Julie Christie: Afterglow
Helen Hunt: As Good as it Gets (winner)
Judi Dench: Mrs. Brown
Kate Winslet: Titanic
Helena Bonham Carter: The Wings of the Dove
1997 is one of those years where, at least of the movies I’ve seen, the standout performances are actors rather than actresses. There are a few changes I’d make, though, because there are some performances I like more than at least a few of our nominees. Oscar was not a science fiction fan in 1997, and Uma Thurman was probably supporting in Gattaca, but I think she’s worth a mention here. The same could be said of Nicole de Boer in Cube, which wouldn’t get noticed even in the weakest of years. Oscar hates horror, too, which is going to leave out Neve Campbell in Scream 2. I would genuinely nominate Penelope Cruz in Abre los Ojos, but I’m partial to Penelope Cruz in general. I’d most like to see Jodie Foster here in Contact, although I’ve taken some heat for mentioning that movie before.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I genuinely like Julie Christie as an actress, but I hated every moment of Afterglow so much. Christie is a capable actor in anything she is in, but she is wasted in this film, where her role is to essentially be an older, female version of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. The film is nothing more than disaffected rich people wondering why no one else cares about their genitalia as much as they do. Christie may well be the best thing in the movie, but that say so little that it’s not worth talking about any further.
4. It is entirely personal for me to put Helen Hunt in fourth, because I really don’t like Helen Hunt as an actor. I’ve never looked at her in a role and not wondered why they didn’t get someone else for it. The fact that she isn’t in last place, in fact, is a good indication of just how much I hated Afterglow. In truth, I didn’t like As Good as It Gets a whole lot more. Hunt is at least partly responsible for that, simply because I don’t really like Hunt. I suppose she’s as good as she ever is, but I also suppose that doesn’t say much.
3. I’m on the fence as to whether I would nominate Helena Bonham Carter in Wings of the Dove. She might barely make the list for me, but very likely would not. It’s not anything against her beyond the fact that she isn’t always the most interesting person on the screen. Linus Roache, who went unnominated, is far more interesting in the film. As a general rule, I like Carter as an actor, and I didn’t dislike her here; I’m just not sure she did quite enough to really earn the nomination in question.
2. For me, Judi Dench is pretty much always in the running when she’s gotten a nomination. She’s one of those actors who I find immediately compelling no matter what she is doing, and she has demonstrated that she can do just about anything. Mrs. Brown is hardly a carnival thrill ride of a film, but Dench is very good at what she does here, and she is always compelling on the screen. This isn’t a film I would probably watch again, but if I did, it would be in no small part because of Dench’s performance.