Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007)

I never read any of his many books, but it was hard not to cross paths with Sidney Sheldon's work in other mediums, where he won an Oscar and a Tony, though the mainstream media has screwed up again by crediting him with an Emmy he never won, though later versions of The Washington Post story excerpted below fixed the error. (For more details on the media error, click here.) In television, he created I Dream of Jeannie, The Patty Duke Show and Hart to Hart. In movies, he wrote The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Annie Get Your Gun and Easter Parade among others. That doesn't even come close to touching his prolific novel writing.

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; B07
Sidney Sheldon, 89, whose life of achievement as a writer and producer for the stage, the movies and television seemed no less suspenseful and dramatic than the plots of his best-selling novels, died Jan. 30 in California.
Mr. Sheldon, who was born in Chicago, told of contemplating suicide as a teenager, won Hollywood's Oscar and Broadway's Tony. It was estimated that as many as 300 million copies of his novels are in print, in a total of 51 languages.
One of his major television hits was I Dream of Jeannie, which he created and produced. The fantasy, which starred Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden, ran for five seasons in the late 1960s.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, a 1947 movie with Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, won Mr. Sheldon the Oscar for best original screenplay.
As a co-author of Redhead, a Broadway show that featured Gwen Verdon, he won the Tony.

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An endless supply of stories

By Edward Copeland
Sixty-plus years after the conclusion of World War II, filmmakers around the world keep coming up with new stories that haven't been told. This year alone, Clint Eastwood presented two with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima and now comes Rachid Bouchareb with Days of Glory aka Indigenes, Algeria's contender for the Oscar for foreign language film.

Days of Glory tells the story of Algerian Muslims who volunteered to fight for Charles de Gaulle to free France from the Nazis since Algeria at the time was still a French colony.

The film provides real resonance today as you see the seeds being planted for the resentment between Muslims and France that have bubbled up in recent years. The film focuses on four Algerian soldiers though one of the film's weaknesses is that none of them are particularly well developed.

The character drawn most clearly is that of the sergeant leading the unit (Bernard Blancan) who may be hiding his own ethnic identity in hopes of reaching greater heights in the French military. The grunts get promise after promise that the see ignored as they finally realize that no matter how faithful and valiant their efforts are during the war effort, the French always will view them as outsiders and won't be anxious to grant them the accolades they deserve for their service.

Bouchareb moves the film along well and much of the warfare is suitably stark and harrowing, but the film's real power lies in what's left unsaid and the viewer's knowledge of what will come years later down the road.

I've seen three out of the five nominees for this year's Oscar for foreign language film (Pan's Labyrinth and Water are the others), but of the three, I'd still vote for Water. I wonder — 60 years from now (not that I'll be here) — will the Iraq war provide as bountiful a crop of film subjects?

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I hate when Oscar errors start being repeated as fact

By Edward Copeland
This happens every year. Someone gets a fact wrong — and who knows where it starts? — then more people either too lazy, too arrogant or too ignorant to know better keep repeating the same mistake time and time again.

This week, it concerns Little Miss Sunshine after it won ensemble acting at the SAG awards, which for some reason people found surprising because they continue to operate under the false assumption that an ensemble acting prize is the same thing as a best picture prize when it's not and when a sizable chunk of SAG ensemble winners did not go on to win the Oscar for best picture and in one case (The Birdcage) wasn't even in the running.

Excuse me, I digress. The error that is being perpetuated is that when Driving Miss Daisy won best picture in 1989 without its director Bruce Beresford being nominated for director, it was the ONLY time it ever happened in Oscar history. WRONG! It was the first time it had happened since 1931-32 when Grand Hotel won without its director being nominated (Hell, Grand Hotel did even better than that best picture was its ONLY nomination.

First, I caught this mistake in the always factually challenged David Poland's column where he wrote:
Other stats working against the nominees include the fact that only one film has ever won Best Picture without a directing nod, Driving Miss Daisy. Does that mean the disqualification of Little Miss Sunshine? Oh yes... and it's been 29 years since the last comedy, Annie Hall, won Best Picture.

Now today, I find in an article by Richard Corliss at
And only once did the Best Picture Oscar go to a film whose director didn't receive a nomination: in 1990 with Driving Miss Daisy and Bruce Beresford. So the odds against Little Miss Sunshine are 70 to 1. That a lot of Oscar history the indie movie has to buck.

To make matters even worse, Corliss also misspells Valerie Faris' last name as Feris and gets this fact wrong as well:
Sunshine has a more daunting historical obstacle to hurdle: its directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Feris, were not nominated in their Oscar category. That citation would have been sweet, whatever you think of the movie, since the Academy has never nominated a directorial pair, and because you could count the number of women nominated for Best Directors on the fingers of a maimed hand. (Three: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano and Sofia Coppola, the only American woman, for Lost in Translation.)

Not only has a directing pair been nominated before — Warren Beatty and Buck Henry for Heaven Can Wait in 1978. A directing pair actually won when Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins took the directing prize for West Side Story in 1961. UPDATE: The Corliss piece has corrected the misspelling of Faris' name and the error about no directing pairs being nominated, but the mistake about Driving Miss Daisy remains.

Of course, this got me starting to look for other goofs and in Susan King's article on the SAGs she wrote:
No Oscar has ever gone to a performer who has not been nominated for a SAG award.

Actually, Marcia Gay Harden did not get a SAG nomination (or a Golden Globe nomination for the matter) for Pollock before she went on to win the Oscar.

If I could have earned a nickel for every incorrect Oscar fact I've seen written over the years, I'd be a very rich man right now — and people in the media wonder why they keep losing credibility with the public when they can't even get the simple shit right.

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Un meños Almodóvar

By Edward Copeland
The run that Pedro Almodóvar has been on of late has been astounding. He's been one of those rare filmmakers who seemed to be on an upward slope, growing deeper and better as his career progressed, steering away from his campier earlier works to more thoughtful films such as All About My Mother, Bad Education and the incomparable Talk to Her. So it was probably inevitable that at some point, he'd have to slide backward a bit.

That is the case with Volver which, while good, doesn't hold a candle to his recent body of work.

One thing that Volver does offer though is a chance for Penélope Cruz to give her best performance ever, one that has deservedly earned her an Oscar nomination. Time and time again, seeing performers get to act in their native languages has proved eye-opening.

In addition to Cruz, this year has given Ken Watanabe a chance to shine in Letters From Iwo Jima while recent years have caused me to re-evaluate Javier Bardem after seeing The Sea Inside and Connie Nielsen after viewing Brothers.

Volver paints perceptions of Cruz in bright, brash new colors as she plays a Spanish mom with a 14-year-old child and a good-for-nothing husband as well as a late mother (Carmen Maura), whose ghost has been appearing to her sister.

To give much more away, would spoil the unfolding of the plot. While Volver is entertaining and Cruz is great as is Maura (reunited at last with Almodóvar nearly 20 years after Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), something about it doesn't quite jell.

Eventually, the pieces come together, but instead of intriguing me, at times it just made me impatient as the film appeared to be running on separate tracks. However, Volver is worth a look because even a lesser Almodóvar is better than no Almodóvar at all.

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Monday, January 29, 2007


A whole new genre

By Edward Copeland
It seems to me, and perhaps you could call them Kaufmanesque films though Charlie Kaufman certainly didn't create the genre, that you could label an entire section of video stores (while they still exist) as Better Ideas Than Movies. Stranger Than Fiction belongs in that section beside films such as Being John Malkovich and The Truman Show.

I liked Stranger Than Fiction quite a bit, helped in no small part by its solid ensemble of performers. Will Ferrell delivers his best-ever screen work as IRS auditor Harold Crick, a man who starts hearing a voice that seems to be narrating his life and realizes that he's both human and a character in the novel of reclusive writer Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson).

