The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1992
I’m torn on this one. I love the actress who won, and her winning made some future categories a lot easier, but — she didn’t give the best performance. So I don’t know what to do with this one.
As for the rest of 1992, I like it a lot. Unforgiven wins Best Picture, Best Director for Clint Eastwood (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman (talked about here) which I love. I like A Few Good Men and Scent of a Woman a lot, but, Unforgiven was the right choice this year. And as I said in the article, I think Gene Hackman was the best choice in his category (mostly because Nicholson didn’t need to win). Al Pacino finally won his well-deserved Best Actor award for Scent of a Woman (talked about here), which had to happen, despite Robert Downey Jr. and Denzel Washington giving better performances. Sometimes the Academy just needs to atone for fuck ups (which, as we saw here, created more fuck ups). And Best Supporting Actress was Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny (talked about here), which I love as a decision, so much so that I took some shit for it (which I also love). So that’s 1992. I like 5 of the 6. Maybe 6 of 6.
Let’s get into this category, now. Because I’m really torn about this one…
BEST ACTRESS – 1992
And the nominees were…
Catherine Deneuve, Indochine
Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish
Michelle Pfeiffer, Love Field
Susan Sarandon, Lorenzo’s Oil
Emma Thompson, Howards End
Deneuve — Indochine is an over two and a half hour hour film about a French planation owner in Indochina. I think that should about cover what 80% of the moviegoing public would ever think about this film.
Catherine Deneuve runs the plantation. She adopts a Vietnamese baby and raises the girl. And we follow them over two and a half hours worth of film. She fucks some army dude, and then the daughter, when she’s grown up, falls in love with him, and Deneuve has the dude transferred so the daughter doesn’t get fucked over by him. Then the girl gets engaged to some Communist dude, but then she goes up looking for the army guy, but then the French kill a bunch of people she’s with, so she kills a French officer, so then she and the army guy go into hiding with the communists, and have a kid, but then they’re captured, and she’s the only one that escapes — and during all of this, Deneuve is not on screen.
But then Deneuve is given the child, and the army dude is killed, and the girl is arrested. And Deneuve tries to get her out, and after a couple years she is released, and then goes and fights alongside the communists. And Deneuve and the kid go back to France, and then we flash forward to the kid as an adult, being told the story by Deneuve, and she takes him to go see his real mother, but he’s like, “No, you’re my mother.” Aww…
The film is so long, and so boring. I hated having to watch this one. There’s always someone out there who’ll like it, but for me, and for most people who have similar tastes as mine — you’ll probably be bored by this too. I count this as nothing more than a stature nomination. She’s one of the most respected French actresses — is in a big epic film — you have to nominate her. That’s all this is. There is no way she should have won this. Nobody wants to have to watch this film as an Oscar winner. And more importantly — she doesn’t really do anything. She disappears for a nice chunk in the middle, and frankly — just didn’t give a performance I feel I can vote for. And that’s that.
McDonnell — Passion Fish is a film about a soap actress who gets paralyzed. That’s the film. She’s paralyzed and has to adjust to her situation. And she goes back home, to Louisiana, back to her house. And rather than rehab and learn to do things, she just sits on the couch, watching TV and drinking wine. And she goes through nurse after nurse after nurse. Until finally, Alfre Woodard shows up, and she is stubborn with her. And the two form a friendship, and eventually, McDonnell starts getting better. That’s pretty much the barebones story. There’s other stuff, but mostly, that’s it.
The film is pretty good. Not a masterpiece, but solid. And McDonnell’s performance is actually really strong. It’s the kind of performance where — most years, I’d put her at a #2 and wouldn’t vote for her because either another actress gave an unquestionably vote-worthy performance or because an actress gave a performance that was just as good but was more high profile or was someone who’d given a few Oscar-worthy performances gave one that was just as good and ended up taking the vote based on that. But here — with the category so weak — she actually is the best performance. And, while there is a high profile actress — Emma Thompson — her performance wasn’t as good. So what do I do? I have a pretty good idea, but — it’s tough.
Pfeiffer — Love Field is — I’m not sure what the exact point of it is, exactly. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a housewife who is obsessed with Jackie O. One of those women who goes to teh salon all day and gossips with like-minded women. And she finds out Jackie and JFK will be in Dallas, so she goes to the airport to see them. Then, hours later, she finds out JFK had his head blown off. So she decides its her duty to go to the funeral in D.C. Her husband, of course, is against this, but she goes anyway.
So the film becomes one of those Trip to Bountiful type films where she’s on the run and the husband is after her. But then it becomes about something else too. On the bus, she meets Dennis Haysbert and his daughter. And she makes friends with the daughter. But then, she finds out that something may not be right with them. She thinks he may have kidnapped her. So she, trying to do the right thing, calls the police, which sets off this crazy manhunt (him being black and all). But then she finds out he took the girl from her mother, who was not a fit parent, and ends up running away with them and helping them. So the film becomes about all of them running and about race and all that. It’s — engaging. I’ll give it that. I wouldn’t call it a great film, but I’d call it an engaging one. There are some parts I felt were a bit heavy-handed, but, overall, not bad at all.
