1998 Supporting Actress Smackdown

Generally speaking, it’d be hard to bounce off of the 1946 Supporting Actress lineup and not land with a better vintage. 1998’s group benefited from choosing five movies with a pretty significant range in tone and genre. Good or bad, the variety alone automatically makes it harder for a uniform experience. The fact that Primary Colors and Shakespeare in Love are pretty outstanding, and that they’re outstanding comedies, no fucking less, is more than enough to make this lineup look pretty snazzy in comparison. Gods and Monsters, Hilary and Jackie, and Little Voice all have points of real interest, even if they sandbag themselves more than you’d expect. Little Voice is maybe the hardest to make a case for, but if that’s the runt of the litter, it’s a pretty alright bunch. Go check out how the votes tallied out for the 1998 Smackdown! And feel free to peruse my write-ups for:

Toni Collette in Velvet Goldmine
Kimberly Elise, Thandiwe Newton, LisaGay Hamilton, and Beah Richards in Beloved
Patricia Clarkson in High Art

Primary Colors

Larry Hagman in Primary Colors

I remember stumbling upon this on TV years and years ago, arriving at what turned out to be Kathy Bates’s last big speech to Emma Thompson and John Travolta. I had no idea who the characters were – I can’t honestly say how familiar I was with the actors – but I was completely gripped by Bates’ performance, describing a whole mess of a film I had no context for and ending with such a sad finish. I kept an eye out for Primary Colors, though I can’t remember how long it took me to find it and watch it all the way through. I’d seen it before this month’s trip back to 1998, and I liked it even more this time.

Part of my appreciation for Primary Colors comes from a (possibly misguided) belief that, would it be made today, it would be far more cynical. The lingering specters of House of Cards and Scandal, the increasing levels of pessimism that inform everything about today’s political process – lot going on that makes me wonder what a contemporary equivalent of Primary Colors would look, act, and sound like, and whether the moral backbone that holds it so powerfully would be bent the same way. Among recent American films, I feel tempted to compare it to Lincoln, which boasts its own unbelievably stacked cast and a god-tier script about how political operators use every machination possible to accomplish their goals, but Lincoln at least has the built-in historical weight of focusing on already-elected officials trying to pass the 13th Amendment. Primary Colors emerges with its own perfectly paced, handsomely lensed, profoundly calibrated study of moral integrity, and it’s about the team effort of presenting a man in such a right way that he is elected to be a Presidential candidate, a man whose quality of character and ambition for the future are routinely and viciously scrutinized without anything really dragging him down.

Primary Colors, based on the 1996 novel of the same name, is a fictionalized treatise of Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the Democratic Party nomination. Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), a political idealist and the grandson of a civil rights leader, is hired to help turn the longshot campaign of Democratic Arkansas governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta) into a real racehorse. Burton is never entirely convinced he’s being courted for his own talents rather than his family name, though after a while he learns to push this worry down. He also gets a shockingly succinct portrait of Jack within twelve hours of meeting him. Burton attends a campaign event at an adult literacy program with Jack’s campaign staff and watches the man cry real tears at the testimony of the people studying in the program. Jack shares a story about his uncle’s shame at being unable to read well into adulthood, and Burton is moved by Jack’s apparent sincerity. Then he stops by the campaign headquarters, meets said uncle, learns the man is able to read just fine, and sees the head of the literacy program (Allison Janney) and Jack readjusting their clothes after an intensive, private, educational meeting. The paradigm of Jack Stanton’s political efficacy and shitty behavior, and the degree to which Burton and others in Stanton’s campaign will navigate their own feelings about supporting his raw potential despite (or because of) his inarguable failings, will be a key element of Primary Colors, one the film lets us consider from multiple angles without moralizing anyone’s choices.