The biggest downside: All her main characters die in the end, meaning Harold's days could well be as numbered as the pages on Eiffel's manuscript (God love her, she still uses a typewriter). When Harold's therapist can't convince him that he's just schizophrenic, she recommends that he seek out a prominent literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) who comes to believe that Harold isn't imagining things, especially when he identifies the voice as belonging to Eiffel, one of his favorite writers.

The premise certainly is an intriguing one, but like many films of this type, it's difficult to construct a conclusion to equal the original contrivance. It raises interesting questions and while billed as a comedy, it plays more bittersweet than boisterous, but the cast more than makes up for it.

Thompson really excels as the nervous, chain-smoking novelist torn between what's best for her book and what's best for another human being and Hoffman is fine as man whose life is literature. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives another standout turn as a woman who begins as someone Harold is auditing before becoming his unlikely girlfriend. She could have been justly nominated in both lead and supporting Oscar categories this year and the Academy should be ashamed for giving her neither.

Though his part is small, I must mention the presence of Tony Hale if only to lament the much-missed Arrested Development.

Director Marc Forster moves the film along well and certainly is building an eclectic body of work. To think the same director helmed Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction is somewhat astounding.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007


They were afraid of Virginia Woolf

The motion picture industry has announced that it is reforming its movie ratings system, which has been sharply criticized by moviemakers and by a recent hard-hitting documentary. The reforms are not perfect, and some details remain sketchy, but they are an important step toward making movie ratings more transparent and fair.
Under the new rules, which have been spearheaded by Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, the top three movie raters will be named on the association's Web site, and there will be descriptive information about the other raters. The Web site will also include the rules of the rating system, now available only on request.
Raters will be retired when their children grow up. Filmmakers will be able to cite other films in their appeals, though it remains unclear how much weight these appeals to precedent will carry. The reforms are laudable, but do not go as far as they should. The identity of anyone who rates a film or rules on an appeal should be public. Good conflict-of-interest rules can prevent them from being exposed to undue influence, while identifying the raters would increase public confidence.

By Edward Copeland
I'm sure it's just coincidence that the MPAA chose to announce reforms just as Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated is hitting DVD where more people can see what a boondoggle the movie ratings system is.

When a documentary is this must fun, sometimes there is a tendency to dismiss it: If there isn't the requisite gravity and sense of importance, if it doesn't feel as if you are taking medicine, perhaps it's not worth our time. Nothing could be further from the truth about This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated. Dick's fun and exasperating (because of what he uncovers, not the film itself) documentary tries to lift the curtain which hides the MPAA's process of rating motion pictures — and what a mystifying and mortifying process it is.

He provides the history of Jack Valenti's folly, prompted by the language of 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This great look includes interviews with many filmmakers who have been victimized by the ratings board and their obsession with sex and the blind-eye they turn toward violence.

Perhaps the best part of the documentary involves private investigators that Dick hired to determine who the anonymous raters were and exposing the lies to the idea that all the raters are parents of school-age children.

The ultimate fun though comes when Dick submits this very film to the board who, of course, rates it NC-17 and then shows him trying to go through the appeals process of a board pretending that they are not rating a film that shows what frauds and hacks they are.

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Friday, January 26, 2007


The name missing from Oscar's list

By Edward Copeland
There is a moment in sherrybaby where Maggie Gyllenhaal gives one of the purest expressions of the damaged child still dwelling within the adult. Sherry (Gyllenhaal), newly paroled from prison, is seeing her father for the first time since her release in a crowded family gathering and she begins joyously jumping up and down on a sofa, showing her joy as she tries to get her dad's attention. As with most things in Sherry's life, the happiness is short-lived, but Gyllenhaal's performance is far from it — this may well be her best work yet.

I have to give kudos to the HFPA for including her in their Golden Globe nominations this year. I only wish the Academy had had the foresight to follow their lead, because she definitely deserved the spot.

Written and directed by Laurie Collyer, sherrybaby would play like any number of indie films you've seen before about recovering addicts and moms trying to re-establish connection to their children if it weren't for Gyllenhaal, who makes the entire enterprise seem fresh. She's funny and sad, yet she doesn't leap through hoops to make the audience love her.

You have to wonder whether or not her daughter should stay in the care of her brother and his wife, given Sherry's erratic nature, but at the same time, you recognize that they are treating her a bit shabbily as well.

The supporting cast does well, but this is Gyllenhaal's movie from beginning to end and unlike other 2006 films with great performances that still made you wonder whether watching the film was worth your time, Gyllenhaal's work here more than makes you grateful you spent the time with Sherry.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


This part of my life is called Bored Silly

By Edward Copeland
This is an Oscar-nomination worthy performance? Don't get me wrong — Will Smith is fine in The Pursuit of Happyness, but there is absolutely nothing special about his performance and even less that's extraordinary about this sappy movie itself.

For those out there who haven't seen it, I took this post's title from the cloying voiceover that the screenplay inflicts on Smith where he has to place a label on each subsection of his life. He could have saved a lot of time and trouble if he'd just said at the beginning, "This part of my life is called Formula" because even though The Pursuit of Happyness purports to be based on a true story, it unfolds like dozens of movies you're likely to have seen before.

Smith plays Chris Gardner, a struggling husband and father in San Francisco in 1981 trying to unload some medical equipment he signed on to in order to keep his wife (Thandie Newton) and son (Smith's real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith) with a roof over their head and food in their bellies.

Gardner also has some innate mathematical abilities, so he convinces a Dean Witter executive (by way of solving a Rubik's Cube of all things) to give him a shot at an internship that offers a slim chance at an actual job at its conclusion. Everyone who doesn't see how this film is going to end raise their hands. I didn't think so.

The story should inspire all of us drifting out there, unable to reach our dreams, but Steve Conrad's script and Gabriele Muccino's direction are so by-the-numbers, all it inspires is impatience for the end.

On the plus side, Jaden Smith has some real charm — but cute kids in movies are a half-dollar a dozen at least, so he's not enough to make the movie worth a recommendation.

Newton, an actress I've admired for a long time, is saddled with such a completely unsympathetic role that I'm really curious about what Gardner's ex-wife's side of the story really is. I think any reasonable person struggling to make ends meet would find some of Gardner's mistakes frustrating, but the movie plays her more as a shrew and once she leaves the picture, we never learn what happened to her again. She goes from concerned mother to a ghost in a matter of screen seconds.

The film also gets hampered by a syrupy score by Andrea Guerra and lots of musical montages designed to tug at your heartstrings but that instead made me think that I'd just heard the worst cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that I'm ever likely to hear.

Smith's best actor nomination for Ali was one of merit. His nomination here is generous, to say the least.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Golden Delicious

By Josh R
Presenting….in person….that 4 foot 11 bundle of dynamite….Kristin Chenoweth!

For those of you who don’t live and breathe musical theater, that’s a shout-out to the character of Dainty June, the aggressively adorable triple-threat vaudevillian immortalized in the definitive backstage musical, better known as Gypsy. There’s more than a little of June’s pint-size blonde ambition and overweening eagerness to please in Ms. Chenoweth, the diminutive comic sprite jauntily plucking the fruit from the boughs of Gary Griffin’s revival of The Apple Tree for The Roundabout Theatre Company. The actual line from Gypsy states June’s height as being 5 foot 2, giving her a solid three inches on the adult woman who is strutting her way deliciously through a trilogy of roles from the stage of Broadway’s Studio 54 — but she has nothing on Chenoweth when it comes to measuring star quality.

Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s 1966 musical, the follow-up to their smash hit Fiddler on the Roof, was originally conceived as a vehicle for the actress/comedienne Barbara Harris. A distinctive performer with a penchant for offbeat characterization, the actress enlivened many a middling Broadway entry (including 1965’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, the vehicle that catapulted her to the rank of leading lady) with her signature blend of wide-eyed, slightly discombobulated flakiness and flat-out comic desperation — a combination that worked to delightfully disarming effect in material that made full use of her idiosyncratic charms. The Bock-Harnick offering, director Mike Nichols’ first project after having completed The Graduate, captured her at the peak of her powers, and marked a last hurrah of sorts — after winning a Tony Award for the performance, she set her sights west, embarking on a film career that included memorable turns in films as diverse as Hitchcock’s Family Plot, Altman’s Nashville and the original Freaky Friday. Her leading man in The Apple Tree, a then 30-year-old stage actor named Alan Alda, would go on to even greater heights — in a sly reference to the original production, he can be heard in the current revival as the (pre-recorded) voice of God.

The show is a featherweight if amusing concoction comprised of three one-act musicals presented as an anthology. The first, and by far the most successful of these pieces, is adapted from Mark Twain’s “The Diaries of Adam and Eve,” a satirical re-imagining of goings-on in the Garden of Eden. The second piece, “The Lady or the Tiger?”, comes from Frank Stockton’s open-ended fable about a barbarian princess whose jealous nature may cost her secret paramour his life. The third, “Passionella,” is a frothy '60s romp by Carnal Knowledge scribe Jules Pfeiffer about a dowdy female chimney sweep whose televised fairy godfather transforms her into a Marilyn Monroe-like sex goddess. All three pieces are linked together by the theme of temptation, and the eternal love triangle between Man, Woman and The Devil.

If the sketch-comedy nature of the material doesn’t exactly qualify it as a Broadway classic, it is nevertheless a pleasant diversion that furnishes its cast with plenty of room to preen and strut. Given that the show was essentially been conceived as a series of star turns for its leading lady, Ms. Chenoweth is the most prominent beneficiary. The actress's career trajectory has been swift — she won a Tony for her scene-stealing turn in 1999’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and an additional nomination for the smash hit Wicked, which cemented her status as a bona fide Broadway star. The Apple Tree marks the first time I have seen her live on a Broadway stage — at a distance of three yards away, no less — and I’m starting to understand what all the fuss has been about. With her stubborn kewpie doll features and a chipmunk’s squeak that can shift effortlessly – and somewhat freakishly — into a full-bodied lyric soprano, Chenoweth is, in her own way, as distinctive and unique a presence as either Carol Channing or Gwen Verdon. Like those performers, she knows exactly what her strengths are, and exactly how to exploit them to maximum effect. She’s a curious creature — imagine if scientists crossbred Reese Witherspoon with a smurf — and like Ms. Witherspoon, whose brisk perkiness she undoubtedly shares, there is occasionally something a little self-congratulatory in the way she twinkles and beams to up the adorability quotient and denote how cute she knows she is. That quality, however, is just right for The Apple Tree, which sends up the diva theatric while at the same time holding it up for winking glorification. Chenoweth’s timing is, to borrow the title of previous stage hit, wicked, and her talent for slapstick is just as finely honed. Whether she’s gawking in giddy delight at the wonders of Eden, cracking the whip as a royal man-eater imperious and bitchy enough to make Joan Collins cower, goofing it up as a dumpy chimneysweep with Coke-bottle glasses and a bad haircut, or sashaying around the stage while marveling at her proportions as the voluptuous bombshell, she nails her target with laser-like precision each and every time.

As Mr. Copeland is fond to say of certain actors and performances, a little of Ms. Chenoweth does indeed go a long way. Happily basking in the light of her own comic ingenuity, she might be a bit too much to take if her co-stars weren’t able to measure up to her standard. When I first saw this version of The Apple Tree in an Encores! concert staging at The City Center in 2005, she dominated the evening a little too effortlessly, all but blowing the ingratiating Malcolm Gets and a rather colorless Michael Cerveris off the stage. Fortunately, the re-casting of the two major male players restores a sense of balance to the proceedings, and makes for a much more satisfying menage-a-trois. Brian D’Arcy James scores a personal triumph in the Alda roles, demonstrating a comic versatility which make his Fall 2007 assignment — slipping into Gene Wilder’s mad scientist garb in the Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein — a tantalizing prospect. He brings an unaffected everyman charm to his performance as Adam, re-imagining him as somewhat fatuous Average Joe whose pride is wounded easily each time Eve’s savvy shows him up. His earthiness nicely complements Chenoweth’s empyreal pixie quality, and the sincerity he brings to his final scene provides the evening with its one truly moving moment. As the barbarian warrior in "The Lady and the Tiger" sequence, he does a devastatingly dead-on impression of Charlton Heston, and his posturing folk-rocker in "Passionella," sort of a cross between Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, becomes a deliriously funny riff on Bono (as D’Arcy James demonstrated in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, an Irish accent is right in his wheelhouse).

The physical and vocal attributes of Marc Kudisch, the barrel-chested baritone who’s been a Broadway mainstay for much of the past decade, would logically render him ideally qualified for the role of a traditional leading man in the Alfred Drake mold — a path favored by Brian Stokes Mitchell, who seems to have cornered the market of late. In a surprising move that has yielded vastly satisfying dividends, Kudisch has instead transformed himself into one of the musical theater’s most indispensable character actors, and the go-to guy for parts that call for an element of mischievous decadence. With a talent for mugging that belies his stolidly handsome features, he mines his roguish charm to wonderfully self-parodying effect, and the evening’s most seemingly thankless roles for comic gold. Special mention need be made of his show-stopping first act solo as a gleaming Mephistopheles in a snakeskin suit entreating Eve to sample the apples — common sense dictates that a Herculean effort would be needed to upstage Ms. Chenoweth, even however briefly, but Mr. Kudisch pulls it off with such slippery ease and showboating aplomb that he makes the audience his gleeful co-conspirators in serpentine lechery.

The staging of the show is relatively modest by Broadway standards — but then, the element of spectacle is provided by the vast resources of its performers, who make the material seem much better than it probably is. As for the inevitable question — how did I like them apples? — I would have to say much, much more than I ever could have anticipated. If these forbidden fruits may not seem quite as fresh as they did back in 1966, they nevertheless make for a tasty evening of theatergoing … and performances this good can still keep the doctor away.

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Monday, January 22, 2007


Survey Results, Part 2

"What a great (and difficult) survey — I had a really tough time narrowing down my 5 best. And what does one do with performances that at this point are so part of popular culture that you don't know what to make of them any more, on their own, original terms (MacLaine's or Crawford's or Leigh's ...)?" Armand K wrote. Yes, now it's time for the positive side of the survey, though as if with everything Oscar, it's hard not to be critical here as well. "If Bette Davis had won for All About Eve, I'd have voted that Best Best #1," Neil Allen wrote. "I feel bad voting Hepburn Worst Best, if she had ever won for Holiday or Long Day's Journey, she'd probably be in for Best Best. I know people loved Charlize Theron but Michael Sragow's comment about her performance reminding him of Gary Busey struck a chord with me." Thanks to everyone who participated this year, though if I tackle best actor next year, I think I'll wait until after nominations to launch the survey to avoid the holiday slowdown. So you all have plenty of time to catch up on the men, though I still bet a certain manic Italian might still come out on top of that worst list. Without further ado, the index:

Not Feeling the Love: The performances that failed to receive a single vote for the best.

Ranking by Ballots: The best best actress votes tallied by the number of ballots upon which they appeared.

Not Good Enough: The winning best actresses who failed to crack the Top 10.

The Best Best Actresses: The Top 10.

Survey Part 1 index

My ballot for best and worst

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Not Feeling the Love

These 18 winning performances didn't receive a single vote for the best of the winning best actresses.

1928-29: Mary Pickford (Coquette)
1935: Bette Davis (Dangerous)
1936: Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld)
1940: Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle)
1941: Joan Fontaine (Suspicion)
1942: Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver)
1943: Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette)
1947: Loretta Young (The Farmer's Daughter)
1967: Katharine Hepburn
(Guess Who's Coming to Dinner)
1973: Glenda Jackson (A Touch of Class)
1978: Jane Fonda (Coming Home)
1981: Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond)
1984: Sally Field (Places in the Heart)
1989: Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy)
1997: Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets)
1998: Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love)
2001: Halle Berry (Monster's Ball)
2004: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)

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Best Performances (Ranked By Ballot)

Here are all the winning best actresses that received votes for the best of all time, ranked by the numbers of ballots on which they appeared.

1. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind) 29
2. Elizabeth Taylor
(Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) 26
3. Frances McDormand (Fargo) 24
4. Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire) 23
5. Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) 22
5. Meryl Streep (Sophie's Choice) 22
6. Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress) 18
6. Holly Hunter (The Piano) 18
8. Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) 17
9. Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night) 15
9. Jane Fonda (Klute) 14
9. Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) 14
11. Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter) 13
12. Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) 12
13. Patricia Neal (Hud) 11
14. Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) 10
14. Faye Dunaway (Network) 10
16. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) 9
16. Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) 9
16. Liza Minnelli (Cabaret) 9
19. Bette Davis (Jezebel) 8
20. Ellen Burstyn
(Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) 7
21. Kathy Bates (Misery) 6
21. Julie Christie (Darling) 6
21. Louise Fletcher
(One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) 6
21. Janet Gaynor
(7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise) 6
21. Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) 6
21. Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry) 6
21. Charlize Theron (Monster) 6
28. Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) 5
28. Jodie Foster (The Accused) 5
28. Susan Hayward (I Want to Live!) 5
28. Simone Signoret (Room at the Top) 5
28. Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) 5
33. Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) 4
33. Sally Field (Norma Rae) 4
33. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) 4
33. Glenda Jackson (Women in Love) 4
33. Sophia Loren (Two Women) 4
33. Emma Thompson (Howards End) 4
39. Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) 3
40. Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia) 2
40. Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba) 2
40. Grace Kelly (The Country Girl) 2
40. Anna Magnani (The Rose Tattoo) 2
40. Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) 2
40. Norma Shearer (The Divorcee) 2
40. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) 2
40. Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve) 2
48. Cher (Moonstruck) 1
48. Marie Dressler (Min and Bill) 1
48. Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet) 1
48. Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory) 1
48. Nicole Kidman (The Hours) 1
48. Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) 1
48. Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful) 1
48. Luise Rainer (The Good Earth) 1
48. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) 1
48. Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8) 1
48. Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda) 1

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Not Good Enough

Here are the performances and their point totals that didn't earn enough to place in the Top 10 of the best best actress performances of all time.

11. Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter) (43 points)
"For all the reasons people have already mentioned, and for making what might be a familiar story hum at every turn. Spacek doesn't do a strict impression, like so many of the recent lauded bio-performances; she makes it both Loretta Lynn and her own. And her perform-
ances of the songs are terrific — not just the singing, but the joy of singing."


12. Maggie Smith
(The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
) (42 points)
"Making a megalomaniac Fascist sympathizer attractive — that's acting."
Tim Footman

13. Claudette Colbert
(It Happened One Night
) (37 points)
"One of the first, great modern female roles: flirty, direct, wisecracking. I love the timbre of her voice and in that hitchhiking scene, the cut of her jib."
That Little Round-Headed Boy

14. Jodie Foster
(The Silence of the Lambs
) (36 points)
"It's a very internalized turn, but I admire it for this reason: Going opposite one of the hammiest best actor performances in history, Foster never loses control or ceases to hold every shot. That's impressive."
Daniel Fienberg

15. Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) (34 points)
"Practically the Siren's first thought upon learning of this survey was, 'Damnit, I'm including Joan.' Bear with me here. In no way is this a naturalistic performance. Who cares? It is an endlessly watchable and re-watchable piece of High Hollywood Acting, with Joan Crawford hurling her star power around like a flamethrower. Is she subtle? Hell no. It isn't a subtle movie. But Crawford grabs your attention, sympathy and yes, belief as she rips apart her marriage, home and the scenery to Sacrifice All for her worthless daughter Veda. Look the Siren deep in the eye. Would you really, truly rather watch Sophie's Choice again, than see Joan haul off and slap Ann Blyth?"

16. Patricia Neal (Hud) (32 points)
"The walking definition of the term 'earth mother,' Neal's Alma Brown is one of my favorite female characters in the history of moviedom ... a been-there, seen-it-all dame who's sexy as all get-out and realizes she's needs to burn daylight between herself and Newman's rakish Hud because she could easily find herself falling for him. 'I done my time with one cold-blooded bastard,' she readily affirms. 'I'm not looking for another.'"
Ivan G. Shreve Jr.

17. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) (30 points)
"So completely overwhelms the rest of the movie that it sometimes feels like it exists off in its own universe. I don't know if that's good or bad for the movie, but it's one hell of a performance for Bergman."
Joshua Flower

18. Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) (28 points)
"No, it's not the deepest performance, and certainly not the richest lead female performance to be nominated that year (I prefer Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.) But within the more constricting parameters of screwball romance, Holliday's ultimate 'dumb blonde' performance is a thing of beauty. It's hard to say what's more impressive, her atomic clock timing or her emotional transparency. She's like Betty Hutton plus Barbara Stanwyck, with a slow-burn self-awareness that's uniquely Holliday. I also like this win because it's a rare instance of the academy honoring a funny woman. Comedy is hard, too — especially when it's made to look easy."
Matt Zoller Seitz

19. Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) (27 points)

20. Liza Minnelli (Cabaret) (26 points)
"A powerhouse performance, Minnelli is one sweep puts the definitive stamp on a classic role, and proves she is just as much the performer her mother was, if not more."
Tripp Burton

21. Bette Davis (Jezebel) (25 points)
"I think the best performance of her career."
Tim Connelly

22. Kathy Bates (Misery) (23 points)
"'Misery' is my favorite Stephen King book, and when I saw Kathy Bates onscreen, I said, 'Oh my God. She looks exactly the way I pictured her.' Plus, she was equally hilarious and scary, no easy task."

22. Janet Gaynor (7th Heaven, Street Angel, Sunrise) (23 points)
"The Siren is cheating a bit here, since she has seen only Sunrise. But Sunrise, she assures you, is sufficient unto itself. One viewing of Gaynor's performance is worth hours of wrist-crippling typing about the lost art of silent acting. She will break your heart."

24. Faye Dunaway (Network) (21 points)
"It's hard to remember now how wonderful Dunaway was in the 1970s, and here she's charged with playing a person and an industry. She's great, holding her own and more with a powerful group of actors. Her scenes with William Holden are a great mesh of acting styles old and new that wouldn't have worked with a lesser performer. The hard-as-nails career woman is a stereotype now, but here is one of the first and best, in a movie that just gets better every time you watch it."

25. Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) (19 points)
"The raw intensity of the performance is astonishing ... The character’s mentality can be summed up in one line of dialogue, which Bancroft delivers with such blunt-edged forcefulness that it knocks you right out of your seat: 'I treat her like a seeing child because I ask her to see. I expect her to see. Don’t undo what I do.' Annie, we wouldn’t dare."
Josh R

25. Julie Christie (Darling) (19 points)
“The first actress I got to see in a nude scene. Still beautiful and I can’t recall her ever giving a bad performance.”
Peter Nellhaus

27. Charlize Theron (Monster) (18 points)
"I hesitate to do this, but I don't see any other way. Every movement, expression. This woman scared the hell out of me. Damn, she was terrific."
David Gaffen

28. Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)(16 points)
"The personification of evil. The only mark against this, as some have said, is that it's more of a supporting performance, but she commands the screen against Nicholson so well, and there are so few who can really do that, especially when he was in his prime, which was this period."
David Gaffen

29. Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) (15 points)
"A performance so good it earned her two Oscars."
Brian Darr

30. Simone Signoret (Room at the Top) (14 points)

31. Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) (13 points)
"I was sentenced to four years of Catholic school during my formative years, and I never—ever—encountered a nun like Susan Sarandon's determined Sister Helen Prejean. Walking is director Tim Robbins' best film, and Sarandon's performance is so solid you can't help but want her in your corner should you ever be unfortunate to find yourself on Death Row."
Ivan G. Shreve Jr.

