Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow

Susan Hayward received her fourth Best Actress nomination for playing troubled alcoholic singer Lillian Roth in  the movie based on Roth's autobiography, I'll Cry Tomorrow. As you may or may not know, Anna Magnani was so convinced that she would lose the Oscar that not only did she refuse to attend the event, but she also refused to believe that she won. I guess Anna must have thought she didn't have a chance in hell of beating Susan Hayward's huge, over-the-top performance. If that battle between the two actresses took part nowadays, Susan would easily win the Oscar, with many people praising her work in this part. However, Anna was the clear front-runner based on the awards but I feel that Susan came really close to her. 

I'll Cry Tomorrow is a very interesting movie, very much unlike the other films of that era. It's really dark and doesn't have a moment of real relief for the audience. Even when things seem to turn out to be right, the whole atmosphere becomes quite sinister. First, the fact that the movie was edited so unusually that you don't see the ending of the scene bothered me a little bit but I got used to after a while and I felt it was essential for the movie. Jo Van Fleet (I suppose) won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar also for this performance, too not only her shallow, one-dimensional job in East of Eden. 

Although Susan Hayward is an performer who could be made fun of and criticised in a really hilarious way, I feel she's a really terrific actress. Sure, she liked to go (sometimes too much) over the top but I guess that's her trademark and also the best thing about her. Many are comparing her to Melissa Leo, which is just as justified as its inaccurate. Sure they have a very deep and strong voice and both of them like to chew the scenery, however, in Susan's case, I can rarely say that she's hammy (unlike Melissa who never seems to find the perfect balance between over-the-top and overacting). That being said, Susan is a stormy and huge presence on the screen and yet she doesn't destroy the movie. For sure, she took on very baity, typical Oscar roles and it's no wonder that she often played alcoholic and/or suffering women. She could display fear and anger like no one else and I'll Cry Tomorrow is arguably her finest hour. 

Everything is given in Lillian that equals Oscar nowadays (and did even back in the 50s). Personally, I don't have a problem with Oscar baiting if the performance is really convincing and it's a great acting achievement besides being pure bait. Lillian is a wonderfully complex character whose layers are very difficult to reveal. She requires an actress who has very strong presence and can show emotions in a bit exaggerated but accurate and believable way. Really I can only think of the 30s Barbara Stanwyck who could have played Lillian besides Susan (and I would have probably loved her even more than Susan). However, under the circumstances, Susan was the obvious choice and this part became her signature role that she herself considered to be her finest work on the screen. And for a reason. 

Susan took a wonderfully modern approach to Lillian and also alcoholic women. During the studio era, audiences mostly saw cheerful, male drunks and alcholics and in that case it was the source of amusement and light entertainment (though some like Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach were able to add depth to such characters). And then came The Lost Weekend, where Ray Milland redefined what it meant to be an alcoholic. Along came a young actess called Susan Hayward who rocked in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman and it must have been a real shock to people in Hollywood. The movie was, naturally, a flop though it managed to gain enthusiastics nods and even an Oscar nomination to Susan Hayward (Loretta Young, the eventual winner, actually admitted voting for Susan). I guess it's I'll Cry Tomorrow that gives the essence of Susan Hayward's now legendary "drunk" performances, which are, by all means, revolutionary in the way women are represented in Hollywood films. 

In I Want to Live!, we see Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham, who's walking to the gas chamber. In I'll Cry Tomorrow we can observe Lillian Roth walking to an AA meetin for the first time. Two very different situations in life but two similarly breathtaking and chilling scenes acted to perfection by Susan Hayward. However, it takes Lillian Roth a long journey thtough booze, tons of husband and suffering to get to that point. And right there I asked myself like Diana Barrie after losing the Academy Award "Was I hit by a bus?"

I'm mostly impressed by the actual existence of great character development, however, in this case I was mostly mesmerised by the "how". Susan sort of roughly showed the changes  in the character while being completely accurate and firm, too. She does it in a very tricky way and I almost didn't even notice it until I saw a broken-down addict instead of a cheerful, talented young woman. She shows the inner battles and traumas of Lillian in a very disturbing (because of how believable she makes it) and she completely disappeared in the pain of the character. It was just painful to see her being inconsolable after the death of her fiancé, David and how this tragic event started to ruin almost her whole life. The first scene where Lilian has booze is just unforgettable: Susan showed her like a child before taking the medicine that will later ease her pain. First, she's a bit hesitant and in a second, she begins her downfall. 

