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Worst Best Actress, & Best

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Worst Best Actress, & Best

This isn’t Oscar time. It’s Ed time. Edward Copeland, that is.

Last year, the film blogger, House contributor and compulsive list-checker and poll-taker asked readers to submit their choices for the Worst Best Picture winner of all time; then, for karmic balance, he followed up with a poll of the Best Best Picture winners.

This time, Ed’s running a dual poll of the Best Best Actress winners, and the Worst. He’s asking for just five candidates in each category—and to save you the trouble of Googling, he’s helpfully supplied chronological winners lists right there in each post.

Ed’s instructions: “Rank both your best best actress and your worst best actress choices from 1-5, with 1 being the best, 5 the worst. Each No. 1 vote will get 5 points, No. 2 votes will get 4 points, etc. I will unveil the results on the eve of Oscar nominations, which this year will be Tuesday, Jan. 23, so the deadline for ballots will be midnight Friday, Jan. 19., central time. Send your ballots to copesurvey@yahoo.com Since I’ve heard some confusion, I want to clarify the ranking. Both the best and the worst lists’ rankings work the same: Give your best best No. 1, give your worst worst No. 1. Keep going down with the slightly less good and slightly less bad for your top 5 in each category.”

Here’s my ballot, which I’ve already sent to Ed.

BEST BEST ACTRESS

1. Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980). For degree of difficulty, Spacek’s performance as Appalachian child bride turned country music superstar Loretta Lynn already deserves superlatives. Though she was 29 during shooting, she’s equally credible as the skinny-legged girl who weds brusque good ole’ boy and future manager Doolittle ’Mooney’ Lynn (Tommy Lee Jones) and as the late-30s/early ‘40s burnout who occupies the film’s final leg. She also did her own singing, and it’s more than a note-perfect impression; it’s a reinterpretation, infused with Spacek’s own unaffected enthusiasm. Over and above that, Spacek’s performance has that ineffable something that you want from a lead movie actress—that mix of availability and mystery that invites identification. She lets you see Lynn’s desperation and heartbreak without special pleading. She’s vulnerable as can be, yet never soppy. You sense what Lynn is feeling, but not always what she’s thinking; Spacek gives you the dots and lets you join them up, leaving space onscreen for your own experiences. There are no false notes.

2. Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind (1939). 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. The performance is just right for this still-seductive, forever problematic antebellum fantasy.

3. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday (1950). 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.

4. Jessica Lange, Blue Sky (1994). 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. Her depiction of the onset of mental illness is bold but precise, erring on the side of matter-of-factness. She doesn’t make Carly a martyr to disease; like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, she makes sure you see the fixed, often flirty or combative personality beneath the disintegrating facade—in this case, an aging bombshell who clings to her still-potent sexuality in order to compensate for (or forget about) her incremental loss of self-awareness and self-control. (Side note: as Carly’s husband, Tommy Lee Jones is Lange’s technical and emotional equal. Jones should work opposite strong women with equal screen time more often. He’s less mannered and predictable with women than with men, and more life-sized; he brings out the best in them, and vice-versa.)

5. Frances McDormand, Fargo (1996). As pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson, McDormand is a turtle with a badge and a Holden Caulfield hat, waddling around snowy vistas, calmly demanding that everyone she encounters—from scumbag criminals to lovelorn ex-classmates—be as honest, dignified and professional as she is. (“I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.”) Yet 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. The character’s decency seems to have been self-constructed 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 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.

