The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1987

1987 bores me. It bores most people, I’d imagine. It’s just a boring year. The Last Emperor wins Best Picture. It’s an appropriate film, just, not all that exciting. Bernardo Bertolucci wins Best Director (talked about here), which is also a fine decision and pretty by the numbers.

Best Actor this year was Michael Douglas for Wall Street, which is one of the more interesting decisions made this year, but not the most interesting. That distinction goes to Best Supporting Actor, which Sean Connery won for The Untouchables. Those two awards are clearly the only two worth talking about here. The other two were also pretty ho-hum. Best Supporting Actress was Olympia Dukakis for Moonstruck. I don’t really care about the decision, though I’d have gone another way. And then there’s this category, which I just don’t understand at all. The Academy’s boner for Cher is just — weird.

So that’s 1987. The men they got right. The women, either no or who cares. And Picture/Director, acceptable, just not interesting.


And the nominees were…

Cher, Moonstruck

Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction

Holly Hunter, Broadcast News

Sally Kirkland, Anna

Meryl Streep, Ironweed

Cher — Moonstruck was a hard film for me to watch. It wasn’t bad. I’m sure people love it. The problem with it is that it’s a film about Italians from Brooklyn. And I grew up with these people. The kind of people who revel in their own stereotypes. And I hated every minute of it. I avoided all these people like the plague. And just seeing this sort of thing done in movies is something I just can’t do. And some of that is — everyone there loves this sort of shit, and because they love it, I automatically want no part of it. Plus — the people in this film, despite being Italian stereotypes, are scarily accurate Italian stereotypes. Like, the embellishment of the stereotype is done in terms of plot, so when they act over-the-top, it’s because that’s how the plot dictates they act. Everything else is scarily accurate about Italians. So — there’s really no way I could ever really love this film based on that. Just for full disclosure purposes.

As for the film itself, it’s about Cher, a middle-aged accountant, who is dating Danny Aiello, who is older, and just not her type of man. He’s neurotic, and crazy superstitious. He thinks being engaged to her might be killing his mother. And she’s engaged to him mostly out of pressure to be engaged. And he tells her he wants her to invite his younger brother, whom he hasn’t spoken to for several years, to the wedding. And then he leaves the country to visit his dying mother in Italy so as to not deal with the issue and make her do it. So she does it, and his brother shows up, and he’s Nicolas Cage. This, honestly, is the reason I still care about this movie. Because it’s a Cage film. And he’s amazing in everything.

Anyway, Cage is Aiello’s brother, and he only has one hand, and blames Aiello for his losing it in an accident. And he comes and starts having an affair with Cher. So they’re having an affair. Meanwhile, Cher’s mother, played by Olympia Dukakis, knows her husband, the great Vincent Gardenia, has a mistress, despite having the opportunity to have an affair of her own, doesn’t do it. She stays faithful to her husband, who isn’t faithful to her. And Cher feels guilty about the affair, and the movie is about that, and then it ends with Aiello telling Cher he thinks his mother will die if they get married, so she marries Cage instead, and everyone is happy.

The film is enjoyable. I’m sure people really love it, but I’m physically incapable of liking it any more than a, “It’s entertaining, and Cage is great.” I’m just not. As for Cher’s performance, she’s good, but, I really don’t see what necessitated that she actually win the award. I really put this as one of those, they really love Cher, awards. It has to be. I mean, she got nominated in 1983 for a performance that seemed like it was barely in the film. I think they just really like her. And, honestly, I can accept that. This wasn’t that strong a category. The other two who could have won — one won, and the other, I can see why they wouldn’t vote for it. So, I guess it’s fine. Let me just say, I won’t be voting for her.

Close — Fatal Attraction is a great film. I love this movie. It’s so great. Michael Douglas is a literary — something. It doesn’t matter. Business guy. Attends a lot of meetings, drinks scotch, makes deals, goes to fancy parties — that’s all you need to know. And he has a one night stand with a woman one night — that’s Glenn Close — and that’s all he figures it is. He has a weekend thing with her while his wife and daughter are out of town. However, thinking that’s all it was, he slowly starts finding out that this woman is not, quite — not all quite sane.

