Monday, May 14, 2018

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Best Supporting Actress, 1987

1987's Best Supporting Actress lineup was all first-timers, which wouldn't happen again until 1995. But these weren't new names on the block, by any means. Anne Archer, the youngest, was Miss Golden Globe 1971, while 59-year-old Anne Ramsey was the newest kid on the block - and she'd been in movies since...well, since Anne Archer was Miss Golden Globe. The other nominees were first lady of the Argentine theatre and star of 1985's Foreign Language Film Winner The Official Story Norma Aleandro; Broadway vet and New York character actress Olympia Dukakis; and Golden Age stalwart, Maisie star, and pioneering four-time Emmy nominee Ann Sothern, in what would be her final role (she retired, deciding the nomination was the right high note to go out on).

And of course, only one could win, though it wasn't exactly a shock. Only one of these five actresses had been previously named Best Supporting Actress by the Golden Globes, LA Film Critics Association and National Board of Review, in addition to being nominated by the New York Film Critics Circle. It was the same actress whose own cousin Michael was also in the running for a nomination - that of President of the United States.

Not a surprise...but that doesn't make it any less wonderful! Let's talk more about each nominee, after the jump...

Norma Aleandro in Gaby: A True Story

The Role: Florencia S├ínchez Morales, caretaker and interpreter for Mexican writer and disability rights activist Gabriela Brimmer.

From The New York Times"A superb performance by Norma a real standout, and it contributes greatly to the film's verisimilitude. Miss Aleandro is a marvel."

My Take: Almost a co-lead. Aleandro's quiet sensitivity as Gaby's lifelong companion fills in what the screenplay misses. Who this woman is outside of Gaby, outside of this film, is a mystery to me, yet Aleandro still brings a vivid life into being - loneliness, jealousy, love, even guilt etch themselves across her brow and downcast eyes. She's strangely unforgettable.

Anne Archer in Fatal Attraction

The Role: Beth Gallagher, sexy, devoted, betrayed wife to Michael Douglas's Dan.

From The Washington Post: "Archer hasn't had much of a career to this point...but she's spectacular here. ...Beth is presented as a model, modern wife...but she doesn't come across as a drudge."

My Take: The stock character of the wronged, devoted wife can easily fade into the background, but Archer makes enough of an impression that you understand what's at risk. Her chemistry with Michael Douglas is easy, sexy, real, her fury at his infidelity pitched just right. Alex Forrest is a formidable character to share the screen with; Archer holds her own and then some.

Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck

The Role: Rose Castorini, a wife and mother frustrated and confused by the people in her life.

From The New York Daily News: "In a movie full of good things, Dukakis may just be the best."

My Take: Exhausted, blunt. Her every line reading is sincere and a stitch, delivering laughs, sobering truths, and existential worry simultaneously - that becomes especially important in the final kitchen scene, where she swings from the hysterical "Your life's going down the toilet!" to the solemn "Have I been a good wife?" Long after the credits roll, it's Dukakis I can't stop thinking about.

Anne Ramsey in Throw Momma from the Train

The Role: Momma, whose son wants to kill her.

From Empire: "Anne Ramsey relishing her role as The Worst Mother In The World is the best thing..." 

My Take: A cartoon, barking insults while wearing a permanent mask of disapproval. Effective within those constraints, and she does elicit many a chuckle, but this feels more a result of great casting than great acting.

Ann Sothern in The Whales of August

The Role: Tisha Doughty, friend and neighbor to the sisters Libby and Sarah for over 50 years.

From Roger Ebert: "Supporting actors have their work cut out. Sothern is sensible and cheery...sort of a peacemaker, whose life lacks the complexity that the sister's long struggle has created."

My Take: Sothern brings energy to the film, with all the comfort of a woman who feels at home everywhere. Her obvious cap-setting at Vincent Price's recently-displaced Russian aristocrat is great fun, her dismissal of Bette Davis's ornery widow equally so - these are familiar motions she enjoys and indulges in. You can easily imagine the life she leads outside the movie.


The Oscar - and my vote - goes to...


Today, hers; tomorrow, his. Tuesday is Best Supporting Actor day, where we'll revisit Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, Sean Connery in The Untouchables, Morgan Freeman in Street Smart, Vincent Gardenia in Moonstruck, and Denzel Washington in Cry Freedom.

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