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Thursday
Jul312014

Smackdown 1973: Candy, Madeline, Linda, Sylvia, and Tatum O'Neal

Behold the five Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1973: a "bitchin' babe" (Candy Clark), a pint-sized con-artist (Tatum O'Neal), a possessed teenager (Linda Blair), a selfish carnival dancer (Madeline Kahn), and a vinegary New York institution (Sylvia Sidney). 

THE NOMINEES

 

Last month's featured year, 1964, gave us an extremely senior acting shortlist of Oscar regulars but the corresponding shortlist of 1973, apart from Sylvia Sidney who had been a respected working actress for nearly a half-century, skewed very new and very young and not just because it gave us the youngest Oscar winner of all time in Tatum O'Neal; she was 10 years and 148 days old. The four actresses nominated with Sidney were in their first flush of stardom and only acting in their first (O'Neal) second (Kahn & Clark) or third films (Blair). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously approved of their career choice.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

from left to right: Chambers, Delany, Harris, Longworth, Rogers, Turner

You've already heard 'what 1973 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are authors Mark Harris ("Five Came Back") and Karina Longworth ("Anatomy of  an Actor: Meryl Streep"), film critics Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central) and Kyle Turner (Movie Scene), your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) and our special guest: two-time Emmy winning actress Dana Delany ("China Beach", "Body of Proof", and the forthcoming "Hand of God").

And, as ever, we must thank StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race. Without further ado, part one of the main event.... (here's part two which is a podcast conversation)

1973
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

LINDA BLAIR as "Regan" in The Exorcist
Synopsis: The daughter of a famous actress begins acting strangely. Can two priests save her from the demon inside?
Stats: 15 yrs old. First and only nomination. 41 minutes of screen time (or 34% of running time). 

Dana Delany: William Friedkin clearly created a set where Blair felt free to perform. She is naturally real as a pre-teen and then fully committed  in the physicality when she is possessed. I know it's McCambridge's voice, but Blair deserved this nomination just for what they put her through; the crucifix in the crotch, alone! ♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: This isn't one performance but three--four if you count the makeup unto itself. Blair provides the base coat, of course, and the guilessness she brings to her early scenes is perhaps easy to underrate; she's not just natural, she's impossibly ordinary. (Her squirms and grunts in the hospital scenes are also viscerally authentic.) But Regan is a puppet in both concept and execution, manifesting fewer reactions than she provokes. In the end, this isn't unlike nominating Yoda or something. ♥♥

Karina Longworth: In a movie full of terrible performances, at least Blair's gives you something to think about, in that it takes some work to separate out what she's actually doing on her own, and what is being accomplished via makeup, effects, and voice dubbing. The things that are wrong (dated, laughable) with the movie are not Blair's fault, exactly, but she also doesn't exactly give a sense of the agency or invention that she brings to the role that another actress wouldn't.  ♥♥

Kyle Turner: Though part of what’s memorable about Blair’s performance has to do with Mercedes McCambridge’s voice work, she adds an absolutely crucial element of that innocence and naiveté suddenly taken over by evil. The film is not only horrifying on a visceral level, but on a human level because we sympathise for Regan. She’s going through Hell. Literally. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Revisiting this, I found myself surprised by how little Blair is in the movie—unlike the adults, she’s not a character but an object, and William Friedkin uses her shrewdly but sparingly, in short, carefully chosen takes, sort of the way Spielberg deployed the shark in Jaws. It’s far from great acting, but her ordinariness works well for the part, and even though it’s a largely lip-synced performance (all hail Mercedes “Pazuzu” McCambridge!), she’s impressively game in every scene. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Those doctors and priests are such fools. Little Regan definitely has an unholy spirit inside her and its name is "McCambridge". Though the sound design, dubbing, and makeup are doing major heavy-lifting, Blair does just fine with her half portions, believably slipping towards catatonic trouble. Plus: watch her demon scenes with the sound off (I tried it!) and there’s still solid physical acting. In short I believed this young actress scratched “Help Me” into her own stomach from the inside. ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Even with all the help this performance gets (makeup, sound, voice actors, etc) I still think Blair was ahead of her age and completely believable. Even after all the spoofs and rip offs I still find her creepy and during the "normal" scenes she's very natural." - Mauro. (Reader average: ♥½)

Actress earns 19½ ❤s 

4 more actresses after the jump


 

CANDY CLARK as "Debbie" in American Graffiti
Synopsis: A blonde with an eye for hot wheels and fine upholstery goes driving with a horny teen.
Stats:  26 yrs old. First and only nomination. 16 minutes of screen time (or 15% of running time). 

