The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1972
1972 was The Godfather. So I think we all know just how good a year this was. (Note: Totally a coincidence with the Pic of the Day today.) Best Actor went to Brando. Simple and easy choice. Best Director went to Bob Fosse, which, is strange, yet, acceptable. The reason being, Coppola won for Part II, and, since the Academy really fucked up and awarded neither in 1979 (for whatever reason), they ended up both having one. So, even though Coppola lost for directing what many consider one of the top five or ten greatest movies ever made, it’s kind of acceptable if you don’t think about it too much.
Best Actress this year was Liza Minnelli for Cabaret, which is awesome, because she’s awesome and did a great job in the film (plus she was the only good choice. The others were way less interesting. Which leaves us with two categories — this one, which, well, I’ll get to that in a second, and Best Supporting Actress, which went to Eileen Heckart for Butterflies are Free. Personally, I think that category sucked, and there wasn’t really a clear cut winner, so, I count that as a blank. But, this category is a strange one, because, there are clearly three better choices, yet, they were all from the same film, which lead to a vote split. So, even if it’s upsetting that someone from The Godfather didn’t win, I do kind of get it. Because, look who the three were.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1972
And the nominees were…
Eddie Albert, The Heartbreak Kid
James Caan, The Godfather
Robert Duvall, The Godfather
Joel Grey, Cabaret
Al Pacino, The Godfather
Albert — Here’s a veteran nom that I fully condone. I like the veteran, plus he’s really funny in the movie.
Eddie Albert is a legend. He was also nominated once before in the category for Roman Holiday, a performance I wish I could have voted for, but, if you remember, Supporting Actor 1953 was a really tough year. Here, he gets to play a great stern father role.
The film is about a dude who gets married. That’s the very beginning. Typical Jewish wedding — the film was written by Elaine May, and her daughter plays the bride at the wedding. She also earned a nomination this year (and honestly was funny enough to probably have won in such a weak category). And they go on their honeymoon, to whatever tropical place it is. And very quickly, horrible things start happening to the bride. She gets crazy sunburned and has to stay in her room. And while she does, the groom goes out and sees Cybill Shepherd, and is instantly smitten by her. And he basically ignores his wife in order to go be with Cybill Shepherd. And the first half of the movie is basically him trying to get Cybill to agree to be with him so he could justify leaving his wife on his honeymoon. And then the second half of the film involves him trying to be with Cybill, which involves her father. And Eddie Albert is the father. He shows up very early and we immediately see him take a disliking to the guy trying to court his daughter. And she keeps bringing him along, and Albert just stares at him angrily.
Then later, the man divorces his wife and goes to her home town to be with her. And then Albert sits him down and says, “Look, stay the fuck away from my daughter or I will rip off your testicles with my bare hands.” This might actually be what he says. And for the rest of the movie, he keeps trying to discredit the guy, by asking him questions in order to trap him, and the guy keeps spinning a bunch of bullshit that the mother is taken in by, stuff that he clearly knows is the biggest pile of horse shit in the world. And the end of the film is pretty good. He sits the dude down, right as the dude is asking for her hand in marriage, and says, “How much will it take for you to crawl back up whatever shit pile you came from?” And I’m about 70% sure, but not 100% sure, that the dude is like, “I don’t want any money. I’m really in love with her,” and Albert is like, “Fuck that. You’ll go away for the right price,” and the dude is like, “No I won’t.” And Albert is like, “Oh I know you will,” and keeps raising his price. And the part I’m pretty sure about is that the dude actually does end up taking the money. I believe. Either that or he marries Cybill and then very quickly becomes disinterested in the marriage. I forget which it is, because I remember thinking both would be interesting endings. I don’t know why I’m blanking on the ending. I think it’s because I wanted it to be the other one.
Anyway, the film is pretty good. It’s not perfect, and definitely has its flaws, which is why I can see why the Farrelly brothers tried to remake it thirty five years later. Unfortunately, they did it during a decade where their comedy well ran dry and the remake ended up sucking balls. But, we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about Eddie Albert. Albert is, understandably, really great in the movie, in his brief set of scenes. It’s not a performance you can vote for to win — in fact, by default he is at best #4 — but, I’m glad he was nominated. He’s awesome.
Caan — Oh boy. My favorite. A film with multiple nominations. Three, even. And it’s The Godfather, so, how much fucking synopsis recap is needed?
Actually, fuck it. If I’m gonna draw the line somewhere, it’s gonna be here. No synopsis for you. Everyone in the country should know this film. Let’s just get into the performances. I will though, tell you who they played, because some people just aren’t that good with actor’s names. (Which, even so, these are three pretty famous fucking people. But, keep in mind, I know some really stupid people. Ever just walk around in this country? The streets are full of them.)
Caan played Santino. The older brother. I fucking loved this character. I thought he was great. I think it will, for most people, come down between Caan and Pacino. Because Santino and Michael are the two strong performances here. They’re the ones with the most impact. I’m not even going to waste any more time with it except to say — Caan and Pacino are the two I’m deciding between.
Duvall — Duvall plays Tom Hagen, the lawyer of the family and adopted brother. He was really good here, and shared a lot of great scenes, including that great scene where Brando finds out Santino has been killed. But, he was really low key in a lot of the scenes, and I think, with both Caan and Pacino having more explosive scenes (Note: Damn shame about Apollonia.), Duvall just becomes by default the third best here. Not that anybody would have been upset with him winning. With the choice between him or a non-Godfather nomination winning, I think everyone would gladly take him and be like, “Well he was also great.” But, for me, it’s clearly between the other two in the category.
