I have loved The Color Purple for years, so starting Best Actress 1985, I thought Whoopi was gonna be my easy winner. Of course, I was wrong, and that’s why I love my Best Actress series, because the surprises keep on coming. When I started it, I also didn’t suspect 1985 will deliver the worst performance I’ve talked about on the blog so far and the first 1 star I’ve ever given. So it was a year full of surprises, both for me AND for the Academy – Whoopi had a real chance to become to first African American to win this category and it didn’t happen.
Judging by the number of stars I’ve given, no. 1 looks like an easy choice; and it was, in a way. I’ve noticed that those who see the performance are almost entirely charmed by it. no. 2 was also quite easy, given my love for the film and the difficulty of the role. no. 3 is also a performance I respect a lot, in a film whose revisit was completely charming to me. The number of stars is very relevant for the other two performances.
There’s a special award that I’ve included for Best Actress 1945, and continuing it now: Best Acted Scene award, which this time goes to:
Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful – the fantastic scene on the bus, when Carrie Watts confesses about never loving her husband and telling the young woman the story of the man she really loved. It’s an expected, emotional, heartbreaking moment and Geraldine is just devastating in it.
Here is how I’ve appreciated and ranked the performances. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:
To say that she is the heart of the film is a huge understatement. She takes the Geraldine-Page-style-of-acting to levels she’s never gone before by bringing incredible kindness, believability and life into such an emotionally-rich character. There’s no false note here, just a legendary actress doing her best work: a performance both entertaining and surprisingly heartbreaking.
the highlight: Her confession about not loving her husband.
It’s a performance that feels complete only after seeing it a couple of times. What I loved the most about it is the deep understanding of what Celie feels, always giving us the impression of a beautiful person hidden somewhere beneath fear and humility. Whoopi carefully follows the evolution of the character, building a believable emotional transformation.
the highlight: The dinner scene, when she finally speaks up.
Meryl is so pretty in this I would’ve forgiven her anything. But as expected, to me there are no mistakes in this performance: I liked the accent and I loved that she made it look natural and simple… and even easy. It might not seem like a very challenging role, but that’s because Meryl is acting like a pro, making wise decisions when to act more and when to just sit pretty.
the highlight: for me, it has to be the voice-over that starts the film.
I have confessed in the profile that I think Jessica Lange was way to sensual and sexy and gorgeous to take on such a role. I didn’t buy her as Patsy Cline and that Southern accent didn’t help either. But with all that against her, plus a terrible screenplay, her performance has two highlights: the emotions she tries to bring in the lip-synching scenes and the few scenes of more emotional depth.
the highlight: taking off the bandages after the car accident.
Officially, the worst performance of the ones I’ve reviewed so far in the past 2 years. The role is incredibly juicy, but Bancroft has no idea what to do with it. Not only does she not do it justice, she sinks it, making it the most annoying character in a poorly made film. It’s a completely unbalanced performance, surprising only by the complete lack of inspiration in Anne’s acting choices.
the highlight: none.
Time to play the guessing game of who got more votes. I still believe Whoopi was a favorite before the final verdict, because of the Golden Globe support, and also because they had all seen Color Purple. However, how would they deny a win for Geraldine Page, considering it was her 8th(!!!) nomination and she had never won. I agree with the Academy’s choice, which was partly honorary, partly based on the actual performance – but it sure wasn’t an easy victory to get. I’m quite sure Whoopi was a close 2nd, but this only because Meryl already had 2 Oscars. I think Meryl was 3rd; she was a threat considering her film ended up becoming the Best Picture winner. Jessica was probably 4th, though not a big threat, and Anne Bancroft 5th, as I like to believe extremely few voters would’ve given her the win.
To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right.