By and large, the movies of 1988 were pretty heavy on the testosterone. The bracket game reflects the male-centric cinema of thirty years ago. (Let’s not kid ourselves, things haven’t changed all that much.) A few of the movies in our bracket game feature strong female characters, but there weren’t a lot of female protagonists to choose from. Some movies I considered for inclusion were Mystic Pizza, Hairspray, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Gorillas in the Mist and Married to the Mob. I ended up choosing Working Girl and The Accused because I felt they better represented what was going on in movies in 1988.
The fact that we are dealing with actresses who have won multiple Oscars makes the chronology of this bracket game a little wonky. Yesterday, we were dealing with two actresses who had their first wins in the early 80’s, but today we’re taking a brief detour back into the previous decade for Sally Field’s first win. Field won her two Best Actress statues in 1979 and 1984 which averages out to “early 80’s” which is how she ended up in a bracket against “late 80’s” winner Jodie Foster (whose second win was actually 1991, but who’s counting?)
Following a Best Actress win for The Accused and another nomination (which would become a win) for Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster was riding high in 1991. Her Oscar win gave her the clout to pick an offbeat project for her directorial debut. Little Man Tate was the story of a child prodigy who goes to college when most kids are in second grade. Talking to Lawrence Grobel in the October ’91 issue of Movieline magazine, Foster discussed her transition from a child actor to an Oscar winning actress to making her directorial debut.
In the mid-eighties, Kelly McGillis was a rising star. Early in her career, she had a couple of hits one of which turned out to be one of the most iconic movies of the entire decade. Top Gun made Tom Cruise a mega-star. But McGillis’ career went in a different direction. A few years after her star-making role, McGillis became dissatisfied with Hollywood. While McGillis has continued working steadily. she has largely avoided the spotlight.
What the hell happened?
As part of the 1996 Women in Hollywood issue of Movieline magazine, Joe Queenan examined the trend of actresses he considered to be miscast as lawyers. Queenan imagines a conspiracy starting with Cher in Suspect which leads to Cindy Crawford being cast as an attorney in Fair Game.
Actors careers are shaped by choices. Their performances are made up of small choices; how a character should move, what they should sound like, how they should react. Then there are the big choices like what roles to take and who to work with. When an actor commits to a movie, they are dedicating a chunk of their lives to preparing for the role, filming the movie and then doing the promotion circuit. For a lead actor, each movie can be a year-long commitment. For an actor who is in demand, this can lead to some tough choices which will ultimately shape the course of their career.
As the old saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20.” Sometimes, an actor’s choices look foolish in retrospect. Other times, it seems like they dodged a bullet. Either way, movie fans love looking back and wondering what might have been.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Meg Ryan was America’s Sweetheart and the reigning queen of the romantic comedy. For a time, Ryan had her pick of projects which means she had the opportunity to pass on a lot of movies that went on to become hits. The means lots of opportunities to wonder about what might have been.