The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered (Best Actress, 1987-1988)
The Oscar Quest began in May of 2010. I finished about fifteen months later, and wrote it up for this site. That was essentially the first thing I did on here. Five years have passed since then. I’ve grown as a person. My tastes have changed, matured (or gotten more immature, in some cases). So it feels fitting, on the five year anniversary of the site and of the Oscar Quest, to revisit it.
I want to see just how my opinions about things have changed over the past five years. I didn’t do any particular work or catch-up for this. I didn’t go back and watch all the movies again. Some I went back to see naturally, others I haven’t watched in five years. I really just want to go back and rewrite the whole thing as a more mature person, less concerned with making points about certain categories and films than with just analyzing the whole thing as objectively as I can to give people who are interested as much information as possible.
This is the more mature version of the Oscar Quest. Updated, more in-depth, as objective as possible, less hostile. You can still read the old articles, but know that those are of a certain time, and these represent the present.
Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
Sally Kirkland, Anna
Meryl Streep, Ironweed
Moonstruck is a film that I really needed time to come around on. I hated it the first time I saw it. And it took five years and about four rewatches to get to a place where I now am.
Cher plays a widowed Brooklyn accountant who gets engaged to Danny Aiello. He leaves for Italy to care for his dying mother and asks her to do one thing for him while he’s gone — invite his estranged brother, Nicolas Cage, to the wedding. She does this, but ends up falling in love with Cage along the way.
Took me a while, but I really enjoy this movie. Cher is very good in the role. You can see where her natural charisma and charm shine through. Completely get why they’d want to vote for her. That said, I don’t think this is the #1 performance in the category for me. I like it, and I see how that captured their fascination at the time (think of Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. That feels like it’s gonna be a similar win), but I don’t know if I actually prefer this performance for the win.
Fatal Attraction is the original crazy white lady movie.
Michael Douglas meets Glenn Close at a party and has a brief but passionate affair with her. He breaks it off, because he’s not gonna leave his wife and because Close is getting clingy. But then Close starts stalking him and doing all this fucked up shit and threatening to kill herself. This story has been remade a couple of times, so everyone knows it. But this is the original.
I say this, by the way, as I watch yet another bad knockoff version of it with Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall while I type the category up.
Close is wonderfully batshit here, and you can easily want to vote for her. I wouldn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I just can’t bring myself to vote for a performance like this or what, but I just would rather take at least one person over her, and may even want to take Cher over her.
Broadcast News is James L. Brooks. One of the greatest 50/50 filmmakers ever. He made six films. Three are not great. The other three are near perfect.
This is a film about news people. Holly Hunter is a neurotic producer, William Hurt is a charismatic anchor, and Albert Brooks is a talented newsman. Hunter and Brooks are a perfect match, only she’s not really into him past being friends. She is into Hurt, but he’s not really her type. He’s not overly well-versed despite being great at his job. So an interesting love triangle ensues.
Holly Hunter is great here. I love the performance. This became the basis of a lot of female characters after this. She’s great at her job. A bit of a perfectionist — she tells cab drivers what routes to take and micromanages everything. And there are random cuts of her just sobbing in the middle of the day. You’ve seen this character a bunch since this, but this is pretty much the start of all that.
My argument for this category was always — if you’re gonna go romantic comedy, why Cher over Holly Hunter? Not that it really matters, since I’ve come around on the Cher performance. But I do really love the Holly Hunter performance and find myself wanting to take her in this category each time I look at it. We’ll see if that changes in a minute, but generally this is the performance I take in this category.
Anna is a good story that’s been so utterly forgotten over the past thirty years.
Sally Kirkland is a Czech woman living in New York and trying to find work as an actress. A friend of hers enters the country to live with her. She also wants to be an actress. And the fucked up thing is that Kirkland has lived and struggled and this girl gets work almost immediately. Which of course causes Kirkland to have a breakdown.
It’s one of those solid indie performances that breaks through and gets nominated. These never stand a chance at a win in the actual categories. But they do have fervent support by some people. So I can see her getting votes. For me, she is either fourth or fifth here. I think the performance is fine, but the nomination is more than a reward. I like the three previous contenders more for a vote.
Ironweed is one of those movies that’s so amusing to me. Because it stars the two most respected actors of the past 40 years playing homeless people.
Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep are homeless people who start a relationship. I mean, sure, it’s based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, but it’s so funny to me that it’s about homeless people.
