My current Top 5

My current Top 5

1/02/2017

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

Winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
14. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
15. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
16. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
17. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
18. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
19. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
20. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)

21. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
22. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
23. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
24. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
25. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
26. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
27. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
28. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
29. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
30. Marsha Mason in Chapter Two (1979)

31. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
32. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
33. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
34. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
35. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
36. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
37. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
38. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
39. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
40. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)

41. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Marsha Mason as Jennie MacLaine in Chapter Two
 
 
Marsha Mason is surely one of the strangest happenings in Oscar history. I say “Oscar history” and not “film history” because I don’t think that Marsha Mason truly qualifies to be a part of this larger aspect and because the only reason that she is even remembered at all is because of her close association to the Academy over a short period of time. If it wasn’t for these four Oscar nominations, her name would have disappeared even more than it already has despite the fact that her prime happened not that long ago. But even those Oscar nods did not prevent her from falling into obscurity and today it seems that only die-hard Oscar fans like me or Neil Simon-devotees actually remember her even if I am not sure if the second group actually exists. But there is no denying that Marsha Mason, despite being hardly remembered at all today, was a strong force with Oscar voters. Between 1973 and 1981, no other actress received more Best Actress nominations and her IMDB page only lists 7 movies from Cinderella Liberty to Only when I laugh – considering that some of those were released in the same year, Marsha Mason was basically Oscar-nominated every time she was eligible during these years. So, to Oscar voters she was certainly a force to be reckoned with – for everyone else, she apparently was not.
 
I don’t want to sound too cynical or deny Marsha Mason the necessary talent to become such an awards darling but I think the close connection to Neil Simon cannot be overlooked when it comes to her awards run. Sure, her first nomination came for a movie that was not written by her then-husband but she played a hard-bitten prostitute with a heart of gold, a role that is usually too irresistible for Academy members and I suppose her sudden marriage to Neil Simon provided the necessary extra buzz (I always come back to Neil Simon, don’t I?). So, she made her way to the top seemingly alone but after that? Would she have come back with three additional Oscar nominations after almost ending her movie career (she made no movie between 1973 and 1977, apparently working on the stage and enjoying married life) without the support of Neil Simon’s dialogue? Because, let’s face it, this man was an awards magnet during his prime – I am sure that actors were begging on their knees to be allowed to play in Neil Simon movies or plays as hardly a year passed where not one actor would thank Neil Simon in a Tony or Oscar acceptance speech. And so it seems that, more than anything, Academy members were not only voting for Marsha Mason but also for the showy dialogue that was provided by Neil Simon. After all, her nominations for The Goodbye Girl and Only when I laugh did not happen in a vacuum but two other actors were nominated for each of these movies as well, demonstrating just how strongly award voters were drawn to Neil Simon’s work. Chapter Two was different as only Marsha Mason was singled out by Oscar voters but it still had the potential to be a multiple nominee if an actor who was more at home with the light material than James Caan had been cast as George or if Valeria Harper had faced a weaker competition for Best Supporting Actress (after all, Ann Wedgeworth won a Tony for the role in the Broadway production). Of course, I don’t want to imply that Marsha Mason would not have found success as an actress without Neil Simon but one cannot deny that all her major successes came from his work – did she prefer to play in the movie versions of his plays or did she not receive any other interesting offers during that time? Of course I cannot comment on this but the fact that she stopped doing anything noteworthy after her divorce from Neil Simon shows that the offers were apparently not really pouring in…It seems that movie goers and Oscar voters were fine with Marsha Mason as long as she appeared in roles that would most likely have been a financial and awards success anyway – but had no problem dropping her the moment she stopped tossing out Neil Simon’s one-liners and zingers. Of course, I understand that she has many other interests besides acting so maybe Marsha Mason was more than happy to leave her movie career behind but it seems that the audience doesn't exactly miss her either.

