Oscar Blindspots: The Way We Were/Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

It might be 50 years late, but I’ll be catching up on all the Oscar nominees and winners I have missed from the year 1973 through the month of May

A pair of Oscar-winning actresses earned follow-up Oscar nominations in 1973, though the reception to their films were wildly different.

The Way We Were
Directed by Sydney Pollack

Katie Morosky (Oscar-nominated Barbra Streisand) is a Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions. Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford) is a carefree writer without political aspirations. After meeting in college, the pair fall in love. As their love grows along with their careers, the pair realize they may just be too different to be together, no matter how much they love each other.

Streisand’s larger-than-life persona has often outshined her significant talents, but this film is a full-on display of how dynamic and complex she can be as an actress. She is not resting on the laurels of her vocal talent, but instead leans into her character’s convictions despite the potential of jeopardizing her happiness. Her performance is all about her steadfast refusal to accept the world the way it is and wishes for it to be better, despite how easy it is to be apathetic.

Redford is more of a construct than a character, but he fits that construct perfectly. Hubbell is meant to be laid back and have everything handed to him due solely to his good looks and charm. His misunderstanding of why the rest of the world wouldn’t want things the way he has it leads to the central conflicts.

SPOILER INCOMING, but I am a sucker for any romantic film where the central couple doesn’t end up together. Other films with lesser intentions would create some convoluted way for the pair to end up happily ever after, but this film has much higher intentions. It’s not about two conflicting ideologies. It’s about one ideology pushing against a lack of one. The two actors do everything that is asked of them and the film is so much better for it.

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
Directed by Gilbert Cates

Rita Walden (Oscar-nominated Joanne Woodward) is a depressed, middle-aged New Yorker with a bevy of person struggles. She is constantly bickering with her daughter, sister, and mother (Oscar-nominated Sylvia Sidney). Meanwhile, her sweet husband Harry (Martin Balsam) tries his best, but Rita pines for a younger lost love. All the while, Rita wants to reconnect with her estranged son whom she is in denial regarding his homosexuality.

The performances of Woodward, Sidney, and Balsam are all superb, but it’s all in the service of a film with zero structure, depth, or plan of attack. Just when the film starts to grasp any narrative momentum, it shifts to an entirely different plot point, that otherwise didn’t matter. Even the very idea of describing the movie boils down to “lady has problems” without anything that makes it sound interesting. Even describing the intimate details of the plot don’t give the film any understanding of what it’s supposed to be.

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams is extremely frustrating. The film and the script are such a mess, the trio of performers are essentially giving spectacular audition tapes for a better film. Woodward nails the tone the film is going for, but the rest of the film can’t match her presence. Sidney is her perfect foil, but doesn’t stick around long enough. Balsam is the voice of reason, but his characterization is too underdeveloped for the film to care too much about him. There is a special film in here somewhere, but it would need a top-to-bottom overhaul of the story and direction.

Next week: I have some quick thoughts on the rest of the films of 1973

Oscar Blindspots: My Favorite Year/Frances
Oscar Blindspots: The Rest of 1972

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