Ingrid Bergman: Autumn Sonata
Jane Fonda: Coming Home (winner)
Geraldine Page: Interiors
Ellen Burstyn: Same Time, Next Year
Jill Clayburgh: An Unmarried Woman
As tends to be the case, a shake-up is needed here to give us the nominees that we really deserve. We can start with Brooke Adams, who was in Days of Heaven, and deserved to be nominated for the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well. Oscar wasn’t much for groundbreaking horror films, but a little love for Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween was warranted, much more so than Gaylen Ross in Dawn of the Dead. The same could be said of Margot Kidder and Superman--not a genre Oscar liked much in 1978. I could very much see Olivia Newton John here for Grease. The biggest miss, though, was Liv Ullman in Autumn Sonata.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Let’s start by dropping Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year right away. I like Burstyn as an actress, but this is not a role nor a film that should be brought up in the context of Oscar talk. Burstyn is asked to do very little here; her role is less an acting part than it is playing a series of tropes and clichés. Every trend that became a thing across the decades in which this film takes place because grist for its mill. That she is mildly more likeable than the Alan Alda character says nothing to recommend her here.
4. I am a fan of Ingrid Bergman, but she had no business being in this line-up. In fact, the only reason I’m putting her ahead of Ellen Burstyn is that she’s Ingrid Bergman, which might be unfair. The real nomination for Autumn Sonata should have been for Liv Ullman, who is absolutely devastating in this role. Had Ullman been nominated instead, we’d be talking about a very different outcome in terms of order here, but I’m stuck with the nominations I’m given. Bergman is good, but this is Ullman’s nomination and her movie.
3. I found An Unmarried Woman to be an up-and-down film. Clayburgh was fine in it; it’s a good performance from her, but that’s just it—it’s a good performance from her in a film that probably isn’t quite worth the performance she gives. I don’t ultimately hate the fact that this performance was nominated, but I don’t love it either, and given the chance to make my own set of nominations, she likely wouldn’t be here. It feels like this was a “she needs to be nominated for something” nomination, sort of a career reward.
2. I can say roughly the same thing about Jane Fonda in Coming Home. It’s a good performance, and one that I actually am fine with being nominated. Fonda and Jon Voight are the best part of a film that relies entirely on the performances to be worth watching at all. I don’t even really mind that Fonda won. She’d more than earned an Oscar at this point (and had already won one for Klute), so this isn’t the worst result. But based on the competition, I wouldn’t have given it to her.