Looking back at the relationship between Marsha Mason and Neil Simon, it is also interesting that they never became some kind of “golden couple”. Most of all, despite three Oscar nominations for his work, Marsha Mason was never seen as the “definite interpreter” of her husband’s work nor as his muse, probably because it never felt that she was “born” to play any of his roles or that they were written for her in the same way that Woody Allen wrote for Diane Keaton at the same time (many performers won awards for appearing in Neil Simon productions, from Maureen Stapleton to Kevin Spacey, and they never depended on specific types or personalities) – which brings us right to Chapter Two. Because in this case, there is actually a close connection between Marsha Mason and the material as the character of Jennie MacLaine is famously based on herself. Neil Simon and Marsha Mason got married in 1973 after a 22-day romance even though Neil Simon was a recent widower and still depressed about the death of his first wife. He later re-told this story in Chapter Two and while Marsha Mason did not feel ready to play this part in the stage version, she later took over in the movie version which would also reunite her with James Caan who had been her co-star in Cinderella Liberty six years earlier. So, after this first look at Marsha Mason’s career and Oscar nominations – what about this actual performance that won her the third recognition by the Academy?

Chapter Two is often referred to a “second tier” Neil Simon and I do agree that the story has various problems. The movie is called a romantic comedy but falls more strongly on the dramatic side and there was no reason for it to last more than two hours or to include a rather useless subplot regarding the affair between Jennie’s best friend Faye and George’s brother Leo. But the major problem is the tonality of the peace and the presentations of the two main characters which also brings me to the major problems with Marsha Mason’s performance. It might certainly be an honor to have a famous playwright base a character on yourself but if I were Marsha Mason, I would probably have slapped Neil Simon with the pages of his manuscript instead of giving him my blessings to publish the story as a play. As presented in the movie, Jennie MacLaine is a shockingly needy and flat character who often only seems to exist to bring George out of his depressions. She holds her own in the beginning of the relationship when both characters get to know each other but later becomes self-scarifying to the point of self-abandonment. During their honeymoon, George begins to realize that he has not gotten over the death of his first wife and he couples his grief and self-anger with open hatred for his new wife – this change of tone comes extremely sudden and maybe Neil Simon wanted to show that he behaved horribly to Marsha Mason at the beginning of their marriage but the balance in the relationship on the screen begins to feel off very soon. George basically comes to the point of mentally abusing his new wife as he tells her that he resents her for everything but Jennie is never allowed to fight back, constantly accepting his behavior, even telling him that she is willing to suffer his insults and insensitivities. The main problem in the plot is that it is understandable that George is still suffering from the death of his first wife but since this has never been truly brought up in the beginning of their relationship, George’s change of mood comes too sudden and the relationship comes to the point where you just want Jennie to slap George a couple of times and leave for good. Instead, we get a scene when Jennie runs down the streets to their house to hear what George has to say, hoping that he decided to give their marriage a chance. It’s not hard to admire Jennie for her devotion and dedication but I do find it hard to see any joy in her completely overlooking everything he did to her before. Of course, the writing is more to blame than Marsha Mason but actually, she adds to these problems as well – the script does leave room for interpretation and the arguments between George and Jennie could easily have been played with more anger by both sides but Marsha Mason plays Jennie with a constant display of tears and sorrow, always retreating and being cornered by George’s remarks. When George tells her that he resents her for everything, Jennie’s answer “Why?” could have been played in many sharp and angry ways but Marsha Mason only shouts it out in an agonized and teary way. And so, her big monologue also does not work in the way it should. First of all, there is again the problem of the writing – Jennie’s big statement of self-worth has the same problems that all of Neil Simon’s scripts have: that no human being would ever talk like that. Overall, the monologue feels more like a blueprint for auditions in acting schools as the student has to go through various emotions but nobody would ever expect it to resemble real life. Only in a Neil Simon Play could a character say “I have no statement to make” before lashing into a three minute monologue. But again, this could have been the chance for Marsha Mason to truly show her character’s (and in this case also her own) worth by telling George everything he will miss when he tosses her aside, that she is wonderful and that she wants it all. And again, I would have loved to see some anger but she turns all her statements into a combination of motherly understanding and desperate tears and leaves only the impression of begging for his love instead of presenting a moment when Jennie truly finds herself. Besides this, Marsha Mason's acting also provides various problems in this scene. On the one hand, I like that she allows changes in Jennie’s mood and behavior, standing up, sitting down, whispering or shouting as it helps to keep the viewer’s attention (something, the stagey direction cannot do) and even if I disagree with her approach, some of her line deliveries work very well and you cannot help but feel for Jennie in this moment. On the other hand, I have problems with the execution of the scene – most of all, it feels as if this might have been the 20th take of the monologue and Marsha Mason was all “dried up” as she constantly wipes away tears that don’t appear to be there and she always gasps for air to underline her sorrow and her exhaustion but she feels both too forced and too lifeless to really sell it and as a result it doesn’t truly feel real.