You see — she’s not the regular mistress. She’s a bit cray-cray. She starts acting all weird and overly in love, like, “Don’t leave me, I love you,” meanwhile, he thought they’d just have sex and that was it. She’s the kind that slits her wrists as the start of the argument. Know what I mean? So, she starts calling him, harassing him — kills his daughter’s pet rabbit and cooks it on the stove — you know how it is. And of course, this is taken to its natural, logical conclusion — her coming into the house to kill his wife so she can be with him. You know how it is.

It’s awesome. This is one of those films everybody knows about. You know this story even if you haven’t seen it. And if you say the name of that other movie that came out within the last two years, you and I will not longer have anything to say to one another. This is much better than that. That movie was just this movie, with black people. You know what I’m talking about.

Glenn Close is fucking awesome in the film. She really is. She was honestly good enough to win here. But — I understand why she didn’t win. It’s kind of a thriller, and, until now, they hadn’t really embraced this kind of performance. Kathy Bates would be the first to win, three years after this, and, honestly, what that performance had that this one has is a lack of sex. And I think the sexual nature of the film is really what turned Academy voters off of this performance. That’s just a guess. Going by the Brokeback Mountain school of thought, which is — they’ll nominate it, they’ll acknowledge it’s good, but, they won’t vote for it. That’s just what I think.

Close was good enough to win, and honestly, would probably be a #2 for a vote from me, but, honestly, over Cher, I’d take her any day. So, you know, shit happens. But even the fact that they wouldn’t vote for a thriller performance because Cher was in a more lighthearted, romantic film doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t vote for this next nominee.

Hunter — I love Broadcast News. It’s just so well done. I don’t love it as much as As Good as It Gets and Terms of Endearment, but it’s still a great, great film. The performances here are amazing.

The film is about news reporters. Holly Hunter is the perfectionist producer who is just a complete basket case, and is completely dedicated to her job. Albert Brooks is the reporter who’s constantly overlooked and put-upon, and also madly in love with Holly Hunter. William Hurt is the pretty-boy new anchor who is dumb as a brick but just so personable. And the film is about the three of them. There’s really no other way to explain it if you haven’t seen it. Basically, Holly Hunter is a great match for Albert Brooks based on their love of the news and the fact that they’re both intelligent. Holly Hunter, however, is in love with the way that William Hurt delivers the news. He’s able to continue talking smoothly on air while Holly Hunter is feeding him directions in his earpiece and also screaming at someone in the telephone. And he doesn’t get rattled. And that turns her on. And basically the film is about the love triangle between the three. Brooks loves Hunter, who loves Hurt, who fucks just about anything that moves. And it’s complicated. It’s a great movie.

Holly Hunter is fucking amazing here. The first time we see her (as an adult, she’s sitting at home, in bed, and literally just bursts into tears out of nowhere. She does this a lot. She has no social skills whatsoever, is fantastic at her job, but terrible at being a person. She really is great. It’s probably not something most people would vote for (I think), but I like it a lot. I thought, if you’re gonna go for something that’s more comedic, take her over Cher. But that’s just me.

Kirkland — Yeah. You know those small, indie performances that get nominated that you know, they’re just lucky to be nominated? This is one of those. The Richard Jenkins performance, to use one of the more recent examples. No matter what happens, you knew Sally Kirkland would never win this. Because who’s Sally Kirkland to the average filmgoer (and Academy member)? Exactly.

The film is about Kirkland, a Czech actress looking for work in New York. She has a friend of hers come and live with her, another immigrant, and the film is about her trying to get acting jobs. It’s really about — I guess — the difficulty to not only be an actor, but also an immigrant — in New York, trying to look for work, and how much has to be overcame just to find something. And of course she ends up in some weird ass play withs crazy props, where they do shit like, I don’t know, sacrifice cows and rub grapes all over their naked bodies and say all their lines backwards. That kind of shit. And basically, over the course of the film, the girl who came to live with her ends up getting work, and Kirkland ends up having a mental breakdown. Quel dommage.

