The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1982
1982 is very ho-hum for me. Such good potential — such an obvious result. This is one of those years where you’re like, “Come on, Academy! Take a chance!” Gandhi wins Best Picture, which, is an easy decision. Because you also have Tootsie, The Verdict and E.T. nominated. See what I mean by easy?
Richard Attenborough wins Best Director for the film, which, I can’t really complain about too much, because I love Richard Attenborough, but, as I said here, there was a much better effort in that category that should have won instead. Ben Kingsley wins Best Actor for the film (which I talked about here), which is acceptable, because, one, it’s Gandhi, and two, it’s Ben Kingsley. Even though Paul Newman delivered yet another iconic performance in The Verdict, I understand that it’s Gandhi. Though, Peter O’Toole and Dustin Hoffman also delivered iconic performances here, but, it’s Gandhi, what are you gonna do? Best Actress this year was Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice (which I talked about here). ‘Nuff said. And Best Supporting Actor was Lou Gossett Jr. for An Officer and a Gentleman, which is just weird to me. I talked about it here.
As for this category — tough call. Could fall one of two ways, depending on your opinion. Either way, tough.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1982
And the nominees were…
Glen Close, The World According to Garp
Teri Garr, Tootsie
Jessica Lange, Tootsie
Kim Stanley, Frances
Lesley Ann Warren, Victor Victoria
Close — The World According to Garp is one of those films that, as I say every time I talk about it, is a film I’ve had on my radar from a very young age. My parents are not exactly a cinematic bunch. They watch movies, but it’s not like they’re into them in any real way. Until I got into movies, they’d rarely talk about what they saw. And I guess it was one of those things where, I really remembered my mother talking about this film, and it stuck. (This and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? are the two films I really remember her talking about.) And for years I’d known about this film but never really intended to see it. And then I did, and — wow.
The film is one of the weirdest, most unique, most fascinating films ever to be made. It’s almost impossible to describe. And yet — it’s incredible. It’s just amazing on every possible level, and yet I have no idea what the fuck it’s about. I just know that it’s amazing.
Glenn Close plays Garp’s mother, and — honestly, when you see this performance, you think, “Why didn’t she win an Oscar for this?” It’s that good. She’s just so quirky, and lively, and just — great. This is what supporting performances are. This category for me comes down to her and Jessica Lange, and I’m still not quite sure which way I’m gonna go. I guess we’ll find out soon, though, won’t we?
Garr — Tootsie is a great, great film. What a great comedy for all time. It’s strange for me to think of a comedy that’s classic that came out after 1980. To me, it just feels like comedy died a slow death from 1980 until now (especially the romantic comedy). Maybe it’s because comedy was about pushing boundaries and/or wit, and both of those things seem to be no more (the first I can understand, the second I blame on the studios). But this film is just incredible.
It’s about Dustin Hoffman, an actor who is a notorious hardass — one of those actors so dedicated to his craft that he’s just a pain to work with. And no one wants to work with him anymore because he’s such a huge dick, so what he does is go and pull a Mrs. Doubtfire (which, in reality, Mrs. Doubtfire pulled a Tootsie), and come back as a woman. And he goes and auditions for a soap opera as a woman — and older woman, in fact — and him being this polite old lady, mixed with his temper (he tells off the lead actor during an audition, which no one is willing to do), get him the job. And soon he becomes a huge star, as this woman, on the show. Kind of like how Clooney popped on ER. And he starts falling for Jessica Lange, the leading lady of the show, and he becomes torn because — does he keep it up for his career or does he tell her and risk everything? And naturally it’s funny, and lots of great situations happen. You probably should have seen this movie, because it’s amazing.
Teri Garr plays Hoffman’s roommate, who is also an actress, and actually tried out for the role he got. But he doesn’t tell her this, and keeps it a secret from her, because he thinks she’s too emotionally fragile to handle it. That’s the role Garr often played — emotionally fragile, capable of losing it at any point, but funny. And he is sort of dating her, but keeping the woman thing from her — it’s a part that would obviously get nominated in this category back in the 40s. Thing is though, you can’t really vote for her because Jessica Lange is in the category. It’s almost voting fraud, because Lange is kind of the lead in the film, and probably the only reason they put her as Supporting was because she was nominated for lead in Frances. And probably the reason she won (other than the fact that she’s Jessica Lange) is because she was nominated twice (and she wasn’t beating Meryl. It was fucking Sophie’s Choice) and this was the best category for her to win. So Garr (fair or not) falls by the wayside. And even so — she wouldn’t have beaten Glenn Close, so it’s all a moot point, whether you prefer her to Lange or not.
Lange — Lange, as I said, plays an actress on the soap opera that Hoffman wants to get with. She takes a liking to him as Dorothy, and it leads to comic situations as he comes onto her as Dorothy, even though she’s trying to set “her” up with her widowed father.
Honestly, while Lange is good, it’s kind of a cop out win, since they nominated her twice, and couldn’t give her Best Actress. She definitely didn’t give the best supporting performance in the category, and didn’t even give the best supporting performance in the film. All she really did here was take attention away from Teri Garr’s performance. Which is a shame. And on top of that, she took an Oscar away from Glenn Close, who really should have won here. I love Jessica Lange, but Glenn Close really should have won here.
