Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Emily Watson in "Breaking The Waves"

Emily Watson received her first Oscar nomination for playing Bess McNeill in Breaking The Waves.

Breaking The Waves is a strangely interesting film about Bess, Jan, and their love for each other. The two marry, he leaves to work on an oil rig, gets hurt, and this sets our tragic story into motion.

Bess is deeply religious, loving, and naive young girl. Once she meets and marries Jan, her love becomes immense. Her life revolves around how she can please Jan. Emily Watson portrays Bess's love unconditionally and beautifully.

When Bess talks to God, she is literally talking to God, and he is answering her back. She begs for Jan to come back after he leaves for the oil rig, and it's obvious her God is a harsh God. Again, Emily Watson never makes these scenes seem phony or unreal, she always portrays it with beauty and rawness that makes the scenes even more powerful.

Once Jan asks her to have sex with different men then come back and tell him about it, it becomes almost unbearable to watch, as poor, naive, innocent Bess begins to humiliate herself.

It's shocking and like I said, almost unbearable to watch, but Emily Watson's performance is brave and looks effortless. She always makes Bess a pitiful presence.

It's also great that Watson has many incredible scenes. Every scene is perfectly laid out by Watson, and she carries them with Bess's unthinkable logic and love, perfectfully.

Emily Watson as Bess is one of most outstanding performances ever, because she never seems forced or fake as she explores the mind and logic of Bess. Unbearable to witness, but always incredible.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1952: My Ranking


5. Julie Harris in "The Member Of The Wedding"
- Julie Harris' stage roots show throughout the course of her performance, forcing her performance to be to brutally bombastic, without any shred of believability. It also doesn't help she fits nothing the character needs.

4. Susan Hayward in "With A Song In My Heart"
- Susan Hayward works overtime to put her character's insecurity, yet determination fully on the screen. She has some moving scenes, typically, but here is a stain that steps on her performance where her performance comes off as being insincere.

3. Joan Crawford in "Sudden Fear"
- Joan is absolutely terrific as a "scared" woman. She is both entertaining and enlightening as she bursts through the movie with an iron sword, devouring everyone else with her fine acting.

2. Shirley Booth in "Come Back, Little Sheba"
- Shirley Booth moves through Come Back, Little Sheba with desperation and a combination of ease and uneasiness. She is both haunting and ethereal, makes her portrait a lasting impression.

1. Bette Davis in "The Star"
- In a role that goes far beyond the page, Bette Davis is delicious in the juicy, spicy role of a fading actress who is trying to revive not only her career, her her life as well. Try imagining All About Eve, but with more eccentrics.

Honorable Omissions: Katharine Hepburn in "Pat and Mike"

Shirley Booth in "Come Back, Little Sheba"

Shirley Booth won the Oscar, for recreating her stage role of Lola Delaney, in Come Back, Little Sheba.

Come Back, Little Sheba is the story of a couple, going through distress. The husband is trying to come to terms with his alcoholism, he takes a great interest in the new neighbor. His wife is trying to come to terms with what life once was, she takes interest in the neighbor as well, but her main concern in her dog, Sheba, whose just run away.

Lola is an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life, and desperately wanting some joy and attention from someone.

Since her dog left, her life has seemed to stop. Since this happens off screen, Booth had to make it believable that she was once an active woman due to her dog, now she doesn't want to do anything. Shirley Booth also had to make it believable that her and Burt Lancaster could be husband and wife, since he was fairly young and she was fairly middle aged. It's all works, and it's a stunning accomplishment.

Heartbreaking would be another word to describe her performance. Seeing this woman's world crumble around her as she waits for her dog, is simply a tough a experience to sit through. Especially, the scenes near the end where her husband insults her, these are particularity tough scenes to sit through. Not to mention a phone scene involving her parents. Shirley Booth is just...heartbreaking as Lola. She never plays it for tears, yet all of these incredibly sad scenes are always well played by Booth.

Shirley Booth hits all of heights of acting as Lola Delaney. As her world crumbles, you feel for her, and want her to break out of her failed dreams and constant desperateness. A bit annoying and fake at times, but still extremely terrific.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bette Davis in "The Star"

Bette Davis received her ninth Oscar nomination for playing Margret Elliott, a faded actress, in The Star.

The Star is about an aging actress, Margaret, who will do anything to restart her career. She's bankrupt, she fails at every new project, and she has trouble accepting her life as a star, is over.

Bette Davis was the perfect choice to play Margaret, since in reality, this role was very close to her own life. She was struggling big time when she accepted All About Eve, and that was the one picture that put her back into the limelight. Here Margaret is doing the same thing, she needs one picture to make her a star again.

During this time after 1950, it seems like Bette was begging for an Oscar, and The Star is no exception. She uses all of her abilities, voice, eyes, everything to make Margaret very divaish and bitchy. She's loud, she's hyperactive, and she holds no bars.

But, it never goes over the top. Including one fascinating sequence where she is trying out for a new role, and Bette plays it like a young teenage girl. It's so ridiculous, but we have to remember...this is why her career is dying, because she's lost all her acting skills (Margaret that is).