Another fantastic aspect of this performance is how gradually we can see Lillian destroying herself. First it's just a bit of partying and enjoying herself and eventually, she lies unconsciously in front of a grocery shop. It's an indescribably painful journey that Susan takes you along with her and it's just as intense as a ride on a rollercoaster. Her eventual healing is as cathartic and uplifting as it gets and her final song at the end of it is simply a thrill. The wonderful (and sort of unexpected) thing is that we actually never see her say the lines "My name is Lillian and I'm an alcoholic." We just feel that Lillian has healed and she's going to do what she's supposed to. 

And I haven't even mentioned Susan's wonderful chemistry with Jo Van Fleet and how awesome and wonderfully intense their scenes are. Although that aspect of the film is not emphasised enough, the two actresses were able to make their scenes extremely effective.

All around, this is an unbelievably great performance, which I (sort of unexpectedly) loved from the very first minute. Susan is simply marvelous at showing Lillian's pain and struggle with alcohol and makes her film extremely disturbing and hard to watch. However, she also makes an unforgettable impression that hits you really hard in your guts. In her signature role and personal favorite work, Susan Hayward is fantastic. And she sings, too! :) 

What do you think?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Katharine Hepburn in Summertime

Katharine Hepburn received her sixth Oscar nomination for playing Jane Hudson, a(nother) spinster, who spends her vacation in Venice and falls for a man in David Lean's movie, Summertime. 1955 was a very interesting field and given the fact that Anna won all the critics' awards, it's very hard to think about how much the Academy loved the other ladies. I guess Jennifer, Eleanor and Katharine were the ones who had the least chance, however, Katharine Hepburn was Katharine Hepburn and that might have given her the edge over the two other ladies or that might have been the reason why they didn't vote for her. Well, we'll never know for sure though it would be interesting to find out once.

Summertime is not the grand epic you would expect from the director of Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, it's much more like the earlier works of David Lean though it's much less heart-breaking than A Brief Encounter, for instance. Summertime is very entertaining and that's the most I can really say about it. Although it's Lean's own favorite work, I can hardly see why. As I said, there's nothing really special about this film. It's very clear from the beginning that the biggest virtue of this film is the lead performance by Katharine Hepburn. 

As it has been said many-many-many times before, Katharine Hepburn had her very famous "spinster period" when she kept on playing spinsters who find true love when they have already given up on the whole thing. They start out hardened, bitter and shy but in the end, they turn out to be stronger and more self-confident. As I might have said this, I'm not a fan of Katharine Hepburn. I can see that she was a fantastic actress (boy, she really was) and a fascinating personality and yet I still don't get the overwhelming amount of love she gets. I do think she's a bit overrated. And that applies mostly to her famous spinster period, which I just cannot seem to warm up to. 

Or couldn't as (to my surprise) I really liked her performance as Jane Hudson. She makes her character very easy to sympathize with. Jane is a person whose only dream was to go to Venice, she saved up money for it and decided to enjoy her stay. However, things get complicated when she meets a man she eventually ends up falling in love with. The thing I dislike the most about Hepburn's spinster performances that the hardened women turn out to be beautiful violets in just a second and they also become really annoying once they experience love. However, Jane is a bit of an exception and that's probably why it's Katharine's most acclaimed spinster performance. The changes in Jane go gradually and Katharine carefully portrays the development of this character. As a result, she surprisingly avoided being as annoying as she was in other roles like this. 

Kate uses an incredible amount of charm to create Jane and that's probably the reason why it's so easy to sympathize with her. We know that it's not going to work out for her and yet we just keep on rooting for her happiness. She will go back to America, being a spinster secretary but in Venice, she's a beautiful woman who's in love, not only with the man she met, but also herself. In many ways, she's just like Pauline Collins' Shirley Valentine, an unhappy, dissatisified woman who goes on holiday to have fun but ends up finding herself. However, unlike Shirley's development, Jane's changes are not that showy and the character is overall much less exciting. I don't know if it's the fault of the writing, Kate, or the character's nature. I tend to say all. 

Still this doesn't change anything at all. Kate seemingly took this part very seriously (she even got a horrible eye infection because of this movie) and it pays off for sure. In each and every moment of the movie, she's simply adorable. There are lots of unforgettable scenes, like the one she goes to buy a goblet from Renato, the man who eventually becomes her lover. Hepburn portrayed the embarassment of Jane so wonderfully, I kind of felt that she would accidentally break that goblet. But I could mention the infamous moment when Jane falls into the canal. 

