Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Oscars Breakdown: Best Actress

I’ve been taking a little blogging break because, hell, I don’t know, it seems weird to write about movies when so many American streets look like fucking war zones. I’ve found a little comfort among the chaos by diving into old Oscar flicks. Please feel free to share your thoughts, and please be safe out there, wherever “there” is.

1927/1928 – Janet Gaynor – 7th Heaven; Street Angel; Sunrise
Nominees: Louise Dresser (A Ship Comes In), Gloria Swanson (Sadie Thompson)
Thoughts: It makes perfect sense that silent-era screen goddess, Janet Gaynor, would take the first Oscar for Best Actress. She won the award for her work in three films, Sunrise being the best among them.

1928/1929 – Mary Pickford – Coquette
Nominees: Ruth Chatterton (Madame X), Betty Compson (The Barker), Jeanne Eagels (The Letter), Corinne Griffith (The Divine Lady), Bessie Love (The Broadway Melody)
Fun Fact: Jeanne Eagels was the first actress nominated for an Oscar posthumously.

1929/1930 – Norma Shearer – The Divorcee
Nominees: Nancy Carroll (The Devil’s Holiday), Ruth Chatterton (Sarah and Son), Greta Garbo (Anna Christie), Norma Shearer (Their Own Desire), Gloria Swanson (The Trespasser)
Thoughts: The Divorcee is the kind of risqué pre-Code movie that would have never been made a few years later. Shearer is great in it, but it’s a shame to see Swanson lost twice so early.

1930/1931 – Marie Dressler – Min and Bill
Nominees: Marlene Dietrich (Morocco), Irene Dunne (Cimarron), Ann Harding (Holiday), Norma Shearer (A Free Soul)
Thoughts: I love Min and Bill, and Dressler absolutely deserved to win here.

1931/1932 – Helen Hayes – The Sin of Madelon Claudet
Nominees: Marie Dressler (Emma), Lynn Fontanne (The Guardsman)
Thoughts: The Sin of Madelon Claudet is another daring pre-Code film; and though not as compelling as other movies of its kind, Hayes is great here. And I love when actors win an Oscar when they’re young, then come back decades later and win another (as Hayes did in 1970 for Best Supporting Actress in Airport).

1932/1933 – Katharine Hepburn – Morning Glory
Nominees: May Robson (Lady for a Day), Diana Wynyard (Cavalcade)
Thoughts: Hepburn won her first of four Oscars playing an ambitious actress who talks a mile a minute in order to establish and maintain her career. It was the beginning of a true acting legacy.
Fun Fact: Morning Glory was shot in sequence (incredibly rare for a feature film), and Hepburn earned $2,500 per week for working on the film.

1934 – Claudette Colbert – It Happened One Night
Nominees: Grace Moore (One Night of Love), Norma Shearer (The Barretts of Wimpole Street), Bette Davis (Of Human Bondage; write-in)
Thoughts: Colbert deserved to win here, making It Happened One Night the first movie to nab the Big Five Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay).
Fun Fact: This was one of two years in which write-in nominees were allowed on ballots, a response to Bette Davis’ egregious snub for Of Human Bondage.

1935 – Bette Davis – Dangerous
Nominees: Elisabeth Bergner (Escape Me Never), Claudette Colbert (Private Worlds), Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams), Miriam Hopkins (Becky Sharp), Merle Oberon (The Dark Angel)
Thoughts: Many thought Davis should have one the year before, but it’s fair that she won here regardless.

1936 – Luise Rainer – The Great Ziegfeld
Nominees: Irene Dunne (Theodora Goes Wild), Gladys George (Valiant Is the Word for Carrie), Carole Lombard (My Man Godfrey), Norma Shearer (Romeo and Juliet)
Thoughts: Relatively weak year; I’d say that Shearer’s work has held up the best overall.

1937 – Luise Rainer – The Good Earth
Nominees: Irene Dunne (The Awful Truth), Greta Garbo (Camille), Janet Gaynor (A Star Is Born), Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas)
Thoughts: Well, there’s no real way to avoid this. Throughout Oscar history, the Academy has occasionally given awards to white performers playing non-white roles. Here we have the white, German-born Luise Rainer winning an Oscar for playing a Chinese slave. I’m not here to re-write history; obviously times were very different then. But needless to say, this win hasn’t aged well.
Fun Fact: Rainer became the first performer to win two acting Oscars, and the first performer to win two Oscars in a row.

1938 – Bette Davis – Jezebel
Nominees: Fay Bainter (White Banners), Wendy Hiller (Pygmalion), Norma Shearer (Marie Antoinette), Margaret Sullavan (Three Comrades)
Thoughts: Great that Davis won twice so quickly; I love her stellar work in William Wyler’s Jezebel.

1939 – Vivien Leigh – Gone With the Wind
Nominees: Bette Davis (Dark Victory), Irene Dunne (Love Affair), Greta Garbo (Ninotchka), Greer Garson (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)
Thoughts: No brainer here, as Leigh’s work as Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most iconic performances in film history.

1940 – Ginger Rogers – Kitty Foyle
Nominees: Bette Davis (The Letter), Joan Fontaine (Rebecca), Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story), Martha Scott (Our Town as Emily Webb)
Thoughts: Ginger Rogers is perfectly fine in Kitty Foyle (a performance Rachel Brosnahan is clearly getting a lot of inspiration from for her part in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), but this award should have gone to Joan Fontaine.

