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« September Means We're Not So Far From Heaven | Main | Best Picture Updates: La La Land Up, Birth of Nation Down »
Wednesday
Aug312016

Smackdown '84: Glenn Close, Dame Peggy, Lahti, Crouse, and Page

Presenting the Supporting Actress Class of '84. The Academy looked way back in time for this vintage collecting characters from the 1920s through the 1940s: a British senior on an excursion to see "the real" India, a Depression era beautician, the ex-girl of a ballplayer, and a former singer working in a factory during World War II. The sole contemporary character was a chain-smoking furious mother from Greenwich Village...

Glenn Close and Geraldine Page were the regulars... about to lose again!

1984 
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN  

THE NOMINEES: The 1984 Supporting Actress list skewed more mature than usual. Lindsay Crouse, surely buoyed by the love for Best Picture player Places in the Heart, and the promising new star Christine Lahti who was the least familiar face to moviegoers at the time, were the youngest, both in their mid 30s. Glenn Close, on her third consecutive nomination in the category, and Geraldine Page with a surprise seventh nomination from a long and revered acting career, were the "names" of the category... and they were both about to lose again - this time to the stage actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft who had only rarely made films. 

Shut-Outs: There was very little consensus about supporting actresses beyond Ashcroft & Lahti who fought it out for the critics awards...

BAFTA & Globe nominees that failed to make the Oscar cut were many: Melanie Griffith (Body Double), Drew Barrymore (Irreconciliable Differences), Kim Basinger (The Natural), Lesley Ann Warren (The Songwriter), Tuesday Weld (Once Upon a Time in America) and Jaqueline Bissett (Under the Volcano); Other key women that voters could have chosen that year: Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters), Elizabeth Berridge (Amadeus), Polly Holliday (Gremlins), Sabine Azéma (who won the NBR for A Sunday in the Country), Holland Taylor (Romancing the Stone), Sharon Stone (Irreconciliable Differences), Dianne Wiest (Falling in Love), Amy Madigan (Places in the Heart) and Lonette McKee (The Cotton Club

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about the nominees are our panelists: Sheila O'Malley (The Sheila Variations), Noah Tsika (Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, CUNY and author of "Nollywood Stars"), Joe Reid (Decider.com), Nick Davis (Associate Professor of English and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern and author of "The Desiring Image") and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience).

And now it's time for the main event... 

1984 

DAME PEGGY ASHCROFT as "Mrs Moore" in A Passage to India
Synopsis: A woman takes her future daughter-in-law on an excursion to India where they have "adventures" with locals that soon sour in the heat and segregated culture
Stats: Then 77 yrs old, her 12th film (she only made 1-3 a decade). Her first and only nomination though she had been a regular BAFTA nominee (48 minutes of screen time or 29% of running time). 
Trivia Noteworthy: She is the last Supporting Actress winner to not appear at her winning ceremony and the oldest woman to ever win this category

Nick Davis: This story yields multiple opportunities for complex characterization, but only Ashcroft fully manages one. This is all the more remarkable given her tendency to underplay, conjuring Mrs. Moore with an impeccable economy of gesture and expression as a concrete personality of tangled sympathies, curiosities, and myopias. Like Vanessa Redgrave in Howards End, she projects a kind of soulful ineffability that was vital to Forster, without stooping to romantic abstraction. You see why Dr. Aziz sees her as a spirit, but she’s very much there. ♥♥♥♥♥

Sheila O'Malley: Ashcroft here is childlike and transparent (without being condescending about it), but also intelligent and complex. It's not until her final scene on the ship deck that you realize what her character's journey over the film has really been all this time: death approaches, and she has felt it coming. ♥♥♥♥

Noah Tsika:  As the culturally sensitive, semi-mystical Mrs. Moore, Ashcroft isn’t playing a character as much as she’s playing a Christian principle. Huffily communicating Mrs. Moore’s confidence in navigating a range of “exotic” arenas, she embodies E. M. Forster’s self-congratulatory ideas about how to be a “good” Englishwoman abroad. I like the way Ashcroft plays Mrs. Moore’s discomfort at being saluted, and the character’s sheer disgust at her son’s conspiratorial smile after he passes sentence on an Indian man, but her lines are consistently appalling (“What a terrible river, what a wonderful river!”), and her rather predictable Old Vic intonations can’t save them. ♥♥

Joe Reid: Ashcroft brings her considerable presence to the character of Mrs. Moore, and it's through her that the film really opens up to India. Still, I was never quite as captivated as the film wanted me to be; I'm not quite chanting "Mrs. Moore!" out in the streets. ♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: In a film where most of the charactizations are muddled, Ashcroft plays to the muddle, acknowledging every time that Mrs Moore knows it for what it is even if "it" is an unknowable stew of culture clashes, racism, sexual repression, and class warfare. Her onscreen son accuses her of sentimental socialism but to Ashcroft's credit she doesn't play into that cheap dismissal or to the sentiment but to an innate moral compass. All that said her elder stateswoman gravitas, the plot mechanics (with Indians chanting her name), and the beautiful way she's shot to often appear like a mystical visiting spirit (see also: Glenn Close) are doing a lot of the pedestal building for this celebrated role. ♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Refreshing to see such a three-dimensional older lady in a prestige pic not be stuffy or frivolous to the plot. Her connection to Banjeree is the core of the film, and she/they sell it beautifully."  Sean. (Reader average: ♥♥♥♥)

Actress earns 21 ❤s 

 

GLENN CLOSE as "Iris Gaines" in The Natural
Synopsis: A woman reconnects with her high school sweetheart who has become a famous ballplayer. She's been keeping a big secret from him.
Stats: Then 37 yrs old. Fourth film. Her third consecutive nomination in first three years onscreen (21 minutes of screen time or 15% of running time). 

Nick Davis: Close, like Ashcroft, has to project a floaty idealization as well as a grounded person, and also manages this balance better than their film does, waffling as it does between period realism and luminescent mythography. Close’s subtle character decisions sometimes feel preempted by Levinson’s archetypal storytelling and Deschanel’s haloes of light, but I admired the quiet yearning, secret-keeping, and somewhat mystified curiosity she brought to her interactions with Redford, insisting on playing scenes and opening up questions, rather than just luxuriating in nostalgic escapism. ♥♥♥

Sheila O'Malley: Close's nomination is baffling to me and it was baffling to Close, too (judging from a comment she made when she spoke at my grad school: she said she thought the nomination was because of how she was lit).  She has a point. The character is basically a walking candle-flame. She underplays it all, including the character's martyrdom, but there's only so much underplaying you can do when there is a klieg light pointed your way. 