32. Sophia Loren (Two Women) (12 points)
"I admit, I haven't seen this in years, but I still remember the raw realness of her performance."
B. Lee

33. Jodie Foster (The Accused) (11 points)
"I've loved Jodie Foster since Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and to me, this performance is as good as anything she's ever done."
Richard Christenson

33. Susan Hayward (I Want to Live!) (11 points)
"As riveting an execution scene as Jimmy Cagney's in Angels with Dirty Faces (and there is no more glorious comparison)."
John Burlinson

33. Glenda Jackson (Women in Love) (11 points)

33. Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) (11 points)
"Possibly the greatest musical/comedy performance of all time."
Nathaniel R

33. Emma Thompson (Howards End) (11 points)

38. Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) (9 points)
"Not a super-demanding role or anything, but totally iconic"

39. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) (8 points)
"If Audrey Hepburn never made another movie after this one, she’d still be the Audrey Hepburn we know and love based on the luminescence she displays in this completely disarming performance."
Dennis Cozzalio

39. Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) (8 points)
"At the time, Lange's win as mentally ill Army wife Carly Marshall in Tony Richardson's long-shelved final movie prompted grumbling about the Academy's tendency to give best actress statuettes to women who appeared in pictures nobody saw. But anyone who saw Blue Sky was hard-pressed to deny Lange's excellence; with repeat viewings, her performance doesn't just hold up, it deepens."
Matt Zoller Seitz

41. Anna Magnani (The Rose Tattoo) (7 points)

42. Sally Field (Norma Rae) (5 points)
"An honest-to-God excellent performance, though sometimes one that took her character’s stridency too much as a road map. Halle Berry should have looked at this performance for guidance, then packed it in."
Dennis Cozzalio

42. Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet)(5 points)
"Because most of her greatest roles were reputedly in the theater, and she is better known today as the nice old lady in Disney films, Hayes doesn't get the credit she deserves. In this pre-code film she plays a mother with an illegitimate son who turns to prostitution. The way she reaches up to touch the leaves on tree after being released from prison is one of a number of great human touches she brings to the character."
Al Weisel

42. Nicole Kidman (The Hours) (5 points)

42. Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) (5 points)
"Just thinking about it makes me cry. The only Oscar winning actress who did so."

42. Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve)(5 points)

47. Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory) (4 points)

47. Norma Shearer (The Divorcee) (4 points)
"Still has a bit of a "silent" feel to her performance, but she makes the film delightful."
Tim Connelly

47. Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8) (4 points)

50. Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba) (3 points)

50. Cher (Moonstruck) (3 points)
"No, I'm not kidding. I admire actresses who can make simple gestures work so well, as she does in this movie. Despite being a glamorous person, Cher is not conventionally pretty, and so she inhabits this character very well. When she comes out of her shell, it doesn't come across as a cheap unmasking, the virginal shyness giving way to a "woman," so to speak. This is a woman already, but one who has been burned before, and so she's slow to accept this situation, and wary, as she should be. The scene where she puts on her makeup at home and drinks some wine is terrific, showing how content she is in her home, in herself, even as her life around her threatens to go out of control - but she's embracing that."
David Gaffen

50. Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda) (3 points)

53. Marie Dressler (Min and Bill) (2 points)

53. Grace Kelly (The Country Girl) (2 points)
"I know, the world wanted Judy that year. But Kelly's performance hits every note of that character — some real acting from the silver-spoon kid."
M.A. Peel

53. Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) (2 points)

53. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) (2 points)
"Surprised? I think this is the best of the Best Actress winners of recent vintage: a real meaty role in a really good movie that lets her unleash that anger that seems to be barely contained underneath the surface: 'They're called boobs, Ed.' The real Julia Roberts, not the big-teeth persona, is probably a much more complicated person than she's given credit for."
That Little Round-Headed Boy

53. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) (2 points)
"Something tells me my last choice will get some votes for worst from the contrarians among your readers."
Patrick Wahl

58. Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia) (1 point)

58. Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful) (1 point)

58. Luise Rainer (The Good Earth)(1 point)

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Top 10 Best Best Actress winners

Where the race for the worst best actress performance eventually became a blowout for Helen Hunt and there was a huge dropoff after No. 2 finisher Gwyneth Paltrow, the best best actress results were constantly changing with the rankings changing right through to the final ballot received before the deadline. Also, two multiple Oscar-winning actresses share the distinction of landing in both the Top 10 of the worst and the best lists.

10. Jane Fonda (Klute) (44 points)

The fight for the 10th spot was a real struggle, bouncing back and forth between Bree, Jean Brodie and Loretta Lynn with seemingly every new ballot received, but Bree's street smarts edged out the stubborn teacher and the country superstar in the end. "Oscar voters love to honor beautiful women for playing prostitutes, which may be the Academy's attempt to encourage other beautiful women to enter the Oldest Profession," Daniel Fienberg wrote. "Of all the Oscar-winning portrayals of hookers, though, this is the best." Others are similarly amazed by how well Fonda's work holds up. "The intelligence and subtlety of this performance still amaze me," Charles Barrett wrote. "Tough as nails, no-b.s., and it still holds up," John Farmer added. "She’s been a Hollywood starlet, a new wave sex kitten, a political activist, a feminist icon, a fitness guru, a rich man’s queen and consort, and throughout it all, a lightning rod for controversy. But we should not lose sight of the fact that Jane Fonda is also an actress of rare and distinctive talents, with a genuine feel for the manner in which intellect and emotionalism can often exist at odds with one another. To these eyes, she was never better than as Bree Daniel, a woman whose tough-cookie exterior and you-can-all-go-to-hell attitude mask the fragile soul of a wounded, frightened child," Josh R wrote. "It’s a brave, unflinching performance that reveals something new upon each additional viewing." Nathaniel R still finds himself amazed that the Academy even picked her: "I still reel backwards at the thought that a performance this brave, in your face and incisive of a character this crude and unlikeable could ever win a major prize. The '70s were so cool that even the Oscars wised up. albeit briefly." In addition to her praise for Fonda, Campaspe has a question about the Internet Movie Database: "Screen acting at its most truthful. An amazing demonstration of disappearing into a character, all the more so when you consider that the movie is good but not great. It's a standard prostitute-in-peril yarn, with a problematic plot that reveals the killer in mid-film and leaves the wheels spinning afterward. But the Siren was astonished at the layers of personality Fonda brought to the character of Bree. This should have been the screen hooker to give all the others the hook. (Aside: does IMDb really have to link to external 'reviews that are just rants about 'Commie Fonda'?)"

9. Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) (46 points)

The first of two multiple Oscar-winning actresses to land on both the best and worst lists, voters seemed to have coalesced around the idea that Hepburn's Eleanor of Aquitaine was her most deserved Academy Award. (Third time's the charm I suppose). "Scary and poisonous, Hepburn makes a spurned, bitter woman into a grand, raging force of nature. Brings a depth of feeling often missing from her serious roles," Joshua Flower wrote. "Filmed less than a year after Spencer Tracy's death, she lets the ragged edges out and meshes her royalty and the character's in a stunningly theatrical performance. Her chemistry with Peter O'Toole is wonderful; I can't ever watch their last dungeon scene without getting moved," Tina added.