1941 – Joan Fontaine – Suspicion
Nominees: Bette Davis (The Little Foxes), Olivia de Havilland (Hold Back the Dawn), Greer Garson (Blossoms in the Dust), Barbara Stanwyck (Ball of Fire)
Thoughts: It’s the battle of the sisters! Biological siblings, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, faced off here, with Fontaine winning, in part because she lost the year before.
Fun Fact: Fontaine’s win marked the only time a performer won an Oscar for acting in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. That’s wild.

1942 – Greer Garson – Mrs. Miniver
Nominees: Bette Davis (Now, Voyager), Katharine Hepburn (Woman of the Year), Rosalind Russell (My Sister Eileen), Teresa Wright (The Pride of the Yankees)
Fun Fact: Garson’s acceptance speech for Mrs. Miniver is the longest recorded acceptance speech in Oscar history, lasting somewhere between 5 and a half to seven minutes.

1943 – Jennifer Jones – The Song of Bernadette
Nominees: Jean Arthur (The More the Merrier), Ingrid Bergman (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Joan Fontaine (The Constant Nymph), Greer Garson (Madame Curie)
Thoughts: I’m a fan of Jennifer Jones’ work, but The Song of Bernadette is such a slog. I would have given this to Jean Arthur.

1944 – Ingrid Bergman – Gaslight
Nominees: Claudette Colbert (Since Your Went Away), Bette Davis (Mr. Skeffington), Greer Garson (Mrs. Parkington), Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity)
Thoughts: This is a tough call. Ingrid Bergman is good in Gaslight, but wouldn’t it be great for Barbara Stanwyck to have an Oscar?
Fun Fact: The movie title “Gaslight,” is the genesis of the word “gaslighting” that is commonly used today.

1945 – Joan Crawford – Mildred Pierce
Nominees: Ingrid Bergman (The Bells of St. Mary’s), Greer Garson (The Valley of Decision), Jennifer Jones (Love Letters), Gene Tierney (Leave Her to Heaven)
Thoughts: I love that Joan Crawford won her first (but sadly, only) Oscar for her excellent work in Mildred Pierce. If you’re a fan of the Todd Haynes/Kate Winslet remake, check out the original as well.

1946 – Olivia de Havilland – To Each His Own
Nominees: Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter), Jennifer Jones (Duel in the Sun), Rosalind Russell (Sister Kenny), Jane Wyman (The Yearling)
Fun Fact: With this win, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine became the only sisters to have won Best Actress Oscars.

1947 – Loretta Young – The Farmer’s Daughter
Nominees: Joan Crawford (Possessed), Susan Hayward (Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman), Dorothy McGuire (Gentleman’s Agreement), Rosalind Russell (Mourning Becomes Electra)
Thoughts: The Farmer’s Daughter was a wholesome find among the Best Actress winners. Great message, superb ending.

1948 – Jane Wyman – Johnny Belinda
Nominees: Ingrid Bergman (Joan of Arc), Olivia de Havilland (The Snake Pit), Irene Dunne (I Remember Mama), Barbara Stanwyck (Sorry, Wrong Number)
Thoughts: I had never heard of Johnny Belinda before researching this post, and I can honestly say that Jane Wyman’s work in it represents one of my favorite Best Actress wins. Wyman does not utter a single word in the film, and her performance will floor you.

1949 – Olivia de Havilland – The Heiress
Nominees: Jeanne Crain (Pinky), Susan Hayward (My Foolish Heart), Deborah Kerr (Edward, My Son), Loretta Young (Come to the Stable)
Thoughts: No problem at all with de Havilland’s second win. The Heiress is a movie designed to showcase her talents; she more than holds her own against Monty Clift here, after all.

1950 – Judy Holliday – Born Yesterday
Nominees: Anne Baxter (All About Eve), Bette Davis (All About Eve), Eleanor Parker (Caged), Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard)
Thoughts: I do not intend to disparage Judy Holliday, but this is a truly baffling win. Holliday is fine in Born Yesterday, but nowhere near as good as Baxter, Davis, or Swanson. Perhaps Baxter and Davis canceled each other out, and Holliday barely got more votes than Swanson? Tough to say, but this is a really odd win.
Fun Fact: Holliday was the first of four performers to win an Oscar for playing a role they originally played on stage. The others: Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba) Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker), and Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl).

1951 – Vivien Leigh – A Streetcar Named Desire
Nominees: Katharine Hepburn (The African Queen), Eleanor Parker (Detective Story), Shelley Winters (A Place in the Sun), Jane Wyman (The Blue Veil)
Thoughts: To say I am obsessed with A Place in the Sun is an understatement, but nothing could have or should have topped Leigh here.

1952 – Shirley Booth – Come Back, Little Sheba
Nominees: Joan Crawford (Sudden Fear), Bette Davis (The Star), Julie Harris (The Member of the Wedding), Susan Hayward (With a Song in My Heart)
Thoughts: Shirley Booth is so damn heartbreaking in Come Back, Little Sheba. What a fantastic and subdued performance.
Fun Fact: Booth was the first Best Actress winner to win for her debut performance.