Dana Delany: I was delighted by this performance. In some ways it holds up more than the movie. Clark has a great combination of innocent and freak. She gets kind of a crazed look in her eyes and licks her lips while she says the goofiest stuff. It is a uniquely offbeat character she is creating and not a Monroe/Dee rip off. ♥♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: From the moment Clark appears like a fembot awaiting an activation key ("Connie Stevens"), this is an endearingly unorthodox take on an archetypal bimbo. In outline, Debbie's submissive, gullible, and opportunistic, but Clark plays her as merciful, ironic, and just trying to get hers; in the sequel, she has more agency--a response to Clark rather than anything in Debbie's biography. Love that Clark scored the film's only acting nod, considering the absence of female characters in that famous post-script ♥♥♥

Karina Longworth: In a film with this much talking, you really feel that some of the actors are left adrift by George Lucas' lack of direction. Clark's performance is notable because it's kind of odd; her line readings veer between interestingly off and sort of nonsensical, making her seem alternately like a non-actor and a first-time film actor who has had a lot of theatrical training and hasn't quite figured out the transition to performing for a camera. Still, she's got something -- a magnetism that's innocent and sexy and a little sad, all qualities the Academy seems drawn to when it comes to crowning new starlets.  ♥♥

Kyle Turner: Clark is fine, with her large, platinum blonde do, but her subtle performance has to compete against the louder ones from everyone else in the film. Even Charles Martin Smith’s Toad is a more overt, visible performance in comparison, and while Clark is very good at registering different levels of her character. they don’t register as strongly as they maybe should. ♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Academy voters have always rewarded actresses for finding humanity within dumb-blonde stereotypes, and Clark, as a sad good-time girl under cotton-candy hair, does that affectingly as someone just self-aware enough to know she’s probably going to make a lot of dumb decisions down the road. It’s an underimagined role, and it’s surprising that she got singled out without a big scene. But she mines her subplot for every ounce of poignance. ♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: She sure is an odd one. And that’s thanks entirely to Clark since there's barely a written role. Debbie could have easily tilted so far into stock ‘girl who helps guy have character arc’ that she would never be remembered fondly… or at all. Clark brings welcome specifity in memorable line readings and body language, smartly keying into Debbie’s restless boredom rather than assumed vapidity. Plus, she nails that sympathizing dismount without losing the character for sentiment. ♥♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Has a really expressive and thoughtful moment but is otherwise consistently undercut by the filmmaking – shot from a distance or in profile or in too-dim lighting.  Strong within limits is still limited." - Dave S. (Reader average: )

Actress earns 21 ❤s

 

 

MADELINE KAHN as "Trixie Delight" in Paper Moon
Synopsis: A "dancer" quits her carny job to shack up with a small-time crook. His little girl ain't having it.
Stats: 31 yrs old. First of two consecutive nods. 12½ minutes of screen time (or 12% of running time). 

Dana Delany: It's really unfair for she and O'Neal to be in the same category it's instinct v. craft. Kahn is giving a complex, funny, heartbreaking performance in such a short span. Her transitions in her speech to Tatum on the hill ending in "Let o' Trixie sit up front with  her big tits" are masterful. And the fact that she was uncomfortable saying "tits" makes it even better. I wish she were still showing us her genius. ♥♥♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: Trixie seems die-cut for Kahn's brassy shtick, which exasperates me as much as it does Addy. She transcends caricature, though, in a tour-de-force monologue that's like the five stages of confronting a child's cold shoulder--a stream of babble Kahn beautifully modulates from condescension to anger, desperation, and self-pity, until finally Trixie's levelling with Addy, woman to woman. It's recognizably human, and Khan finds the humour in it without torquing the laughs. A one-scene wonder, maybe, but what a scene! ♥♥♥♥

Karina Longworth: I love, love, love her, and I really have nothing critical to say about her performance in this movie, BUT! The subplot involving Kahn is a) my least favorite part of a pretty much perfect movie, and b) most interesting for the way it gives Tatum a chance to show more about who she is and how she feels through action. Of the two performances nominated in this category, what this one has going for it is that it's legitimately a supporting performance, unlike Tatum O'Neal's.  ♥♥♥♥

Kyle Turner: What I adore about Kahn is her ability to play a complete fool, but play that fool “straight” in a manner of speaking. Trixie Delight is a kind of a moron, and it’s a fairly easy aspect of that character to play. But there’s a little wave of nuance and humanity that Kahn adds when she walks up the hill trying to win over little Addie. ♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Unimpeachable work, supporting and supportive. I hesitate to use the word “perfect”, but this is what it’s all about: In and out in just 20 minutes, Kahn gives the movie something it really needs, imparting all the hunger and grit and gnawing fear of the Depression in a magnificent comic turn as an exotic dancer who is desperate not to let her desperation show. Her hillside negotiation with O’Neal—one uninterrupted shot—is both laugh-out-loud funny and completely emotionally true. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Showy small parts often win praise, whether deserving or not, merely by breathing new energy into a dull picture. Paper Moon doesn’t need Kahn’s help to be marvelous (abundance of riches here!) but she’s still a highlight coming on strong enough to justify the words "truly indelible”. This is major comic alchemy: she’s winning sympathy (that speech on the hill!) while still playing the comedy broadly and bitchily enough to also be the person you’re rooting against as Addie plots her downfall. ♥♥♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "With the talent of a true comedienne, she found all the possibilities of her role and added so much more to create a character that is hilarious, poignant, pathetic, a woman hungry for life and money who uses all (ALL!) the talents she has to get it." - Fritz. (Reader average: ♥♥¾)

