Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Next Year

So we have come to our much anticipated 2002. I've been putting it off for like eternity, but now it's finally time to terminate your suspense. This is a very often talked about year, mostly due to the enourmous fanbase of Julianne Moore's performance in Far from Heaven. But we'll see who will get my vote. Will it be the nose, the moustache or the pearls? Or will I prefer dancing or adultery? This doesn't seem to be a very exciting year, but we'll see.

So the nominees were:
  • Salma Hayek in Frida
  • Nicole Kidman in The Hours*
  • Diane Lane in Unfaithful
  • Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven
  • Renée Zellweger in Chicago
So what are your predictions for my ranking?

P.S. : From now on I will not be really able to do write as frequently as I did, but I will do my best. Thanks for your understanding.
Also, we can also talk a bit about the Emmys in your comments. Were you just as pissed as I was that Julianna Margulies lost? Or any other thoughts?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1974


5. Valerie Perrine in Lenny
I can say that I saw a very-very good performance, which might be more of supporting, but has such a huge effect on you with it's emotional honesty and naturality that you are certainly amazed. Memorable work, worthy of a nomination and deserving of a good rating.

4. Diahann Carroll in Claudine
Although the heavy drama was missing and her material was not the best one ever, Diahann was fantastically real as a struggling woman in Harlem. This nomination was richly deserved and in a weaker year, it could have earned Carroll a deserved Oscar win.

3. Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
Faye Dunaway's performance is one of the key elements in making Chinatown the chilling, harrowing masterpiece that it really is. She brilliantly plays this old-fashioned character with her fresh modern approach that reminds us of the greatness of the real golden age of American cinema. Faye's talent has never been used better than here and even if it was working with Polanski difficult proccess for both of them it was worth it.

2. Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gave a breathtaking, gutwrenching performance, which is not for entertainment purpuses, but it's thought-provoking, stunning and sometimes unbearable to watch. Rowland's courage and talent really paid off here as she was able to give an amazing performance. Haunting and terrifying job.

1. Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
She totally grew on me in these few days. I can honestly say that I saw a very-very fantastic performance by an actress I love and I was quite impressed by her. It's not her greatest performance, but it's still an unforgettable and excellent portrayal of an ordinary woman.

So I can proudly announce 
that my winner is...  
Ellen Burstyn
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
What a surprise!!!

About the field: One of the category's finest - I wasn't as impressed by this year initially, but seriously, having Diahann Carroll's performance as #4 when in a year later she would be an easy pick of mine? Putting Faye Dunaway's harrowing, iconic Mrs. Mulwray at #3? Just crazy. As much as I love and appreciate Gena (and I probably appreciate her more than anyone here), I simply cannot not choose Ellen's beautiful, poetic performance, which (for me) is among her finest. I'd like to sing (hehe) praises about her work that works right inside your soul. It's sort of like Megan's experience with the dolphin in Bridesmaids for me. :) 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence

Art movie queen Gena Rolands received her first Best Actress nomination for playing Mabel Longhetti, a mentally ill housewife who has an ugly nervous breakdown in John Cassavetes' movie A Woman Under the Influence. Now, I'm sure that Gena Rowlands was the Edith Evans type of frontrunner that year. She got the Globe, several critics awards, but I don't think that she got enough votes as the Academy might have thought that her movie and performance was too depressing. I think the race was between Faye and Ellen.

A Woman Under the Influence is a truly-truly depressing and quite weird art movie about the troubles of a marriage. John Cassavetes was an excellent director, but I prefer Ingmar Bergman's type of art movies. Nevertheless, this film totally upset me and it was very uncomfortable to watch even for the second time (I don't think that there will be a third time). The directing nom is more than deserved and a Best Actor nom for Peter Falk would have been just as justified (I mean Albert Finney got a nomination but Falk and Gene Hackman didn't? Come on).

But, the most essential thing to this movie is a highly talented actress, who's far from being a typical Hollywood beauty queen. Gena Rowlands, in my opinion, was the perfect choice for this part. She's extremely credible as a simple housewife and actually I could not have imagined anyone else being as good as her. Nobody would have had as much courage throughout the movie as Gena.

The role of Mabel is an incredibly hard role to play. Originally Cassavetes intended to write a play, but Rowlands convinced him that it would be too hard to play every night. This was a wise thought. It's very difficult to perfectly catch Mabel and play her and it's good if she succeeds once. The screenplay gives so many layers and faces to this character, that it's almost impossible to show them all. But Rowlands was able to give a tour-de-force performance.

First of all she really makes sure that you will NOT enjoy her acting. She's not afraid to show the real nature of mental illness: it's ugly, disgusting and horrifying. It's nearly scary how fearless Gena Rowlands was when she created this performance. I can only think of Liv Ullmann in Face to Face as someone who was so brave. However, I must tell the they chose very different ways to show the isolation of these character.

