1988 Best Supporting Actress Oscar: Want a do-over?

Geenadavis_lThe 1988 Best Supporting Actress Oscar race was one of those "Huh?" contests. It was hard to pick out a clear favorite before the race, and the award could have arbitrarily gone to anyone besides Geena Davis. Davis became an A-List serious thespian with her role as a kooky dog trainer in The Accidental Tourist, but the character (a wacky free spirit who helps a dour, work-obsessed, stuffy guy loosen up and embrace life) seemed a stale ’60s cliché, and the movie still plays today like it’s as starchy as its protagonist.

Then again, who was more deserving? Joan Cusack made the most of her best-friend character in Working Girl, but it was a slight role, and she was competing against costar Sigourney Weaver in the same category. Weaver, in turn, was competing against herself, with her serious, Best Actress-nominated role in Gorillas in the Mist probably siphoning votes away from her comic Working Girl supporting character. First-time nominee Frances McDormand of Mississippi Burning, playing a woman who decides to do the right thing and pays dearly for it, managed to create a fully rounded character, but she had little screen time, and the Academy probably saw her as a young talent who’d surely be nominated again. (Eight years later, she’d win Best Actress for Fargo.) That leaves Michelle Pfeiffer, who gave the most purely dramatic performance as the put-upon prey of John Malkovich and Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons. Had I been an Academy member, I’d have voted for her.

Looking back from today’s perspective, which of these performances doyou think is the best? Vote in our poll, and list your comments below.(For a refresher, watch the clips embedded after the jump, whichmay contain some NSFW language.) Remember, we’ll be running the Recall the Gold surveys every Tuesdayand Thursday until January, so you may go back at any time and vote inthe other polls (click hereto see them all), reexamining the Oscar races of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25years ago. On Tuesday, Nov. 25, we’ll look at the 1993 Best Actorcompetition. Watch also for commentary and context throughout EW.com,including on Dave Karger’s Oscar Watch blog.



Joan Cusack in Working Girl

Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist

Frances McDormand in Mississippi Burning

Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons

Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl

Comments (32 total) Add your comment
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  • Cara King

    I’m always glad when comic performances (and movies) win, and Geena Davis was very good in the role. The reason she won, though, I’ve always ascribed to CARA’S OSCAR MAXIM #1: “If a supporting nominee’s part is big enough to be called a lead role, the actor has a much better shot at winning.” It certainly worked for Geena Davis, Timothy Hutton, Tommy Lee Jones, Jennifer Hudson, and Rachel Weisz. (Though they all turned in great performances, too.)

  • Joseph

    1988 was a bad year for the Oscars. From the horrible ceremonies to some wildly overpraised films. My pick: NONE OF THE ABOVE!!! I never saw The Accidential Tourist. Dangerous Liasions was boring. Working Girl was a rehash of the Mchael J. Fox comedy “The Secret of My Success” and I can’t stand Melanie Griffith in the lead role. Mississippi Burning was okay but I haven’t seen it in years. How about Bonnie Bedelia for Die Hard?

  • fluff

    Geena Davis didn’t just play kooky; she tugged some heart strings. Yes the movie is starchy, but that’s the point. That movie is the equivalent of today’s quirky dramas like Lost in Translation and Juno.

  • fluff

    Cara, how do you explain Judi Dench?

  • Martha

    I agree, Gary. “The Accidental Tourist” was awfully overrated and the entire film had TYPICAL OSCAR FODDER stamped all over it. I voted for Michelle here, although I loved both Cusack and Weaver in “Working Girl.” Cusack should get some special award for her hair and accent alone.

  • groucho

    Frances McDormand is unbeatable in ‘Mississippi Burning’ and I would say that that role is indeed a supporting role. Geena Davis is deserving and she lifts the scene when she is onscreen. Sigourney Weaver showed a funny side to her as Katherine Parker in ‘Working Girl’ and this performance is certainly a keeper. Michelle Pfeiffer broke hearts with her moving performance as Madame de Tourvel. Yet despite all these strong performances, I’d give the award to Joan Cusack. Her Cyn is more memorably etched than Griffiths’ Tess. Her comedic gifts are unparalleled (She was also very strong in ‘Broadcast News’ which also came out in the same year) and her timing is spot-on.

  • kim in kentucky

    either Pfeiffer (LOVE the film – great dialogue) or Davis — if you read the book “Accidental Tourist”, you’ll see she played the part perfectly! Would have loved to see Cusack win later for IN & OUT !

  • peaches

    I went for Weaver although I love all of the performances and their films. Weaver’s performance holds up so well today and is ripe with comic genius.

  • Martin

    Sigourney Weaver, in “Working Girl”, should have taken the Oscar. She we perfect in the role; the proto-typical alpha female that used to terrorize girls in high school (well, all-girl prep school probably) and then moving on to meatier prey in the boardroom. I think it’s easy to overlook a film like “Working Girl”, not only because it’s a comedy, but because of its use of anti-feminist cliches. If people would take it for what it is worth, a fairy tale, then maybe it would be held in a little more esteem. The movie is stocked with 80’s wit as well as strong performances from everyone involved. Geena Davis was very good in an okay movie. Sigourney Weaver was great in definitive one.

  • bethany

    Weaver should have won it.

  • Wally

    100% Sigourney’s Oscar. No debate.

  • Mikey M

    What? Why are we talking about 1988? This is history. It’s done.

  • Gulp

    Davis’s win has always been a tad annoying because (as good as her performance was) it was a LEAD role, while all of the other nominees truly gave SUPPORTING turns. Hard to believe that – 20 years later – Weaver, Pfeiffer and Cusack still don’t have a little gold statuette of their own. :( My vote: Weaver.

  • MsDaisy

    Frances McDormand.

  • BGL

    Sigourney Weaver should have won for either ‘Gorillas’, or ‘Working Girl’. Really should have won for Aliens.

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