Also part of the team is Richard Simmons (Billy Bob Thornton) and Daisy Green (Maura Tierney), and Howard Ferguson (Paul Guilfoyle). There’s Libby Holden (Kathy Bates), an investigator who’s longtime friends of the Stanton’s, with a history of trips to mental hospitals. And we can’t forget about Jack’s wife Susan (Emma Thompson), whose shrewdness and intellect makes it even more of an open question whether she can’t see her husband’s flaws or if she’s compartmentalized them too heavily to be dragged down by his betrayals. The cast is uniformly excellent, from the key players of the Stanton party to one-off friends, rivals, witnesses, lesser staff members, and saboteurs. Part of me wants to call Kathy Bates the MVP for inhabiting such a colorful, tricky role and making it cohere into a real person. Libby ultimately emerges as the film’s moral standard, and Bates takes this mentally unstable, ruthless, devoted, keen-eyed, gun-totting lesbian and turns her into something special. She knocks her key sequences out of the park, in a role that feels like it should have a little more screen time given how thematically central she. Even so, I’m just as impressed by Lester and Thompson’s achievements with characters who don’t always vocalize their conflicts, and whom Primary Colors raise plenty of questions without offering easy answers. As with Face/Off, Travolta is slightly too enamored with mimicry to give as rich a performance as his co-stars, but he’s plenty capable of entertaining and insightful scenes.

Mike Nichols’ direction is certainly a key factor in maintaining interest across so many intriguing faces and major players, and for holding so many tones in play without controlling how an audience might respond to the various turns in Stanton’s campaign. Of the Nichols films I’ve seen, this is the closest he’s ever come to making an Altman movie, matching that temperance of spirit and quilt of personality without sinking into imitation. The final shot, turning up to an American flag, feels as much of a “symbolic” shrug as the turn towards the Sun in Nashville, forcing the audience to look upwards into the void and ask what this was all for. Equally indispensable is Elaine May’s script, which spins such rich characterizations and holds such a clear standard of morality and human behavior even as its characters make plainly unpleasant, obfuscating, or destructive choices. Characters have to contend with the fact that any information being learned means someone else will find out soon enough, and have to decide how to react before the world at large learns what they already know. Sometimes these actions are self-serving and calculating, but you see the logic behind them – if someone’s gonna go down, why not use it to at least save yourself? It feels inevitably of its political moment even as its concerns of electability, presentation, and underhandedness resonate over twenty years later. It’s fantastic, and I look forward to getting even more from it the next time I watch it.

Gods and Monsters

Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser in Gods and Monsters

I want to like Gods and Monsters more than I do, because so many of its best scenes and most inspired ideas conjure up a very thoughtful, ambitious re-imagining of James Whale’s life and career in the weeks before he died. Compared to recent films like The Imitation Game that utterly fail at dramatizing the lives of their gay subjects, it feels quietly impressive that Gods and Monsters is not just invested in the fact of Whale’s sexuality but his sexual appetites, as well as the queer Hollywood community he was enmeshed with for his entire career. His gayness isn’t just a stated fact but a significant aspect of his life, one that informs his identity and his interactions with the rest of the world. Best of all is how Gods and Monsters depicts the historical filmmaking reality in which Whale thrived and the world Hollywood has become since his retirement. Writer/director Bill Condon has tremendous fun restaging the creation of final scenes of Bride of Frankenstein, as well as a later, tetchy scene where Whale and his leads are trotted out at a party by an annoyingly adoring fan. Yeah, they’re happy to be remembered, but maybe under more respectful terms that remember they’re human beings, rather than characters or objects. There are also two fantastic dream sequences of Whale inserting himself and his new object of affection into scenes from Frankenstein that cut straight to the heart of his inchoate desires and tangled, long-buried pains.

I want to like Gods and Monsters more than I do, even as its shakiest and least illuminating passages suggest a film that’s at odds with how to best tell its own story, both at the level of how it chooses to engage with Whale’s life and at the execution of those ideas.  It’s not exactly a conventional piece of biopic filmmaking, but the terms on which it conveys Whale’s life can feel more cliched or awkward than it wants to be. Early flashbacks to Whale’s childhood feel immediately expendable. The most experimental flourishes aren’t quite outliers to the overall style, but neither are they my predominant sense of what Gods and Monsters is. Condon’s structural and stylistic gambits occasionally feel at odds with themselves, and though Carter Burwell’s magnificent score gives the film’s emotional claims a moving sonic through-line, its inconsistent approaches to image-making, scene-building, and general motifs make it hard to define what kind of movie this wants to be.

