Every month Brian who runs the terrific StinkyLulu blog hosts a Supporting Actress Smackdown covering Oscar nominated performances for a particular year, depending on whatever year his blog readers vote for. This month they voted to have him cover the nominees for 1990 and Brian was kind enough to ask me to participate in this month’s Supporting Actress Smackdown.

I don’t normally like chatting about post-1979 cinema here at Cinebeats for numerous reasons, but I thought participating in the Supporting Actress Smackdown would be a lot of fun and I’ve never been opposed to breaking my own rules. In preparation for the Smackdown I tried re-watching all the Oscar nominated films, but at times it was tough going and in all honesty I couldn’t finish a couple of them even though I had seen them all before. There were some real stinkers in the bunch in my not so humble opinion and the ratio of bad hairstyles worn by actresses in 1990 is just damn astonishing and frankly distracting. There were numerous times while I was watching the Oscar nominated films and became so distracted by the terrible haircuts on the actresses that I actually lost track of what was happening in the films.

But enough about really bad haircuts…

Before you make your way over to StinkyLulu and read my comments on the nominated performances I have to warn my gentle readers that I didn’t hold back on expressing my dislike for many of the Oscar nominated performances in 1990. In my mind there was one clear winner in the bunch and she didn’t win. So simply put, read my comments with caution and if you’re easily offended by negative film criticism you might want to cover your eyes and not click this link.

16 thoughts on “Supporting Actress Smackdown – 1990

  1. Well, I think you made about the best choice you could having to go with the nominees but I find all of them a bit underwhelming. And Annette Benning has bored me stiff as an actress since the moment I first laid eyes on her and nothing she’s done since has changed my opinion.

    Thanks for introducing me to the site. I’d seen the name come up in comments before but never checked it out. Now I will. Although I’m not commenting on this particular post over there as there are enough there now without me and I’d feel like the friend of a guest arriving late to the party. But I’ll definitely drop in on old Stinky Lulu in the future.

    As to your comments about focusing on movies past 1979 I’m having the same reservations with my own picks. As I approach the eighties I’m not sure if I want to continue with the Oscar posts. 1983 is as far as I’ve gone on my site with any particular post and I feel going any farther would violate some unwritten code I have for focusing on overlooked movies and performances of decades past. As I value your opinion, any thoughts?

    Another part of it is I simply find I don’t have the passion to write about recent films. I love many of them but they still all feel too new to me. Given how my opinions have changed on movies when rewatching them years later I feel my choices for the nineties up would not be sound or fully thought out.

    Geez, I probably should have put all this in an e-mail rather than a comment but that would have seemed even more intrusive. Sorry to clutter up your comment section with questions about my own posting.


  2. I’ve never liked Bening either and I can’t understand what people find so appealing about her performances.

    With that said, all the nominated actresses were really lacking, but what can you expect from a year like 1990 when some movie as completely rancid as Dances with Wolves took home the Best Picture award? That movie is so horrible that I couldn’t sit through it and I don’t know how anyone did. Who the hell bought tickets to see that film and why in the world did people like it? My mind whirls…

    It’s impossible for me to give anyone advice on what to write about. I think writing should just come naturally and you should write about anything you want, whenever you want. I see my own site as a sort of webzine I suppose, since I grew up in the zine culture and I’ve always been involved in lots of zines and self-publishing projects because I’ve always had an urge to write about stuff I’m interested in.

    I started Cinebeats with a focus on sixties and seventies era films because those happen to be the film eras that I’m mostly interested in writing about. I write to please myself and if a few other people happen to get some enjoyment out my babble, that’s terrific too. I can only suggest doing the same.

  3. Thanks for the thoughts. Now about 1990 – Dances with Wolves Best Picture win is truly one of the most depressing moments in Oscar history. At least Titanic had good special effects but as its win in 1997 shows (as well as Forrest Gump in 94, Braveheart in 95 and several others) the nineties has more Best Picture winners that I despise than any other decade. The 2000’s are already running a close second. I just can’t bring myself to write about any of them. As I’m not getting paid to do this why make myself suffer? But October’s here and that makes me happy. Thanks again.

