Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1942


And the Academy selected:
  • Gladys Cooper in Now, Voyager
  • Agnes Moorehead in The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Susan Peters in Random Harvest
  • Dame May Whitty in Mrs. Miniver
  • Tersea Wright in Mrs. Miniver

My Ranking:

5. Agnes Moorehead as Fanny Minafer in The Magnificent Ambersons

It's a peculiar performance that I wish I could get the love for - Moorehead doesn't rip through the movie hard enough to impress the pants off me. She plays Fanny, the unmarried aunt who likes to mix up trouble. She is often refereed to as the leading actress of the film, but I couldn't disagree more, she is often in the background and never making a huge impact unless the camera is willingly to work with her exaggerated mannerisms. Some performances just don't do it for me, and this is by far one I just can't get into.

4. Susan Peters as Kitty in Random Harvest

Random Harvest is one confusing messy melodrama that is utterly avoidable at any cost. Susan Peters plays the step-niece of Ronald Colman, and enters the story as a prim and prissy teenager who is annoying at all sakes. Slowly, she turns into a more matured woman who starts becoming more and more 'affected' by Ronald Colman and the movie becomes really odd. However, Peters is still very good, realizing her performance wonderfully and having a hold on her performance that was really surprising. Still, a very limited performance.

3. Dame May Whitty as Lady Beldon in Mrs. Miniver

Dame May Whitty delivers a witty, charming, and wonderful performance as the rich grandmother of Carol Miniver. She seems like a grouchy old lady but slowly after the effects of WWII affect everyone in the British town, she turns into a lady who can't help but be kind and caring towards everyone who comes in contact with her. Whitty fills the screen with her normal wonderful behavior and it may be a limited performance, but she is still very good.

2. Tersea Wright as Carol Beldon Wright in Mrs. Miniver

In a sweet, endearing performance Tersea Wright plays Carol, the charming young girl who falls in love with the Miniver's son. Wright on her own part makes Mrs. Miniver one great film, with her lovely presence and charming characterization she is just as good as Greer Garson. She's great on one hand because she knows how to transition her performance beautifully, not making the changes too dramatically or unbelievably. She can sell the scenes for all their worth and delivers a great, unforgettable performance.

1. Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Vale in Now, Voyager

When it comes to an actress playing evil, some can go for straight campy horror and some can go for subtle, matron-induced terror. Gladys Cooper is an actress who was able to the latter and then some, playing Mrs. Vale the quiet terror that is Bette Davis' mother. She criticizes, emotionally mangles, and is a complete bitch to her daughter and is completely giddy about it. She is a force on-screen, commanding the movie even when she's supposed to be in another room and in a bed. It's all thanks to Cooper's ability to command the screen - she gives one fantastic performance that is on the same level of Bette Davis.
Honorable Omissions: None.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1968

And the Academy selected:
  • Lynn Carlin in Faces
  • Ruth Gordon in Rosemary's Baby
  • Sondra Locke in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
  • Kay Medford in Funny Girl
  • Estelle Parsons in Rachel, Rachel
My Ranking:

5. Kay Medford as Rose Brice in Funny Girl

As it has already been shown with Peggy Wood in The Sound Of Music, some veteran actresses get their first nominations for simply coasting on the success of their films. Here is another prime example: Kay Medford as Fanny Brice's adoring mother Rose. It's a short role, and all she does is adore her daughter and support her no matter what. It's a nothing performance, an obvious example of someone coasting on the success of the film, and proof the Academy will sometimes just throw anyone in.

4. Sondra Locke as Mick in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Sondra Locke's performance is Mick is the only redeemable quality about the slow mess that is The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. Her wide eyed, no-nonsense presence is a true breath of fresh air here, adding little hints of wisdom and sarcasm to her lines. Even though she does sink below the limitations of her film, Sondra Locke still makes a good impression here, even if it's not a performance I especially love or respect.

3. Estelle Parsons as Calla Mackie in Rachel, Rachel

1967's Supporting Actress was back again this year playing the lonely teacher (who also happens to be a lesbian) Calla Mackie in Rachel, Rachel. This film is endlessly fascinating and Parsons is part of that aspect. Her performance is a hard one to judge - on one hand, I think she is overacting, but on the other I think it makes alot of sense for the character she is playing. It's a nice performance that counterparts the film wonderfully, but it's also one that has a bad aftertaste. I'm sure my rating will change in the future, but for now, it seems only plausible.

