Best Supporting Actress 1973: Nominees and Outside Possibilties
This is a picture of me sitting on a hilltop in a fetching blonde bowl cut, while Nathaniel, not unusually dressed as Madeline Kahn, warily approaches. Despite my years of conscientious service, he's actually asking me to bow out from this month's installment of the Supporting Actress Smackdown, dedicated to the roster of 1973, and to let five interlopers sit up front with their big tits.
I guess when the new passengers are extraordinary film critics Bill Chambers and Karina Longworth, peerless popular film historian Mark Harris, sickeningly young movie smarty-smart Kyle Turner, and multiple-Emmy-winning actress Dana Delany, I might see the logic of moving to the back seat. Hell, for that crowd, I'd ride in the trunk. Just like you, I cannot wait for this episode of the Smackdown and its associated podcast, both because I so admire all the panelists and because—in a major reversal from last month—I think the Academy did an absolutely splendid job filling out this field. If there'd been room for me on this varsity squad, I'd have said the following... and in 73 words apiece, because you know I don't play:
Linda Blair, The Exorcist
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I get it: Blair’s performance encompasses major assists from makeup, effects, and a pissed-off Mercedes McCambridge. Awarding her may not be the appropriate channel for recognizing the impact of the characterization. But when the impact is that astounding… Plus, I like her muted, underplayed chipperness and frightening fatigue in the opening acts. You feel that an already-recessive personality is being further endangered, which is more interesting than a precocious dynamo coming under attack.
Candy Clark, American Graffiti
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Nobody's bad in Graffiti but many are boring. Dreyfuss begs to get noticed; others could stand being more noticeable. Oscar's singling out of Clark makes sense: she famously campaigned, but she's also got a peculiar, genuinely comic presence. From the start, foggily contemplating which celebrity she most resembles, she looks perpetually like she's entertaining other, weirder thoughts than the script's, without detaching from scene partners, getting too broad, or leaning into kooky-blonde caricature.
Madeline Kahn, Paper Moon
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Kahn can unmask Trixie's core and animate a whole scene simply by belting "Son of a bitch!" with impressive vulgarity. She gets aroused just hearing about hotel rooms, daddy. Silencing her seditious, over-sharing traveling companion with one look, she gets her laugh while disclosing how terrified Trixie is of blowing even this shoddy chance for—money? companionship? adulation? Still, she sometimes settles for surface. Often more involved in her performances than her films.
Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Yes, she's a lead, from first shot to last. More caveats: like Blair, she benefits as much from savvy typecasting as from inspired technique; huge swaths of her performance unfold in isolated close-ups, enlivened as much by editing as by anything Tatum is doing. But? She's sweet, sad, conniving, funny, and ill-tempered without being insufferable. She radiates constantly how unhappy she'd be living in some nice lady's house. She makes the movie work.
Sylvia Sidney, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It's one thing to establish a lasting impression in the first 20 minutes. It's another to convey such steely self-absorption within that narrow window that we believe you'd inspire the biggest chip Joanne Woodward ever had on her shoulder... and she's had a lot of big ones. And to be funny, but not comic, while doing it! And to render a memorably upsetting death scene. Extra points for eye-rolling at that baby’s picture.
Clearly no complaints this time around, even though I'm still not sure whom I'd have voted for—probably Sidney, since hers is the most obvious display of proficiency without editing or effects boosting her along in any way. But really, this category couldn't have gone too wrong.
That said, I always love seizing Nathaniel's monthly focus on a given year to (re)visit as many movies as I can. This month I watched over two dozen releases from 1973 I'd never seen before and re-watched several others, plus some slightly older films that qualified for Oscar in 1973. For the purposes of today, here's what I learned about 18 eligible members of the competitive field from which Oscar culled Blair, Clark, Kahn, O'Neal, and Sidney. Many of these performances, including those nominated for other major awards, might have given those gals a run for their spots (though honestly, consensus seemed pretty strong that these would be The Five). No longer promising 73 words a piece, though. Take what you can get...
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