Friday, April 30, 2010

Gene Tierney in "Leave Her To Heaven"

Gene Tierney received her only Oscar nomination for playing Ellen Berent, in Leave Her To Heaven.

Leave Her To Heaven starts as a love story, but soon turns into something completely different...the journey into the mind of a psychopath, Ellen.

Ellen marries her new love Richard (Cornel Wilde), Richard barely knows Ellen, but one thing he does know, she is beautiful and alluring. But, as time passes, his polio stricken brother dies, not to mention his unborn son...and it all comes back to Ellen.

The best two words to describe Gene Tierney's performance is beautiful and shocking.

Gene uses her unbelievable good looks to her advantage. Ellen is a cruel, vengeful, and eventually, villainous character, and it becomes more unreal because of Gene's good looks.

Gene Tierney's performance is also shocking. Tierney had to play this role with the up-most psychological intentions, including appearing crazy, but she never does, incredibly. Yes, her character is crazy, but Tierney never makes her seem crazy. She makes her into a pitiful woman who will hurt or even kill if you try to steal away her man's love.

As her mother would say, "Ellen just loves too much!"

Gene Tierney does a terrific job portraying Ellen. Even though her character has a dark side, you feel for her, and you feel her (non-existent) pain as she protects her man. As Richard gets to know her, so do we, and what we see is an obsessed, beautiful woman.

An impressive accomplishment of a shocking study of a mentally disturbed woman.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ingrid Bergman in "The Bells Of St. Mary's"

Ingrid Bergman received her third Oscar nomination for playing Sister Mary Benedict, a stubborn nun in The Bells Of St. Mary's.

Bells is one hard movie to sit through...sometimes it's a family movie, sometimes it's a confused, borderline love story, sometimes it's a religious, politically motivated movie! And that about left field.

We have Bing Crosby, virtually doing nothing, and bless Sister Ingrid, because it's almost like she is acting all by herself.

Sister Mary wants to save the school where she is principal, and Father Chuck wants to send the children to a school where he thinks they will be better equipped. So, this causes some, pretty boring debates for the two actors to dive into.

Bergman is always being stern, Bing is always being very open minded. This goes on throughout the entire movie. While Sister Mary could be changed, she stays stern throughout the entire film.

Ingrid Bergman plays Sister Mary with charm, but the material is as thin as a feather. She even tries to witty in some of her moments, but again, she fails when it comes to bringing her character to life. I guess I can see the effort in the performance.

Bergman is trying to make her Sister Mary a fascinating character, while still trying to please the filmmakers in being a warm and loving nun, the result is a boring, uninspired performance. She has some moments where she could have completely stolen the film, but instead she blends in with the bland scenery of her film.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Greer Garson in "The Valley Of Decision"

Greer Garson received her sixth nomination for playing Mary Rafferty, a poor, young house maid in The Valley Of Decision.

Greer Garson was Oscar's favorite in the early 40s, and I imagine they loved nominating her for really anything. Case in point.

The Valley Of Decision is a love story about a poor maid Mary (Garson) who falls for the son of the family (Gregory Peck) she cleans for. It is astonishing Greer was cast as this young woman...I mean, the woman just played Mrs. Miniver, now she's playing someone who was probably around the age of Tersea Wright's character in that movie.

So, it's hard to judge. Greer gets the best of her character, doing a good job portraying the poor girl putting herself in a rich man's world. She is bright, fun, and non judgmental, going against her father.

But, again, it's hard to judge, because the director is obviously trying to hide the fact Greer is too old to be playing such a character. And it's always in the way of feeling she is the character.

But, Greer carries this movie on her shoulders. I feel she got her accent right, and even though she is way too old to play this, it's still entertaining. And when she rises to the challenge, she is very good as Mary, showing her struggle to keep her disagreeable father happy, and still be with the man she loves.

She is terribly miscast, but when she rises to the challenge of a juicy part, she succeeds in an entertaining, almost charming performance.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1945

The next year to be unearthed will be:

The Academy selected:
  • Ingrid Bergman in The Bells Of St. Marys
  • Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce
  • Greer Garson in The Valley Of Decision
  • Jennifer Jones in Love Letters
  • Gene Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven
So, will I agree with the Academy, or will I name another nominee the best of 1945?

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1977: My Ranking


5. Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point
- A great actress turning in quality work, but her film is working against her. Her character is merely there instead of spanning out during the movie. Nice work, but hard to praise.

4. Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point
- She anchors The Turning Point and makes it the only reason why you shouldn't give up on the movie. She captures her character's fierce inability to cope with her past, while trying to deal with her future. 

3. Jane Fonda in Julia
- Jane Fonda has always been an actress who could turn anything into gold, here she takes Lillian and shows her inner struggle with writing and her deep love for her best friend. Great work from one of the best.

2. Diane Keaton in Annie Hall

- It's easy to see why Diane Keaton won the Oscar, she was in the Best Picture, but it's not just that, she is completely lovable and charming as Annie Hall. A very funny, and again, charming work from Keaton, which has become her signature.

1. Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl

- Working with her (ex) husband's brilliant work, Marsha Mason is at the top of her game in The Goodbye Girl. She makes you care for her, and want her to succeed in the world...and like Diane Keaton, she gives a very funny, charming performance as an average woman, with horrible luck in men. A wonderful, carefully constructed performance.

Honorable Omissions: Gena Rowlands in "Opening Night", Diane Keaton in "Looking For Mr. Goodbar", Mink Stole in "Desperate Living"

Jane Fonda in "Julia"

Jane Fonda received her third Oscar nomination for playing famous playwright Lillian Hellman, in Julia.

Although the film is called Julia, the film is about Lillian Hellman. Lillian is a struggling writer, who will soon be the acclaimed writer she has come to be known. Even though the film is about Lillian, it's all concerning Julia. Lillian and Julia are lifelong friends, pretty much soul-mates. Julia becomes an activist in Europe, while Lillian begins to write her first play.

Jane Fonda plays Lillian with the up-most understanding. She understands Lillian misses Julia, and is struggling with her writing. The beach scenes in particular are when Jane shines, the frustration of writer's block and her worries are brilliantly played.

Then we get the flashbacks with Julia where they both do nice work. The problem with these scenes are Lillian is supposed to come off as naive, and Jane Fonda, as good as an actress she is, didn't convince me she was ever naive. But, I did believe that Lillian had a deep fascination for Julia.

Jane Fonda is always great though. The scene in the cafe is proof. Jane stays quiet, and let's Vanessa Redgrave command the scene, but our focus is always on Jane to see how she will react to Julia.

The ending scenes are clearly the best though. After someone very close dies, Lillian is heartbroken and determined to find something for this close friend. Fonda is devastating in these scenes as she tries to find this thing.

I wanted to love Jane Fonda's performance, but there's always something keeping me from fully enjoying her performance. Maybe because while it's nice work, it's not mind blowing or amazing.

Overall, Jane Fonda gives a nice, demanding performance of a struggling writer who has a deep love for her best friend. She shines in some scenes, and in some, she seems just fine to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shirley MacLaine in "The Turning Point"

Shirley MacLaine received her fourth Oscar nomination for playing Deedee Rogers, a housewife and former ballerina, in The Turning Point.

Deedee is a seemingly happy woman, whose daughter is slowly becoming a promising ballerina, but she has always questioned whether or not she made the right decision by picking a family over a career. When she gets the chance to see her former friends, she is genuinely excited, especially with Emma (Anne Bancroft).

Shirley MacLaine does a wonderful job in these scenes, as her joy and excitement seem genuinely real, but there's also some regret and bitterness towards what she could have done with her life when she gets back in this world. What would have happened had she not chose to have a family, this is the question Deedee continues to ask throughout the film.

Deedee, though she loves her husband and children, the meeting of her former colleagues awakens something in her mind. She has an affair, and questions whether or not she should even stay with her life. MacLaine easily walks her way through these scenes, like a pro, never having a false moment.

Shirley's best moment comes when she has one huge fight with Emma, and all her harsh emotions are present.

The problem with the performance is Deedee is not that interesting, especially compared to Anne Bancroft's character, who has much more character development (even though her screen-time is extremely small). But, ironically, I prefer MacLaine's performance over Bancroft's because Shirley is so believable as the loving, but troubled housewife.

A nice, adequate performance that really drives the movie, but not really an interesting character.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marsha Mason in "The Goodbye Girl"

Marsha Mason received her second Oscar nomination for playing Paula McFadden, a struggling dancer and single mother in The Goodbye Girl.

The Goodbye Girl tells the story of Paula McFadden, a struggling dancer and single mother, whose ex-boyfriend has sublet their apartment to a struggling actor (Richard Dreyfuss).

