BEYOND THE BALLOT: 1994 and Women in Film

As you may know, the purpose of this Beyond the Ballot series is to study the female leading performances in film in relation to the representation in film as well as its reflection to the Academy Awards.

Here is a quote from an older post:

And I would want to see: are those “weak years” a result of lack of good performances of women in film? Or perhaps good roles for women? Or perhaps it’s the laziness of the Academy to look for outside-the-box choices to fill the final five? Or perhaps the laziness of Hollywood to even make films with women at the center? Or maybe the critical reception at time affected it (remember: majority of film critics are white male) Part of me thinks there is a smidge of sexism in these claims, but we’ll see.

I’ve decided that I want to discuss a particularly interesting year in women in film: 1994. Commonly tagged as one of the weakest years of Best Actress as the Academy Awards, it is safe to say that it interests me endlessly how that year got the tag weakest.

As a matter of fact, I have always been interested in this Best Actress year. Perhaps a post from The Film Experience triggered it again.

It must be immediately said that Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding is not included in this discussion due to her film being eligible the following year.

However, we must talk about Linda Fiorentino’s performance in The Last Seduction. Only ineligible due to a technicality, this performance is still talked about today as one of the contenders disappointingly ruled out due to a (fair) eligibility rule.

To see the complete Reminder List of Eligible Productions released by the Academy on 1994, click HERE.

First, we must take a look at the performances recognized by the Academy:

Jodie Foster – Nell

Jessica Lange – Blue Sky (WINNER)

Miranda Richardson – Tom & Viv

Winona Ryder – Little Women

Susan Sarandon – The Client

.

Now, here are the performances who got key nominations (though this doesn’t necessarily mean they had closer chances of getting nominated than the rest):

Meryl Streep – The River Wild (Globe Drama nom, SAG nom)
Jamie Lee Curtis – True Lies (Globe Comedy win, SAG Supporting nom)
Robin Wright – Forrest Gump (Globe Supporting nom, SAG Supporting nom)
Meg Ryan – When a Man Loves a Woman (SAG nom)
Jennifer Jason Leigh – Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (Globe Drama nom)
Geena Davis – Speechless (Globe Comedy nom)
Andie MacDowell – Four Weddings and a Funeral (Globe Comedy nom)
Shirley Maclaine – Guarding Tess (Globe Comedy nom)
Emma Thompson – Junior (Globe Comedy nom)

The next batch of performance were not cited in other major awards, but whose films have been nominated for an Academy Award in other categories, implying that the film was indeed seen by Academy members:

Helen Mirren – The Madness of King George (nominated for Supporting Actress)
Irène Jacob – Three Colors: Red (Best Director + 2 other noms)
Jessica Tandy – Nobody’s Fool (Best Actor nom)
Melanie Lynskey – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Sandra Bullock – Speed (Best Sound Effects Editing win + 1 other nom)
Julia Ormond – Legends of the Fall (Best Cinematography win + 2 other noms)
Isabelle Adjani – Queen Margot (Best Costume Design nom)
Jodie Foster – Maverick (Best Costume Design nom)
Chien-Lien Wu (Best Foreign Language Film nom)
Glenn Close – The Paper (Best Original Song nom)
Cameron Diaz – The Mask (Best Visual Effects nom)

These are the performances from past winners and nominees that may have been in the conversation:

Alfre Woodard – Crooklyn
Annette Bening – Love Affair
Geena Davis – Angie
Jessica Tandy – Camilla
Judy Davis – The New Age
Judy Davis – The Ref
Julie Walters – Just Like a Woman
Juliette Lewis – Natural Born Killers
Kathleen Turner – Serial Mom
Lena Olin – Romeo is Bleeding
Marisa Tomei – Only You
Meg Tilly – Sleep with Me
Meryl Streep – The House of the Spirits
Michelle Pfeiffer – Wolf
Sigourney Weaver – Death and the Maiden
Susan Sarandon – Safe Passage
Whoopi Goldberg – Corrina, Corrina
Winona Ryder – Reality Bites

Here are the rest of the performances eligible that year. I’m sure this is incomplete because I haven’t gone through all the films eligible that year:

Alberta Watson – Spanking the Monkey
Bridget Fonda – Camilla
Bridget Fonda – It Could Happen to You
Bridget Fonda – The Road to Welville
Crissy Rock – Ladybird, Ladybird
Debra Eisenstadt – Oleanna
Demi Moore – Disclosure
Emmanuelle Seigner – Bitter Moon
Gong Li – To Live
Guinevere Turner – Go Fish
Jada Pinkett – Jason’s Lyric
Jean Yanne – A La Mode
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hudsucker Proxy
Julianne Moore – Vanya on 42nd Street
Julie Delpy – Three Colors: White
Karen Sillas – What Happened Was…
Lara Flyn Boyle – Threesome
Lauren Velez – I Like It Like That
Madeleine Stowe – Blink
Madeleine Stowe – China Moon
Mary Stuart Masterson – Radioland Murders
Mia Farrow – Widows’ Peak
Natalie Portman – Leon: The Professional

Have I forgotten any other performances that must be included?

Is 1994 really a weak year for women in film? Or was it overhyped by critics as such? Or was eventual nominees a result of lazy voting that does not reflect the actual quality of performances that year?

I am seriously thinking of taking a look at a lot of these performances, the Oscar nominees included. We will see.

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