Sunday, January 21, 2007


Top 10 Worst Best Actress winners

Helen Mirren hasn't even received her expected Oscar for The Queen yet, and Brian Darr already was prepared to list her win as one of the worst. "The fact that she doesn't have an Oscar on her mantle already (is) merely a technicality. But why? A perfect example of coasting on star/celebrity persona and getting accolades for it. Give her the Jean Hersholt Award if you like her as a person so much," Darr wrote. Al Weisel wished he could pick Judy Holliday for both the best and worst lists: (Born Yesterday) is Judy Holliday's best performance and she might have deserved the award if she hadn't won it instead of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. and Bette Davis in All About Eve. Without further ado, the 10 performances that got the most negative votes — and No. 1 was a runaway choice.

10. Mary Pickford (Coquette) (38 points)

When Josh R submitted his list, he apologized for skewing more recently, figuring that not enough people would have seen performances such as Pickford's to vote for her. Well, apparently enough people did because America's one-time sweetheart managed to land in the top 10. "People these days make fun of Mary Pickford for playing kids," B. Lee wrote, "but she was actually wonderful at it. She was sadly miscast as a sexy showgirl however." Charles Barrett apparently had some guilt about putting Pickford on his list. "And I love Mary Pickford in silent movies," Barrett wrote.

9. Loretta Young (The Farmer's Daughter)(40 points)

I wasn't the only one who held this win in mystifying disdain. "Understand, please, that the Siren loves corny. She lives for corny. Well, actually, she lives for romantic, followed closely by sophisticated, then witty, then spectacular and THEN she lives for corny," Campaspe wrote, "but there is corny, and there is saccharine. And this could induce diabetic coma. If Young's yumpin' yiminy accent doesn't appall you, her Princess Leia cinnamon-bun hairdo will. ... Young was quite bearable in a few movies, but she hasn't the ability to make this purehearted rustic believable or even interesting. The Siren has no idea why Young won." John Burlinson put his disregard for this performance more succintly: "When she was 34 she looked 54, and vice versa — and it didn't matter a damn."

8. Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) (44 points)

While I thought Swank was fine, if not Oscar-worthy, in Million Dollar Baby, I was surprised by the number of lists she kept appearing on. "It's not a bad performance at all but neither is it anything special," Nathaniel R wrote. "She's adding nothing, just playing it as written: The character's martyrdom won people over. That's my theory at least." Reehan Miah was more specific and critical in his motive: "The performance itself was a misfire — calculated at every stage to win audience sympathy, although instead coming across as bland drivel that repelled with its lack of range. That it was by far the weakest nominated performance of its year of contention (2004) is bad enough ... but undoubtedly the most mortifying aspect of Swank's win is this: Million Dollar Baby marked not her first, but her SECOND win in the category. Read: (She) is supposedly on a par with Bette Davis; has more Best Actress wins than Maggie Smith and Meryl Streep; and is in possession of TWO Oscars whilst the likes of Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Liv Ullmann, Catherine Deneuve - and yes, Annette Bening and Kate Winslet — have NIL." Joseph Jones wrote, "Hilary Swank is an actress of exceedingly limited range, who seemingly knows how to play only one type of role (lower-class rebel/victim); personally, I didn't think she deserved her Oscar for Boys Don't Cry." Adam Keller hits on similar points: "The reasons why Swank's second win is in the worst column are twofold: A) Swank beat more deserving never-winning nominees, and B) Swank had ALREADY won one before. So the second win that year was totally unnecessary. I think a lot of people feel this way." Even though Daniel E. Watson put Swank on his worst list, he found a plus to her win: "The upside to Swank's second Oscar win (not to discount her first) was that she was portraying a fictional character, an evident rarity nowadays when it comes to winners of either gender."