However, the most heartwrenching moments were yet to come. Jane gets a flower from Renato and it accidentally falls into the canal, too and Renato is not able to catch it. It's such a wonderful, rich symbol of Jane. She's the flower falling to the canal after the short term of happiness and satisfaction. Kate wonderfully shows the quite breakdown in Jane there: the thing that represented a moment of happiness for her was gone. It's ultimately a very sentimental moment and yet it becomes so heartbreaking because of Kate's excellent acting. 

To my utter astonishment, the ending turned out to be incredibly uplifting and much less soappy then I expected. It evoked the bitterness and sadness of Lean's earlier work, Brief Encounter. Kate was truly heartbreaking there, showing the disappointment of Jane and yet she also emphasised the fact that she became a much stronger and self-confident woman during her journey. 

In a role that's the least Oscar-baiting of her category, Katharine Hepburn excels. It takes some time to fully realize her greatness as Jane Hudson, but the outcomes are simply astonishing. Kate injected an incredible amount of charm into the character that made extremely loveable. And eventually, it's Kate's charisma and fascinating personality that makes her completely irresistable here. Her Jane is full of beauty and heart and that makes Kate's work so lovely. 
What do you think?

Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Jennifer Jones received her fifth (and last) Oscar nomination for playing Dr. Han Suyin, a widowed Eurasian doctor falling for an American correspondent in the Best Picture nominee Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. Although nowadays most people would say Jennifer Jones was the last because she was a previous Oscar winner, I feel that the Academy really fell for her movie (it received eight nominations and won three of them, after all) and as a result, she was a serious contender for the Best Actress award. I think it was a very heated battle for the Best Actress award and despite the fact Anna Magnani won all the awards possible for her performance, the others were not far behind her. 

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing won the Golden Globe for "Best Film Promoting International Understanding" and that perfectly sums it up. Although in 1955 it must have been a groundbreaking movie, nowadays the most "meaningful" aspect of it seems to be the most dated. Actually, there are many things about it that might have been very brave and even scandalous at the time, nowadays you just keep smiling at the fact that lighting a cigarette   is the symbol of having sex. Despite this, I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed watching this film as there was something really interesting and human about it. At times it was really poignant and wonderful so my intial reluctant attitude towards this movie changed quite rapidly.

Jennifer Jones seems to be a very divisive actress nowadays who has devoted fans as well as people who find her acting incredibly weak. Personally, I'm very fond of her and her very clear and subtle style that's able to impress me at the most unlikely moments. Her performances are always so beautifully understated and that's very most of the hatred towards her might come from. Compared to her fellow nominee Susan Hayward's loud, in-your-face acting style, Jennifer is always so calm and silent. Probably that's what made her work as St. Bernadette a real miracle and Jennifer an overnight success. And as a side note, I love her last motion picture performance as Lisolette in The Towering Inferno (SPOILER!!! Darn, I still cannot believe those sadistic writers so cruelly killed her off!  SPOILER OFF!).

I guess Jennifer Jones was born to play characters like Dr. Han in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. However, there's one thing: despite her dark hair and hazel(ish) eyes, Jennifer doesn't really look Asian, or even Eurasian, though that seemingly didn't bother the producers enough not to hire her (or God forbid, hire an Asian actress!). Against this really obvious setback, it's a real miracle if Jennifer is able to be even believable, let alone memorable. Despite my resentment towards the decision of the casting directors, I found myself (once again) almost completely fall for Jennifer. Great actresses will be great actresses and is Jennifer great!

Nobody was able to display humility and kindness the way Jennifer did. To some she could seem extremely weak as Suyin but I was impressed by her presence all the time. I think she completely identified with the personality of Suyin. Although there is no showy development in her character (at least not very much), Jennifer at least shows different facets of this woman. She displays her emotions in a very charming and loveable way, which constantly fascinated me.

I probably love this performance more than I appreciate it. In a technical sense, it's not a masterpiece.  Moreover, the political "message" of the movie comes from her mouth and the way she was talking about refugees felt really bored. However, Jennifer does what she's best at: showing the emotions of a character very quietly with lots of dignity. Sometimes, the quiet sufferings of Suyin evoked very fond memories of Jennifer's unforgettable and heart-breaking work as St. Bernadette. The wonderful purity and naturality, that made her Bernadette such a wonderful creation, is a bit transformed in this movie. She's much more Hollywood, she doesn't go that deep into the character. I also must mention, though, that this character is not even half as wonderfully written as her Bernadette. She simply doesn't get that much opportunity to shine with her part.

