Jodie Foster: The Accused (winner)
Meryl Streep: A Cry in the Dark
Glenn Close: Dangerous Liaisons
Sigourney Weaver: Gorillas in the Mist
Melanie Griffith: Working Girl
We have a very good collection of nominations for Best Actress 1988, but as usual, there’s some room for improvement here. A number of noteworthy performances are probably closer to supporting roles, but I do want to mention them. These include Glenne Headly in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (and in Paperhouse), Valeria Golino in Rain Man, and Genevieve Bujold in Dead Ringers. It’s probably also true of Lena Olin in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Leslie Ann Powers in Hairspray. Both of those movies have clear lead actresses, though, in Juliette Binoche and Ricki Lake respectively. Horror and comedy are not Oscar’s favorite genres, so Geena Davis had little hope of a nomination in Beetlejuice. Foreign language films always have a hard time earning nominations, which is going to leave out Carmen Maura in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Jamie Lee Curtis is the closest thing to a female lead for A Fish Called Wanda, and she’s rarely been better. Teen movies never get respect, which is why we’re not talking about Winona Ryder as a nominee for Heathers. I think a strong case can be made for Isabelle Adjani, always at her best when playing on the borders of insanity, in Camille Claudel. Say what you will about Susan Sarandon, she’s magnificent in Bull Durham. Finally, Isabelle Huppert has made a career of playing unpleasant women, rarely so effectively as in Story of Women.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. It’s amazing to me that Sigourney Weaver doesn’t have an Oscar. In 1988 she was nominated in this category as well as in Best Supporting Actress for Working Girl. She’s the best part of Working Girl by a country mile and is the best part of every scene she’s in. Melanie Griffith might be the nomination from the film and the putative star of the film, but in truth, aside from a line or two, I don’t really remember her that much. If I can get rid of one nomination, hers is absolutely the one that goes.
4. It seems that I disrespect Meryl Streep in these roundups fairly regularly, and the truth is that it’s not her fault. Streep is arguably the greatest actor in the history of film, and unquestionably the greatest of her time. Because of that, it seems like she earns a lot of nominations because of who she is more than the performance she’s given. A Cry in the Dark feels like that. Sure, her accent is impeccable as always, and her performance is good, as always, but given the snubs from 1988, she didn’t need to be here for an Oscar she had no real hope of winning.
3. Jodie Foster is really, really good in The Accused, and the fact that she absolutely deserved this nomination, could be argued for the win, and is still sitting in third for me says a great deal. It says that, despite the ones above, this is a strong year. It says that I can’t really object too hard to anyone who picks her. The truth is that The Accused is entirely Foster’s movie. Kelly McGillis could be replaced here by any actress who could look outraged and looked good in a suit, but Foster’s performance is nuanced and difficult, and worth seeing.
1. I can be incensed that Sigourney Weaver doesn’t have an Oscar, but how in the hell is it possible that Glenn Close has gone 0-fer? Close has been good to great in just about everything she has ever touched, but in Dangerous Liaisons, she is magnetic, dominant, and electric. Don’t get me wrong—this is a great cast in a great screenplay, but Close is the only person on the screen when she’s on the screen. As much as Foster’s work was great and Weaver’s was transcendent, Glenn Close gives the best performance of a storied career, and Oscar should have bowed down and given her the statue the way she deserved.