1981 is considered the worst year in Academy history. It’s not. In fact, the only part about it that’s so bad was Best Picture. Chariots of Fire is a terrible film. In fact, it’s the only bad film to ever win Best Picture (it should have even been nominated). Every other film that has won Best Picture were (taking into consideration their era) was of a certain quality. (Though, maybe Cavalcade is the other film that could be considered on the level of Chariots of Fire.) Otherwise, all the other choices were films that were good films overall — they just might have been bad choices for Best Picture. This was a film that shouldn’t have even been nominated. That’s why people consider this year so bad.
The rest of the year is actually pretty solid. Henry Fonda (finally!) wins Best Actor for On Golden Pond (talked about here). It had to happen, and was a great decision. Katharine Hepburn also wins Best Actress for the film (talked about here), which, while I’d have gone another way, is a fine decision. The category wasn’t that strong. John Gielgud wins Best Supporting Actor for Arthur (talked about here), which I absolutely love. Everything about that decision appeals to me (it’s one of my favorite films of all time, Gielgud was such a respected actor, and he was awesome in the role). And Best Director was Warren Beatty for Reds (talked about here), which is a fine decision, since Chariots of Fire could have won that too. I personally would have went with Spielberg (Raiders is awesome), but he won two later and Beatty is great.
Which brings us to this category. Supporting Actress is typically the weakest category in a given year, and this is no exception. There really isn’t a choice here, so the veteran win actually works out.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1981
And the nominees were…
Melinda Dillon, Absence of Malice
Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond
Joan Hackett, Only When I Laugh
Elizabeth McGovern, Ragtime
Maureen Stapleton, Reds (more…)