Saturday, November 05, 2016

    My vote - Best Actress 1970

I chose to do 1970’s Best Actress race because I had no clear winner selected for it (as I had seen only 2 of the 5 films prior), and I wanted to see Love Story again :P  and because it just seemed like a strange race. And a strange race it was, with quite a weak line-up. I don’t recall ever NOT giving at least one “4 stars” to a performance.
Which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy seeing them. I do these rankings for the pleasure of the discovery, of knowledge and having an informed opinion. J So happy I cleared this up for me.
Glenda Jackson won for one of the most unusual performances to ever conquer this category. She had the critics behind her and some weak competition.

Here’s my ranking:

1. Carrie Snodgress in Diary of a Mad Housewife

The role: Carrie plays Tina, a housewife married to an emotionally abusive man, who falls in the arms of an equally abusive lover; all on a funnier note.
The film: It doesn’t live up to its potential, to say the least. Not as funny as it should be, not as dramatic as it could be.
The performance: My tendency is to describe this performance as very low energy, which it is, but it’s also in the spirit of the film. So when she has a real shouting match with her husband prior to the party scene, I got really excited. I don’t feel like Carrie brings a lot of charisma to the role (I basically don’t care too much for this character), but I recognise her and she feels authentic. It’s just nothing that would move me too much emotionally. She carries the dramedy well, gets the dialogue right, is loyal to what the film tries to do, but she’s captivating only in a few selected scenes.

2. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love

The role: Glenda plays Gudrun, an independent and complicated woman who, along with her sister, gets involved in the life of the British elite in the 1920s.
The film: Great from the start, then gradually crashes. It’s beautiful to look at, very stylish and erotic, but ultimately unfulfilling.
The performance: I get it why this performance was very cool and quite fresh back in 1970. Glenda’s intelligence and strong personality are deeply felt in this performance which is special to say the least. The line readings are either witty or strong or punchy, she is a presence and hard not to like or to admire. But where is the character? Who is this woman? Such is the power of the style over the substance that I found it hard to even sum up who Gudrun is or what she does. By the end of the film I got little idea on what motivated her or what justified her actions, or where her heart was. This is not precisely Glenda’s fault (I did wish for a bit more humanity), but probably the director’s choice, and the character remains too much of a mystery.

3. Jane Alexander in The Great White Hope

The role: Jane plays Eleanor, the love interest of a professional, but troubled boxer, who stays by him during the hard times.
The film: Boring, dull, boring, dull. A strange male lead performance in a film that tries to send a lot of messages, but few that are approachable or interesting.
The performance: I will not be too influenced by the fact that she gets the juiciest acting scene of all these 5 nominees. Because that is one single scene that, while it pulls Jane’s performance from an abyss of dullness, is not enough to create and lift an entire character. This is a supporting performance that starts in a boring manner with a couple of unconvincing scenes. She plays the supporting wife kind of role and there is almost no personal touch to it. Her big nervous breakdown comes almost out of nowhere (the film is really bad!), she acts it well in terms of tears and dramatics but it’s so unexpected in the context of what her character offered so far, that I went like what was that?! even though I fairly enjoyed those couple of minutes.

4. Sarah Miles in Ryan’s Daughter

The role: Sarah plays Rosy, a naïve young Irish lady who marries and older teacher, but ends up falling for an English officer dealing with trauma.
The film: It’s a David Lean film, so the direction is present and kind of saves the film from one boring screenplay. The cinematography is beyond gorgeous.
The performance: This is another performance that I thought I’d end up giving 1 star. The screenplay asks her to play a girly schoolgirl early in the film and I was afraid that’s all I’d be getting throughout this never ending epic. But there is an arc to the character (not a very well developed arc, mind you) and there is conflict and there is some drama and while these transitions don’t always make sense – the love story is not properly sold – I like the way she approaches the visible new-found maturity of the character. There are scenes that don’t blow my mind (even underplayed at times; too bad), but she gives Rosy such respectability and some humanity that I felt a bit for both the character and for what Sarah was trying to do. It’s a modest performance, but I liked the relatability and the lack of vanity.

5. Ali MacGraw in Love Story

The role: Ali plays Jenny, a college graduate who shares a beautiful love story with Oliver, but tragedy is waiting right around the corner.
The film: I really like it for its simplicity. It doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not, it’s very well edited and surprisingly well directed. Dated, but in a memorable way.
The performance: The fact that I like the film doesn’t stop me from admitting Ali brings very little to it; in fact, it’s Ryan who does all the heavy lifting here. One could argue she doesn’t need to do much, since it’s his perspective and she’s just the dying girl / projection of his love, but there were a couple of scenes where ACTING was required and not much was coming from her. The lack of experience is visible throughout and all is played just a bit too precious, despite what the dialogue would try to suggest (modern woman!). I have only warm feelings for the film and the performances, but I must call it like it is.

Conclusion: In the end, the choice was quite easy, given the issues I have with the other 4 performances. Beyond Carrie, it’s quite an even field. Ali gets the best film by far, but she is the least committed to her film and to the performance.