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is a typical product of the 1950s and Jennifer just lived up to the expectations of her era. I suppose people wanted to be moved by a simple love story and I can just imagine typical 50s housewives crying at this movie on a Saturday night at the movie theater. Jennifer flawlessly did what she was expected to do at the time, but nothing more and actually, it shows.

Still, I would be lying if I didn't say I was really moved by this performance. To some, this work of Jennifer Jones would be flat and uninteresting, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. Although it's not a grand achievement by today's standards, it's an incredibly moving and loveable piece of work. Jennifer excels at showing Suyin's humility and pure emotions. Again, this is nothing fantastic but something really lovely.

What do you think?

The next review comes tomorrow or even today (I'd like to finish this year this week). 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody

Eleanor Parker received her third Oscar nomination for playing Marjorie Lawrence, an opera singer paralyzed by polio in Interrupted Melody. You know, speculating about the 1955 Best Actress field is a really hard task. It must have been between Anna Magnani and Susan Hayward but I have no idea where to place the other ones. Eleanor Parker seems to be a fourth, though I feel she might have even been third and fifth as well. We'll never, I guess, but I tend to say she was fourth because of the part and the character but she couldn't get ahead of Katharine Hepburn, in my opinion.

Interrupted Melody is a very enjoyable movie that is quite easy to watch. Although it's a typical 50s Hollywood with Paris at MGM and lots of driving in front of a screen, there's something orginial about, maybe it's the way it tackles some serious issues. Moreover, it was much less sentimental than expected and the characters were believable and credible. I might even say that the Oscar for the Best Writing, Story and Screenplay was a deserved one. Although Glenn Ford got the top billing here, nowadays he would be campaigned as a supporting actor (he's more of a co-lead, though). His work is decent despite the fact that his character was not that interesting.

Eleanor Parker, however, gets the opportunity to shine as Marjorie Lawrence. This would be a typical Oscar role even by nowadays' standards: truth to be told, the Academy has always loved biopics. 'But who's Eleanor Parker?' ask most of the people. Film buffs quickly say 'You know, the Baroness from The Sound of Music'. Oscar fans, however, say 'She's a three-time Oscar nominated, wonderful actress having her prime at the early fifties.' Thank goodness I was able to watch her some of her excellent performances. In fact, she's a really versatile performer. For her, it's no big deal to play the innocent prisoner girl, then a paralyzed opera singer and then a bitchy Austrian baroness. I felt that Eleanor was fully up to her task in Interrupted Melody.

When I first read the synopsis of this movie, two words instantly came to my mind: Greer Garson. I wasn't surprised at all to find out that she was actually the original choice to play Marjorie. I was sure she would have been wonderful but somehow I've become a bit hesitant to say that. First of all, Greer was 51 at the time and it would have been a bit ridiculous to see her as a young girl (that was a bit embarassing even in her fourties). Second, I doubt that anyone could have played the way Marjorie had to be played - like Eleanor Parker did.

Despite my initial resistance to this character, Eleanor quickly won me over, even in her first scenes, which would seem a bit hilarious to some. However, I felt that she completely identified with the character's struggles, hopes and optimism. Although some changes in the character didn't go as smoothly as I usually like it, I loved that she made a very modern approach to this character. She avoids sentimentality (which might have been a setback for her at the time as that's what she must have been expected to be sentimental) and everything just seems to be excellently balanced about this character. She doesn't make her a usual 50s perfect person, she shows that Marjorie can be a Bitch with a capital be, though she (in my opinion) avoids being campy. Eleanor makes Marjorie a very complex and fascinating character and she wonderfully developed her.

Eleanor Parker's chemistry with Glenn Ford works miraculously: the atmosphere between them is unusually vibrant and sexy and somehow neither of them was afraid of emphasising the sexuality and sexual attraction of the characters. We get a few "hints" about their sex life and both Parker and Ford deliver them naturally without being too forced.

Eleanor does way more than she wass required to do: she excels at the most unexpected places. She shows both the divaish attitude of Marjorie and her struggles as a paralyzed, broken woman. Eleanor didn't make the scenes depressing or too soappy. Again, she found the perfect balance between the emotions and it all works so wonderfully. I admit that the scenes where she's singing to the soldiers are really cheesy but they don't go beyond a certain point.

All in all, Eleanor Parker's vibrant, wonderful performance as Marjorie Lawrence is a real treat to watch. She approached this character in a very odd way (for her time) and the result is something endlessly charming and impressive. She does way more than I expected her to do and gets the most out of this showy, interesting part. A really pleasant surprise coming from a hard-to-find movie.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hello there!