Noah Tsika: At first, Close has to suffer the indignity of playing a character much younger than her years, girlishly twirling in a field. I like her reading of the line “I don’t get lonely”—she makes it boldly flirtatious. And I like the way she glares at Robert Duvall as the latter laughs like a cocky jock. But this is a dull character in a dreadful film, and Close is badly miscast. The sight of her bathed in a heavenly light is perhaps the epitome of camp, by any definition of the term—both because she’s Glenn Close (thankfully, her star image has never been remotely angelic) and because of the ridiculous symbolism. 

Joe Reid: I was ready to skewer this nomination as nothing more than Best Standing in a Crowd, but while luminous Iris standing amid the baseball fans is her character's signature moment, Close follows that up with a few scenes where she provides the film with the anchor of decency it needs from her. In the end, it's not much of a task.  ♥♥

Nathaniel R: You know what's even crazier than a magical baseball bat crafted from a tree struck by lightning? This nomination. Glenn, miscast, pops up on occassion, lit like a heavenly visitor to stare at her former sweetheart. Then she vanishes, always hiding her character's extremely obvious secret. Presumably in the same places she’s kept any insights into this poorly written character. If they had to go with this effortful dull baseball drama, Kim Basinger was rightthere doing sad sold-soul work with a legible character 

Reader Write-Ins: "I mean, what a dog of a role. But Close does marvels with it when she can. The diner scene in particular is a great example of an actress ploughing through a slab of pulseless dialogue and still managing to invest it with life." - Goran. (Reader average: ♥♥⅓)

Actress earns 10⅓ ❤s 

 

LINDSAY CROUSE as "Margaret Lomax" in Places in the Heart
Synopsis: A beautician realizes her husband is having an affair while trying to support her widowed sister's struggles.
Stats: Then 36 yrs old, her 8th film. First and only nomination (21 minutes of screen time or 19% of running time).
Trivia Noteworthy: She is the mother of current star Zosia Mamet (of Girls fame)

Nick Davis: I wish Crouse’s sharp-edged, cerebral qualities had found more outlets in Hollywood. Her imposing but never overbearing braininess can elevate whole movies in only a few scenes—witness The Verdict or The Insider. Places in the Heart needs more of what Crouse supplies, and I admire her casting, but the film disserves her storyline. She’s stuck playing familiar beats that culminate in a predictable recognition; I’d have loved to watch her respond to her epiphany for a while, rather than just build to it. ♥♥

Sheila O'Malley: Lindsay Crouse brings a simple kind of truth to whatever she does. Her character here is unexpectedly complex: funny, sexy, tough. Her sub-plot, though, is the least engrossing part of the film, and I could live without the image of Ed Harris shoving chocolate cake down her throat with his tongue. It's a lovely performance but without the "oomph" in the role itself that usually gets Oscar attention. ♥♥♥

Noah Tsika: I adore Crouse’s accent work here, not least of all because she sounds (to me) like Reba McEntire, making a mockery of Sally Field’s labored drawl. She’s beautifully restrained when Margaret first notices the erotic current that connects her husband to his mistress; she doesn’t overplay the shock of recognition, making her subsequent slap that much more powerful. Margaret maintains her hard-won dignity, more than substantiating her own claim that she’s “not the same dumb beauty operator” that her husband once knew (though it’s impossible to imagine that Margaret, as played by the indomitable Crouse, was ever “dumb”)♥♥♥♥

Joe Reid: Plucking a supporting nominee from the extremely subplotty Madigan/Harris/Crouse parts of "Places in the Heart" feels like a lot of work for little reward. Crouse imbues the spurned wife stereotype with some heartland grit, but her big slapping scene never rises above its predictability.  ♥♥

Nathaniel R: Sometimese as drab as the colorless sheaths they called dresses in Depression era rural Texas, but Crouse makes a couple of smart choices with this ordinary woman. She's good at minor shifts in temperature, a beat warmer for her sister (while still not demonstratively "cozy"), ice cold with her husband in her big scene (sans the theatricality you’d expect). The character is underwritten and she's too understated but I appreciated her specificity in a film where most are content to hit "stock character" marks. ♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Her whole subplot adds so little to the main narrative I question why it was even included. Be that as it may she’s displays rock solid strength." - Joel (Reader average: ♥♥)

Actress earns 15 ❤s 

 

CHRISTINE LAHTI as "Hazel" in Swing Shift
Synopsis: A nightclub singer goes to work in an airplane factory during World War II and gets mixed up in her best friend's complicated love life.
Stats: Then 34 yrs old, her 4th film. Her first and only acting nomination. (40 minutes of screen time or 40% of running time) 
Trivia Noteworthy: She won the Oscar 11 years later in the Live Action Short Film category 

Nick Davis: I’m verging on four hearts, having relished the rich portrait of female friendship she generates with Hawn, as fascinating in its intimacies as in its rivalries. Their bond is incontrovertibly the most interesting in the movie; I liked Lahti’s disarming directness and, after Kay turns on Hazel, her combination of embarrassment, anger, and disappointment. Is she really a lounge singer, though? Does she connect every dot in her character biography? Does her tumble with Lucky compute? Like Swing Shift itself, I’m of mixed minds. ♥♥♥

Sheila O'Malley: Just watching Christine Lahti saunter across the dance floor in her 1940s dress is awesome. Lahti is really a co-star here, not a "supporting" actress at all. The last shot is of her face! The friendship between the women is what is most important and she and Hawn are great together. Lahti is tough and soft, sometimes at the same moment. She also has lines like, "It's none of your beeswax, toots." Wonderful. ♥♥♥♥♥