How the Oscar voting went: I blame the critics for Glenda’s win, since there is little else to it. They had very little to choose from and not just from the 5 nominees, but also from the overall performances of 1970 (hard to find a 6th performance that barely missed a nomination; it seems more like a hunt for a 4th of 5th nominee; so much so they nominated Jane Alexander who is supporting). The runner-up to Glenda must have been... Ali. Simply because of Love Story’s massive success. Carrie Snodgress was probably a close 3rd, but I don’t think they liked the film.
Interesting to note this is quite a young field of nominees. None past the age of 35, I think. Two of them (Alexander and Snodgress) were nominated for their first feature films and the others had appeared in only a handful of films up to that point.

For previous Best Actress years/rankings, just look over on the right, for a column with various years.
The journey continues. :)


Fritz said...

Great to see you do this year. I agree it's not the best and a rather weak line-up - except for Glenda whom I consider pretty great even if she would probably have lost in a stronger year. I think she was just something new and exciting, the kind of actress that hasn't been seen in decades and critics just wend wild about her (even if the love affair didn't last very long, it was very strong).

Alex Constantin said...

I think the critics would've stayed with Glenda, had she given them something to work with starting with the 80s. Was actually thinking of her last night, since I read she was back on stage. I am sure they'd embrace her if she'd do a film now in her 80s. :)

And I understand their fascination with the freshness of her performance, I just didn't feel a character in there, one that would justify the buzz.

Deiner said...

Having read Women and Love about three years ago and watching the film afterwards I was completely in love with Jackson's performance. She really captured Gudrun in my opinion. I haven't seen the others though, and to be honest I'm not that interested.

Allen said...

Great to see you back so quickly!!! <3 <3 <3

I can't really comment on this year, considering I know very little about the performances save for Ali MacGraw's (not a fan - I thought it to be very amateurish).

I'm surprised you went for Carrie given your lukewarm reaction to the film/performance, but I guess that's a testament to how weak the year is - also surprised that everyone managed to get such low scores! I've only read positive things about Glenda, along with the fact that most think it's kinda weird, so it's interesting to see she got such a low score, but your assessment makes sense.

Now you're lighting a fire under my ass to get moving with 1950 :)

Unknown said...

In my opinion Glenda Jakson was amazing and is not only one of the most deserving winners but stand as the most inspiring Best Actress winner of all time(i mean knowing the Academy its soo weird and strange that she won all those critics and was nominated, let alone won in the end). Its like if today Kirsten Dunst won an Oscar for Melancholia, or Tilda Swinton for Wee neet to talk about Kevin or I am Love or Charlotte Gainsbourg for either Antichrist or Nymphomaniac. Anyway, i must say that i agree that its not easy to judge and that performance could easily be hated, disliked or misunderstood. First because she is in a Ken Russel film, which is his own vision(very artsy, erotic and yes weird) of the famous novel Women in love. Second is that characters in the film are not portrayed or explained in a usual way, and it could be very hard to actually understand their motives and actions. Im talking about this since when i first saw Women in love i was like WTF was that?? She won an Oscar for that??? And all i was able to see was some weird, confusing characters, acting really weird that i couldnt understand them a bit. But after a rewatch i actually understood way more, especially Glendas character and i even fell in love with the film. I mean the whole symbolic ,,control over men or playing with them,, dance (represented by cows and symbolicly shows her personality and relationship with Oliver Reeds character) was one of the most beautiful and chilling scenes that ive seen. Ive also started reading Women in love and Glenda nailed the character in my opinion, since its very cold, distant one, which looks likea very strong and selfaware but is inside very vulnerable. Again i think this is a perfect and unique performance that more than deserved an Oscar but on the other hand i totally understand people who dislike it or are not a fan of her work here, although i think it has more to do with Ken Russel then with Jacksons acting, since his style is not everybodys cup of tea. So i recommend a rewatch or seeing The Devils or Tommy, other Ken R. classics :D As for this race itself i ve only seen Jackson and MacGraw, and the later was good, but not even close to Jackson, not to mention that everything about her film and the role is very dated.

Alex Constantin said...

@Deiner & Antonio,

You have your own personal experience with this role or performance, and I tried not to contextualize it this much. I went by what I was seeing, and I didn't feel a full character was created there, just great style.
I understand the book experience can influence it, but I didn't have it here. :)
I felt the other 3 characters were much better built in the screenplay.

It wasn't the first time I was seeing Women in love. I felt just about the same the first time. :)

Alex Constantin said...


I've been waiting so long for you to see All About Eve :D and Judy.

yes... maybe I should feel guilty about Glenda (I swear I like her toughness outside the set), it's just how I felt it. The was no humanity hook for me; or too little. :)

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Seems like a weak year in general. I still have not seen any of these women (or most of the seventies, as far as I remember, the only nominated performance I have seen for the 1970s (Actress) is Janet Suzman). Really need to fix that.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

I've only seen MacGraw and I recall liking her a bit more than you, although I probably like the film itself less than you. Great blog by the way!

Alex Constantin said...

The 1970s have a lot to offer, so yeah, worth investigating. :) as it happens 1970 is probably the lesser one, quality wise.

thanks :)