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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered – The Best Actress Categories

We’ve gone through all the categories again and now it’s wrap-up time. I’ve decided that the proper way to wrap things up is to look at each of the six (original) Oscar Quest categories and compare how I voted the first time versus how I voted this time. The idea being to gauge where my tastes have changed over the past five years, as that was the purpose of going through and doing it again anyway.

Today is Best Actress. I’ve included a table of how I voted both times and color-coded the ones that are different so you can skim through easily. Then I’ll work my way through each of the categories where I changed votes, figure out why they changed and try to predict how it’s gonna go in another five years. 

Year The 2011/2012 Vote The 2016/2017 Vote
1927-1928 Janet Gaynor, Seventh Heaven & Street Angel & Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans Janet Gaynor, Seventh Heaven & Street Angel & Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
1928-1929 Mary Pickford, Coquette Corinne Griffith, The Divine Lady
1929-1930 Norma Shearer, The Divorcee Norma Shearer, The Divorcee
1930-1931 Irene Dunne, Cimarron Ann Harding, Holiday
1931-1932 Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet
1932-1933 Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory
1934 Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night
1935 Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams
1936 Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey
1937 Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth
1938 Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion
1939 Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind
1940 Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle Joan Fontaine, Rebecca
1941 Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust
1942 Teresa Wright, The Pride of the Yankees Teresa Wright, The Pride of the Yankees
1943 Jean Arthur, The More the Merrier Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette
1944 Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight
1945 Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce Gene Tierney, Leave Her to Heaven
1946 Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own
1947 Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra
1948 Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda
1949 Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress
1950 Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday
1951 Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire
1952 Julie Harris, The Member of the Wedding Julie Harris, The Member of the Wedding
1953 Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday
1954 Grace Kelly, The Country Girl Judy Garland, A Star Is Born
1955 Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow
1956 Carroll Baker, Baby Doll Carroll Baker, Baby Doll
1957 Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve
1958 Susan Hayward, I Want to Live! Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!
1959 Audrey Hepburn, The Nun’s Story Simone Signoret, Room at the Top
1960 Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment
1961 Natalie Wood, Splendor in the Grass Natalie Wood, Splendor in the Grass
1962 Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker Lee Remick, Days of Wine and Roses
1963 Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room
1964 Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins
1965 Julie Christie, Darling Julie Christie, Darling
1966 Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1967 Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
1968 Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl
1969 Genevieve Bujold, Anne of the Thousand Days Liza Minnelli, The Sterile Cuckoo
1970 Ali MacGraw, Love Story Ali MacGraw, Love Story
1971 Jane Fonda, Klute Jane Fonda, Klute
1972 Liza Minnelli, Cabaret Liza Minnelli, Cabaret
1973 Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist Marsha Mason, Cinderella Liberty
1974 Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence
1975 Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1976 Talia Shire, Rocky Faye Dunaway, Network
1977 Diane Keaton, Annie Hall Diane Keaton, Annie Hall
1978 Jill Clayburgh, An Unmarried Woman Jill Clayburgh, An Unmarried Woman
1979 Sally Field, Norma Rae Sally Field, Norma Rae
1980 Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter
1981 Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh Diane Keaton, Reds
1982 Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice
1983 Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment
1984 Sally Field, Places in the Heart Sally Field, Places in the Heart
1985 Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
1986 Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God
1987 Holly Hunter, Broadcast News Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
1988 Jodie Foster, The Accused Jodie Foster, The Accused
1989 Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy
1990 Kathy Bates, Misery Kathy Bates, Misery
1991 Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
1992 Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish
1993 Holly Hunter, The Piano Holly Hunter, The Piano
1994 Jodie Foster, Nell Jodie Foster, Nell
1995 Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
1996 Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves Frances McDormand, Fargo
1997 Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets Helen Hunt, As Good as It Gets
1998 Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
1999 Annette Bening, American Beauty Annette Bening, American Beauty
2000 Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
2001 Judi Dench, Iris Judi Dench, Iris
2002 Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven Julianne Moore, Far from Heaven
2003 Charlize Theron Monster Charlize Theron Monster
2004 Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005 Felicity Huffman, Transamerica Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
2006 Kate Winslet, Little Children Helen Mirren, The Queen
2007 Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
2008 Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
2009 Carey Mulligan, An Education Carey Mulligan, An Education
2010 N/A Natalie Portman, Black Swan
2011 N/A Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2012 N/A Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings PLaybook
2013 N/A Judi Dench, Philomena
2014 N/A Julianne Moore, Still Alice
2015 N/A Brie Larson, Room
2016 N/A Natalie Portman, Jackie

Out of 89 Best Actress categories, I’ve changed my opinion on 20 of them. 22% of the overall, 24% of the amount of categories I have to compare.