8. Holly Hunter (The Piano) (49 points)

"Has an actress ever been so passionate and so rapturous without saying an onscreen word?" Odienator asks. "The exact opposite of Marlee Matlin, who would have been #6 on my worst list." Tim Connelly wrote, "I find myself stunned by her performance each time I see this film." Charles Barrett finds himself similarly amazed by Hunter's work: "To be so powerful and mesmerizing without words is an amazing feat." As for those who dismiss Hunter's work as a "stunt," Josh R has an answer: "To me, 'stunt' acting can be defined by the extent to which an actor relies on some kind of visual or aural gimmick, whether it be extreme physical or vocal transformation, or pitch-perfect simulation of some kind of handicap, in order to give an effective performance. In most cases, if you take away the stunt, what you’re left with isn’t very much. This is most definitely not the case with Holly Hunter’s Ada McGrath. If you were to subtract the fact that the character doesn’t speak from the equation, you’d still be left with a masterful delineation of flinty resolve and intrepid sexual inquisitiveness. The forthright sexuality that Hunter is allowed to express is remarkable for its lack of sentimentality; this is a woman bound and determined to chart her own course, without compromise or apology, and her silence speaks volumes."

7. Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress) (55 points)

"A muted performance of such passionate longing that it just breaks your heart," That Little Round-Headed Boy wrote. Catherine Sloper has a lot of fans. Speaking as someone fortunate enough to see Cherry Jones' Tony-winning interpretation of Catherine before I ever saw Olivia's, I have to say that de Havilland held up pretty damn well, even if she didn't make my final five. "I'm not sure if I put her here cause I love the movie so much or not — but she was terrific in the part," B. Lee wrote. Dennis Cozzalio expounded further: "A beautiful, painful reflection of the savagery of betrayal and humiliation. De Havilland finds reserves of intelligence and sensitivity in this role that others might also have discovered, but she uses her own history, particularly the reverberations of her character from Gone With the Wind, to inform those feelings with her own warmth — she’s peculiar and not just a little pathetic, but she’s never a mouse we want to see trampled, or one who deserves it." Jenni feels that de Havilland has been somewhat undervalued overall: "An actress often remembered for her role as Errol Flynn's co-star, it's amazing to me that she isn't honored more often as one of our great female screen actors; this performance is genius." Perhaps M.A. Peel pays her the highest compliment: "I think Henry James would be impressed."

6. Frances McDormand (Fargo) (64 points)

I love McDormand in Fargo, even if I'm one of the film's few detractors and think hers is really a supporting role, but I'll let the fans sing her praises. "McDormand's so warm, so idiosyncratic, that Marge never comes across as a kooky scold; she makes the woman's carved-from-marble personality traits seem an outgrowth of Marge's worldview rather than a grab-bag of eccentricities," Matt Zoller Seitz wrote. "The character's decency seems to have been made rather than inherited; that makes Marge's final condemnation of Peter Stormare's murderous felon less a moral-of-the-story monologue than a vindication of the bedrock bourgeois values that modern Hollywood treats as slave chains. 'There's more to life than a little money, you know,' Marge says. 'Don't you know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it.' For Marge, goodness is freedom." Marge leaves Tripp Burton somewhat speechless: "What can you say except that she is exciting, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time." Nomi added, "One of the great great minimalist performances on screen." Tim Connelly thinks she is "the most oddball heroine of the past 30 years, played perfectly." Odienator included her in his Top 5, though he agrees with me on the brevity of her role: "She has less screen time than most of the other characters in the film, but the character she creates is permanently etched in a corner of my mind, you betcha. I love characters who are smarter than they appear, and her scene in the car at the end is nothing short of a masterpiece."

5. Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) (65 points)

They say Oscar doesn't like comedy, but in the case of Annie Hall and Diane Keaton they did and many voters agreed. "My top pick in your last survey couldn't have succeeded without her stupendous presence and performance," Brian Darr wrote. "Well, la-de-da, la-de-da," David Gaffen wrote. "Comedy is not effortless. In many ways it's more difficult than drama. She makes it seem effortless." John Farmer sees Keaton's influence in many romantic comedy roles that have come in the 30 years since Annie first appeared. "The greatest of the modern romantic comedies, and there hasn't been an actress in one of them for the past 30 years that doesn't owe a debt to Keaton," Farmer wrote. Keaton's apparent effortlessness still holds Tripp Burton in awe: "Some may argue it is a supporting performance, but no one can argue it isn’t simply the greatest comedic performance of all time. Making it look so easy it hurts, Keaton is another who brings complete heart to her film, and is the perfect foil to Woody Allen's best work."

4. Elizabeth Taylor (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) (72 points)

The second multiple Oscar winner to make both Top 10 list even managed to make it to the Top 5 of both lists. While much derision has been heaped on Taylor's win for Butterfield 8, more praised her Martha than disliked it. "An incredibly brave, mesmerizing performance, which more than makes up for her undeserved Oscar for Butterfield 8," Al Weisel wrote. Odienator praises Liz for making up for Oscar's mistake six years earlier, but has a question as well: "Her atonement for Butterfield 8 gave us a fat Liz, and gave Joan Rivers a career. Were she and Burton were really acting?" Charles Barrett finds Martha "the one truly great performance she gave, I feel, but it is truly great." Daniel Fienberg has reservations, but not enough to keep this performance off his Top 5 list: "I don't always like broad theatricality and shrieking, but for some reason this performance has an emotional core for me, even if Taylor is shouting to the back row at all times." For Nathaniel R, it always is reassuring to see "stars" prove they have acting chops as well: "It's eternally satisfying when one of the greatest of all movie stars delivers one of the greatest performances."

3. Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire) (75 points)

Leigh came close to taking the top two spots on the best list — pretty impressive for someone who was only ever nominated twice and won both times. “It seems almost unfair to give both top spots to the same actress, but there’s no way around it; Leigh’s Blanche DuBois is a performance of such power and grace that it commands nothing less than a response of awestruck reverence," Josh R wrote. "A harrowing study in human frailty and incipient madness, Leigh’s performance is, at times, almost unbearable to watch; the viewer can’t help but want to reach out and save Blanche — mostly from herself." Charles Barrett said, "Scarlett is also a great movie star performance, but the haunted desperation she brings to Blanche is unforgettable." Nathaniel R is grateful that Leigh's performance has been preserved for the ages: "Hundreds and hundreds of women have played Blanche DuBois. I'm glad it's her spin on the classic role that's frozen for all time on celluloid." Others are just glad that Leigh's work was there to provide a crucial counterpoint to Marlon Brando's indelible Stanley. "Grotesque and campy, she's the perfect counterpoint to Brando's wild boar naturalism," Joshua Flower wrote. That Little Round-Headed Boy added, "In Streetcar, Leigh holds her own against perhaps the towering male performance in all of American movie history, and conveys a sense of sad, haunting delicate madness at the same time."

2. Meryl Streep (Sophie's Choice) (84 points)

The most-acclaimed actress of the modern era, the most nominated actress of all time (about to increase that record Tuesday in all likelihood) landed in the second spot with the only Oscar she has received for best actress. "I don't really like this movie," That Little Round-Headed Boy wrote, "but you just can't ignore the technical skills and passion and haunted beauty she brings to this role. And her face on that train platform." Daniel Fienberg said, "If you're grading on 'Degree of Difficulty,' this performance is impossible to top." In a career filled with many, many great roles, Sophie remains Streep's crowning achievement for Al Weisel: "Say what you will about the mechanics of Streep's acting, she is heartbreaking in this, her best role and one of the great performances of all time."

1. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind) (114 points)

"Vivien Leigh was not the obvious choice to play Scarlett O’Hara — indeed, her casting prompted a certain amount of head-scratching at the time. But when the film debuted, it was clear to audiences and critics alike that no other choice could have been possible, as Leigh delivered what is quite simply the best and most important performance in the history of motion pictures. Even now, the breadth and complexity of the characterization is astounding. The measure of her greatness lies in the fact that she shows us Scarlett O’Hara, warts and all, without soft-pedaling the more repellent aspects of the character and yet, you can’t help admiring her, rooting for her, desiring her. Like Rhett Butler, we know how just impossible she is, but any attempt at resistance is an exercise in futility. Frankly, my dear, we can’t help but give a damn."
Josh R

"I know she ends up on many cinephile's 'worst' list — except for Matt's, which will forever endear him to me. Leigh gives life to the character of Scarlett O'Hara in a way that goes beyond 'good acting.' She BECOMES Scarlett O'Hara. I think it's thrilling."
M.A. Peel

“I'm not a particularly big fan of this soap opera, but Leigh's Scarlett may be the best performance by an actress in the history of movies. The woman knew how to pick her roles, and I might have put her as #2 for Streetcar if it were a longer list, but with only five slots, she gets one spot, at the top.”
John Farmer

"For sheer magnitude if nothing else; a four hour movie and she's in nearly every scene (and of course she's fantastic in every one)."

