8 april 1979
vol. 3, no. 7
CIVCC CITY CINEMA
by Bob Prewitt
The only thing certain about the 51st Annual Acedemy Awards, to be televised April 9, is that Jason Robards will not win a third consecutive Oscar for
Best Supporting Actor. Robards, who pocketed awards for his performances in
All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977) has not been nominated this
year, which suits me just fine. Last year he "spoiled" what would have been an
otherwise perfect scorecard for me. I correctly predicted the winners in all the
major categories (Best Picture, Director, and performances) — except Supporting
Actor, for which I chose the redoubtable Alec Guinness. Oh well. Considering
the number of surprises the Academy provides each year, I guess I should be
satisfied with five out of six.
This year, choosing winners seems even more precarious. In almost every
category there are legitimate reasons for picking a number of nominees to win.
No single film would seem to be a clear favorite, though very typically one
movie will end up bagging most of the major awards. Still, look for at least one
minor upset, and perhaps a major one or two. There are too many intangible,
factors at work to expect otherwise. Frankly, I'll be quite happy if I pick three
of the top six categories correctly this year.
Best Supporting Actor. The biggest surprise here is the incomprehensible
omission of veteran character actor Robert Morley, who marvelously redefined
gluttony in Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? It appears that the film's
overall mediocrity spoiled his chances. Had he been nominated, my choice
would have been much more difficult. As it is, the prediction isn't all that
nerve-racking. Richard Farnsworth gave an affecting performance in Comes A
Horseman, but the film was ignored by the public, and he stands little chance.
Two of the nominees mentioned most often, Bruce Dcrn (Coming Home) and
Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) will in my estimation walk away from
the Dorothy Chandler pavilion empty-handed. Dem is a competent actor, and
yes, it's true he's not received enough attention for his work. In this film his
portrayal of the volatile Vietnam veteran left behind by life in America was
quite engaging. But it's a performance too similar to others he's given in the
past (did anyone see Black Sunday1?), and one grows weary of repetition, obscure or otherwise. Dem will receive a healthy vote, many for sentimental
reasons, but it shouldn't carry him over. Walken, on the other hand, has had no
trouble with publicity, and he hasn't been working in films that long. All his
interviews and photo essays had me geared for the supporting performance of
the year. It's true Walken is good in The Deer Hunter, but frankly I was more
impressed by John Savage, and my gut feeling is the Academy will not let
hype completely guide their vote.
Jack Warden was wonderful as the L.A. Rams trainer in Heaven Can Wait.
It's a tribute of no small stature that Warden upstaged his funny, bumbling
co-star, Charles Grodin, with a nomination. ( Grodin had received more pre-
nomination publicity than had Warden.) Still, Warden's "light comedy" role
undoubtedly will be overshadowed by the heavy duty performances he's forced
to compete with. My pick to win, with little hesitation, is John Hurt (Midnight
Express), the British actor who so overwhelmed with his subtle, yet devastating
performance as the drug-riddled Max. The vote will be close, with Walken and
Dern not far behind, but Hurt should pull it out, and it's an honor richly deserved.
705 RED RIVER 47P-0418
Best Supporting Actress. Probably the most difficult category to predict.
Still, it's essentially a four-way race. Penelope Milford (Coming Home), as best
I can remember, was all right, but I had totally forgotten her performance by
the time nominations were released, and was surprised to see her name. Where
is Kelly Bishop, so affecting as Jill Clayburgh's best friend in An Unmarried
Woman'? Or even Diane Keaton for Interiors'? At any rate, I don't expect the
Academy to remember Milford any better than I do, especially considering
her competition. To pick the winner from the remaining four one might as
well draw straws.