Paula is having a very hard time, with everything. When Elliott enters her life, she makes it very clear, she doesn't like him. Through both of their struggles, it brings them closer together.

Marsha Mason is a bright light as Paula. She never tries to make the audience sympathetic to her character, and her the constant bad luck that befalls her. She shows Paula is a smart, dedicated woman, but lonely, and wanting more from life that she knows she'll never have.

She's goes from one sad situation to another (including a very heart-wrenching scene where her purse is stolen), and Marsha Mason is still able to infuse a certain kind of energy within her work.

When a performer is able to inject humor within their powerful drama, I commend it, and Marsha Mason's performance is a prime example of this. She has the most witty lines and Marsha always says them with class and charm. When their relationship soon hits a new level, Paula is genuinely happy, but she forgets what actors do to her life...

Mason in the last scenes are nothing short of amazing. She has a quiet breakdown over her new found love for Elliott, and Mason really nails the emotions Paula has for Elliott.

Marsha also gets a big plus for working with Richard Dreyfuss. He's screechy and does nothing with his lines. I'd like to think his Oscar was really Marsha's, but whatever.

Marsha Mason gives one of the most charming performances I've seen. Never making Paula annoying or too pitiful, but always watchable and always lovable. Her performance might look easy, but I feel it was a challenge given her witty dialogue and her dreadful co-star.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Anne Bancroft in "The Turning Point"

Anne Bancroft received her fourth Oscar nomination for playing Emma Jacklin, a ballerina, in The Turning Point.

The Turning Point is about a former ballerina, now mother (Shirley MacLaine), whose daughter is budding to be a ballerina herself, forcing her to confront her past.

Anne plays Emma, an aging, famous ballerina. She is trying to hold together her fading career as well as trying to develop her personal life. Emma is not young anymore, and she is disillusioned by the life that could have been.

Anne Bancroft plays Emma with a perfect realization. She's just aging, not dying or losing anything, and Anne doesn't make Emma a pitiful character. But, her life soon begins to get worse. Her boyfriend gives up on her, and the ballet she's been aspiring for, she is no longer dancing in it.

The scenes involving dancing are not that good in my opinion. Anne is really trying, but it never looks natural, just trying.

But, the thing about Anne's performance is there's nothing flashy, or "Oscary" about her performance. It's a nice, quiet, very subtle performance of an aging ballerina who wants more of what she could have had years ago...a life. Her big moment comes when Bancroft and MacLaine share a cat fight for the ages.

Anne Bancroft only has about 25 minutes on screen (one of the shortest ever), and while I don't think the limited screen-time faults her, I still was wanting more from her. She does well with the character, and gives a nice performance, but I still wanted more.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall"

Diane Keaton received her first Oscar nomination, and won, for playing Annie Hall.

Annie Hall is a rather mediocre film, that I've never understood the praise for, but not Diane Keaton!

Annie Hall is a quirky, charming young woman, who is making a living by being a singer. She develops a relationship with a neurotic Alvy, and this how the story begins.
I've never been a big fan of this performance for the simple fact I always thought she was always too natural or never making Annie interesting enough for me to take her seriously. But, I respect it and highly commend Keaton for giving a totally charming performance.

At first, Annie is goofy and carefree, and then after the romance starts to fizzle, she becomes a more serious woman, and Diane stays completely charismatic during all of it.

Alvy and Annie are supposed to be a dysfunctional couple, and I really believed it.

Her singing scenes are well done, and Keaton has quite a nice singing voice. She's almost whispering the songs, and for me, it sounds like it's coming completely from the heart.

When Annie moves to Los Angeles, this is where I get uninterested. I understand she is becoming a more Californian girl, but I really think she lost touch with the effectiveness of the first part.

With seemingly small screen-time, Diane Keaton is able to make a Annie a charming character, and give a lovely performance. I think the second part effects her overall performance, but the first part is is lovely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1977

The next year I'll be unearthing is:

The nominees were:
  • Anne Bancroft in The Turning Point
  • Jane Fonda in Julia
  • Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
  • Shirley MacLaine in The Turning Point
  • Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl
My posts might be a little infrequent for some time, but who will I name the Best Actress of 1977?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1976: My Ranking


5. Talia Shire in Rocky

- Talia Shire is stuck in a badly written character, not to mention her mousy behavior she inserts in Adrien does not work. She's trying, but it doesn't work.