Brendan Fraser’s attractive, dim, mostly likeable Clayton Boone is a more compelling protagonist than I’d remembered, but his motivations for hanging with Whale are almost pointedly under-interrogated. There’s a great scene at a bar that establishes his life among a small group of folks he can barely stand, and who return those feelings in kind. Fraser is great here, as is Lolita Davidovitch as a bartender who’s prodding him to find out if he’s worth her continued interest, but it’s virtually the final scene where his interiority is explored outside his connection to Whale. Does he imagine himself to be an outsider like Whale, even as their circumstances are so completely different? More than that, what does Whale think of him? Is he just a hot guy Whale wants to stare at? A last provocation against his other allies before he dies? A real friend, and one who has more in common with Whale than he wants to admit even as Boone repeatedly, sometimes violently assert his heterosexuality?

Ultimately, I think Gods and Monsters is a good film that would benefit immensely from a little more ambiguity or intrigue in its storytelling. This lack becomes more apparent when held up against some of 1998’s other queer offerings. In particular, High Art’s depiction of a reclusive, talented artist being cajoled out of hiding by a younger beau, kickstarting both her sense of self and her self-destructive ambitions, underlines what feels oddly absent in Gods and Monsters. We learn a lot about Whale and Boone, and McKellen and Fraser certainly act these different dimensions of their lives quite well, but their relationship does not fundamentally change enough over the course of the film for them to have an arc together, or for the audience to speculate about their lives beyond what Condon tells us. Boone’s sexuality and Whale’s attraction to him are never really complicated, and it unduly limits how much McKellen and Fraser can play. 

Similarly, The Opposite of Sex gives us a fantastic duet between a widowed gay man and his fag hag best friend, showing us all the complexities of their frienship without belying their individual aches of loneliness and genuine companionship. By contrast, Whale’s relationship to his longtime Scandanavian maid Hanna (Lynn Redgrave) offers less to parse. Redgrave’s final scene is a sad, unexpectedly tender send-off for a performance that has otherwise been defined by a dogged, sour-faced concern for her employer. There’s at least a consistency to Redgrave’s suspicion of Boone, her worry for Jimmy and dislike of his movies, her certainly that his homosexuality means he’s already doomed to hell, but she’s not doing anything to transform her lines as written or make us think anything about Hanna that isn’t on the page. I pined for the conspiratorial camaraderie and lightness Elsa Lanchester might have injected into the role, someone who reads Hanna’s constant deference to Whale as “The Master” as the inside joke it probably is, and would make her continued service to him despite how vocal she is about his failings a question actually worth probing. There’s a lot in Gods and Monsters that’s affecting and insightful, or at least shows the potential for it, but I wanted a lot more from Hanna than Redgrave or Condon were interested in giving me.

Little Voice

Jane Horrocks in Little Voice

The only of these nominees I watched for the first time this month. I’m a bit surprised I hadn’t seen it before – the Nocturnal Animals trajectory from doing gangbusters at the Globes and BAFTA only to get a single acting nomination has a weirdly enticing aura, though the reviews I’d read suggested the bigger question was how it got all those precursor notices to begin with. Those reviews proved to be correct. Little Voice has just enough going for it, or at least enough potential to it, that you can imagine this material working better with a little more input and shaping from the direction. It’s such a self-conscious piffle that I don’t know if a great version of Little Voice is truly possible, but asking for a little more finesse with performance and archetype doesn’t feel like too much to ask for a project solely conceived to show off its star actress.

Our ostensible center here is Jane Horrocks, in the titular role of the discomfitingly shy Little Voice. Often referred to as LV, she’s become a nearly mute, inexpressive shut-in since her father died, and spends all her time playing his records. When LV’s feeling especially sad, or especially connected to his spirit, she belts out Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey and a host of other world-renowned singers in expert imitation of their voices. The whole point of the original stage show, and now the film, was to show off Horrocks’ uncanny vocal skills, and this is readily apparent from how thin every other aspect of the film is. The very first card of the end credits is “Jane Horrocks – Performed All Her Own Songs”, and this might as well be the film’s whole thesis statement. 

There are aspects of Little Voice I want to give it credit for. Ewan McGregor’s reservoir of shy goodness as an electrician with a crush on LV is so cleanly affecting that it’s a bit disappointing he’s not in more of the film. The film recognizes the horrible way LV’s mother Mari Hoff (Brenda Blethyn, doing a drag queen routine of her vituperative daughter in Secrets & Lies) treats her is genuinely abusive, even if it’s rarely willing to do anything meaningful with their relationship. Blethyn is able to add enough notes of cruelty and sympathy to her performance to keep it interesting, as is Michael Caine (bizarrely earning a Comedy Globe for this) as scuzzy club organizer Ray Say, that one might wonder how their work would look with a director who can tease more nuances from them. But just as often their playing is gleefully, meretriciously crude, and entirely deserving of this unimaginative film. It wants to be pleasurable, and when we do finally see Horrocks perform the medley virtually everyone close to her has shoved her into doing, it achieves that. It’s just a shame that there’s almost no real scaffolding for her or anyone else to make a case for themselves. 

