Friday, August 30, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1968

The Contenders:

Barbra Streisand: Funny Girl (co-winner)
Vanessa Redgrave: Isadora
Katharine Hepburn: The Lion in Winter (co-winner)
Joanne Woodward: Rachel, Rachel
Patricia Neal: The Subject was Roses

What’s Missing

This is a year where, as usual, I like some of the nominations and dislike others. There’s plenty of room for improvement here. Nominating Jane Fonda for Barbarella would be funny, and I would have been entertained by it a lot. The same is true of Judith O’Dea for Night of the Living Dead. In both cases, I love the idea but they don’t really belong in the mix. Olivia Hussey would have been an interesting choice for Romeo and Juliet, and while I like this version of the story about as much (or as little) as I ever do, she’s prettier than she is great in the role. Gena Rowlands in Faces is a serious choice, though, and I’d have her in the running without question. The biggest miss, though, is absolutely Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Mia has never been nominated, which is shocking. That she wasn’t nominated for this role is almost unbelievable.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I don’t have anything against Vanessa Redgrave, but I hated everything about Isadora including her performance. Truthfully, Redgrave probably did as much as she could with this role and I don’t know that anyone else could have done more with the role than she did. This is a movie about a woman who cared about nothing but herself act in ways that screw over everyone she possibly can for her own pleasure until her own hedonism gets her killed in a legendarily ridiculous way. I’m actually angry that I had to watch this.

4. I’m being unfair to Barbra Streisand putting both her and her performance in Funny Girl in fourth place. This is absolutely a case where I am penalizing the actor not for the performance but for the role. I hated Fanny Brice for all of the reasons I hated Isadora: the self-aggrandizement, the ego, the constant need to be the focus of attention. The only reason that Babs is in fourth place and not fifth is that the movie is a touch better and she is a true talent who gives this role as much as she can despite it not being worth it.

3. It feels very much like I’m saying the same thing over and over here, but Patricia Neal’s performance in The Subject was Roses is a lot of very good work in an unpleasant film that didn’t deserve this kind of effort. This is an unpleasant family drama that, if you can’t get enough of your drunk relatives at Thanksgiving, will be something you’ll enjoy. I realize that I shouldn’t punish the actor for the role, but unless the performance is absolutely transcendent, I have serious issues promoting and rooting for a role that I genuinely dislike.

2. Rachel, Rachel is a difficult film and not one that I have a lot of desire to watch again anytime soon, but it’s not a film that is as unpleasant an experience as the three above. I found a great deal in this film that was worth the watch, and much of that is the quality of Joanne Woodward’s performance in the title role. This is a film that walks a careful tightrope over a chasm of maudlin tripe. Woodward manages this as well as it could be done and never makes a misstep. In a different year, she’d be an easy choice for a winner.

1. Given the five nominations, Katherine Hepburn is the clear choice. As good as Joanne Woodward was, Hepburn is absolutely perfect in The Lion in Winter. She delivers a role that is memorable in her career, which is incredibly noteworthy. There’s not a moment she is on screen that she doesn’t dominate—an achievement considering the opposite performance of Peter O’Toole. Of the five nominations, she’s the clear and only choice for me, but she’s not the choice I would have liked to have had.

My Choice

This should have been Mia Farrow’s Oscar. In a world where she has never been nominated, what is her strongest and best role should be the one that earned her the Oscar that she has so richly deserved for half a century.

Final Analysis


  1. According to Polanski lore it was the certainty of a nomination that convinced Farrow to defy Sinatra's protests and take the role and then despite delivering the performance of her career she was not nominated after all. That is a complete miss of the academy.
    Hepburn is always good and while she was stellar in The Lion in Winter I consider her win more of a Lifetime Achievement.

    1. I agree--I cannot understand how the hell she was overlooked. There was plenty of room in the nominations.

  2. This is the only one of Kate Hepburn's competitive wins that I feel she truly deserved, no matter who she is acting with or when she's alone she commands the screen and along with O'Toole creates one of the great movie couples in film.

    Unlike you I love Funny Girl and I’m glad Babs has an Oscar but the Fanny Brice portrayed in the film from what I’ve read had little to do with the actual woman and the film is really a vehicle to establish Streisand as a superstar persona. It does that handily but she gave better performances later in her career. I’d still include her but she’s probably be my last place finisher.

    The other three films are dreary affairs with strong work by their leads. Patricia Neal’s excellence in Roses is expected but I think her nomination was more a tribute to her indomitability since this was her first film back after that series of devastating strokes had almost killed her.

    For me Rachel, Rachel was a trial to sit through though I did think Joanne Woodward did a fine job, just not fine enough for a nomination. Vanessa Redgrave’s Isadora falls into the same slot.

    There were SO many other places the voters could have gone this year that it is surprising what missed out. Pat Neal I think was a shoo-in because of her story but both Woodward and Redgrave must have had some kind of special buzz than the others who were shut out.

    Hepburn would always be my winner but it is hard to believe that Mia Farrow was shut out. The film was a huge hit, Polanski was white hot and Ruth Gordon WON best supporting actress! So how did she Mia come up empty-handed? Her narrative was so in the Academy zone as well-child of Hollywood insiders, married to a huge star, a successful TV actress making a triumphant jump to films, an eminent member of the “New Hollywood”-it’s very puzzling.

    Aside from that glaring omission and Gena Rowlands in Faces, also strange since Lynn Carlin was also nominated for that film, there’s Tuesday Weld just great as the seemingly ideal teen Sue Ann who is actually a psychotic nutjob in Pretty Poison, Julie Christie in Petulia, Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George (though since she played an unapologetic lesbian she didn’t stand a chance) and Jeanne Moreau in The Bride Wore Black.

    My ballot would have run this way:
    Mia Farrow-Rosemary’s Baby
    Katharine Hepburn-The Lion in Winter-Winner
    Gena Rowlands-Faces
    Barbra Streisand-Funny Girl
    Tuesday Weld-Pretty Poison

    1. I don't hate Hepburn winning this, and she would almost certainly be my second place.

      I also admit that I'm almost certainly judging Streisand too harshly for this performance, but I absolutely hate the role.

  3. I'd have gone with Rowlands but certainly can't argue with Farrow.

    1. She'd be in my list, probably third after Farrow and Hepburn.

  4. I haven't seen a lot of performances of that year as I consider '68 a year where Hollywood lost touch with the times. I haven't seen any of the performances that are nominated but to not nominate Mia Farrow for Rosemary's Baby is criminal. What about Jeanne Moreau for The Bride Wore Black/The Immortal Story and Liv Ullman for Hour of the Wolf? I also agree with you on Judith O'Dea and Jane Fonda. Say what you want about Barbarella but that film is a lot of fun.

    1. Liv Ullman is a great suggestion that I somehow missed above.

      But yeah, I agree--missing Mia Farrow for this role is ridiculous to the point of being a huge embarrassment.