Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Verdict -- Best Supporting Actress 1971

#5. Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge: It was tough choosing between Ann-Margret and Margaret Leighton, but I ended up choosing Ann-Margret (I never know if I should call her Ann or if she'd get mad at me) as the weakest of the field because she did the least with the most. She gets the part right that you'd expect her to--she's sexy and saucy but can't handle the emotional chords when she needs to display something other than va va voom. She's robotic when she needs to be sympathetic and soft when she needs to be a hard ass. It just doesn't work and makes for a scattered, uneven performance.

#4. Margaret Leighton in The Go-Between: Margaret Leighton's performance has almost the exact opposite effect of Ann-Margret's. Given a role that could easily become a caricature or a cipher, Leighton works her hardest from the beginning of The Go-Between to give her character a presence that makes her final sequences understandable and tense. She's a true supporting actress, always in the background and working hard to make something out of nothing. It's an admirable performance, but one that doesn't have enough to fully warrant an Oscar nomination. She makes the film better, and that's reward enough.

#3. Cloris Leachman in The Last Picture Show: This was without a doubt the toughest of the five performances to write about and grade. Cloris does all that is required of her in the role and somehow doesn't make the emotional connection needed to make this performance an impactful one. All of my favorite moments in the film involving Ruth Popper are "Cloris" moments (her getting her head caught in her shirt), and not Ruth Popper moments which isn't a sign of a great performance. It's hard to hate this performance, but I don't really understand the love that is thrown on it. I still love you though, Cloris!

#2. Barbara Harris in Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?: If this was a one scene performance, Barabara Harris would be giving Ellen Burstyn a run for her money in winning this ranking. In a single scene Harris gives a performance that is off-putting and weird in the best way possible and then circles around and becomes shockingly heartbreaking. It's so out of left field and unexpected among the mess that is this film. Sadly, we have to watch as her awful movie drags her down by forcing her into a romance with Dustin Hoffman that kills the effect of the performance. It's a shame, really.

#1. Ellen Burstyn in The Last Picture Show: It's an easy victory for Ellen Burstyn, who goes the furthest in developing a full character. With a surprising amount of charisma for such a potentially despicable character, her performance is the least predictable and safe in her film. She's not afraid to be the villain or the bitch and yet still pulls you around with an astounding final monologue that gives you a new perspective and how Lois Farrow is. It's wonderful work that leaves you thinking about her for days.

The Year in Review: This was a year filled with good performances, but lacking in great ones. If I took anything away from these five ladies it was how difficult it is to rate performances. To me, a 3 rating essentially means "good but not great", and I'm still exactly sure how to describe what separates a 3.5 and a 4, or a 4.5 and a 5. It's a tough thing to do, which I guess is why the Academy has the good fortune to just check one box and not explain their reasoning behind it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing this year even if the films weren't all that interesting (especially The Go-Between and Who is Harry Kellerman...). It's made me more committed to picking up the pace and not losing quality, and I'm hoping to keep a somewhat steady pace in the future. But I always say that, so....who knows?

Shoulda Been a Contender: Eileen Brennan in The Last Picture Show

All Supporting Actress Nominees Ranking:
  1. Patty Duke in "The Miracle Worker" (1962)
  2. Dorothy Malone in "Written on the Wind" (1956)
  3. Thelma Ritter in "Pickup on South Street" (1953)
  4. Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983)
  5. Anna Paquin in "The Piano" (1993)
  6. Cher in "Silkwood" (1983)
  7. Eileen Heckart in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  8. Emma Thompson in "In the Name of the Father" (1993)
  9. Julianne Moore in "Boogie Nights" (1997)
  10. Ellen Burstyn in "The Last Picture Show (1971)
  11. Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed"(1956)
  12. Claire Trevor in "Dead End" (1937)
  13. May Whitty in "Night Must Fall" (1937)
  14. Mildred Dunnock in "Baby Doll"(1956)
  15. Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate"(1962)
  16. Geraldine Page in "Hondo" (1953)
  17. Gloria Stuart in "Titanic" (1997)
  18. Alfre Woodard in "Cross Creek" (1983)
  19. Barbara Harris in "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" (1971)
  20. Anne Shirley in "Stella Dallas" (1937)
  21. Amy Irving in "Yentl"(1983)
  22. Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential" (1997)
  23. Shirley Knight in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962)
  24. Cloris Leachman in "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
  25. Margaret Leighton in "The Go-Between" (1971)
  26. Rosie Perez in "Fearless" (1993)
  27. Joan Cusack in "In & Out" (1997)
  28. Ann-Margret in "Carnal Knowledge" (1971)
  29. Donna Reed in "From Here to Eternity" (1953)
  30. Glenn Close in "The Big Chill"(1983)
  31. Alice Brady in "In Old Chicago" (1937)
  32. Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)
  33. Holly Hunter in "The Firm" (1993)
  34. Minnie Driver in "Good Will Hunting" (1997)
  35. Thelma Ritter in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962)
  36. Winona Ryder in "The Age of Innocence" (1993)
  37. Grace Kelly in "Mogambo" (1953)
  38. Mercedes McCambridge in "Giant"(1956)
  39. Marjorie Rambeau in "Torch Song" (1953)
  40. Andrea Leeds in  "Stage Door"(1937)


dinasztie said...

Wow. I'm kinda surprised. It's not the love for Ellen that's surprising, it's rather the lack of love for Cloris. My vote is between them so I'm very content with Ellen winning.

Derek Bowman said...

I was surprised too because I ADORE Cloris, but I'm starting to think that might be only in comedic roles...maybe?

Something just didn't click with her performance to me, and I'm still trying to figure out how to explain it, lol.