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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)