Actress earns 30¾ ❤s

 

 

TATUM O'NEAL as "Addie" in Paper Moon
Synopsis: A newly orphaned girl hits the road with a "friend" of her mother's. She quickly adapts to his grifter lifestyle.
Stats: 10 yrs old. First and only nomination. 95 minutes of screen time (or 93% of running time).

Dana Delany: Having acted with many children before, you cannot underestimate Sargent's script and Bogdanovich creating a safe atmosphere to play and a co-star who is right there with you. (I'd forgotten how good Ryan O'Neal was.) Yes, Tatum has great instincts but you are also awarding her precociousness and in this case the eerily prophetic father/daughter relationship. With her croaky voice lack of sentiment and fetching androgynous costumes she is wonderful. ♥♥♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: I can't think of many performances that are so conspiratorial without directly addressing the camera, and yet maintain a certain privacy in individual moments, when there's no one for us to root with Addy against. Nigh feel like I shouldn't be witness to that flicker of remorse as she sends Moze off to catch Trixie, or her girlish poses in the mirror, which begin in disappointment and end in an enigmatic smile. But they're the heart of an acting miracle. ♥♥♥♥♥

Karina Longworth: The only criticism I have of this performance is that it doesn't belong in this category -- it's a lead. The subjectivity of the movie is hers; she's in almost every scene, and her story is the driver of the action. I guess Oscar politics requires children to be pushed as supporting? She's really stunning in this movie, and so much of what she does starts as physical action, which is really interesting. But her casting is such a great narrative, and she has so much more to do than any of the other nominees, that this wasn't really a fair fight. That said, the Academy got this right.  ♥♥♥♥♥

Kyle Turner: I had heard that O’Neal was the youngest performer to win an Oscar, so I braced myself for people acting off her or for her or that she was merely cute. But she is able to hold her own and give a unique push and pull in the film that is certainly aided by the fact that Ryan is her father. There’s a sharpness in her performance that’s present especially when she pulls off the dollar bill exchange scene. ♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Yeah, it’s a lead, and any Oscar a kid wins should probably be shared by the director. That said, O’Neal’s performance as a budding con artist is a delight, partly because of the delight she takes in it. It’s not just her stony self-possession, her watchfulness, her control; it’s that she knows how to let you see her mind at work. Watch the long, silent take in which she poses as her mother in the mirror. It’s unadorned, lovely acting. ♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Bogdanovich exploits her perfect poker face and real life lineage with onscreen/offscreen father Ryan O'Neal for all it's worth. And that combo turns out to be worth quite a lot in this gigantic role. Tatum's best contribution on either side of that mask-like mug is not the punctuations of childish volatility and adult composure but the fascinating way they intermingle when she's "acting" like a child while at her most adult pulling her cons. ♥♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Literally the single most conspicuous case of category fraud that was ever perpetuated, but O’Neal’s way of letting us see her con artist’s calculation and precocious wisdom while hiding it from all the adults in the cast is so precise and ingratiating, I can’t bring myself to care." - Tim B. (Reader average: ♥♥¾)

Actress earns 30¾ ❤s

 

SYLVIA SIDNEY as "Mrs. Pritchett" in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
Synopsis: An old prickly woman, who lunches weekly with her daughter, has a heart attack
Stats: 63 yrs old. First and only nomination. 10½ minutes screen time (or 11% of running time). 

Dana Delany: It could have been subtitled, "I Never Sang for My Mother." My favorite part was watching Sylvia Sidney walk past my building in the village in 1973. She does bring some life to a dull film but her performance is large and somewhat coarse. Is she meant to be sophisticated? I think the Academy was happy to see her back on screen after 17 years. 

