Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bette Davis in The Little Foxes

Bette Davis received her fifth/sixth Best Actress nomination for playing Regina Giddens, a greedy and heartless Southern woman in William Wyler's Best Picture nominted classic, The Little Foxes. I really don't know what to think about her chances of winning that year. I can even imagine that she was the least likely to win. She was the only previous Oscar-winner of the line-up, she even had two of them. However, Bette was always a threat to win the award. If the rumour is true about Olivia being second, than I would say that Bette was fourth. Stanwyck had a great year, which I think gave her the edge over Bette. Still, we'll never know.

The Little Foxes is an excellent movie about greed. I remembered it being more of an ensemble movie, and I remembered much less of Davis. The screenplay (the work of Lilian Hellman) is simply terrific, full of great, memorable lines, and I think it should have won an Oscar. This story is so universal and it still hasn't lost its credibility. A brilliant job. Well, it's true that the authors write the best adaptations of their works. All the actors give very strong performances and I would say that Patricia Collinge even deserved the Oscar. Wright is also very good, though she's always a bit underwhelming.

However (I like using this term so much, I admit), The Little Fox is The Bette Davis show. I'll also admit that Davis was a brilliant actress. Although I dislike some of her movies/performances (I'd like to forget The Letter, for example), I still think she's marvelously talented and versatile. Moreover, she's versatile, even by playing basically two types of roles: the bitch and the tragic heroine. She gives different characteristics to all of them. Let me explain this: Margo Channing and Regina Giddens both belong to the bitchy group and yet the two characters cannot be more different. Regina is cold-hearted, even heartless, vicious, moneyed, greedy, manipulative and fake-nice. It's interesting that although these characters are highly unlikeable, they have an enormous popularity among people. What's the reason for that? I guess, it's basically two words: Bette Davis.

Regina is so realistic and hateful (quite rarely seen in a 40s movie), and this great achievement is 100% because of Bette. She even fell out with William Wyler because of her interpretation of Regina. Wyler wanted to make her more likeable (and it seems to have been the better decision at the time). This would have resulted in more love from the audience and probably even a third Oscar win for Bette. However, Bette made a right decision and by this she created one of the most memorable characters of the silver screen. Not only did she make Regina immortal, but she also put on a performance that so lacks the obvious 40s acting. While watching some 40s nominees and their overly sentimental acting, I seriously consider blowing my own brains out. With Bette, everythign went so smoothly.

From the very beginning, we can see that Regina is a very controlling woman. I read in Alex's review about the movie about Regina meaning queen in many languages, and it's really interesting. It was the best decision of Lillian hellman to name her Queen and by this, she showed Regina's superiority to her environment. I guess Bette also realised this and put this crucial thing into this performance, and by this, she created such a dazzling portrait of this woman.

Naturally, the bitchy line deliveries are dead on, still it's not the thign I like most about Bette in The Little Foxes. What I like the most, is the really wide range of emotions that Davis covers with her acting, and she's able to show so many faces of Regina. She's confident when she's negotiating with her stupid, greedy brothers, desperate when she has to achiveve everything she wants, and terrified when she has to face the conequences of her acts. She comes out triumphant out of all the battles and yet she somehow loses the war, because of her coldness. Actually, I feel that Regina had some love for her daughter, quite much I think. The reason for her actions is also the benefit of her child. Despite being very greedy, I don't think that Regina is that selfish. Davis showed so thrillingly that Regina wanted to give everything to her daughter which she did not have at her age. Their last scene together is really chilling: Regina asks Alexandra to sleep in her room and talk to her. Davis' face in this scene is unbelievably expressive and she blew me away.

So, I can say after all, that Bette Davis gives one of her strongest and most memorable performances as Regina Giddens, the greedy Southern woman. She put all her experience and knowledge into it, worked hard, made it all look easy and created one of the greatest and most complex characters of the 1940s. An excellent, chilling work of a great actress. Bravo.
I know I said I would leave her last, but I just couldn't resist.

Time for the final predictions!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn

Olivia de Havilland received her second Oscar nomination for playing Emmy Brown, a naive young woman falling for a Romanian gigolo in the Best Picture nominee, Hold Back the Dawn. The relationship between Joan Fontaine and Olivia has always been extremely complicated, they've always been extremely competitive. And it all became worse when Joan won her first Oscar over her sister in 1942. Apparently (though I don't really know how credible an imdb board can be), it was later revealed to Olivia that she lost only by seven votes and she would have won in a tie if she had voted for herself instead of the great Barbara Stanwyck. Now figure...

Hold Back the Dawn was quite boring when I was watching it. Now, however, I feel much better about it and in conclusion, I can say that I actually liked it very much. It was well-written and directed, it wasn't too clichéd and there was something engaging about it that did not let you take your eyes off the screen. Charles Boyer was a great actor in my opinion (moreover, Olivia also spoke about him with real fondness) and he was always able to avoid the most typical flaws. I think he would have deserved a Best Actor nomination for this movie. Paulette Godard was also good, though I wasn't that impressed by her.