Margaret is also struggling with her ex-husband and her lovable daughter. She truly loves her, but she will do anything for her career. This proves a foundation for Margaret, she wants to have this normal life with her daughter, but she will never give up her star.

Bette Davis's best moment comes when she gets drunk and drives around Hollywood with her Oscar. It's a bizarre, incredibly well made scene that is probably the reason Davis got nominated in the first place.

Bette Davis does a great job at portraying a faded actress worst problem, her career. She also does great with Margret's depression and determination with being a star. Maybe a bit hyper in most scenes, but still a great job.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Susan Hayward in "With A Song In My Heart"

Susan Hayward received her third Oscar nomination for playing singer Jane Froman, in With A Song In My Heart.

With A Song In My Heart is an average biopic, that is pretty boring, if you ask me. I mean, I've never heard of Jane Froman or what she did that deserved to have a movie made about her, but I digress.

With every Susan Hayward performance, you are going to get very loud scenes and dramatic mannerisms, that she made her signature. Here, it's toned down, and amazingly, it's not as great as her other performances.

Jane Froman gets a job at a radio station, which is where she meets her future husband and manager Don Ross. Soon, her career as a singer takes off, but comes to a sudden stop when she is involved in a plane crash. The rest of the movie focuses on how she regains her strength as a singer.

As I said before with Susan Hayward, you are always going to get obvious scenes where we realize she is acting, instead of watching her form Jane's personality and spirit. In the beginning, she is a naive young girl, once she is disabled, this is when Susan's performance starts to take off, but really never does. She always plays it one way.

However, I did find good things with Susan's performances. Some of her scenes with her nurse (Thelma Ritter) are very good, perhaps the thanks should go to Ritter though. The lip-syncing didn't bother me that much, she doesn't over do it, and it looks very natural.

Susan Hayward has some fine moments as Jane Froman, but her performance always stays on the same level. She never tries to let us get into Froman's mind. A nice effort, but not a nice performance.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Joan Crawford in "Sudden Fear"

Joan Crawford received her last Oscar nomination for playing Myra Hudson, a playwright, in Sudden Fear.

Sudden Fear is a very entertaining thriller, and all thanks goes to Joan Crawford.

Myra Hudson is a successful playwright, when she meets a struggling actor Lester Baine (Jack Palance). He wants to be in her upcoming play, but she thinks he has no talent. Soon, the two meet up again on a train, and they she immediately falls for him, and they marry. Soon, though, Myra learns after one thing...and it's not her love.

As I said before, Sudden Fear is an extremely thrilling movie thanks to Joan Crawford. She uses her fierce presence here like in no other film. Let me just say Myra is not stupid, but the story has a major plot hole (that I won't reveal or go into), but because of this Myra seems like a complete idiot. But, besides that, she is a smart woman, caught in a bad situation.

Joan probably gives her toughest performance here as well. It's her responsibility to sell you on this story, to make you believe that she is being the victim of an elaborate scheme.

She appears romantic and happy with her life in the beginning, and as the story sets in motion, her insecurities, and "sudden fear" is more realized, much to the power of Joan's acting ability. What surprised me most was how many witty lines she got perfect.

Once she becomes more paranoid and frightened, Crawford always keeps it down, instead of going completely over the top with her fear. I especially liked how much energy was thrown into her more "smart" scenes.

As I said in my review of Crawford in Mildred Pierce, whenever she gets a tough woman to play, Joan nails it. And this is no exception. She gets why her character would be with this unattractive and mysterious actor, and never makes Myra seem like a complete idiot even when the script wants her to be. Might be her best performance...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Julie Harris in "The Member Of The Wedding"

Julie Harris received her only Oscar nomination, for playing Frankie, a 12 year old girl, in The Member Of The Wedding.

Julie Harris is one of the most respected actresses in history. But, if you watched The Member Of The Wedding, you'd have a hard time believing that.

Frankie is 12 years old, and she is lonely. She is tormented by girls her own age, her mother is dead, and her father virtually pays no attention to her. She spends her time talking to her maid in the kitchen, and making plans on being taken away by her brother after his wedding.

Let's start with the obvious. Julie Harris, a woman of almost 30, is not convincing as a 12 year old tomboy, at all. Even if you didn't know Julie Harris was this age, it's still obvious from her grown up appearance, that is always forced upon us in the movie. They know it's hard to believe that Harris is believable as 12 year old, yet they still force her into the audience. It just doesn't work.
When I first saw Wedding, I was shocked at how utterly bombastic Julie Harris is. In every scene, she redefines "scenery chewing". Constantly mugging at the camera, constantly doing strange things like cutting splinters out of her feet with a huge knife or hitting herself with her hand and crying, it's all, how you say, overacting?

I could see how some could be so drawn to this performance. It's odd, and I myself am attracted to performance that have a certain quirkiness or oddness about it, but this is not one.

I also somewhat believed all of this strange behavior was supposed to be apart of her upcoming departure into womanhood. The writer's vision of a strange young, lonely girl going through a stage of extreme angst. When I look at it that way, some of the eccentric behavior betrayed by Harris, sort of makes sense. But, it's hard to deny this performance borders on terrible.