  4. I prefer the movies of the 60’s and 70’s more than any other decades. These last couple of decades have been pretty awful. I couldn’t stand “Dances with Wolves.” It bored me to death. I didn’t even watch the whole movie. While I was happy Whoopi won in the sense that it was time for another black actress to win a long due Oscar, it wasn’t for necessarily an outstanding performance. I don’t care for Annette. I never have. I just don’t see much in her. If I had voted for anyone, it probably would have been for Lorraine. I did enjoy “Goodfellas.” She did a good job in it.

  5. I left my comments in the blog, but I’ll say I’m kind of surprised by Ladd as the winner! I’m starting to vaguely remember the film, and I think I can at least give her credit for completely selling the role.

    I pretty much agree with you on Bracco’s performance, although I don’t agree about Goldberg and am a bit more sympathetic to Dances With Wolves (it’s not a great film by any means and shouldn’t have won an Oscar). I also didn’t mind Bening, since I thought her performance worked for the role. But Bracco’s performance is truly the most brilliant out of the nominations, even with the horrible hair!

  6. The thing that really bothers me about the 1990 Oscars (and many movie Award shows throughout the 80s-2007) is that they so frequently refuse to nominate the best performances and films of the year (in my opinion of course). Publicity machines work overtime to get that “Oscar Award Winner” stamp on their video/DVD box and the awards seem pointless now. They’re obviously dished out to whoever whored their film the most that year and who had the most money to market it. It’s simple really and it’s sad.

    As some of the people who participated in the Smackdown rightly pointed put, there were plenty of other Supporting Actresses that could have, and should have been nominated in 1990, along with better films that were completely shut out. A few good examples that were pointed out already are Helen Mirren in The Comfort of Strangers, Uma Thurman in Henry and June, Billie Whitelaw in The Krays and Lindsay Duncan in The Reflecting Skin.

    As much as I like Goodfellas and Larraine Bracco’s performance in the film which was (again in my opinion) far and away the best thing nominated in 1990, I actually think The Comfort of Strangers, Henry and June, The Krays and The Reflecting Skin are all examples of better films than Goodfellas and they contain more original and nuanced performances from the actresses in them. I’m sure there’s more movies I could add to this list, but this is just a small sampling of 1990 releases.

  7. I haven’t seen any of thos examples, except The Reflecting Skin, which is a great, if often ignored, film. I don’t remember a lot about that performance, but mostly all I can remember are the kids and gorgeous imagery.
    I’m sure that, with some effort, I could come up with more performances too.
    Even though I like Goldberg’s performance in Ghost, it’s comparatively weaker than the other nominations and probably based on tokenism.

    I definitely agree that the Oscars have become more and more about how a movie is sold than actual quality. But awards suffer the same issue as all canons, in that great stuff is going to get ignored for whatever reason, no matter how much it irritates you. We all know the history of the Oscars and comedy.
    It should ideally be about the best stuff from that year, but certain things that seem like great ideas at the time are in retrospect pretty dumb. I gotta be honest and say that I really liked Dances With Wolves when I was 13 or so. I probably would’ve liked Crash too.

  8. You are so right, Kimberly. I think that the Oscar nominees are usually the biggest whores. The studio machines push to get them nominated. It’s not necessarily the best performances at all. Many times the best are not nominated and definitely don’t generally win. If we are going to bring up those that weren’t nominated, I would have to say Uma Thurman in Henry & June would have been my pick. I’ve always adored her. She’s wonderful. She really excelled in this fascinating film.

  9. What amazes me is when you compare the high quality of the Oscar nominees before the video revolution to the films and actors that get praise and awards today.

    I really do think that the desire to make big bucks with VHS/DVD sales has had a huge, and frankly negative impact on the Oscars, as well as other award shows, but there are other negative factors as well such as the conservative/politically correct turn that Hollywood in general has taken since the ’80s, etc.

    When the critics were drooling all over the dreadful Dances with Wolves and the Academy gave that Best Picture Oscar to Kevin Costner, its members had been exposed to truly great films that no doubt influenced Costner like Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse, Jeremiah Johnson, etc. They weren’t innocent 13 year olds, so there were clearly other factors at play there. Bribes? The collective dumbing down of society? Who knows… but it’s amazing to me that audiences and critics liked that film and propped the uncharismatic and incredibly dull Kevin Costner up as some kind of Hollywood genius.