There are many memorable scenes, but I must definitely mention her 15-minute-long breakdown in the middle. In that long scene, she such a dizzing combination of emotions: fear, anger, disgust, devastation, shock, hate, love, care and this makes it extremely hard to watch. Personally, I almost got sick of it. When she starts screaming while Peter Falk is hugging her or when the doctor is trying to approach her is very creepy and shocking. Such depth of that character is revealed to the audience that it makes those minutes very difficult to sit through for anyone.

In my opinion it's much more difficult when somebody has to create a character of a real world than out of fantasy (that's why I don't adore Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves). There are so many traps which can ruin the whole performance: first of all, Gena has to be on the edge of being unbearably over-the-top and hysterical to show this woman.

However, in the end this character goes through a big change: she becomes quiet, almost cathatonic, but she's just as confused as she used to be. Rowlands breathtakingly developed this character. She knew perfectly well how to handle the disease and Mabel's mannerisms. Again there's a horrifying scene, where she tries to commit suicide while her husband and children always run after her. It's totally heartwrenching.

So to sum up, I can say that Gena Rowlands gave a breathtaking, gutwrenching performance, which is not for entertainment purpuses, but it's thought-provoking, stunning and sometimes unbearable to watch. Rowland's courage and talent really payed off here as she was able to give one of the greatest performances ever put on film. Haunting and terrifying job.

So what do you think? The final conclusion comes in a couple of hours.

To watch A Woman Under the Influence click here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Ellen Burstyn received her third Oscar nomination and won her only Oscar to date for playing Alice Hyatt, a widow, who tries to support her child while also wanting to become a singer in Martin Scorsese's fogotten little movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. She wasn't much of a front-runner that year (I guess they must have thought it was Faye's time), but I think it helped her a great deal that she was expected to win the previous year and yet lost (What a surprise!!!!LOL).

This movie has such a long title that I don't want to type it. It's DEFINITELY not Scorsese's biggest masterpiece, but it's not that bad, despite the fact that it's boring and a bit annoying. The supporting actors give solid performances at best, personally I don't think that Diane Ladd was that good, but I agree that she shined in some scenes. And boy that kid annoyed the HELL out of me, I mean he was such an utterly stupid little bastard that I'm not surprised that the guy beat him (totally deserved if you ask me).

However, Ellen Burstyn whom I admire very much (Gosh, how did she lose for Requiem for a Dream? OUTRAGE! SCANDAL!) gives an excellent perfomance as Alice Hyatt and she's even able to hold the movie together with her great acting. The role of Alice is partly interesting: it's not a very baity role, but it has some big opportunities for Burstyn, who's always able to shine. Probably the best word to describe this performance is charismatic. Burstyn has a kind of magnetic presence which always attracts your eyes and therefore steals the whole movie (as she's in almost every scene).

When we get to know Alice, she's just a houswife having a rough husband and a stupid, annoying smart-ass child. It's so heartbreaking when she's crying while she sleeps on the bed and after that has a tender moment with her husband. However, her world turns upside down when she unexpectedly becomes a widow. The scene where she receives the phone call about her husband's death is simply terrific: it's so heartbreakingly real the way she screams. Yes, it's a bit over-the-top scene, however I think that Burstyn was as subtle with that scene as possible.

It's marvellous how effortlessly Burstyn goes to point B from point A with this character. We're entertained so well that we do not really notice how well Alice develops. Burstyn totally lived this character and became one with her. Actually I think that Ellen Burstyn is a perfect chameleon: she always disappears in her roles and becomes one with them (let's face it: real method actors are simply brilliant). I always saw Alice Hyatt in the movie and never Ellen Burstyn.

Probably the greatest scenes of her performance come along when she's struggling to become a singer and meets Harvey Keitel. Her quiet desperation in the scene where's literally begging for a job is simply hearbreaking: there's such a huge reality and experience behind it. Burstyn was completely able to catch the thoughts of this character. Her big scene with Harvey Keitel when he attacks her is also magnificent: the terror and fear in her eyes makes it very hard to watch and yet it keeps you very interested.

Her so-called "chemistry" with Kris Kristofferson is also OK, though a bit more romance could have been useful to that storyline. Actually it's more of the director's fault that he almost ignored it. Ellen is great in those scenes too, but I wished for a bit more fire in it, if you know what I mean.

Her initial feud with Flo (and then friendship) is also very well-acted by Burstyn (and also Diane Ladd). She perfectly showed the rivalries, but also the fellowship between women. I love their dialogues very much and I found them very clever and credible. I liked the scene where they were relasing while sunbathing and chatting, it was a very naturally and flawlessly solved sequence.

