Liza Minnelli: Cabaret (winner)
Liv Ullmann: The Emigrants
Diana Ross: Lady Sings the Blues
Cicely Tyson: Sounder
Maggie Smith: Travels with My Aunt
There are up years and down years in movies as there are in everything else. In the case of Best Actress for 1972, we’ve got a down year. I don’t love all of the nominations, but I also don’t have a lot of replacements I’d like to suggest. This may simply be a lack of familiarity with the year I turned 5. Hanna Schygulla for The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant seems like a likely nomination, though. Ingrid Thulin in Cries and Whispers seems like a bigger miss. I’m sure I’m missing something, but that’s what the comments are for.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I like Cicely Tyson in almost everything I’ve seen her in, and I liked her in Sounder. So why am I putting her last? Simply because she doesn’t belong in this category. Tyson should have been nominated as a Supporting Actress, and I’d completely agree with her nomination there. Oddly, Paul Winfield was also nominated for Sounder, and was also nominated in the wrong category. This seems like one of those political nominations where the nomination was the prize itself. In essence, it’s the reverse of a lead role being nominated as a supporting one. Why the hell does this happe?
4. I may be penalizing Maggie Smith for being in a film that I found disappointing, but Travels with My Aunt fell very flat for me. I didn’t hate the film, but I also didn’t like it much in large part because it didn’t seem to go anywhere. If there was a nomination to be had here, it was for Lou Gossett Jr. Smith is extremely good in this role, which is hardly a surprise, since Maggie Smith is pretty awesome in general. I don’t like the character, though, and I don’t like the movie that much, which makes it a much harder sell for me.
3. In a different year, Liv Ullmann would have a much better shot. She’s really good in The Emigrants, and it’s another case where it’s not that surprising. Ullmann is a talented actress, and here she’s been given a pretty meaty part with a lot to sink her teeth into. I like her, I like the role. Ullmann’s biggest problem, and the reason she can’t get above third place, is that there are two performances from this year that are among the best of their decade. That’s not Ullmann’s problem; it’s just her bad luck.
2. This is a case where we have a virtual tie in my opinion, so the tie goes to the Academy. I went into Lady Sings the Blues expected to check a box and walked out the other side with a deep respect for the talent of Diana Ross. It’s true that she doesn’t sound like Billie Holiday, but I don’t really care, and you shouldn’t, either. There’s an old story about how to really sing with passion, you need to have experienced love and loss and pain. I don’t know Diana Ross’s life, but if she hasn’t had those experiences, she’s a better actress than I’m giving her credit for being. She is a revelation here, and she’d win outright in pretty much any other year this decade.
1. But, as I said, tie goes to the Academy, and that means the winner is Liza Minnelli for Cabaret. I’m not a huge Minnelli fan. In fact, I frequently find her annoying, but in Cabaret she manages to do something that is nigh-impossible. She has given life to a character in Sally Bowles who I dislike intently and yet feel an overwhelming sense of pity for. Sally is a tragic person in so many ways, and Minnelli captures her perfectly, making her terrible and awful and pitiable and tragic all at once. That’s not easy to do, and I don’t know that it’s been done better.