The film is — you know, kind of there. Not really my cup of tea. I got through it okay, so I don’t hate it. I just, don’t really feel either way about it. It’s just a film. The performance for me is clearly a “just lucky to be nominated” performance, and, is my #5. I think we can all agree on that. Never gonna win.

Streep — Ironweed is an interesting film. It’s about hobos. Hobos played by Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. And also Tom Waits, but, he seems to play homeless a lot. Or at least, he gives off that vibe. The vagrant thing.

Anyway, the film is mostly about Nicholson. He had accidentally dropped and killed his infant son, and to punish himself, left his family and became an alcoholic hobo, which we’ve all done. Some longer than others. And he goes from town to town, working odd jobs to support his habit, and living in chuches and homeless shelters. And that’s the film, really. He has weird hallucinations, and basically, it’s one of those performances that, you know he’s just waiting until he dies, and will do so by the end of the film. And Meryl — she’s just kind of there. She plays his drinking buddy. She’s got her own problems, and — yeah, I really don’t know why she got nominated here other than the fact that the year was weak. Or just because she’s Meryl Streep. She does a good job, but, she always does a good job. So I don’t really see what separates this from the other performances. I don’t really care. She sings. That’s good enough for me. She was never going to win for this. How can you even remotely compare this to Sophie’s Choice? #4. No vote.

My Thoughts: Right off the bat, Meryl is out. Sorry, Meryl. You won for Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer, and frankly, this performance doesn’t stack up at all (and that’s what it takes when you’re going for a third so soon after the first two). Then, Sally Kirkland is good, but, not good enough for a vote. So she’s out. Just lucky to be nominated. Which leaves us with Cher, Hunter, and Close. Personally, I feel this race should have been between Holly Hunter and Glenn Close. Not only did I like their films better, but, they’re — actresses. I mean actresses at heart. Cher is a singer at heart. And it’s fine to be nominated, but she didn’t need to win. That, and, while she was good in the movie, what did she do but play an Italian stereotype and yell at Nicolas Cage? So, for me it’s between Hunter and Close. And while Close was wonderfully batshit insane in her movie, my heart goes to Holly Hunter. She’s just so wonderful here. She’s great in everything. I just liked the performance a lot, so I’m gonna vote for it, even though I know I shouldn’t.

(Though I will say, historically, I should be voting for Glenn Close, since Hunter got her Oscar six years after this and Close never got one. But, in just this category, I have to vote Holly.)

My Vote: Hunter

Should Have Won: Hunter, Close

Is the result acceptable?: I don’t think it is. I mean, Cher was great in the role, but, did she really need to win? I mean, okay, Holly Hunter wins one in 1993, and she’s in a comedy of sorts. (We’ll ignore the fact that Cher is also essentially in a comedy.) But Glenn Close doesn’t get it? Really? Which one of those is the more deserving of the Academy Award? But — it is what it is. I think this one more than others is very open to interpretation. Some are very objectively okay and not okay, but this one I think depends on where the individual looking at it falls.

Performances I suggest you see: Broadcast News is a fantastic film. Put it this way — if you like As Good As It Gets, Terms of Endearment — hell, even The Simpsons — you need to see this movie. Because Jim Brooks is the driving force behind all of that. Well — The Simpsons — he really was only big on the first two seasons. He’s the one that gave it that emotional hook. That thing that made everything so sweet on top of the funny. But, the films — those are all him. And this is one of his best. It’s just incredible, through and through. You really should see this movie. I really don’t see, based on those other things he’s done, why you wouldn’t see this film? Especially when this is clearly in the category with those films, and not in the category with Spanglish and How Do You Know — the not good Jim Brooks films.

Also, Fatal Attraction is fucking fantastic. Michael Douglas, batshit Glenn Close — it’s just great. This is the quintessential crazy white bitch movie. You need to see this in the way you need to see Lethal Weapon. That’s the quintessential buddy cop movie. This is the quintessential crazy white bitch movie. See it. It’s great.

And, Moonstruck, I guess, is enjoyable. I can’t recommend it as well as people who love it can, but it’s well done, and it’s a Cage movie. Those two things alone (along with the fact that it won two major Oscars) should necessitate a viewing.


5) Kirkland

4) Streep

3) Cher

2) Close

1) Hunter

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