Friday, April 6, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1970

The Contenders:

Carrie Snodgress: Diary of a Mad Housewife
Jane Alexander: The Great White Hope
Ali MacGraw: Love Story
Sarah Miles: Ryan’s Daughter
Glenda Jackson: Women in Love (winner)

What’s Missing

Once again we find a year where the nominations don’t really thrill me that much as a group. In Oscar’s defense for 1970, it’s a year where the men’s roles were a lot better in general. There are a few suggestions I can make here and some of them have some real teeth, but overall, it’s kind of a down year for Best Actress in general. To demonstrate just how unenthusiastic I am about the five nominations, I’m suggesting Jane Asher in Deep End as a possible replacement. I’m also seriously considering Jaroslava Schallerova in Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a film that does everything it can to sexualize a 13-year-old girl (although that’s not specifically Schallerova’s fault). There might be some interest in Barbara Loden in Wanda, and even that is lukewarm on my part, since I didn’t like the film that much. Ultimately, that leaves me with Catherine Deneuve and Tristana. Maybe I’m watching the wrong movies from this year?

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I hate Love Story so much and because of it, I’m putting Ali MacGraw on the bottom. When I reviewed this, I more or less said this is a movie where two assholes discover love between themselves and are assholes to everyone until one of them dies. It may well be my intense dislike of this film that is speaking here—I understand that this is a possibility—but I don’t see anything nomination-worthy in this performance. Of course, I say that about the film in general, so it’s no real susprise that MacGraw is landing on the bottom.

4. I didn’t hate Ryan’s Daughter, but I also didn’t like it very much. I found the movie to be boring more than anything else. It didn’t actively aggravate me like Love Story, but it’s at least an hour longer than it needs to be, and Sarah Miles doesn’t do anything to make that time worth watching. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the performance, but there’s also nothing that great about it. It’s fine and no better than that, and that doesn’t seem to merit an Oscar nomination.

3. Continuing the same theme, I’m not entirely sure of the value of Glenda Jackson’s nomination for Women in Love. I cannot pretend to be the biggest fan of Glenda Jackson—that’s a theme that has played itself out in the pages of this blog a number of times before. I find her regularly cold and emotionless, and in a film that is supposed to be passionate, that’s a real problem. Anyway, Alan Bates is far and away the best thing in this film. In a down year like this, I’m not shocked at Jackson’s nomination, but I really don’t understand her win.

2. To continue to demonstrate just how weak a year this is for this category, putting Jane Alexander in second place for The Great White Hope is almost shocking. Once again, there’s nothing specifically wrong with the performance that we are given here. Alexander is clearly comfortable in the role and she has really good chemistry with James Earl Jones since the two played these roles together on stage. But that’s it. It’s a decent performance in a film that isn’t that interesting or great. And I’m putting her in second.

My Choice

1. Who this leaves us with is Carrie Snodgress in Diary of a Mad Housewife, and in my opinion, the clear choice. It’s again in a film I didn’t like much since the film is pretty hateful, as is everyone involved, save Snodgress. She is the one spot of humanity in the entire film, the one person who seems like a real person and not something conjured from the deepest pit of Hades to afflict everyone they come across. Snodgress, in the midst of the hell of her life in this film, presents us something human and real and almost delicate. It’s a truly magnificent performance in an odious situation, and she should have been rewarded for it.

Final Analysis


  1. I'm totally out of my depth on this one since I haven't seen any of these nor anything else that might be Oscar-worthy from that year. That is, unless you want to count Sally Kellerman in M*A*S*H.

    1. I'd love to count Sally Kellerman, except that was clearly a supporting role. It's a really down year for this category.

  2. Geesh this category this time out is filled with very good actresses, well except for Ali MacGraw, in indifferent roles or the wrong placement.

    It’s not so much that I hated Love Story that makes me place Ali last. It was too insipid to engender that level of emotion for me but the fact that I think Ali MacGraw’s performance is probably the worst one ever nominated for Best Actress. I’ve seen her in interviews and she’s comes across as a lovely, intelligent, engaging woman but hand her lines and turn the camera her way and the woman turns into a tree!!!

    I’ve seen Sarah Miles in other things and she’s usually good and quite insightful and she’s not bad in Ryan’s Daughter but the film is bloated and she doesn’t do anything to make you forget that. Her work is solid but unexceptional in a part that NEEDS someone vivid like Julie Christie to anchor the story.

    I love Jane Alexander and she does what she can with her role in Great White Hope but her part in what should have been a riveting story deflates as the film rambles and rambles and rambles on greatly diminishing her impact.

    Which brings me to Glenda Jackson. I’m a much bigger fan of hers than you are-so excited she has returned to the stage!-but she’s a supporting player in her film and quite simply doesn’t belong here. If she had been nominated in support I still don’t know that I’d pick her as a winner but I wouldn’t have objected to her getting one. And yes the film is all about and belongs to Alan Bates.

    So that puts me in the same place as you with Carrie Snodgrass. I loathed her film and the other rancid people in it. However she manages to rise above the awfulness and gave a very fine interpretation of a woman that I found pathetic but that she made me feel for. But in an open field she won’t even make my short list.

    I haven’t seen your first two suggestions for alternates but I hate, hated Wanda and wasn’t very impressed with Barbara Loden in the film. Catherine Deneuve’s performance in Tristana is quite accomplished but I disliked the film so much I can’t recall much more than that I thought she was the best thing in it by a large margin.

    I do however have a whole alternate slate to replace what we were given. Mine would run this way:

    Julie Christie-The Go-Between
    Liza Minnelli-Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon
    Eva Marie Saint-Loving
    Stella Stevens-The Ballad of Cable Hogue
    Tuesday Weld-I Walk the Line

    With Ingrid Bergman as a runner up for A Walk in the Spring Rain.

    But my winner would be Stella Stevens who is far superior to anyone actually nominated in Cable Hogue. A wonderful actress who came along at the wrong time for her particular talents.

    1. Ah, dammit! I missed Cable Hogue going through the films of this year. Stella Stevens is a fine addition to the list.

      It's such a weird year for this award.

    2. That's okay since the Academy seemed to miss it too. There can be no other explanation how in such a weak year she was ignored when it should have been a direct walk to the podium for her.

    3. It's yet another reminder why I do these twice a week. As I've said any number of times, these posts aren't a celebration of Oscar but an accounting.

  3. From among the nominees I've only reviewed Love Story, although ages ago I did see Ryan's Daughter.

    Since this seems to be such a weak year, Shirley MacLaine in Two Mules For Sister Sara would deserve some consideration.

    1. Yet another one I haven't seen.

      There are times when I think I do these specifically because it gets me other movies to watch.