4. Marie-Christine Barrault in Cousin, Cousine
- Marie-Christine Barrault gives a quiet, nice, sometimes dark performance, that contrasts well with her film. Playing a normal person, in a peculiar situation, Barrault is charming as lovely.

3. Liv Ullmann in Face To Face
- Working with Ingmar Begman's brilliantly written script, Liv Ullmann hit heights of perfect with her performance. Not only does she make mental illness feel very real, it's haunting. 

2. Sissy Spacek in Carrie

- Sissy Spacek is able to turn her tragic Carrie into a formidable, and entertaining character, the carries her film into the iconic status that it has today. She is merciless and deep all at the same time.

1. Faye Dunaway in Network
- It would take a truly terrific performance for me to rank above Liv Ullmann's stirring work, and Faye Dunaway is that performance. Her Diana is brilliantly textured, layered, and handled by Dunaway, as she portrays an emotionless woman, in her own world of television. Simply perfect.

Honorable Omissions: Jodie Foster in "The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane" and Jodie Foster in "Freaky Friday"

Faye Dunaway in "Network"

Faye Dunaway received her third Oscar nomination for playing Diana Christianson, a ratings obsessed television executive in Network.

Faye Dunaway was once called the actress of her generation and she hits her peak, with Network.
Diana Christianson is a television executive, who wants more power. She wants to reduce time and space for more "reality" based programs, in order to do this, she needs to gain more power within the network, and this comes when Howard Beale has a meltdown all over the news.

Diana Christianson is a role that has to be played with perfect delivery. Everyone in Network has brilliant monologues to deliver, and if they fall short, their performance will fail. Faye Dunaway succeeds in many ways with her performance.

Diana is completely emotionless...her life if television. Every conversation, every thought, even when she is having sex, everything is ratings. She is never vulnerable, and always tough. She is going to rise to the top, and no one will stand in her way.

Faye Dunaway is simply perfect as the icy Diana. She takes Diana's manipulative, emotionless nature, and makes it completely convincing and engaging.

Dunaway also had great chemistry with William Holden, even if I knew their relationship was doomed (another brilliant part of the script), Dunaway makes it all work. Their breakup is another brilliant part of Dunaway's performance, as we finally see she can be weak, and she can't handle the reality, simply the television one she created for herself.

Faye Dunaway is simply perfection as Diana.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marie-Christine Barrault in "Cousin, Cousine"

Marie-Christine Barrault received her first, and only Oscar nomination, for playing Marthe, in Cousin, Cousine.

Cousin, Cousine tells the story of two distant cousins who meet each other at a wedding. The two start to have more then a friendly relationship and even become romantically involved after everyone thinks they are already.
I criticized Anouk Aimee in the past for relying too much on her face to bring out the emotions she was feeling with her character, well thankfully, Barrault takes another way. She not only brings out the harden emotions of this woman, but also, perfectly plays up the humor of the script brings to her. Sometimes Marthe is dark, sometimes hilariously funny, Barrault is able to show all of this, wonderfully.

The most notable problem with Barrault and her leading man, Victor Lanoux, they are often overshadowed by the actors who play their spouses, Guy Marchand and Marie-France Pisier (who would have been a worthy nominee). But, there is alot of chemistry with her and Lanoux, and Barrault adds the much needed romantic qualities her character needs.

I also love the spunkiness Barrault adds to Marthe, especially when she flaunts off her unusual relationship to her entire family. But, there is also a dark side to her character, which Barrault completely nails.

A pleasant and charming performance that Barrault does great, always lighting up the screen. My only compliant is her supporting players are a bit more interesting and sometimes she doesn't hold well up against them, but still, a lovely performance.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sissy Spacek in "Carrie"

Sissy Spacek received her first Oscar nomination for playing teenager Carrie White in Carrie.

Carrie White is tortured. By her school and by her Jesus freak mother, Margaret. The film follows Carrie's torture, and her eventual discovery of her telekinetic powers.

Sissy Spacek's performance will depend on how well you like the movie, Carrie. Carrie goes from tortured schoolgirl to tortured girl with budding evil powers, and whether or not you can take this, and enjoy it, will determine if you will enjoy Spacek's portrayal.

While Carrie isn't your typical Oscar material, it's still a fantastic ride, and all of these thanks goes to Sissy Spacek. Sissy was in her late 20s, but this never matters, she makes it believable 100%, she is this shy teenager.