Bill Chambers: This nomination seems partly intended to commemorate Sidney's return to movies after a decade-long hiatus, as it's an unusually front-loaded performance for the Academy to single out. Granted, these latter-day smoke- and acid-spewing turns of hers all emit a whiff of self-parody for me post-Beetlejuice, but the real problem is "Rita's Mother"* exits before her arch haughtiness can be grasped as the salty complement to Woodward's vinegar, or capitalized as a tonic against the autumnal moroseness that engulfs the picture. ♥♥

*actual billing

Karina Longworth: I know this was considered a "she's old and due" career nomination (more vintage Academy), but within an odd, sometimes jaw dropping, slightly embarrassing film, Sidney pretty much kills it. It's probably my favorite of the genuine supporting performances on this list: she shows up and in a very short time creates an indelible presence. But I have a weakness for salty old broads.  ♥♥♥♥

Kyle Turner: There’s nothing particular defining or distinguishing about the performance. She plays her character competently, yet nothing really seems to stand out or leave a lasting impression. Although it is amusing to hear her on the phone, so confident, saying, “I’m at Saks”, there’s an odd mix of staginess and subtlety that makes the short performance jarring, yet mildly forgettable. ♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Just 22 minutes in, Sidney, after a spectacular do-not-go-gentle heart attack, is gone. Boy, does this deeply glum drama of middle age miss her. I grew up around women like her character—tough, caustic, vital old New York crones who knew how to turn nicotine, rage, and resentment into their own form of Red Bull. This is funny, unsparing work, and also honest, both emotionally and physically; she even knows how to shove eyeglasses into an eyeglass case angrily. ♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: I always feel terrible for elderly actors who have to do death scenes. That can’t be a rehearsal anyone really wants to prep for. Especially when the death scene is so frighteningly well-acted, vanity free and fully in character – she even chastises her screen daughter for the way she’s holding her as her (next to) last words. Sidney has this impossible-to-please woman pegged - but there’s so little to peg. ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Maybe there's a secret clause that forces voters to save a spot for venerable actresses and we don't know it." - Peggy Sue. (Reader average: ♥¾)

Actress earns 17¾ ❤s

THE SMACKDOWN GOES TO... THE GIRLS OF "PAPER MOON"

Madeline Kahn and Tatum O'Neal in "Paper Moon"

Neither Addie nor Trixie likes to share, as evidenced by their memorable competition for Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal), but they'll have to learn to do just that since they've tied in the Smackdown battle. Oscar famously went with Tatum O'Neal, the youngest competitive Oscar winner in any category. And though it is the single most blatant case of category fraud ever for an actress at the Academy Awards, it's a wonderful star turn in a great movie and the whole panel loved her... so it's hard to begrudge the win.

But why not include her in that year's oddly weak Best Actress lineup, AMPAS? Especially since she deserved to be there and there was room. 

* this is our second tie in only our seventh smackdown (1941 also had a tie). Any suggestions for tiebreakers in the future? 

Want more? LISTEN TO THE PODCAST where we flesh out these feelings and talk about the films themselves and our moviegoing histories

Thank you for attending! 
If you enjoyed it, share it on facebook or twitter. In previous Smackdown we've watched 1941's catfights1952's pie-throwing brawl1964's exasperated dames1968's sinister sapphics1980's warm hugs, and 2003's messy histrionics. Previously over 30 Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site

Further Reading? 1970s articles are here

What's next on the Smackdown?
In August we'll be looking at the year 1989, Panel TBA. So queue up these four films: Enemies: A Love Story, My Left Foot, Parenthood and Steel Magnolias

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Reader Comments (47)

Thanks so much, everyone!
I've only seen one of the movies ( The Exorcist). Looking forward to watching Paper Moon and Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.
Idea for tie-breaker: Nick's grades if he isn't part of the panel, or my grades if he is.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Loved this year's supporting lineup. Great winners. It's only fitting that they tie as both Kahn and O'Neill are fantastic in such different ways in "Paper Moon" and it seems lunacy that they competed in the same category. Great writeup from all. Loved how many distinct voices were used.

Suggestion for tiebreaker: Reader's vote. Don't know if Trixie Delight and Addy could fit well into Beauty vs Beast segment, but it could be a fun one.

1989 will be a fun year, if only because the blog will be all about "Steel Magnolias." I have an irrational fondness for Dianne Weist's performance in "Parenthood." Is it too much for her to have three supporting Oscars? It's Dianne Weist after all.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris

The tiebreaker should be who had the least screen time - as in who did the most with the least. Take that, category fraud!

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Could the tiebreaker be the number of number one votes? Sorta like the way the Academy does the final vote (not the nominations?).

I LOVE Paper Moon, so I'm thrilled that it fared so well. I even read the book it's based on, I think called Addie Pray (nope, not a leading performance there either? :-)).

I guess I don't have a problem with Tatum's nomination and win. It kind of squeezed out all the other nominees but I don't know if anyone feels there was a performance that was absolutely cheated. Even Madeline got the great career if not the little gold statue.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

James T -- very funny. Nick actually gave Tatum his top vote... but i included him in the reader's writein ballots. I believe he's posting his own ballot on his blog.

