The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1975
1975 is such a strong year. And it’s the crux of the 70s, too. Seriously, ’74, ’75 and ’76 were the three strongest years in the Academy’s history. And if they aren’t, they’re top five for sure. It’s incredible. Just listen to this murderer’s row of 1975 Best Picture nominees: Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. How do you pick?
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest wins Best Picture, Best Director for Milos Forman, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, and this category. I love all the decisions except Best Director. That one — I know it was gonna happen because it synched up with Best Picture, but — it was probably the fourth best actual directing effort at best. You’re gonna tell me Forman did a better directing job than Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet and (an un-nominated) Steven Spielberg? Okay…
The rest of the year was George Burns as Best Actor for The Sunshine Boys (talked about here), which I like. Nice veteran win for a great guy and a hilarious performance. And Best Supporting Actress was Lee Grant for Shampoo, which was a great decision because she was an actress who was gonna win won at some point, gave a great performance, and the category was weak as hell.
So, really, 1975 is actually a really strong year. The only category I really have any gripe with is Best Director, and even that — whatever.
BEST ACTRESS – 1975
And the nominees were…
Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H.
Louise Fletcher, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Glenda Jackson, Hedda
Carol Kane, Hester Street
Adjani — The Story of Adele H. is a self-explanatory title. Just so long as you know the H stands for Hugo. It’s about the daughter of Victor Hugo. Isabelle Adjani plays her.
And basically, the film is about Adele, and her — illness, I guess is the word. She randomly falls in love with a soldier out of nowhere and spends the film pining for him and following him wherever he goes. And she lies to people, saying she’s married to him, meanwhile he’s like, “Eww, get the fuck away from me.” And she fucks with his life by telling people she’s married to him when she’s not. And she kind of goes a bit nuts over the course of the film.
The exact plot isn’t clear to me, after watching it, but what I was left with was that Isabelle Adjani gave a hell of a performance here. The kind of performance that made me stop and go, “Wait, is there a way I can vote for her?” But, sadly, there wasn’t. There were both Ann-Margret and Louise Fletcher to vote for before her. But, she gave a hell of a performance, and in a year like — well, the 70s are pretty stacked — but maybe like 1973 or 1977, she’d have gotten serious consideration for a vote. So, that should tell you what I think of the performance.
Fletcher — The interesting thing about this is — every time Jack Nicholson has won an Oscar (all three times), his leading lady in the film has won Best Actress for the performance. Every time. Here, Terms of Endearment and As Good as It Gets. Great track record, huh? That’s how you can tell when Jack’s gonna win one.
Anyway, Cuckoo’s Nest — I think we all know this, right? If not, just see it. It’s such a major film, why listen to my synopsis to tell you that you need to see it?
Fletcher plays Nurse Ratched, the icy bitch who runs the ward. She’s incredible in the role. And even though she’s an actress who hasn’t really done all that much, which might turn some people off from voting for her, she’s in a category that isn’t that strong overall, so she runs away with it no matter how you look at it. Seriously, watch the film, tell me she doesn’t give an amazing performance and you don’t want to shiv this bitch in her sleep by the time it’s over. That’s how you win an Oscar.
Ann-Margret — Tommy is a rock opera by the Who. Yes, that Tommy. Surprised it was nominated for an Oscar, right? Well, if you’ve seen the film, you know that Ann-Margret is awesome in it as Tommy’s mother. There isn’t anything to say about it, since you should just watch it. This is literally like a two hour music video for one of the greatest albums ever made. Ever heard the songs off the album? Pinball Wizard? Well, this is a movie that puts those to a story. It’s amazing. See it. It will change your life.
Ann-Margret is so great in this role. I wish I could vote for her. And honestly, I almost could. If it weren’t for Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret would have totally been my vote here all the way. But, I know she shouldn’t really have won, so, I’ll vote for Louise Fletcher. But, Ann-Margret and this movie are amazing.
Jackson — I’m gonna tell you right off the top — I’m not voting for Glenda Jackson in as many lifetimes as you can think up. She won two Best Actress Oscars when I feel she should have won zero. Any nomination by her from then on is met with an automatic demarcation to #5. That’s it.
Hedda is a film version of Hedda Gabler. It looks like one of those BBC TV movies. People are on a set, and they are shooting it.
Seriously, I just typed in a random British novel and “BBC” into Youtube. Look at this. They all look the same. Picture that exact type of filming, just back in the 70s. So not as crisp, looking like VHS, that sort of thing. So, really, that decreases any desire for me to vote for anything. Why would I vote for something that looks like I shot it on the weekend in my country house?
But, it’s Hedda Gabler. It’s — I honestly don’t remember half of what happened in this film. This was a lost cause with me from the start. Glenda Jackson had no shot with me.
Kane — Hester Street is about Jews. Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn. A dude comes there, assimilates quickly, changes his name, gets used to America. He starts sleeping with another woman. His wife and child come over, and don’t assimilate very quickly. Their marriage becomes strained. He leaves her. She marries another dude, he marries the mistress. And both eventually assimilate in their own ways. That’s the film, really. I wasn’t particularly engaged by it, but then again, I’m not Jewish. Maybe others will find this more interesting than I did.
I did, however, respect Carol Kane’s performance. I think she did a good job with the role, and I liked that the Academy nominated her. This performance could very easily have been forgotten. But, like all performances of this ilk, the nomination is the win. She never had a shot here. That’s the nature of the beast. But, the performance is strong, so that’s a good thing.
My Thoughts: This is one of the weakest Best Actress categories I’ve ever seen. I do see three people worth voting for, but, from an Academy perspective, this was a cut and dry decision.
For me — Ann-Margret is a legitimate choice. For the Academy, I doubt they’ll allow a performance based on a rock opera where the actress gets covered in soap and beans to win Best Actress. I know the Academy. It’s not in the cards. But, for me, she’s #1 in the rankings and would honestly be my choice if it were a legitimate possibility. And even so, I still want to vote for her. But, I won’t.
So, really, the only two options here seem to be Louise Fletcher and Isabelle Adjani. Which, from an Academy perspective — that’s why it’s so cut and dry. Louise Fletcher was so great as Nurse Ratched, and crafted such a classic character. It makes perfect sense that she won and I support it. I almost just wish it wasn’t so easy. I’m curious to see if she would have won if this performance came in a stronger year. But still — she’s kind of the only one to vote for.
My Vote: Fletcher
Should Have Won: Fletcher. (And Ann-Margret. That’s a personal opinion.)
Is the result acceptable?: Has to be. It’s the best choice in the category. There’s no way it can’t be acceptable.
Performances I suggest you see: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You should have seen this yesterday. If not, you’re dead to me.
Tommy — see it. Personally, if you haven’t seen this, you’re dead to me. If I know you (and like you), an you haven’t seen this, I will make you watch it. See it. It’s awesome. That is all.
The Story of Adele H. is a François Truffaut film and features a great performance by Isabelle Adjani. It’s also only 95 minutes. Outside of your interest in those three things, I doubt you’d want to see this. But, I recommend it. It’s pretty good.