1953 – Aurdrey Hepburn – Roman Holiday
Nominees: Leslie Caron (Lili), Ava Gardner (Mogambo), Deborah Kerr (From Here to Eternity), Maggie McNamara (The Moon Is Blue)
Thoughts: Roman Holiday is the kind of movie that you don’t expect to hit as hard as it does, but this thing really packs a punch, thanks much in part to the way Hepburn plays her final moments in the film.

1954 – Grace Kelly – The Country Girl
Nominees: Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones), Judy Garland (A Star Is Born), Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina), Jane Wyman (Magnificent Obsession)
Thoughts: The fact that Grace Kelly beat Judy Garland here is widely considered the biggest upset in Best Actress Oscar history. Grace Kelly was a fine performer, but she does nothing exceptional in The Country Girl. In fact, she’s not even in it that much. (That movie belongs to Bing Crosby, who plays a hopeless alcoholic in the film. And, moreover, Kelly was better in two other 1954 films: Rear Window and Dial M for Murder.) This should have been Garland’s all the way.
Fun Fact: Dorothy Dandridge became the first black woman nominated for Best Actress.

1955 – Anna Magnani – The Rose Tattoo
Nominees: Susan Hayward (I’ll Cry Tomorrow), Katharine Hepburn (Summertime), Jennifer Jones (Love is a Many-Splendored Thing), Eleanor Parker (Interrupted Melody)
Thoughts: Tennessee Williams wrote The Rose Tattoo specifically for Anna Magnani, and she seized her moment with a grueling performance. Damn well earned.

1956 – Ingrid Bergman – Anastasia
Nominees: Carroll Baker (Baby Doll), Katharine Hepburn (The Rainmaker), Nancy Kelly (The Bad Seed), Deborah Kerr (The King and I)
Thoughts: Carroll Baker, Baby Doll. No question. Anastasia isn’t even Bergman’s sixth best performance.

1957 – Joanne Woodward – The Three Faces of Eve
Nominees: Deborah Kerr (Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison), Anna Magnani (Wild is the Wind), Elizabeth Taylor (Raintree Country), Lana Turner (Peyton Place)
Thoughts: Joanne Woodward is all-in for The Three Faces of Eve. I’m so happy she won her only Oscar for this performance.

1958 – Susan Hayward – I Want to Live!
Nominees: Deborah Kerr (Separate Tables), Shirley MacLaine (Some Came Running), Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Elizabeth Taylor (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
Thoughts: Huge upset, as Taylor was an assumed lock here. And yet, it’s so refreshing that Hayward won for her strong work in the real-life prison drama, I Want to Live!

1959 – Simone Signoret – Room at the Top
Nominees: Doris Day (Pillow Talk), Audrey Hepburn (The Nun’s Story), Katharine Hepburn (Suddenly, Last Summer), Elizabeth Taylor (Suddenly, Last Summer)
Thoughts: Big surprise for me. Hepburn and Taylor are both marvelously unhinged in Suddenly, Last Summer, and I couldn’t believe someone beat them here. Then I watched Room at the Top, and realized Signoret absolutely deserved to win this for her wonderfully melancholic performance.
Fun Fact: Signoret became the first French performer to win Best Actress.

1960 – Elizabeth Taylor – Butterfield 8
Nominees: Greer Garson (Sunrise at Campobello), Deborah Kerr (The Sundowners), Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment), Melina Mercouri (Never on Sunday)
Thoughts: After four Best Actress nominations in a row, it seems it was impossible for the Oscars to deny Taylor any longer. If Taylor won in 1958, MacLaine would’ve won here, but so it goes.
Fun Fact: This marked Deborah Kerr’s sixth Oscar nomination, making her the actress with the most nominations without any wins. Tough break. (If I had to pick a year for Kerr to win, I’d give it to her for Separate Tables in 1958.)

1961 – Sophia Loren – Two Women
Nominees: Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Piper Laurie (The Hustler), Geraldine Page (Summer and Smoke), Natalie Wood (Splendor in the Grass)
Thoughts: This is one of the performances that has been showered with praise over the years, and when you watch the movie, you will certainly know why. What a final 20 minutes of film, good God.
Fun Facts: Loren’s win marked the first Best Actress win for a non-English language performance.

1962 – Anne Bancroft – The Miracle Worker
Nominees: Bette Davis (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Katharine Hepburn (Long Day’s Journey into Night), Geraldine Page (Sweet Bird of Youth), Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses)
Thoughts: Anne Bancroft, I love you, but my vote is for Davis, followed closely by Lee Remick.

1963 – Patricia Neal – Hud
Nominees: Leslie Caron (The L-Shaped Room), Shirley MacLaine (Irma la Douce), Rachel Roberts (This Sporting Life), Natalie Wood (Love with the Proper Stranger)
Thoughts: Interesting win, because the truth is, Patricia Neal is not in Hud much, yet she is perfect in every moment she has in the film. I’m okay with her win here, even if it is more of a supporting performance.

1964 – Julie Andrews – Marry Poppins
Nominees: Anne Bancroft (The Pumpkin Eater), Sophia Loren (Marriage Italian Style), Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown), Kim Stanley (Séance on a Wet Afternoon)
Thoughts: Relatively weak year for me. Kind of difficult to imagine anyone other than Andrews winning this.

