This week I complete my list of 10 ladies who gave us brilliant bad girl performances yet were ignored at Oscar time. I always find it sad that a great performance can be missed because they are looking at the film as a whole instead of watching just the life breathed into a character by an actress. Every year I look at some of the nominations and roll my eyes. I hope you look up some of the films listed because I think the performances I am listing are nothing short of stunning and beautiful. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite ladies ignored by Oscar. This is Movie Bad Girl of the Week.
*I have listed what I believe is the proper audience for the films listed. Please review the films before sharing them with your kids to determine whether they should watch the movie or not. Thank you.
Best Actress Ignored by Oscar:
Faye Dunaway in “Mommie Dearest” (1981)
I know when the movie came out it was a critical bomb. The performances were over the top and some of the dialogue is absolutely laughable. Ms. Dunaway created a whole new breed of monster in what seems to be a campy performance as Hollywood Legend Joan Crawford in a very campy film. In a nutshell this movie is about Joan Crawford’s volatile and sometimes violent love/hate relationship with her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Is the story true? I don’t know. What I do know is it has been remembered as an outrageous comical disaster of a movie.
It is no longer 1981. We now live in an age where many people have been deemed with bi-polar disorder. I am one of them. Medication keeps me balanced, however Ms. Crawford did not the luxury of Lithium or Seroquel as a medication, nor was she likely to see a psychiatrist that would deem she had a chemical imbalance in her brain. Couple that with the fact that she was a heavy drinker makes the movie less outrageous and Ms. Crawford’s erratic behavior much more believable. Go back and watch the movie with this in mind. You will find yourself giggling a lot less.
Here is my point about being Faye being ignored for this film whether it be looked at as a camp film. a dark comedy or a hard hitting drama. At no point during the movie do I feel I am watching Faye Dunaway. She embodied Joan Crawford in appearance, speech and manner. For the 2 hours and 9 minutes the film is onscreen I believed I was watching Joan Crawford herself. Isn’t that what a great performance is? Faye has distanced herself from this film. I wish she would take a cue from Anna (Patty Duke) Pearce. She was in a disaster of a film (that I love) titled “Valley of the Dolls” It is outrageous and totally campy and has become a cult classic just as “Mommie Dearest” has. Anna embraces that people love the movie and her performance. I wish Ms. Dunaway would do the same. Her performance is nothing short of electrifying perfection…and yes, it is loved by many. She did garner attention with her performance. She took second place Best Actress at both the National Society of Film Critic’s Awards,USA (1982) and New York Film Critic’s Circle Awards (1981). The film was also recognized by the Razzie Awards (1982) where Faye tied with Bo Derek in ‘Tarzan, the Ape Man” for Worst Actress…they won.The movie is rated “PG” and contains profanity, sexual situations and scenes of violence and child abuse. (13 and up)
Debra Winger in “Urban Cowboy” (1980)
Welcome to a world of country music, mechanical bull riding and one very rocky romance set against the backdrop of the world’s most famous honky tonk “Gilley’s” Debra Winger plays Sissy, a fiercely independent country girl who likes to have fun. One night in the famous bar she meets Bud Davis (John Travolta). She asks if he is a real cowboy, he asks her to dance and before you know it they are a couple. They have their first (of many) arguments and Bud ends up asking Sissy to marry him. This is the beginning of a long and tough road the couple will travel. Bud is very traditional in his view about the roles of men and women. Sissy sees things quite differently and believes that anything a man can do and woman can do as well. This is the cause of many of the arguments that ensue. We go on a journey with the couple and experience their highs and lows watching Bud and Sissy learn more about themselves, life and love. In the end their marriage may be far from perfect but the love is real.
Debra Winger had already been acting for several years and this was the first time a film thrust her into the spotlight. Her performance was so honest and natural that you would believe that she actually was Sissy in real life . She is immediately likable in every way. Debra was a breath of fresh air and a welcome new face in the world of cinema. To prove the point she won 2nd place as Best Supporting (I don’t get this, she was the lead) Actress at both the National Society of Film Critic’s Awards,USA (1981) and the New York Film Critic’s Circle Awards (1980). In 1981 she was also nominated for a BAFTA Award :Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles and 2 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role and New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Female. Then the Oscars were announced…Debra was not. The performance has stood the test of time and will always be award worthy. Have a little retro fun and give this movie another viewing. The film is rated “PG”, it contains profanity, violence and some sexual situations. (ages 10 and up)
Genevieve Bujold in “Coma” (1978)
Susan is a general surgeon at the Boston Memorial Hospital. Her best friend goes into a coma during a routine procedure. She is deeply affected by her friend’s condition. Then another young, seemingly healthy patient goes into a coma during another routine procedure a few hours later. This sends up warning flags in Susan’s mind. She will begin to obsess and dig deeper and deeper causing major problems within the hospital administration and even with her boyfriend and fellow doctor Mark Bellows. He humors her at first believing it is a reaction to her friend’s coma and that she is having an overactive imagination. Susan will continue to investigate and put herself in a precarious and dangerous position. The more she learns, the less she can trust anyone. It will be life or death for Susan and her only hope is that her boyfriend believes her. If not, it will be she who ends up first in a coma, then a body bag.