And, to save the very queasiest note for last: LV can apparently only sing when she senses the presence of her father’s spirit, which means a lot of scenes of this young woman belting out romantically and/or sexually heated love songs directly at his weirdly blue-tinted ghost. It’s a jarringly uncomfortable spectacle, and Little Voice is never aware of the barely-submerged Oedipus Complex it seems to be portraying. 

Hilary and Jackie

Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths in Hilary and Jackie

Unlike Gods and Monsters, there’s not a ton to recommend Hilary and Jackie on a formal level. It’s a solidly-made movie, and can at least boast an unexpectedly thoughtful wardrobe from Sandy Powell. Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths create deftly layered portraits of Jacqueline and Hilary du Pré, and the supporting work from Celia Imre, Charles Dance (playing the girls’ parents), and James Frain (a less cubist Tom Burke, playing Hilary’s husband Daniel) is just as strong with far less screen time. And there is at least one notable experiment in the craft department. The color balance in the cinematography is overly saturated, in a way that flounders between jewel-toned and jaundiced. It’s surpassing a purely naturalistic vision, even as the acting and set design don’t really aim for similarly stylized embellishments. Occasionally this decision leads to some very striking, expressionist images from within a realist template, like the blood-red wall behind Jackie during a concert where Watson has to act the mid-performance realization that her body will not be able to exit the chair she’s sitting in under its own volition. But just as often this makes scenes like a formative visit Hilary and Jackie make to a beach in their youth look overly amped for postcard, perfume-advertisement fuzziness. It’s at least going out on a noteworthy limb, but it’s not successful enough to make me wonder why a more conventional approach wasn’t taken.

I would make similar claims about Hilary and Jackie’s three-chapter structure, starting with a prologue focused on the girls’ childhood before becoming a bivalve narrative about their adult lives, starting with Hilary’s POV and then changing over to Jackie’s. It’s an unusual device, allowing both sisters to hold court for nearly an hour apiece. In Jackie’s case, the film functions as a birth-to-death biopic. Griffiths and Watson carry their sections remarkably well, detailing who each of these sisters are on their own and the different ways they spark against each other in their adult lives. Hilary arguably benefits more from this than her sister, considering how discretely organized her chapter is, while Jackie’s chapter devotes an equal amount of time to what feels like a comparatively longer expanse of her life, or at least a more tumultuous life than Hilary experienced.

Strangely, the most apparent evidence of Hilary & Jackie unduly compressing itself is that we rarely revisit events in the du Pré sisters’ lives that were first shown in Hilary’s section from Jackie’s point of view. Most notably, Jackie’s extended stay with Hilary and her husband – a pivotal event that nearly annihilates their relationship, and which might have already benefited from a little more clarity as to how long it went on for – is completely skipped over on the Jackie side of the track. Sure, we’re given new context for why she acted the way she did, but the lack of retelling suggests that the audience is simply expected to understand Jackie’s actions in a new light. We don’t get to watch it from her point of view, and this feels like a missed opportunity on a narrative level and on a pure “Emily Watson would’ve knocked that out of the park” desire for great actressing. There’s something missing to the flow of its emotions, and I wonder if Hilary and Jackie might have benefitted without this chronological gambit, and letting us see how the sisters are telepathically connecting, misinterpreting each other, hiding things, and forgiving each other in the order it actually happened in. Further input from Mrs. du Pré and Daniel especially on the very tumultuous events they witness and participate in would help this matter too.

Still, this feels like a lot of complaining about a basically decent movie, so here are some unabashed compliments! As previously stated, the acting is uniformly great, and everyone involved pulls off some very intense emotional beats without escalating into histrionics. Watson in particular goes through a litany of biopic beats – artistic passion, physical decline – as well as some Jackie-specific oddities – her weird physicality while playing the cello, everything at Hilary’s cabin, a pre-Melancholia nude breakdown by a river – and makes them coalesce into a full character. Griffiths is maybe a bit sandbagged for being in less of Watson’s half, but she creates a fuller dossier of Hilary’s compromises and joys then I’d remembered. She gets you to root for Hilary, without making her any less normal than she is. If nothing else, it’s a pretty good movie about sisters.

