The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1983

Still don’t know what to do with 1983. Or rather, how do you solve a problem like 1983? For the most part, 1983 is a boring year. Two of the five Best Picture nominees are pretty meh — The Dresser and Tender Mercies — one of them is amazing but was never going to win — The Big Chill — and then the other two…which do you pick? — Terms of Endearment and The Right Stuff. I love The Right Stuff, but, I don’t love it enough to call it a slam dunk Best Picture winner. And I love Terms of Endearment, but it’s also not quite a Best Picture winner even though it is. James L. Brooks also winning Best Director is kind of okay, and yet at the same time — I don’t know. I just don’t know what to do with this year.

Best Actor this year went to Robert Duvall, which — thank fucking god. The man was part of the biggest upset ever recorded in the Best Supporting Actor category in 1979 when he lost for Apocalypse Now. Interesting bit of fact about that whenever I get to it. But for now, even though the performance isn’t incredible (I actually compare it to Jeff Bridges’s Crazy Heart performance), the man deserved to win, so, we live with it. Best Actress this year went to Shirley MacLaine, which, also, fucking finally. That woman should have won 23 years before this. And I think she said that in her acceptance speech as well. Best Supporting Actor this year was Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment, because, why not? I think that was their reasoning. Why the fuck not? He was the big name in pretty weak category.

But, this year is very much a dead year for me because, the winners are clear cut, they’re not very interesting past — it’s about time — and the Best Picture choice is weak in terms of Best Picture choices, but, probably not a bad choice in terms of the nominees for this year. I’m pretty sure when the time comes it’ll be my vote, then again maybe not. I don’t know. It’s just — what do you do with a year like this?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1983

And the nominees were..

Cher, Silkwood

Glenn Close, The Big Chill

Amy Irving, Yentl

Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously

Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek

First off, I made it a rule when this Quest started that if I disagreed with at least three of the nominees that I’d check the year for alternatives. Well Mr. Chairman, I so disagree. (Please tell me someone caught that.)

Let’s see if this was a shitty category or just a shitty year. What else could have been nominated?  Well, I know the Academy would never have done it, but how about one of the Scarface ladies? Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio or Michelle Pfeiffer. I know they weren’t big on it back then, but, come on, both of them were good (I’d go Mastrantonio over Pfeiffer, but, Pfeiffer had more screen time, so, whichever). Maybe someone from To Be Or Not To Be? I haven’t seen this newer one yet so I can’t say for sure. Just throwing out the possibility. The Globes nominated Joanna Pacula for Gorky Park, was that performance any good? Barbara Carrera was nominated for Never Say Never Again, but something tells me that’s not something that would ever get on here (though, honestly, it would have livened this category up a bit). How about somebody from The Outsiders or Rumble Fish? Diane Lane? I’m just grasping for anything here. I haven’t even seen half the movies I’m talking about. Just Scarface so far. That’s the only one I can vouch for. What about Sandra Bernhard in The King of Comedy? She played batshit pretty well. Had some nice scenes of her tying up Jerry Lewis and being freaky and shit. Yeah, I guess that’s it. I didn’t really find anything. Wow. Step yo game up, 1983.

Cher — So, we have Silkwood. The film is about a bunch of workers at a nuclear power plant — a bunch meaning, mostly Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher. And they work there, and the first half of the film has to do with just their daily lives. And then midway through Meryl Streep ends up testing positive for large amounts of radiation. And then she starts discovering that the plant is being handled in an unsafe manner and that all the workers are being exposed to stuff they shouldn’t be. So she starts conducting an investigation against the wrongdoings of the plant, which may or may not have led to her being killed. The film doesn’t tell you one way or the other.

Anyway, it’s a good film. I liked it. Not a lot a lot, but, a fair amount. It’s a good film. And Cher is in it, mostly — I don’t know, she’s just there. She plays the roommate of Russell and Streep. They’re dating and she’s a lesbian. And she is mostly just there with them for most of the film, and then one night they see her come home with another woman. And — yeah, she’s just there for most of the movie. She didn’t really do much here. But I figure that they nominated her because she’s Cher and the Academy must just fucking love her. I think they like when female singers act and don’t stink up the joint. I also assume they love Cher because they gave her Best Actress in 1987 for a performance that’s not — it’s not something that should win somebody Best Actress. As for this one, I really could care less that she was nominated, because of how bad this category is, but, she was never gonna win in a million years. No vote.