Chris -- i remember LOVING dianne weist in that but i haven't seen the movie since then i dont think. cant wait to revisit

Dave -- this is true but i can't help thinking that even if they wanted the exact same actresses nominated it would've been fine to switch places for Tatum in lead with either Ellen Burstyn or Marsha Mason, both of whom are far more borderline category performances in supporting instead.

Travis -- ooh, i love this idea.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Do you think, with the precedent now set by Keisha Castle-Hughes and Quvenzhane Wallis, if Paper Moon came out today, would Tatum get in lead? Or would they try to pull a Hailee Steinfeld and still push for supporting?

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Ben -- i think in both of those cases they couldn't do the fraud because there was no other lead (though Keisha tried at first). Since Ryan O'Neal was also a lead i'm sure that made it easier to get away with.

July 31, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love Travis's idea for the person with the least screentime getting the trophy-it goes with the Film Experience's advocacy against category fraud.

And may I just say, it is marvelous to see a performer mixed in here amongst the always highly readable opinions (both this month with the wonderful Ms. Delaney and of course last month with Ms. Lynskey)-it gives some great new vantage points to the conversation (and also got my cinephile self giddy with the "I Never Sang for My Mother" joke).

As for the category, I'm missing Paper Moon somehow, so I feel clearly like my opinion that Blair works circles around Clark and Sidney is valid, though not yet complete.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Terrific critiques of all the performances. Love to read everyone's varying opinions and their takeaways on the different nominees and their work.

Nathaniel I'm assuming you'd like us to post our individual write-ups as you did last month. I'm going to do mine with a qualifier at the end.

Linda Blair-So much of her performance is pyrotechnics that when you strip them away the performance isn't really much. She's a sweet young girl, and Blair is winsome and game, in the beginning which makes her later behavior so shocking but aided by Mercedes McCambridge's voice and various special effects the performance seems more than it is. A tagalong nomination. 2 hearts

Candy Clark-American Graffiti-Why? How did this nomination happen? She's hardly in the film, has no compelling moments, she's pleasant and unexceptional. So lightweight I had no memory of her contribution as soon as she was off the screen. Zero hearts.

Madeline Kahn-Sly and knowing and a 180 degrees from her other classic Bogdanovich performance as Eunice Burns in What's Up, Doc? She's fluttery and sexy but in her big scene on the hilltop trying to get Addie to come down and get in the car she exposes so many layers of the character-hope, self awareness and resignation among them in such a short time it's a great piece of acting. She's gone all to soon from the film but while she's there she manages to wrest attention from Tatum's spotlight oh so briefly. 4 hearts

Tatum O'Neal-This is without question the best performance of the bunch but it's not a supporting one. Not only is she the lead actress she's the star of the damn picture. In her biography Tatum gave a great deal of the credit for her performance to Bogdanovich and being a total amateur that's understandable. However her natural charisma, honest reactions and ease before the camera aren't things that can be directed you either have them or not. She's alive every second she's on screen which is more or less the entire picture. Great though she is this is the Supporting Actress category and I just can't pick a lead actress as the winner. 3 3/4 hearts

Sylvia Sidney-It seems incredible that this was the vastly talented Sylvia's only nomination. At the time it was probably bestowed as a career tribute since Sidney had made clear her intention to retire and this was her first appearance on screen in 18 years. However owing to the success of the performance she jumped back into performing and continued until her death with many more memorable performances. That said unlike several such acknowledgements her work is worthy of the nod. Injecting spirit and a ferocity tinged with a bit of pathos into her brief time on screen you can see how her strong personality could dominate Woodward's more docile one and cause at least part of the rift between them. Her sudden departure from the film definitely leaves a hole and makes Joanne's loss of equilibrium due to that absence understandable. She does what is necessary for the story to make sense, create a dynamic enough character to act as a catalyst for all that her loss entails. That's all because of Sylvia's ability in a limited time to make Mrs. Pritchett a recognizable human being. 3 1/2 hearts.

So my winner from the field is Madeline Kahn although as much as I love her and believe she should have had an Oscar, for her un-nominated turn in the previous year's What's Up, Doc?, she would not have been my pick this year if other performances had been included.

From the field chosen it would seem that quality supporting candidates were thin on the ground in 1973 since Tatum O'Neal belonged in the lead category in place of eventual winner Glenda Jackson. I enjoy Glenda's performance and still watch the film occasionally but pleasant though it may be it is not worthy of an Oscar nomination let alone a win. And two nominees to me, Candy Clark and Linda Blair, were underserving.