Sissy's best scenes are with her mother, including the famous "Eve was weak!" scene. There is always dark humor beneath these scenes and that makes them especially enjoyable.

While I certainly think Carrie is an enjoyable movie, and Spacek is perfect as Carrie, I still find it hard to think this was a hard acting challenge. Most of the time, Carrie is simply being tortured by everyone around her, until she finally opens up. And I personally like watching the "new" Carrie scenes then when she is just being teased or religiously tortured by her mother.

But, it's still a fantastic performance that Sissy Spacek completely controls 100%. It's hard to come by a horror performance that is iconic and wonderfully controlled by a pro like Sissy Spacek.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Laura Linney in "The Savages"

Laura Linney received her third Oscar nomination for playing Wendy Savage, a struggling playwright in The Savages.

The Savages follows a brother (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and a sister (Laura Linney) and how they are coping with their dad, as he nears the end of his life.

Like her nomination for You Can Count On Me, Laura Linney is absolutely wonderful as Wendy, showing all of her insecurity and faults, as if she was a real person.

The thing that keeps The Savages afloat is the performances of Linney and Hoffman. I got the feeling the two were emotionally detached brother and sister, and came together with the impending death of their father.

Laura Linney shows Wendy is not a normal person, she can't make it as a playwright, she is cheating the government, and is having an affair with a married man. Laura Linney makes it all believable and shows the dark side of her character.

My problem with an aspect of the performance is how little Linney gets to do in the movie. Sure, she has alot of wonderful scenes including when her brother is aware of her fraud, but I couldn't really get over how little she has to do. Wendy feuds with her brother, cares for her father, and sleeps with her boyfriend, and she's wonderful during all of it, but I wish there was more.

Laura Linney creates a touching, humorous portrayal of a difficult person, and makes a very lasting impression.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose"

Marion Cotillard received her first Oscar nomination, and won, for playing grand French singer, Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.

How can someone deny such a performance that's constantly lauded and praised? Well, I can.

First off, let me just say I am not very familiar with Edith Piaf. I've heard she was the French Judy Garland, who started off promising and ending up a drugged out version of herself, but I've never really been all that familiar of her.

Marion Cotillard portrays Edith Piaf, from her teenage years and on, and for me, she gives two performances.

Her first performance, as the young Edith, is just plain weird. Cotillard is constantly making these clownish, ridiculous faces, and for me, it's all just...weird. Strangely, it reminds me of this, and that's not a good thing. Is there some factual proof Edith Piaf behaved like this? If so, I probably still wouldn't believe it. She is also having, very over the top I might add, tantrums that just confuse me.

And how can we care about Edith when she seems borderline mental and unlikeable in all of these earlier scenes?

Now, the second performance, is the older Edith. What was the director thinking with this? Not only is the makeup, Academy Award winning makeup, so outlandish, so unearthly, it becomes way, way too much. Cotillard doesn't do anything with the makeup either, she's wearing it, she's not embracing it.

Older Edith is also fainting...alot. Marion Cotillard goes way overboard in her stage scenes...I guess when someone faints on stage, they must breathe heavily, then try to fall back, then fall to the other side. Uh huh, right.

She goes from one over the top situation to the next throughout the entire movie, and none of them work.

People constantly refer to the "Marcel" scene, saying it's a great example of method acting. If anything, it's the worst part of the performance for me. Maybe how it's executed. She finds out Marcel is dead, so she's runs to another room yelling for him, runs back, starts shrieking and sobbing, runs back while people hold her back, then they let go of her, so we can have a moment where Edith holds her hands against her chest.

When I first watched La Vie En Rose, I immediately watched it again when I had the chance, because I couldn't believe what I witnessed. That such a performance, that I imagine could have been better (better movie, better actress), was really, just terrible.

But, there a few good things in this performance.

Cotillard's best moments come in the middle, where she is a diva in training. She has some quiet moments of tenderness with Marcel, and Cotillard, surprisingly, gets it right.

And her lip-syncing is not as bad as I remember. There actually quite good. I guess Cotillard sang the songs, then they dubbed her.

Marion Cotillard gives a very terrible performance, if you ask me. How could see not rise above her over the top makeup? How could she not get Edith's personality right? Why couldn't she play down her bombastic tantrums and breakdowns?

A performance that is constantly referred to as one of the best ever, does not sit well with me at all. A few nice scenes, and does a good job at lip-syncing, but completely fails with her overall performance.