Oscar Buzz

‘Grandma’ “Ill-Tempered Lesbian” Plus 12 More Fabulous Lily Tomlin Looks

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We love Lily Tomlin. Buddy comedy Grace and Frankie, co-starring Jane Fonda, is a hit on Netflix, and the new Paul Weitz dramedy Grandma is earning Oscar buzz for Tomlin’s portrayal of what the Hollywood Reporter labels an “ill-tempered lesbian.”

That got us thinking about other Lily Tomlin looks, and how in her best work they’re like elaborate masks. Tomlin doesn’t move her face a lot, like a rubbery Lucille Ball, or Tomlin’s Laugh-In co-star Goldie Hawn. All the action is in the eyes and around the mouth and at micro-scale, and it draws you in like a shared confidence. The look gets your attention for another, more intimate performance.

Here are “Ill-Tempered Lesbian” and 12 more fabulous looks by Lily Tomlin. Grandma opens Friday.

1. 70’s Feminist Icon
Laugh-In made Lily Tomlin a star with characters like Ernestine the operator and that baby in the giant chair, but her other role on the variety show, as “herself,” was Feminist Icon: modern, independent, free-thinking and free-loving.

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2. The Tasteful Lady

One of Tomlin’s Laugh-In looks. The Tasteful Lady dispensed advice on gracious living in a pillbox hat, here with a swinging and late-career Rita Hayworth.

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3. Cheating Housewife
Tomlin blew up with an Oscar nom for Robert Altman’s Nashville in 1976, as a mother of two deaf kids who’s making it with Keith Carradine. This look is perfect for the phone.

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4. Track-Suit Nonconformist
In neo-noir The Late Show, Tomlin plays a quirky nonconformist on the fringes of Hollywood who smokes weed and hires Art Carney to find her cat. She’s outspoken: “This car is not only a toilet, but you are the attendant.”

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5. Working Girl
Tomlin’s corporate drag for 9 to 5 is one of the iconic examples of the popular 80’s look, see Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver. As well, Violet smokes weeds on her journey.

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6. One Woman Show
In 1986, Tomlin debuted on Broadway in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by her now-wife Jane Wagner, and featuring Tomlin in many voices. They all come together in this self-possessed look.

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7. Waitress
For Robert Altman’s arthouse-Earthquake, Shortcuts, in 1993, Tomlin pulls her hair back for a waitress-life look, and runs over a kid with her car.

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8. Pot-Smoking Mom
Tomlin plays Mary Schlichting of the great name, and Ben Stiller’s real mother, in David O. Russell’s Flirting With Disaster. You have a feeling this look may be how she hangs with Jane.

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9. Ice Queen
In David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees, Tomlin plays existential detective Vivian with a severe look, or she’s just tired of fighting.

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10. Orange Jumpsuit
Tomlin’s contribution to the current women-in-prison look craze comes via Lisa Kudrow’s Web Therapy as her spiraling mom.

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11. 70’s Feminist Icon Today
Looks kill when Tomlin plays an ardent feminist and Tina Fey’s mother, in that order, in Paul Weitz’s Admission.

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12. Hippie Art Teacher
Tomlin adds grey and resignation to her look for Odd Couple comedy Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda. Good with her hands.

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13. Ill-Tempered Lesbian

For Weitz’s Grandma, Tomlin runs into old friends and grievances on a quest for her granddaughter’s abortion money. This look could earn Tomlin her Oscar.

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