The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1985

I hate 1985. Perhaps the nadir of the 80s, this year signifies all that’s wrong with the Academy. From top to bottom, almost all the decisions they made were wrong. Out of Africa wins Best Picture, beating the far superior in every way The Color Purple, which speaks to the Academy’s preoccupation with two things: big, epic Oscar bait films, and racism. They really don’t like black people in the Academy.

Sydney Pollack wins Best Director for Out of Africa (talked about here), which may actually be an okay decision based on the category (it sucked), but the real shame here is the fact that THEY DIDN’T EVEN NOMINATE STEVEN SPIELBERG! Steven Spielberg won the DGA Award for The Color Purple, and the racist ass Academy didn’t even nominate him! How fucked up is that?

Speaking of racism, we’re not done yet. Best Actress this year went to Geraldine Page for The Trip to Bountiful (talked about here). She beat the far superior Whoopi Goldberg, in, you guessed it, The Color Purple. Three — count it — three racist decisions. Add to that Anjelica Huston winning Best Supporting Actress for Prizzi’s Honor (talked about here), which may have been racism (Oprah was certainly better than Huston was), but I’m not going to declare it as such, just because I personally thought Meg Tilly gave the best performance in the category. Oh, and William Hurt won Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman (talked about here), which is the lone good decision in this shitty year.

Oh, but now there’s this category, which would be okay in most years, but here it serves to remind us of the other terrible trend in Academy voting: veteran Oscars for people who give mediocre performances and are getting statues because of their stature.


And the nominees were…

Don Ameche, Cocoon

Klaus Maria Brandauer, Out of Africa

William Hickey, Prizzi’s Honor

Robert Loggia, Jagged Edge

Eric Roberts, Runaway Train

Ameche — Cocoon is a nice little fantasy. It’s a movie I love very muh because of what it represents. Old actors never get any good movie roles. Most fade into obscurity, or worse, TV movies. But here, the old people are the primary characters. I love that. I support any mainstream movie with more than two old people as protagonists, so long as it’s not some dumb ‘old people going on a road trip’ movie or something like that.

Anyway, Cocoon is about old people in a nursing home. They deal with being old and seing friends die day after day. It’s sad. Then, these aliens show up — just go with it, I know — to save some comrades. Honestly the alien aspect is kind of dumb, but it leads to fun stuff, so we go with it. There are aliens in pods hidden deep under the ocean. And the aliens can only come get them once every — random solstice that happens every thousand years. And they come, get the pods, and put them in the swimming pool on the property next to the nursing home. And the old folks decide to sneak into the pool one day to swim. And after they swim, they discover that they feel young again. Their illnesses are going into remission. It’s like they’re 50 again. And they discover (after being caught by the aliens, who wear human forms to not arouse suspicion) that the pods have a sort of healing energy, and that they need to be kept in the water because, without the energy, they’ll die. So they allow the old folks to go swimming, since the handful of them won’t deplete the energy that much. But then a bunch more find out about it and go swimming, and some of the pods die. And the aliens are upset, and have to go back without them. But then, as they leave, they ask the old folks if they want to go with them, and some of them do. It’s a really great story.

Don Ameche plays one of the old folks. That’s pretty much it. He doesn’t really do anything here. He’s just charismatic and old, and Don Ameche. And that’s what won him the Oscar. Let’s not pretend this is an Oscar-worthy performance. The only reason you vote for him is because he’s Don Ameche and because the category’s kind of weak.

Brandauer — Out of Africa. Meryl Streep goes to Africa with Klaus Maria Brandauer, her husband, to start a coffee farm. She meets Robert Redford, a big game hunter, and has an affair with him. Redford dies. The plantation fails. She leaves. She writes a book. This movie is made. The end. The film is over two and a half hours long.

As you can tell — I think this film is laughable. It’s big and epic and a romance, but the fact that it won Best Picture is absolutely laughable the way Dances with Wolves and The English Patient won Best Picture. They’re not films that should win Oscars. It’s all subterfuge.

Brandauer plays Streep’s husband, who she doesn’t really love. She grows fond of him, but, he sleeps around a lot and gives her syphilis. So she leaves him and goes and fucks Robert Redford. That’s pretty much the performance. Brandauer is gone early. Strangely, he was considered the favorite to win this category. I don’t really understand why. I’d rather have Don Ameche than him. So, even though he gave a better performance, I’d rather have Ameche. So, he’s not getting a vote.