So, I think that there are many problems in the second half of Chapter Two, both in the writing and in Marsha Mason’s performance which is not able to really bring the dramatic tension to life. But on the plus side, she is perfection in many moments in the first half. The romance between George and Jennie starts over 5 telephone calls and Marsha Mason perfectly delivers the light tone necessary and she is both charming and interesting, creating a much better chemistry with James Caan than she would later in person and she is able to catch the viewer’s attention completely. She also does not overuse the dialogue, almost underplaying most her jokes instead of being visibly proud of them as James Caan. She also wins the contest “most interesting character” very easily, not only because George becomes almost insufferable later but also because she actually manages to appear like a human being and she has the right attitude for the romantic first half of the story even if the script is again working against her. Neil Simon clearly used the material more to display his own situation after the death of his wife instead of how Marsha Mason helped him with his grief as the script constantly focuses more strongly on the character of George and his backstory. The fact that Jennie is divorced plays no role at all – she is never reluctant to start a new relationship so soon, she never thinks back of the problems in her first marriage but instead rushes willingly into this new marriage and is prepared to fight for it even if it doesn’t seem worth it at certain points. But Marsha Mason still creates a lovely and lively person and also works very well with Valerie Harper and she overall creates the impression of a strong-minded and independent woman. She is certainly a joy to watch as she slowly begins to accept George's romantic advances and she is always the one to keep the movie going.

There was certainly a lot of potential in the role but unfortunately only the first half of it lived up to its promises. While James Caan and Marsha Mason created some lovely moments in the beginning of Chapter Two, I really did not want them to end up together anymore at the end. This is mostly the fault of the writing and of James Caan’s too insensitive portrayal and I applaud Marsha Mason for being the most praiseworthy aspect of the production but I also wish that she had shown more independence in the role and not just used tears in every dramatic situation while begging to be loved as it sometimes appears that Jennie from the beginning and Jennie from the end are two different persons. As it is, I don’t believe in the great love story I am supposed to see – and since Neil Simon and Marsha Mason got divorced a couple of years later, I think that my impression of George and Jennie as a far-from-perfect couple is probably correct…

 And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:

12/15/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update

 
Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

Winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
14. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
15. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
16. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
17. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
18. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
19. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
20. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)

21. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
22. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
23. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
24. Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978)
25. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
26. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
27. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
28. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
29. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
30. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 

31. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
32. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
33. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
34. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
35. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
36. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
37. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
38. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
39. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
40. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Jane Fonda as Sally Hyde in Coming Home


What the heck just happened? Did I really just upgrade a performance by Jane Fonda? After spending so many years on this blog criticizing her performances and declaring her win for Coming Home one of the worst Oscar decision ever (when I did this ranking the first time, she was among the Bottom 10 of about 350 performances). Yes, times have certainly changed. Who knows what happened? Maybe the fact that I have now seen all nominees in this category (except one…where are you, Betty Compson???) helps me to judge performances better in comparison to all the others. Maybe it’s the fact that I have now spent quite a good deal of time with Jane (I probably started ranking Oscar winners more than 10 years ago). Maybe my taste has just shifted…who knows…

Of course, it’s not like I now suddenly consider her performance my favorite of all time but her position has definitely improved as my appreciation of her work has grown over time. In the end it probably comes down to the fact that I am trying to be more objective than I have been in the past when it comes to judging these performances, helping me to have a more unbiased look. I was also actually expecting to upgrade Jane Fonda in my ranking when I started to re-watch Coming Home as I began to see a more relaxed and spontaneous screen presence than I did in the past and also still think very highly of Coming Home as a movie (despite some flaws that I will talk about soon) – in the past, I mainly credited the cast around Jane Fonda for the film’s success but I now admit that she is an important ingredient, too.