7. Katharine Hepburn (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) (50 points)

Katharine Hepburn once famously said that all the right people won Oscars, but for the wrong performances and that certainly seems to be the consensus about survey voters regarding her four best actress wins, each one of which received some votes. However, her second statuette piled up the highest negative total. "The Siren feels churlish naming this, because we all know Spencer Tracy was dying when this movie was made, and it must have affected Hepburn a great deal," Campaspe wrote, "but what does Kate really do here, besides gaze mistily at Spence?" Those gazes were what particularly annoyed Richard Christenson who said his vote was "most especially for those little tears that creep into her eyes when Spencer Tracy is giving his big speech at the end. Hepburn could, by the way, cry on command. Hopelessly phony." Tina almost thought it was worth it before changing her mind and voting against Kate anyway: "Well I guess it was worth it so we could see Tracy's last performance ... no, perhaps it wasn't. My love for Hepburn has no end, but really, she should not have won for walking through this movie." Others just couldn't believe the competition she beat. "She beat Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Anne Bancroft in The Graduate and Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark
Jenni wrote. Charles Barrett added, "Her performance was fine, given the limited amount that was required of her, but look at her competition that year. Criminal." Joshua Flower offers praise for her co-star, but not for Hepburn herself: "Great actress slumming in an liberal guilt movie that has not aged well. Tracy is the only one who comes close to escaping with his dignity intact."

6. Nicole Kidman (The Hours) (52 points)

"A piece of Play-Doh does not a performance make, regardless of the attendant hype that surrounds it," Josh R wrote, "Forget for the moment that Ms. Kidman had less screen time in The Hours than either of her formidable co-stars (one of whom was relegated to the supporting category to better Kidman’s chances) — seeing Kidman in the same film with Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore creates such an unflattering study in contrast that's it kind of like putting a midget in the ring with Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard." Tripp Burton describes Kidman's work as "Painful in every sense of the word." For most of the other anti-Kidman voters such as Richard Christenson, John Farmer and Brian Darr, a nose by any other name still stinks. As Daniel Fienberg summarized, "Plenty of other best actress wins have come for supporting roles, but none have ever come for supporting roles fueled by a bad English accent and a putty nose."

5. Halle Berry (Monster's Ball) (66 points)

Survey participants gave Halle Berry more credit for her acceptance speech than for her actual work in Monster's Ball. "Her Southern accent is rickety, her performance overblown, and she figures in a sex scene that sounds like Rhett Butler screwing Mammy. Halle may be hot, but her performance did NOT make me feel gooooood!" Odienator wrote. Most of the votes against here recognized the significance of her win on racial lines, but didn't feel this was a good enough reason to honor this performance. "A landmark win in a controversial movie, so yes, it's significant no matter what you think of the film. But I think Berry's wildly imprecise in it — always a bit bigger than even the biggest scenes, and prone to equate scowling with hardness and histrionics with openness," Matt Zoller Seitz wrote. Tripp Burton added, "Yes, she broke down the racial barrier, but she did it purely by screaming and jiggling her gorgeous breasts. That's not acting. It's screaming and jiggling your breasts." Tina also hit on the nudity: "A mess of a movie, with a messier central performance, all twitches and tears with nothing inside them. If doing nudity gets you an Oscar, Julianne Moore should have a few by now, as Moore can actually act." Others placed some of the blame on the script. "She's lovely, but she is not a great actress, and I felt she was beyond her depths in this performance in particular. Though, the script certainly didn't help her," Nomi wrote. Still, she did provide a great Oscar show moment as Dennis Cozzalio wrote, "Her Oscar moment onstage was sweet and everything, even if I felt I had to eventually look away (She was nowhere near Sally Field territory, certainly). But on screen I’ve never seen an actress so far out of her league. Almost everything she did rang false, especially that big character scene with the Snickers bar. Watching Monster’s Ball, I felt a level of embarrassment for an actor, regardless of gender, the likes of which I’ve never experienced."

4. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) (69 points)

I'll be honest — I've never understood the level of venom hurled at Roberts' win. I think she's quite good in Erin Brockovich. Sure, Ellen Burstyn was better in Requiem for a Dream, but I still feel it's better to have had Julia win for this than to wait 20 or 30 years down the road when they would feel compelled to give her the prize for something embarrassing. Matt Zoller Seitz isn't buying my argument: "Yes, I know: the Academy is normally too pretentious and self-loathing to honor popular actors whose personas make us feel good (and make the studios lots of money), so we're supposed to put this one in the same 'at long last' subcategory as John Wayne's Oscar for True Grit. Sorry, but I just can't. Except for a few marvelous small moments that play to director Steven Soderbergh's documentary instincts — Erin eating pineapple out of a can late at night, hearing her baby stir, then waiting to see if the kid goes back to sleep before rushing to help — it's the same Julia-versus-the-small-minded-world routine that we've seen over and over again." Ivan G. Shreve Jr. admits his feelings toward Roberts: "Close friends know that the revulsion I have for Miss Roberts is matched only by the nausea induced by watching any performance by Meg Ryan. I didn't rate Julia numero uno because I didn't want people to accuse me of picking on her — well, too much, anyway — but seriously? Why does this woman continue to sell movie tickets? Her shallowness and charmless appeal is completely lost on me ..." Joshua Flower is harsher: "Queen Julia, canonized at last. The worst in a long line of Academy handjobs to beloved, talentless stars." Jenni puts dissatisfaction with Julia's win most succintly of all: "I just plain don't like her."

3. Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8) (77 points)

"The slut of all time" couldn't corral enough votes against her to land at the very top of this list and I can only hope it's because fewer voters have seen this travesty. Campaspe gives some historical background in discussing her vote: "'Even I voted for her,' remarked wronged wife Debbie Reynolds, when a dire illness landed Liz in the hospital and gave her this sympathy Oscar. To her immense credit, Taylor has always said she knew she didn't deserve the award. Unfortunately, she was right. Granted, Gloria Wandrous is a ludicrous projection of misogyny, possibly unplayable as written. Plus there's the problem of Taylor's leading man, of whom Jane Fonda said, 'Acting with Laurence Harvey is like acting by yourself. Only worse.' Still, it is evident that Taylor made this movie while on an actress setting we could call Slut Auto-Pilot." Still, as bad as most thought Taylor's work here was, just as many blamed the movie itself such as B. Lee who wrote, "Terrible film and her lacquered mannequin quality did not help." Richard Christenson concurs: "I admire her courage, her generosity and her grace, but this is a famously bad performance. To be fair, the script she had to work with was awful." Tripp Burton was at least grateful that Liz's second Oscar wasn't also a travesty: "It's all been said before. Still undeserving. Luckily she won a much deserved second Oscar six years later." Odienator though sums it up best in his inimitable style: "For a good time, call Butterfield 8. For a bad performance, watch Butterfield 8. She puts the HO in horrible."

2. Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) (96 points)

Gwyneth Paltrow has become a sort of Moriarty to Josh R's Sherlock Holmes, so I'd be remiss if I didn't let his lengthy diatribe against her win stand as the sole quote against her award. "Lest it be said that I lack the ability to recognize merit where it exists, I grudgingly concede that Gwyneth Paltrow has several things going for her. She is undoubtedly pretty, has a svelte size 0 figure, and possesses a good ear for an English accent. Above all, she has the friendship and patronage of Harvey Weinstein, who delivered his protege her only Oscar to date — bought and paid for, if slightly blood-stained in the process, the hard-earned fruit of several months of intense PR maneuvering and bare-knuckled studio strong-arming (breaking bread or breaking legs, it’s all the same to Harvey). Whether or not there’s any truth to that nasty rumor that she pilfered the script off of former BFF Winona Ryder’s coffee table is irrelevant — the point is that it should have stayed there. If Paltrow is unconvincing in the scenes when her character is called upon to masquerade as a man, nor is she particularly credible as a woman. Making quivery-lipped puppy-dog faces to indicate emotion while droning through her nose like Lisa Kudrow’s annoying little sister, it’s a debacle of a performance, enough to capsize what ought by rights to have been a very good film. Paltrow has made a point in recent years of saying that acting is no longer important to her, and that, in her own words, she’s already done everything (she) ever set out to do. I suspect this is less a true reflection of her current priorities than the product of the fact that Shakespeare in Love is, to date, the only film of hers that has realized a profit — audiences know a fake when they see one, and for the time being, no amount of Weinstein marketing muscle can put over this counterfeit princess."

1. Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) (154 points)

"Maybe the most boring Best Actress performance of all time, it redefines competence as excellence. I get sleepy just thinking about it."
Matt Zoller Seitz

"As Camille Paglia says: 'Give Kate Winslet back her Oscar.'

"Has one good scene — an impassioned monologue. But that shouldn't be enough to win the Oscar for an entirely unspecial performance. What was with Oscar and this movie — all the way across the board."
Nathaniel R

"I had forgotten she'd won until I read the survey list, in fact I can't remember much of the movie besides Hunt's scowl and Nicholson's smugness. Holly Hunter was to have played this role, in fact it was written for her, and I'm sad for the better film that would have been."

"It's an uninteresting part played by an uninteresting actress, and it's already been completely forgotten, as it should be. She won in a weak year where Judi Dench should have beaten her (and Helena Bonham Carter, too, for that matter, and I'll even take Kate Winslet in one of her weakest nominated performances)."
David Gaffen

"Smug, bored, and sitcom phony, Hunt's performance here, and in just about everything else she's been in, is just a fucking atrocity."
Joshua Flower

"I can’t really say that Helen Hunt is worse than Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld, Loretta Young in The Farmer’s Daughter or Mary Pickford in Coquette — but who the hell has seen any of those? Better to take a shot at Hunt, who while not without talent, has a singularly annoying performance style that makes her unsympathetic in the extreme when playing characters who have something of an edge. Too often in Hunt’s hands, that edge morphs into the blade of a buzz saw, drowning out the subtle sounds of everything else around it. As Good As It Gets never provides an answer to the question it poses — why does Jack Nicholson care about this bitter harpy, and why should I?"
Josh R

"It's almost impossible to figure out what point the Academy was making with this award. Was it that TV actors are people too? Or was it just that Hunt was the only American against four far superior Brits (Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Christie, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet)? Hunt's punishment came the next year when she presented Roberto Benigni with the least deserved best actor trophy in Oscar History."
Daniel Fienberg

"As Good as It Gets? I beg to differ."
Charles Barrett

"I used to like Helen Hunt, but it was this performance that made me start thinking of her a smug, closed-off actress, rotating in her own little universe. The joys of Dr. T and the Women did nothing to dispel that perception."
Dennis Cozzalio

"Awful performance in an awful movie I wish I could erase from memory completely."
Brian Darr

"For as much of her performance I've seen, since I can barely watch that film."
M.A. Peel

"Shrieking and annoying, I have seen better performances in kindergarten plays."
Tripp Burton

"At least three were better."
Exiled in New Jersey

"An annoying performance in an annoying film."
Tim Connelly

Labels: ,

Really nice work! A very interesting, informative and opinion-packed read!
I can't believe the Lange hatred! It was hysterical to read, yet painful. I think she was one of the most interesting choices in this category.
I hope you go on to do polls in every category!
i had a great deal of fun reading this and I'm glad to see Hunt crucified here for such a dull choice by the Academy. I try not to even think of the total genius of Helena Bonham Carters' performance in Wings of the Dove because it's just too painful to remember that she was defeated.
...but Professor Moriarty had a brain....
The more I think about this, the more I am kind of surprised by Hunt. Not because I think it's a great performance, but just that I don't think it is the worst in Oscar history.

I am glad, however, that Luise Rainer didn't make the top 10. To research her as I did last year really is to grow rather fond of her. And at 96 she is still chugging along.
Holly Hunter in that dreadful pile of steamy dung that pulled the wool over nearly everyone's eyes, The Piano. "Ms. Thompson? This the Academy. We've just called to apologize, we're idiots. Sorry, we have to hang up and call Mr. Scorsese."

Ditto for Anna Paquin as Best supporting actress.
women be shoppin', eh
Actually, all of these supposedly 'bad' actresses were wonderful. Kidman, Halle Beery, Julia Roberts, Katharine Hepburn, Hillary Swank, are/were all extremely talented women and deserving of Oscars, if not necessarily for the roles they won for.
Cher. Has everyone forgotten CHER???
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Follow edcopeland on Twitter

 Subscribe in a reader