The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1984

Okay, let’s quickly recap 1984. I got some stuff to talk about.

First, Amadeus wins Best Picture, Best Director for Milos Forman (taked about here) and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham (talked about here). All perfect decisions, and, on a side note, the fact that it won Best Picture, for me, is one of the very few bright spots the 80s have. Which I am grateful for. Best Actress this year was Sally Field for Places in the Heart (talked about here), which, to put it simply, I understand. And Best Supporting Actor was Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields (talked about here), which, while I wouldn’t have voted for it, I also understand. Fortunately, I’ve covered all these categories, so we can mercifully be done with this year after this category. Which —

This might be the single worst Best Supporting Actress category of all time. Might be — I know it is. You know why? Because none of these performances would rate higher than 4th for a vote in any other year. That’s how weak it is. It’s really, really bad. As for alternate nominees — I don’t really see anyone. I was mostly looking for someone who I could vote for. I don’t have anyone I can vote for. God, I hate this category.


And the nominees were…

Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India

Glenn Close, The Natural

Lindsay Crouse, Places in the Heart

Christine Lahti, Swing Shift

Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwich Village

Ashcroft — A Passage to India is a 2 1/2 hour film that could be 45 minutes shorter.

It’s about Judy Davis and Peggy Ashcroft going — guess where? And while they’re there, they befriend an Indian doctor, and they go places with him, and he and Judy develop some sort of feelings for one another, but it’s touchy because England and India — well, England did some shit. It’s not proper. And then they go into these caves one day, and out of nowhere, Davis comes running out of the cave, covered in blood, and claims the doctor tried to rape her. Considering the dude’s demeanor, it seems highly unlikely. However, it’s a huge thing, since it would be like — well it’s almost exactly like Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. Big deal for an Indian to “rape” a Brit.

Peggy Ashcroft plays Mrs. Moore, Davis’s chaperone. She believes the doctor is innocent and refuses to testify against him. And then she dies en route back to England. That’s pretty much the performance. I mean, she’s there and plays old and stuffy and such, but — that’s standard. She won because she’s a veteran. And because the category is so bad, it’s perfectly okay that it happened. Who the fuck else were they gonna vote for?

Close — The Natural, as we all should know (if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?) is a great little fable about Roy Hobbs. Hobbs was a star prospect in his youth — he strikes out the equivalent of Babe Ruth at a carnival — but is shot by a mysterious woman who kills herself soon after. Cut to years later, and he’s trying to resurrect his career. He starts playing with a bat made from a tree felled by lightning, and starts hitting up a storm. He becomes a phenom, and people start wondering where he came from. And people start trying to find out his identity, and trying to screw with him, and of course it ends with that great home run into the lights with the great (Randy Newman) score behind it.

Honestly, if you’re a real film fan, you’d have seen this movie by now. You don’t need me to tell you how great it is.

Glenn Close plays Hobbs’ redeeming woman. She was his childhood sweetheart. And she appears while he’s in the middle of a huge slump (because he’s been seeing a woman he shouldn’t be seeing). And when he sees her in the middle of a game, he snaps right out of the slump. And he starts seeing her again, and she’s got kids, and is hesitant to be with him. But, of course, love wins out.

It’s honestly not that big a role, and I’m pretty surprised Glenn Close got nominated here. However, since the category is so weak, she does contend for a vote. Because I figure, if Peggy Ashcroft can get a career Oscar, why can’t Glenn Close? At this point, she’d been nominated twice, for The World According to Garp, which she was good enough to win for (and arguably should have won for), and The Big Chill, which she was also good enough to win for (but didn’t because she lost to a woman who convincingly played a man. Understandable). This, obviously, was not as good as those performances, but, those performances, along with her later performances in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons, and that, to me, equates to (at least) one Oscar. The fact that she never won is pretty terrible and reflects poorly on the Academy. So, to me, voting for Peggy Ashcroft in this category is the same as voting for Glenn Close — since you can’t really vote for the performance for anyone here. So if it’s all the same, I’m just gonna take Glenn Close.

Crouse — Places in the Heart is about Sally Field, whose husband dies, which forces her to work to save the farm by planting cotton, which she knows nothing about. She gets the help of a black man and a blind man, Danny Glover and John Malkovich, and the group helps the farm overcome their taxes. And everyone is happy.

Now, Lindsay Crouse is not even remotely involved in the main plot of the film. Hers is a complete side story that has nothing to do with the film whatsoever, and feels like filler. Considering the film is only 100 minutes long, to me, that says a lot.

She plays Sally Field’s sister (which I guess is enough of a reason to follow her around), whose husband (Ed Harris), is having an affair with a local teacher (Amy Madigan, Harris’s real-life wife). Crouse and Madigan are both friends. Madigan feels bad about the affair. Soon after, her and her husband move away. Crouse finds out about the affair through Harris’s reactions to Madigan leaving and his interactions with her, and she slaps him and says she’s leaving. Harris then goes to help Field, but Crouse is not impressed. Eventually they end up together again, obviously.

This really didn’t have much to do with the film. I’m sure it does, but for me, it seemed unnecessary filler and was much less interesting than the farm plot. Crouse is okay in the role, but I’d never vote for her. I’d give the statue to Ashcroft and Close before her, which all but eliminates her from a vote.

