Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ellen Burstyn in "The Exorcist"

Ellen Burstyn received her second Oscar nomination for playing Chris MacNeil, an actress, in The Exorcist.

I'm not sure entirely what to make of The Exorcist. While it has some undeniably, frightening, out of this world scenes, it's also features some plastic dialogue. I also don't think it's the scariest movie ever made. For me, frightening films come in all sorts of different varieties, but I find it has to be some realistic to actually scare me. I think for the most part, The Exorcist is a drama (which it succeeds at) about a mother trying to figure out what is the matter mentally with her daughter.
It's really up to Ellen Burstyn to set a dramatic foundation for the film, while Linda Blair adds the horror foundation. Actually, Ellen Burstyn does alot in this film, besides fighting the demon inside her daughter. Chris is an actress, it's never very clear if she's a popular actress, but I'm assuming she's not. Chris is also dealing with the fact her ex-husband wants nothing to do with Regan, and she's struggling with excruciating stress, because Regan is starting to become more mentally strange, and no one seems to know what's going on.

I was quite surprised when I originally watched The Exorcist, and saw that Ellen Burstyn really took her work seriously here. She adds little ticks and facets to Chris, making her caring, if a little high strong woman who doesn't like being under pressure. Like when she argues with the doctors in her house or when she first finds out Regan used a curse word, she's extremely realistic and impressive in focusing on Chris's large amount of emotions for her daughter. She fearlessly takes on this role, which a big bonus from me. She's holds nothing back, even in her quietest moment, Burstyn grabs hold of Chris's grief and utter confusion.

A performance that could easily go unappreciated considering this is a film that is supposed to be the scariest of all time, someone might looks for the thrills or stunts, but Ellen Burstyn doesn't let Chris go unnoticed, and on top of that, The Exorcist isn't a typical horror film. She gives a realistic performance in an unrealistic situation.

27 comments:

Fritz said...

Mmh, I don't really care for either the movie or her performance. I suspect she thought she had a good chance to win and then gave us her priceless reaction shot when she lost! :-)

Sage Slowdive said...

"WHAT A SURPRISE!" :D

From what I've read, she had a bit of an ego in those days...

Louis Morgan said...

She will probably be second or third. It is always interesting when people are nominated for less Oscary roles. Her reaction shot was a bit much though.

Louis Morgan said...

By the way did you watch Pigskin Parade?

Sage Slowdive said...

I'm almost near the end, but I keep pausing it...so far, I'm not impressed with Stuart Erwin...

Celso said...

Wow, a pretty high ranking!
By the way, do you have the video of her reaction?

joe burns said...

I thought you loved the movie? But I guess things change. Anyway, great review and it seems you liked her more this time, I remember you gave her a four and you placed her in fourth place originally.

What did you think of Garland in Pigskin Parade?

Sage Slowdive said...

It's in the Oscar video, of course.

Garland was terrible in Pigskin Parade, but considering the role and the film, I didn't expect much.

joe burns said...

WHAT???????????? Why was she bad?????? I haven't seen it, but whyZ???????

Sage Slowdive said...

Too much of that old age, artificial acting.

joe burns said...

Well, I haven't seen it, but I like one of her songs from it. Do you have a link?

And have you seen any other movies of hers besides A Star Is Born and The Wizard Of Oz?

Sage Slowdive said...

Type "Pigskin Parade" in Youtube, and it's in a playlist.

I've seen Babes In Arms, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Judgment At Nuremberg.

Louis Morgan said...

I agree, her actual acting was poorly done, I just said she was a nice enough presence because she sang well as usual.

Sage Slowdive said...

Absolutely right, Louis.

joe burns said...

I finished Meet Me In St. Louis today and I thought she was wonderful. I think a nomination might have been worthy, but a win would have been too much. What did you think of her in that and Babes In Arms (I know you won't tell me about her in Judgment At Nuremberg)?

Twister said...

This movie just didn't do anything for me up until the last twenty minutes where it was actually rather scary for the first time.

It just doesn't hold up well, but Burstyn's performance was very good from what I remember (it was a while ago). She was easily the best part of the film.

I might do a perf review of Linda Blair's performance (or lack there of) in the future!

Sage Slowdive said...

That's what I liked about it the most really, that is wasn't just one big monster fest, but instead tried to look into Chris's grief.

@Joe: She was sufficient in Babes In Arms. I don't know if I've let it on, but musicals are not my cup of tea, and Meet Me In St. Louis and Garland didn't impress me.

joe burns said...

No, you have. I liked the film, although the ending felt to rushed to me. What did you think of Rooney in Babes In Arms?

Sage Slowdive said...

Sufficient. The whole thing was a little cornball...

joe burns said...

Most old musicals are a bit cornball, ha ha.

Off-topic, but I noticed Zhang Ziyi spot on your honorable omissions list which I found interesting, since hardly anyone likes her. What did you think of her and Gong Li? I haven't seen the film in a long time, and I just remember it was okay, but too slow. But I thought the book was fantastic! Did you read it?

Tom said...

I could see Burstyn in the Supporting category for this. She was good but more in a supporting way.

Malcolm said...

I was thinking if Blair and Burstyn were switched in their acting category. Well, Burstyn's the lead, but Blair steals it most of the time.

Would you have given the Exorcist best picture?

Sage Slowdive said...

@Tom: If you ask me, she's the main character of the film.

@Malcolm: Cries & Whispers

@Joe: I've read the book, but it was years ago...but, the film impressed me much more then the book ever did.

Tom said...

True; it's her point of view throughout, pretty much. Her performance is not like Louise Fletcher's in Cookoo's Nest.

Allen said...

I watched The Exorcist long ago when I was a kid, and it definitely was not the scariest movie of all time for me. I don't remember Burstyn all that well, but I'm surprised you liked her performance so much. I think I need a rewatch!

dinasztie said...

I think Burstyn was great, but more of a 4 from me. She's going to be fourth or third in my opinion, because this is a very strong year. I hope Jackson wins, but I have a fear that she may not be.

skarpethinn said...

Burstyn's performance is definitely the highlight (acting-wise) in this movie.

The only adjustment i would make to your review of her performance is that i think the viewer is supposed to think that Chris MacNeill IS a popular actress - she arrives home after a day's filming to an invitation to dinner at the White House with "5 or 6 people", and among the attendants at the party she throws is an astronaut from what is likely supposed to be the Apollo program (he mentions the previous Mercury and Gemini programs).

These 2 things suggest she is at least "flavour of the month" at the point in her life that the story takes place.