Not so though since there were five others at least, Dyan Cannon, managing to make human the barracuda she played, or Joan Hackett, literally falling to pieces before our eyes in the best Hackettian tradition, both in The Last of Sheila. Raquel Welch, turning in her best work ever, or Faye Dunaway, deliciously deliriously evil, again both in The Three Musketeers or Eileen Brennan, sharp, warm and wonderful in The Sting all worthy of inclusion. I'm particularly surprised by Brennan's absence since The Sting was such a juggernaut that year. Among those I'm torn between Joan Hackett and Eileen Brennan though I'd lean ever so slightly to a Brennan victory.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

John T -- if you have netflix today is the last day they have PAPER MOON on instant watch. weird coincidence. Another coincidence: Dick Smith, the makeup artist on The Exorcist died this morning. (RIP)

Joel 6 - thanks for sharing. I do encourage that, yes. I love that you listed alternatives too. And that even though Nick covered 18 of them on his blog he didn't mention ANY of these ones. So it looks like there was a lot to choose from.

July 31, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

For some reason, I wasn't thrilled by Paper Moon. Kahn would be my winner out of the 4 performances that I've seen from that line-up though (Sidney unseen).
Can't wait for the podcast!

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel

Ugh, you had to invite Karina Longworth, the world's most annoying film writer, to participate. Of The Exorcist, she says, "In a movie full of terrible performances..." Why do people take her seriously? I attended a screening of Sophie's Choice in L.A. and she described Meryl Streep as the Jennifer Lawrence of her day. If it was a joke, it didn't land on the crowd to whom Streep required no introduction.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

A very incisive analysis of the nominees by an interesting panel. I re-watched Paper Moon to see if Madeline should win over Tatum, and I would still give the award to Tatum O'Neal.
The film is made around Tatum O'Neal, she carries the film and in spite of the category fraud it feels right that it was rewarded.
Madeline Kahn is one of the few actresses who would have worked in a 30's screwball comedy. She is like Rosalind Russel in terms of comic timing. No wonder she is remembered so fondly.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I just wanted to throw in that I think Travis's idea of the tie breaker being the performer with the least screen time is great. And his "Take that, category fraud!" made me laugh.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Love that Joel6 mentions The Last of Sheila ladies. One of my favorite go-to movies written by Perkins & SONDHEIM! And it is surprising Brennan didn't get nominated.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDana Delany

Idea #1 - no tiebreaker! Ties are perfectly fine :-D

Idea #2 - most perfect scores wins

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamRS72

I have not seen The Last of Sheila. there's another one for the queue. The more films you see the more you learn that you still need to see!

July 31, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm mouthing "wow" in the same way Kahn did at the Oscar ceremony.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I'm so happy Candy Clark did so well, and I especially loved what Dana Delany and Bill and Mark had to say about her. Loved Karina's and Mark's endorsements of Sidney (who still might be my favorite, and I even like the movie, though that Wild Strawberries thing is ...unfortunate). And every single person found such gorgeous ways to articulate what's so special about O'Neal in <I>Paper Moon while conceding the special circumstances in which she won. This was just as much fun as I was hoping. Big thanks to everybody, and looking forward to the podcast.

(I love ties.)

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Such lovely work by this stunning panel! (It is odd to not be playing along, but it's really fun to see things exclusively from this side.)

And I *adore* Travis's suggestion for a tie-breaker strategy.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStinkyLulu

Kind of an eerie and sad coincidence, but Dick Smith, the make-up artist from The Exorcist, just died.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Why have a tiebreaker? I'll be a dissenting voice and say I am really not fond of the shortest screen time idea, since it doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the performances.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I don't think Burstyn should have been nominated as supporting. It's about her family, and it's a wonderful performance that should have won her Oscar (avoiding the fiasco of denying Gena for the best performance ever the following year). But if O'Neal were nominated in leading, she'd have my vote and Burstyn would be Oscarless forever, since Julia deserved her Oscar and Laura Linney was the best one.


I just don't get Glenda Jackson winning twice. Can anyone explain that to me?

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Fun to read all the different opinions, as usual. Thanks again for doing this. And yay! I got quoted on Blair. Ha ha! :p

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

My votes for this smackdown:

Candy Clark- American Graffiti
I'm a bit puzzled by this nomination. American Graffiti is an ensemble film and I don't think Clark stands out more than anyone else. Everyone is uniformly good and it's like the Academy wanted to honor someone from the film and just randomly picked someone. But as I said, Clark is just as good as the others, and they are all good. It's better than the Matt Dillon Crash nomination, but not worthy of a win. 2.5 hearts

Madeline Kahn- Paper Moon
Kahn plays a carnival performer/prostitute who convinces Ryan O'Neal that she is a lady. ( it is very easy to con that con artist) This is how Trixie makes her living, but she can't fool Addy. During her confession scene, Kahn reveals just how scared and unprepared for aging Trixie is. Her form and wiggle-wiggle are all she has, there is no other talent and once she gets older, she won't even have that. It's a good scene, but for the rest of the movie, Kahn isn't given much to do except act like a stuck up jerk. A few more scenes with her would have helped, but there is only such much Kahn can do to elevate her character. 2 hearts