Stanley — Frances is a biopic of Frances Farmer. It’s an interesting biopic, because it paints her as a rebel who, once she was placed inside the Hollywood machine, was ultimately destroyed by it (because Hollywood don’t like rebels).
We see her as a young girl who (in a very straight-laced, religious small town in Seattle) writes an article saying God is dead. And people go fucking nuts over this, call her a communist (it’s the 30s). And she, rather than be put down, stands strong. And she even goes over to Russia, which only adds fuel to the fire. And then she leaves to become an actress, goes out to Hollywood, and is immediately disheartened by the fact that all they want to do is make her a sex object. She’s trying to be an actress, and they’re like, “stick out your chest a little more” (she did not, however, respond to this by calling her director “Hitler”). But she becomes a huge star anyway, but it’s empty for her, because she didn’t do anything to get there. And there’s this great moment where they have a premiere of a film in her hometown, and she goes back, and everyone is all nice to her, and she’s like, “Bullshit, you all fucking hated me when I was here.” Love that scene.
And then she decides she wants to be a real actress, so goes to act with a playwright on the stage, who doesn’t think she’s that talented but takes her anyway because he knows she’ll help make his plays a success. And eventually, he refusal to come back to Hollywood leads to them blackballing her, and that causes her to have a nervous breakdown. Then there are a couple of great scenes of her in the looney bin, and then Sam Shepard (her boyfriend) comes and busts her out, and she goes back home, and eventually she gets better.
It’s a pretty strong film. I tend to forget how strong it is, because it feels, after time, to just be a standard biopic. Lange is really great in it.
Kim Stanley (former Best Actress nominee from 1964) plays Lange’s mother. She’s very controlling, and is the kind of mother who Lange loves and hates. She fights with her a lot, but — she’s her mother. And then, once Lange has the breakdown, she begins to see that her mother is actually hurting her and not helping her, and is actually trying to keep her insane in order to stop her from going back (or maybe it’s the other way around. Basically she’s looking out for her own interests and not her daughter’s). And Lange eventually is like, “Fuck you, mom! I’m my own person,” and breaks free of her.
Stanley is really good here. Only problem is, she wasn’t beating Lange or Close, and even though she was great, I personally would vote for Teri Garr over her (simply because I love Teri Garr, and would rather award people I like over veterans), even though she was probably better than Garr, performance-wise. So I rank her as a #4. Either way, she was good, but I still say the category is between Lange and Close.
Warren — Victor Victoria is a film that would have gone over a lot better were it made 20-25 years earlier. It’s about a poor singer (Julie Andrews) who is fired from her job. She has no money, and is so hungry she tells her landlord she’ll sleep with him for a meatball. So she decides, “fuck it,” and goes to a fancy restaurant, has a gourmet meal, knowing she can’t pay for it. And while there, she meets a dude (Robert Preston, Harold Hill himself) who is a singer at a club she auditioned at earlier in the day (who was fired that day too). And he, also out of work, joins her for the meal, even though neither can pay for it. And eventually, they go back to his apartment (he’s gay), and one of his former lovers comes back, and Julie Andrews scares the dude off (she’s wearing Preston’s clothes, so the guy thinks she’s a dude). And Preston gets an idea — she should pretend to be a man and work at a drag show. That is — pretend to be a man, pretending to be a woman.
And she does this, and becomes a huge star, and complications arise when James Garner, a gangster from Chicago, shows up and falls in love with her (he knows she’s a ‘him’ but also has a feeling she’s a woman). And comic situations ensue and such — it’s a fun film. My only problem with it is that it’s a bit too long. There are musical numbers that drag on, I felt. The film would have been a lot better in the 50s because it would have shaved off that extra 20 minutes of fat I feel the film has. Still, though, it’s pretty great.
Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlett from Clue) plays James Garner’s moll (complete with the high pitched Brooklyn accent, like, “Dont’cha know you oughta treat a goil betta?”), who is constantly flustered, because she thinks he’s in love with a dude, and gets to have the great moment where Julie Andrews takes her back into another room and shows her that she’s really a woman. Warren’s reaction is priceless.
Warren is really good here. Only problem — performance is too slight in the film, and the category is too strong. So she never had a shot. It’s a real shame, because she was great here, but the nomination is a reward in itself. It’s nice to see her get recognized.
My Thoughts: It’s really all Glenn Close here. She gives, by far, the best performance in the category. I understand the Lange win from an Academy perspective, but all things being equal — Glenn Close really should have won this.
My Vote: Close
Should Have Won: Close
Is the result acceptable?: Yeah, I guess. Lange was good, she was nominated twice, and she was up and coming at the time. I can totally understand the win. But Close never won, and Lange would win Best Actress in 1994, so it feels a bit weak. But still, it’s acceptable, I guess. (Close still was best in the category.)
Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Tootsie, we can’t be friends.
I really, really, really — really, really — suggest you see The World According to Garp. It’s such a fucking great movie.
Victor Victoria — utterly delightful. Not perfect. Good. Good enough. Worth checking out. Recommended.
Frances — decent. Good performance by Jessica Lange. Not groundbreaking, you can probably skip it. But if you’re thinking of giving it a watch, I recommend it. It’s definitely worth one of those. Lange is really good in it, too.