The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1968

1968 is a weak year. In all. Mostly because none of the Best Picture choices were particularly strong. Oliver! was the best choice they had there. Even if they’d have nominated 2001: A Space Odyssey like I wanted them to, I know they’d have never voted for it. The Academy isn’t cool like that. They don’t like weird shit.

Carol Reed wins Best Director  for Olliver!, a good decision on its own (he got so royally fucked for The Third Man), but, Kubrick was really the one who should have won there. Best Actor was Cliff Robertson for Charly, which was a bad decision, because he beat Peter O’Toole, who really should have won that category and got the Oscar he so richly deserves. Then Best Actress was a tie between Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl. Streisand should have won there, so even though there’s a tie, it’s a good decision. Best Supporting Actress was Ruth Gordon for Rosemary’s Baby, which is a good decision, even though I’d have gone another way.

So that’s 1968. Pretty ho hum in general. Nothing particularly great. And then there’s this category, which also seems by the numbers. It doesn’t help to make this year any interesting.


And the nominees were…

Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses

Seymour Cassel, Faces

Daniel Massey, Star!

Jack Wild, Oliver!

Gene Wilder, The Producers

Albertson — Jack Albertson is an actor you may know as Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. So, just knowing that, and knowing Grandpa Joe won an Oscar, that’s cool. He was also really good in the film, which is another plus.

The film is one of those chamber dramas. It takes place entirely (aside from a few miniscule scenes) in one apartment. Martin Sheen (in his second film, and his first real film) plays a man just home from Vietnam, who moves back in with his parents. And now he’s much more disillusioned and is much more knowledgable about the war than he was when he left. And his liberal attitude conflicts with his father’s (Jack Albertson’s) conservative values. However, originally, Sheen was much closer with his mother (played by Patricia Neal), but now he finds himself bonding with his father, despite all the arguments. And there’s a lot of conflict, like, Albertson cheats on Neal a bunch, and Sheen tries to be nice and do nice things for his mother under the guise of his father doing them, but his father is just a schmuck and screws it up, and they all argue a bunch because it seems like the two parents hate one another but love their son, and want him to side with them and not the other. And basically Sheen says he’s moving out, and they all agree on it and have breakfast. That’s the film.

It’s actually much better than it sounds. I thought all the actors did a great job. Just know, though, this is one of those play films, where three or four characters (here it’s three) are on screen the whole time and it’s just them working out their issues. Think like Closer. One of those films. Great for actors, and interesting enough as long as you buy into what’s going on. I thought it was good. Albertson was by far the best thing about it. However, he is kind of a lead, even though I understand why he went Supporting. Personally, though, even though I completely understand why he won, wouldn’t vote for him, and, looking at the nominees in this category, you should immediately be able to figure out why (and understand why I feel that way as well).

Cassel — Faces is a film that I didn’t really enjoy, but didn’t hate either. It’s a Cassavetes film, and I’m not the biggest fan of his style. It’s basically indie/documentary style. He puts a few people in a room, holds the camera, and lets them act. And really, that only works if the actors are great and/or the situation is interesting. In A Woman Under the Influence, it worked. Here, I didn’t give a shit about anything that happened. That’s not to say it was bad, I just, didn’t care about it.

The film is about a husband and wife who have a fight and agree to split up. And then what happens to them over the course of the evening. John Marley (Ali MacGraw’s father in Love Story and Jack Woltz in The Godfather — studio exec with the horse) is the husband and Lynn Carlin is the wife. Marley goes out and gets his businessman friend and some hookers, and parties with them, all the while talking about how misery is inevitable. Then Carlin goes out clubbing with her girlfriends and meets Seymour Cassel (he’s in all the Wes Anderson movies, by the way. Schwartzman’s father in Rushmore and Esteban in The Life Aquatic), who is this nice dude who comes and hangs out with them. And he’s fun and charming — the kind of dude who wants to dance with people without any pretense or anything — and eventually the women send Lynn Carlin off with him, even though she’s been sitting there quietly, sad, all night. And they go together to a hotel, and then instead of sleeping with him, she cries and says she loves her husband. Basically the film is about everyone being stuck being miserable. It’s not exactly uplifting.

Cassel was fine, I guess, in the role. But, I really only like him on this list because I love him as an actor. I like that he got recognized. But here, I rank him as #5. I just wasn’t interested in the film or his performance at all.

Massey — Star! is a biopic of Gertrude Lawrence, who was basically a huge vaudeville star who also said “fuck conventions.” Kind of like Isadora Duncan, who also had a movie produced about her this same year. Lawrence was a woman who openly slept around with people, slept with women — just — didn’t care what anyone thought, she was gonna have a good time. And she died really young because she drank and partied and neglected her health.

