The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1972

1972 is so easy to recap. Two films won most of the awards.

The Godfather wins Best Picture and Best Actor for Marlon Brando (talked about here). Cabaret wins Best Director for Bob Fosse (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey (talked about here). I’m of the opinion that The Godfather should have just won everything.

The only non-Godfather/Cabaret winner was Best Supporting Actress, which went to Eileen Heckart for Butterflies are Free (talked about here). That was one of the weakest Best Supporting Actress categories of all time.

And then this category. This is one of the weakest categories I’ve ever seen. Just glancing at it, you can pick out an easy winner. I mean — it’s not even close. Like, at all. Not even a little bit.


And the nominees were…

Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

Diana Ross, Lady Sings the Blues

Maggie Smith, Travels with My Aunt

Cicely Tyson, Sounder

Liv Ullmann, The Emigrants

Minnelli — Is there any doubt that she wins this category? She already had an Oscar nomination (from the terrific The Sterile Cuckoo), and was just a force of nature here. Plus — it’s Cabaret. If you’ve seen it, you know how great it is. And how great she is in it.

I’m not wasting time with this one. She deserved it.

Ross — Lady Sings the Blues is a biopic of Billie Holliday. The film itself I found very so-so, but Ross’s performance is pretty good. My only problem with it is that it felt like a decent performance built up to be an Oscar-nominee. You know what I mean? Like Beyoncé in Dreamgirls. She was fine for the film, but people were like, “Oh man, she should win an Oscar!” Or whatever they said. Ross was fine here, does the material justice (though I don’t think the material’s all that good), but there’s really no way she was ever beating Liza Minnelli here. In a stronger year, she’s probably not even nominated (or at the very least, a clear #4 or #5). Here, she’s probably a #2.

Smith — Travels with My Aunt is a weird comedy of sorts (it’s allegedly a comedy. I didn’t laugh at all).

Maggie Smith is an eccentric older woman (which is just weird that they would cover her up in so much makeup like that. Why would you deliberately make her unattractive like that?) who randomly shows up at a dude’s mother’s funeral to tell him she’s his aunt and that the woman wasn’t actually his mother. And then she takes him on a crazy ass adventure. She’s got a fortune teller boyfriend, and he’s been kidnapped, and they send his severed finger and tell her it’ll cost $100,000 to get him back, and then she smuggles money in order to get the ransom money, and it’s a whole thing. Nowadays it would be this crazy action-comedy. Here it’s just — I don’t really know what it is. George Cukor directed it. He was very old when he made this, and it shows. Usually directors lose the ability to judge tone when they get old.

Maggie Smith is fine here, but she’d just won an Oscar, and this was certainly not a performance that was ever going to win a second Oscar. It probably shouldn’t have even have been nominated, but this year is so weak that it’s actually a good thing she’s here, like a breath of fresh air or something. Still, no vote.

Tyson — Sounder is a film about a black family of sharecroppers. And Sounder is the family dog. And we see this family living off of meager rations, trying to survive, and then one day the father is arrested for stealing a ham. And as the father is taken away, Sounder runs after him, and one of the cops shoots at him. And then the dog disappears and is presumed dead. The boy continues to search for the dog regardless. And we see the family dealing with the loss of the father, and the father dealing with hard labor in prison.  And the end of the film is both the dog and the father returning, and everything is happy.

It’s a decent film. I didn’t particularly care for it. But a lot of people do.

Tyson plays the mother of the family, and does a really good job with the role. I’m slightly biased against the performance, because the film looks like it was shot for television and hasn’t held up well at all. And when I see stuff like that, I tend to discount the performance. Either way, though, Liza Minnelli was winning this year, so at best, Tyson is a #2.

Ullmann — The Emigrants is one of those films — I just don’t understand the Oscars. When they decide to nominate foreign films, they nominate stuff like this. And this gets a bunch of nominations. Yet 8 1/2 gets next to nothing (comparatively). Very weird, what they decide to like.

The film is about a Swedish family who has a really hard time making it in their home country, so they decide to emigrate to the US. And they come over with a bunch of other people also emigrating, and we see them on their long and arduous journey, clinging to what they believe to be the American Dream.

Liv Ullmann is the wife of Max con Sydow. It’s basically the wife/mother role. She was fine here. But I was just so bored by the film that I didn’t even care how good the performance was. The Academy Awards being about the actual performance as much as they are history and what will hold up — this is a performance that should not win. You don’t want people having to sit through this movie. You just don’t. Cabaret is a much better film, and Liza Minnelli gives a terrific performance in it. That’s a performance you want to win this category. So I honestly didn’t even care how good Ullmann was, because this film was just like something like The Bostonians — it’s so bad, it doesn’t matter how good people are in it, because you really don’t want to subject people to it.

My Thoughts: It’s Minnelli all the way. It’s — not even close. There isn’t even anything to say. That’s it. It’s her.

My Vote: Minnelli

Should Have Won: Minnelli

Is the result acceptable?: The only acceptable decision in the category. Seriously. It’s insane how weak this is. But, really, Minnelli (I felt) was really great in 1969, and was really the only choice here. I mean — they’d really have had to have fucked up in order to not pick this one correctly.

Performances I suggest you see: Cabaret. Essential. Do it.

Uhh — Sounder is pretty good. Worth a look. The rest — meh. I really didn’t like this category at all, outside of Cabaret.


5) Ullmann

4) Smith

3) Tyson

2) Ross

1) Minnelli


One response

  1. Greatest moment in Oscar history – when Marlon Brando, the greatest film actor, refused it because of thousands of racist movies against Indians. Bravo!

    March 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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