The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1986
Love me some 1986. Actually, wait, I just said that without thinking about it? Do I? …Platoon, Best Picture, Best Director for Oliver Stone. Check. Best Actor for Paul Newman for The Color of Money (talked about here), this category. All likes a lot so far. Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress for Michael Caine (talked about here) and Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters. Well — they can’t all be winners. But still, 4 out of 6, so, sure, I love me some 1986.
Oh, and hey, look at that — we took care of the recap there too. Don’t you love how I can change it up while pretending it’s all just random? (It was totally random.) Don’t you also love how I can save space by saying things briefly and then fucking it up by continuing to talk for absolutely no reason?
Anyway, let’s get to the category… (Big time sound effect!)
BEST ACTRESS – 1986
And the nominees were…
Jane Fonda, The Morning After
Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God
Sissy Spacek, Crimes of the Heart
Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married
Sigourney Weaver, Aliens
Fonda — The Morning After is a film that probably worked a lot better in the 80s than it would have today. Then again, I could see a pseudo “remake” of this working as a March release.
Jane Fonda is an alcoholic actress. And one morning, she wakes up, in a bed she doesn’t recognize, with a man she doesn’t recognize. And just when she’s about to charge up another one to alcohol, she finds out the man has a knife sticking out of his chest. And she remembers nothing. So she freaks the fuck out — spends the next three hours meticulously scrubbing down the apartment, making it so no one would ever know she was there. And as she’s leaving, she hears the sound of someone inside the closet. And she freaks out and leaves. Then, she’s running around town, wondering what to do, and she meets Jeff Bridges, a nice, unassuming guy. And then there’s her husband, a hairdresser, played by Raul Julia, who you think might be gay and they might be married out of convenience, but it’s not quite clear. And she goes around, trying to figure out what’s going on with the body (which disappears when she goes back to the apartment later on, but reappears in her apartment). And basically, using the rule of economy of characters, you deduce that the person who killed the guy and is attempting to frame her for it is either Bridges or Julia. And it’s pretty obvious who it is when you’re watching the film. So I won’t ruin it.
But, Fonda is fine in the film. But, after two Oscars, I wouldn’t exactly call this ripe material for a third. Hell, Meryl doesn’t even have a third. This is no Oscar-winning performance. It’s fine that she was nominated — she is who she is and that deserves respect — but no way does anyone vote for her here after two. No one.
Matlin — Children of a Lesser God is a film that doesn’t sound like much. It sounds like one of those films they’d make in the 80s. That, coupled with the fact that it was nominated for Best Picture, and you think, “Oh boy, what am I in for?” It’s about a teacher at a school for the deaf who tries to teach a stubborn student, and falls in love with her. Yet, when you watch it it’s actually a really strong film.
William Hurt, is, as I said, a teacher at a school for the deaf. And he’s one of those typical 80s “cool” teachers. And he works with the students and all — he’s new. And then he meets Marlee Matlin. She used to be a student at the school, and now she works as a janitor. And she’s one of those stubborn cases — the kind that is rebellious, acts up a lot, that sort of thing. And he meets with her and tries to get her to speak. That’s a big thing with him. He wants the deaf students to use their voices. And they don’t like using their voices, because they can’t hear anything. So he tries to help her, then falls in love with her, and they start living together, and we see them together, but eventually they have a big fight, and she leaves, but they get back together — I’ll be honest, the story here isn’t exactly something that evokes just how good this movie is. But it is a really great movie.
Both William Hurt and Marlee Matlin are fantastic here. Matlin, I feel, in most years, would be a strong number two, but not get a vote because she’s not really a well known actress. But, here, she actually really strongly contests for a vote, and, honestly, will probably get it.
Spacek — Crimes of the Heart is a southern dark comedy. Diane Keaton, Jessica Lane and Sissy Spacek are three sisters. And they come together because Spacek killed her husband. He was abusive, and he caught her having an affair with a black teenager. And the film is mostly about the relationships between the sisters. Honestly, I didn’t think it was all that great.
However — Sissy Spacek’s performance is charming as hell. It’s really well done. She’s the impulsive sister who is also a little crazy, and she really evokes that. She does and says random and crazy shit all the time. And you really believe that this is a person who you never know what she’s gonna do from minute to minute. She really does a good job with this character. Three things, though. First, she’s not really on screen all that much. I know, because if she were on screen more, I might have liked the film more. She’s kind of a supporting character. But, the category is weak on the back end, and it seems like they filled it in with actresses they respect (Fonda and Spacek). Which is cool, but not helping when it comes to voting. And then, she won already. She had an Oscar. She didn’t need this. So there really isn’t anything to lead me to want to vote for her. Maybe if she were Supporting, I’d have considered it. Here, she’s a #4, just because I really liked the performance.