Olivia de Havilland is a strange case, for me at the very least. On the one hand, I cannot overlook her overall effect on American cinema and the 1940s. On the other hand, sometimes I just cannot put up with her. To those who need further explanation, I'll tell that I hate when I suspect that something/someone is fake. It really gets on my nerves to see typical, obvious acting by anyone. In To Each His Own and The Snake Pit, that was the case with Olivia. She sacrificed the credibility of her whole performance in order to make the audience sob and care about her. Why? I really don't understand that, I would have cared about her anyway. Second, her presence is not strong enough I think in many cases. It might also be the fact that she was given these good Christian virgin roles, which is not very complicated.

Now you can imagine how much prejudice I had with this performance. However, I must also say, that there were two sides of my expectations. I thought she would both fail and succeed for me, and by this I ended up expecting absolutely nothing. I sat down and watched her. And that was the very best decision. Ironically, one of the expectations has proven right (yes, I am going to tell which).

The character is called Emmy Brown. Every time I heard her name, either the Emmy award or Doctor Emmett Brown came to my mind. Although it did not mean anything at the time, now it's quite funny. At least for me. Emmy (in a way) is extremely similar to Catharine Sloper in the fascinating movie, The Heiress. They are both extremely naive, shy and sensitive, and they are so easily influenced by a kind word from a man. They are not saying much, however they have a real depth. However, I never heard that silent scream on Olivia's face now, which was apparent in The Heiress. Emmy is not a bitter spinster yet, she's young, caring, loving, inexperienced. Olivia perfected these naive roles and Emmy perfectly represents this. Olivia really understood Emmy, I think and somehow I felt this, I barely noticed those obvious moments. It's very strange that she worked quite well with me this time around.

I was quite scared in the beginning that she was going to be weak once again, but everything went smoothly and easily after a while (exactly when Emmy starts her relationship with Georges). There's a kissing scene, where Olivia is so brilliant at showing how scared this young woman is from that man. Her chemistry with Charles Boyer is just fantastic and I feel that both performers were able to benefit from this fruitful working relationship.

Still, there's one scene which totally blew me away, and there I said, 'OK Olivia, I give up! You won.' Those who have seen the movie must know which scene I'm talking about (yes, it's the blessing in the church). Olivia's playing with her face is so thrillingly brilliant. It was simply terrific to follow her emotions all the way. It was a very interesting and memorable sequence which totally won me over. The other one was her confrontation scene with Paulette Godard, where a more bitchy side of Emmy is shown apart from her naivete. It's so interesting to see her stick to her beliefs about Georges so staunchly. It was again an excellent sequence.

Although sometimes Olivia's performance in this movie is a bit slow-paced, she's still able to be very impressive and loveable. I'm not saying that I was blown away, I was quite impressed by her this time around. This was the perfect prologue to her once-in-a-lifetime work in The Heiress. I might even reconsider my thoughts about her. Well done.
I think I'll leave Bette last to let the big Bette fans wait. Plus I feel the need to make Joan the next. We'll see.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Back again...

Hi there! I'm back and since I was away for a while, I feel the need to react to the Golden Globes this year and this Oscar year in general.

First, the Golden Globes: Boy, it was one of the most boring shows I've seen in my life. Boring speeches, nothing interesting, Glee stealing all the awards from Modern Family in that fake, annoying spirit. Moreover, Ricky Gervais was really, really offensive this time. I usually have fun at him, but he was way too much this time. However, I can say that I'm satisfied with the motion picture winners. Melissa Leo and Christian Bale were both brilliant and very deserving. I'm also happy for Natalie Portman (if she gets the SAG, the Oscar is hers), who delivered a beautiful speech. I was so happy that there are still family-oriantated people in Hollywood. Plus, her performance was more than deserving. I haven't seen The King's Speech, so I cannot judge Firth's win, but his speech seemed to be a bit reckless. The sweep of The Social Network was pretty predictable, it was justified to a degree. Also I really disliked it for the first time, after re-watching it, I was blown away. Still, I prefer The Fighter and (mostly) Black Swan.

The Oscar race: Gosh, apart from the Best Actress race, there's NOTHING exciting about it (and if Natalie gets the SAG, than all the suspense is gone). What the hell is going on this year? There's nothing interesting, no scandals with Mo'Nique not campaigning or Bullock campaigning as hell. Everything is so odd right now. I don't know, it might be that Meryl Streep is out of the race this year? It isn't the lack of great films for sure, since I saw many, I just feel that the real buzz and excitement is missing.

The Best Actress reviews: I have no idea, when I'm able to go on with it, I'll do my best, I can promise.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire

Barbara Stanwyck received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Shugarpuss O'Shea in the comedy Ball of Fire. Nowadays, some consider Barbara to be the best actress who never won an Oscar, though I would argue with that statement. Although she was definitely extremely talented, I feel that Irene Dunne owns that title. I don't know how much chance Barbara had of winning, but I know that Olivia de Havilland voted for her. Ball of Fire must have been pretty loved back then, which gained some votes for Barbara.