Even in her quietest moments, staring off into space, very depressed looking, Harris still messes it up, by overdoing it. Julie Harris is playing Frankie as if she was a grown up. It sounds like a good idea given the character, but given the performance, it doesn't.

Julie Harris gives a wildly loud, over the top performance that doesn't work from the word go. It's hard to believe Tatum O'Neal was just 9 when she brought such a strong energy to her performance as a "grown up" smart child in Paper Moon. Julie Harris at 27, doesn't understand her 12 year old character. Maybe it worked on the stage, but the screen performance is terrible.

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1952

The next year of unearthing will be:

The Academy selected:
  • Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba
  • Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear
  • Bette Davis in The Star
  • Julie Harris in The Member Of The Wedding
  • Susan Hayward in With A Song In My Heart
So, will I agree with the Academy or name one of the other legendary actresses the best of 1952?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lynn Redgrave 1943-2010

Just heard Lynn Redgrave is passed, and all I can say is, what a talent to be missed!

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Actress In A Leading Role" 1945: My Ranking


5. Ingrid Bergman in The Bells Of St. Marys

- Ingrid Bergman is trapped in a bad part in a bad movie. Although she tries to add some charm and life to her performance, she often comes off as being lost.

4. Jennifer Jones in Love Letters

- Like Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones is trapped in a bad movie, however she has a good character. She's playing two different characters, and while it's obvious she is trying, she never finds the line between her two characters, making it even more messy.

3. Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

- All of Joan Crawford's great qualities are at work here. She is great as the tough, career woman, and struggling mom, shining through the movie with her always lovely glamor.
2. Greer Garson in The Valley Of Decision

- Although she is dreadfully miscast, Garson makes an effort to make her character as believable as possible. She has some great moments, and gives a, surprisingly, charming performance.

1. Gene Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven

- Gene Tierney is magnificent as a brutally loving psychopath. In every scene, her incredible beauty, and tough approach to the character are always impressing. A shocking, yet beautiful performance.

Honorable Omissions: Bette Davis in "The Corn Is Green"

Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce"

Joan Crawford won the Oscar for playing mother and career woman Mildred Pierce.

Mildred begins very normally. She is a doting housewife, whose husband has the wandering eye. She divorces him, and soon sets out to raise her daughters by herself. Mildred is the type of woman who will sacrifice anything to please her daughters, which the story in motion when she wants to open up her own restaurant.

There's always been a problem I've had with Joan Crawford, and that's sometimes she's too obvious in her acting. When a scene calls for an emotional outburst or connection, Joan fails to deal with the character's emotions and ends up looking like she's overacting. And, she does this many times as Mildred, especially in these early scenes with her husband.

But, Joan Crawford was always watchable. And, she is certainly entertaining as Mildred Pierce.

Her best scenes, for me, come when she shares the screen with Ann Blyth, who is deliciously bratty as her daughter. The two share such electricity together. I also think Joan was great in the career woman scenes, which were scenes that fit Joan well, since I think of her a tough woman, not a doting housewife like in the beginning.

This is perhaps the role Joan Crawford is most remembered for today, and it certainly fits what she was known for the most, her tough, unforgiving persona she showed in many other movies, and it hit peak form here.

But, as I said before, it's not perfect. Those early scenes really hurt the overall impact of her performance, but she still gives an entertaining performance. She has many great scenes, she might suffer from the fact I think Ann Blyth steals their scenes most of the time, but she is still able to hold her own up against her.

Many moments of greatness, but sometimes lack the intrigue of what her performance could have been.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jennifer Jones in "Love Letters"

Jennifer Jones received her third Oscar nomination for playing two different characters, Victoria Morland and Singleton, in Love Letters.

Love Letters is the tale of a solider who writes letters for his best friend, love letters to a woman he has never met, but eventually he begins to fall in love with her from afar. The friend dies, he moves back to England, looks her up, and found she has died as well.

Jennifer Jones's Victoria is a typical 1940s woman...not sure how else to describe her. She loves her man, and that's about it. She doesn't even know this man, really, and marries him on the letters alone.

Yes, it's getting more complicated.

Jennifer's Singleton is an amnesiac, mysterious woman, who is still so lovely and still wants to love her man! Alan (Joseph Cotton) tries to help Singleton regain her past, because she might hold the key to why Victoria died.

I guess voters in 45, thought this was impressive, for an actress to try and "act" with two different characters. I won't spoil the revelation in case most of you haven't seen it, but you have to be very naive to not, at least, suspect the spoiler of the ending.

This is the problem. Jennifer Jones wants to do wonders with this role, it shows, but it is very messy.

Jennifer engages the audience in monologues about love, loss, happiness, these are good scenes, and could have easily been great, but she never is able to draw a line between Victoria and her Singleton character. It also doesn't help her that her movie is downright ridiculous, and this isn't Jennifer's fault, it is her fault she never differentiates her two characters.

Jennifer Jones's plays Victoria with a mannered, underwhelming spirit. She plays "Singleton" with mystery and shine. Neither of them work, as they should, and the result is a misfire. She has nice moments here and there, but overall, it's unimpressive.