Close — The Big Chill is a film I knew about when I started this Quest, but had no interest in seeing until I had to see it. I’m not really sure why. For some reason I had a bad connotation in my mind about it. It’s like Diner. There’s something about these 80s movies that I just had bad notions about. But then I saw it, and was amazed I hadn’t done so sooner.

The film is about a group of friends who get together after the suicide of another one of their friends. Many of them hadn’t seen each other since college, and they all gather at the funeral. And the beginning is all of them getting the phone call and going up to the church. And then they all meet and get together and all agree to stay at the same house for the weekend. And in the group is Kevin Kline and Glenn Close, who are married, Tom Berenger who is now a famous TV actor, Jeff Goldblum, a yuppie journalist who has a thing for sex, William Hurt, a Vietnam vet who is messed up from the war, JoBeth Williams, a housewife who hates her life now, Mary Kay Place, a lawyer who wants a kid, and Meg Tilly, who was dating the guy who offed himself when he died. So they’re all in the same house, and most of the film is just them hanging out. And of course shit happens and such, but the joy of the film is just watching them hang out together.

Now, as for Glenn Close, she plays Kevin Kline’s wife, who is having the toughest time with the suicide, because she had an affair with the guy five years prior. Kevin Kline is okay with it and they got it out of the way, but now she’s upset because the affair messed up her friendship with the guy. And the whole thing gets resolved when she decides to have her husband be the dude that gives Mary Kay Place the baby that she wants.

The performance is fine. In a strong year, she wouldn’t be anything better than a decent #3. But here, she actually shortlists for a vote. Mostly because she’s so fucking overdue. I mean, this was only her second nomination, but, knowing she never won one, that makes her overdue for me. This was perhaps the best chance she ever had at winning (unless you count Cher beating her in 1987, which — come on, Academy. Which one of those is the more respected actress?).

Hunt — Here’s one I guarantee almost nobody knows about unless you’re old enough to have seen it or are acquainted with the Academy Awards.

Here’s the film. Mel Gibson is a foreign correspondent from Australia in Indonesia to cover all the communist shit going on there. And he meets a bunch of journalists that are already there. He has trouble getting in with them because the dude before him just left without introducing the new guy to them. So this is the equivalent of being a free agent on a team that’s been playing together for several years. And Gibson eventually befriends a — let me get this right — Chinese-Australian dwarf, who is his primary photographer. Billy Kwan is his name. And this guy likes Gibson, so he starts letting him interview his contacts and such, and also introduces him to Sigourney Weaver, who Gibson starts sleeping with, mostly because Kwan starts pushing them together because he thinks they’d be great together. And then Kwan continues helping Gibson, and eventually, out of annoyance with the communist government’s inability to take care of its citizens, puts up a big banner outside his hotel room. Which, as you can imagine, is a big no-no. The police immediately come up to his room and throw him over the railing. Because, you know, they can do that shit. And Gibson starts covering the story that the Chinese are arming these guys, and in the middle of it Kwan dies. So now Gibson is upset, and wants a big story. And shit gets bad and he eventually flies out and is reunited with Weaver.

The film’s not very good. I didn’t like it too much. I didn’t notice much of a story, and it’s one of those 80s war films that I have no interest in because, well, I wasn’t living during that time. Then again, it’s like the Iraq War films now. I also have no interest in them.

Now, for those paying attention, you’re going to ask me — so, where in this movie is Linda Hunt, the Best Supporting Actress nominee? Well, I’ll tell you.

Remember the Chinese-Australian male dwarf photographer? Yeah, that was her.

Yes, you hear that right. Linda Hunt, played a male character in a movie. And unless you knew about it, you had no fucking idea. Here’s a video:

That’s her. Here’s a video of her winning the award:

Interesting, no? Doesn’t she kind of look like Edna Mode?

I think we can all agree, especially in a category like this, that a woman playing a man, convincingly, is probably just game over and we can all just give her the award right then and there. Right? Right.

Irving — Oh, Yentl. Yeah, I bet there are a lot of people who love this movie. I’m not one of them. I respect this movie, but, this to me is just Barbra Streisand’s passion project.

The film is about a Jewish girl who wants to be able to read scripture, which is forbidden by women in the Jewish faith. You can see why this isn’t exactly my cup of tea. And she cuts off her hair and goes around pretending to be a man. And she falls in love with a fellow student, who thinks she’s a dude and befriends her. And along the way she meets the dude’s fiance, who is Amy Irving. And Irving ends up falling for Streisand, and they actually get “married” at one point, but Streisand is in love with the dude, and so is Irving, really, so Streisand ends up getting them back together and then going off to travel to America to go read scripture there. And there’s singing throughout. Yeah, not really my cup of tea.