Turner — Peggy Sue Got Married is a great film. A film that most people wouldn’t recognize as a Francis Ford Coppola film. That’s because after One from the Heart, he pretty much bankrupted his studio and had to work as a director for hire. He still managed to get certain films off the ground, like Tucker: The Man and His Dream, and Dracula, but stuff like Jack and The Rainmaker make it pretty clear that he didn’t have the clout that other filmmakers of his stature would have had.
The film is about Peggy Sue, played by Turner, who goes to her 25-year high school reunion with her husband (Nicolas Cage. Oh dear god, Nicolas Cage). And while there, she reminisces about what could have been, and wishes she could have done things differently. And then, of course, she hits her head and wakes up back in high school once again. But as herself. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life, but if George Bailey was living it again. So, she’s back in high school, but has the experience of a 40-year old woman. And that, of course, leads to certain comedic moments and her making different decisions than she would have made when she was 18. And she gets to live it all over again, all while trying to get back to being in the present. And what happens is, she figures out the way to go back is by having sex with Cage, because when they did that, she got pregnant and they had to get married. But for a while she isn’t sure if she wants to end up with him again. But then she falls back in love with him, and comes back to the present, in the hospital, and her and Cage make up and everything is happy again.
It’s a really great movie. Really charming, lot of fun — Cage is Cage. And what’s best about it is that all the actors (regardless of age), play their characters in high school and at the reunion. So in a lot of cases (almost all of them), the actors have to pretend to be older at the beginning. And this includes Turner, Cage (who looks hysterical as an old man. His entrance in the film is just fantastic), Joan Allen, Jim Carrey — all of whom reached the ages their characters would have been in these opening scenes about, oh, 20 years after the film was released. But that’s what makes it funny.
Turner is really great in the role, but, you can’t vote for this. It’s a comedic performance. This isn’t a performance that wins an Oscar. In 1986. Come on, now.
Weaver — And, Aliens. This is one of the stickiest situations, because, everyone knows and loves this movie, and loves this performance. And almost everyone will just blindly vote for Weaver because she’s such a badass in this film. Thing is, though — there’s no Oscar-winning performance here. There’s just a badass performance. One that, were it not nominated, no one would really think twice. Sure, you’d be like, “It would have been awesome if she were nominated, because she’s really great in this.” But here, she is nominated. This is the best case scenario. And because of that, people are like, “She should have won!” No she shouldn’t have. I love this performance. But she should not have won. Are you really gonna put this performance (which is an action performance. That means you’re telling me Bruce Willis should have won an Oscar for John McClane and Eddie Murphy should have won for Axel Foley. Seriously?) on a list with Scarlett O’Hara and Annie Sullivan and Blanche Dubois? Really?
Anyway, the film is awesome. I’m not gonna talk about it, because you should have seen it. It’s an action film, and it’s a classic. You should see this film, and the previous film. Both of them. A synopsis is meaningless to you because you should be out watching it.
I think you already understand my stance on the performance.
My Thoughts: This one’s easy. The only complicated thing about it is that two of the three performances I rank highest here are ones I wouldn’t vote for. Look — I love Aliens. I think it’s a great film. But there’s no fucking way in hell I’m voting for Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress for that movie. I’m just not. Where in that performance (as an action star) puts it on the level of a Best Actress-winning performance? I’ll take the nomination, because that makes it more awesome. But the win would just ruin it.
Same goes for Kathleen Turner. Love Peggy Sue Got Married — never gonna vote for her for it. It’s a comedy, and it’s not like she had to go to deep, dark places to achieve the performance.
Which leaves three people, two of which had Oscars already.
Which leaves Marlee Matlin. And since she legitimately delivered a fantastic performance, so she’s easily my vote. Easily. Good thing this was so easy.
My Vote: Matlin
Should Have Won: Matlin
Is the result acceptable?: Yup. For reasons stated above. Two had Oscars (Fonda had two), and Turner and Weaver were in films I just couldn’t vote for. The performances were not Best Actress caliber (for me. And I honestly don’t care what you feel, because this is my blog. We can discuss that in a non official capacity. Here, it’s all me). Plus Matlin was really fucking good, which makes it even more acceptable.
Performances I suggest you see: Aliens. See it. Don’t think about it. Just see it. You need to.
Children of a Lesser God is a film I recommend very, very highly. It’s really well-acted, and was always engaging and I was with it every step of the way. And that shocked the shit out of me. I really, really liked this movie and I highly, highly recommend that you see it. Because it’s great.
Peggy Sue Got Married is a great film as well. It’s a fun, fun movie. I really recommend this film to people, especially if they’re fans of Nicolas Cage. He’s so awesome here. Highly recommended.
And the last two — meh. Okay but not great. You can probably skip Crimes of the Heart altogether unless you think you’d be interested in it, and The Morning After is probably only worth it if you like Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges or Sidney Lumet films. Otherwise, you’re not missing all that much.