1965 – Julie Christie - Darling
Nominees: Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music), Samantha Eggar (The Collector), Elizabeth Hartman (A Patch of Blue), Simone Signoret (Ship of Fools)
Thoughts: No shade for Christie, but I’m team Elizabeth Hartman here, who gives an endearing performance as a blind girl in A Patch of Blue.

1966 – Elizabeth Taylor – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nominees: Anouk Aimée (A Man and a Woman), Ida Kamińska (The Shop on Main Street), Lynn Redgrave (Georgy Girl), Vanessa Redgrave (Morgan!)
Thoughts: Please don’t sleep on A Man and a Woman, which is one of the best relationship movies I’ve ever seen, but, yes, duh, Taylor is a queen here.
Fun Fact: Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave’s nominations were the second and last time sisters have been nominated for Best Actress in the same year.

1967 – Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Nominees: Anne Bancroft (The Graduate), Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde), Edith Evans (The Whisperers), Audrey Hepburn (Wait Until Dark)
Thoughts: I can’t be mad at a Katharine Hepburn win, but I would’ve given his to Bancroft, Dunaway, or Hepburn first.

1968 – Katharine Hepburn – The Lion in Winter & 
Barbra Streisand – Funny Girl
Nominees: Patricia Neal (The Subject Was Roses), Vanessa Redgrave (Isadora), Joanne Woodward (Rachel, Rachel)
Thoughts: It’s so cool and weird that a major Oscar category ended in a tie. But my hot take here is that Neal deserved to win over everyone else.

1969 – Maggie Smith – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Nominees: Geneviève Bujold (Anne of a Thousand Days), Jane Fonda (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), Liza Minnelli (The Sterile Cuckoo), Jean Simmons (The Happy Ending)
Thoughts: Smith is fine here, it’s an easy film. Jane Fonda would have absolutely received my vote, for what is the most exhausting performance of her career.

1970 – Glenda Jackson – Women in Love
Nominees: Jane Alexander (The Great White Hope), Ali MacGraw (Love Story), Sarah Miles (Ryan’s Daughter), Carrie Snodgress (Diary of a Mad Housewife)
Thoughts: Not the strongest line-up; Alexander would’ve gotten my vote.

1971 – Jane Fonda – Klute
Nominees: Julie Christie (McCabe & Mrs. Miller), Glenda Jackson (Sunday Bloody Sunday), Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots), Janet Suzman (Nicholas and Alexandra)
Thoughts: Love Klute, love Fonda in it. A well-deserved win, and a daring one for the Academy.

1972 – Liza Minnelli – Cabaret
Nominees: Diana Ross (Lady Sings the Blues), Maggie Smith (Travels with My Aunt), Cicely Tyson (Sounder), Liv Ullmann (The Emigrants)
Thoughts: Minnelli is iconic in Cabaret, and it’s hard picturing anyone else coming close to winning this.

1973 – Glenda Jackson – A Touch of Class
Nominees: Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist), Marsha Mason (Cinderella Liberty), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were), Joanne Woodward (Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams)
Thoughts: I like Glenda Jackson, but I don’t think her two Oscar wins represent her strongest work. Baffling that Burstyn didn’t win here.

1974 – Ellen Burstyn – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Nominees: Diahann Carroll (Claudine), Faye Dunaway (Chinatown), Valarie Perrine (Lenny), Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence)
Thoughts: This feels like an obvious make-up for the year before. Ellen Burstyn should have won for The Exorcist, thereby giving this award to Rowlands or Dunaway.

1975 – Louise Fletcher – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Nominees: Isabelle Adjani (The Story of Adele H.), Ann-Margret (Tommy), Glenda Jackson (Hedda), Carol Kane (Hester Street)
Thoughts: No issue whatsoever. What truly terrifying and controlled work from Fletcher.

1976 – Faye Dunaway – Network
Nominees: Marie-Christine Barrault (Cousin Cousine), Talia Shire (Rocky), Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Liv Ullmann (Face to Face)
Thoughts: It’s hard for me to vote against an Ingmar Bergman performance, so while my heart belongs to Liv Ullmann, I adore Dunaway’s quietly vicious work in Network.

1977 – Diane Keaton – Annie Hall
Nominees: Anne Bancroft (The Turning Point), Jane Fonda (Julia), Shirley MacLaine (The Turning Point), Marsha Mason (The Goodbye Girl)
Thoughts: I know people who still refer to Diane Keaton as Annie Hall. Like, they actually think that is Diane Keaton’s real name. Fair win.

1978 – Jane Fonda – Coming Home
Nominees: Ingrid Bergman (Autumn Sonata), Ellen Burstyn (Same Time, Next Year), Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman), Geraldine Page (Interiors)
Thoughts: Jane, how I love you so, but this award should have been Ingrid Bergman’s, for delivering one of the most heartbreaking performances I’ve ever seen.

1979 – Sally Field – Norma Rae
Nominees: Jill Clayburgh (Starting Over), Jane Fonda (The China Syndrome), Marsha Mason (Chapter Two), Bette Midler (The Rose)
Thoughts: Great win for Field, who may have been beat if Meryl Streep was placed in this category for Kramer vs. Kramer (she won Supporting Actress).