Tatum O'Neal- Paper Moon
Some children are wise. Her very short 9 years of life have been a series of disappointments. Most of the adults are nice to her face but talk about how her mother is "loose" and that she is a child of sin behind her back. Addy has become a human bullshit detector. And when Moze comes along, she sees an opportunity. Not only can she get away, but she can control him. Addy can finally seize control of her own destiny. She drives that movie, her ideas make them successful and she goes after him in the end. All of this is conveyed by O'Neal. Those eyes express her contempt and disappointment with the adults around her, but also compassion, like for the family of a hundred children. The scene where she first speaks in the diner with Moze, and she gets him to go along with her plan. "Go and get it" she is talking about her money, but she might as well be talking about her Oscar- 3 hearts

Linda Blair- The Exorcist
Yes, I know that it is not her real voice during the possession scenes, but it is her body, her face, her presence. That alone is worth 3 hearts. But what makes her performance work; what makes the whole movie work is that Blair allows us to see the real Reagan. We see her innocence, playfulness, and love. But Reagan is also a child of divorce and is internalizing a lot of guilt and sorrow from her mother. Blair is so natural in these scenes that it doesn't look like acting. Then in the first possession scenes, we can see her puzzlement, her anxiety. Her FEAR. That wonderful expressive face of her shows all of this without her having to speak. A horror movie works only if we care about the people. We have to want them to survive. Thanks to Blair, we see the innocence before the evil and therefore we want Reagan to be saved. The movie would be less without her. 4.5 hearts

I knew this would be an interesting year. Lots of the performances are somewhat polarizing and I am happy to see several different opinions!

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertom

Candy Clark- Nothing puzzling about WHY/HOW this performance got nominated as this was one of the most notorious campaign runs in Academy history. She's fine, she's sweet. I like American Graffiti a good deal but what I am more into is a young Harrison Ford, Cyndi Williams' heartbreaking performance, Wolfman Jack's monologue bit, and Mackenzie Phillips and Paul LeMat in the car throwing insults at each other. A film that rich in the ensemble and so many things get lost and sadly, it is Miss Clark among them. She certainly has an odd way of line reading that sticks it in a film that lives for not being the most polished so I can give her that. **

Linda Blair- I think it was the horror writer Clive Barker who noted how uninteresting and dull Regan is and she only becomes interesting when possessed. Although effective in arguably the most horrific scene and most relatable terror in the hospital tests scenes, I really hate how the pre-possession Regan is written. Add in Mercedes McCambridge and the effects, and I am just losing the drive to credit her. ** 1/2

Madeline Kahn- I also do not enjoy her subplot that much but Kahn was born to thrive on the turn back the clock 70s doing 30s work that Bogdanovich had going on. ***

Tatum O'Neal- Yes, this is where age of performer really and the fact this is a lead performance makes this the biggest category fraud there ever was but she is so not going for what you are expecting a child performance. Bogdanovich writes and directs it like the kid is of the equal maturity of her father (and oh life imitation art imitating life) which can often lead to Ryan O'Neal being the kid to Tatum's adult. This is such a great lightning in the bottle performance. *****

Sylvia Sidney- Sight unseen. Hanging my head. n/a

I kind of wish Tatum was lead. If just for Ellen Burstyn's reaction because if that was her reaction to Glenda winning that year.... imagine her with a child beating her. Also what was the deal with how Day for Night was with awards that year? Valentina Cortese was getting nominated everywhere until it all got pushed back a year. What gives?


Jack- Just.... be quiet. Or listen to Ms. Longworth's excellent podcast before you act like you are in any way of a superior film mind.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I enjoyed reading the opinions of this more than most smack downs( and I like the smack downs). Great variations of thought which we see too little of. Thank you.

FWIW--I loved all the performances as well as those others that were mentioned. An embarrassment of riches that year.

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry -- yeah a really good year. glad you liked this panel. i can't believe the task of trying to follow up both Melanie Lynskey and Dana Delany though - YIKES.

CMG -- lol. good point on Ellen.

tom - thanks for sharing your ballot

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

cal -- i wasn't being entirely serious. i'm just saying the burstyn role is MORE supporting (though, yes, still lead) than Tatum is in Paper Moon. But then, anyone would be :)

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Nathaniel, thanks for the tip that Paper Moon was about to expire on Netflix streaming. I managed to sneak in a (first) viewing under the wire. What a fantastic comedic treat -- a $24 bible with your name on the cover engraved in gold.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

"93% of running time"

it's total category fraud but, considering the role, tatum's placement [and win] is perfectly apt

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

CMG - What is the story behind Candy Clark's campaign? I thought that was an odd nomination.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Considering you did all the typing I say you get the last word!

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Wow, that was really the best possible outcome!!! Both O'Neal and Kahn get a perfect 5 from me (if I have to choose, I would pick O'Neal) so this tie is ideal!!!