Shakespeare in Love

Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love

I can’t remember the last time I saw Shakespeare in Love, and enough of it had slipped my mind that this felt like a completely new experience. Can you believe how fucking fun this movie is?? Can you believe what a hilarious, horny, utterly romantic film this is, premised as it is on the deep, profoundly real historical truth of Hot Shakespeare Who Fucks, and how he wrote Romeo & Juliet by falling in love with the right woman at exactly the right time? Can you believe how buoyant this is, and how well it enriches virtually every single character where plenty of comedies would settle for half-dimensional figures? It’s so ridiculously entertaining, I can barely write about it without laughing at a different gag. Yes, its Best Picture win is more symptomatic of campaigning shenanigans, but the idea of the Academy nominating a film that’s this fun and frisky and bursting with star power, let alone Hollywood actually making something this witty and adult-oriented that’s so goddamn good, is very hard to imagine. The Picture/Director split with Saving Private Ryan is a phenomenal tribute to both films, and if Oscar wasn’t going to give either prize to The Thin Red Line, I can hardly think of a better outcome.

Surely we can at least agree that this is one of the best Original Screenplay winners of the past twenty-something years? And this category has had plenty of great winners! But Tom Stoppard’s script is a fantastic feat of connecting with a pseudo-historical milieu without stubbing itself on unduly “modern” accents, even , It plays with the verbal wit and wears the idiosyncrasies of a specific talent in a way that’s incredibly accessible, even when it’s a little too smitten with its insiderisms and double entendres. The plot has the loopy silliness of a screwball-era comedy, moving with such speed and un-serious conviction that the farcical logic lands brilliantly. The jokes are remarkably clever, and it keeps finding new ways to be funny and different characters to lean on without denigrating any of them.

Forgive me for not mentioning the plot until now, but anyways! Our hero is the one and only William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who is suffering from writers block on his newest comedy Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. He is also, quite coincidentally, without a muse, and finds hope and relief again upon meeting noblewoman Viola de Lessops (Gwyneth Paltrow) at a showing of one of his plays. Well, he doesn’t meet her, but he sees her watching the play and listening to his words with rapt attention, and he becomes as fascinated by her beauty and appreciation and she is by the honesty of his words. Eventually he sees her again, only she is in disguise as Thomas Kent, an unknown actor auditioning for the role of fair Romeo. He is consumed with finding her again, and his search for her helps fuel his writing, while she has to slink off every day for rehearsals without catching the suspicious eye of Lord Wessex, her smarmy creep of a dowry-hunting fiancé. Eventually, Will and Viola meet again, and their burning passion for each other is enough to inform the rest of what is now being called Romeo & Juliet.

It’s amazing how well all of this works. Shakespeare in Love is immensely pleasurable to watch, and it carries itself with such enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to imagine coming along for the ride. Yes, John Madden’s otherwise exuberant direction stalls out a bit when the lovers have to wrangle with an unexpected death, but it’s quite literally the only misstep in a film that is otherwise light on its feet and agile with tone and performance. That it’s able to maintain that fleetness while still accommodating a wide variety of tones and some real considerations about the creative process and the impact of art upon its audiences (neither of which are capital-T themes but are very present thru-lines) is glorious. All of this comes together in the actual staging of the opening of Romeo & Juliet, which is maybe my favorite sequence in any of these films. The gasp the audience lets out when Juliet wakes up from her sleep, not yet having noticed the corpse of her Romeo, and Imelda Staunton’s Nurse is so distraught in the audience that when the girl asks aloud where he is she cries out “DEAD!” through tears in the balcony? Just an exquisite moment, and a lovely reminder of how art – really good art – can impact the people who get to experience it as much as those who make it.