Meryl’s fine here. I couldn’t really pinpoint a character arc for her. The film seems mainly about Nicholson. Of all her nominated performance, this is definitely the least well known of them all. This isn’t something she should have won for. Not her weakest performance, but not a particularly strong one either. Fourth choice at best.
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The Reconsideration: This one is slightly more interesting than usual because two of the other performances have come up from where they usually are.
Kirkland is admirable but stands no chance, and Meryl is a no. But the other three I can see legitimately taking.
Glenn Close is great in Fatal Attraction, but I do think that I wouldn’t take it. I haven’t quite figured out why, but I just don’t feel it. And then, between Cher and Hunter — I still take Hunter. No need to try to reason this through. It used to be Hunter up high, then Close and Cher down further. But it’s closer than it was. So maybe in five more years it’ll be much more of a three-way race. But I still take Holly Hunter. I think she’s so good in Broadcast News.
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Rankings (category and films):
- Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
- Cher, Moonstruck
- Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
- Meryl Streep, Ironweed
- Sally Kirkland, Anna
My Vote: Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
Broadcast News is essential. One of the 200 most essential American movies. Maybe 300. I don’t know. The point is, you need to see this, because it’s wonderful. If you liked Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, you will like this.
Fatal Attraction is essential because it’s the OG crazy white lady film. You gotta see this one. This is how they did these movies proper back in the day.
Moonstruck is really good and really entertaining. High recommend. Not essential unless you’re an Oscar buff. But it’s awesome and should be seen. Plus Nicolas Cage with a wooden hand. So there’s that too.
Ironweed is not great. Not terrible, but not great. Completely forgotten too. Which is weird, since — Nicholson and Streep. That’s the only reason to ever see this. Tom Waits is in it too. But Nicholson and Streep are the only reason to see this. The movie’s just whatever.
Anna is decent. A good indie performance. Not essential. Not something you need to actively seek out. If you ever have the chance, sure. Light recommend, not bad. But don’t worry too much about seeing this unless it really sounds like something you’re gonna love.
The Last Word: Does Cher hold up? I don’t think she really does. If she didn’t win, it’s not like this would have been looked at as a snub by the majority of people. Some people would say so, but you can find a group of people who think just about anything is a snub. Holly Hunter would later win for a more universally accepted performance, so I don’t think she needed this. And Glenn Close — how would that have looked? I mean, ultimately this one could have gone a few different ways and been fine. I don’t think Cher doesn’t hold up, but I also don’t think she’s a particularly strong winner either. She’s fine, but I don’t know if she’s a consensus best choice winner. She might seem that way just because she won and we accept that she won and it makes sense. But otherwise, I think this could have been okay if it were Holly Hunter or Glenn Close. Probably. Sure. I think is my reaction to this category. Sure.
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Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
Jodie Foster, The Accused
Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
Dangerous Liaisons is a movie that’s been remade a couple times. Strangely enough, it got remade two years after this by Milos Forman. Annette Bening and Colin Firth. I saw that movie not knowing what it was and then realized, “Wait, is this Dangerous Liaisons?” And it was. Anyway…
Glenn Close is having an affair with a younger man, and he leaves her for a younger woman. So she decides she’s gonna fuck him over good and proper. She enlists John Malkovich in her scheme. He’s gonna seduce the virginal woman the guy left her for and then leave her. But he actually has legit feelings for Michelle Pfeiffer, and then everyone is sleeping with everyone else, and it’s all fucked up.
Glenn Close is wonderful here. She usually is. She’s playing a huge bitch who manipulates everyone. She’s really good. I would want to take her because she hadn’t won as of yet and had at least two win-worthy performances. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s the film feeling kind of on the nose. She may be as low as third in this category on performance. We’ll see.
The Accused is Jodie Foster’s big “adult” role. She’d been in that weird teen phase for a while and then busted out with this and established herself as a mature actress.
She plays a woman who gets gang raped at a bar one night and takes her rapists to trial. And it’s about how everyone looks down on her because she’s a “loose” woman, who goes out and parties and sleeps with men. But rape is rape. And the men are gonna get off on lesser charges and things like that, and she stands up and says “fuck that. They should go to prison.” And her and Kelly McGillis as the lawyer fight to make that happen.
It’s a great performance. It is. Some might say she won because of the actual “scene” on the pinball machine and all that. But honestly it’s the rest of it that’s equally as impressive to me. I know some people might not automatically take this, and I get it. Meryl is just as good. But to me, she really earns this one and is most likely going to be my vote. This is truly, truly impressive work.