Love to read all the reviews!

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFritz

I hate category fraud as much as the next person - however, Ellen Burstyn is supporting in The Exorcist in my book. The film belongs to nobody (Jason Miller is the closest to a lead, but it's not his film either - the movie switches between Burstyn, Miller, Von Sydow and Blair so frequently that it has to be an ensemble). I can only get behind 4 leads if they're all that's on show (like in Closer).

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKermit_The_Frog

I was surprised and delighted by all this love for Tatum. I thought she was aces, a magnetic presence but also remember thinking of Kahn more. It's only been a couple of years but clearly I need to revisit Paper moon.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Great Smackdown! I've seen 4 of the nominees but all were so long ago that I'd really have to re-watch them (and also watch Sidney's film) to have a better opinion. Loved Harris' Red Bull comment.

But can anyone explain Longworth's line in about Blair to me? "...but she also doesn't exactly give a sense of the agency or invention that she brings to the role that another actress wouldn't." Did she mean "would" at the end? Right now it reads as "she doesn't do {x} that another actress also wouldn't do." What?

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Blair--the calm before the hellstorm. At once both a symbol and a likable, real individual whose vulnerability becomes more heartbreaking with each state of shock. Her fracturing into "that thing upstairs" proves palpable thanks largely to her. No manner of hair, makeup and sound effects can diminish what she accomplishes here. I'm very surprised at her low ranking. Four stars

Clark--Emotionally direct, admirably unfussy, but this is clearly a case of having to pick an acting nominee for your Best Picture candidate. Still, she is memorable in a way that's not undeserved. Three stars

Kahn--Miss Delight lives up to her name, as her brassy, glitzy persona fills the frame and nearly turns this B&W into a color feature. We pretty much know her character's act is a put-on, but the deceit is so delicious we can wait for the reveal, and it's a doozy. Still, as much as I adore Kahn in general, I didn't find this work as emotionally nuanced as most others did. Three stars

O'Neal--A full bodied performance in a half body. Strikingly surprising in how she commands the screen, O'Neal shows a confidence beyond her years and takes us on an adventure that is quite poignant and still gets the laughs. I'm shocked she won Supporting, as she easily could have taken Jackson's spot in the BA roster. And I so wish she had went on to a better career, because this audacious debut was killer. Four stars

Loved all the comments--this was really fun! And yes to all those who say Ellen is lead!

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

This was fun. Nice work, guys. I'm not sold on any of the performances or movies: Judging by the nominees, 1973 looks like a counterrevolution against New Hollywood; I'm not crazy about any of 'em and would give the state if I must to Kahn. A few comments:

http://humanizingthevacuum.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/1973-pictures-of-a-counterrevolution/

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred

alfred -- wow. you weren't kidding. you really didn't like this year. although i would argue that the sexual politics of Exorcist are not at all as clear as you make them out to be. I dont think it has anything to do with punishing the mother or she'd be more involved in the narrative and her relationships to men would be clearer.

August 1, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

way off topic--alfred, I just found your essay on the incomparable Christine McVie. Tusk is my all-time favorite album--pure genius--and her songs on this LP are the peak of her prowess as a writer and performer. Lovely article.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Nathaniel:

It's rare when a year offers so few Academy pleasures, but, yeah, from the Best Picture winner to the Supp Actress, 1973 looked blah-er than it is.

brookesboy:

You are too kind! Thank you.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred

So, The Exorcist is a film with terrible performances. Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair, Mercedes McCambridge, Jason Miller... They are terrible. Sure, great opinion from a professional film critic.

I'd rather just believe she meant 'terrific' instead.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Gustavo, I couldn't agree with you more. Von Sydow was only 44 when this film was released. His performance is the most memorable one for me. I was more afraid of him than Regan. And Jason Miller probably should have won but they went sentimental in his category.
Funny how Oscar still does that - nominate elderly veterans in supporting roles, but the male wins and the female loses. See Sothern/Plowright/Bacall/Dee/Stuart versus Gielgud/Arkin/Connery/Palance/Hackman/Coburn/Freeman...

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Nah, The Exorcist is a wheeze: oogy-boogy effects with performances that would be laughed out of the average Peter Cushing horror film. Friedkin did better.

August 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred

In case anyone's interested, here's a video of Linda Blair using her own voice when she's possessed... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYs8nQfKJVQ

August 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

Karina again re-emphasizes why many consider her the worst "serious" critic in America. THE EXORCIST is full of terrible performances? Von Sydow, Burstyn, Cobb, Miller, McCambridge and in smaller, but significant performances, Kitty Wynn and Jack MacGowran. It's a superb cast working at or near the top of their games.

Maybe Karina has watched too many Slasher and Torture Porn movies to have any "taste" in horror films.

August 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoeS

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