It was also a great achievement that she was able to make her scenes with her son very loveable and not as annoying as the kid himself. But I must also tell that I missed something from this performance. I don't know what, but something seemed a bit off. I guess that she never had such a huge breakdown scene which could have made it even more impressive.

Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I saw a very-very fantastic performance by an actress I love and I was quite impressed by her. It's not her greatest performance (hello Requiem for a Dream and The Exorcist), but it's still an unforgettable and excellent portrayal of an ordinary woman.
So what do you think? I'm looking forward to reading your predictions. Who should be the next reviewed lady?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Diahann Carroll in Claudine

Diahann Carroll received her only Best Actress nomination for playing Claudine, a single black woman raising six children while balancing between work and her love life with Roop (James Earl Jones) in the movie Claudine. I'm quite sure that Carroll did not have much chance to win that award, she was probably the fourth in the voting or maybe fifth. The race was probably between Faye and Gena, while Ellen emerged victorious.

Claudine is a fairly enjoyable, but bit boring movie about a struggling black family. It's a kind of dramedy, but that does not really describe its genre. It's a kind of mix of optimistic comedy and some heavy drama. Some really hate it, but I did not have any serious problems with it. The same goes for the performance of James Earl Jones: I'm not mad about it, however I certainly enjoyed it to a degree.

But that doesn't apply for Diahann Carroll's excellent, even fantastic performance. OK, I confess I only know her from her guest spot on Grey's Anatomy, but she's not that famous, is she. Nevertheless she rocks in this part giving a very strangely loveable and absolutely believable performance. She perfectly caught the simple problems of this woman: she's struggling in her life, tries to get welfare and find someone she can rely on. The part is very ordinary is far from being an Oscar role and yet she was able to get much more out of her material than she was supposed to be. Although Claudine is a very standard character, she gave a surprisingly layered performance. We get to know so many faces of this woman: she's angry, desperate, romantic, loveable, self-sacrificing, devastated, sad and happy. She shows so many feelings with which we are all too familiar.

I salute Carroll's courage that sometimes she dared make Claudine unlikable. Like all of us, she's not a perfect person, she has her own flaws and fears. Carroll knows the emotions of this character very well and she handles them perfectly. She gently and subtly lets us close to this very ordinary woman with painfully real problems: children, work, family. I also loved how effortlessly she does this: I never felt for a single moment that she was forced or not credible. I just saw Claudine living her life on screen.

Carroll has many very memorable scenes in which she certainly shows how much strength she has as a performer. For example she was unforgettable when her daughter comes home and vomits while Claudine supports her and tries to help, but she's also furious. Carroll's so heartbreakingly natural and real in that short scene: she shows how strong a mother's love and protective instinct can be when her child is in trouble. I was certainly very moved by that scene and it cannot be erased from my memory.

She has many confrontation scenes with everyone in that movie and yet her character never really becomes overbearing or hysterical. She just dealing with her problems and that's it. There's nothing bad about that, she's just acting as a normal person would/should.

I also loved that her character never really became the "suffering single woman", even though she Carroll could easily have played her that way. She just made the best decision: she made her a living, breathing everyday woman you can easily relate to and feel some kind of sympathy for her.

So to sum up, I saw an excellent and very strong performance full of memorable scenes. Although the heavy drama was missing and her material was not the best one ever, Diahann was fantastically real as a struggling woman in Harlem. This nomination was richly deserved and in a weaker year, it could have earned Carroll an Oscar win. Originally I was thinking about giving her a four, but I say whatsoever and give her more as I think she perfectly deserves this.

So what do you think? What are your predictions for my ranking?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Valerie Perrine in Lenny

Valerie Perrine received her only Best Actress nomination for playing Honey Bruce, the wife of the tragic comedian Lenny Bruce in the movie Lenny. Perrine also won many critics' awards that year, but she got them for her supporting work. I'm quite certain that had she been nominated in the supporting category, she would have won as it was a lousy year there. This is again a good example of bad campaigning, which probably made her the fourth runner-up.

Lenny is a very great, but depressing movie about the scandalous and tragic life of the outspoken comedian Lenny Bruce. I certainly got a lot out of it and enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a depressing movie. All the nominations are justified in my humble opinion. Bob Fosse was a great filmmaker and even though this movie is not even close to Cabaret or All that Jazz, it's still a work of great quality with exceptional performances. Especially Dustin Hoffman, whom I consider the greatest actor of his generation. He plays Lenny with such passion. Many people think that he did not identify with Lenny enough, but I thought that he was fascinatingly disappeared in his role.