Anyway, Julie Andrews plays Gertrude Lawrence, so clearly the film isn’t that crazy. It’s an interesting film, because it was directed by Robert Wise, who did some interesting things with it. There are lots of musical numbers, but mainly the film is about Lawrence trying to succeed, succeeding, and also watching a film about her life, and commenting on it, and then sleeping around with a bunch of men — it’s really long and not always interesting. But, the part we care about is Daniel Massey. He plays Gertrude’s friend, Noël Coward. That Noël Coward. And he’s basically her gay best friend, whom she talks to everything about. And he’s there, is very dry, and just sits there, cracking wise about everything. He’s very, very droll, and very funny in the film. I really enjoyed the performance a lot. Problem is, I wouldn’t vote for it. But I’m glad it got nominated. Massey is really the bright point of this film. He shows up, makes comments, and it’s just wonderful. As for a vote though — nah.

Wild — Oliver! is just such a wonderful film. It’s Oliver Twist, which is just a great story, done via musical. With the great numbers “Food, Glorious Food,” “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” and “Consider Yourself.” It’s just lovely, from start to finish.

You know the story, I’m assuming. Orphan boy, wants some more, leaves workhouse, gets put with nice family, ends up being framed as a pickpocket, lives with pickpockets, gets in some shit, ends up okay, because it’s Dickens. Great story. Classic story. It’s been made so many times. You have to have seen one version of it. This one is definitely the most enjoyable version, if not the one you probably want to go to for help in class.

Anyway, Jack Wild plays the Arftul Dodger. Which, I love that he got nominated. He must have been like, eleven here. And he was awesome in the film. Everybody loves the Artful Dodger. Personally, he’d have been my #1 performance (not for a vote, just the rankings), had we not had the final performance on this list on there, but, still, Wild did a great job, and I’m so glad he was nominated. Him and Ron Moody were just perfect in this film. Wild wasn’t going to win, so it’s just great that he’s here. I’ll always be happy about that.

Wilder — And … Gene Wilder. How the fuck did he not win here? (Note: I know exactly why. I just wanted to ask it anyway.) The Producers, is a perfect film. It’s hysterical. I refuse to tell you anything about it past the most general synopsis I can, just because, if you haven’t seen this, you might as well just end it all.

A broke producer who makes nothing but flops meets a timid accountant who discovers it’s possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit. They set out to do this, by producing the “wrong play,” with the “wrong cast,” “wrong director” — basically everything they can to ensure this thing fails. And, naturally, hilarity ensues. Gene Wilder plays the accountant.

He is fucking hysterical in this film. It’s really Zero Mostel’s movie, but, we’ll take the Wilder nomination. He had an easier category. And, honestly, he’s my vote all the way. How do you not vote for this performance. To me, this is Willy Wonka, The Waco Kid, and Victor Frankenstein (Frahnk-un-shtein) all rolled into one. Just give the man an Oscar and call it a day. Am I right?

My Thoughts: This category for me is legitimately between Willy Wonka and Grandpa Joe. And, personally, I vote Gene Wilder, because I loved his performance so much. Albertson gave the best “Oscar” performance, so I can see why he won. Still not gonna change my vote at all.

My Vote: Wilder

Should Have Won: Wilder, Albertson (which is just so fucking funny)

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. Albertson was great. I just, really want Gene Wilder to win, so I stand by saying he should have won. But, objectively, yes, this is very acceptable.

Performances I suggest you see: The Producers is a perfect film, and if you have not seen this version, you don’t deserve to be allowed to watch movies. I don’t care if you see it on stage, but if you’ve seen that horrible film version of the musical and think that counts, you might want to look into some blood thinner medication and a pack of razors. I mean, really, why would you not see this movie?

Oliver! is also, a wonderful film. It’s just so much fun. And you get to see the film version of a famous book. So as long as you’re not in high school and are supposed to be reading the book at the time, you can totally count that as actually reading it. Adults don’t know. They’re like the Honey Badger. They don’t care. See this movie. It’s awesome. The songs are just so good. They don’t write musical numbers like this anymore.

The Subject Was Roses is also a very good film. Not the easiest film to watch — and I say that simply because we have those first two on this list — but it’s very well done. The acting is great, and is just a good film. Isn’t that enough of a recommendation? It’s a good film.

And, Star!, it’s long, kinda boring, but has its moments. And Daniel Massey is by far the best thing about it. So, that’s something. you don’t need to see it, but, Robert Wise did a good job directing it, so that’s something you might want to look into, and it’s Julie Andrews, so you get to see her singing and dancing, and Daniel Massey is awesome as Noël Coward. You don’t need to see it, but if you’re interested in any of those things (or you want to see what a big budget musical failure in the late 60s looked like), this is a film to watch. Otherwise, just watch some clips of Massey as Coward online. That will suffice if you just don’t care to see this at all.

An Faces, if you’re interested in Cassavetes or in that style, you’ll really like this film. But if you’re not really interested in that style, watch A Woman Under the Influence. That’s really the Cassavetes film you need to see.


5) Cassel

4) Massey

3) Albertson

2) Wild

1) Wilder

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