As you may or may not know, I have this other blog (Filmlandia) to which I seldom write, however I found a subject that I really wanted to write about and I didn't want to write it here. That was Jane Fonda's performance in The Dollmaker. I would be delighted if you checked out (or even comment on) my review about Jane in The Dollhouse!

Note: I'll start 1955 either tonight or tomorrow, it depends. So stay tuned! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Next Year


So the nominees were:

  • Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow
  • Katharine Hepburn in Summertime
  • Jennifer Jones in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
  • Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo
  • Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody

What an interesting, rarely talked about year, just the way I like it. I only saw Anna before so four performances will be completely new to me. :) I can't wait!

My ranking of the nominees so far...

  1. Jane Fonda in Klute
  2. Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
  3. Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata
  4. Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves
  5. Sophia Loren in Two Women
  6. Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  7. Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind
  8. Liza Minnelli in Cabaret
  9. Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys
  10. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  11. Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story
  12. Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
  13. Jane Fonda in Coming Home
  14. Natalie Portman in Black Swan
  15. Charlize Theron in Monster
  16. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's
  17. Halle Berry in Monster's Ball
  18. Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom
  19. Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room
  20. Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies
  21. Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity
  22. Penélope Cruz in Volver
  23. Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo
  24. Judy Garland in A Star is Born
  25. Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker
  26. Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  27. Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter
  28. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
  29. Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette
  30. Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection
  31. Liv Ullmann in Face to Face
  32. Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence
  33. Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven
  34. Bette Davis in The Little Foxes
  35. Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class
  36. Kathy Bates in Misery
  37. Diane Lane in Unfaithful
  38. Jane Fonda in Julia
  39. Joan Fontaine in Rebecca
  40. Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind
  41. Sissy Spacek in Carrie
  42. Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings of the Dove
  43. Frances McDormand in Fargo
  44. Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
  45. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  46. Jane Fonda in The Morning After
  47. Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist
  48. Barbara Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number
  49. Katharine Hepburn in Long Day's Journey Into Night
  50. Geraldine Page in Interiors
  51. Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  52. Annette Bening in Being Julia
  53. Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  54. Isabelle Adjani in The Story of Adele H.
  55. Julie Christie in McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  56. Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass
  57. Imelda Staunton  in Vera Drake
  58. Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace
  59. Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending
  60. Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
  61. Julie Walters in Educating Rita
  62. Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
  63. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
  64. Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer
  65. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top
  66. Glenda Jackson in Sunday Bloody Sunday
  67. Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon
  68. Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine
  69. Irene Dunne in Love Affair
  70. Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
  71. Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia
  72. Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  73. Patricia Neal in Hud
  74. Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
  75. Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish
  76. Catherine Deneuve in Indochine
  77. Meryl Streep in Silkwood
  78. Faye Dunaway in Network
  79. Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater
  80. Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge
  81. Jessica Lange in Music Box
  82. Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl
  83. Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
  84. Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin
  85. Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away
  86. Carey Mulligan in An Education
  87. Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary
  88. Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire
  89. Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based On the Novel Push by Sapphire
  90. Judi Dench in Mrs Brown
  91. Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth
  92. Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth
  93. Emma Thompson in Howards End
  94. Greer Garson in Mrs. Parkington
  95. Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo's Oil
  96. Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn
  97. Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People
  98. Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!
  99. Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl
  100. Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life
  101. Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman
  102. Diahann Carroll in Claudine
  103. Liv Ullmann in The Emigrants
  104. Doris Day in Pillow Talk
  105. Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama
  106. Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets
  107. Cicely Tyson in Sounder
  108. Valerie Perrine in Lenny
  109. Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington
  110. Sophia Loren in Marriage Italian Style
  111. Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole
  112. Faye Dunaway in Chinatown
  113. Helen Mirren in The Queen
  114. Kate Winslet in Little Children
  115. Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas
  116. Kate Winslet in Titanic
  117. Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy
  118. Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda
  119. Greta Garbo in Camille
  120. Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses
  121. Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment
  122. Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God
  123. Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones
  124. Bette Davis in Dark Victory
  125. Anouk Aimée in A Man and A Woman
  126. Geraldine Page in Summer and Smoke
  127. Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Field
  128. Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession
  129. Louise Fletcher in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  130. Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
  131. Piper Laurie in The Hustler
  132. Deborah Kerr in Separate Tables
  133. Luise Rainer in The Good Earth
  134. Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give
  135. Ida Kaminska in The Shop on the Main Street
  136. Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment
  137. Greta Garbo in Ninotchka
  138. Maggie Smith in Travels with My Aunt
  139. Marie-Christine Barraul in Cousin Cousine
  140. Carol Kane in Hester Street
  141. Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider
  142. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  143. Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point
  144. Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running
  145. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
  146. Helen Mirren in The Last Station
  147. Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
  148. Jane Alexander in Testament
  149. Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
  150. Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story
  151. Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust
  152. Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph
  153. Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty
  154. Anjelica Huston in The Grifters
  155. Isabelle Adjani in Camille Claudel
  156. Sissy Spacek in Crimes of the Heart
  157. Nicole Kidman in The Hours
  158. Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County
  159. Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer
  160. Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger
  161. Vanessa Redgrave in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment
  162. Janet Suzman in Nicholas and Alexandra
  163. Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!
  164. Greer Garson in Goodbye Mr. Chips
  165. Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls
  166. Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
  167. Judi Dench in Iris
  168. Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier
  169. Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born
  170. Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were
  171. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room
  172. Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient
  173. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point
  174. Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman
  175. Greer Garson in Madame Curie
  176. Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve
  177. Glenda Jackson in Hedda
  178. Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mamie
  179. Julie Christie in Afterglow
  180. Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married
  181. Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues
  182. Joanne Woodward in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge
  183. Meryl Streep in One True Thing
  184. Joan Fontaine in Suspicion
  185. Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days
  186. Grace Kelly in The Country Girl
  187. Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year
  188. Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
  189. Shirley MacLaine in Irma La Douce
  190. Lana Turner in Peyton Place
  191. Vanessa Redgrave in Mary, Queen of Scots
  192. Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  193. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
  194. Bette Davis in The Letter
  195. Martha Scott in Our Town
  196. Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
  197. Talia Shrie in Rocky
  198. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby
  199. Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
  200. Naomi Watts in 21 Grams
  201. Samantha Morton in In America
  202. Gena Rowlands in Gloria
  203. Renée Zellweger in Chicago
  204. Salma Hayek in Frida
  205. Ann-Margret in Tommy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 2004