And yes, there's Valerie Perrine. There's a very tricky question about her which is very-very arguable: is she leading or supporting? At the beginning of the movie, she totally controls it and has even more to do than Dustin Hoffman, however towards the end she totally disappears and after she's out of jail, she's there for about 10 minutes. I still believe that the supporting campaign would have made more sense (I definitely would have voted for her there). In a way she's the definition of the supporting role of the wife of a genious. I loved that unlike, say, Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind, Perrine gave a very layered and complex performance of such a character. These wife roles are always very tricky (they work very well with the Academy either way), but Perrine was able to avoid all the traps.

First of all, I loved the kind of emotional honesty with which she approached this character. Many say it and it's certainly true: she's the heart of the movie. Personally, I preferred Hoffman to her, however I could never really deny her emotional impact on me. She's not using many tools, she never goes technical, she always relies strictly on the emotions. I certainly appreciated her rawness and remarkable naturality. She totally became this woman without seeming forced and unreal.

She's unbelievably credible in the interview scenes, showing how simple this woman really is. I loved when she was talking about I'll Cry Tomorrow and corrects the interviewer that it's Susan Hayward while breaking down on-screen. That's one of the most unforgettable moments that I've ever seen.

However, I also must say that sometimes she paled a bit as the movie really put her into the background. This is definitely not her fault and yet it affected the whole of her performance and that's probably why most people feel that it's a supporting performance. She has the heart and impact of a supporting player and she does that quite beautifully.

Probably her greatest scene is a long and desperate telephone call when she's arrested while on drugs. She shows so many emotions with her face and is totally hearbreaking to watch. There's a woman humiliating herself to another person while showing desperation, anger, fear and devastation. As I said Perrine masterfully deals with the emotions of this character.

So to sum up, I can say that I saw a very-very good performance, which might be more of supporting, but has such a huge effect on you with it's emotional honesty and naturality that you are certainly amazed. Memorable work, worthy of a nomination, and deserving of a good rating.
So what do you think? What place do you think she will have in my ranking?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The next year...

Until I'm able to start 2002 (which will be next week and thanks for offering help, it's a bit of scheduling problem I have) I do a very much talked about and strong year, whose line-up includes five very famous and loved performances, two of them might be even legendary. This time I did not give you clues, but I hope this year will be as exciting as people say. So right now you might have found out that it's 1974.

The nominees were:
  • Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  • Diahann Carroll in Claudine
  • Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
  • Valerie Perrine in Lenny
  • Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence

So what do you predict for my ranking? What's yours and who's your pick? The predicting contest is on.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hello everyone!

I'm back from my vacation in London, where I had the most fantastic time. It's simply the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I really loved it and I visited everything possible. However, the most relevant thing to this blog is that I actually met and talked to one of my favorite Oscar winners (and now one of my favorite people on this world), Whoopi Goldberg. She was soooooo awfully kind. I was praising her performances (especially The Color Purple) and her Oscar speech to her, I hope I made her as happy about that as I was that I got to meet her. She's really a one-of-a-kind person.I even gave her the link of my blog, on a small piece of paper (I'm getting better at advertising this blog LOL) and she took it kindly and thanked it. Gosh, was I overjoyed then! It was so great to meet someone who's been a favorite of my since my early childhood.

Here's a picture of this lovely lady (my dad took it not me):

P.S.: Unfortunately I cannot do the promised year yet, because of conflicts with the movies. I'll do my best get them as soon as possible, but until then I ask for your patience and I start another year, which I'm gonna pick today. Thanks for understanding.

Monday, August 9, 2010

R. I. P. Patricia Neal

Patricia Neal

I have just heard the sad news, that Oscar's 1963 champ, the great actress Patricia Neal passed away at 84 after a very tragic life. The beautiful an talented actress will be greatly missed as she was able to give us some of the most legendary performances. Rest in Peace!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1948

About the field: Well, this year turned out to be way better than I expected. However I must say that my ranking looks much different than I thought it would be. I'm most shocked at my #5 as I expected her to become my pick. Nevertheless I can say that I saw two mindblowing, one great and two very good performances, so I can conclude that this was a rich and versatile year, which I really enjoyed. My ranking wasn't that easy, because there was some competition for #1, but in the end my pick was obvious. So now it's time to see the ranking

Irene Dunne gave a heartwarming, lovable performance which definitely had it's flaws but it did not bother me for her strong presence attracted my attention all the way. Great work, which had amazing moments in it.

4. Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
Another unpopular and not talked about performance that I was impressed by. Her last huge scene left a huge impact on me and I simply loved her You can hate Ingrid in this, you can hate me for this, but it doesn't change anything.

3. Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
She's courageous, charming and yet far from amazing or very memorable. I think that this performance might grow on me, but now I'm disappointed. Had I not heard that much about her, I would have been satisfied, but this way I'm feeling a bit awkward.

2. Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda
I saw a great performance, which aged well and was much better for the second time. My admiration has dropped a bit in time but I still have to admit how great she is in this movie. Very good and memorable work.

I can honestly say that I was very-very impressed and that I saw one of Stanwyck's finest works, which completely grabbed my attention from start to finish mainly caused by Stanwyck's dexterity with emotions. A really intriguing character study.

So my winner for this year is...
Barbara Stanwyck in
Sorry, Wrong Number
Barbara has just found out. :D

So now I've finished this very exciting year. So now it's time to move on. Unfortunately I can only start it in a week (precisely on Monday, 16th August). But naturally, I give you clues as usual, which will be TOO easy this time.
  • Adultery, a guilty pleasure
  • Being an artist is never easy
  • Did you like The Green Mile?
So what do you think?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman, the star of movies and television received her second Best Actress nomination and only Oscar for playing Belinda Macdonald, a deaf, but very intselligent girl, who's raped by a local bastard whom she later shoots in the movie Johnny Belinda. Wyman also received a Golden Globe for her performance and yet she thought that she would surely lose to Irene Dunne. She should not have been so pessimistic as the Academy found her to be the Best Actress that year.

Johnny Belinda is a brilliant movie, which I enjoyed much more for the second time and right now I can understand all its nominations. It might even get my vote in the Best Picture category. The acting is truly top-class: Lew Ayres gives a very subtle and memorable performance as the local doctor teaching Belinda, but Agnes Moorehead and especially Charles Bickford also stand out in their roles. The directing and the screenplay are both flawless and they are excellent jobs.

And there's Jane Wyman. Boy, I was almost in tears when I was watching her. For the first time I loved her, but did not notice that she was THIS brilliant. I mean, she's so utterly heartbreaking and lovely that I she made me literally speechless. She says so much simply with her face (she does not have a single line in the movie, but this is probably one of the most difficult characters one can receive). Wyman is a big emotional dynamite in this movie that sometimes she becomes almost unbearable to watch.

The biggest achievement of Wyman was that she was not afraid to show a darker side of Belinda. This is also a typical deglam role, but unlike Olivia de Havilland, Wyman does not use this to prove how beautiful and great she is. Easily put: her acting was not so forced that I saw her sweating. She gently pampers your heart with her charm, loveliness and most of all her very expressive face. Throughout the entire movie I felt a certain warmth in my soul.

It's also amazing how well she solved the development of her character. First she's like a scared little animal, who has potential in herself, but cannot express herself. Then she becomes more certain in herself and learns until she becomes a very intelligent woman who's able to take care of her child.

And we get to witness these change through very memorable, heartwarming and even terrifying sequences. Her most famous scene is probably the one where she's raped, which is in my opinion almost unbearable to watch despite the fact that it lasts for about 5 seconds and it doesn't show anything rough. But the true fear which one can notice in her eyes is alone Oscar-worthy: it's so chilling and harrowing that one will never forget those 5 seconds. The worst thing about it is, that we know what that awful man does to her, but she doesn't understand a thing about it, only that she's being hurt.

Belinda's innocence however doesn't fade completely. She remains a kind, lovely girl, but the fear and this horrible experience completely poisoned her. She's almost oddly believable and credible in these scenes: Wyman's stardom becomes unimportant, we cease to believe that it's her acting. She totally lived Belinda's character, breathed with her.

And yet I say that this is NOTHING compared to her greatest scene, where she's praying in sign language: it's such a gutwrenching, heartbreaking and tearjerking experience that is almost impossible to describe. That's probably one of the best-acted scenes that I have ever seen. It's really no exaggeration to tell that Wyman hit such heights with this role that it's almost impossible to top.

I have already mentioned how fearlessly Wyman revealed the darker side of this character: when Belinda feels that her baby whom she loves more than anything or anyone is in danger, she's not even afraid to kill anyone. Wyman show the instincts of a mother, who's merciless, if she has to protect her son.

So to sum up, I saw a great performance, which aged well and was much better for the second time. My admiration has dropped a bit in time but I still have to admit how great she is in this movie.
So what do you think? This was our last nominee. So conclusions tomorrow! :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama

Beloved actress Irene Dunne received her fifth (and last) nomination in the Best Actress category for playing Martha, a strong-willed and loving Norwegian mother raising her children in San Fransisco in the movie I Remember Mama. Jane Wyman said once that she herself thought that Irene Dunne was going to win the Oscar. And that makes sense: it was her fifth unsuccesful nomination, she had many friends in the industry and she had many imporant factors on her side. I'm just pissed that she lost for The Awful Truth, gosh she was so great in that (yes, I have seen the others).

