Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Academy Awards analysis (1978)

By popular demand (Joe and one of my devoted followers, zikosakira) I am inaugurating a section devoted to opining about the results of each Academy Awards category for which Meryl has ever been nominated. Therefore, this shall be the first of sixteen (seventeen come January (sinister laugh)). I will definitely be utilizing a wonderful book I received as a present from my good friend Kristan entitled The Academy Awards: the Complete History of the Oscar. It only goes up to films released in 2001, but I've been following things pretty closely from before that time, so I'm not too worried about it. Interestingly, although a superb resource, they happen to twice list Meryl's birth year as 1951. WRONG. She was born June 22, 1949. I'll soon be contacting the publishing office.

It all started with The Deer Hunter in 1978. Meryl was nominated for best actress in a supporting role. The film happened to win best picture, director (Michael Cimino), and supporting actor (Christopher Walken). What an impressive list for only Meryl's second film. I feel a big part of this recognition was likely her onscreen debut the year before in Julia, which was also up for several awards, including an Oscar win for Venessa Redgrave in the supporting actress category. Meryl apparently upstaged Jane Fonda in one of the few scenes she had. Not too shabby for one's first go. We all know how incredibly political nominations are, and although Meryl's performance in 'Hunter' was no doubt fantastic, the Academy was likely far more willing to get the ball rolling for this actress, around whom there was so much buzz, in part because of her role from the previous year (Julia).

The nominee list for the 1979 ceremony included the following:

Dyan Cannon (Heaven Can Wait)
Penelope Milford (Coming Home)
Maggie Smith (California Suite)
Maureen Stapleton (Interiors)
Meryl Streep (The Deer Hunter)

Brooke Shields sounds like she's seven. Maggie Smith took home her second statuette that night, her first being for lead actress in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). I haven't seen either film, but for her supporting actress win, there doesn't appear to be much hullabaloo about it. She was a very established, well-respected actor by that time, and it was likely an appropriate recognition. This, however set up Meryl quite well for the following year's release of Kramer vs Kramer. More to follow...


  1. Tricks by Camus just mentioned Julia... They mention Jane Fonda but no Meryl, so I doubt you'll want to read this book after me.

  2. I always thought the best parts of Meryl's performance in Julia ended up being chopped. And she wasn't happy with the results. Anyways, she was wonderful in what was a quite limited part in this film. Flying start..

    1. I've never known which parts of Meryl's had been cut. I've never read Pentimento (the book the screenplay was based on). It was a very small part, but she was still sort of a scene-stealer.