Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Verdict -- Best Supporting Actress 1966

#5. Geraldine Page in You're a Big Boy Now: Oh, Geraldine. It's pains me to say this, but this performance from the 8-time Oscar nominee is easily the worst Oscar nominated performance I've ever seen. Margery Chanticleer is the epitome of the over-protective mother cliché, and instead of fighting against this cliché to craft a real character Page indulges all the worst impulses possible. She's shrill, obnoxious, and utterly without dimension. Her ghastly presence never fails to annoy, and this nomination is simply unfathomable to me.

#4. Jocelyne LaGarde in Hawaii: This nomination stands among the most bizarre in the history of the Academy, and I'm sure LaGarde herself was stunned at the prospect of anyone deeming her work among the five best of anything. That's not to say this performance doesn't have any value at all, because LaGarde makes for an interesting screen presence. She's saddled with a jovial, innocent character that is all about love and warmth, and expresses those emotions in a natural way that feels like her own personality. But this feels like good casting as opposed to good acting, and LaGarde struggles when delivering dialogue or handling any moments with any real weight. It's a puzzling, interesting nomination, but is certainly no feat of conscience acting.

#3. Vivien Merchant in Alfie: In the self-centered mess that is Alfie, Vivien Merchant delivers a true supporting performance that floats in the background of all of Michael Caine's smug caddishness. Her performance is a very quiet one that reeks of normalcy, perfect for the normal girl she is meant to play. Even when her storyline takes a tragic turn Merchant remains steadfast in her subtlety, which I admired greatly. She clearly and effectively expresses emotion without delving into overacting. Unfortunately, the film doesn't seem to care even a little about her and thus we aren't allowed to fully understand this woman on any more than a basic level. No fault of Merchant's, certainly. Also: That scream!

#2. Wendy Hiller in A Man for All Seasons: The most pleasant surprise of this year was my increased appreciation for Wendy Hiller's crusty yet emotional performance as Lady Alice More. For a great part of this film Hiller simply does her usual frosty thing, which she is indeed an expert at. But it's in her final two or three scenes in which she heart-breakingly unveils the inner core of this woman and all her insecurities. Within the matter of minutes her performance glides effortlessly through rage, resentment, understanding, and pure love. She makes a wonderful final impact, and certainly adds emotional weight to her film's final moments. I have so much affection for this solid, reliable performance.

#1. Sandy Dennis in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: While she is far from an exciting or unique pick, ultimately Sandy Dennis could not be denied the win in this all over the place field. Her Method understanding of Honey may be thorough to the point of distraction, but that firm grasp of the character ultimately pays dividends. She unravels the secrets of this character, perhaps the least integral of the main quartet, in a way that reveals Honey to be a savvy and underhanded player of games. She combines her character's insecurities with undeniable cunning and a deceptive simplicity that is fascinating and always absorbing to watch. Oh, and she truly does dance like the wind.

The Year in Review: This truly was a mixed bag of the year. Much like this year's Best Picture race the decision saw A Man for All Seasons and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? duking it out for my pick. But as much as I admire Wendy Hiller's underrated, emotional performance I had to agree that the Academy made the right choice here. Sandy Dennis does so much more with her performance than any of the other nominees, and has far and away the most material to work with. I'm sad to give Geraldine Page my last place because I've loved her before (I'll always have Sweet Bird of Youth & The Trip to Bountiful) but that performance is simply repugnant. Still, Alfie is easily my least favorite film of the bunch. I'm sure there were better alternatives to my bottom three choices all of whom simply couldn't cut it in my eyes, though I'm not familiar enough with the year to offer up any alternatives.