I Remember Mama is a bit sentimental and yet touching little American movie about a nice, loveable family with whom you can easily identify and about whom you really care. The movie itself received five nominations (four of them in acting categories). The three performances which got the noms are not very outstanding to tell the truth: Oskar Homolka gives a very over-the-top performance which is occasionally quite annoying, Ellen Corby gets nearly nothing to do, but she's not that bad. Barbara Bel Geddes is the finest of the three, however when I look at her always Miss Ellie comes to my mind (here in Hungary Dallas was unbelievably popular).

Irene Dunne whom I adore, love and everything is not at the top of her game either unfortunately. In short we can say: she gives a very lovable and enjoyable performance, however she was not able to have a lasting effect on me. But if we look at the role (and her performance) we can easily see why she was the front-runner and why she gets so much love for this movie. The character of the lovely, self-sacrificing mother has always been very popular among the people and that also includes the members of the Academy (a fine example is Sandy Bullock's win this year). The audience loves mums in movies, because they remind them of their own mother and by this they love the actual actress.

First of all, the technical part of the performance is not very well worked on. I don't care about the accents, but even I noticed how exagerrated her Norwegian accent was. This is very surprising (or rather shocking) as Irene Dunne always nailed the technical part. Here she simply decided to be only lovely and rely on the emotions. She constantly (and desperately) wants to get the sympathy of the audience and her character became way too perfect and angelic, I actually couldn't believe that she was an actual person.

Her singing scene at the hospital is considered to be very moving and although I liked it to a degree, it did not really warm my stone heart. I felt so indifferent towards all of the characters and that unfortunately did not include Ms. Dunne. Too bad, however I would not really say that I was very disappointed, because I really did not have any expectations, actually I expected a good, but very sentimental performance, which I got ironically. So now I would not say that I'm bitter like I was with Olivia. I just feel this neutrality.

Towards the end of the movie however there are scenes where Irene Dunne gets some opportunities to shine and show her very radiant personality. First of all, when her uncle is dying, she's just excellent. She does not have much to do, but she says a lot in her silence. It's very moving where she decides to show the dead body to her daughter so that she wasn't terrified of death. There my indifference started to fade away and the sympathy for which Dunne so desperately worked was born in me. I really felt then that Martha was a breathing, living human being.

Another great moment is her chat with the famous writer to whom she shows her daughter's stories. Her loveliness shone through the screen and she quite impressed me right there. It's interesting her performance started mediocre but ended in total greatness. I'm always greatly influenced by the ending for if the end is good I can get over some mistakes. However, if it's not satisfying, I cannot forgive it. Fotunately, Dunne belongs to the former.

So to sum up, I can say that Irene Dunne gave a heartwarming, lovable performance which definitely had it's flaws but it did not bother me for her strong presence attracted my attention all the way. In time it grew on me so much that I only have positive memories about it and she still warms up my heart if I think about her.
Now it's time to give me your very final predictions and of course I'm waiting for your opinions,thoughts too. With this year I seem to disagree with most of the people so far but we'll see in the end. To see this movie click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Barbara Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number

The so-called "best actress never to win an Oscar", Barbara Stanwyck received her fourth and final Best Actress nomination for playing Leona Stevenson, a terrified, bossy and bedridden woman who overhears the plans of her own destruction accidentally in the chilling thriller, Sorry, Wrong Number. I read somewhere that Irene Dunne was expected to win an overdue Oscar and with the heavily awarded performances of Jane Wyman and Olivia de Havilland, Barbara Stanwyck did not have much chance to win. I guess she was the fourth or maybe third, because she might have received some votes as she was Oscarless.

Sorry, Wrong Number is an excellently directed and brilliantly acted thriller, which is full of suspense, thoughts and great dialogue. In my opinion this Anatole Litvak movie deserved the Best Picture and Director nomination way more than The Snake Pit, but I guess it was considered brave at the time. No matter what, Sorry, Wrong Number is still a very enjoyable and a bit light entertainment with a very surprising ending (at least I did not expect it). Burt Lancaster gives a very good performance (he tends to either annoy the hell out of me or make me speechless, now it's neither) and the other members of the cast too, but again this is a typical example of a movie focusing on a superstar. Or is it?

No actually, it isn't. This movie definitely doesn't focus on Barbara Stanwyck, it's more of an ensemble piece (Stanwyck does not have much screentime at all), where she stands out as she's the one holding the story together. We feel that the movie focuses on her because she has such a heavy and substantial presence that everyone plaes in comparision with her. In fact, I was always wanting more Barbara when she was off-screen for she was a treat to watch throughout the entire film.

In the very first scene we see a typical rich and big-faced bitch, lying on the bed, sweating and being annoyed that she's not able to call her husband. She overhears the plans of killing a woman (who happens to be her) and after that she insists on saving that poor person. Stanwyck brilliantly shows how stubborn and demanding Leona (that's her name) is. She does not care about the life of that other person that much, but when she decided to do something, she doesn't put up with the refusal. We see that she always got what she wanted from her rich daddy and she got herself a poor, but charismatic young man.