I am a huge fan of Billy Wilder. I admire his quick wit so much and many of his movies are among my favorites. Although he did not direct this movie, he wrote its screenplay and it's obvious after the opening titles. Ball of fire is very entertaining, though I thought that it would feel very dated now. It's dated in a way, but it's still highly entertaining and extremely lovely. It's full of great lines and funny scenes. Gary Cooper is not among my favorite actors. Although I respect him, he never left me speechless. The same goes for his performance here: it's very proper, but nothing special.

As I just said, Barbara Stanwyck was really talented. Contrary to Greer Garson, Stanwyck was indeed very versatile. Although she was quite typecast on TV in the 70s and 80s, it wasn't the case in the 40s. She played a femme fatale in Double Indemnity, a possible murder victim in Sorry, Wrong Number and the self-sacrificing mother in Stella Dallas, just to mention only her Oscar-nominated works. In Ball of Fire, it's again a whole different character, the comic heroine. Even the name of Sugarpuss is extraordinary and really funny. Sugarpuss herself is truly a ball of fire, full of energy and lust, which makes Barbara the perfect choice for this part. Her easily recognisable voice, her strong presence really justifies this casting choice.

I love when great comedy performances are recognised by the Academy. In my opinion, comedy is really hard to do well, because if the lines are not delivered well enough, the whole work is ruined. If there's a false note in a drama performance, the rest of it might make up for it. However, in a comedy, you have nothing, but your lines and situations, which should be handled perfectly. And Barbara Stanwyck really nailed the comedy part of this performance. Although Sugarpuss doesn't get the best material (since it belongs to the other scientists), she's able to be very funny and memorable.

I consider Sugarpuss to be a character just like Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act. She's a thunderball, turning the life of a very quiet and peaceful community upside down, while annoying a conservative woman, who naturally doesn't approve her behavior. Barabara Stanwyck's comedy is, however much less hysterical than the one of Whoopi Goldberg. Under the circumstances of Babara's era, Sugarpuss wasn't what she could have been: a foul-mouthed, utterly adorable bad girl. And yet, Stanwyck was so memorable and delightful here.

I always keep marvelling at how well Stanwyk develops her characters, and how invisibly she goes from point A to B, therefore creating a very real character. Sugarpuss is very wild and cheeky in the beginning, and she's simply using these ultra-innocent man to basically run away. First she's only amused by their naive nature, but very soon, she becomes very fond of them, and doesn't want to let them down. Sugarpuss is an immoral woman, but Barbara showed well, that in a way she is an honest person. Yes, she uses these guys, but she doesn't make excuses when she could. She's always able to see the consequences of her action, and she's not afraid of talking back to anyone. She has this "I'm just like this, otherwise damn you" attitude, which could seem very distracting if you read about it, but it was very attractive for me on-screen. To tell the truth, I was seduced by her from the very beginning. Her scenes, her lines are also perfectly handled by Barbara, and I loved that she used these comic elements to underline certain attributes of this woman. For Barbara, comedy is only a tool to make Sugarpuss even more attracitve, and with me she succeeded.

Although the screentime is working against her, every times, when we see her, there's something great going on there. Even in her first shot when we only see her fingernails, we know that "yeah, this is gonna be great". I felt that, though I'm quite sure that Stanwyck's acting style is not for everyone. It's very divisive, since some may find her a bit artificial, but for me, her performances always work.

So, I can say that Barbara Stanwyck is just great as Sugarpuss O'Shea in Ball of Fire, and despite the fact that I did not expect that much from this performance and that the screentime was working against her, I was certainly really impressed by Barbara and wanted to see more of her. A great comedy performance.
I try not to get too carried away and I give her 4,5 Meryls, though I might change it to a 5 if she grows one me.

Any thoughts? Who should be the next one? (I will only read the comments on Saturday.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust

Greer Garson received her second Oscar nomination for playing Edna Gladney, who opens a home for orphan and illegitimate children in Blossoms in the Dust. The Academy loved Greer Garson. Basically, she was the Meryl Streep of the forties. She received five consecutive nominations and a win for the title role of Mrs. Miniver. I doubt it, though that she had much of a chance of winning in 1941. I'm not really sure as (just like I said), they loved Greer. Wow, years were so open when there were not other award (except for NYFCC).

Blossoms in the Dust is movie that is almost impossible to find. If it wasn't for a saint called kkiimmiissiipp, I would still search for it. And I actually enjoyed it. Of coure, it's really sentimental and corny, but it was also very entertaining and loveable. It's a typical 40s movie, which is not my cup of tea, but there were certain things I really liked about it. This was the first of the eight movies that featured both Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, who really doesn't have much of a role in this one. He's there until the middle and we don't see more of him. Blossoms in the Dust is the story of Edna and the movie of Greer.