Pfeiffer does a really good job with the performance. At first, she’s this very annoying woman, but manages to to make her more endearing as the film goes on. I think she was really solid, but — all the people who say she should have won for this, I think, just want to give Michelle Pfeiffer an Oscar. And I support that side of it. But I don’t think this is a performance that’s worth an award. If Pfeiffer was going to win for anything, it should have been for Dangerous Liaisons (which, I’m still not sure how Geena Davis won there). Not this.
Sarandon — Oh, the disease films. You know the disease film. Child, has terrible illness, it’s sad. Parents want to help find a cure. There is no cure. They discover doctors aren’t really looking into it because they figure it’s a hopeless cause. They pour time and money into researching the disease in the hopes for one, the kid gets worse, but they persevere. They get other people involved too. Eventually, something is found — either a cure or a treatment that lessens the symptoms — and everything is happy. Ta da. That’s the film. you know it. This is exactly like that.
Susan Sarandon plays the boy’s mother. Right there, you see why she was nominated for an Oscar. Like most of Susan Sarandon’s Oscar-nominated performances, I think it’s worth the nomination but not worth the win. She may be the one person (and if not, she’s the most notable person) who I feel has never given a singular “Oscar” performance, yet, should have an Oscar. But, in terms of this performance — not voting for it. I didn’t think it was good enough to win. I’d vote for three people on here before I voted for her.
Thompson — And, Emma Thompson. If this were a popularity contest, she’d have won on my ballot. And here we see why she actually won the award.
Howards End is a Merchant-Ivory film. On this blog, the words “Merchant Ivory” should automatically convey to you what I think about the film as much as the words “Woody Allen” do. It’s about class and property. That’s how you know it’s British. Emma Thompson is a middle class woman who befriends the rich lady next door (or up the block or wherever), Vanessa Redgrave. Redgrave is bored with her upper class, boring-ass family, and likes how Emma Thompson keeps it reals. And she confides in her how she’d like to be back at her old home at Howards End. And then she dies. But, she leaves Emma Thompson the house, because she knows she’ll treat it with the respect it deserves, rather than her children, who wanted her to sell the house to turn a profit on it.
But now, the kids are upset. A middle class woman, inheriting property? Preposterous! So they, led by eldest son, Anthony Hopkins, burn the piece of paper that bequeaths the house to Emma Thompson, pretending it doesn’t exist. However, Hopkins, who actually inherits the property, falls in love with Emma Thompson, and marries her. And then eventually he dies, so she does inherit the property anyway. Bawk bawk.
I have to tell you — didn’t see anything worth voting for in this performance aside from the fact that she’s Emma Thompson and the fact that the category sucks balls. Seriously, that’s the only reason she won. It was “her time.” And I get that. But, she didn’t give the best performance in the category, and the only real reason it’s cool that she won is because she’s Emma Thompson and because the person who gave the best performance in the category isn’t an actress with the type of resume that Emma Thompson has. But still — definitely not an Oscar-winning performance.
My Thoughts: I see only two options here — McDonnell and Thompson. McDonnell gave the best performance, but Thompson is more of an actress who should have an Academy Award. So, while I get Thompson winning (outside of the film and the category) is acceptable — I didn’t like the film or the performance. So I have to vote for McDonnell here. She gave the best performance.
My Vote: McDonnell
Should Have Won: McDonnell, and I guess, Thompson
Is the result acceptable?: Based on the category and her as an actress — yes. McDonnell gave the best performance, but if you take a step back and look at it, Thompson was a better choice historically. The performance, though, was definitely not win-worthy, for my money.
Performances I suggest you see: Oh, this is tough. This category blows for really good movies.
Passion Fish is a good film that I enjoyed quite a bit. Not for everyone, but, if you’re looking at Oscar performances, this, to me (and to a lot of people who’ve seen them all), is the one that should have won. So that makes it worth checking out. Plus, based on the films on this list, it might be the one the most people will end up liking.
Love Field is probably the second best film on this list, in terms of the one most people will end up liking. The set up is engaging, and the film is pretty good. Not great, but good, and worth checking out if you think you’ll be interested in it.
Howards End — Merchant-Ivory film. I don’t like it at all. The only point of interest is that it won here and it has Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. But, honestly, if you want a good Merchant-Ivory, Anthony Hopkins/EmmaThompson film, watch The Remains of the Day instead. That’s the only Merchant-Ivory film I can endorse. Only see this if you want to see Oscar winners or like Merchant-Ivory films. Otherwise, you’ll probably be bored to tears.
Lorenzo’s Oil — it’s fine. I didn’t particularly care for it, since it’s one of those standard — kid has disease, parents look for cure (technically a treatment, not really a cure), they find one — films. It’s fine. A bit too overdone for me, but, a decent film. I’m sure some people will love it. Check it out if that’s your thing.