Leona as I said is a total bitch, which can be very enjoyable for a lot of people in movies (personally I'm not a huge fan of it) and here Stanwyck certainly is. This character is very different from her femme fatale character from Double Indemnity. She does not want everything, she HAS everything. Actually she doesn't know the term want for exactly when she looks at something, she gets it.

Stanwyck gets to show lots of emotions throughout her film: anger, anxiety, excitment, desperation, love, hate and most of all fear. Sometimes she's almost unbearable to watch as you want to help her despite the fact that she's an awful person. Stanwyck's biggest achievement was that she was able to make me care about Leona's life without liking her a bit. No, in fact she even made me hate her and yet feel sorry for her. Stanwyck's playing with these ambivalent emotions is almost breathtaking and very dangerous for her. She's always on the edge of losing all the effect, but she marvellously kept the balance. Another potential trap of the movie was the psychological storyline, which she handled flawlessly, though she mostly concentrated on the suspense part.

Not to mention the unbearable the tension and suspense of the last 8-10 minutes of the movie when her killer approaches her. Her acting there is so real and so suspenseful that it made me speechless. Stanwyck marvellously went from point A to B with her character, whose development is excellent AND believable plus her extremely strong presence constantly amazed me. She always left me wanting more of her (I mean this a very positive way) and the movie really lived when she was on-screen.

So, to sum up, I can say how pleasantly surprised I was as this was the performance I did not really expect that much from. I can honestly say that I was very-very impressed and that I saw one of Stanwyck's finest works, which completely grabbed my attention from start to finish mainly caused by Stanwyck's dexterity with emotions. A fascinating character study.
So comments, predictions anyone? To watch Sorry, Wrong Number click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc

Legendary, beloved and immortal actress Ingrid Bergman received her fourth Best Actress nomination for playing Joan of Arc, a young French girl destined to save France in the 1948 movie, Joan of Arc. Now, I'm pretty damn sure that Ingrid had the least chance to win out of the nominees as she was a previous winner (actually she won the award the soonest out of the group), she did not receive prestigeous awards for her performance and her movie was a financial flop plus the reviews were not very kind either.

Unfairly, in my humble opinion. Joan of Arc is a fair religious American movie, not worse than say The Song of Bernadette. The technical part of it is excellent (for its age at least) and the actors give quite good performances in it. José Ferrer got a nomination which might just have been deserved, however I did not find him to be good enough to win. Actually there are many more familiar faces in Joan of Arc, but again I have to say that the movie is all about the performance of the title character. Everything is done to help Ingrid Bergman show her talent and good qualities. Unsuccessfully, as we can notice by the opinions about this performance. People acknowledge it to a degree, but now it's totally forgotten and in the blogosphere she's not very popular either (to put it mildly).

Undeservedly, I may say and defintely not because Ingrid Bergman is one of my all-time favorite actresses. I can admit when she's not giving her usual self in movies like The Bell's of St Mary's, but now it's not the case. This performance of hers is treated like Joan of Arc back then: some people want to burn it, some love it, but unfortunately it's burned without a good reason. It's very important to mention that this movie is based on a Broadway play for which Ingrid won the Tony award. The main argument against her in this movie can be that she's too over-the-top and theatrical, which is partly true, however it's mainly because of the screenplay. It seemed to me as if the screenwriter (it was the playwright) was quite lazy to work and rather left everything as it was (which was a huge Broadway hit). Ingrid suffers from the exaggerated lines, but how can she deliver them if not like she did in the theatre? She was even able to hold herself back.

First of all, Ingrid Bergman had a magnetic presence which was able to elevate even the shallowest material. Whenever she's on-screen, you cannot take your eyes off her. Her beauty, grace (and most of all) talent shines through the film and fills you with positive feelings that some are not able to handle nowadays and that's why I think that she's a bit underrated. Personally, it did not really bother me that she was 33 despite the fact that Joan was only 19 at the time.

And we got to the difficult character of Joan of Arc: she's a naive, idealistic, deeply religious and most of all very SIMPLE and ORDINARY young girl. Begman excellently caught that Joan became enthusiastic and almost fanatic after leaving her old, simple life behind.Ingrid handled Joan with enormous respect and understanding, she could think like an illiterate peasant girl. She can understand much more with her heart and her soul. She was raised to serve the king and above all, God and she does everything possible the achieve her goal, or if you like it that way, destiny.