But why live in the past? Let’s just look at the performance from today’s point of view. Obviously, as you can see from the position in the ranking, I still have some problems with the performance but there are other aspects that I began to appreciate. I suggest we start with the parts that I don’t like so much here. First of all, I think I have to begin by saying that, in my humble opinion, Jane Fonda is actually miscast in this role. She is such a strong screen presence that I have a hard time believing her to be a shy and devoted housewife and I also think that she appears too old for this role. Apparently, after having worked with her on Julia the year before and sensing that she was going to be a very big deal, Jane Fonda wanted Meryl Streep in the part of Vi which would eventually be played by Penelope Milford. But I actually have a much easier time imaging the young Meryl Streep of 1978 in the part of Sally. There is something both plain and unique about Meryl Streep and I can easily see her going through Sally’s transformation process in a more believable manner.

The other major problem I have with Jane Fonda’s work is how she reacts to the cast around her. First, there is her friendship with Vi. Again, the casting of a dominant actress like Jane Fonda makes their friendship appear rather unbalanced. It’s just hard for me to believe that 40 year old Jane Fonda would accept 30 year old Penelope Milford as her guidance and kind of role model and if the friendship works, I mostly applaud Penelope Milford for it. She is maybe not truly outstanding in her role but her ‘who gives a s**t attitude’ on the screen makes the whole thing work.

The bigger problem is the fact that Jane Fonda has absolutely no chemistry with Bruce Dern and this is also the most harming aspect of the whole movie. I don’t put all the blame for this on Jane Fonda. I think the casting of Bruce Dern, who is just too unconventional a screen presence to be the kind of ‘normal, American soldier’ he is supposed to play, does not work at all and he and Jane Fonda appear to be uncomfortable together right from the start. This also makes the whole story that follows often extremely unsatisfying. When it comes to Sally’s affair with Luke, Coming Home makes it just too easy to sympathize with Sally – after all, even a crippled Luke can bring more sexual pleasure to Sally than her husband and it’s also not very difficult to find more sex-appeal in Join Voight than in Bruce Dern. I wish the script and the casting of Bob had made this love triangle more balanced and even. But I also wish that Jane Fonda had invested more doubt and guilt in Sally. I don’t think that she misses her husband for his sake but rather for what he represents – security and comfort. Maybe this is even true but it’s nowhere to be found in Jane Fonda’s performance. I also don’t see any true guilt about her affair – she openly interacts with Luke, sitting on his lap on the beach, bringing him to her house, letting him pick her up at the hospital. Even their affair only begins after she actively suggests it to Luke – but this also just poses new questions as she did not even plan to meet Luke that night. Furthermore, her later arguments that she was ‘lonely’ are also not convincing as she begins the affair on the first night after her return from meeting her husband in Hong Kong and experiencing his pain first-hand. All of this also makes her final scenes feel too untrue – I just don’t believe Jane Fonda when she tells Bruce Dern “I love you” and the script again is working against her, letting Sally say “I’m not gonna make excuses for what happened BUUUUUUT…” (okay, not precisely with those words but still…).

So, the character of Sally Hyde certainly poses various problems that Jane Fonda is also not fighting, apparently hoping the audience of 1978 will sympathize with a woman who experiences her sexual liberation and who chooses the man who opposes the war instead of the one who fights it. But even beyond that, the character of Sally is not perfect. My major problem with this role in the past used to be that she feels so secondary even in her own story, watching how the men around her choose between different ideals and ideas while she only chooses between these men. And I still stand by this opinion. Sally is a very passive character, only acquiring ideas or ambitions when others show her the way and often remaining very pale.