Greer Garson is a really interesting actress. On the one hand, she's a typical 40s actress starring in sentimental melodramas. On the other hand, there's something about her personality, which doesn't let you take your eyes off her. Although nowadays she seems to be quite forgotten, I actually visited a fansite of hers, where there were poems about her. And I can understand this, since she has such a unique and heartwarming on-screen presence. I wouldn't say though, that she was very versatile: she kept on playing the same characters for an entire decade, the strong, but loving mother and wife.

I couldn't really imagine anyone else playing the role of Edna this effectively. It's a very standard role in a standard movie. There's not much to say about her. She's a woman, who's life is turned upside down because of the death of her own child and her childhood friend, and despite these difficulites she remains strong and unbeatable.

My first real problem is that Edna is never really developed in this movie. I mean there are small, interesting things about her, but the melodrama of the screenplay really keeps us from really knowing her. The effect of one scene is more important than the overall achievement and therefore, it is never really impressive. And Greer suffers from this, too. At the beginning of it, I was certainly very charmed by her effective and radiant presence, but later on, I felt that it was not enough for me. First of all, everything is really unbelievable. I understand that after the death of her son, she wants to party in order to forget her grief and in the next scene she's taking care of children. Everything is really rushed (it's mostly the screenplay's fault), though Greer really tried to make everything believable.

However, I must say that I was truly captivated by Greer Garson's very natural and subtle acting in soem of the scenes: she has a great chemistry with Walter Pidgeon, and I felt that this was really a match made in Heaven. Also, she's brilliant with the kids. Although Edna cannot be a mother again, she loves and cares about. Edna is a loveable and sympathetic character, one that you could root for. Greer delivers the huge, theatrical monologues excellently. They are very emotional, and thanks to Greer, not that sentimental.

Edna becomes extremely close to one kid, whom she considers her son and it's such a moving scene where she says goodbye to him when she has to give him away. Greer was able to do it with such ease and warmth, that it never became too sentimental. And I salute her for that, because this was a real challenge solved excellently by Greer.

After all, I can say that this is a beautiful performance, which might a bit weak and rushed at times, but it's often very moving. Although it's quite forgotten nowadays, I think it shouldn't be, since it is one of the most lovely performances of a great talent. Although it may not be flawless, I still liked it a lot.

What do you think?

The next entry is timed for Sunday, but I won't be available then. The post will be automatically posted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Next Year


So the nominees were:
  • Bette Davis in The Little Foxes
  • Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn
  • Joan Fontaine in Suspicion
  • Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire
Oh, I always wanted to do this year! It's going to be so exciting. I've seen only two of the ladies yet (and I don't really remember them), so I'm very curious, even though I'm not a fan of any of these ladies. And for the very first time I only have actresses I have previously reviewed.

What do you think? What are your predictions for the contest?

BTW, I am going to France on Friday for some skiing and I'm coming back next Saturday, so I may only start reviewing then. I might post the first profile tomorrow, but it's quite uncertain.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1980


Gena Rowlands (despite her great talent) is not able to save this trainwreck of a movie called Gloria, but at there are some short, but quite strong scenes that ingrained in my memory. I wasn't very disappointed to tell the truth (I knew what to expect), but it's painful to write so negatively about Gena.

This is a fantastic performance, which is extremely haunting and captivating. Mary is able to make Beth a breathing, understandable human being, for whom you really feel sorry. Thanks to Mary Tyler Moore, I was perfectly able to understand Beth's emotions and feelings.

Goldie gives a great and extremely hilarious performance in Private Benjamin, which might very well be her best work, though it's nothing for the ages. The most important thing is that I loved her and the character as well, and she entertained me so well. I loved her, that's it.

I was quite pleased by Sissy's performance in this movie. Sometimes I was so captivated by her, that I forgot that I was actually watching a movie. It's a really gripping, powerful performance, which is extremely subtle, but is full of layers, quiet emotions and brilliant singing.

This extremely controversial performance was so healing for me. I loved every moment of it, though I doubt that love is the right word for it. It really made me re-think if The Exorcist is my favorite performance of Ellen. Ellen in Ressurection is thought-provoking, harrowing and unforgettable.

So I can proudly announce
that my winner is...
Ellen Burstyn
Miracle worker :)

Final thoughts: Wow, this decision was not easy. For a while, I thought I would pick Ellen, because her performance was so unique, but I figured that Sissy's towering, enourmous performance is the one for the ages and Ellen falls into the Liza Minnelli/Diane Lane category. I LOVED Goldie and I really want to mention her, because if her movie was made in 1981 or 1975, she would be my pick, hands down. She's so utterly charming and I'm so happy that it found recognition. Some may not like that I ranked her above Mary, but that's it. Mary was fantastic as well, though this time she let me down a bit. Just like Ida Kaminska, but to a lesser extent. Gena was the weakest link in this otherwise great line-up: she suffered so much from that shitty movie she was in (one of the worst ones I have ever seen and its memory still haunts me). Anyway, some of the movies could have been contenders for the non-film awards: Resurrection for some spiritual, religous award and Gloria for the Nobel Prize for being the perfect medicine for insomnia (though it's quite bitter to swallow).