Amy Irving, however, is an actress I like very much. She’s very distinctive, with her curly hair, and has probably been in something you’ve seen and remembered her being in. She was in Carrie as Sue, the girl who isn’t really into torturing Carrie and actually wants to help her. She’s the one who engineers the whole, her boyfriend taking Carrie to prom — which, you see how that turns out. She’s actually the only one who survives. And she was in Micki + Maude, which is actually a really good film, about Dudley Moore being married to two women at the same time. It’s a nice screwball comedy and Dudley Moore is funny as always. She was also the singing voice of Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and was the voice of Miss Kitty in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. She also played Michael Douglas’s wife in Traffic, and most recently was on House as the suicidal author of the teenage detective novels.

Anyway, she’s good in this film. Not good enough to vote for, but, good. She does a good job. I kind of wish she was in something I could have voted for. But, unfortunately, she wasn’t. A shame. But, we’ll always have Yentl.

Woodard — Yeah, Cross Creek. This film might have the distinction of being one of the worst films I had to watch during this Oscar Quest. If I do compile that list (which, let’s face it, I will), this will almost certainly be near the top, or films that I saw on this Quest that I just did not like, at all. I had a feeling when even Netflix said I’d give it a 2.9. Normally they’re nice about it and are like, “3.1,” but here they’re like, “Nuh, uh, you ain’t gonna like this.” And they were right.

The film had some promise for me at first. Not much, of course. It managed to be one of the very last ones I rented from Netflix, which means I really wasn’t looking forward to it and it was one of the ones I got scraping the bottom of the barrel. But, Rip Torn was in it and was nominated for an Oscar for it — that’s cool. Rip Torn is awesome. And it was about the writing of the book “The Yearling,” which became one of my favorite movies from this Oscar Quest. So, that was at least something to grasp onto. But — wow.

First off, this movie begins with voiceover. That’s strike one. Another thing — it stars Mary Steenburgen. She’s not exactly someone who you think of as the lead role of a film. She’s more like a supporting character — as evidenced by the rest of her career. She plays an author who goes out to some cabin in the woods to write her next book, as her last one was rejected by her publisher. And she starts writing, and, there’s a subplot with a black housekeeper, played by Alfre Woodard, which, I’ll talk about her in a minute. And then there’s Rip Torn as a — native, if you will, whose daughter befriends a deer, which gives way to the novel. And Steenburgen befriends all of them, shit happens, it’s really boring, and then she’s inspired to write the novel when they have to kill the deer.

Anyway, Alfre Woodard. She plays a housekeeper. She shows up looking for work so she doesn’t have to go back to her abusive ex-boyfriend. And since Steenburgen just left her husband, she takes her on, even though there’s not much for her to do and she won’t be paid much. And she’s there. The first segment of her time in the film has to do with her cleaning the house while Steenburgen is trying to work. And it’s supposed to be funny, like, she keeps saying she’ll be quiet so she can work, but keeps making noise. Hi-larious, right?

It’s the kind of performance where, Woodard gives it her all. She does a good job with the performance, but — it’s just so racist. It feels so, no right. I can’t even think about voting for it. Why is it that almost every black actor nominated for an Academy Award played a racist stereotype character?

My Thoughts: Linda Hunt played a fucking man. A man. And the category being as weak as it is — this isn’t even close. Though, on that note, Glenn Close is a sentimental second here, not having ever won and all, even though she should have. She’d have been okay too.

My Vote: Hunt

Should Have Won: Hunt

Is the result acceptable?: She played a fucking man. And nobody noticed.

Performances I suggest you see: Uhh…The Big Chill is an amazing film. I think everyone should see it. Because it’s just a hangout film. It requires no effort, and you can just sit back and enjoy all these great actors doing their thing. I seriously recommend this movie. Very, very highly. And, I guess, The Year of Living Dangerously is worth seeing just to see Linda Hunt act as a man. But, that’s something I actually think you can do on Youtube. I really didn’t like the actual film too much outside of her (too brief) performance. Oh, Silkwood is also good. That’s worth seeing. So, mostly Silkwood, and definitely The Big Chill. If you take anything out of this category, it’s that you should definitely see The Big Chill. And that it’s a good idea for somebody to try to get a woman be a man in a film without letting anybody know about it. Because if you can succeed, there’s an Oscar in it.

Rankings: 

5) Woodard

4) Cher

3) Irving

2) Close

1) Hunt

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