WORST BEST ACTRESS

1. Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich (2000). 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. Yet again, Roberts’ character is spunkier, sexier, wittier, more stubborn and more resourceful than everyone else—more like a movie star, in other words—and while she overreaches or makes tactical mistakes, she’s never really wrong. She’s an insufferable character, really, and Roberts is insufferable playing her. If you look past Roberts’ veneer of faux-working class grit, and Soderbergh’s easygoing verite flourishes, you see the same princessy entitlement that’s also deployed, more honestly, in My Best Friend’s Wedding, where at least the sight of the heroine condescending to working stiffs was viewed with raised-eyebrow disapproval. Here, Roberts’ character insults co-workers who don’t say “how high” when she asks them to jump, and we’re supposed to cheer because she’s Julia. Yes, the scene in the car where Erin hears her son say his first word is a two-hanky deluxe, but picture almost any other actress in Roberts’ age group playing it; then name just one that wouldn’t have been as affecting as Roberts, and less obvious.

2. Helen Hunt, As Good as it Gets (1997). Maybe the most boring Best Actress performance of all time, it redefines competence as excellence. I get sleepy just thinking about it.

3. Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball (2001). 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.

4. Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8 (1960). As dress model and man-eater Gloria Wandrous, Taylor gets to sashay, preen, sneer, vamp, trash-talk and otherwise creatively work out her resentment over having been stunt-cast in this very broad soap—the studio’s attempt to capitalize on Taylor’s having run off with Debbie Reynolds’ husband, Eddie Fisher, in the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston triangle of its day. Taylor came to play, no doubt; she commits and then some. But like every other performance in this shallow, obnoxious movie, it plays like a Carol Burnett Show parody. Six years later, Taylor won again for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which was just as big a performance, but more exquisitely detailed and humane, and occuring within a better written, better directed, far more memorable film.

5. Kathy Bates, Misery (1990). The movie’s cartoon demonization of “Number One fan” Annie Wilkes is a hateful compression of Stephen King’s already troublesome source novel, shorn of King’s few empathetic touches—and Bates, a character actor given a rare lead role, worked triple-overtime to sell it. Doughy 50-year old James Caan stifling a wince at the mere existence of a peppy fat chick is an inadvertent definition of the phrase “male privilege.” Bates amplifies director Rob Reiner’s straight-up misogyny by turning Annie’s moments of vulnerability into gargoylish jokes on Annie, denying this one-note character even the possibility of audience identification (which is what separates a mere bad guy from a great villain). Nobody can see themselves in Annie—not for one second—and that makes Misery, for all its violence, a very safe film. Norman Bates in Psycho, Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, hell, even Hannibal Lecter were granted more humanity. Yes, Bates was just giving her boss what he wanted—but since when is that a defense against complaints that you’ve abetted something despicable?

Okay, now it’s your turn. Post your picks in the comments section; names and movie titles will do, though of course remarks are welcome. But please do remember, this is for Ed, so be sure to email your picks directly to him at copesurvey@yahoo.com, otherwise they won’t be counted.

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Awards

Oscars 2019: Complete Winners List

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS. Which isn’t to say that the ceremony wasn’t without its surprises. For one, whoever decided to capture Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born in one single take that would end with the pair sitting side by side, rapt in each other and framed in Bergman-esque repose, should hereby be responsible for every Oscar ceremony moving forward.

For some, though not us, Green Book’s victory for best picture came as surprise. As our own Eric Henderson put it in his prediction: “Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.”

In the end, the awards went down more or less as expected, with the only real shock of the evening being Oliva Colman’s stunning upset over Glenn Close in the best actress race. (Glenn, we hope you are on the phone right now trying to get that Sunset Boulevard remake to finally happen.) Black Panther proved more indomitable than expected, winning in three categories (none of which we predicted), and Free Solo pulling a victory over RBG that was the first big sign of the evening that, then and now, AMPAS members vote above all else with their guts.

See below for the full list of winners from the 2019 Oscars.

Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book (WINNER)
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (WINNER)
Adam McKay, Vice

Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book (WINNER)
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (WINNER)
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee (WINNER)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Original Screenplay
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly (WINNER)
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Foreign Language Film
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico) (WINNER)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Documentary Feature
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (WINNER)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Animated Feature
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (WINNER)

Cinematography
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón (WINNER)
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman (WINNER)
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin

Production Design
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler (WINNER)
First Man, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre and Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

Original Song
All The Stars from Black Panther by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from RBG by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter (WINNER)
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War, Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Daniel Sudick
Christopher Robin, Chris Lawrence, Mike Eames, Theo Jones, and Chris Corbould
First Man, Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm (WINNER)
Ready Player One, Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Dominic Tuohy

Sound Mixing
Black Panther, Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, and Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali (WINNER)
First Man, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, and Mary H. Ellis
Roma, Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, and José Antonio García
A Star Is Born, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, and Steve Morrow

Sound Editing
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst (WINNER)
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay

Makeup and Hairstyling
Border, Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, and Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney (WINNER)

Live Action Short Film
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv (WINNER)

Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi (WINNER)

Animated Short
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi (WINNER)
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez

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Awards

Oscars 2019: Who Will Win? Who Should Win? Our Final Predictions

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them.

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Roma
Photo: Netflix

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits. Across the last 24 days, Ed Gonzalez and I have mulled over the academy’s existential crisis and how it’s polluted this year’s Oscar race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again. We’re spent, and while we don’t know if we have it in us to do this next year, we just might give it another go if Oscar proves us wrong on Sunday in more than just one category.

Below are our final Oscar predictions. Want more? Click on the individual articles for our justifications and more, including who we think should win in all 24 categories.

Picture: Green Book
Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Screenplay: Green Book
Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Foreign Language: Roma
Documentary Feature: RBG
Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence
Animated Short: Weekends
Live Action Short: Skin
Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design: The Favourite
Cinematography: Cold War
Costume Design: The Favourite
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Song: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual Effects: First Man

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Picture

The industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

“I’m hyperventilating a little. If I fall over pick me up because I’ve got something to say,” deadpanned Frances McDormand upon winning her best actress Oscar last year. From her lips to Hollywood’s ears. No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits.

But first, as McDormand herself called for during her speech, “a moment of perspective.” A crop of articles have popped up over the last two weeks looking back at the brutal showdown between Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare In Love at the 1999 Academy Awards, when Harvey Weinstein was at the height of his nefarious powers. Every retrospective piece accepts as common wisdom that it was probably the most obnoxious awards season in history, one that indeed set the stage for every grinding assault we’ve paid witness to ever since. But did anyone two decades ago have to endure dozens of weekly Oscar podcasters and hundreds of underpaid web writers musing, “What do the Academy Awards want to be moving forward, exactly? Who should voters represent in this fractured media environment, exactly?” How much whiskey we can safely use to wash down our Lexapro, exactly?

Amid the fox-in-a-henhouse milieu of ceaseless moral outrage serving as this awards season’s backdrop, and amid the self-obsessed entertainers now wrestling with the idea that they now have to be “content providers,” all anyone seems concerned about is what an Oscar means in the future, and whether next year’s versions of Black Panther and Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody have a seat at the table. What everyone’s forgetting is what the Oscars have always been. In other words, the industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again, and Oscar’s clearly splintered voting blocs may become ground zero for a Make the Academy Great Again watershed.

In 1956, the Oscars took a turn toward small, quotidian, neo-realish movies, awarding Marty the top prize. The correction was swift and sure the following year, with a full slate of elephantine epics underlining the movie industry’s intimidation at the new threat of television. Moonlight’s shocking triumph two years ago was similarly answered by the safe, whimsical The Shape of Water, a choice that reaffirmed the academy’s commitment to politically innocuous liberalism in artistically conservative digs. Call us cynical, but we know which of the last couple go-arounds feels like the real academy. Which is why so many are banking on the formally dazzling humanism of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and so few on the vital, merciless fury of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.

And even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the academy’s new members, there’s that righteous, reactionary fervor in the air against those attempting to “cancel” Green Book. Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.

Will Win: Green Book

Could Win: Roma or BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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