Noah Tsika: Whether watering a plant in long shot or singing a torch song to a nearly empty ballroom, Lahti, as Hazel, projects a welcome insouciance. She does everything with an unforced authority, evoking the strong, no-nonsense Eve Arden—no small feat. Watch the way she chomps her gum, holds her cigarette aloft, enters the aircraft plant with glorious élan—or, for that matter, expresses sorrow and disappointment. When she puts her huge, expressive hand over her face to hide Hazel’s grin, my heart soars. Lahti must have kept her head amid the disastrous reshoots; the studio cut of Swing Shift may be an infamous debacle, but Lahti’s work is close to perfect. ♥♥♥♥♥

Joe Reid: Hazel is easily the most compelling character in Jonathan Demme's film, and Lahti managed to have better chemistry with Goldie Hawn than either Kurt Russell or Ed Harris does. Lahti does the brazen/wounded thing with minimal histrionics, and she provides the film with its life force.  ♥♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: While Swing Shift lacks the teeming crowd-sourced spark of Jonathan Demme's best films, Lahti provides her own. (In a better film that asked more of her it's easy to imagine this as a slam-dunk Oscar win). Her body language doesn't read ‘40s singer but it's still quite legible, conveying Hazel's embattled default tetchiness and self reliance.  Lahti’s best move is not that she surprises the audience with unexpected reserves of warmth for friends and lovers who disappoint; it’s that she let’s the warmth be a tender surprise to Hazel herself. ♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Vital in every scene" - Darren (Reader average: ♥♥♥½)

Actress earns 23½ ❤s 

 

GERALDINE PAGE as "Mrs Ritter" in The Pope of Greenwich Village
Synopsis: A sickly but iron-willed woman mourns the loss of her cop son and proves formidable when his pension is threatened.
Stats: Then 60 yrs old, 24th film. Her seventh nomination... she'd win on her eighth for The Trip to Bountiful the following year (7 minutes of screen time or 6% of running time). 

Nick Davis: Geraldine sits in her trailer. “I’ll play this one low-key. I’ve never really done that before. Nobody should leave this movie thinking about Mrs. Ritter. She’s tertiary. I respect that. Doing it big would be cocky.” She lights a fifth cigarette. “Then again, why should Sylvia Miles get all the Sylvia Miles parts? Why shouldn’t I be cocky? That kid Roberts swaggers all over. Is he trying to steal the movie? Fuck him! I’ll steal it! Fuck underplaying! Fuck Peggy Ashcroft! Mama’s got this!” ♥♥♥

Sheila O'Malley: Page gives a great – even epic – performance in 2 scenes that add up to 7 minutes. Tops. Her hacking cough, her fury in the second scene, the way she exhales smoke like a dragon, the ferocious way she kisses her rosary, her rage, her grief … the high high stakes for her character. Among my actor friends, her performance was one of the top topics that year. Brilliant. ♥♥♥♥♥

Noah Tsika: This is a deceptively skillful performance, one that some may be tempted to write off as mere caricature. But Page’s Mrs. Ritter is, despite her scant screen time, a full-bodied creation—a portrait of, at once, urban toughness, ethnic pride, religious conviction, failing health, defiance in the face of authority, festering class resentment, maternal love, and, most of all, agonizing grief. Page’s second scene tends to get the most attention—it’s certainly her showiest—but I love her first appearance, particularly her rapport with Jack Kehoe, who plays Mrs. Ritter’s ill-fated son. Watch the way her brusque dismissal instantly morphs into a warm embrace, or her open-mouthed response to Walter’s revelation about wanting to open up a liquor store in Phoenix. She’s spectacular. ♥♥♥♥♥

Joe Reid: As single-scene chamber performances go, it's a lot of fun. Page is doing the angry widow thing with great relish. She's got kind of a proto-Livia Soprano vibe. I certainly was hoping her character would somehow find reason to show up again later in the movie, but it wasn't to be. ♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: "Wanna fight, officer?" Straight talk: Mrs Ritter would scare all of the toughest iconic movie cops if she spit that line out at them in their own movies. She's so potent as this chain-smoking retiree that she's even working in character detail when she's out of focus. Unrepentant Geraldine doesn't just chew the scenery but swallows it after large angry bites. Then she coughs it back up again for extra nibbling to make sure she hasn't missed one savory bite. There's nothing wrong with showboating when ACTING is a movie's entire show. (See also: Rourke & Roberts) Preferred title: Mrs Ritter of Greenwich Village♥♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Page shows her costars how to go over the top, without toppling over." - Rob (Reader average: ♥♥♥)

Actress earns 23 ❤s 

The Oscar Went To... Dame Peggy Ashcroft in a presumed landslide.

The Smackdown, on the other hand, had nothing of the sort. In a tight three-way race with little consensus, reader ballots made the difference and Christine Lahti takes the prize by a razor thin margin -- a ½ point to be exact!


Thank you for attending! 

Previous Smackdowns: 1941, 19481952, 195419641968, 1973, 197719791980, 1989, 1995 and 2003. (Before that 30+ Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site.)

NEXT UP: 1963 is our 'year of the month' for September so the next Smackdown is on Friday September 30th, 2016 looking back at that film year as well as its Supporting Actress nominees. There are only three required films to watch this time (Tom Jones, The VIPs, Lilies of the Field) so join us!

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Reader Comments (52)

It's worth mentioning that Glenn Close is a super classy Oscar loser. She was genuinely happy for Ashcroft and she didn't throw anything at Foster after the ROBBERY.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I am surprised at the Page love here and the actors must have loved it in 84 too.

My nominees

Page
Lahti
Madigan
Weld
Ashcroft

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

Nick's Geraldine writeup gets my five hearts.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAR

Peggy Sue -- this is true and also LOL about Foster. Seriously that was upsetting.

AR -- mine too. That was like "why do I even try?" level of winning.

August 31, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hurrah for the rightful winner. And I completely forgot about Ed Harris' full frontal towel scene in that movie. I think MNPP had a post on it once.

To 1963!

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I don't remember Ed being topless.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

#TeamLahti, though I can't take this category very seriously without Griffith.

Nick's write-up on Page is side-splittingly amazing.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

The right woman won! I'm kind of bummed by Glenn's low scores, though (although part of my affection for her performance may be a confused love for the movie as a whole).

I think Tom Jones is one of the most boring movies ever made, can't remember any of the performances and can't bear to rewatch, so I will only be submitting two votes next month....

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

The year's nominees, with the exception of the winner and Christine Lahti, are underwhelming, though it's not for lack of talent or commitment. The roles they play are are so poorly integrated into the films they appear in, that they are frustrating to watch. Because the performances are all good, I can only criticize the films in which they appear.