2. Lynn Carlin as Maria Forst in Faces

Lynn Carlin's desperate, sad, and ultimately fabulous performance as Maria, rips through Cassavettes' film with a true, unbelievable force. Her chemistry with Seymour Cassal is truly amazing, both of them take the slightly improvised material and turn it into a remarkable achievement. She is a three dimensional character, brought to life by Carlin is the best possible ways. It's a more then terrific performance that haunts me as a viewer.

1. Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castavet in Rosemary's Baby

When it comes to fabulous acting, hardly anything can beat this one: Ruth Gordon's performance as nosy neighbor and Satan fan Minnie in Rosemary's Baby. Ruth Gordon runs the gamete from being ridiculously charming, funny, to a surprisingly creepy, manipulative presence. She won't mind her business and annoys her neighbors endlessly. It's an incredible balance Gordon is able to find within the limitations of how little she is given. It's a performance I love immensely and I think Ruth Gordon gives a very brilliant performance within those limitations. 

Honorable Omissions: None.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1975

And the Academy selected:
  • Ronee Blakely in Nashville
  • Lee Grant in Shampoo
  • Sylvia Miles in Farewell, My Lovely
  • Lily Tomlin in Nashville
  • Brenda Vaccaro in Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough 

My Ranking:

5. Brenda Vaccaro as Linda Riggs in Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough

Once Is Not Enough is surely one of the worst films ever nominated for an Oscar - so many well known actors, so little good material at use. Brenda Vaccaro plays the man hungry head editor of a GLOSS magazine, who tires to help the empty minded January regain her memory. She is provided with nasty zingers and she milks them constantly - too put it simply, she is a piece of sour wood who needs to be thrown to the chipper. She has zero charm and even less ability to act on-screen. She gives a terrible performance that has to be seen to be believed.

4. Lily Tomlin as Linnea in Nashville

As I have already shown, sometimes a performance might be loved across the board but there may be something about it that just doesn't get me, here's another one. Lily Tomlin plays the mother of two deaf children, wife of a music lawyer, and singer in a gospel choir. Personally, I've always felt it was Tomlin herself who generates the universal love for this performance - at the end of Nashville, she is hardly the character that sticks out. She has a very short performance that consists of alot of facial acting and she does an alright job getting that across to the audience. However, there's nothing about the performance that actually screams brilliant to me.

3. Ronee Blakley as Barbara Jean in Nashville

When I said Lily Tomlin doesn't stick out at the end of Nashville, neither really does Ronee Blakley. She has the most interesting character in the film, but my heart has always been with Geraldine Chaplin, Karen Black, and nearly every other actress in the film. But, Blakley comes the closest to giving the best performance in the film, playing a pseudo-Loretta Lynn character who is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. With Barbara Jean's sweet attitude and down home values, she is pure innocence, full of life and her heartbreaking demise is a thrill to watch. It's a really great performance that is surely up there with the best in the film.

2. Sylvia Miles as Jessie Halstead Florian in Farewell, My Lovely

In a very small, bitesize performance Sylvia Miles shows how much you can cram into a character even though you barely get to know her. She plays a former showgirl who has grown to be a bitter, disillusioned alcoholic. Miles invests a charm in the lady that could have faded over time, but is still there when it comes to being around men. In a short time, she puts up a fantastic characterization that stays with me long after the film is over - actually, the film would be nothing without her.

1. Lee Grant as Felicia Carp in Shampoo

Lee Grants begins Shampoo having sex and leaves with her middle finger - in between this time, she gives a brilliant comedic performance that I love immensely. Felicia is the bored, rich housewife whose only glimmer of happiness comes with the horny Warren Beatty. She lets the witty dialogue slide off her tongue with noble ability, holding nothing back from the audience. She is a burst of energy, throwing elements of drama into her comedic timing, causing me to be totally enchanted by her. No apologies, I love the performance.

Honorable Omissions: Geraldine Chaplin in "Nashville".

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1957

And the Academy selected:
  • Carolyn Jones in The Bachelor Party
  • Elsa Lanchester in Witness For The Prosecution
  • Hope Lange in Peyton Place
  • Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara
  • Diane Varsi in Peyton Place

My Ranking:

5. Miyoshi Umeki as Katsumi Kelly in Sayonara

The audience gasped when surprise winner Miyoshi Umeki's name was announced and there was probably more then one reason why. Her very short, very unnoticeable performance as the Japanese wife of an American general is something odd the Academy decided to honor. Rarely does she ever have dialogue and rarely does she make herself worthwhile. I don't like the performance as much as I am not unmoved by it.

