Meryl did not stand a chance. In fact, I think it was an amazing feat that she was even nominated for Silkwood. She absolutely deserved to be, but this was Meryl's fifth nomination in six years, and she had already won her second Oscar for Sophie's Choice the year prior. I reckon this was sort of the year that established Meryl as historically an almost perennial Oscar nominee, and she would go on to be nominated a total of six times in the 80's. Shirley Maclaine was up for the sixth time in her career, and up to this point was winless. Pretty good set-up for the veteran actress in her role as a neurotic mother to Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment. I actually watched this film for the first time a few weeks ago. I recall seeing it listed in Entertainment Weekly several years ago as the #1 tear-jerker of all time. Sophie's Choice was #2, coincidentally. The movie as a whole was not particularly impressive to me, but Maclaine did a great job, and I'd have to give it to her over Winger. Here's the complete nominee list:
Jane Alexander (Testament)
Shirley Maclaine (Terms of Endearment)
Meryl Streep (Silkwood)
Julie Walters (Educating Rita)
Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment)
I haven't seen Testament or Educating Rita so I can't comment on the performances of those two ladies, but with the very "overdue" status of Maclaine in this year, it was likely pretty clear who would walk away with Oscar.
Holy 80's hair, Liza. Some fun wit from Maclaine at the beginning of the speech. She gets a little preachy and weird for my liking, but hey, it's a stage with the whole world as your audience, so say what you want. And sheesh, they just let 'em talk as long as they wanted back then. Suppose that's why the shows used to last like five hours.
Imagine what an amazing race this would've been if Meryl hadn't won the year before. I still think I would've given the edge to Maclaine, considering it was her sixth nomination to Meryl's fifth, and Meryl had already won in supporting four years prior for Kramer vs Kramer. This was the first of twelve consecutive losses for Meryl until her win for The Iron Lady less than two months ago. Incroyable.