“Coma” is a medical thriller that Hitchcock would approve of and Genevieve Bujold’s performance as Susan Wheeler is beautiful. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and is not afraid to let others see it. She plays the part so well that at first we sense she is just paranoid, then as she continues to pry we realize something sinister is happening. We will go on this journey with her and will experience her rising fear as she uncovers a conspiracy at Boston Memorial putting her own life in jeopardy and making hospitals scary in a whole new way. This is an honest performance that deserved recognition that it never got. Ms. Bujold was nominated at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror FIlms, USA (1979) for the Saturn Award: Best Actress. Sit back with some popcorn and watch as you are taken on a thrill ride of white knuckle suspense. “Coma” is rated “PG” it contains violence, profanity, nudity and a brief sex scene. (ages 15 and up)
Jamie Lee Curtis in “Freaky Friday” (2003)
Dr. Tess Coleman is a successful psychiatrist and has had her first book published. She is engaged to be married to her beau Ryan in 2 days. Tomorrow night she is having her engagement dinner.
Anna Coleman is Tess’ daughter. She finds her mother to be far too uptight and it leads to constant arguments between her and her mother. Anna has a band. Her band has gotten a last minute audition which will be tomorrow night.
This leads to an argument in Pei-Pei’s Chinese Restaurant. Pei-Pei’s mother sees the fight and offers both of them a fortune cookie. Anna locks herself in the ladies room and Tess tries to reason with her through the door. Both open their cookies and read the fortune. They feel a tremor that no one else notices. They go home and the next morning the fun begins.
The cookie was magic and the ladies have switched bodies. They are horrified at the new situation. For the time being they must live each other’s lives. They will eventually realize that what happened started in Pei-Pei’s. They confront Pei-Pei who lets them know that once the fortune in the cookie comes true they will be switched back. Both are stunned. Tess is being married the next day and the clock is ticking as they try to figure out how to make the fortune come true. What they will learn is what it is to walk a mile in another person’s shoes and come to a deeper loving and better understanding of one another.
Jamie Lee Curtis tears it up in her performance as a teenage girl in her mother’s body. She plays the part with a very youthful enthusiasm and a reckless abandon. Jamie Lee Curtis has proved herself brilliant many times over going all the way back to “Halloween” (1978) Although she was in the television show “Operation Petticoat” it wasn’t until “Trading Places” (1983) that she got to display her comic chops. This movie is the perfect example of just how perfect her comedic timing is and it is a performance that is a delight for both children and adults alike. Jamie Lee was nominated for a Golden Globe (2004) and Satellite Award (2004) Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical. She was also nominated for Best Actress at the Academy of Science Fiction,Fantasy and Horror Films,USA (2004) I call a complete “snubbed” at Oscar time for Jamie Lee Curtis in this movie. She is a whirlwind of comic fun in this movie that you can watch over and over. It is rated “PG” and contains very mild language (suitable for all ages)
Heather Matarazzo in “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995)
Dawn Wiener is the ultimate refugee from the island of misfit toys. She is picked on, laughed at, humiliated, made fun of and that is just at home. Dawn is the uber-nerd and “Welcome to the Dollhouse” is one of the darkest and funniest films I have ever seen.
Dawn is 11 years old and is a plain and shy girl. She has trouble socializing with the kids in school. She is a constant target of bullying. She is referred to as “Wiener Dog” by many of the students. They take advantage that she is an easy target. In the opening of the film a group of girls ask Dawn if she is a lesbian. She says no, however Lolita (the girl she is sitting with at lunch) claims that she made a pass at her. The other girls go off in a chorus of laughs chanting “lesbo.”
Dawn has a tough school life and we follow her through her day to day interactions with her peers. When she gets home every afternoon you would think it was a place of comfort and security. It is just as bad as school is. Dawn is the middle child in an average middle class family. Dawn has an older brother, Mark, who is caught up in the world of high school. He is aiming to get into a good college and has a band. He is the nicest to Dawn out of the family (and this is not saying much). Dawn also has a younger sister Missy. She is spoiled and manipulative of her family. She is precocious, perky and dances around in a tutu most of the time. It is also very easy to dislike her. Dawn’s mom rules the family and favors Missy over her other kids making her a little princess and it is Dawn that gets blasted for it every time. Dawn’s father is self-centered and always agrees with his wife. We follow Dawn on her journey just wanting to find love and acceptance, which she finds very briefly with a bully named Brandon. Love and acceptance is not in the cards for Dawn and we witness it in this mean spirited comedy.
Heather Matarazzo’s portrayal of Dawn is so honest that you feel for this girl from the very first frames of this movie. You sympathize with her immediately and at some point in life many of us have felt like her. You want to see her life get better although the picture painted by the film is chillingly clear. What impresses me is that Heather is a very young girl that has to carry the entire movie on her shoulders because she is in every single scene and she does it like a pro. She had appeared in a couple of television shows prior to the movie but you would swear she had been in movies for years. Her performance is just that good. Heather did get recognition for her work in this film. She was nominated for the Young Artist Award (1997) Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress also the Satellite Awards (1997) Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and the Choltrudis Awards (1997) Best Actress. At the Independent Spirit Awards (1997) Heather took home the award for Best Debut Performance. She has gone on to have a wonderful career appearing on television’s “Rosanne” and “The L Word” and has appeared in more than 20 films to date including “The Princess Diaries”, “All I Wanna Do” and my favorite of her characters in “Hostel 2.” The movie is rated “R” and contains very harsh profanity, sexual dialogue, threat of rape, violence/bullying and kid’s smoking/drinking. (Stick with the rating guideline for this one: 17 and up)
Those are some of the ladies I would have graced with the chance at the biggest award of the season. I am sure you have your own picks and I would love to hear about them.Until next week Embrace Your Inner Bad Girl because being bad feels so damn good.