"In Gone With The Wind, she is so damn irritating and so damn beautiful and so damn unforgettable. Fiddle-dee-dee, indeed."
That Little Round-Headed Boy

"The opposite of naturalism, Leigh's performance as Scarlett O'Hara is more like a stage performance writ huge. Everything is italicized, sometimes boldfaced. (When she exclaims, 'Well, fiddle-dee-dee!' it's a knowing celebration of her own supreme entitlement — she's daddy's girl, and daddy is the South.) Leigh's not just humping one note on a piano, though. Scarlett's girlish brio in the first quarter gives way to shock and desperation as Atlanta burns; then, in the film's underappreciated, much subtler second half, it hardens into masklike resolve. Leigh keeps the stubbornness but loses the vanity; the character grows up without losing her youthful fire. Leigh's performance is just right for this still-seductive, forever problematic antebellum fantasy. It's life-sized, yet iconic."
Matt Zoller Seitz

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Sunday, January 21, 2007


Survey Results, Part 1

There will be a lot to read through in the results, so I'm going to post them in two batches — so much stuff in fact that I feel an index is necessary for easier perusal.

First, I figured I'd do the worst best actress side of the survey. "A campaign like this can't help but catch my attention since I have always sided with the opinion of my favorite film historian, Danny Peary, that ever since their inception the Oscar folk have gotten it wrong and with very rare exceptions are batting a thousand with the same streak of cluelessness that continues to this present day,"
Ivan G. Shreve Jr. wrote. Patrick Wahl doesn't share the dismal view of Oscar's track record, writing, "I don't have any nominations for worst, none of them are particularly poor choices that I have seen." The list of winners similarly discouraged Dan Callahan, who wrote, "Looking over the winners was pretty depressing. Greta Garbo and Barbara Stanwyck never won, but Loretta Young and Jane Wyman did? Even worse, they give Katharine Hepburn four Oscars for four of her lesser performances. Jesus, Greer Garson for Mrs. Miniver? And has anyone actually looked into how Luise Rainer took home two Oscars in a row in the '30s? She wasn't good in either of these movies, MGM didn't push for her at all, and she barely worked afterwards." That Little Round-Headed Boy found himself perplexed as well not only by who won but by who didn't: "Ed, what strikes me at looking over this list is how few of what we consider the great, iconic performances of Hollywood actresses ever resulted in an Academy Award acknowledgement. Or they won it for the wrong role. Once again, Oscar's a big, fat, stinkin' dud. Where's Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity? Where's Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday? Where's Bette Davis in All About Eve? Where's Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca or Notorious? Where's any of the women in The Women? Where's Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.? Where's Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz? Where's Greta Garbo in Ninotchka or Flesh and the Devil? Where's Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be? Where's Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story? Where's Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot? ... And when we get to the past two decades, you look at these roles and really start to understand why women have complained about their status in Hollywood. So many of these roles seemed like secondary parts and of the ones that didn't, they were dreary, issue films that have dated poorly. Few people have probably found any joy in watching them again. I sort of like Hilary Swank, but does anybody really want to watch her movies over and over again? She's no Jane Fonda; is she the Luise Rainer of the new century? Who's going to program a Sally Field film festival?" Of course, voters varied over which list was harder to compile — the best or the worst. Annie Frisbie admits a harder time compiling the worst: I found it harder to pick the worst — I wanted to cast a vote for Audrey Hepburn because I don't think she's a good actress, but I haven't actually seen Roman Holiday. (Darn that honor system!) In choosing my best 5, I almost felt like I was honoring good parts in good movies as much as good performances. The women in my bottom five didn't have much to work with (Hunt, Paltrow, Fonda, Woodward, and Fletcher) — but imagine what Ellen Burstyn, Judy Holliday, or Joan Crawford could've done with As Good As It Gets, or Ingrid Bergman in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Or, Lord have mercy — Liza Minnelli in Shakespeare in Love. Divine decadence, indeed!"

So, here is the index of the first batch of survey-related posts:

The Untouchable: The sole performance that failed to get a vote for the best or the worst list.

Not Feeling the Hate: The performances that didn't get a single vote on any worst list.

Worst By Ballots: A ranking of the performances by the number of worst best actress ballots on which they appeared, regardless of the point values they received.

Not Bad Enough: The performances fortunate enough not to be disliked enough to make the Top 10 Worst.

The Worst: The Top 10 vote getters for the worst best actress winners of all time.

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The Untouchable

Be it because no one loved her performance enough to pick it as one of the best or hated it enough to name it one of the worst (or perhaps even saw the performance), this winning best actress performance was the only one that failed to get a single vote for or against her.

Olivia de Havilland
as Miss Josephine "Jody" Norris
(To Each His Own) (1946)



Not Feeling the Hate

12 of the winning best actress performances got through the month of voting without picking up a single vote against them.

1927-28: Janet Gaynor
(7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise)

1945: Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce)
1949: Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress)
1955: Anna Magnani (The Rose Tattoo)
1959: Simone Signoret (Room at the Top)
1969: Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
1970: Glenda Jackson (Women in Love)
1974: Ellen Burstyn
(Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)
1979: Sally Field (Norma Rae)
1980: Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner's Daughter)
1982: Meryl Streep (Sophie's Choice)
1995: Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking)

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Worst Performances (Ranked By Ballots)

Here are all the winning performances that received votes for the worst best actress performance of all time by how many of the 90 ballots they appeared on.

1. Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) 39
2. Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) 28
3. Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8) 26
4. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) 24
5. Halle Berry (Monster's Ball) 18
6. Nicole Kidman (The Hours) 17
7. Katharine Hepburn
(Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) 16
8. Grace Kelly (The Country Girl) 14
8. Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) 14
10. Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond) 13
11. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) 10
11. Loretta Young (The Farmer's Daughter) 10
13. Mary Pickford (Coquette) 9
13. Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld) 9
13. Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle) 9
13. Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) 9
13. Charlize Theron (Monster) 9
18. Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) 8
18. Cher (Moonstruck) 8
18. Sally Field (Places in the Heart) 8
18. Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette) 8
22. Susan Hayward (I Want to Live!) 7
22. Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) 7
24. Kathy Bates (Misery) 6
24. Jane Fonda (Coming Home) 6
24. Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) 6
24. Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) 6
28. Louise Fletcher
(One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) 5
28. Jodie Foster (The Accused) 5
28. Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) 5
31. Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba) 4
31. Faye Dunaway (Network) 4
31. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) 4
31. Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) 4
31. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) 4
31. Liza Minnelli (Cabaret) 4
31. Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda) 4
38. Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) 3
38. Holly Hunter (The Piano) 3
38. Glenda Jackson (A Touch of Class) 3
38. Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire) 3
38. Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) 3
38. Frances McDormand (Fargo) 3
38. Norma Shearer (The Divorcee) 3
45. Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) 2
45. Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia) 2
45. Bette Davis (Jezebel) 2
45. Jane Fonda (Klute) 2
45. Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet) 2
45. Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) 2
45. Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory) 2
45. Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) 2
45. Luise Rainer (The Good Earth) 2
45. Elizabeth Taylor
(Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) 2
45. Emma Thompson (Howards End) 2
56. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) 1
56. Julie Christie (Darling) 1
56. Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night) 1
56. Bette Davis (Dangerous) 1
56. Marie Dressler (Min and Bill) 1
56. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind) 1
56. Sophia Loren (Two Women) 1
56. Patricia Neal (Hud) 1
56. Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful) 1
56. Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry) 1
56. Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve) 1

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Not Bad Enough

Here are the performances and their point totals that didn't earn enough to earn the dubious distinction of placing in the Top 10 of the worst best actress performances of all time.

