Friday, April 26, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1991

OThe Contenders:

Bette Midler: For the Boys
Laura Dern: Rambling Rose
Jodie Foster: The Silence of the Lambs (winner)
Geena Davis: Thelma & Louise
Susan Sarandon: Thelma & Louise

What’s Missing

This is a tough one, and it’s one of those years where I feel like we need more slots than we have for nominations. Oscar is notorious for ignoring people in specific genres, which is precisely why we didn’t see Linda Hamilton nominated for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Oscar also nominates foreign performances rarely, which leaves out a few great ones from 1991. I’m not sure I’d rather see Gong Li from Raise the Red Lantern or Irene Jacob from The Double Life of Veronique in the list. Kathy Bates, having won the previous year, might have been more supporting for Fried Green Tomatoes. Anjelica Huston hadn’t a chance to be nominated for The Addams Family, but that’s such a shame because she’s so perfect.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I don’t have an issue with Laura Dern, but I hated Rambling Rose about as much as I’ve hated any movie I’ve watched for this blog. Rose is a loathsome character, who, at one point, more or less molests a pre-teen boy. Her performance is good enough, but it’s in service of a terrible narrative and a terrible character. I’m sure that someone can tell me why this is a great performance in a great role, but I don’t see it. I couldn’t stand the movie and I couldn’t wait for it to be done when I was watching it.

4. I have a great deal of admiration for Bette Midler, and I don’t dislike For the Boys, but I also don’t love it. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s also not the kind of movie that I’m likely to want to watch again any time soon. Bette is a real talent, the sort of person who is capable of doing just about anything on stage or in front of a camera. Need her to sing? She can. Comedy? No problem. Drama? She’s got that. What she can’t do, though, is manage to get a nomination in a year that didn’t have career performances from a bunch of other people. Sorry, Bette.

3, 2. I’m not going to make a distinction here between Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise. Certainly the two performances are different, but neither one of them is anything without the other. This doesn’t work as Thelma or Louise, but only with the two of them together. I would have loved to have seen this as one of those rare occasions with a straight tie. In truth, it wouldn’t surprise me if neither of them won because voters couldn’t decide between them and just voted for someone else. Hell, it’s what I would have done.

My Choice

1. It’s pure coincidence that the last movie I reviewed was Hannibal, which, among other problems, replaced Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling. Part of Hannibal’s problem is that Jodie Foster is the only person who should play the role. Foster is at her best here, and that says a lot for a woman who has had a remarkable career in front of the camera. Clarice is powerful and in charge and vulnerable and terrified all at the same time. In a world with people like Meryl Streep, it’s easy to forget that Jodie Foster doesn’t turn in a lot of bad performance, either. Oscar did right to pick her, and I’d pick her, too.

Final Analysis


  1. I'd agree out of these five women that Jodie Foster should come out on top and even in an open field she'd come out near or at the top for me.

    I didn't love Thelma & Louise, it was a bit too feminine wish fulfillment for me, but those two lead performers did as much as was possible with the material and there really is no way one of those women winning over the other would make sense. If they were to be rewarded it would have to be a tie.

    I had such high hopes for For the Boys, I love Bette, the period and the songs of the time, and in the first 15 minutes or so, after that awkward opening, I thought I was going to love it. But after that great camp show and her blow out version of Stuff Like That There and the haunting P.S. I Love You it spun out of control and ended up flat, and the old age makeup was atrocious! Bette was good but not nomination worthy.

    I also hated Rambling Rose.

    In an open field I'd keep the T&L women and Jodie and add Sally Field who fully employs her comic genius in Soapdish and Reese Witherspoon in her screen debut-The Man in the Moon. She's so vibrant and alive especially for her first time out, it would be between Jodie and she for who would come out on top.

    1. For the Boys isn't at all what it could have been, and it's a shame because Midler really can do just about anything.

      The two you mention at the end are two I don't know, so I can't comment on them.