The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1976
I love 1976. It’s one of the strongest Best Picture fields of all time, my favorite film of the bunch — Rocky wins Best Picture, and almost all the decisions they made are either acceptable or great.
John G. Avildsen wins Best Director for Rocky (talked about here), which goes with the territory. Whichever won Best Picture was also gonna win Best Director. Peter Finch won Best Actor for Network (talked about here), which is wholly acceptable, since all the other deserving nominees had won or would later win Oscars. Beatrice Straight also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here), which is acceptable, despite the fact that she was only on screen for five minutes. And Best Supporting Actor was Jason Robards for All the President’s Men (talked about here). I wouldn’t have voted for him, but I understand and can accept the decision.
Which brings us to this category. I’m not gonna lie — I’m not voting for her here. I have a strong personal preference that overrides everything .But, after all the incredible performances she gave, she totally deserved this, and was gonna win anyway, so I’m glad she did.
BEST ACTRESS – 1976
And the nominees were…
Marie-Christine Barrault, Cousin, cousine
Faye Dunaway, Network
Talia Shire, Rocky
Sissy Spacek, Carrie
Liv Ullmann, Face to Face
Barrault — Cousin, Cousine is a small French film about a romance of cousins by marriage. It’s very low-key, and not much happens throughout the film. It’s also pretty light. It’s not like a drama or anything. It’s more realistic than anything. I don’t really have much to say about this. It just kind of, is.
Barrault is fine. She’s likable. Probably was a #5 here, but, likable. I’d put her fourth a vote, because the day where I vote for an Ingmar Bergman-directed performance in an acting category will never come. So Barrault is fourth. Either way, everyone should agree she never had a shot.
Dunaway — Network. What can I say about this film that I probably haven’t already said in another article? I don’t know.
The film is about Howard Beale, a network anchor who gets fired because of low ratings and loses his mind. He announces he’s gonna kill himself live on the air in a week. People tune in. He begins ranting and raving on air. People keep tuning in. The network decides to let him keep going. Ratings are ratings. And a lot of the film is about the downfall of television due to it being controlled by big conglomerates who are only interested in profits. The great thing about it is — it happened. This is exactly the way TV works now.
Fay Dunaway plays a ruthlessly ambitious executive who wants to rise up the ranks no matter the cost. She was raised on television, so all she knows is business. We first meet her as she’s brokering a deal with a known terrorist group to film a docu-drama about them. Kind of like a reality series. (See what I mean about how accurate this film is?) She decides she wants to take over the TV department, because she sees promise in Beale and his ramblings. William Holden, another executive and friend of Beale’s, objects to this treatment of him. So Dunaway starts sleeping with him. And she gets what she wants. And eventually, once Beale gets out of hand — he starts ranting against the company that owns the station, so they bring in Ned Beatty to manipulate his fragile mind and get him to talk about what they want him to talk about, which leads to lower ratings — Dunaway, looking to boost ratings for her terrorist group show, has the terrorist group come in and kill Beale live on the air as a lead-in to their season premiere. Fucked up, right?
Dunaway deserved this Oscar hands down. She’d earned one of these back from Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor — this was the performance that put things over the top. There was no way she wasn’t winning here, and she absolutely should have won. No question about it.
Shire — Rocky. I fucking love this movie. I love everything about it. I love how it’s not what it appears to be about. I love how the majority of the film is a romance. I love the chemistry between Shire and Stallone. Everything about this film is perfect. And I say this film deserved to win Best Picture, despite what anyone says. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but this one is mine. And I love this film.
If you don’t know what Rocky is about, you should probably stop watching movies.
Shire plays Adrian, and she is fucking phenomenal in the film. I love her character so much. And, while I know that she wasn’t as good as Faye Dunaway was, and didn’t deserve to win as much as Faye Dunaway did, but I’m still voting for her anyway. Because sometimes you just need to vote for your absolute favorites no matter what. And this is one of those times.
Spacek — Carrie is such a wonderful film. It took me 22 years to see this one, but man, when I did, it was tremendous.
The film is about a social outcast with telekinetic powers. And she is shunned by everyone in her high school. And the film is about another girl who tries to make it up to her by getting her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. And she really tries to do the right thing, but another girl (who is a huge cunt) organizes to have Carrie win prom queen and then have pig’s blood dropped on her as she claims her prize. And when that happens, it triggers Carrie’s powers, and she burns the school down and kills almost everyone inside. And then she goes home and kills herself and her overbearing Catholic mother by having the house collapse onto them.
It’s a fucking great film. If you haven’t seen this, you’re really missing out. It’s spectacular.
Spacek is wonderful as Carrie. And I’d love to vote for her here. I really would. But I can’t, because this is Faye Dunaway’s category. But fortunately, Spacek would win an Oscar four years after this for a better performance in Coal Miner’s Daughter, so everything worked out.
Ullmann — Face to Face is another one of those Ingmar Bergman Oscar nominees that I can’t stand. I never understood the appeal of many of his films, especially ones like this.
The film is about Liv Ullmann as a psychiatrist who starts going crazy. And basically she just goes crazy and has hallucinations and stuff. It’s 90 minutes long, and it still felt too long for me. I don’t really have anything good to say about it, so I won’t say anything at all except — never gonna vote for it in a million years.
My Thoughts: This one’s a real easy category. Faye Dunaway was so deserved of an Oscar by this point, and her performance in the film was win-worthy in and of itself, so she’s really the one to vote for here.
That said — I’m still voting Talia Shire, because I love Rocky, and I can’t be objective here. It’s a win-win for me, because no one was winning here other than Faye Dunaway. So I get to vote for who I want and the deserving actress wins. Win win.
My Vote: Shire
Should Have Won: Dunaway
Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. There’s no question she earned this award. She had one of the best decades of any actress in the 70s. Between ’67 and ’81, she could do no wrong. Then she made Mommie Dearest, which, kind of derailed her a bit. Still, she absolutely deserved this, more so than anyone on this list.
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Rocky and Network, you’re dead to me and the world.
Also, if you have’t seen Carrie, what the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t you know it’s a classic? I hate horror movies, bu this isn’t a horror movie. It’s a movie about a girl, who just happens to have telekinetic powers. It’s a wonderful film. A bit too heavy on the Hitchcock homage, but still an amazing, amazing film.