Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Supporting Actor reviews: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Our next movie is Miracle on 34th Street, one of the biggest Christmas classics ever. Am I insane that I watch it right now? Maybe, but it was available right now. :-)
It tells the story of a single, hard-working young woman (Maureen O'Hara), who organises a Thanksgiving parade, but the guy who plays Santa is as drunk as possible. An appalled elderly man (Edmund Gwenn) helps her in this embarassing situation and he more than just helps, he becomes the new sensation of Macy's and he even becomes a friend of Doris' sceptical daughter, Susie (Natalie Wood) and also the idealistic Fred (John Payne) who also gets closer to Doris.
The Christmas episode of Modern Family came to my mind: Jay was watching this movie, sobbing and wondering why the kids didn't like it. Yes, the world has changed a great deal since 1947, and we see Miracle on 34th Street with out cynism and sarcasm. We just expect another soappy flick about the spirit of Christmas.
However, it's not as sentimental as I thought. Although the humor is not the strongest part of the movie, there are some good lines and situations and it has some deeply-hidden wit, even though the characters are totally one-dimensional and their actions were sometimes illogical and unrealistic. However, this is not a Bergman movie, so this does not hurt that much, even though I find the screenplay wins quite undeserved.
The acting ensemble is solid at best as they were not provided with baity roles. Maureen O'Hara is very good though as Doris and does not really overdo her role, she's just right there, we can see her act decently and then she leaves, we leave without any dissapointment or such things. Same for John Payne, who was however in some scenes annoying with his optimism.
Still, there's a performance for which it's 100% worth watching this movie: yes, it's Natalie Wood. She shows her immense talent, shines with her radiant personality and it's no wonder she become a huge star. And add the fact that she was only nine years old at the time. The studio heads might have tortured the child stars and ruined their lives forever, but the achievements of these children were undeniable. A Juvenile Oscar would have been richly deserved.
Unlike the Best Supporting Actor Oscar of Edmund Gwenn, who simply doesn't do anything Oscar-worthy. We can see that Gwenn decided that this guy was really Santa, still he plays him like an old fool or just like an ordinary guy acting like Santa. This win is by no means awful (hi Cuba Gooding Jr. and George Chakiris), it's very-very undeserved.
Although I don't seem to like this movie, that's not true. I enjoyed it, and would gladly re-watch it at Christmas when my mind is changed and I'm not influenced by my cynism.
Grade: 7/10 I enjoyed it. I don't know what else to say.
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gwenn WON); Best Writing, Screenplay (WON); Best Writing, Original Story (WON)

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