The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1988
I like 1988 a lot. Rain Man was the strongest (or at least my favorite) among the Best Picture nominees, and I like that it won. Barry Levinson probably shouldn’t have won Best Director for it (talked about here), but I can’t criticize it too much. When Picture and Director link up, it’s always a little acceptable. And Dustin Hoffman winning Best Actor for it — great decision. He was terrific in the film.
Best Actress this year was Jodie Foster for The Accused (talked about here). And to that I say, holy shit was she good. She deserved that so much. And Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda (talked about here), which I love, since he was definitely the best performance in what may be the weakest Best Supporting Actor category of all time.
So, in all, 1988 is a good year. I don’t like Best Director so much, but it’s not terrible. I only don’t like it because Scorsese was so fucked over by that point, I think he should have won every time he was nominated. So I actually even like that category too. The only category I have a slight problem with is this one. And even this one — I don’t care about it enough to say I don’t like it. I just think another choice would have worked better historically.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1988
And the nominees are…
Joan Cusack, Working Girl
Geena Davis, The Accidental Tourist
Frances McDormand, Mississippi Burning
Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Liaisons
Sigourney Weaver, Working Girl
Cusack — Double nomination. Score.
Working Girl is about Melanie Griffith as a secretary who has big ambitions. She has all these really big ideas, but no one will listen to her because she’s just a secretary. Then she goes to work for Sigourney Weaver, who seems like a really nice boss. Then Weaver breaks her leg skiing and Griffith is basically assigned to be Weaver for the next few weeks, because important deals need to be made. And she goes to meeting and stuff (simultaneously meeting and falling in love with Harrison Ford), and at one of the meetings, she tells the businessmen of one of her ideas and it goes over really well. And it makes some waves. And then, when Weaver recovers from her injuries, she comes back and takes full credit for the idea. And Griffith has to fight to prove that it was actually her idea.
The film is kind of a fairytale. The kind of thing where someone like Judy Holliday would be in if it were the 50s and it were a light comedy, or Greer Garson or someone if it were more dramatic. But, it’s an okay film. I didn’t love it, but, it’s not bad. Don’t know how it managed so many Oscar nominations, though.
Cusack plays another secretary and a friend of Griffith’s. She’s barely in the film. Seriously, she has next to nothing to do. But, she’s Joan Cusack, and is always good, so I support her being nominated. But seriously, next to nothing. No way she should have won this.
Davis — The Accidental Tourist is a film about William Hurt as a guy who writes travelogues, who is getting over the suicide (or death, either way, really) of his wife. And the film is about how he ends up meeting Geena Davis, a quirky dog trainer, and comes out of his shell/depression because of her. It’s a nice little romance of sorts, but I didn’t particularly think it was a great film.
Davis is good here. She’s light and quirky and everything. I didn’t think she needed to win, but honestly, without a clear #1 in this category, it was fair game for anyone to win. And she did. I guess it’s okay, though I feel like — well, I’ll explain my feelings down at the bottom.
McDormand — Mississippi Burning is about the killing of three black human rights students in Mississippi, and the subsequent investigation by the FBI. This is in the 60s, by the way. Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are the agents, and they go down there. And it’s clear all the members of the town are racist and this was a Klan killing and they’re covering it up. and Dafoe is trying to get answers, but doesn’t understand the nuance or behavior of how the south operates. And Hackman does. He grew up in the south. So the film is about them figuring out who did it and subsequently making the appropriate arrests. It’s a fucking great movie.
Frances McDormand plays the wife of the prime suspect, the dude they suspect of actually doing the killing. And she’s the kind of woman where — she didn’t know many men in high school, and he was an older man, she was taken by his “worldliness” and married him, and now cut to later, he sits at home and drinks beer all day and treats her like shit. And what Hackman does is, he goes in, sweet talks her, flirts with her a bit, because he knows how to deal with women like this, gets on her good side, and then gets some information out of her. Mostly stuff that will point out that her husband is clearly lying with his alibi. And then the husband finds out that she’s been talking to Hackman, and he beats her up pretty bad, and then she stands up for herself and gives him up to the feds.
