Stephen Frears’ 1990 film The Gritfters takes a hardcore look at the seedy underbelly of the life of grifters (aka con artists) in and around Los Angeles. At the center of the film is Roy (John Cusack) who plays a low level con man who is looking to set his life straight. Muddying things up for Roy are two important women in his life. One is his mother, Lilly (Anjelica Huston), a veteran racetrack con artist who considers anyone a potential victim- including her own son. But when Lilly botches a major betting scam, she finds herself on a rather tight leash that’s being held by her cigar-wielding boss, Bobo. The other woman competing for Roy’s affection is the vulnerable seductress Myra Langtry, played by Annette Bening, nominee, (189). Bening’s character is a former sex pot power player in an elaborate world of duping rich dudes out of their cash. Now finding herself down and out, Myra will stop at nothing to try and get back to the top of the con game- including ratting out Lilly to her mob boss and sending everyone’s lives into a tailspin. The events unfold with devastating consequences and no one is quite who they seem. When all of the secrets are revealed and the final confrontation occurs, the last man or woman standing is the one who collects the cash. All I know is I will never look at a glass of water in quite the same way again. Bening is outstanding as Myra- a wise beyond her years cupie doll of a woman who is far more dangerous than anyone realizes.
The Best Supporting Actress Oscar of 1990 went to Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. Going into the Academy Awards, Goldberg was heavily favored to win the Oscar as kooky clairvoyant Oda Mae Brown. The irreverant, scene-stealing Goldberg became the 2nd black woman to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Bening and her other co-nominees including standout Lorraine Bracco in GoodFellas, Mary McDonnell in Dances With Wolves, and Diane Ladd in Wild at Heart were powerless to stop Goldberg’s inevitable march to the podium.