  • Ildikó Bánsági in Confidence *My Vote*
  • Jane Fonda in 9 to 5
  • Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 
  • Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5
  • Mari Kiss in Duty-Free Marriage 
I really look forward to the next year. I have wanted to do it for so long and there was a miracle and I can do it! YAY!
  • Do you want a glass of milk? ;)
What do YOU think? Any requests, thoughts, suggestions?

Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People

Mary Tyler Moore received her only Best Actress nomination to date for playing Beth Jarrett, a woman having a troubles with her son in Robert Redford's Best Picture winner, Ordinary People. Mary Tyler Moore (just like Geraldine Page in Interiors) is the victim of wrong campaigning. Had she been campaigned in supporting, she definitely would have won the Oscar in that extremely weak field. Although she won the Golden Globe for her performance, she did not have much of a chance against Sissy Spacek's huge performance in Coal Miner's Daughter. Mary was undoubtedly second, in my opinion.

Ordinary People is one of the most emotionally effective movies ever. It's so forceful and moving, and it is indeed a cathartic experience. It's not perfect though, as the exposition is a bit slow, but I still feel that it desereved Best Picture and it's among my favorite movies ever. Robert Redford is a very talented director in my opinion: he's always able to create such an emotional atmosphere (see Quiz Show, which is brilliant, too), that it totally captivates me every time. However, he also needed great actors: there are no big movie stars here (maybe only Sutherland), most of the actors are TV stars (Moore, Hirsch, Hutton), who are superbly talented and we are constantly surprised by their achievements.

I happen to be a fan of Mary Tyler Moore's show: although I slightly prefer Valerie Harper, I also love Mary very much and she's such a great actress. I don't really see why she remained on TV after Ordinary People: she could have become a real movie star. However, I don't really think that she would have won an Oscar anyhow. She's the "now or never" type. With Beth, she had the perfect role: much different from her own image, and it's a really complex and multi-layered character.

It's so hard to tell what I think about this performance. On the one hand, it's a stunning achievement and I'm a huge fan of it. On the other hand, I think that she's really supporting in this movie. She's co-lead at best. It's interesting that she has the effect of a lead performance on you, but her screentime is really working against her. She has about 30 minutes, which should be used properly without any waste in order to be effective. I think that Mary perfectly solved this very hard task. Although she's not on screen, I can still feel her presence there and I just want to see more of her.

Beth is so full of layers and Mary shows all of them: on the outside, she's the perfect housewife, but soon we begin to realize that she's just not able to connect with her son emotionally. In fact, Beth is not capable of showing emotions at all. Every time that somebody starts to open up to her, she quickly changes to subject. Beth has difficulites with basic human communication, except for chatting and smiling as if everything was perfect. Mary wanted to underline that Beth is not a bitch, but a victim, who refuses to be one. Beth just cannot accept that she's not perfect and she just can't look at her son.

There's one scene at the garden where we see that Beth tries to get close to Conrad, but she fails, because he stars talking about her dead son. Donald Sutherland says in the end that it seems as if Beth buried all her love along with Bucky, the person she loved more than anyone. When Bucky was around, Beth was a woman full of love and giving, but his death just defeated and hardened her. You can be shocked that she basically hates her son, but, in fact, somehow, I understood Beth's feelings. Mary was so great at expressing them, that sometimes she almost made me speechless.

I have a slight complaint, though. I said that she had a really lasting effect, but I have to also add that the effect is a bit uneven. Sometimes it goes a bit dangerously low and there was a point where I thought that I would lose my interest in Beth. Fortunately, Mary avoided, but I blame her a bit for this. It might be again, though, that her screentime was not enough for this character as she's very complex.

Still, this is a fantastic performance, which is extremely haunting and captivating. Mary is able to make Beth a breathing, understandable human being, for whom you really feel sorry. Thanks to Mary Tyler Moore, I was perfectly able to understand Beth's emotions and feelings and I understood that she's in fact a victim. Excellent work.
What do you think? The Final Conclusion comes soon. I have got a lot to think about.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter

Sissy Spacek received her second Best Actress nomination (and to date) only Oscar for playing country legend Loretta Lynn in the movie Coal Miner's Daughter. I think there was no way in hell that she was not winning that Oscar. She had the best, most baity role of all, was a previous nominee, who lost for a buzzed performance, she sang Loretta Lynn's difficult songs, she swept the critics' awards. So that's called a lock. I think that Mary Tyler Moore was her only real competition, but it was also the snobism of the Academy towards TV actors that gave Spacek the edge probably.

