Thursday, August 12, 2010

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 1978

I’ve promised to write a bit about screentime first, because 1978 offered interesting extreme cases. As you might’ve noticed, I do my own counting and it’s fun for me and very interesting. I also keep a table with the screentime for the performances mentioned so far (12 Best Actress years done, which means 60 performances). In case you were wondering, Top 5 looks something like this:

And the bottom of the chart is now:

The 3rd column represents the actual time on screen (when we see the actress or any body part/clothing of hers on camera background included, it also includes voice if it’s not doubled, but doesn’t include photos of the character – trust me, that was an issue with Darling). The last column represents the % of actually being on screen in the film. Obviously, they’re not exact numbers, but I’m pretty responsible with it.

Now, as you can see Jill Clayburgh got in with over 100 minutes (I believe no one can ever take Julia down) and it was a surprise, Burstyn is also there, but the important record for these 12 years is Geraldine Page having the shortest amount of time (also because Interiors is like 85 minutes). She has under 20 minutes and I actually believe it might be an alltime record. Could any other Best Actress performance have less screentime?! But do notice that Simone Signoret, although she has more minutes, has less percentage of the film (because Ship of Fools is around 140-150 minutes).

So the conclusion is: how can you compare Jill Clayburgh’s performance (106 minutes) to Geraldine Page’s performance (19 minutes)?! I guess that’s why, except for the winner, this year’s ranking is so difficult.

I admit I knew Bergman was winning even before starting this year. There was no way anyone could top her brilliant performance, which easily enters the same category with Vivien’s Streetcar and Gone with the Wind, Elizabeth’s Virginia Woolf, Bette’s All About Eve and Baby Jane and a couple more. So #1 was very easy for me. But how can you compare Jane Fonda’s quiet falling in love with Jill’s emancipated woman with Geraldine’s theatrical breakdown? You really can’t!!! I know I couldn’t. I’ve actually changed my mind at least twice before posting this… Their acting is so different in style! So, let’s try!

Here is how I’ve appreciated them (just my opinion, no universal truth). If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

What can you write about one of the top 5 performances this category’s ever seen? It’s Ingrid’s best written role and her best performance, in my opinion. She takes a complex character, difficult dialogue, intrusive camera work, and delivers a brilliant performance, peeling off every possible layer of the character and still, somehow, keeping so much mystery that you end up being fascinated by this Charlotte woman.

The highlight: Her vulnerability, her breakdown when emotionally cornered by her daughter.

Though I still believe she was not the perfect choice for the role, Jane brings her magic and delivers a heartwarming performance that stayed with me weeks after seeing it. The film doesn’t love her character, so she has to work harder than the other nominees. It feels like a one-note, too simple performance, but everytime you look into Jane’s eyes you can feel the struggle of the character and what the real Sally is all about.

The highlight: having to say goodbye on the beach to the man she really loves.

The film is basically a one-woman show and it does feel modern and 70s in a very fashionable way. I realize now that Jill does have the charisma required for the role and I did believe her performance. It’s definitely not an easy role, yet I still had some problems fully relating to the character. I didn’t care what happened to Erica, but I did respect the effort and the charm that Jill put into the role.

The highlight: pretending to be a great ballerina.

There is something so majestic, so royal, so dignified, so diva-like about Geraldine Page’s performance. She is like a great queen on the verge of complete breakdown and we are lucky enough to take a look and see what happens. The film has both style and substance and to me the performance was more stylish, because I adored her on screen more that I agreed with her feelings – which I understood, but I was too mesmerized by the interiors and how well she fitted in the picture.

The highlight: her emotional ups and downs in the birthday party scene.

I’ve said it before: you can always count of Ellen Burstyn to take a more or less mediocre-character and make it charming and mostly believable. Ellen’s Doris is the heart of the film and probably best in show, but even so: there are ups and downs in the performance. I disliked the hippie image, but I adored the blonde Doris and most of all the older Doris. It’s that last chapter that makes you forget all the previous shakiness in the performance and really embrace the character.

The highlight: having to refuse the marriage proposal of the man she loves.

Was the winner a real surprise? No one can argue on Ingrid’s masterclass performance, but you could’ve guessed it had non-performance-related stuff against her: it was a foreign language film and she already had 3 Oscars, one of which just a few years before. So Jane won (to me she was fantastic in Julia the year before and I’m sure that helped). From here on, it’s a wild guess: Ingrid must have been 2nd because of brilliance, I guess Jill was 3rd because of coolness, Geraldine Page 4th (I know it was her 6th nomination, but I do believe the screentime wasn’t enough for a win here) and Ellen last.

Other Best Actress years discussed so far:

What’s next: before the next draw (which will be from 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s), I will post my Emmy analysis of Best Actress in a Drama Series (you might remember I wrote about Comedy Actress 2 weeks ago).


Fritz said...

Great work and interesting write-ups! I haven't counted her screentime, but Eleanor Parker in The Detective Story might challenge Geraldine Page!

Anonymous said...

Yay for Jane placing second! It's true, it really does stay with you. Great job, Alex!

Malcolm said...

So, you liked all of the performances, Alex? And would you consider this a weak or strong year, since 4 of them only stayed at the middle.

And Fonda got Top 2. Maybe in near future, I need to rewatch her.

Alex in Movieland said...

thanks for the comments.

yes, I think it was a good year... the performances were very different to me.

joe burns said...

I thought that Jill would be second, but I suppose you liked Fonda more then I thought you would.

I'm hoping you do 1954 or 1969 next, but we'll see!

Alex in Movieland said...

I've always had a thing for Jane and I think she's wonderful both as an actress and as a person... I always check her blog.

54 and 69 WILL be in the draw, but none of them are among my most wanted. I always leave it to destily, but 1966 or 1946 would make me more excited.