 Every Supporting Actress Nominee Ranked:
  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. Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago" (2002)
  5. Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983)
  6. Anna Paquin in "The Piano" (1993)
  7. Meryl Streep in "Adaptation." (2002)
  8. Cher in "Silkwood" (1983)
  9. Eileen Heckart in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  10. Emma Thompson in "In the Name of the Father" (1993)
  11. Julianne Moore in "Boogie Nights" (1997) 
  12. Ellen Burstyn in "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
  13. Oprah Winfrey in "The Color Purple" (1985)
  14. May Whitty in "Mrs. Miniver" (1942)
  15. Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  16. Claire Trevor in "Dead End" (1937)
  17. Sandy Dennis in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966)
  18. Agnes Moorehead in "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942)
  19. May Whitty in "Night Must Fall" (1937)
  20. Margaret Avery in "The Color Purple" (1985)
  21. Mildred Dunnock in "Baby Doll" (1956)
  22. Julianne Moore in "The Hours" (2002)
  23. Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt" (2002)
  24. Wendy Hiller in "A Man for All Seasons" (1966)
  25. Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
  26. Ethel Waters in "Pinky" (1949)
  27. Amy Madigan in "Twice in a Lifetime" (1985)
  28. Meg Tilly in "Agnes of God" (1985)
  29. Teresa Wright in "Mrs. Miniver" (1942)
  30. Gloria Stuart in "Titanic" (1997)
  31. Alfre Woodard in "Cross Creek" (1983)
  32. Barbara Harris in "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" (1971)
  33. Geraldine Page in "Hondo" (1953)
  34. Anne Shirley in "Stella Dallas" (1937)
  35. Amy Irving in "Yentl" (1983)
  36. Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential" (1997)
  37. Shirley Knight in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962)
  38. Cloris Leachman in "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
  39. Margaret Leighton in "The Go-Between" (1971)
  40. Rosie Perez in "Fearless" (1993)
  41. Mercedes McCambridge in "All the King's Men" (1949)
  42. Joan Cusack in "In & Out" (1997)
  43. Anjelica Huston in "Prizzi's Honor" (1985)
  44. Ann-Margret in "Carnal Knowledge" (1971)
  45. Gladys Cooper in "Now, Voyager" (1942)
  46. Donna Reed in "From Here to Eternity" (1953)
  47. Glenn Close in "The Big Chill" (1983)
  48. Susan Peters in "Random Harvest" (1942)
  49. Vivien Merchant in "Alfie" (1966)
  50. Alice Brady in "In Old Chicago" (1937)
  51. Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) 
  52. Holly Hunter in "The Firm" (1993)
  53. Queen Latifah in "Chicago" (2002)
  54. Celeste Holm in "Come to the Stable" (1949)
  55. Jocelyne LaGarde in "Hawaii" (1966)
  56. Ethel Barrymore in "Pinky" (1949)
  57. Minnie Driver in "Good Will Hunting" (1997)
  58. Thelma Ritter in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962) 
  59. Winona Ryder in "The Age of Innocence" (1993)
  60. Grace Kelly in "Mogambo" (1953)
  61. Mercedes McCambridge in "Giant" (1956)
  62. Marjorie Rambeau in "Torch Song" (1953) 
  63. Elsa Lanchester in "Come to the Stable" (1949)
  64. Andrea Leeds in  "Stage Door" (1937)
  65. Geraldine Page in "You're a Big Boy Now" (1966)


Alex in Movieland said...

The leading race of that year was just as diverse, I'd say. :)

Never knew how to really feel about Sandy. It's outthere for sure.

Derek Bowman said...

The leading year was definitely diverse as well, probably more so. Sandy is one of those perfs that I admire without out and out loving. In a stronger year she wouldn't win. My 2nd weakest winner so far. :)

Allen said...

Great job! Figured out your next year yet? :)

Alex in Movieland said...

Well, Sandy would've won in '67... or '65. :P

was that a weaker decade?
M.Rutherford ugh.
haven't seen Alexis Zorbas.
Ruth Gordon was good tho. :P

Derek Bowman said...

Allen: Yes I have! I have 1/5 reviews done, so don't expect it too soon :)

Alex: The 60's were generally a weak decade for this category I think. Of the 10 perfs I've reviewed so far only 4 were nomination worthy. And the rest I've seen in this decade in general weren't great.

Oh, and when I said in a stronger year Sandy wouldn't win, I meant personally not for the Academy. She'd win in many years with them, it's a very flashy perf. :D

joe burns said...

Sandy is the only one I've seen, and she is great, though I agree with you. I don't love the performance the way others do, but she is certainly brilliant.

I think Jones, Moreno, Duke, Kedrova (Have you seen her? She's amazing!), Dennis, Parsons (Though a rewatch is needed to completely confirm my thoughts) are all very strong to amazing performances. I haven't seen Rutherford and Hawn though. I've watched Ruth Gordon's performance on youtube, but never in the context of the film. I'll just say that I was not impressed with her, but you never know until you rewatch!

Winters is the only rotten apple. I'll rewatch her when I finish Best Actress 1965, but overall, her work is very one dimensional and disappointing to me. Fritz was exactly right when he said she didn't understand the character.

Derek Bowman said...

I like most of the winning Supporting performances I've seen so far in the Sixties, thought I haven't seen Jones, Rutherford, Winters, or Parsons yet.

I think the winners have mostly been good, but the nominees in the Sixties can be bleak.