Glenn Close: 3 hearts I found “The Natural” boring and poorly constructed. Glenn Close does what she can with material that only hints at her story. She's so bathed in light that the reality of her circumstance can only be hinted at, in hindsight. She's an unwed mother who, inexplicably, is abandoned by her 'true' love at the moment one would expect he could benefit from her care. Speaking of bathed in light...Robert Redford returns from purgatory (or something) after 16 years and looks great in the golden light and proceeds to muck up his life again. He's only bright on the outside, though, as he never even figures out that he has a son. Glenn is fine, but there's nothing memorable here.

Lindsay Crouse: 3 hearts. As Margaret, the friend, I mean sister-in-law, Oh, I see, sister of Edna, Lindsay Crouse truly is there as support. She supports Field and she supports Ed Harris' performance as her philandering husband. The subplot of the affair and the guilt and anger swirling through it is tonally at odds with the main plot. I wish they had spent that time deepening the relationships between the folks on the farm and effectively suggesting the attendant racial turmoil. But then, who would they have nominated for supporting actress? The academy's voters must have gone for Crouse, over Madigan, because she got to speak. Crouse delivers the goods, but the performance is left hanging.

Geraldine Page: 4 hearts In “The Pope of Greenwich Village”, Page's performance comes out of nowhere and leaves just as abruptly. It's great to see Page as a woman who is not a delicate, fading southern belle. When her first scene showed up, I was so sick (and bored) of the macho posturing, my interest was piqued. I wish the movie had been about her and her threat to fight the police department. Instead, her second scene promises much, but delivers nothing. It's through no fault of Page, however, who shows her costars how to go over the top, without toppling over.

Christine Lahti: 4 hearts At last, a performance worth giving. The story of women joining the work force in record numbers, for the first time in American history, could have been interesting. At one point, maybe this was the story of two women who, through work, become good friends and support each other in the face of rampant sexism. Instead, we get them pairing up with their perfect mates and returning to the status quo as if this period in history hadn't unleashed a powerful movement towards women's rights. Ed Harris (again) and Kurt Russell are dreamy, but come on! Lahti gets to show what she's got and easily steals scenes from Goldie Hawn. She gets to show off some stunning costumes, too.

Peggy Ashcroft: 5 hearts Perhaps unfairly, this is really the only choice for best performance. Mrs. Moore, through Ashcroft's sly, knowing performance, becomes the heart and soul of this moving, enigmatic film. Desperate to escape the indecency of her culture planting itself in the middle of the local citizenry, then ignoring or exhibiting contempt for Indian people, Mrs. Moore is open to the exotic mystery and ancient spirituality of India. As she becomes overwhelmed by it, and by the 'machinery' set in motion by the English raj, she leaves, partly in fear and partly in disgust. Her presence, however, echoes loudly through the rest of the film. Her name is invoked in the name of justice and, finally, forgiveness, Peggy Ashcroft beautifully embodies the woman with the 'kindest face'.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

"Fuck underplaying" is something that Page absolutely had embroidered on a throwpillow in her house. I can't believe she was the runner-up by half a heart. What a close Smackdown this was. I wish Ashcroft had been closer but those women are a great top three.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

Page deserved a win for Interiors just for the delivery of the line to Mary beth Hurt about breathing hard.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

I think for the 1963 smackdown that the hearts should be replaced by jowls, in honour of Dame Margaret!

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lewis

I am very glad Lahti won... although I still feel her role in Running On Empty was brilliant!

I liked Ashcroft a lot, but her role verged on not supporting...

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Rick -- running on empty is so masterful. i should write about it.

adam - lol

mark - Page deserved to win on like half her nominations ;)

Nick T -- right. you don't even need to see her home to know this to be true.

suzanne -really? i don't remember it well but i remember thinking it was really fun when i was a teenager and rented it on VHS

August 31, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Major one you didn't mention? If Polly Holliday for Gremlins is major, so is Ronee Blakley for A Nightmare on Elm Street.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Amazing fun as always! Particularly loved the Page writeups.

I watched all 5 films within 22 hours. By the time I was done I didn't know what year it was, if I was born yet or if I died. Bad films but good times!

Dame Peggy Ashcroft in Passage to India

3 hearts

I didn't notice this performance ever rising above the level of great-intelligent-actress-doing-proficient-work, but sometimes that's a pleasure in itself. Especially in such a weak field. And if I may say so, a weak movie. (Has Judy Davis ever been this bad? For that matter, has Judy Davis otherwise ever been bad, period.)


Glenn Close in The Natural

3 hearts

I mean, what a dog of a role. But Close does marvels with it when she can. The diner scene in particular is a great example of an actress ploughing through a slab of pulseless dialogue and still managing to invest it with the sense of a lived life behind the rudimentary words. Then again, there are times where she's pretty much forced to resort to the drama-graduate schtick of invest-every-single-line-with-maximum-conviction-like-your-life-depends-on-every-last-syllable-and-that's-your-job-done-for-the-day, eg. her first and last scenes with Redford.


Lindsay Crouse in Places in the Heart

1 heart

... ... I guess she slaps Ed Harris pretty hard that time ... ... But really? I'll admit that Crouse is minimally more animated in this role than she has been in every other one I've seen. But she doesn't plumb any greater depths here than a half-capable actress would in an unembarrassing, unremarkable audition.

Also, nothing about her gestures or line readings reads '30s.


Christine Lahti in Swing Shift
3 hearts

The problem here is I've seen Lahti do so many more spectacular things (chiefly in the decade's most underrated - low key yet deceptively rich - film and lead performance > 1987's Housekeeping). And she's very good here too. Of course she is. She acts circles around the confused lead. And she probably does the strongest work out of everyone in this slate (even if Close does much more to elevate her material). I like that she doesn't shy away from the character's guilt-ridden savagery. And it sounds like some of her finest moments got turfed in the cutting room. But still. She never quite brings it home in the way that Holly Hunter does in her big showpiece scene, and she even lets several opportunities for nuance drift by (and it even feels like a lot of those lingering close-ups linger longer than is necessary on her). I will still love her forever but it's a shame that this is her one nominated performance.