1980 – Sissy Spacek – Coal Miner’s Daughter
Nominees: Ellen Burstyn (Resurrection), Goldie Hawn (Private Benjamin), Mary Tyler Moore (Ordinary People), Gena Rowlands (Gloria)
Thoughts: Okay, so when I say things like, “This was a make-up for a previous loss…” that isn’t meant to take away from the movie the actor did win for. But some thought Spacek should’ve won for Carrie, and since she didn’t, they made up for it this year. And while it’s great that Spacek has an Oscar, that type of voting style is problematic, because it knocks out truly astounding performances like Mary Tyler Moore’s in Ordinary People.

1981 – Katharine Hepburn – On Golden Pond
Nominees: Diane Keaton (Reds), Marsha Mason (Only When I Laugh), Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City), Meryl Streep (The French Lieutenant’s Woman)
Fun Facts: (1) With this win, Hepburn became the most awarded actor in Oscar history, with four Best Actress statues. (2) Streep is the only actress to be nominated for playing two roles, here as Sara Woodruff and Anna in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

1982 – Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice
Nominees: Julie Andrews (Victor/Victoria), Jessica Lange (Frances), Sissy Spacek (Missing), Debra Winger (An Officer and a Gentleman)
Thoughts: Meryl Streep can’t not win for Sophie’s Choice. It’s the Oscar performance of Oscar performances.

1983 – Shirley MacLaine – Terms of Endearment
Nominees: Jane Alexander (Testament), Meryl Streep (Silkwood), Julie Waters (Educating Rita), Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment)
Thoughts: This was MacLaine vs. Winger all the way. The two famously battled during the making of Terms of Endearment, and it seemed like that animosity remained through this evening. I’m good with MacLaine winning, but this could have gone either way.
Fun Fact: Only five times in Oscar history have two actresses been nominated for the same film: 1950, 1959, 1977, 1983, and 1991. Shirley MacLaine’s win was the only time any of these nominees won.

1984 – Sally Field – Places in the Heart
Nominees: Judy Davis (A Passage to India), Jessica Lange (Country), Vanessa Redgrave (The Bostonians), Sissy Spacek (The River)
Thoughts: Places in the Heart is the kind of low-key forgotten movie that really deserves a second chance. It could very well contain Field’s best role.

1985 – Geraldine Page – The Trip to Bountiful
Nominees: Anne Bancroft (Anges of God), Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple), Jessica Lange (Sweet Dreams), Meryl Streep (Out of Africa)
Thoughts: If only Lange had done her own singing in Sweet Dreams, this likely could have been hers. However, Page is great in The Trip to Bountiful, a movie I enjoyed far more than I thought I would.

1986 – Marlee Matlin – Children of a Lesser God
Nominees: Jane Fonda (The Morning After), Sissy Spacek (Crimes of the Heart), Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue Got Married), Sigourney Weaver (Aliens)
Fun Facts: (1) At age 21, Marlee Matlin became the youngest actress to win this award. (2) Matlin was the first deaf performer to win an Oscar.

1987 – Cher – Moonstruck
Nominees: Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction), Holly Hunter (Broadcast News), Sally Kirkland (Anna), Meryl Streep (Ironweed)
Thoughts: I know Cher had a huge cultural moment at this time, but there is no argument I can hear that would justify taking this away from Glenn Close. And Hunter is second.

1988 – Jodie Foster – The Accused
Nominees: Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons), Melanie Griffith (Working Girl), Meryl Streep (A Cry in the Dark), Sigourney Weaver (Gorillas in the Mist)
Thoughts: This is a really strong group of nominees, but holy hell, Foster’s win was more than well earned.

1989 – Jessica Tandy – Driving Miss Daisy
Nominees: Isabelle Adjani (Camille Claudel), Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine), Jessica Lange (Music Box), Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys)
Fun Fact: At age 80, Jessica Tandy became the oldest winner in this category.

1990 – Kathy Bates – Misery
Nominees: Anjelica Huston (The Grifters), Julia Roberts (Pretty Women), Meryl Streep (Postcards from the Edge), Joanne Woodward (Mr. & Mrs. Bridge)
Thoughts: I love when villains win, and it’s hard to top good old Annie Wilkes. This is an especially triumphant win, as Roberts was the front runner.

1991 – Jodie Foster – The Silence of the Lambs
Nominees: Geena Davis (Thelma & Louise), Laura Dern (Rambling Rose), Bette Midler (For the Boys), Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise)
Thoughts: Really strong year, though a nomination for Jessica Lange in Cape Fear would’ve been nice. Sarandon is a strong second place here, but I have no problem with Foster winning her second Oscar in three years.

1992 – Emma Thompson – Howards End
Nominees: Catherine Deneuve (Indochine), Mary McDonnell (Passion Fish), Michelle Pfeiffer (Love Field), Susan Sarandon (Lorenzo’s Oil)
Thoughts: This is a fair win, but shout outs for McDonnell and Sarandon are deserved.

1993 – Holly Hunter – The Piano
Nominees: Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It), Stockard Channing (Six Degrees of Separation), Emma Thompson (The Remains of the Day), Debra Winger (Shadowlands)
Thoughts: I don’t have a disparaging word for Hunter’s performance in The Piano. Great work, and I’m happy she has an Oscar. However, Angela Bassett’s work as Tina Turner is one of the best biopic performances ever captured. This should have been hers.