4. Elsa Lanchester as Miss Plimsoll in Witness For The Prosecution

Witness For The Prosecution is a silly, unrealistic 'suspense' film that is so awful, it's hard to believe it's revered as a classic. Also appearing a very small, unnoticeable role is Elsa Lanchester who plays the nurse to Charles Laughton. She is a witty, reasonable woman who likes her job and is in the movie to provide some comic relief. First of all, she is not funny and that's exactly what the filmmakers are reaching for - when she appears on-screen, it's all fuzzy and unreasonably bad. Just like Umeki, it's a huge failure of a performance for all the reasons imaginable.

3. Diane Varsi as Allison McKenzie in Peyton Place

Peyton Place tries to be an engaging drama, but it mostly feels way too overdone and inexplicably unrealistic. Diane Varsi plays the romantic daughter of Lana Turner's character who tries to rule over her with an iron fist. Varsi plays it with true emotion, lusting, suffering, and being rebellious all on-screen. Being in Peyton Place, she does feel a bit stale but her performance is certainly interesting and turns out to be quite good.

2. Hope Lange as Selena Cross in Peyton Place

In the film's most touching performance is Hope Lange, playing Selena Cross a good natured girl who is unfortunately poor and lives on the bad side of town. She is raped and must deal with the consequences of confessing of it. Lange still deals with the blandness of the material, but she is able to make her entire character and performance very touching and emotional. She handles the performance with the right kind of sympathy that makes her the complete standout of the performance.

1. Carolyn Jones as The Existentialist in The Bachelor Party

In the year's most uncompromising and best performance is Carolyn Jones showing a mountain of complex emotions in just 5 minutes. The Bachelor Party is not necessarily a great film, but when Jones enters the film takes on a whole new level and becomes a classic. The character is a sexy bohemian who appears to be quite rounded and independent, but quickly we learn the woman is much more then that, a desperate, rambling woman who is in need of love. She is deep thinking, intelligent, and full of passion that Jones blazes off the screen. It is a brilliantly magnificent creation and a beautiful performance.

Honorable Omissions: None.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1941

  • Sara Allgood in How Green Was My Valley
  • Mary Astor in The Great Lie
  • Patricia Collinge in The Little Foxes
  • Tersea Wright in The Little Foxes
  • Margaret Wycherly in Sergeant York
My Ranking:

5. Sara Allgood as Beth Morgan in How Green Was My Valley

- How Green Was My Valley is the shocking Best Picture winner that still causes a stir today, simply because it beat Citizen Kane. Frankly, I don't like either films for different reasons, and neither should have won Best Picture. Sara Allgood plays into the weepy, maudlin sentimentality of Valley playing the mother of the family who is always searching for the good in things and overlooking the bad. It's a consistently one note performance that goes absolutely nowhere - not to mention she is consistently annoying as well.

4. Margaret Wycherly as Mother York in Sergeant York

- Sergeant York laid as a vehicle for Gary Cooper, and even though he is incoherently terrible he still has to carry the movie, the supporting players are there to lay the cliches down for the film and Margaret Wycherly finds herself in that mix. Almost everytime she appears, she is looked at as a no-nonsense mother who knows her son is doing good and that the best thing to do is pray for him. It's a boring, lifeless part that becomes relatively exhausting after just seeing her for a very short time.

3. Patricia Collinge as Birdie Hubbard in The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes is a brilliant drama that shows the many sides to greed. While Bette Davis and her on-screen siblings show the evil side of greed, Patricia Collinge plays the exact opposite character: a faded, abused, alcoholic wife who lives in a distant world. She is the sympathetic edge of this story and she delicately handles herself through the story. Still, it's a sentimental performance that didn't hit me as hard as it should have. In her big moments, I feel a bit distant from her and couldn't connect. It's still a very good performance that she milks for all it's worth.

2. Tersea Wright as Alexandra Giddens in The Little Foxes

Collinge used to be my favorite of the two Fox ladies, but Tersea Wright now impresses in ways it's not easy to forget. She crafts the most important person in this story as a naive creature who knows what good and bad are, and Wright does it all convincingly, even charmingly. She can be manipulated, but she won't have it, at least not near the end. She uses all the right tricks, and her character ended up resonating with me longer then Collinge's Birdie.

1. Mary Astor as Sandra Kovak in The Great Lie

A delicious performance that is hard to ignore; Mary Astor takes the diva bitchiness of her character and turns it into gold, finding the right balance (at least for me) between drama and pure camp. She is a delight on-screen, showing the selfish side of her character as well as the tough bittersweet feelings of Sandra. It's easy to see why voters were swayed to vote for her, she totally controls the film and sticks out much largely then Bette Davis does. It's a largely terrific performance that has alot of wonderful and powerful moments found within.

Honorable Omissions: None.