  • 1928-1929, Corinne Griffith in The Divine Lady over Mary Pickford for Coquette

I’m not gonna pretend like anyone even knows what the hell I’m talking about here. But Mary Pickford — makes sense she won. I took her last time for that reason, since no one really has an opinion on the second Best Actress category ever. On pure performance, I took Griffith. But she’s a silent performance. So it’s questionable as to whether that is the best choice if we’re looking historically. I have no clue what the hell I’m gonna take in five years. I mean… sure.

  • 1930-1931, Ann Harding in Holiday over Irene Dunne in Cimarron

It’s always worth mentioning when the actual winner doesn’t factor into my decision-making whatsoever. Both times, didn’t go anywhere near Marie Dressler. Doubt I will in the future. Dietrich never did it for me, doubt she ever will. Norma Shearer — ehh. Dunne makes sense on a base level. I took her originally because she never won and this was the best chance to giver her an Oscar. Harding was my favorite performance this time. These early categories, unless there’s one performance that’s a clear winner or one I latch onto, they’re always wide open.

  • 1940, Joan Fontaine in Rebecca over Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle

I took Ginger because it’s Ginger and this was her only shot at an Oscar. I always thought Joan Fontaine gave the best performance, so that was a pretty easy switch this time out. This year… it is very liable for change in the future. Maybe I decide to go back to Rogers. Sticking with Fontains seems likely. I wouldn’t rule out a possible switch to Katharine Hepburn. Anything’s possible.

  • 1943, Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette over Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier

Another one. I took Jean Arthur because I could take Jean Arthur. And because I love The More the Merrier. Even at the time I acknowledged that Jennifer Jones gave the better performance, so that was remedied this time. 1943 is really weak, so Jones will almost certainly continue being the vote for the future.

  • 1944, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight over Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

Rookie move. The Stanwyck performance is iconic, but I’m not sure it’s actually a great performance. I mean, yes, it’s great, but like… is it great acting? Or great work? You know what I mean? I think Bergman gives the better performance, so that’s why I changed the vote. These two will be the choices going forward. It’ll always be one or the other.

  • 1945, Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven over Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

A complete 50/50 choice. Almost flipped these two last time. Could have gone either way either time. Crawford might be the better performance, but I think we’ll see a rubber match between these two in five years to decide my real feelings on which is better.

  • 1946, Olivia de Havilland in To Each His Own over Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter

Yeah, another one of those. I could theoretically take either of these every time. Celia Johnson makes sense as the one I took the first time. This time, I was more taken with de Havilland’s performance. Most people would take Johnson because Brief Encounter is the better known film, and I suspect that might have had a bit to do with why I took de Havilland this time. Since while I am trying to pick what I think are the best performances I also am trying to give people things they didn’t necessarily know about beforehand. So maybe like 5-10% of the decision was due to that. Either way, these are the two, so it’ll be one or the other next time I look at this.

  • 1950, Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday over Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

This category will always be a discussion. There are four potential choices in it. I never know what to do with the All About Eve nominees. I don’t know if I love either of them enough to actually take them. That is over one another and over these other two great performances. Everyone will take the Gloria Swanson performance at some point, because it’s so famous and because Sunset Boulevard is so great. But this time I went with what I kinda felt all along, which is that the Judy Holliday performance is astounding. This is a situation where she bursts onto the scene with something no one ever saw in a quintessentially memorable and perfectly cast performance. Sure, she’d pretty much do variations on it for the rest of her career, but this one is quite, quite good. It’s tough. This will always be a competition. I suspect I’ll keep flip-flopping all the way through. It’s weird how this go through of the categories were meant to make it so I pic what I actually feel, but they’re also making me seem like the horrible, middle-aged white Oscar voter that everyone (and even I!) hate. Go figure.

  • 1954, Judy Garland in A Star Is Born over Grace Kelly in The Country Girl

This is one of the biggest 50/50 choices in all the Oscars. It’s a really tough choice. It was 51/49 Kelly last time just because she also had three or four other performances on top of this one. This time, Garland got the vote because she was the best performance. It’ll always be between these two, and I suspect I’ll stick with Garland more times than not, just because that performances is undeniable. It’s so strong.

  • 1959, Simone Signoret in Room at the Top over Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story

I didn’t fully appreciate Room at the Top last time. It took the five years to come around to it, and I moved over to the right choice. Signoret will continue being the choice from here on out. This one was a course correction.

  • 1962, Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses over Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker

This is a tough one. The instinct is that Anne Bancroft should have won, hence the vote for her the first time. But I went back and watched it again — it’s a great performance, but I feel like I put more into it than was there. And since I’ve always really loved the Lee Remick performance, I found myself much more emotionally invested in that one this time, so I switched my vote over. It’ll always be one or the other going forward. I have no idea how I’ll vote next time. But with two good choices, it doesn’t really matter.