1994 – Jessica Lange – Blue Sky
Nominees: Jodie Foster (Nell), Miranda Richardson (Tom & Viv), Winona Ryder (Little Women), Susan Sarandon (The Client)
Thoughts: Pretty weird year (my favorite lead female performance was Irène Jacob in Three Colors: Red). No argument from me about Lange having a Best Actress Oscar, but she should’ve won earlier.
Fun Fact: Blue Sky completed filming in mid 1990 but was shelved for four years after Orion Pictures went bankrupt. By the time the film was released, its director, Tony Richardson, had been dead for three years.

1995 – Susan Sarandon – Dead Man Walking
Nominees: Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas), Sharon Stone (Casino), Meryl Streep (The Bridges of Madison Country), Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility)
Thoughts: This is tough. I love that Sarandon won for this performance, but my vote is a dead-even split between Shue and Stone. Damn strong category in an otherwise weak Oscar year. (And Jennifer Jason Leigh being snubbed for Georgia is crazy.)

1996 – Frances McDormand – Fargo
Nominees: Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies), Diane Keaton (Marvin’s Room), Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient), Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)
Thoughts: Watson deserves endless praise for her debut performance in Breaking the Waves, but hell yes to McDormand winning here.
Fun Fact: McDormand was the first Best Actress to win an Oscar for a film that was directed by her spouse. (Though Sarandon and Tim Robbins were in a long-term relationship when he directed her to a win the year before.)

1997 – Helen Hunt – As Good as It Gets
Nominees: Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove), Julie Christie (Afterglow), Judi Dench (Mrs. Brown), Kate Winslet (Titanic)
Thoughts: I’ve seen some revisionist history that says Winslet was a lock for this award, but that’s false. Her name wasn’t really mentioned much in terms of winning (Gloria Stuart’s loss was the big surprise).
Fun Facts: (1) Hunt became the first actor to win an Oscar while starring on a TV show. In fact, Hunt won an Emmy for starring in Mad About You the same year she won this Oscar. That’s nuts. (2) Only seven films have won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress. As Good As It Gets was the last film to do so.

1998 – Gwyneth Paltrow – Shakespeare in Love
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), Meryl Streep (One True Thing), Emily Watson (Hillary and Jackie)
Thoughts: Paltrow won damn near every award leading up to this, so this kind of a paint by numbers win.

1999 – Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry
Nominees: Annette Bening (American Beauty), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds), Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair), Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart)
Thoughts: As this Oscar night began, it seemed fairly clear that American Beauty would win Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Original Screenplay. The lone holdout for American Beauty’s Big Five Oscar wins was Bening, and it was pretty shocking when she lost. But how refreshing it was for such a small movie to win such a major award.

2000 – Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich
Nominees: Joan Allen (The Contender), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me)
Thoughts: This is probably the surest lock of any Oscar in my lifetime. Steve Martin hosted the ceremony, and he joked in his opening monologue how Roberts was going to win. My picks in order would’ve been: Burstyn with the win, then Allen, Linney, Roberts, and Binoche.

2001 – Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball
Nominees: Judi Dench (Iris), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!), Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom), Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary)
Thoughts: There was some talk that Spacek may win this, which would not have aged well. Berry went for it in Monster’s Ball, and this award was long overdue, for many reasons.
Fun Fact: Berry remains the only black woman to win Best Actress, which is great for her, but awful for Oscar history. Interestingly, Berry won an Emmy and Golden Globe in 1999 for her work in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, in which she played the first black woman who was ever nominated for an Oscar.

2002 – Nicole Kidman – The Hours
Nominees: Salma Hayek (Frida), Diane Lane (Unfaithful), Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven), Renée Zellweger (Chicago)
Thoughts: We’re deep into surefire lock territory now. For the past 20 years or so, there are typically two Best Actress scenarios: Two actresses battling it out for the prize, or the somewhat bland scenario of the winner being a foregone conclusion. Kidman’s win was the latter. I would’ve voted for Lane; I thought her work in Unfaithful was so powerful and real.

2003 – Charlize Theron – Monster
Nominees: Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give), Samantha Morton (In America), Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Thoughts: Whew, tough. Very personally tough. Theron was another lock, and no one was going to beat her. But Naomi Watts in 21 Grams… good Christ, I can’t shake her. Ever since I saw that movie in December 2003, I haven’t been able to get her final lock of harsh acceptance toward Benicio Del Toro out of my head. For me, Theron vs. Watts is a double overtime basketball game, and Theron wins by a point.

2004 – Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
Nominees: Annette Bening (Being Julia), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Thoughts: I’m still high on Million Dollar Baby, so I’m cool with this win. If I voted now, though, Moreno would be my pick.
Fun Fact: Swank joins Luise Rainer, Vivien Leigh, and Helen Hayes as the only actresses who won every Oscar they were nominated for.

2005 – Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line
Nominees: Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents), Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice), Charlize Theron (North Country)
Thoughts: Shame that my favorite performance of the year (Maria Bello in A History of Violence) was snubbed, but Witherspoon was another lock anyhow.