Working Girl is an 80s romantic comedy. I used to hate this, but only because it got nominated for so many Oscars. I still don’t get that part, but I definitely really enjoy this movie, having seen it a bunch for this Quest.
Melanie Griffith is a secretary with ambition who ends up working for Sigourney Weaver. Weaver seems to really like her and support her pitching ideas. Then she breaks her leg in a skiing accident. So Griffith has to take meetings in her place for a while. During which she meets Harrison Ford and starts a relationship with him, and also works on a big idea that will help her advance… until Weaver comes back and threatens the whole thing.
Griffith is fine here. It’s a romantic comedy role. Not much heavy lifting required at all. Not sure why they nominated her, to be honest. She’s a decided fifth in this category and I don’t think she’d be the vote for anyone. She’s just so bland.
A Cry in the Dark is the “dingo ate my baby” movie. Seriously, that’s what this is.
You guys ever see the poster for this movie? The baby looks like Mathieu Amalric.
Meryl’s baby goes missing and she says a dingo ate it. They investigate and end up putting her and her husband on trial for murder.
It’s Meryl playing Australian. She’s, again, as she usually is, technically amazing. This one, I did feel for the character quite a bit and I thought she did a great job with it. I would think to vote for her most years, but in this one, she ends up duking it out with Jodie Foster, and I feel like I probably end up taking Jodie Foster.
Gorillas in the Mist is a biopic of Dian Fossey. Going to Africa and hanging out with them gorillas and studying them.
Sigourney Weaver plays Dian Fossey. She’s fine. It’s an adequate biopic kind of role. But she stands zero chance in this category. No way I take her over Streep, Foster and Close. I remember originally hearing that she was good enough to win this, but when I saw the movie I thought, “She’s fine, but that’s about it.” This performance, to me, is about the equivalent of Jessica Lange in Sweet Dreams. Very solid, very capable, but do you actually vote for this? It feels middle of the road. I think the category is much too strong to even consider her.
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The Reconsideration: It’s Jodie Foster for me. Meryl makes a close second, and Glenn Close makes an unfortunate third. (Unfortunate in that I wish I could take her or consider her higher than that.) But it’s Jodie Foster for me. I just love that performance and that’s the one that affected me the most. This is pretty cut and dry for me. Griffith doesn’t rate as a nominee for me and Sigourney Weaver never did much for me as an actress, for whatever reason. Between Meryl and Jodie, I take Jodie.
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- Jodie Foster, The Accused
- Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
- Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
- Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
- Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
- The Accused
- Working Girl
- Dangerous Liaisons
- Gorillas in the Mist
- A Cry in the Dark
My Vote: Jodie Foster, The Accused
The Accused is not essential, but is a high recommend. Very 80s, but the subject matter is one that resonates even today, with male rapists getting off easy most of the time and all the shame and trauma surrounding rape culture in general. Jodie Foster is incredible here, the film is very good, and it’s essential for Oscar buffs. I say see it. Plus that “scene” is one of the more iconic (and horrific) in film history. As far as scenes go, that’s pretty essential.
Dangerous Liaisons is a solid recommend and a solid film. Good cast, good performances, lot of nominations. Worth seeing, but probably not something you need to see.
Working Girl is a really entertaining movie. Took me time to come around on it, but it’s really fun. VERY 80s, and really engaging. Not essential, but worth seeing. Good movie to watch on cable. Most people will enjoy it. Go for it. It’s fun.
A Cry in the Dark is the “dingo ate my baby” movie. Honestly it’s best to just know of it and know that it’s out there. I don’t think you need to see it to be able to talk about it. But it is a good film. And I give it a solid recommend. Great work by Meryl.
Gorillas in the Mist is a good film. Enjoyable. Not essential. Moderate recommend, but not something anyone ever really needs to see.
The Last Word: Jodie Foster holds up here. Meryl didn’t need this, though she is good enough to have won and is worth taking. They’re the only two here. Griffith would have been a horrible winner and isn’t a great nominee. Close wouldn’t have held up outside of the fact that she’s Glenn Close. It would have looked bad, her winning and Jodie Foster losing. And Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t have held up either. Would have looked too 80s and been dated within five years. Maybe it would have seemed okay because of the double nomination and her stature as an actress people love, but the performance wouldn’t have held up at all. Jodie Foster was the best choice here. This one holds up.
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