Coal Miner's Daughter is a very entertaining movie, a fair biography that I thuroughly enjoyed. I think all the nominations were deserved (very much) and let me say that I HAD to watch this to forget Gloria as soon as possible. Although Coal Miner's Daughter is not a classic either, it's just great and I think we can all just agree on that. Tommy Lee Jones gives an excellent performance which is a supporting role, though he probably has not much less screentime than Spacek. A nomination would have been deserved for him.

Still, Coal Miner's Daughter is about Loretta Lynn and the actress who played her, the magnificent Ms. Sissy Spacek, who's a real chameleon: she can play any role she wants from the troubled, psychopath teenager to a grieving mother. She's so damn versatile that I always keep wondering: what's next? She has such a luminous, radiant personality that is so well-balanced, and by this her performances always seem to be effortless.

Loretta Lynn is a role to die for. I'm still a bit surprised that Sissy was chosen for the part. At first sight, there's not much physical resemblance between the two, but miraculously, this wasn't a problem with Sissy. She inhabited the personality of Loretta (I always want to write Young, damn, my actressing mind) so thrillingly, that you actually never see Sissy acting on the screen. She becomes this person and develops her character exceptionally. Also, she works brilliantly with Tommy Lee Jones: they make up a really great couple, they are really charming and loveable together and I just loved them.

There are so many faces of Loretta: first she's an intelligent, but very naive young girl, who's hard-working and loving. She tries her best to be a good mother and wife, despite being a child. First everything is terrifying to her: there's a scene which takes place at the wedding night of Loretta and Doo. Loretta starts screaming and crying when her husband wants to have sex with her. And that scream is so heartbreaking: do you realise that she's not even fourteen? I mean this reality is so shocking. And despite being much older, I never had a single doubt that Sissy was not 14. She showed the childish behaviour of Loretta very believably.

Sissy then shows us how Loretta becomes a mother, who's singing to her children at night. And boy, that voice is really awesome! I mean, I really don't understand how Sissy was able so sing so well despiite the fact that she's not a professional singer. If she made a country record, I would most definitely listen to it many times. Not only does she sing perfectly, but she also fills the songs with so many emotions. It was just awesome.

The strongest part of her performance comes when Loretta befriends Patsy Cline, the famous country singer. Beverly D'Angelo (robbed of the nomination for Best Supporting Actress) and Sissy Spacek work together so astonishingly that I became speechless at some of their scenes. For example, the one in the hospital: Loretta's extremely shy in the presence of a star and Patsy seems to be very casual and cool about Loretta. The chemistry between the two ladies is probably even stronger than the one between Sissy and Tommy Lee Jones.

Sissy also shows the star persona of Loretta: everything comes so fast in this movie, just like Loretta's life as she says. She becomes quite divaish and self-confident, much different from the shy girl in the beginning. I loved the scene where Loretta's waving to her fans from the bus: Sissy is so terrific at showing how new and lovely this situation is for Loretta, who's not used to such things. After all, she breaks down from the pressure of stardom in a heartbreaking scene, where Sissy is simply the best. It's one of the most subtly acted breakdowns in history, but it's very effective.

So after all, I was amazed by Sissy's brilliant performance in this movie. Sometimes I was so captivated by her, that I forgot that I was actually watching a movie. It's a really gripping, powerful performance, which is extremely subtle, but is full of layers, quiet emotions and brilliant singing. It's not a typical Spacek-performance, but a proof of the versatility of a performer.

What do you think? It's time to give your final predictions, people! :) Mary's review comes soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Gena Rowlands in Gloria

Gena Rowlands received her second Oscar nomination for playing Gloria Swenson, a mobster's girlfriend trying to save a child's life in John Cassavetes' movie, Gloria. Wow, I'm wondering how the Academy reacted to Gena's performance. I guess they liked her to a degree, because they nominated her. I doubt it that she received many votes, she might have even been last, but she could have been third as well. It's not really the type of performance that's recognised award shows.

I'm an official Oscar Nerd. Capital O and N. Gee, Gloria is a real torture for any mentally healthy human being who has a common sense. I mean, this movie is literally about NOTHING. There's nothing new, interesting or exciting about it, the story is as lame as possible, there's no point, everything is extremely repetitive, they check into thousands of hotels and so on. And I'm an Oscar Nerd because I did not stop watching, I dealt with the whole torture of the movie and an awful child performance, which was by the way a bit better than I expected. I was always hoping that Gena Rowlands comes with her enourmous talent and saves me from boredom. She didn't.

Gena Rowlands is a superbly talented and extremely interesting actress. There's so much to love about her and her performance in A Woman Under the Influence (despite being one of the most unpleasant works in history) is just mindblowing. I haven't seen Opening Night, though I'm eager to watch it some day. OK, to tell the truth, I did not have many expectations from her in this movie as I have read not very kind reviews about her, so I guess I was prepared. And yet secretly, deep in my heart I was hoping to love her.