So the much anticipated ranking is:

What could Hilary do in this movie, where a great actress like Margo Martindale becomes a caricature? Nothing, but remaining what the screenplay intended her to be: a cliché, nothing more than that. She does the Oscar scenes the way she's supposed to, she's easy to sympathize with so what else can I ask for? Truth and honesty, no cheap, shallow emotions.

I'm saying that I was once again impressed by Catalina's screen debut as Maria. She played this character with lots of dedication and confidence, while avoiding the obvious traps. She never becomes 'obvious' in her acting, totally identifies with her character and develops her wonderfully. I can only praise her for her incredible, extremely heart-breaking performance.

Pure delight! Annette's performane as Julia reminded me of Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine. It may not be a huge dramatic achievement but she's so delightful and I was so in love with the character that I couldn't get enough of her. She took this wonderful part and turned it into a fascinating, wonderful creation that's incredibly delightful.

After all, I can't say anything negative about Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake. Although I don't love her as much as I used to, I still find her simply fantastic. She completely became this character and wonderfully played with the emotions. The way Imelda reveals all the layers of Vera and creates dramatic tension on the screen is just unbelievably great. Unforgettable, remarkable work.

A no-brainer pick. Honestly, the "Am I ugly?" scene just locked and sealed this win and there was no other way. Kate is just as great as Clementine as people say, if not better. She evokes all the great feelings of Diane Keaton's Annie Hall without shamelessly copying her. Kate's Clementine is an utterly fascinating, unique creation bursting with creativity. Kate solved her task flawlessly and she deserves nothing but praise for it.

So I can proudly announce
that the winner is...
Kate Winslet
Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind
There you go, Wonder Woman. :)

Final thoughts: Wonderful year, horrible winner. Really Academy, really? I am stunned by this decision. Didn't they watch the other movies???? Kate was such an easy winner here. Her performance only got better in time. Just like Kate was the winner, Hilary was the no-brainer last but I'm not talking about her anymore. The other three were, however, the hardest to rank. It was incredibly difficult for me. I picked Annette second, she's a real delight here. That must raise some eyebrows but I honestly don't care. I was considering ranking her fourth but I got to a point where I found: hell, I liked her most next to Kate. To be perfectly honest, I would have voted for Annette as an Academy member because she was so great and overdue. OK, she's brilliant, that's it. Imelda and Catalina are pretty much equal for me, therefore their order was kind of random. :)

Omissions: Uma Thurman in Kill Bil Vol. 2.

