Just by having a pulse in this film makes her #3. Never gonna get a vote.

Wiest — And, Diane Wiest. I like Diane Wiest as an actress, but with two wins from two films I don’t think she should have won for, she was never gonna get voted for here either. However —

I did like this movie. It’s a harmless, mostly fun comedy. I’ve never really been a fan of Steve Martin humor. That is, his movies. Dude’s a fucking funny guy. But his movies — never really appealed to me. I don’t know why. I wish they did, but they just don’t. I feel like I’m missing out. But hey, shit happens. Dude’s fucking funny though. And his storyline in this movie was perhaps my least favorite. Although, that might be because Diane Wiest’s segment is so fucking good.

Diane Wiest plays a single mother — whose husband divorced her several years prior — and is trying to maintain control over her household. Her daughter is 18 and refuses to listen to her at all, and her son, Joaquin Phoenix, is refusing to talk to her and is leaving the house without a word and is locking himself in his room all the time. And she’s seeing her parenting fall apart in front of her. And she starts drinking — not like, alcoholic drinking but like, comedic drinking. And she tries to date and all, but really the brunt of the story is with the kids. Her daughter is dating Keanu Reeves, who is fucking amazing in this movie. He’s like Ted from Bill and Ted mixed with 80s Nicolas Cage. It’s fucking great. And Diane Wiest is trying to give her daughter simple advice like, “Hey, you might not actually marry this dude like he’s saying” — because Keanu’s like that guy who’s really dumb and is like, “I’m gonna marry you babe, I love you. You’re my whole world. I’m gonna go into business with my brothers. We’re gonna paint cars and race them!” That kind of guy — and Wiest is like, “Don’t do anything stupid, because it’s all on you then,” and the daughter doesn’t want any part of it. And she gets knocked up. And to top it off, Wiest finds out that Joaquin, the reason he’s been sneaking around, is because he’s started masturbating, and of course there’s a scene where she finds out about it in the most embarrassing fashion possible. And she goes about the film trying to be like, “Hey, I have practical advice here. I’m not trying to control your life, I’m jut trying to help you,” and her kids don’t listen to her and shit happens and she needs to roll with the punches.

It’s a funny performance. She did deserve the nomination. But she deserved it in the sense that — in a normal year, a regular year in this category, she’d be a #4 at best, and that’s because I liked the performance. Here, she’s #2. That’s fucking disgraceful, 1989. No vote, this is clearly Brenda Fricker’s category, but the performance is good and I liked it. So there’s that.

My Thoughts: Brenda Fricker is the only person worth voting for in this category. Despite the fact that she’s kind of the female lead of the film, I’m glad they put her here, because otherwise this category would have no one to vote for. No one else comes close to Fricker.

My Vote: Fricker

Should Have Won: Fricker

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. The only one there could have been here.

Ones I suggest you see: Brenda Fricker gives by far the best performance, and if you haven’t seen My Left Foot, you really, really should. It’s an amazing, amazing film. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a performance that needs to be seen to be believed. And on the other side, I guess, Parenthood is a mostly enjoyable film. You need to go for Steve Martin humor, though. Or, really want to see Keanu Reeves as a kid. Or Joaquin Phoenix as a kid, for that matter. It’s worthwhile.


5) Huston

4) Olin

3) Roberts

2) Wiest

1) Fricker

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