Sunday, January 21, 2007


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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I can only think that the low "Worst" score for Davis in Dangerous is due to no one seeing it.
Holy Buckets, I'm quoted twice. I would have pondered over my words more if I knew that could happen. I'm neither a writer nor a knowledgeable movie-goer.

I'd like to ask you actual film people -- how much do you think an unsatisfying performance should be blamed on the writer? In my comment about Kathy Bates' performance, I said Steven King must bear some large part of the responsibility. But is that true? Should an actress be able to transcend bad material at least within her own performance? Or, is there only so much you can do with schlock?

I keep going back and forth; so much of acting happens without words, sometimes without even physical movement. Should an actor be able to infuse something greater than what was in the creator's vision? Can an actor make a two dimensional character three, through sheer will and talent?

On another note, like many of the other voters (with a few notable exceptions), I felt unexpectedly bad voting anyone a worst best, especially someone like Kathy Bates, whom I really do think is a very good actor. It's one thing to bash someone in your kitchen, another thing to do it in print.

But I find this whole thing fascinating. Thank you for all the hours and hours of work it must have taken. I look forward to the best best.

this was a great read but i'm HORRIFIED that Grace Kelly did not make the "top" ten list of WORST.

god i hate that performance.
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