2006 – Helen Mirren – The Queen
Nominees: Penélope Cruz (Volver), Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal), Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Kate Winslet (Little Children)
Thoughts: I can’t remember which publication I read this in (it may have been Entertainment Weekly), but I swear to God, a few weeks before this Oscar ceremony, I read an interview with Kate Winslet, and the reporter asked, “So how does it feel knowing you’re going to lose the Oscar to Helen Mirren?” That’s how much of a lock this was.
Fun Fact: Penélope Cruz became the first Spanish woman to be nominated for Best Actress for a non-English speaking role.

2007 – Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Julie Christie (Away from Her), Laura Linney (The Savages), Ellen Page (Juno)
Thoughts: One of my favorite wins in Oscar history. The joy I felt as Forest Whitaker read Cotillard’s name aloud. This was between Christie and Cotillard, and I think everyone thought Christie would win. Just look at Cotillard’s shock here! I love this shit.
Fun Fact: Cate Blanchett is the only actress to be nominated twice for playing the same character in two different movies.

2008 – Kate Winslet – The Reader
Nominees: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Thoughts: Okay here’s the thing. It’s good that Kate Winslet has an Oscar, but her role in The Reader is clearly a supporting part. Harvey Weinstein campaigned hard for Winslet to be placed in the lead actress category, and then pressed even harder for her to win. A win is a win, I suppose, it’s just a shame when the eventual win isn’t for the actor’s best work. But so goes the Oscars.

2009 – Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
Nominees: Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julia & Julia)
Fun Fact: With 17 nominations, Meryl Streep is the most nominated performer in the Best Actress category. (In fact, her 13th nomination for Julie & Julia made her the most nominated actor ever, besting Katharine Hepburn’s 12 noms.)

2010 – Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Thoughts: Damn strong year. No complaints from me. My vote may have gone to Williams, but it’s close.

2011 – Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Thoughts: This was a really random win. Leading up to the ceremony, it seemed like Davis was a lock here. People were reporting on it and everything. I think Streep was as surprised as everyone when she won. Still, you better believe that Rooney would get my vote.

2012 – Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Nominees: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wind), Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Thoughts: It wasn’t really a surprise when Lawrence won, but it feels like this award was a bit premature. I would’ve voted for Chastain or Riva, though I still can’t get over that Marion Cotillard’s work in Rust and Bone was snubbed. It could be the best performance of her career.
Fun Facts: (1) At age 85, Emmanuelle Riva became the oldest Best Actress nominee ever. (2) At age 9, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee ever.

2013 – Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Nominees: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Thoughts: Cate Blanchett wins her first Best Actress Oscar for a truly singular portrayal of a woman in peril. Wonder when she’ll win again? Also, I’d replace Dench and Streep with Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color) and Julie Delpy (Before Midnight).

2014 – Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Nominees: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Thoughts: Still Alice is the kind of movie that feels tailor-made to win its star an Oscar. It’s right that Julianne Moore has an Oscar, but Cotillard or Pike would’ve received my vote.

2015 – Brie Larson – Room
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Thoughts: Brie Larson somewhat followed the Jennifer Lawrence playbook of delivering stellar work in a few indies, then coming in heavy with a lead Oscar performance. It’s a fair win, among realty strong competition.

2016 – Emma Stone – La La Land
Nominees: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Thoughts: I would have voted for Huppert, but Stone’s win is my favorite of the recent younger Best Actress winners.

2017 – Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)
Thoughts: Another surefire lock. I wonder how this win will age, as Ronan’s work in Lady Bird is still so heavily talked about. My three wish list nominees: Tatiana Maslany (Stronger), Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), and Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread).

2018 – Olivia Colman – The Favourite
Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Thoughts: This is genuinely one of the best, most surprising Oscar wins I’ve seen in years. Early on, this race was between Gaga and Close. As Oscar night got closer, Close was pretty much a lock to take this, which many people noted would be more of a Lifetime Achievement win. Colman’s victory is that rare win that not many people saw coming, but no one can really argue against.

2019 – Renée Zellweger – Judy
Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Thoughts: A lock from the moment Judy’s film trailer was released. I liked watching Zellweger’s journey throughout this Oscar race, taking every award with grace and dignity. I’m really curious to see what she delivers next.

More Oscar Breakdowns
Best Supporting Actress (coming soon)
Best Supporting Actor (coming soon)
Best Original Screenplay (coming soon)
Best Adapted Screenplay (coming soon)


  1. I'm totally with you on what is happening right now as it's really hard to write about film in these dark times as it gives me the feeling of "we're so fucked and the world might be coming to an end after all". That's why my output lately has been kind of scarce. Anyways...


    Of the winners, Claudette Colbert and Joan Crawford were the right choices while I think Greta Garbo for Ninotchka, Barbara Stanwyck for Double Indemnity, Celia Johnson for Brief Encounter, and Bette Davis for All About Eve should've won in those years.


    Audrey Hepburn was the right choice for Roman Holiday which is a film that I love while I haven't seen A Streetcar Named Desire as I'm going with Katharine Hepburn for The African Queen which is a film I need to re-watch.


    Sophia Loren and Julie Andrews were the right choices in their years while I'm with you on Shirley MacLaine for The Apartment which is one of my all-time favorite films while I can't say for the rest as I do have They Shoot Horses, Don't They as a Blind Spot for this year.


    Liza Minnelli and Diane Keaton were the right choices while I would've had Julie Christie for McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Ellen Burstyn for The Exorcist, Gena Rowlands for A Woman Under the Influence, Isabelle Adjani for The Story of Adele H., Ingrid Bergman for Autumn Sonata, and Bette Midler for The Rose as my picks.