Hickey — William Hickey is awesome in Prizzi’s Honor.

This is the film about Nicholson as the dumb mafia hitman who falls in love with a hitwoman (Kathleen Turner). And Anjelica Huston is the don’s daughter who wants to be with Nicholson, and when she finds out he’s with Turner, organizes it so Nicholson and Turner have contracts out on one another. It’s a great film. Really funny, in a dark sort of way.

William Hickey plays the don of the family — the elder don. Kinda like the Queen Mum. Like Brando after Pacino took over the family. And he’s — well, just watch this clip. This will tell you everything you need to know about the performance:

Hickey had that naturally creepy voice that just works here. I love the performance. He’s so memorable. Thing is, though — I don’t like it enough to vote for it. It’s a bit too creepy for me. I’d still rather vote for Don Ameche. Suddenly I’m understanding why veteran Oscars happen.

Loggia — Robert Loggia. What a legend.

Jagged Edge is about Glenn Close as a lawyer who is supposed to defend Jeff Bridges, who is charged with killing his wife. A masked man broke in and killed her, and they have his DNA or something or other. And he says he didn’t do it. And she defends him. And he plays the nice guy for the film, and they start sleeping together, and she finds a way to prove it wasn’t him. Only, while watching the film — you know it’s him. It’s really fucking obvious that it’s him.

Robert Loggia plays a private investigator who helps out Glenn Close. His character is that he’s a foul-mouthed, beer drinking private eye who will find you what you need. Personally, I didn’t think he was that foul-mouthed. I know Robert Loggia — he can be a lot more foul-mouthed than that:

I fucking love that movie. Watch that fucking movie. It’s amazing.

Anyway, Loggia is just kind of here. He drinks beer. (I guess that’s supposed to make him an alcoholic, but he’s just holding a can of beer all the time. That’s not so bad. Have you seen Arthur?) I love him, so I love that he’s nominated, but come on now. He was never winning this in a hundred years.

Roberts — Runaway Train. Eric Roberts and Jon Voight escape from prison. They get on a train. Its breaks are shot. They have to stop it. That’s the story. See this movie, it’s fucking amazing.

Seriously, though.

Roberts is fantastic in this movie. He plays the dumb prisoner who looks up to Jon Voight and comes along with him. And it’s a great performance, because he’s just the right amount of naive that you root for him. I really, really liked this performance. To the point where, in this category, I think I might vote for him over Don Ameche. I actually liked this performance, and I know — oh hey, it’s Eric Roberts. So I think that’s what I’m gonna do.

My Thoughts: Originally I dumped this category off to Don Ameche the way the Academy did. He’s the veteran, we all love him, and the category is pretty weak, performance-wise. Actor-wise, it’s pretty strong. I liked a lot of these performances, but I wouldn’t vote for most of them. My choices, if I were voting strictly by performance, are William Hickey and Eric Roberts. Voting on stature, it’s Don Ameche. (That’s why he won the category.) Based on both, it would be Eric Roberts. So I’m taking Eric Roberts. Some would say Brandauer but I hate the film and don’t want to give it any more awards, and I didn’t think his performance was all that great. I could vote William Hickey, because I loved his performance, but I love Eric Roberts, and I love his performance. So I don’t see why I wouldn’t vote for him.

My Vote: Roberts

Should Have Won: No preference, really. The category’s pretty weak. I can’t say definitively that anyone should have won.

Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. This was a prime year for a veteran Oscar. I mean, who wouldn’t love Eric Roberts having an Oscar, but, that wasn’t really in the cards. And the only other one (I guess) who could have won here was Hickey, which — the veteran Oscar was the way to go. Good decision. Don Ameche is great. But I’d still have much preferred Eric Roberts.

Performances I suggest you see: Runaway Train. See this movie. It’s amazing.

Cocoon. Also see this movie. It’s fantastic, and really uplifting. And a classic. And it has Steve Guttenberg. (I hope I had you at “Steve Guttenberg.”)

Prizzi’s Honor is a fantastic movie. Very funny. Very well-done. Jack Nicholson and John Huston. Do you really need any more of a reason to see it?


5) Loggia

4) Brandauer

3) Hickey

2) Ameche

1) Roberts


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