But – now we come to what I began to appreciate by now. Despite the fact that Sally is such an uninteresting part, there is something fascinating about seeing a strong personality such as Jane Fonda attack this role and give it her own spin. She clearly tried to inject her own acting style that is so often praised for its spontaneity into Sally and so creates something that somehow now feels very satisfying in specific moments. Mostly, I enjoy her ‘small’ moments on the screen because that is when she truly feels to live her character and where I get the feeling that I am watching a real person saying things that are coming into her head just now. Scenes like the one at night in the hospital, when she sits on Jon Voight’s lap, feels a bit lost about the tension between them, laughs nervously and wants to leave. Or later again sitting on Jon Voight’s lap at the beach, unsure about the future and how they can go on with their affair or her shocked ‘Oh my God’ when Luke’s urine bag leaks on her dress. These are moments that get all their special appeal from Jane Fonda because she tries to add an unconventional acting style to a conventional part. Often, these moments are unfortunately connected to other scenes that don’t work as well. I truly dislike the way she reacts to the telegram that might or might not bring the news that her husband died as she seems to be only half-interested in its content, somehow forcing a concerned emotion that never rings true. As mentioned earlier, I also don’t care for her big scene at the end opposite her angry husband as her tears just don’t feel true but I absolutely love the way she reacts to Luke’s knocking at the door, showing confusion and honesty in a small, throw-away moment. And so my favorite moment of her performance is also one of these scenes – the way she talks to the soldiers on a bus about the women at the Officer’s Club and that they would not want to do an article about the situation at the hospital. She feels completely authentic at this moment and it also perfectly underlines how she has changed by now compared to her first day at the hospital when she could only react with a shamed silence to the ways the men talked (but I again do not care so much for the scene that showed the confrontation between Sally and the women at the club – Jane Fonda’s anger actually works well but I have a hard time to believe that Sally would ever have been friends with these women in the first place because Jane Fonda is just too different from all the other actresses around her).

So, there is “good” and “bad” in this performance but more “good” than I had been willing to admit in the past. Again, it is mostly Jane Fonda’s often very modern approach to a rather old-fashioned role that creates some thrilling and unforgettable moments. And most of all I appreciate that Jane Fonda never tried to bring more to the part than necessary – her outburst opposite Luke when she asks him why he has to be such a bastard could have done with much more fireworks but it makes sense that a shy woman such as Sally would stay rather calm and quiet, even in a moment like this. And while I also used to complain that the change in Sally was non-existent in Jane Fonda’s acting, I now appreciate the subtle approach to this change. Her Sally never becomes a new person, she still stays true to her core identity but there is still something new about her. The woman who awkwardly met Luke at the hospital for the first time, who had drinks at the Officer’s Club is not the same woman who lives at the beach or visits her husband in Hong King – the changes are small and affected her character without changing her personality but they are there and achieve an overall satisfying character journey.

So, I now conclude that Jane Fonda gives a sometimes thrilling but also often disappointing performance that lives from her personality but could have used more depth and consideration to be truly outstanding. Still, there is more to enjoy here than I used to see in the past and it makes me look forward to re-rank her other performances in the future.

 And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:

10/24/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

Winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998)
14. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
15. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
16. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
17. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
18. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
19. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
20. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)

21. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
22. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
23. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
24. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
25. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
26. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
27. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
28. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
29. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
30. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)

31. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
32. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
33. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
34. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
35. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
36. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
37. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
38. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
39. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)


And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:


7/23/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

Winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
14. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
15. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
16. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
17. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
18. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
19. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
20. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)

21. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)
22. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
23. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
24. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
25. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
26. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
27. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
28. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
29. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
30. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)

31. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
32. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
33. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
34. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
35. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
36. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
37. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
38. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)



And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:



6/17/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

Winning performances are higlighted in red.

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
14. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
15. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
16. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
17. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
18. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
19. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
20. Audrey Hepburn in Wait until Dark (1967)

21. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
22. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
23. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
24. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
25. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
26. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
27. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
28. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
29. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
30. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)

31. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
32. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
33. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
34. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
35. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
36. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
37. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)



And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:


5/05/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
14. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
15. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
16. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
17. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
18. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
19. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
20. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

21. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
22. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
23. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
24. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
25. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
26. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
27. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
28. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
29. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
30. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)

31. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
32. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
33. Sissy Spacek in The River (1984)
34. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
35. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
36. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)

Sissy Spacek as Mae Garvey in The River


I think instead of calling the performances that are ranked at the bottom of a list like this „the worst“, I would rather prefer to call them „the weakest“. Because none of them are actually bad (yes, not even Mary Pickford) on a Razzie-worthy level – instead, those at the bottom are simply those performances where an actress failed with her approach, where the role did not give her anything to work with or where the acting itself is quite simply “weak”. But not necessarily “bad”. 