Joan is very uneducated, but far from being stupid or silly. She undestands other simple people and Bergman perfectly portrayed her almost angelic nature, which can easily be annoying for nowadays' people. And now we got back to the huge criticsm: overacting and being theatrical. In my humble opinion, the decision Ingrid made, was a wise one. She may be more popular had she been subtler, but she chose this and I'm grateful for that even though it was certainly a bit much sometimes.

After Helen Mirren in The Last Station, there's another unpopular and not talked about performance that I was impressed by. Her last huge scene left a huge impact on me and I simply loved her when she was expressing her doubts and saying her prayers. You can hate Ingrid in this, you can hate me for this, but it doesn't change anything. Rating is not easy however. I could give a five, but that would be a bit much and I could give less, but I would feel it's not enough. It's a great and forgotten performance of a true legend, .
So what do you think my ranking will look like? Are you saying "What a Surprise!" theEllen Burstyn was or are you happy for Ingrid? Tell me, don't be shy. To watch a bit edited version of the movie click here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit

Legendary Olivia de Havilland received her fourth Academy Award nomination (third in the Best Actress category) for playing Virginia Cunningham, a woman having an ugly nervous breakdown in the Best Picture nominated film of Anatole Litvak, The Snake Pit. I'm quite sure that Olivia had an excellent chance of winning that Oscar. It must have been a big competition between her and Jane Wyman (and probably the overdue Dunne and Stanwyck stole some votes), but I guess the "she's already won" factor came in to the picture.

The Snake Pit is a very much loved movie as I noticed, however I was not as impressed by it as everyone else. Sure, it was way ahead of its time, yet I did not feel that it was very harrowing. I guess they have to follow the demands of the censors and the audiences. Too bad. All the actors are giving very good performances, it was especially nice to see Betsy Blair in her very small role (she has two words altogether). We can make the conclusion that The Snake Pit is The Olivia de Havilland show.

This performance is probably one of her most popular and beloved works, despite the fact that nobody can deny that she was the best in The Heiress. The part of Virginia is the prototype of deglam roles (just like Catherine Sloper in The Heiress). The beautiful superstar becomes unattractive, even ugly, no lipstic or makeup etc. It's no wonder that people went (and still go) crazy for Olivia's acting in this one.

I always felt that by attitude towards an actor or an actress always influences my opinion about her actual work. I know that it's unfair, but after all we are human who are biased. I like de Havilland and always enjoy her in everything she does and The Snake Pit was no exception. Her acting is charismatic, loveable and makes you care about her character and feel sympathy for her. Olivia's best decision througout her career was that she was never afraid to disappear as a star. When I watch a say Kate Hepburn performance, I always feel that it's Kate Hepburn as her personality shines through the material, however in Olivia's case, I always feel that I'm watching the character and not her.

That being said, I can talk about her actual acting in this movie. My only (and unfortunately) big complaint about her is that she does not have as much weight and strength as she should. You can always grab the attention of the audience when you're playing a crazy person and yet I never felt that Olivia really hit me hard. Of course, the tenderness and weakness comes from her character, but I could never really be amazed by her as she wasn't able to always grab my attention.

And yet I feel that the tenderness also helps her acting. Although she did not give me chills as I expected, I was impressed by her charm and dignity on-screen. She might have been weaker than she should have been, but she still shined (to a degree). Although in general she was very good and I liked her a lot, a cannot really mention one outstanding scene. Her big scene with her childhood is effective, but not amazing. Again: it lacks some strength. I remember Liz Taylor's big monologue in Suddenly, Last Summer. I think overall she was worse than Olivia, but that scene was way more powerful. Her strongest moments are when she gets to the snake pit where she's able to give more than in the other scenes and yet it's not very satisfying either. Again, her first scenes are very well-acted, but not THAT brilliant. I must say though that she's terrifying when she's forced into the bathtub.

I really don't know what else to say about her. She's courageous, charming and yet far from amazing or very memorable. I think that this performance might grow on me, but now I'm disappointed. Had I not heard that much about her, I would have been satisfied, but this way I'm feeling a bit awkward. Nevertheless, this is a very good performance, which is easy to like but I don't know how you would appreciate it. My grade is the one I feel the most comfortable with, so I guess it will do. Nice work from de Havilland, but definitely not her best.

Ingrid Bergman's next. What do you think? Do you love Olivia more than me or you totally hate her? I'm also interested in your predicitions. To see The Snake Pit click here

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The next year...

Hi everyone, I'm back from my vacation so now it's time to go on with our next year, which is (as you all guessed well) 1948. I don't know either how my ranking will look like as I only saw the winner, but I can give links to ALL of the movies. On forums this year is mostly talked about because of the performances of de Havilland and Wyman, however I can pick anyone, so let's just start it. I think I'll see at least two excellent performances and naturally I'm waiting for your preditions.

So the nominees were:
  • Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
  • Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
  • Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number
  • Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda
So what do you think my ranking will look like?