Geraldine Page in The Pope of Greenwich Village
3 hearts

Grand-dame-showboating 101. Which an be fun to watch, even if not particularly enriching. It helps that she's the only major cast member who really knows how to inhabit the stylistic pitch she's shooting for. But oh my god, can we talk about Eric Roberts here? What the hell was that?!


Performance ranking:
Lahti
Page
Ashcroft
Close
Crouse

with the top 4 being pretty interchangeable, pending a second viewing.


Films ranking:
Places in the Heart (not because it's any good!)
Swing Shift
A Passage to India
The Natural
The Pope of Greenwich Villlage (though this would make the funnest drinking game)


While we're on the topic of 1984, my top 5:
Once Upon a Time in America
Stranger Than Paradise
Amadeus
Paris, Texas
What Have I Done to Deserve This

with the top 4 being pretty interchangeable, pending a second viewing.

Gotta say even when the films range from bland to diabolical, I still love the smackdown because in the oddest ways it keeps reminding me how much I love movies and movie history.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Oh and having just finished watching Nightmare on Elm Street literally 20 minutes ago, I am still in awe of every single one of Ronee Blakley's line readings and am wandering how this performance failed to acquire legendary status. I mean, it is mesmerisingly, hysterically, HYPNOTICALLY B-A-D. Like if Amber Waves found a second career in mid-budget 80s soap opera.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I too think Davis is bad in APTI forget everything in 84 Turner in RTS is where Nat is at period.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

goran: Bad? Hmm? NO ONE in the "reality" of that movie can feel too real and grounded or too fake and artificial or you're not questioning if a moment is real or a dream. (And if you're not asking that question most of the time, A Nightmare on Elm Street would be an abject failure.) So, yeah, "Legendarily bad"? Only if you were listening to the clips out of context and cared NOTHING for the context of said clips. At worst, a reasonable reaction should go something like "she's giving the movie exactly what it needs, but what it needs shouldn't be viewed as nomination worthy." At best (which is where I sit), it genuinely is worthy of the Supporting Actress discussion.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

So very, very happy that Christine Lahti came out the winner! What I can’t believe is how close Geraldine Page came to winning. I didn’t like her performance at all, but then again I hated the film on the whole.

Peggy Ashcroft-A Passage to India-In a film filled with excellent performances hers is perhaps the best. Every sensation and thought process Mrs. Moore feels Dame Peggy makes manifest with great skill. You feel for Mrs. Moore, like her and understand her struggle all because of Ashcroft but…….even more than Judy Davis she’s the female lead and an integral part of what makes the film run so I just can’t give her a supporting win. 4 ½ hearts.

Glenn Close-The Natural-One of two performances, Gerry Page is the other, nominated more on the interpreter’s reputation than the actual role or performance. The role is comprised of warm looks, an earth mother vibe and as Glenn herself said very good lighting but those hardly require an Oscar nomination. She adds virtually nothing to the film which is a star vehicle for Redford if ever there was one. 2 hearts.

Lindsay Crouse-Places in the Heart-As Sally’s sister she gives a good performance but her whole subplot adds so little to the main narrative I question why it was even included. Be that as it may she displays rock solid strength as a woman saddled with a faithless weak husband and her scene where the dawning realization of his betrayal plays across her face is expertly done. Still I often forget she’s in the film until she pops in again, not the hardiest recommendation for a performance. 2 ½ hearts.

Christine Lahti-Swing Shift-Even though the film is a noble try at presenting the working women of WWII that doesn't quite come off Christine Lahti breathes life into it whenever she's on screen handily stealing the picture from the nominal stars. Apparently too handily since supposedly Goldie Hawn, one of the film's producers, had Lahti's role, much larger and even more scene stealing, cut drastically to refocus the spotlight on herself before the picture's release. Lahti makes Hazel a flesh and blood person with real problems and a dynamism missing from the jackass Russell plays and Hawn’s selfish flighty Kay. 4 ¾ hearts.

Geraldine Page-The Pope of Greenwich Village-What! Why? How in hell did this deserve an Oscar nomination? The three thoughts that came first to mind when I was watching this film. She dithers, squawks and generally pitches her performance too high and ends up grating. I love Geraldine Page and most of the time she’s extraordinary so it’s a shame to see some of her worst screen work earn a nod. 1 heart.

It was a sketchy field on the whole and only two of the nominees would make my personal ballot though Christine would still emerge victorious.

My picks:
Peggy Ashcroft-A Passage to India
Jacqueline Bisset-Under the Volcano
Coral Browne-American Dreamer
Christine Lahti-Swing Shift-Winner
Tuesday Weld-Once Upon a Time in America

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Volvagia, nice try. I watched the whole movie (why would I just watch clips out of context?). There's a stark difference between ambiguous and wooden. This was not stylised, suitably-pitched camp or hazy acting. Unless the film's message is "we all sound like the opening 2 minutes of a porno in the dreams our daughters have of us". And if it was? She nailed it.

If not, let's just agree to disagree on what's the allowed or 'reasonable' reaction here.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Leaden, often overwhelmed by David Lean’s commitment to wanting Lean-ian moments like people on elephants in alien terrain (to Englishmen), A Passage to India is a fraught adaptation, sometimes not owing much at all to E.M. Forster, but, arguably, the novel sometimes doesn’t read like Forster. It’s a great book, but a strange one: mysticism is not Forster’s natural bent. But he’s alert to English hypocrisy, which is why I disagree with ‘s Noah Tsika's remark about Forster's self-congratulation (there's a reson why Lionel Trilling loved Forster as a liberal; the novelist had the usual lib flaws of empathy without understanding but he genuinely tried). It’s clear from movie and novel that Mrs. Moore is a persnickety old woman, unpleasant and short of temper.

But the book – and ultimately the movie’s – triumph is in concretizing the Aziz-Moore relationship. Victor Banerjee, so alert and intelligent, makes me believe that Mrs. Moore is his “best friend in all the world” despite the differences in age and sensibility (Banerjee should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination). He’s so good that he reveals the shallowness of Lean’s approach. How can a performance and conception like this exist in the same film as Alec Guinness’s sub-Peter Sellers imitation of an Indian?

