Friday, August 21, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1976

The Contenders:

Sissy Spacek: Carrie
Marie-Christine Barrault: Cousin, Cousine
Liv Ullmann: Face to Face
Faye Dunaway: Network (winner)
Talia Shire: Rocky

What’s Missing

No significant complaints about the nominations for this year, but there’s always room for improvement. Jodie Foster was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Taxi Driver, but I’ve seen shorter and smaller roles nominated for the big prize. A strange, possible case could be made for Candy Clark in The Man Who Fell to Earth, but that might be more of a supporting role as well. Lee Remick probably doesn’t last long enough in The Omen to qualify, and horror never gets its due anyway. Before someone goes all film school on me and suggests Eiko Matsuda from In the Realm of the Senses, know that I hated that movie.

Weeding through the Nominees

5 Of all the nominations, Face to Face is the one I’ve watched the most recently and the one I remember the least. That doesn’t bode well. Liv Ullmann is always worth watching, but I like her other movies that I’ve seen more than I like this one. Something here just doesn’t work for me. If I did find another performance to nominate, this is the one I would dump. Sorry, Liv. You’ve just been better elsewhere.

4. Is it a cop-out to put the two foreign language nominations in the bottom two spots? In this case, I don’t think so. If this were based on how much I enjoyed the movies, Cousin, Cousine wouldn’t be in the fourth spot. I like this film a lot more than I thought I would. The problem I have here is that Marie-Christine Barrault didn’t do much more than give a very good performance in a good movie. I want more from a Best Actress. I recommend the movie, but I have a hard time recommending her for a statue here.

3: I like the movie Rocky and I like Talia Shire in the movie. I just don’t think that she’s offered the best performance of the year; both the movie and she are a little overrated. While Shire comes into her own in the latter half of the story, for a large part of the film, she’s socially comatose. Okay, it’s a good performance and maybe even a great one, but there are two that I like a lot more.

2: Carrie is a movie that I think is completely overrated, even if it’s nice to see a horror movie get a little time in the sun during the Oscars. Sissy Spacek, though, is not overrated in this movie. This is a gutsy performance and one of her best. It might be that the movie itself is dragging her down for me. I think she’s absolutely worth watching. I just wish the movie that surrounds here was a little more worth watching as well.

My Choice

1: There’s really only one choice for Best Actress in 1976, and the Academy gave the statue to the right person. Faye Dunaway is absolutely electric in Network and even seriously contemplating anyone else would have been wrong. This award was hers the moment she first walks on screen. It’s probably the best of her career (this or Chinatown). It happens sometimes that the Academy gives someone a Lifetime Achievement Award in the guise of a competitive one. That’s not the case here. Dunaway was the right choice.

Final Analysis


  1. Nice rankings. Liv gets my vote for the top spot, but there's no arguing against Dunaway's work in Network. Never seen Cousin, Cousine, sounds interesting though.

  2. I haven't seen Face to Face, and I saw Cousin, Cousine so long ago that I remember nothing about the performances, so I can't comment on them.

    I agree Dunaway is the clear winner here. I don't have a strong opinion on the order of 2 and 3. I do agree Carrie is kind of overrated. Don't bother with the recent remake if you haven't seen it, by the way.

    1. I pretty much knew I wasn't going to see the remake of Carrie the minute I heard about it. I don't like the original enough to warrant what would most likely be a less-competent knock-off.

  3. I'm glad Faye won an Oscar before her career collapsed but to me that should have happened for Chinatown not here. She's good but perhaps because I don't like the film, it's almost disturbingly prescient and I admire it for that but I didn't enjoy it, I'm less enamored of her work then I should be.

    I agree that Liv has scored more heavily than she does in Face to Face and Talia Shire is fine in Rocky but its Stallone's movie and any competent actress could have delivered what she did. I've yet to see Cousin, Cousine. I would have pulled all three of them out of the race and replaced them with Sonia Braga in Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Geraldine Chaplin in Welcome to L.A. and Barbara Harris in Freaky Friday with Faye and Sissy Spacek remaining.

    So that leaves Sissy Spacek as my winner. I'm not a big fan of the film either, I'm not a horror fan although Carrie could be considered a suspense film with supernatural elements, but her performance elevates the film to another level.

    1. I like Dunaway a lot in Chinatown. I don't know which of those two films I would pick as her best performance. I love Network, but I'm certainly not averse to penalizing an actor for disliking the film that was nominated. I can't really blame you for doing the same here to the winner I pick.

      For me, Spacek is the beginning, middle, and end of what's worth seeing in Carrie. It's not a film I'd want to watch again any time soon, since I don't think it's that great, but if I do watch it again, it will be entirely for her.