    It’s nice to know so many other people thought Uma Thurman was good in Henry & June. I would have also liked to have seen Fred Ward, Maria de Medeiros and Richard E. Grant get nominated for their performances in that terrific film as well.

    Another totally overlooked actress that year that should have been nominated for something in my opinion was Marcia Gay Harden in Miller’s Crossing, which is another fantastic film that was better than any of the nominated films and was totally shut out of the Oscars and every other American film award show that year.

  10. I really think American guilt over the treatment of the Native American Tribes accounted for a lot of Dances With Wolves acceptance and tribute at the Oscars. The Academy goes with what is correct in the social and political sense much more than it goes with quality, something I have found to be abundantly true throughout its history as I’ve done my Oscar posts. The film itself plays to every simplistic stereotype. With the exception of the Costner character every white man is an evil, crazy bedwetting homicidal/suicidal maniac. The Sioux aren’t characters at all, they’re precious little elves that twinkle about the land making flowers blossom wherever they go. And then there’s Costner the actor. I swear to jebus I don’t know how in hell he ever survived a screen test. In a word: Blank.

    Also the politics involved would explain the panning of his next directed film, The Postman. It really wasn’t any different in style, editing or pacing from Wolves and the writing wasn’t any better or worse. But without the message critics were free to savage it for all it was, something I suppose they felt unfree or unwilling to do the first time around.

    There are much better films dealing fairly with the Tribal Nations of the American West such as the aforementioned Little Big Man and A Man Called Horse but they were too complex and layered for the Academy. Wolves pared it down and made it simplistic. And Costner hasn’t stopped boring us since.

  11. I agree with what Jonathan’s saying. That’s sort of what I was trying to get at with my mention of Crash, which I think won an Oscar for a similar kind of reasoning.

  12. AR,

    I agree that Crash won more due to the “issues” it was addressing much more than for the film itself. Ditto Mrs. Miniver, Gentleman’s Agreement, In the Heat of the Night, Gandhi, Forrest Gump. Not that they were all horrible (although there’s couple in there that turn my stomach) just that it wasn’t the movie being honored, rather the ideals on display.

  13. Wow. Nice to see you mentioning The Reflecting Skin. Thought that one had vanished into the mists of time. Or at least VHS/DVD limbo. With Viggo Mortenson such a star today, can’t we get it re-released? “Sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally.”

  14. I was actually a fan of Viggo even before Reflecting Skin was released since I loved him in the early horror films and thrillers he made like Prison, Texas Chainsaw III and Tripwire, so I saw The Reflecting Skin when it was first released due to him being in it oddly enough. He’s always been a great actor. Even in B-movies he stood out, so it’s nice that he’s famous now due to those hobbit movies. I’m also glad he’s working in horror/suspense films again with Cronenberg.

    The Reflecting Skin is one of my all-time favorite films and easily one of the best films of the last 20-30 years or more. I totally agree with you Will that it’s a fantastic film that really needs a DVD release and I have no idea why it hasn’t come out yet. Philip Ridley is a very talented director and I wish he would make more films. I also really liked his other film with Viggo called The Passion of Darkly Noon a lot.

  15. just chiming in to say that mary mc connell, of dances with wolves fame, has done wonders redeeming herself as one of the stars of the new battlestar gallatica. it’s a shame– dances is such an awful embarrassment of a movie– and after watching her in BSG, i’ve been made aware of her wasted potential in costner’s weepy, noble-white-man movie.

    i like the structure of the game you’re playing. the best oscar nominees always worm their way into the un-winable peripheries, so at least you get some lesser-known performances to discuss. the films that win oscars have about as much integrity and merit as the people chosen to be king and queen of the high school prom, as far as i’m concerned otherwise!

  16. Thanks for the comment Dan! It was nice seeing you in these parts. 😉

    I haven’t seen Mary McCconnell in the new Battlestar Galactica, but I have seen her in a few other films where she was a bit better. She’s never impressed me too much I’m afraid, but that could be more to do with the film roles she gets than her actual acting chops.

    the films that win oscars have about as much integrity and merit as the people chosen to be king and queen of the high school prom, as far as i’m concerned otherwise!

    Ha, ha! Today I’d agree with you.

    Before the 80s some really worthwhile films and performances got nominated though. Maybe that just has more to do with the quality of films being made back then and the talent of the performers in them.

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