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAlfred

They should've just given this one to Geraldine Page, so Whoopi could've won the next year.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Alfred -- totally agree. on the Alec Guiness thing. Yellow face and white washing is one thing but to do it IN THE SAME FRAME as roles that are not white washed is so bizarre. It kept taking me out of the movie. I loved Banerjee in this, too. So weird that Davis was nominated. I love her but I still don't understand how that performance (so shaky) won #1 placements over people like Kathleen Turner and Mia Farrow that year it's just maddening.

but really 1984 best actress is an ungodly mess so let's let it go.

Goran -- yes on the pope of greenwich village drinking game. i don't know the rules but i fear alcohol poisoning

August 31, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Here are my votes. I haven't seen Page or Crouse.

Christine Lahti- Swing Shift

Lahti is Goldie Hawn's nightclub singer neighbor. Allegedly, Hawn was jealous of Lahti's performance and had much of it cut from the final edit. If that is true we may have missed a great performance. However, I can only judge what I saw and the performance is simply good. While Hawn was completely miscast in the movie- her pixie 60's charm is so out of place in a movie taking place during the 1940's- Lahti at least seems like she is in the right time period. As a lonely chanteuse vilified by the community for daring to be a little more Hayworth than DeHaviland, Lahit hits her marks and sells the character's anger and spirit. But that is all. I don't see anything beyond doing what any competent actor would have done. This isn't a signature role just a good- and only good- performance. 3 hears

Glen Close- The Natural

I will get this out of the way, yes the lighting helped. Yes the cinematography expertly lit Close in this movie. But that is not enough. All the lighting in the world cannot hide a bad performance. Close earned her nomination. She is just the epitome of grace and serenity while occasionally letting those feelings of bitterness bubble to the surface. She is so believably Midwestern. She might not have cared for her performance but I enjoyed it. 3 hearts

Peggy Ashcroft- Passage to India

I read the book in high school and it was such a slog to get through, so I had a lot of reservations about the film. Thankfully Dame Ashcroft was there to alleviate any fears of being bored. She is the heart and soul of the movie, as the forward thinking Mrs. Moore. She supports the entire movie rather effortlessly. Her face is so full of joy when exploring the lush countryside, reverence when entering the ancient mosque, and disappointment and shame when she realizes her children for racists. Ashcroft also allows her less appealing characteristics to come out as well. Mrs Moore is open to learning but wishes everyone could be like her and doesn't understand why they aren't. Funny, insightful, joyful, and even spiritual Dame Ashcroft wins my vote easily. 4.5 hearts

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertom

I'd like to think that look (and *that* one) won Glenn Close the role of Alex Forest in Fatal Attraction. #steelyeyedrealness

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Ashcroft voter all the way!! Nick sums it up perfectly. She takes an immensely complex and challenging role and manages to bring forth all it's subtleties and complexities COMPLETELY on her own while Lean doses off Camera, Guinness looks like he's infected with permanent ennui, Fox looks confused, and Davis looks dour and gruff. I get the idea behind the woman and the woman behind the idea at all times and for someone who almost exclusively acted on the stage it's a remarkably relaxed and comfortable performance, not stagey in the slightest (think Maggie Smith and Judi Dench on auto pilot). Page would be a close second, it's one of her best nominations, but I actually liked all of these performances much to my surprise, even Close who I think manages to all least be a compelling presence to an extent that all the one stars seem a bit harsh.

Question for Nathanial-Do you really not like Foster in The Accused at all? I probably would take either Close or Weaver over her but just barely. I think Foster, dubious accent aside, is pretty terrific in The Accused and Griffith really shines in her best moments in Working Girl. It's certainly her rawest performance. I wasn't aware that her win was considered an upset. In terms of Close nominations I much prefer her in Fatal Attraction (admittedly that was a considerably more competitive year) and I think Weaver's lack of any kind of Oscar is just as upsetting, though I guess that's a question of personal taste. Had they been nominated I would put Rowlands and Sarandon leagues ahead of Close. And personally I think Bening does much more interesting things with the character in Valmont the following year.

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

this smackdown was a delight to read! and these comments are just as good, y'all! can't believe that lahti won it by only half a heart. even though i would've preferred page, i ain't mad it at...(and nathaniel, i had the same thought about close over basinger in THE NATURAL. how could anyone sit through that lumbering movie and pick her over basinger? basinger doesn't fare much better, but at least she is given something to actually do!)

here are my takes on the performances:

Peggy Ashcroft A Passage to India
Old-fashioned, stodgy, and a bit dull, Lean's adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel seems to have skipped over 20 years of filmmaking to deliver a relic of '60s grandeur. So perhaps it's fitting that Ashcroft, a grand dame of the British stage for over 50 years, would bring a certain style of acting to her performance to match the dated tone of the film. Not that Ashcroft doesn't bring a polished professionalism to her Mrs. Moore, the only person with any understanding or common sense in the film. But too often she falls victim to what has been said of British thespians for years - there's no emotion behind the performance. And it certainly doesn't help that Mrs. Moore dominates the film's run-time and subject matter, making her "supporting" win seem as unfair as the false accusations endured by the film's Dr. Aziz. ♥♥

Glenn Close The Natural
When your movie isn't even interested in portraying characters that resemble actual human beings, even a Glenn Close can't make a hazy ideology of an angelic figure into anything other than a vague ideal. Bathed in glowing light that seems to follow her like her own personal spotlight and seemingly incapable of any emotion other than genteel support, Close, an actress normally commanding and anything but demure in her choices, seems content to stand in the halo and longingly watch from afar. Never figuring out a way to make her women in white be more than just a symbol. ♥

Lindsay Crouse Places in the Heart
Playing the long-suffering wife has always been a go-to supporting actress role, but when the film you're in can't even make the affair your husband is having interesting (or relevant to the plot) - you know you have a problem. As wife to Ed Harris' philandering husband and sister to Sally Field's own version of the long-suffering wife (well, widow), Crouse gets to do a lot of standing around and listening. She listens patiently to her sister's problems and doesn't want to listen to her husband's excuses. Crouse is a good listener, so good that she forgets to actually create a character. Not that the filmmakers offer her any help in creating one. Her role is defined by her relationships to others, but you never see her with her husband to care about him cheating on her and you never buy that she and Field could possibly be sisters - other than their matching '80s perms in the Depression era setting. ♥