About the next year: You just never know what can happen. My sudden encounter with this year was a shock and I never thought I could do it. It's gonna be very exciting, with four performances I haven't even seen. Clues:
What do you think? Any thoughts on your mind?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

Hilary Swank received her second Best Actress nomination and win for playing Maggie Fitzgerald, an aspiring female boxer in 2004's Best Picture winner, Million Dollary Baby. Hilary Swank wasn't considered a front-runner at the beginning of the awards season as Imelda Staunton or Annette Bening were expected to win their first Oscars. Imelda was the critics' darling, Annette was the industry favorite. And there came the stupid Golden Globes that like to mix up things and give the edge to the stars (see Sandra Bullock) and then the SAG followed because (I guess) they wanted to make up for the Boys Don't Cry loss of Hilary there. These two awards created lots of buzz and in the end, Hilary's second Oscar became inevitable and she became one of the most hated actresses ever to win the award. Many compare this to Sally Field's second win though I think the only similarity between them is that they both won two Oscars from only two nods (by that, you could even compare Hilary to Vivien Leigh so come on...).

Although this was only my second watch of Million Dollar Baby, I felt I've seen it many-many times. In Rocky, The Fighter and the list could go on and on. However, Million Dollar Baby is the worst one of ALL of them. It's obvious, overly sentimental, unoriginal, extremely manipulative and, above all, awful. Yes, in my humble opinion, this choice is one of the worst ones ever made by the Academy. However, it's not Clint Eastwood who's responsible for this. In my book, he's a very good director and the directing is decent in this one but the screenplay and the story is just horrible (the screenwriter also penned Crash, just sayin'). Morgan Freeman won an Oscar but what was exactly worthy about him? His bored narrations or tired looks? Three words: Thomas Haden Church. :)

I admit that Hilary Swank is not among my favorite actresses. I am also quite pissed by the fact that she has not one but two Oscars when great actresses like Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne and Glenn Close (though I hope she wins this year) never received Academy Awards. One just keeps wondering about the absurdity of Hilary's two time Oscar-winner status, while such grand dames are Oscarless. It's a real shame, in my opinion. Let's not kid ourselves: Hilary Swank is an obviously limited performer. She's good at playing masculin women but apart from that I cannot really imagine her in other roles. Also her very obvious campaigning and Oscar baiting is something very annoying to me (in many ways, she's like Melissa Leo).

Because of the above mentioned things, it's become quite chic and trendy to hate Hilary's second win for Million Dollar Baby. But does that apply to her actual performance? I've seen tons of people hating her for winning but that's mostly due to the fact that she won her second over Annette Bening and Kate Winslet. However, basically nobody talks about her actual work in Million Dollar Baby. To tell the truth, I didn't have much recollection of her work before I rewatched her.

Working from a terrible script, Hilary doesn't really have much of a chance to shine, in my opinion. Sure, there are the Oscar scenes but I don't see any real depth or emotion in them, just clear manipulation. On the outside, this role is a dream though it needs lots of hard work and dedication from the actress that I've actually seen from Hilary and yet the shallowness of the character didn't let her show what she could have done with the part. Maggie Fitzgerald is a moving cliché, much like everyone in the movie. The movie wants to make us believe that her development is real, however, I don't see any development in her at all. Even when her dream comes true, Maggie remains the very same person who's really not transformed by her success. The elliptic story of Million Dollar Baby really hurts this character and Hilary as she doesn't have the opportunity to develop her own character. Once we see her struggling and living a miserable, poor life and twenty minutes later, she's fighting at a championship. We see Maggie only as "a girl from a trailer park who has a dream".

Hilary's Oscar speech was particularly annoying to me as (after beating four way more deserving, fantastic performances from great actresses) she emphasised her cheesy sentence. "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream." Obvious and totally tasteless, she accepted in the manner of Maggie Fitzgerald. And you don't get much else from her work, either, only cheesy, "seen that, heard that, been there, done that" monologues delivered with a very annoying accent.

The movie's (and Swank's) obvious aim was to make us sympathise with Maggie and strangely enough, despite what I previously said, she succeeded on many levels. It's impossible not to feel for Maggie when we see her eating other people's leftovers and running at the beach, chasing her own dream. I admit being moved by her once or twice but I just felt so cheated, too. It was like "yeah, yeah, fine but not enough to win me over".