    Cher and Jodie Foster are the right choices while I would agree with you on Mary Tyler Moore for Ordinary People though part of me wanted Gena Rowlands for Gloria, Meryl Streep for The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sigourney Weaver for Aliens, and Michelle Pfeiffer for The Fabulous Baker Boys would be my picks. I haven't seen Sophie's Choice while I'm not really fond of Terms of Endearment or anything by James L. Brooks with the exception of Broadcast News.


    Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, Emma Thompson, Holly Hunter, and Hilary Swank were the right choices while I would've gone with Winona Ryder for Little Women, Emma Thompson a 2nd time for Sense & Sensibility, Julie Christie for Afterglow, and Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth. Then there's Frances McDormand as she deserved that Oscar but Emily Watson was fucking great in Breaking the Waves as I would've preferred a tie.


    Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, and Marion Cotillard are the right choices while Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream, Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge!, Julianne Moore for Far from Heaven, Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada, Queen Anne for Rachel Getting Married, and Gabourey Sidibe for Precious would've been my picks.


    PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA, Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, and Olivia Colman were the right choices while Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night, PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA again for Jackie, Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water, and Scar-Jo 3:16 for Marriage Story would've been my picks.

    1. "PO'TMAN MOTHAFUCKA" haha! Great picks yet again, love seeing all of your choices. A McDormand/Watson tie would've been perfect.

  2. Yeah...That Cotillard wasn't even nominated for Rust and Bone is a travesty.

    1. Absolutely, one of the biggest snubs of recent Oscar memory.

  3. This was a fun post to read. I realize that even though I haven't seen a lot of the older films, I was familiar with the stories behind them because of Be Kind Rewind's Youtube channel.

    Random thoughts:
    I squealed when Olivia Colman won. That was amazing and so deserved.
    Viola should've won over Meryl
    Bullock's win is still ridiculous and I do not understand it.
    Burstyn was robbed for The Exorcist
    It's insane to me that none of the women from All Above Eve or Sunset Boulevard won. Did they all cancel each other out? Was that too much greatness to handle?
    I look forward to the say when Saoirse Ronan finally wins. I would've given it to her for Brooklyn and Lady Bird if I could.

    1. I completely agree with all of your thoughts! I mean, I really like Sandra Bullock, but that one will never make sense to me.

  4. Another great read. It must have taken you forever to watch all these movies. Again, i have not watched even close to most of these, but I've got a few thoughts myself.

    - 1964. Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins is the earliest Best Actress performance i have watched. I have not even heard about any of her competition that year.

    - 1983. I actually preferred Debra Winger, but i'm fine with Shirley MacLaine as well.

    - 1996. Frances McDormand in Fargo is one of my favorite performances ever. I'm so happy she won that year.

    - 2000. Ellen Burstyn should have definitely won. She completely disappeared into that role. Requiem for a Dream is one of the best movies i have ever seen that i never want to watch again.

    - 2008. This is so funny because just a few years earlier Kate Winslet appeared as herself on Extras joking about doing a holocaust movie just so she could win an Oscar and this year she did just that.

    - 2017. I can't believe this is the first year i have actually seen all the performances. Also, as much as i love Frances McDormand, i would have given it to Sally Hawkins this year. She does so much without almost saying a word.

    - 2018. This was one of my favorite surprises in Oscar history. I have been a fan of Olivia Colman since i first saw her on Peep Show and other British sitcoms back in the early 2000's so it's so fun to see how her career has evolved over the years.

    1. Great stuff here. When it looked like Winslet was going to win in 2008, I couldn't stop laughing about that Extras cameo. And Ellen Burstyn... totally with you there, what an immersive performance.

  5. I would have voted Streep for Doubt and not even nominated her for The Iron Lady. Viola Davis would have won but I would have replaced Streep with Charlize Theron for Young Adult. And Annette Bening was snubbed
    majorly for 20th Century Women. Emma Stone would have still won but I would have replaced Streep’s Florence Foster Jenkins(which I didn’t really care for) with Bening.

    1. This is so wild, because I completely agree, 100% with everything you said here. Never really understood The Iron Lady nom or win, and it would've been great for Theron to be nominated for YA. Thanks for the comment!

  6. so damn heartbreaking in Come Back, Little Sheba?

    1. Oh absolutely. I was so glad I finally watched that one.


  7. The performance I think should have won:
    1933: May Robson, Lady for a Day
    1937: Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth
    1940: Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story
    1946: Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter
    1947: Rosalind Russell, Mourning Becomes Electra
    1950: Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard
    1954: Judy Garland, A Star Is Born
    1956: Deborah Kerr, The King & I
    1959: Audrey Hepburn, The Nun's Story
    1963: Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce (Patricia Neal is my supporting win)
    1967: Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
    1968: Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter (no tie)
    1973: Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were
    1985: Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
    1996: Juliette Binoche and Frances McDormand should have been nominated and won the opposite categories.
    1998: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
    1999: Annette Bening, American Beauty
    2001: Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge
    2002: Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
    2018: Glenn Close, The Wife

    1. Great picks, thanks for these. I need to see Mourning Becomes Electra ASAP. And I love what you did for 1963, 1968, and 1996, all of which I agree with.