Gloria is a very clichéd character that could have been written much better and I think that Gena would have been able to play a more complicated role. There's absolutely no depth in her, there's nothing that you can identify with, there's nothing interesting. I know that I sound awfully repetitive with this "There is nothing...", but this summarizes Gena's performance here perfectly: it's extremely lacking. And gosh, I so hate being disappointed by great actresses.

The first problem is that her line readings are so weak and exaggerated: she's like a dog that's showing its teeth to say "I'm gonna attack" and she's barking constantly. She always says "yoouuuuuu... PUNkssss... I mean what is this? What was it supposed to be? I think that Gena Rowlands is a brilliant actress but she's not enough to make me believe that Gloria is able to turn a car upside down with one shot. Gena always suffers from this backstabbing, idiotic screenplay that makes absolutely no sense. It's so horrible that you can only make at least tolerable. She made it tolerable and that's one of the real achievements of Gena here. If she hadn't been there, this trainwreck would have collapsed even more.

The developments in the character of Gloria are rather rushed: first, she hates children, in 5 minutes she gets to like this boy and in the end she feels like a mother. I so wanted Gena to show more of the vulnerable side of Gloria: Gloria's loneliness is so obvious, but neither the screenplay nor Gena realized that this could made the audience sympathize with her. I guess, Gena had some bright moments since towards the end, there are some really strong and even memorable moments with her. In the end, her big scene with the gangster is solved quite well by Gena, who put some emotion into it and I was a bit relieved and this really helped appreciate more. At least I saw the potential, though it never really came to life unfortunately. Too bad that it did not last a bit longer. I could have put up with a less tough and more vulnerable Gloria, who's a bitchier or at least entertaining.

So to sum up, Gena Rowlands (despite her great talent) is not able to save this trainwreck of a movie called Gloria, but at there are some short, but quite strong scenes that ingrained in my memory. I wasn't very disappointed to tell the truth (I knew what to expect), but it's painful to write so negatively about Gena. A failed effort (?).

Gee, I rarely give 3 Meryls.

What do you think?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection

Ellen Burstyn received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Edna, a woman who has a healing power after experienceing afterlife for a brief time in the movie Resurrection. It's really entertaining to speculate about someone's Oscar chances. I wouldn't say that Ellen had much chance of winning that award. I'm pretty sure that she was the fifth in the voting: she was a previous Oscar winner, her movie wasn't much of a blockbuster and this is really not the type of movie that usually wins the Oscar.

This movie is so haunting. This movie (and I say Ellen's performance too) is so not for everyone. It really requires a certain way of thinking that's not very common. I say that if you love it, you really love it and if you dislike it, you will really dislike it. It was supposed to be a horror like The Exorcist was, but Ellen Burstyn was really against it and I'm so happy that this movie became what it is: a very unusually effective and extremely thought-provoking piece that you. Eva La Gallienne's nomination is a bit of silly as she doesn't do much in this movie, but I guess it was an honorary recognition.

OK, I'll admit again, but I guess you all know it well enough: Ellen Burstyn is really one of my favorite actresses: she just can't be bad (though I dislike Same Time, Next Year) and any movie in which she stars becomes better even by her presence. I was quite worried, though since many say that this is one of her weakest works and that her last scene ruins her whole performance (more on that later, I promise). However, I always trust Ellen and I was so right.

In the beginning, Edna seems to be a very ordinary woman, who has a simple, but normal life with her husband. Here, Ellen plays her with such ease and so effortlessly. Edna is a good wife, who saves money for a new car, which causes the death of her husband and herself. It's even stranger than you would think, but the scenes of afterlife are so incredibly thrilling. There's so much peace coming from there and everything is so relieving. However, when she wakes up, Ellen shows Edna's fear and desperation so hearwrenchingly. She's lying on the bed, crying in the sadness of her state.

These scenes of suffering and her extremely slow recovery are just breathtaking. The one where she's trying to walk but always falls on the ground made me speechless. I could feel the pain of this character so obivous and I felt everything along with her and it almost made me paralyzed, too. Ellen really hit me in my guts and even when I'm talking about her, I'm becoming so emotionally confused and puzzled. Ellen was able to move me to such a degree, that I almost hate this performance. I think that's why some people dislike her: she mixes the emotions and it can become really puzzling for some.

The real thrill in this performance is Edna's discovery of her supernatural powers. First, she doesn't completely understand everything, but she knows that she has a mission of healing as many people as possible. She's a real miracle worker and she always acts in the name of love and she wants nothing, but help. She delivers speeches to people and she acts so much like Jesus. Although she always denies that, she acts that way and I always had a feeling that Edna actually enjoyed the comparisions to Jesus. And Ellen's transformation in this movie is just superb and we can see how much she worked with the development of Edna. From a very ordinary woman, she became something that brings health and happiness to a small community. Nobody remains the same after meeting Edna.

There's a very long and extremely harrowing scene, which is quite probably one of the best ones I've ever seen from Ellen Burstyn: after an extremely scary examination (oh she's so incredible in that scene), she has to heal a permanently ill woman. Ellen put so much emotion into this single scene: her interactions with this woman are truly amazing. The expressions on Ellen's face show that Ellen totally inhabited this character. It was such an ecstatic moment.