It’s a good performance. Not win-worthy, but good. She’d win for Fargo anyway, so she didn’t need this. And I’m glad, because at first I thought she’d be the only one to vote for, but, she didn’t really need it at all.
Pfeiffer — Dangerous Liaisons is about upper class intrigue in 19th century France. Glenn Close is a cunty aristocrat who wants to manipulate Uma Thurman. She enlists Malkovich, playing the scheming dude, to help her. Malkovich wants to sleep with her, and she agrees to sleep with him in order to gain his help. Then, the plan is to get him to sleep with Thurman, because she wants to get revenge on the dude Thurman is engaged to (who slept with her and then jilted her). And Malkovich’s price in return is that he wants Michelle Pfeiffer. He’s in love with Michelle Pfeiffer. And the film is about all this manipulation going on — it’s actually really good.
Pfeiffer plays the woman Malkovich wants to sleep with, who, after finally giving in to his advances, actually falls in love with him. And Malkovich, whose prize is to sleep with Close when he succeeded, goes to do that, but Close says she’ll only sleep with him if he gives up Pfeiffer. And he loves her. And Malkovich, who really wants to get laid, does this. then Pfeiffer gets really sick. And Malkovich goes back to sleep with Close, who refuses. And then what happens is, Keanu Reeves, playing the dude engaged to Uma Thurman, has a sword fight with Malkovich. Malkovich is killed, but before he dies, gives Reeves letters to give to Pfeiffer, declaring his love and saying how Close manipulated everyone. Pfeiffer gets the letters and then dies, and Close is shunned from society.
Pfeiffer is good here. I wouldn’t call it #1 material, but she’s pretty solid. To me, this comes down to her and Davis for the vote. And I’ll explain how I mediated that in a second.
Weaver — Sigourney Weaver, as I said up there, plays the boss who steals the idea. She plays a nice woman who turns out to be a cunt. That’s pretty much the performance. She does a fine job, but not good enough for me to vote for. I didn’t like it that much.
Also of note, Weaver was nominated for Best Actress this year as well, making her one of the few people to be nominated twice in one year and come away empty-handed.
My Thoughts: I throw off the Working Girl nominees off the top. I think Frances McDormand doesn’t do enough to warrant a vote. So it comes down between Pfeiffer and Davis. Davis was definitely light and likable, but, since I can’t really pick a winner between the two performances, I go down to tiebreaking factors. And for me, Pfeiffer has done more work that’s been worth an Oscar than Geena Davis did. So that’s really what’s leading to my vote. Otherwise, I don’t really care about this category. I don’t like it that much.
My Vote: Pfeiffer
Should Have Won: I guess Pfeiffer. Maybe Davis.
Is the result acceptable?: Yeah. I just think Pfeiffer was the better choice because she’s had the better career, post-1988. Otherwise, I don’t really care who won here. Any of the five, as actresses, would have been worthy.
Performances I suggest you see: Mississippi Burning is a fantastic film and is one I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s really, really strong, and almost everyone who sees it will enjoy it.
Dangerous Liaisons is a really good film, but it’s a costume drama, and you need to be cool with that before you see it. Otherwise, it’s a really strong film about what cunts wealthy people could be. I really liked it a lot. Highly recommend it.
The Accidental Tourist — meh. It’s okay. Nothing fantastic. I’ll mention it because it’s not terrible. I don’t really recommend it, but I also don’t think it should be avoided. I don’t really know how to deal with it, so I’ll just talk about it and not say either way anything good or bad about it.
And Working Girl is light enough. It’s all right. I don’t love it, but it’s watchable. Check it out if you think you’ll like it. Otherwise, I’m not a particularly huge fan of the film.