11. Grace Kelly (The Country Girl) (36 points)
"Grace Kelly as a country girl? That year's award should have gone to Judy Garland in A Star Is Born."
Al Weisel

12. Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) (31 points)
"A superlative stage actress who occasionally duplicated her work in many an outstanding motion picture (A Woman's Vengeance [1948], The Birds [1963]), decided in her declining years to make movies her bread-and-butter by appearing in a never-ending series of crinkly, fun-loving senior citizen roles that support the argument for assisted suicide. Not only is Tandy embarrassing in Daisy, the film itself — which makes an average episode of Amos 'n' Andy look the picture of tolerance — is one of the worst films to ever win Best Picture."
Ivan G. Shreve Jr.

13. Cher (Moonstruck) (30 points)

14. Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette) (29 points)
"Probably the worst actress ever to win the award, Jones brought nothing to the screen in any performance except a painful emotional detachment and insomnia-curing performances."
Tripp Burton

15. Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond) (27 points)
"A legacy award for one of the most inexplicably overpraised actresses in history."
Karina Longworth

15. Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld) (27 points)
"Proof that Hollywood was giving away inexplicable Oscars even back in the Golden Age."

17. Susan Hayward (I Want to Live!) (26 points)
"Maybe it wasn't as bad as it looks today, but this one has really aged."
John Farmer

18. Charlize Theron (Monster) (25 points)

19. Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) (24 points)
"A shovelful of saccharine doesn't make this non-performance
any easier to choke down."

John Burlinson

19. Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle) (24 points)
"Unlike the other ladies on this list, I actually like Ginger Rogers — and it pains me to pick on someone with actual talent. But the spark and savvy which informed her best performances is sadly absent from her work in Kitty Foyle. Her trademark blonde locks dyed a dull shade of brown, presumably for optimum seriousness, Rogers comes across as an earnest drone. I, for one, prefer my Ginger with a dash of spice."
Josh R

19. Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) (24 points)
“Oy vey! The film that gives schmaltz a bad name.”
Peter Nellhaus

22. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) (22 points)

23. Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) (19 points)
"Either you can handle the smugness of Lange, or you can’t. I for one, was never able to, and her most celebrated performances have always seemed like so much empty posturing. Blue Sky, however, is not one of her more celebrated performances, or even one of her tolerable ones. Campy, vampy and shrill, with a honeyed southern accent so thick it would make Tallulah Bankhead recoil in revulsion, her character is so blatantly unlikable from start to finish that when, in the film’s absurd climax, she finally appears galumphing triumphantly on horseback onto a nuclear test site, blonde tresses aflame, you finally think, yesss, the pay-off we’ve been waiting for."
Josh R

24. Sally Field (Places in the Heart) (18 points)
"A performance, and a movie, that was as soggy as yesterday’s oats, and as predictable in its taste."
Dennis Cozzalio

24. Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) (18 points)
"The Harold Russell Memorial Award"
Exiled in New Jersey

26. Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) (17 points)
"Judy was at best the fourth best choice amongst the nominees. I can understand if Anne Baxter and Bette Davis split the All About Eve vote, but Gloria Swanson losing for Sunset Boulevard? Unbelievable."
Karina Longworth

27. Jane Fonda (Coming Home) (15 points)
"It may be the 70s-ness that I don't like."
M.A. Peel

28. Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba) (13 points)
"Booth is so histrionic and annoying, you can hardly blame the damn dog for running away."

29. Kathy Bates (Misery) (12 points)
"I think Kathy Bates IS a great actress, but not in Misery. I felt no real complexity to the character. She bored me, but, in fairness, Stephen King deserves the brunt of the responsibility for that."

29. Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) (12 points)
"Should have won for The Apartment or Sweet Charity. Not this crud."
Tim Footman

31. Faye Dunaway (Network) (11 points)
"I can't stand this movie, and though Dunaway's performance is not the worst thing about it, she certainly doesn't help any either."
Brian Darr

31. Jodie Foster (The Accused) (11 points)
"She's been great in other things but this is just acting with a capital A... hell, it's just all caps. Maybe it's just that the character is vulgar but the performance strikes me as crude showboating. I didn't buy it."
Nathaniel R

31. Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire) (11 points)

34. Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) (10 points)

34. Glenda Jackson (A Touch of Class) (10 points)

34. Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda) (10 points)
"The pinnacle of Wyman's acting career remains the television soap opera 'Falcon Crest' where, as ballsy wine matriarch Angela Channing, she slyfully and successfully channeled the persona of first hubby Ronald Reagan's better-known better half, Nancy (Davis) Reagan. Janie got a major sympathy vote (after the birth and death of her baby daughter in 1947 and her subsequent crumbling marriage to the man who would soon be known around Rancho Yesteryear from 1981-89 as "The Great Prevaricator") for a performance that's the equivalence of being trapped in a city park with a doggedly determined mime."
Ivan G. Shreve Jr.

37. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) (9 points)

37. Liza Minnelli (Cabaret) (9 points)
"Love the singing, want to brain her with a frying pan the rest of the time and, btw, I LOVE the movie. Go figure."
Joshua Flower

37. Luise Rainer (The Good Earth) (9 points)
"Luise Rainer is pretty embarrassing as a Chinese peasant. After winning the Oscar the year before for The Great Ziegfeld her career succumbed to the double Oscar curse."
Al Weisel

37. Elizabeth Taylor (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) (9 points)
"'Butterball 28' takes an ax to one of the 20th century's best women's roles."
John Burlinson

41. Holly Hunter (The Piano) (8 points)
"I've never gotten this movie, and think most of it is overwrought pretentiousness, save for Anna Paquin."
David Gaffen

41. Norma Shearer (The Divorcee) (8 points)
"Let's just say this performance has not aged well."
Charles Barrett

43. Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) (7 points)
"She's just so "great lady" special that I start retching just thinking about it."
Richard Christenson

44. Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) (7 points)

45. Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) (6 points)

46. Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful) (5 points)
"A hand gesture thought out for every damn line — exhausting and unbearable performance I hope I never have to sit through again."
B. Lee

46. Emma Thompson (Howards End) (5 points)

48. Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia) (4 points)

48. Julie Christie (Darling) (4 points)

48. Bette Davis (Jezebel) (4 points)

48. Marie Dressler (Min and Bill) (4 points)

48. Jane Fonda (Klute) (4 points)

48. Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) (4 points)
"Many supporting actress Oscars have been given just for being adorable and winsome, but how many lead trophies have been presented merely for being tremendously loveable? Oh and don't take this as a sign I don't like the performance or the movie, but is it really Oscar-worthy? (In retrospect, perhaps the greatness of this performance is in how bad I feel about listing it here?"
Daniel Fienberg

48. Frances McDormand (Fargo) (4 points)

55. Bette Davis (Dangerous) (3 points)
"She wasn't even nominated for Of Human Bondage, so this is one of those consolation Oscars they give out to this day, and shouldn't. You would never know Davis was a peerless screen artist by viewing this shrill, silly, damn near unwatchable performance in an extremely tiresome movie."

55. Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet) (3 points)

55. Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) (3 points)
"I might have put her Mary Tyrone on my 'best' list if she had won that year — but Lion is a TERRIBLY acted film and she (along with everyone else in the film) was at her hammy worst."
B. Lee

55. Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory) (3 points)

55. Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry) (3 points)
"Chloe Sevigny carried this movie; Swank won on 'uglification.'"

60. Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) (2 points)

60. Patricia Neal (Hud) (2 points)

60. Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve) (2 points)

63. Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night) (1 point)

63. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) (1 point)

63. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind) (1 point)

63. Sophia Loren (Two Women) (1 point)

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