Lahti — Swing Shift is a Goldie Hawn — comedy, I guess is the correct term — film. It’s weird for me to comprehend, just because I wasn’t around at the time, but Goldie Hawn was like the Katherine Heigl of the 70s and 80s. She was like the biggest female comedienne in the business. Though her persona was more like Anna Faris, I’d guess. That ditzy-ish personality. It’s probably best captured in Cactus Flower and Private Benjamin, the former which won her an Oscar and the latter which earned her a nomination.

The film is about a woman during WWII who is assigned to work at a weapons factory. And of course she’s not prepared to do this, so things don’t go well (at first). And her husband (Ed Harris) is away at war, and while that’s happening, she falls in love with Kurt Russell. And — the film is pretty much a mess. A lot of this has to do with Hawn and Russell trying to make a comedy and Jonathan Demme wanting to make it more serious.

Anyway, Christine Lahti plays a neighbor of Hawn’s, a former singer whose bene dumped, and is pretty much a mess. She’s bitter, upset, and eventually becomes Hawn’s friend. It’s one of those flashy comedy roles, and I’m convinced the only reason she got nominated was because there was no one else to nominate. I mean, it’s a fine performance and all, but, this would not rank higher than 5th on any list. Come on, now.

Page — The Pope of Greenwich Village is a great film. It’s a male romance movie. It is. Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts are two best friends. And Mickey is the stable one, and Eric is the fuck up. The opening scene is Eric Roberts getting Mickey fired from his job, and Mickey keeps sticking by him because they’re brothers. (Not actually, but you know what I mean.)

And the film is about Roberts trying to get rich quick, planning a robbery, which goes wrong, and it’s basically all about Mickey dealing with Eric’s doings. It’s a fascinating film. Roberts is terrific in it. The plot is mostly irrelevant, since it’s about the relationship between the two. That’s what makes the film work as well as it does.

Now, Geraldine Page plays the mother of a cop. We see the cop leave to go on duty, and he, by dumb luck, happens upon the place where Mickey and Eric are performing their robbery. And a shootout occurs and the cop ends up dead. And the next day, the police go over to Page to find out why he would be there. And in her two scenes — that’s not an exaggeration. She’s only in two four minute scenes. In fact, here they are:

The first clip takes place at 2:21 in the first video and the second is at :22 in the second one.

That’s it. That’s all she does. She’s fine, it’s just — she’s barely in the film. Geraldine Page tended to have lots of these types of nominations over her career. I wouldn’t vote for this performance as I saw it, but — the one thing that would get me to vote for her here is if I knew for certain that her winning this category would prevent her from unfairly beating Whoopi Goldberg the year after this for Best Actress. If that’s the case, then I vote for her. But I know that won’t happen, so I’m not voting for her. Call it spite, call it whatever — I’m still taking Glenn Close over her.

My Thoughts: Wow. Just, fucking wow. This is awful. There is no performance that rates a vote. So, in that case, there’s three ways I could go here. One of them doesn’t really make sense. But first, let’s just throw two nominees off to start. Crouse and Lahti — see ya. Right out of there. One doesn’t get nominated in any other year and the other is at best a #5. That leaves three.

Now, starting with the vote that doesn’t make sense. That’s Geraldine Page. I was gonna say, maybe if they give her the Oscar here, then maybe they don’t throw her the Best Actress Oscar they gave her the year after this, which is clearly a career achievement award, and a little bit racism too. Since Whoopi Goldberg should have won that award hands down. But me voting for her makes no sense because — nothing changes if I vote for something. Plus, she’s literally only in one scene. Not making that up. One scene. A short one, at that. Maybe if she had some relevance to the plot, or like, five more minutes of screen time, then yes, I’d vote for her. But this — not substantial enough.

So that leaves two people. Ashcroft is the veteran vote. And I understand why they voted for her. Based on this category, it was probably the best decision. But — I love Glenn Close. I think, between this, The Big Chill, The World According to Garp (especially that film) and Dangerous Liaisons, she’s earned an Oscar. Plus, I love The Natural. So I’m voting for her based on all that. That, for me, outweighs the veteran aspect and the fact that Ashcroft really did more to earn the award. I feel better voting this way.

My Vote: Close

Should Have Won: No one.

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. Honestly, this or Glenn Close would have been the best decisions they could have made in this category, and simply basing it on the two performances, Ashcroft’s was the more vote-worthy. Plus they get to give a veteran actress an Oscar. So it works out. Acceptable decision.

Performances I suggest you see: The Natural. If you don’t know you need to see it, why are you even reading this blog?

The Pope of Greenwich Village is a nice film. Very 80s. Great performances by Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke. Solid film. Check it out.

Places in the Heart — strong film. Liked it a lot. Not a Best Picture winner, but, it didn’t win. So to me, this ranks as first-rate entertainment, and I like the film. Parts of it felt unnecessary, but on the whole, wholly entertaining.

Rankings: (Ranking based on vote, since I dislike or don’t care about almost all of these films.)

5) Lahti

4) Crouse

3) Page

2) Ashcroft

1) Close

One response

  1. BlueFox94

    “A PASSAGE TO INDIA” is not Merchant-Ivory, its David Lean :)

    November 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm

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