I love how this film has turned this article completely on its head. It’s supposed to be about recommending the movies and then being like, “So, the performance…” Here, it’s like, “Well, we all know about the movie, so, the performance…” It’s weird having to spend more time on the subjective part.
Grey — Here’s the thing. I love Cabaret. I think this performance fits perfect within the confines of that movie. But, in terms of the Academy Awards — what the fuck was it doing on this list?
The film is about the last days of Germany before the Nazis took over. Michael York (aka Basil Exposition from Austin Powers) moves into Germany as Liza Minnelli’s roommate. She’s a cabaret singer who loves the cabaret lifestyle. And she tries to seduce him, but it doesn’t work, so she figures he must be gay. But it’s more of a “all my relationships with women failed, so, maybe by default” kind of thing. They eventually start sleeping together and then another dude shows up, and both of them end up sleeping with him, and then Minnelli gets pregnant, and she doesn’t know which of the men is the father, but, she loves being in the cabaret anyway, so she gets an abortion, and throughout all of this, the Nazis take over Germany. The film has that memorable last shot where the camera zooms in on the audience and the Nazis are in the club and Heil Hitler once the song is done. It’s a great film. Great musical. Very Bob Fosse. You can see where Rob Marshall got a lot of his Chicago ideas. (Which, strangely, Chicago came out exactly thirty years after this, and won Best Picture and not Best Director. Maybe in a weird equilibrium kind of way, this year explains why he didn’t win despite winning the DGA award.)
The Master of Ceremonies isn’t even a character in the film. First off, we’re not sure if it’s a man or a woman. That’s part of the character. It’s meant to be androgynous. Second, all he does is act as narrator. He comes out like, “Welcome, boys and girls, to the Cabaret.” And he’s basically your introduction into the world, and he navigates the audience through it and his songs are basically fillers between the stories. He doesn’t actually do anything within the world of the story. When you see the film, you can see why I’m so convinced this was a product of a vote split.
For me, he has to be a #5, just because the other three Godfather performances were so clearly better and because Eddie Albert is the veteran and should have/could have won before. It’s not that Grey is bad in the role, it’s just — this isn’t the kind of role that wins Oscars unless something happened.
Pacino — Pacino is what makes this category tough. In a way, he’s kind of a lead role. In a way, he has more screen time than Brando, but let’s not go down that road, because, Brando hangs over the whole film. But, still, Pacino is kind of a co-lead here, and that throws a monkey wrench into my plans. I normally hate voting for the co-lead in a supporting category, but on the other hand — Pacino was so fucking good. (He was Michael, by the way, stupid people.)
Pacino clearly gets the best story arc of the film dedicated to him, as the entire series is about him. (It’s also about Brando, but, present day, it’s about him, mostly.) He gets to show up, disinterested in the family business, then come back and kill a dude (and a cop) because they tried to kill his father, then be exiled in Italy, see his wife get blown up (Note: Damn shame about Apollonia.), come back all hardened-like, take over the family business, then start down a road that you know, will ruin him. Even if you hadn’t seen the second one. But, for me, it’s between him and Caan, because, Caan is just so great as Santino.
My Thoughts: The three best performances here are clearly the three Godfather performances. Now, in the order of those, Duvall is, for me, number three. And the vote comes down to Pacino and Caan. Personally, I enjoyed Caan’s performance here the best, even though Pacino had more of an arc to his character. Not that an arc means anything, because the characters are so well drawn, both of them very much deserved this award. The thing that separates it for me is the fact that, A) Pacino does have sort of a co-lead role. And I think the co-lead role in the Supporting category is automatically the one that people tend to vote for more. Think Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People. Dude was the lead of the movie. But Donald Sutherland got top billing, so he was the default lead actor. So Hutton, being a lead in supporting, was an easy winner. Big fish, small pond, kind of deal. Normally I’m against it, but here, I’m for it. But the point with that is, I feel like it would lead other people to vote for it, which makes me want to not vote for it. That’s kind of a real roundabout way to rationalize my eventual decision. My B) reason for not voting Pacino is — Caan is so strong in his performance that, when Santino is killed out on the highway, you actually see the air get let out of the film for a little bit. That’s why I want to vote for it more. For like ten minutes after Santino is dead you’re like, “Fuck, I can’t believe he’s gone.” And then the film is back to being amazing and life moves on. So, for me, Caan’s performance is the one I want to vote for. And using hindsight, Pacino has an Oscar, so, I want to spread the wealth. So, I vote Caan. Even though either him or Pacino (and even Duvall) were the best choices here.
It’s probably because of people like me that none of these performances won. But you know what? I’m voting forty years later and for fun, so, fuck that.
My Vote: Caan
Should Have Won: Caan, Pacino (also Duvall)
Is the result acceptable?: No. I know the vote split and all — that’s clearly what this was. There’s no way you can tell me Grey’s performance was so good that everyone voted for him over the other three. There was clearly a vote split here between Pacino and Caan and Duvall — but they really should have rallied behind one of the three Godfather performances, whichever it was. So, understandable, not not acceptable.
Performances I suggest you see: It’s the fucking Godfather. I think you know what the deal is by now. If not, we’re done here. And Cabaret is really good. It’s not my favorite Fosse film (or even Fosse musical) — but we all know my love of All That Jazz. But the film itself was really good, and Liza Minnelli definitely deserved her Oscar for it. It’s a real great film that I highly, highly recommend. And The Heartbreak Kid is fun too. Take it or leave it, if you’re looking for a comedy from the 70s.