Although it's certainly possible that Dyan Cannon (Heaven Can Wait) will
win in an upset, I really can't choose her. The competition's too strong. However, should the Academy decide to give nearly every award in sight to the
light, frothy comedy (which could very well happen, given the current "let's-
not-deal-with-it" mood of the country), her chances would increase dramatically. Cannon is blessed with a marvlous gift for comedy and an exquisite sense
of timing, but something tells me this just isn't her year. No doubt there will
That leaves three nominees, and my choice is based solely on intuition — not a
bad criterion when the Oscars are the concern. All three women Maggie
Smith (California Suite), Maureen Stapleton (Interiors), and Meryl Streep
(The Deer Hunter) - are spectacular. Smith and Stapleton are in a similar
position, having been nominated several times before (Smith won the Oscar
for Best Actress in 1969 for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Stapleton has
never won in two supporting nominations). In fact, my choice was more difficult before I saw Streep's performance; both Smith and Stapleton are established veterans and Academy favorites. I had just about decided to go with
Stapleton on a hunch when The Deer Hunter finally got to town, and mercifully forced my decision another direction: in a sizable surprise, Meryl Streep
will win the award. It's not often that a nominee wins the first time around,
but it's not unheard of, either (Diane Keaton did it just last year). And Streep's
performance is absolutelyfascinating, one of the many marvels of The Deer
Hunter. Still, a lot depends on how the membership reacts to The Deer Hunter
as a whole; if it turns away from the Vietnam epic in other categories, it will
probably turn away from Streep as well. I say this probably won't happen,
but if it does, and Smith, Stapleton or Cannon win instead, I won't be upset
in the least.
Best Actress. Another tough one. Ellen Burstyn (Same Time, Next Year)
nabbed the nomination I thought might go to Marybeth Hurt (Interiors) or
Melanie Mayron (Girlfriends). Burstyn is quite good as Doris, one-half of the
affectionate, if adulterous, pair of lovers originally created for the stage. And
she is an Academy favorite of sorts, having won Best Actress in 1974 for Alice
Doesn't Live Here Anymore. But as a whole Same Time, Next Year is uneven,
and with the strong performances of her peers, Burstyn has to be considered a
I really was not impressed with Jane Fonda in Coming Home, and do not
expect her to win. Her portrayal was too bland, and at the same time too mannered and self-conscious. Also working against her, Coming Home was released
early in the year, a very real factor indeed; the Academy, it has often been said,
has a short memory. She could win a "sympathy award" for losing to Keaton
last year, but that, too, seems unlikely.
Once again the choice comes down to three: Geraldine Page (Interiors),
Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman), and Ingrid Berman (Autumn Sonata).
Page was brilliant in Interiors, and may have the most expressive face in movies
today. She also has been nominated several times before. But her part was relatively small, and Interiors received mixed reviews; these could be crucial.
Based purely on performance, I believe Clayburgh should win. She met the
challenge of a large and demanding role, displaying a wide range of emotions
with great power and control. But Bergman will win. As the distraught, emotionally impotent mother in "Sonata," she was wonderfully convincing, but
this in itself would not be enough for her to win the Oscar over Clayburgh.
The sheer force of sentimentality will make the difference, and I do not say
this disparagingly. Bergman is one of the most magnetic, important stars in
Hollywood history. If she wins, she will own four Oscars, more than any other
performer. And since "Sonata" may in fact be Bergman's last major work,
who could really blame the Academy? If she doesn't win, it will be a mild, and
perhaps melancholy, surprise.
Best Actor. I feel the least comfortable predicting here, because I haven't
seen two of the films represented: The Buddy Holly Story (Gary Busey) and
77*? Boys from Brazil (Laurence Olivier). Still, I have some confidence. I have
seen Busey before (in Straight Time, particularly), and know he is talented
and powerful. Still, as a newcomer among the nominees his chances diminish
significantly. Olivier's nomination was the one major surprise this year, and
Brad Davis (Midnight Express) deserves an apology. I can't help but believe
Olivier was honored for the ninth time out of respect for his long, illustrious
career rather than for his performance in "Brazil" (both the film and Olivier
have received mixed reviews). In either case he is no heir apparent to the Oscar.
Continued on page 16.