But again: what could Hilary do in this movie, where a great actress like Margo Martindale becomes a caricature? Nothing, but remaining what the screenplay intended her to be: a cliché, nothing more than that. She does the Oscar scenes the way she's supposed to, she's easy to sympathize with so what else can I ask for? Truth and honesty, no cheap, shallow emotions. I might be difficult to please (though I don't think so) but this performance made me angry for many reasons and never because won the Oscar over the brilliant other nominees.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace

Catalina Sandino Moreno received an Oscar nomination for her debut performance as Maria Alvaret, a pregnant teenager who becomes a drug mule to provide for her family. Her nomination might have come as a surprise but I think it was a richly deserved one. Naturally, she didn't have much chance of winning, but they must have really liked her as she did receive the nomination after all. In her case, the nomination really was the reward and I guess it was more than anyone in her case would have dreamed of. I mean a first-timer Colombian actress rarely receives Best Actress nomination. Catalina's and Kate's nod prove that the Academy members were at the top of their game (in terms of the Best Actress nominations, not the actual horrible other nominees and winners).

Maria Full of Grace is a very interesting and raw movie, which had real emotional depth and something to say. Its atmosphere is somewhat similar to Central Station (though the two movies are quite different). I think I might even give it a Best Picture nomination (it's most certainly better than 80% of the Best Picture nominees). The directing is excellently done, you never feel that the movie is boring or that it has useless parts. The casting is so great and I particularly appreciated that they found very realistic characters.

It's a very dangerous thing to be nominated for your screen debut. You either get more and better roles or you ruin your whole career simply by trying to live up to the hype of your celebrated introduction. Sometimes, it really works out (just see Goldie Hawn or Barbra Streisand), but sometimes the actor disappered in a blink or have to work in second-rate tv series (Marlee Matlin or Timothy Hutton). Although her nomination came almost seven years ago, I still don't know which group Catalina belongs to. The energy of her work carried her to the Kodak Theater and yet I feel that she doesn't get good enough projects for her talent.

That being said, I'm about to assess Catalina's performance as Maria Alvarez, the desperate young girl, who becomes a drug mule. Just yesterday, I was raving about Imelda Staunton's heart-breaking realism as Vera Drake, a woman who does illegal things out of pure kindness and care. Maria, however, is in need of some money and she's just desperate to get a job. Both characters commit crimes, both are aware of the possible consequences and yet they do what they feel is right for them.

Catalina doesn't have the same amount of emotional scenes that Imelda gets as Vera Drake, she doesn't get caught (well, almost), she doesn't have breakdowns, courtroom scenes and yet there's something wonderfully wrenching about her work. From the beginning, I felt a kind of connection to her character and I really cared about her. She made Maria a fairly likeable person, someone who's very easy to sympathize with. I instantly developed a connection to her and wanted things to work out for her. It's very heart-breaking to see her very poor surroundings. Maria is used to doing some hard work and she's not afraid of talking back and stand up for herself. Although these scenes are excellently played by Catalina, I'd say they are the least memorable ones of all. Her bit rebellious teenager attitude is not the most interesting aspect of Maria.

Once Maria becomes a drug mule, the tone of Catalina's whole performance changes. It becomes extremely fierce and brutally raw, especially when she's practising how to swallow the pellets. There's something deeply heart-breaking about those moments. The scene where her plane to New York takes off and she holding on to her cross is just unbelievably great. Religion is a comfort for the character of Maria and somehow she develops a strange resemblance with the Virgin Mary. Both of them are teenagers (yes, the Virgin Mary was also a teenager, despite what you see in 50s Hollywood epics :P) who have to make sacrifices and accept what they have to do. The religious symbolism of this movie and Catalina's performance is just wonderfully solved and far from being forced or obvious.

The way Catalina develops Maria is also quite remarkable and especially from a first-timer. I felt lots of confidence in Catalina and she wonderfully showed the steps of Maria's growing up. She starts out as a desperate teenager and in the end, she turns out to be a grown, more responsible woman. There's only one louder scene involving her and she nailed that one, too. She never went too over-the-top and she made me realise one thing as she was crying: this girl is seventeen years old and is forced to do thing that not even adults should do. It's a deeply harrowing scene which has its effect mostly by how sudden and unexpected it really is.

So after all, I'm saying that I was once again impressed by Catalina's screen debut as Maria. She played this character with lots of dedication and confidence, while avoiding the obvious traps. She never becomes 'obvious' in her acting, totally identifies with her character and develops her wonderfully. I can only praise her for her incredible, extremely heart-breaking performance.