It’s also, more than any of the other movies in this lineup, deliciously well-made, and it’s clear how much fun its artists had playing around with the aesthetics of its milieu. Stephen Warbeck’s score is a dream, flexing its light, merry melodies in ways that just as often underscore a grim development as it accents joy and triumph. Mark Childs makes the different stages and pubs and palaces living, breathing spaces of solitude and cooperation, while Sandy Powell’s costumes walk a delightful line between period realness and cinematic facsimile. That all of these designers won Oscars for their work is just and deserving, as is the nomination for Richard Greatrex’s wide, rigorously shallow-focused lensing, David Gamble’s fleet editing, and Lisa Westcott and Veronica Berbner’s delightful makeup.

And the cast. The cast. Fiennes and Paltrow are radiant, and embody their characters with such ease that their star power ensures the movie simply works without much fuss. Their vocal control, their wit, their intellect, their insane levels of chemistry with each other, the way you can tell both of them feel their backstage rehearsal makeup sessions right in their groins – all of it comes together perfectly. It helps that the supporting cast is just ridiculously stacked with talent. Tom Wilkinson’s transformation from a threatening producer to an anxious new actor who really wants everything to go smoothly is maybe my favorite performance in the entire film, but there’s also Imelda Staunton, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Martin Clunes, Geoffrey Rush, an inexplicably great Ben Affleck. Everyone shows up and makes it sing. Every single person involved makes it sing to the high heavens. I think that’s plenty to ask for a film determined to be this pleasurable, especially one that’s equally determined to be a prestige-y Oscar thing. But oh, it would be nice if more films that had this level of pedigree wanted to be fun.

Other Options

Not a totally auspicious crop, but it’s a solid and varied group. Bates is easily my vote, with Griffiths (who is very much a lead) and Dench vying for second place. I don’t think I’d keep any of these women, but neither the amazingly limited precursor choices (the only outlier from Oscar’s five between SAG, BAFTA, and the Globes was Sharon Stone in The Mighty at the Globes) nor the Academy’s selections in other categories suggest a deep pool of options inside their wheelhouse. The most tangible alternate I can think of is Joan Allen for Pleasantville, whose wins at LAFCA, Boston, and the BFCA is the category’s best critical darling. Pleasantville was smack in the middle of her unbearably short string of nominations, and her omission in the middle of her Academy heyday is a bit surprising given the competition. Meanwhile, Lisa Kudrow in The Opposite of Sex won New York and Cristina Ricci in The Opposite of Sex won NBR, despite both of them being leads. I suspect Patricia Clarkson and Toni Collette were too indie, and the Beloved women unfairly boxed out by middling box office, but why not Laura Linney’s stylized operator in The Truman Show? How did Kudrow not convert her TV celebrity into an Oscar nomination? These choices feel a bit more like tantalizing what-ifs than plausible contenders, but I’ll take a good-not-great lineup with a handful of legit alternates to 1946’s meager offerings surrounded by aggressively better options. Anyways, my choices for 1998 would be:

Patricia Clarkson, High Art
Toni Collette, Velvet Goldmine
Kimberly Elise, Beloved
Catherine Keener, Your Friends and Neighbors
Thandiwe Newton, Beloved

Runners-Up: Parker Posey (Henry Fool), LisaGay Hamilton (Beloved), Beah Richards (Beloved), Kathy Bates (Primary Colors), Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski),Rebecca Pidgeon (The Spanish Prisoner), Laura Linney (The Truman Show), Joan Allen (Pleasantville), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), Imelda Staunton (Shakespeare in Love), Sheryl Lee (Vampires), Celia Imre (Hilary and Jackie).

Apologies to Paprika Steen in The Celebration, who I remember liking in her film but didn’t find time to revisit, and to Sharon Stone in The Mighty, Queen Latifah in Living Out Loud, Loretta Devine in Down in the Delta, and Meg Ryan in Hurlyburly, Indie Spirit nominees Stockard Channing in The Baby Dance and Joely Richardson in Under Heaven, Olivia Williams in Rushmore, Sandra Oh in Last Night, and the women of Happiness, all whom I still need to watch. I think Kudrow and Ricci are leads in The Opposite of Sex, but since they both won major supporting prizes, I figured I should say that I love them dearly and wouldn’t throw them in this race. Slightly more tempting but still not in this category for me is Anne Heche in Psycho, for all the reasons Marion Crane would be considered lead or supporting in the original film. But Heche is brilliant, so everyone go watch it. But who else am I missing? Who am I undervaluing? And where should I start for the next Smackdown in 1986? As always, thanks for reading, and have a good one!

Other Smackdowns this season

1946 | 1998 | 1986

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