The scenes with her family are also amazing: the tears in Ellen's eyes when she has to say goodbye to her grandmother are so effective. It was a really intense moment and it left a huge impact on me. However, after this, there's the much hated scene, when Edna is old. Hmm. I think it's a great scene which was excellently handled by Ellen and I think although her make-up was not perfect I felt the years one her face.

So to sum up, this performance was so healing for me. I loved every moment of it, though I doubt that love is the right word for it. It really made me re-think if The Exorcist is my favorite performance of Ellen. Ellen in Ressurection is thought-provoking, harrowing and unforgettable. She made me almost speechless.
I wonder how she will do in the ranking. I still have to think a lot about her. I don't know when I am able to finish this year. It might even be on 22nd January, so be patient and I'll do my best.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin

The first reviewed performance of the year is...

Goldie Hawn received her second Oscar nomination for playing Private Judy Benjamin, a woman going through a big change in the comedy, Private Benjamin. It's always so much find to think about how the voting was going. I think that Goldie was third or fourth in the voting. She was a previous winner and she starred in a wacky comedy, but I think her popularity really helped gain some votes. I think that she did not win the Globe only because Coal Miner's Daughter was considered a musical, which is insane, I believe.

Private Benjamin is a fine, entertaining little comedy, which is a bit mixed: the first half of it is simply brilliant and hilarious, I so loved it and I hoped that the whole movie would be like the first 50 minutes. However, after they graduate, the whole thing becomes so weird as if it wasn't the same movie. It's so perplexing and I think it's mainly the screenplay's fault. I believe, though, that nom was richly deserved because of the first part. The acting is just great: Eileen Brennan gives a very memorable and funny supporting performance, which in my opinion was deserving of the win in that very weak field. The others are fine, too, but they don't get that much to do.

I have to confess: no matter what people say about her, I love Goldie Hawn. She's a terrific comedy actress, who is always able to make me laugh and despite the fact that she always plays annoying characters, I have never been annoyed by her because she makes them so adorable. I will go even further and now grab something so that you don't faint: I think she deserved her Oscar for Cactus Flower. She takes these annoying characters adds her charm to them and does miracles with the parts she's given. Too bad that nowadays she's only seen in the tabloid papers. :(

The thing I like about Private Benjamin the most is that she's not a really typical comedy lead. She's not the suffering loser in the army. She's a spoiled Jewish princess, who has only one desire: to live a fancy life in a fancy house with a rich hubby on her side. She's kind of like Rachel Green in friends: after doing basically nothing in life, she just has to face with reality alone without daddy's credit card. It's so hilarious, but also touching when she says that she never understood An Unmarried Woman, because she would have married Alan Bates at once. It's quite a short sequence, but I think it's the best line of the whole movie.

Goldie so perfectly showed how naive Judy is. Judy firmly believes that she can get the fancy life from the army, and she can even feel than that she worked for it alone. She thinks that this whole army thing is just a big fun, where you don't have to do much. She's so utterly hilarious in the scene where she gets her uniform and asks if there's one in a different color. I mean, it's such an awkward moment, but Goldie delivered that line so well.

Also, her scenes with Eileen Brennan are simply brilliant: the two worked together so thrillingly well. One is the perfectly looking, very feminine woman, the other one is bossy and masculine. They are so great together though when Goldie talks to her as if she was a hotel manager and she's complaining about her room. And then we see Goldie cleaning the toilets with her toothbrush and it's just hysterical. I mean the whole thing is so absurdly funny.

Goldie also nailed the scenes of the training. She's so adorably clumsy, she's always falling, she can't run, she's an extremely funny cliché. It's just perfect and the whole thing made her so loveable. And this is probably the greatest achievement of Goldie Hawn in this movie: she made me care about Judy, I loved her, I rooted for her and most importantly, I was constantly amused by her. It was just brilliant.

However, when the movie weakens considerably, Goldie's performance also slows down a bit, though not that much. She was still great and she did not lose her great screen presence, but I felt that I lost my interest in her. She tries to work against this, though, and in these scenes we see real development in Judy's character: she becomes a hard-working, strong, self-conscious woman, who likes her job, loves working and finds real passion. She's so hilarious in the scene where she has presumably great sex and says something like "I guess, this is what I was faking until now". She just said my thoughts and I just loved that.

The ending is thankfully just as strong as the beginning, and Goldie is really at the top there. The comedy is less wacky, but she's just great. We all know how important a good ending is and it was very memorable. I loved her.

So to sum up, Goldie gives a great and extremely hilarious performance in Private Benjamin, which might very well be her best work, though it's nothing for the ages. The most important thing is that I loved her and the character as well, and she entertained me so well. I loved her, that's it.
She's the definition of an extremely strong 4,5, it's almost a 5.
Wow, this piece became lengthier than usual.
What do you think?