Christine Lahti Swing Shift
Legend has it that Goldie Hawn was so upset with Jonathan Demme's final cut of the film that she re-edited it herself. The major issue she apparently had with the film was that Lahti, playing her neighbor turned frenemy Hazel, was stealing the picture from her. Hawn had ever right to be worried, because even with the revisions, Lahti is the film's stand-out. Playing a former nightclub singer that's tough-talking and no nonsense could very easily become the stock best friend character that's sassy and quick with a jabbing one-liner. But what's most unique about Lahti's take is that instead of playing her as a tough ol' broad, she gives Hazel a subtle vulnerability without ever veering completely into "hooker with a heart of gold" territory. She makes Hazel credible even when her motives seem questionable, creating with Hawn a believable portrayal of female friendship. ♥♥♥

Geraldine Page The Pope of Greenwich Village
In a film filled with wildly over-the-top histrionics from its two young actors, each trying to outdo each other in who can shout the loudest, cry the most, and break more stuff, leave it to a veteran actress in a single scene delivering a monologue, without even moving from her chair, to show those boys how to really command attention. With only two scenes in the entire film, Page, in that short amount of time, establishes an entire history, builds a bond with the actor playing her son, and lets you know everything you need to about who this woman is. But even if the film didn't include her first scene, she would still impress with scathing soliloquy. Biting into her words like an animal devouring its prey, forcefully twisting the cross around her finger, sucking on the end of a cigarette with profound poignance - not a moment is wasted by Page. Taking the scraps the script gives her and turning it into a savory feast. ♥♥♥♥

August 31, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

Peter -- i dont like her in the Accused no. It's so performative for me and I can't deal with the voice. I think the category is pretty strong that year otherwise though I'm still absolutely furious that Susan Sarandon was left out for Bull Durham as she deserved the actual Oscar win.

Everyone -- rewatching these does anyone else thing it's weird that Places in the heart won the screenplay oscar? The subplots are so inorganic... i'm really weirded out by that win. and that i loved the movie so much when i was a kid (i didn't think it was terrible this time so much as bland and kind of rough drafty this time through with no strong performances really.

I'm not a big fan of the farm wives trio in general but it's strange to me that Field gets such flak for that performance for reasons that don't seem correct to me at all. I dont think she's over the top or cartoonish at all in it. I just think she's not really there (which is kind of the opposite of OTT and cartoonish. It's a weirdly plain Jane movie in the performances and not just from Field.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Sorry, but Ashcroft and Lahti hardly "split" the precursor awards. More revisionist history.

Lahti won only when Ashcroft was the winner in lead.

LA Critics: Ashcroft

NY Critics: Ashcroft in lead, Lahti in supporting

NBR: Ashcroft in lead, Sabine Azema in supporting

SOC: Melanie Griffith

GG; Ashcroft

It was more like a landslide.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Thank you for doing this, Im now intrigued to watch A Passage To India, Swing Shift and maybe Pope of Greenwich Village. (Seen the other 2, not great and boring at times but still filled with nostalgia). Honestly I expected Peggy Ashcroft to easily come out triumphant here.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

"I love her but I still don't understand how that performance (so shaky) won #1 placements over people like Kathleen Turner and Mia Farrow that year it's just maddening."

Were you referring to Broadway Danny Rose? I have often overlook this film amidst Mia Farrow's slate of roles with Woody Allen, now I am curious to view it!

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

This has been so fun - these comments are so great! Nathaniel - I agree with you in re: Places in the Heart screenplay, and also about your thoughts on Sally Field. I think she's fine, and actually underplays a lot of it - which is usually not her style. I love the love for Ashcroft and Lahti here in this thread - these are two very very good performances, woven into the films they're in - as opposed to a "grande cameo" like Page's (a performance I also love. Like I said, in my circle - an actor's circle - she was all we could talk about that year. and that's probably also due to her stage stuff and the legendary stories about Sweet Bird of Youth, and what she represented to us. But still!)

The commenter above who wrote the following made me laugh out loud:

"even a Glenn Close can't make a hazy ideology of an angelic figure into anything other than a vague ideal. Bathed in glowing light that seems to follow her like her own personal spotlight and seemingly incapable of any emotion other than genteel support, Close, an actress normally commanding and anything but demure in her choices, seems content to stand in the halo and longingly watch from afar. Never figuring out a way to make her women in white be more than just a symbol."

And incidentally, both of them- Redford and Close - are a good 20 years older than their characters - Redford's actually 30 years older than his character. So that opening scene, when they're innocent young lovers having sex for the first time in the barn ... I cringe in embarrassment!

Also, as a baseball fan: Redford needs to work on his windup.

Thanks, Nathaniel, for having me - this series is so much fun.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersheila

Nathaniel-I like both Spacek and Lange in their "farm wives" movies (I'm a HUGE fan of both actresses) but the films are not up to much and neither of them are giving anything close to career best performances. In that best actress line-up I probably would have voted for Redgrave, who is also not doing her absolute best but has the similar Ashcroft challenge of putting over an exceptionally difficult role in a film that IMO seems indifferent to anything other than authentic period prettiness (and that film has several greater casting blunders than India).

Nathaniel and Shiela- I don't know that I'd call Field cartoonish per se but I think there's a difference between underplaying and actually being subtle (Helen Mirren confuses the two all the time IMO). Going back and looking at those stills of Field in the post about heroic farm wives, everything about the look on her face in both of those pictures telegraphs so bluntly "confused, simpleton, but determined farm wife" in a way that just really irritates me and I think she more or less plays the entire performance in that one VERY limiting way, something neither Lang and Spacek (and the former is hardly known for subtlety) manage to avoid in their films. Lang I think actually plays up the characters anger and frustration in interesting ways and I wish Field had just done something to go against the dullness and stupidity of the script as opposed to just playing into it entirely.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Blue Moon -- i was yes. Mia & Kathleen were basically running circles around -- and maybe cartwheels and possibly backflips -- around the actual Best Actress nominees. There's just no excuse for it.

Patryk -- my wording there is awkward and misleading yes. But Lahti did come in runner up sometimes... the point being that those were the two performances critics were drawn to and considering for their wins. (but also: NBR is not a critics awards)

Sheila -- glad you could do it.

