The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1991
1991 is actually one of the strongest Best Picture years of all time. Not everyone would think of that off the top of their head. But between The Silence of the Lambs, JFK, Beauty and the Beast and Bugsy (not The Prince of Tides), this is a top five Best Picture category of all time.
The Silence of the Lambs wins Best Picture, Best Director for Jonathan Demme (talked about here), Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins (talked about here), this category, and also Best Screenplay. Always need to mention when a film wins the Big Five. Best Supporting Actress for this year was Jack Palance for City Slickers. My thoughts on that can be found here. And Best Supporting Actress was Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King (talked about here), which was a good decision in what was one of the weakest Best Supporting Actress categories of all time.
And then there’s this — Clarice Starling. Boom. Done.
BEST ACTRESS – 1991
And the nominees were…
Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise
Laura Dern, Rambling Rose
Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
Bette Midler, For the Boys
Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise
Davis — Thelma and Louise is about two unhappily married women who get in a car to go on a road trip, end up shooting a guy, and then wind up on the run from the law, which is continued to its natural conclusion — driving a car off a cliff into the Grand Canyon. It’s pretty famous.
Davis plays Thelma, a bored housewife whose husband is verbally abusive. She’s good here, but, this is an easy vote split between her and Sarandon. Both are solid, but you can’t really choose between them (though I’d imagine most people would choose Sarandon. Honestly, if I had to choose, I’d choose Davis).
Dern — Rambling Rose is a film that — I don’t think it’s that good, but it has a fantastic lead performance by Laura Dern. Holy shit is she good here.
Dern plays Rose, who used to be — well, they don’t quite tell you, but it’s implied she used to be a whore of sorts. Basically. And she comes to live with this family — Diane Ladd (her actual mother, which is pretty humorous), Robert Duvall, and the kids (Lukas Haas being the boy, who the story is framed around). And she comes and, after Duvall acts nice to her, she immediately falls in love with him. She’s that kind of character. Very impulsive, and very naive. And — I don’t really want to go through the plot step by step, but trust me, when you see this performance, you totally believe it. This is such a fully realized character, and Dern is so good here.
She was so good that she really made me consider voting for her over Jodie Foster.
That takes skill.
Foster — Silence of the Lambs. She’s Clarice. That’s really all you need.
Midler — For the Boys is a film about Bette Midler, a singer who becomes an entertainer of the troops. That’s pretty much it. She goes out, they like her, she starts doing it. And keeps doing it, for all the wars. And it’s not a bad film. There’s singing and dancing, and James Caan, and both leads are good in it. But there’s no way you can tell me you’d vote for Bette Midler here. Voting for her here is like saying this performance was better than her The Rose performance. (Because she’s not someone like Al Pacino, who can get a career achievement Oscar. This is a performance by performance basis deal.) It’s not. So she shouldn’t win.
Sarandon — Double nomination. Love these.
Sarandon is Louise, a waitress, who is the one who shoots the rapist that leads to all their problems. She’s also great here. But — vote split. Pretty simple. You can’t have two vote split performances against someone like Jodie Foster. You can’t come back from that.
My Thoughts: Love the decision. I almost — almost — voted for Laura Dern here, but, cooler heads prevailed. Foster all the way.
My Vote: Foster
Should Have Won: Foster (and maybe also Dern)
Is the result acceptable?: Yeah. I mean, did Jodie Foster need to win this? No. Is it nice that she did? Yeah. So, you know, I’m cool with it.
Performances I suggest you see: The Silence of the Lambs — if you haven’t seen it, you’re dead to me.
Thelma and Louise — you probably should see. It’s kind of a major film. Not essential just because of the amount of really essential films there are, but, culturally, it’s close. We’ll consider this a culturally essential film. You need to see it.
Rambling Rose — not a great movie. Terrific performance by Laura Dern. That’s your reason to see it.
For the Boys — meh, it’s okay.