1980 was the year it became clear the 70s renaissance was a thing of the past; bountiful 1979 had been not fresh energy, but a last gasp. The Oscar race in 1980, like many to follow, was largely from hunger. It in fact only attained respectability because several little projects were plucked from obscurity: at some point in that year, The Stunt Man, The Great Santini, Melvin and Howard and Resurrection had each been put on a shelf by its distributor...but the low-energy Oscar race, plus various critical boostings, eventually got all of them out there, and into major category nominations.
My major disappointment was the omission of Debra Winger, who had blazed onto the screen in the otherwise unexceptional Urban Cowboy. The film was even a box office success, so I never did understand her being left off.
Beverly D'Angelo was good, but -- whether at Spacek's direction or not -- her part wasn't big enough to nail down a nomination. And I'll continue to take the contrary position from others here: that Jessica Lange's Patsy five year later was as good or better.
I'm not real excited about any of the actual nominees.
Scarwid's nomination was an out-of-the-blue-r for me. The film had opened at Christmas with little fanfare, and I'd never heard of Scarwid till seeing her listed. She's fine, but nothing that'd lead you to expect a nomination from such a minor film.
Pauline Kael said at the time that LaGalliene spoke her lines as if she'd spent every minute of her life onstage. I never for a moment I was watching anything but An Actress, which took me out of the film entirely. I'm sorry I never saw her onstage, but this performance isn't much of a career highlight.
Private Benjamin is a movie I just didn't find very funny; it's huge success was a mystery to me. I'd liked Brennan in lots of other movies, but I found this WAY too broad for my taste.
As I've discussed here at other times, Melvin and Howard is a film that, on paper, should be right in my wheelhouse: a human comedy that extrapolates from a real event to illuminate an oft-overlooked segment of society. But, despite great expectations, I never found the film very interesting or, honestly, funny. I think Steenburgen is fine, though she's played basically that character her entire career. But my general shrug for the film pretty much extends to individual elements, including her performance. (I do plan to dig the film up at some point and give it another try, though I rarely find myself changing opinions)
So I end up with Moriarty -- though I'm not enthusiastic about her, either. She's not shown much range as an actress, to put it mildly. But Scorsese helped her capture a certain essence-du-Bronx that I'd never seen portrayed as accurately on the screen.
It's a near call; I probably could as easily abstain. But I'll throw my vote Moriarty's way, and let the Steenburgen/Brennan face-off proceed without my involvement.