The interesting thing about Sissy Spacek in The River is that most people on the Internet seem to rank her either first or last. I cannot comment yet on the question if she will be last in my personal ranking of 1984, but as you can see from the position she has for now, I am not an admirer. The truth is that I feel quite bad for putting her that low – because looking at The River, there is simply nothing that Sissy Spacek could have done different or better. She plays the part with her usual simplicity that most of the time works so beautifully, she perfectly fits into her surroundings and is always believable as a woman who lives for supporting her husband and her farm. But even within this structure, the part of Mae is a big fat “Nothing”. For this ranking, I have seen parts of her performance probably 20 times in the last couple of weeks and still I fail to remember specific scenes or what exactly Mae is supposed to be. I also wouldn’t call it a supporting performance – rather, the whole role almost completely disappears, even when she has a scene to herself. She leaves absolutely no impression but again I would blame the movie more than Sissy Spacek.

Unlike Places in the Heart and Country, the other two “save the farm”-movies of 1984, The River was not designed as a show case for its leading lady but is rather a showcase for its male character and if that part had not been played by Mel Gibson, I suppose The River would have rather seen its acting nomination come in the Best Actor category. But I guess that Mel Gibson was not taken seriously enough in 1984 and he also played the part with a too obvious determination to change his image, coming across as too forced and unlikable. Sissy Spacek looks like her role as the wife of a farmer – Mel Gibson looks like an underwear model. This also results in the fact that both actors have zero chemistry, they simply do not fit together. Sissy Spacek has a much better chemistry with the actor who plays her former lover and rival of her husband – when she sees him on the street, her eyes immediately tell the audience that there is/was more going on and when she later tells him that it is “too late” for them, it is her only real strong moment in the movie where she is allowed to shine for a moment. But this moment again comes and goes and leaves no impression and when she later slaps her husband and tells him that he is a “stupid, goddamn farmer” it never becomes the kind of powerful moment you have been waiting for but again just another scene the viewer forgets before it’s even over.

In the end, I can only repeat that Sissy Spacek did nothing wrong but the role itself is so shockingly empty that there is nothing that the even most talented actress could do – it is certainly no surprise to me that Jessica Lange left the production to make her own farm movie (I surely don’t think it’s a coincidence that the dead cow in The River is called Jessica…) but it is rather surprising that Sissy Spacek took over. Did she see more in the role than I did? But of course, in the end she got a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination out of it, so what do I know?

And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:


4/15/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
9. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
10. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)

11. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
12. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
14. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
15. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
16. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
17. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
18. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
19. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
20. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

21. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
22. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
23. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
24. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
25. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
26. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
27. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
28. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
29. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
30. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)

31. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
32. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
33. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
34. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
35. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)


And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:


4/03/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
9. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
10. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)

11. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
12. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
13. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
14. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)
15. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
16. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
17. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
18. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
19. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
20. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

21. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
22. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
23. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
24. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
25. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
26. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
27. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
28. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
29. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
30. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  

31. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
32. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
33. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
34. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)



And a hint to the next performance that will be ranked:


3/31/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Jessica Lange in Frances (1982)
3. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
4. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
5. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
6. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
7. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
8. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
9. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
10. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)

11. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
12. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
13. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
14. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
15. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
16. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
17. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
18. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
19. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
20. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)

21. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)
22. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
23. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
24. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
25. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
26. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
27. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
28. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
29. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
30. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)

31. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)
32. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
33. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)



3/10/2016

Best Actress Ranking - Update


Here is a new update. The newly added performance is highlighted in bold. 

1. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
2. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950)
3. Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)
4. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967)
5. Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven (1927-1928)   
6. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
7. Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967)
8. Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938)
9. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)
10. Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

11. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941)
12. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965)
13. Glenda Jackson in Women in Love (1970)
14. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)
15. Julie Christie in Away from Her (2007)
16. Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (1951)
17. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
18. Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
19. Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959)
20. Meryl Streep in One True Thing (1998)

21. Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953)
22. Katharine Hepburn in Guess who’s coming to dinner (1967)
23. Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees (1942) 
24. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)
25. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year (1978)
26. Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart (1949)
27. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room (1996)
28. Loretta Young in Come to the Stable (1949)  
29. Mary Pickford in Coquette (1928-29)
30. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point (1977)

31. Irene Dunne in Cimarron (1930-1931)
32. Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade (1932-1933)