September 1, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Pauline Kael when reviewing on "The Natural" wrote that Glenn Close was in danger of becoming "the Norma Shearer of her generation". Her radiant supportive wife in the stands was too much and too good.
It's an unmemorable performance in a boring film. 1 star was fair & just.
I can't even remember Crouse.

I remember liking both Lahti & Ashcroft the most of those nominated.
Page was interesting and definitely worth *** 3 stars.
My preference is for Lahti as the winner. **** 4 stars

Great smackdown everyone, welcome to Sheila O'Malley - (I'm a big fan of her writing)
Nick Davis was almost certainly correct about what happened in Page's trailer.
Which is kinda scary but fun.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Peter - // everything about the look on her face in both of those pictures telegraphs so bluntly "confused, simpleton, but determined farm wife" in a way that just really irritates me //

Yes, I can totally see that. She's not really "country" - in the way Sissy Spacek just is, naturally. Those women are TOUGH.

LadyEdith - thanks! I appreciate it!

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersheila

Nathaniel, I'm shocked to find that Place in the Heart was even an original screenplay rather than a mangled over-ambitious adaptation of a sprawling novel. I'm far from a structure-Nazi (my favourite movie decade is the 60s in Europe) but none of those subplots and digressions made any thematic sense of added up to anything much. What a weird weird film.

And what a weird weird Actress slate. (Note, I've not seen The Bostonians.) Those farm wives in particular, are all great actresses doing absolutely nothing interesting. Makes no sense whatsoever.

Though I agree Field is the opposite to OTT.

And back to the topic of Places in the Heart. Though the film is bland and a mess on multiple levels, I still appreciate this 80s-awards-bait genre. Because I really truly desperately miss CGI-, talking-animal- and spandex-less mid-budget movies that made decent box office with proper movie stars in stories purely about how people interrelate with one another in difficult times.

I don't agree that TV is now filling this void. Since, unlike every TV drama (made in UK, Europe and Australia at least), none of these movies open with a person that's just gone missing or a body that's just been found.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Vanessa Redgrave should have won best actress that year in The Bostonians. Hands Down. Love the film and she is the best element in it.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBlueMoon02

" I really truly desperately miss CGI-, talking-animal- and spandex-less mid-budget movies that made decent box office with proper movie stars in stories purely about how people interrelate with one another in difficult times"

Me too, Goran. The current state of the mainstream Hollywood movie is quite bleak and has been for some time now. I can't even bear to watch the talking animal things or the superhero stuff anymore. If it weren't for the indies and foreign films, etc, (that all seem to nearly 100% come out in the final quarter of the year), we'd be even more bereft as a culture. When I see semi-good/semi-mediocre old movies like Places in the Heart nowadays, I find them rather soothing, a balm. I went to see exactly one movie this summer: Florence Foster Jenkins. I feel like I've become my mother.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

sheila, are you talking about the flashback in The Natural? If so, then yes, Redford and Close are playing teenagers. But otherwise, it's established that they're playing characters in their late 30s - Redford is ten years older than his character, and Close is age-appropriate for the role (she's a mother of a teen).

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

That was great, guys. thank you so much! I must see some of these fils - I admit I have seen none of them.
Obvious, but Nick's write-up re:Page is one for the ages.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Seems like a lot of post-nod revering going on with Lahti and Page (like, seriously?), but then you all trashed Close, so maybe not. Crouse got the appropriate level of praise for the meh film she was in. I guess I would have defaulted to Ashcroft like Oscar voters did, but what a dismal year for this category.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth

It should be remembered that Close gave up Redgrave's Role in The Bostonians to do The Natural, primarily cause she wanted to work with Redford.

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMustafa

I loved participating in this Smackdown and look forward to the podcast we're desperately trying to schedule, while so many of us are traveling. I too am a big fan of Sheila O'Malley, and everyone else here is already a dear friend. I loved the divergent responses and the razor-thin margin of victory. I found all five performances excitingly difficult to gauge in terms of numbers of hearts, for complex reasons in each case.

And I'm glad everyone enjoyed my cameo as Geraldine. Is it showing off to add that, like all my blurbs, it's 84 words? (Too late.)

September 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Nick -- i like razor thin margins of victory myself. I considered 4 hearts for both lahti and ashcroft but i stuck with 3 for both but it wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome anyway!

i also did 84 words originally but i'm sure i messed it up when i went back for last minute edits. ;)

September 1, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hello,
this is my first comment on this side and I am doing it because I am a bit astonished that Dame Peggy Ashcroft didnt win. For me there is a big, big difference between great acting and a great performance. Great acting means for me that you always see underneath that someone is trying or pretend to be someone, a great performance is just being. If you have ever seen Setsuko Hara in "Banshun" (1949), Danielle Darrieux in "Madame de..." (1953), Harriet Andersson in "Sommaren med Monika" (1953) or Monica Vitti in "L'Avventura" (1960) you will see what I mean. Not a hint of acting, just being, like fluid. And for me Dame Peggy Ashcroft in "The Passage of India" is in the same league ...

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

Thomas -- that's an interesting take. love Vitti in L'Avventura. welcome to the comment section :)

September 2, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Mustafa -- that is crazy. Why would anyone give up a lead in an James Ivory picture. Argh

September 2, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel- "Why would anyone give up a lead in an James Ivory picture."

In 1984? Merchant Ivory were nowhere near as famous or acclaimed as they would become. Levinson had been involved in the making of several hits and had directed Diner. Redford had an Oscar, was one one of the most famous film stars on the planet, and was box office. And the novel the film is based off of was quite popular itself and is a terrific book. The film changes a lot and over sentimentalizes it. It's highly probable Close might have had that in mind when she accepted the role. With idea of furthering your career in mind, given the chance between that and a period piece about a closet lesbian co-starring an arguably lesser actor and directed by a semi unknown quantity in America, I think it makes total sense why an up and coming film star would choose the natural (which was the bigger hit anyway, Redgrave aside the Bostonians was/is thought by many to be a mediocre film and as an adaptation of an amazing book it's just as simplistic as The Natural and India). I also can't imagine close being as smart with the role as Redgrave was (but that's a matter of taste since I'm not the biggest close fan in general). And given the trajectory Redgraves career was on at the time, this film more or less resuscitated her career so in both cases I think both women gained from Close's decision.

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

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