Glenda Jackson: Hedda
Carol Kane: Hester Street
Louise Fletcher: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (winner)
Isabelle Adjani: The Story of Adele H.
This is a weird, weird year, at least for Best Actress. A lot of the great films, like Jaws and Dog Day Afternoon, don’t have a huge female presence. Others, like Picnic at Hanging Rock, don’t have a specific main or central performance. I might consider Barbara Harris in Nashville, but every performance in that film feels like a supporting one. Someone will bring up Jeanne Dielmann…no. Just no. Katharine Ross in The Stepford Wives, maybe? Or Faye Dunaway in what is really more of a supporting role in Three Days of the Condor?
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I hated all of the characters in Hedda, even if the story had some solid potential. I don’t really like Glenda Jackson that much anyway, so that’s going to count against the film as well. Additionally, while this shouldn’t count against the film, I had a terrible copy and an awful time watching it. It may feel like a cheat putting an actress I don’t love in a film I didn’t like in last place, but that is how these work. Hedda is a film I can’t imagine wanting to watch again. A lot of that is the characters and story, but at least some of that is Glenda Jackson herself, which is why I’m putting her last.
4. I don’t know that I can honestly judge Tommy beyond the music. This includes judging the performance of Ann-Margaret. She does have one of the most memorable scenes of the year, when her mental breakdown causes her to swim in fountains of baked beans and chocolate sauce, but memorable doesn’t necessarily equate to good. The movie is such a surreal mishmash of great scenes and terrible ones, that I honestly don’t know what to think about it, and I certainly don’t know what to think of Ann-Margaret. I’m putting her in fourth because I have nowhere else to put her.
3. Every movie I can think of that has Isabelle Adjani in it features her playing someone who is either insane or being driven insane. Talk about typecasting, right? I like Adjani’s performance in The Story of Adele H. more than I like anything else in the film and much more than I like the film itself. Her performance is a good one, even if where it’s going is a foregone conclusion from early on. Adjani could be magnetic on the screen, and while she’s good here, she’s not nearly as captivating as she should be or could be. Part of that is the material, but part of it is her, too.
2. I didn’t love the movie Hester Street, but I did love seeing Carol Kane in a completely new way. Kane is much better known for comic roles, often broadly comic ones, so seeing her in a straight dramatic piece was interesting. She is very good in the film, putting in one of the better performances of her career, and that’s saying something, since I consider myself a Carol Kane fan. It would have to be a pretty weak year for me to give her an Oscar for it, but I like the nomination quite a bit. This is a weaker year for the category, but Kane still isn’t the best choice.
1. Louise Fletcher was the right winner, and she’d be my winner in a lot of other years as well. Nurse Mildred Ratched is one of those iconic film roles that becomes more than it was on the page and enters into public consciousness. There’s a little bit of Ratched in every dominating, evil woman with a little bit of power in just about every movie that has followed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When you have something that transcends the movie and transcends the character herself, going elsewhere with the award is difficult to justify. So I won’t, and I’ll give the Oscar to Louise Fletcher just as the Academy did.