  • 1967, Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner over Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde

This being one of the strongest years in Oscar history, it’ll always be prone to vote changes. Between Dunaway, Hepburn and Anne Bancroft, you have three solid choices. I might even put Edith Evans in there in a good year. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for the wrong film, so I doubt I take her. But the others — all solid. Dunaway I think I took mostly for logistics reasons. Bancroft had one, Hepburn had one and would get three (including this one), and I didn’t take Dunaway in her win. That mattered to me at the time. Now, looking purely at the performances, I was most moved by the Hepburn one, so I took her. This will change. I know this will change. They’re all great.

  • 1969, Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo over Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days

Love the 1969 category. Maggie Smith as the winner is amazing, and I’m surprised I didn’t take her either time. Jean Simmons is great, Jane Fonda is fantastic! Bujold I like a lot, but I probably shouldn’t have taken her. I think I wanted to show my support for Anne of the Thousand Days. Liza Minnelli was always the performance I liked the best, so I switched my vote over to her. That’s all it was. I feel like I’ll keep taking Minnelli just because I really like that performance a lot.

  • 1973, Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty over Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist

I’m not a huge fan of this category. You’d think Streisand was a classic performance, based on the movie. Ehh. Burstyn sounds like she’s fantastic because it’s The Exorcist, but mostly all she has to do is scream and be scared for most of the movie. She’d be better the year after this when she won. Glenda Jackson is very good in A Touch of Class, and I suspect her having won in 1970 and me hating that decision factors into my not taking her. But Marsha Mason is very good and I do like that performance. Not sure I take her all the time, but she’s as good a choice as any in this category. It’s probably Jackson or Mason for me going forward. No idea which way I go until I have to vote.

  • 1976, Faye Dunaway in Network over Talia Shire in Rocky

Dunaway was always the choice. I took Shire last time because I love Rocky and figured Dunaway would win anyway. This second go around was about fixing the choices like that, and forcing myself to be honest about what the best performances are. So another course correction. It’s always Dunaway in this one.

  • 1981, Diane Keaton in Reds over Marsha Mason in Only When I Laugh

Mason delivered a lot of performances I liked a lot, and this was my chance to take her. The first time, anyway. That movie didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped in the five years between watches. And the rest of the 1981 category isn’t so great. Hepburn won on nostalgia. She doesn’t have a whole lot of heavy lifting to do in On Golden Pond. Susan Sarandon is good in Atlantic City, but I wouldn’t take her. I’ve still yet to get into The French Lieutenant’s Woman, so I can’t bring myself to vote for Meryl, even though a lot of people would go there. That basically leaves Diane Keaton by default. And since she does give a really great performance, she became the strongest performance by default and became the vote. It is what it is. I figure unless I get really into the Meryl performance, I’ll keep taking Keaton as the best of a bad situation.

  • 1996, Frances McDormand in Fargo over Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves

Tough call. There’s also Brenda Blethyn here. But the problem with her is that I don’t like her film all that much. So she’ll always end up a step behind McDormand and Watson. Watson I took the first time because I felt she gave the best performance. But fuck it if Marge Gunderson isn’t so goddamn memorable and well done. I’ll probably take McDormand over Watson more times than not because of that, but this is always gonna be an interesting discussion because of the three great choices in the category.

  • 1998, Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth over Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love

Let’s face it, we know who the best performance in the category is. I took Paltrow because I didn’t want to vote for that type of movie in Best Actress. And Paltrow’s in a movie I love and is charming. But you know what? When it’s the best, it’s the best. So Blanchett is now the vote. There’s not a whole lot else here, so unless I become enlightened toward Fernanda Montenegro, Blanchett’s gonna keep being my winner here.

  • 2000, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich over Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream

I’m surprised I even took Burstyn. One of my big things was always not particularly loving the performance as an Oscar winner even though a lot of people felt she should have won. If I knew I took her, I could have told you automatically the vote would be switched. Roberts makes sense, as a star turn. She’s good. Joan Allen’s also a contender here. Laura Linney. Doubtful I take Binoche. I’m curious how this will go in five years. I can be pretty sure I won’t take Burstyn but I can’t guarantee it’ll be Roberts. It could end up being Allen or Linney quite easily.

  • 2006, Helen Mirren in The Queen over Kate Winslet in Little Children

I took Winslet because she hadn’t won and because I didn’t want to vote for Mirren. It seemed too easy. Well, it’s too easy because she’s the best performance in the category. Mirren is the choice, and Mirren will continue to be the choice because there aren’t a whole lot of alternatives here. Unless I go all in on Judi Dench, Mirren should always be the choice in this one.

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