Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 2002


And the Academy selected:
  • Kathy Bates in About Schmidt
  • Queen Latifah in Chicago
  • Julianne Moore in The Hours
  • Meryl Streep in Adaptation
  • Catharine Zeta-Jones in Chicago

My Ranking:

5. Catharine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago

It's the flashiest part this year, but also holds the distinction of being the weakest. Catharine Zeta-Jones playing the murderess superstar/uber-bitch Velma Kelly. The problem with the performance is how superficial and surprisingly unconvincing and boring Jones is. It's perhaps more of Chicago and her director's fault, but Renee Zellweger was able to overcome this limitations, why not Jones? There's just not a ton of effort at hand and not alot of talent to be found either.

4. Queen Latifah as Mama Morton in Chicago

Some of the same limitations are also found in Queen Latifah's performance as the tough and occasionally funny head matron Mama. Latifah's own distinct (if cliched) acting style mostly helps her out, relying on wisecracks which usually works and is very well done, if again, cliched and entirely expected. Still, a nice, entertaining performance that Queen Latifah carries.

3. Kathy Bates as Roberta Hertzel in About Schmidt

It's amazing how much better and deeper Kathy Bates gets on a review of About Schmidt. It's an extremely brief performance but it shows how Bates became such a famous character actress, who can quickly turn a small part into a memorable part of the film. Here, her Roberta is a quirky extreme creation and she lights up the screen with her comedic timing and delivers a terrific and surprising performance. It's more then a nude scene :)

2. Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean in Adaptation

Adaptation is such an odd film that a lesser actress could handle the small quirks and large neuroses of Susan Orlean terribly, but Meryl Streep obviously knew what she was doing. Even when she is off-screen, I could feel her presence and was more interested in her then anyone else - the tenderness of Susan and the quick, initial way she handles new found romance is amazing. It only shows how Streep can take a tricky part and makes the best out of what she is given.

1. Julianne Moore as Laura Brown in The Hours

It's such an epic performance, bursting full of emotions and showing the true, sometimes underrated talent of Julianne Moore. The depressed and suicidal 50s' housewife Laura Brown is my favorite part of The Hours, mostly because of Julianne Moore - she handles everything so excellently, so imaginatively, I fell totally under her spell. Lots of layers and tons of depth turn this performance into pure and terrific gold.

Honorable Omissions: None.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1991

  • Diane Ladd in Rambling Rose
  • Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear
  • Kate Nelligan in The Prince Of Tides
  • Mercedes Ruehl in The Fisher King
  • Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes

My Ranking:

5. Diane Ladd as Mother Hillyar in Rambling Rose

Like the year previous, Diane Ladd emerges as the weakest in her field playing the domineering, sweet spirit known as Mother in Rambling Rose. Some overacting and constant search of character (even though it always seems she knows what she is doing) causes this performance to be all over the place. Some might like her overacting but not this reviewer.

4. Kate Nelligan as Lila Wingo Newbury in The Prince Of Tides

Another performance all over the place is Kate Nelligan's performance as Nick Nolte's dominating mother Lila. It's not as bad as Diane Ladd but this particular performance has alot more boring elements added, especially in the younger scenes where I could fall asleep just thinking about it. She's a bit more tolerable playing an old woman, but again, there's that element of why should I care?

3. Mercedes Ruehl as Anne Napiltano in The Fisher King

Mercedes Ruehl winning performance doesn't pack the punches one probably would expect with such a hyped performance. A not so interesting character, playing the fiery and put upon girlfriend of Jeff Bridges. In some scenes, there's a hint of staleness that's apparent and the constant attitude of her character gets tiresome extremely fast. Her breakdown in the end is hardly worthy of an Oscar, and neither is the rest of her performance.

2. Juliette Lewis as Danielle Bowdon in Cape Fear

Juliette Lewis would probably get a better rating from me had there been more development of her character Danielle. Through many scenes (especially the early seduction at school) she shows the potential she has that was given to her, but much of it is squandered or just handled terribly. Later in the film, she becomes much more annoying and much more cliche, playing an angst-ridden teenager. So much possible, but so little done.

1. Jessica Tandy as Ninny Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes

In this year, Jessica Tandy would handily been given an Oscar for her witty, wise, and terrific performance as the narrator of the film Ninny who takes us through two journeys, old ones and new ones. It's amazing how she takes the littlest role of the film and makes it the most important - it could have been played so many different ways, but Tandy is just a dominating screen presence that this performance becomes amazing, full of life, and full of wisdom. It's a completely original performance I am in love with.

Honorable Omissions: None.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1981

And the Academy selected:
  • Melinda Dillon in Absence of Malice
  • Jane Fonda in On Golden Pond
  • Joan Hackett in Only When I Laugh
  • Elizabeth McGovern in Ragtime
  • Maureen Stapleton in Reds 
My Ranking:

5. Maureen Stapleton as Emma Goldman in Reds 

Maureen Stapleton had a long career, and she certainly was a good actress, but her career win for Reds is pathetic. Playing famous anarchist Emma Goldman, Stapleton blazes on-screen for what seems like 3 minutes throughout Reds 3 hours running time - she acts ferocious, smarter then everyone in sight, but for me, it's simply exhausting and extremely boring to sit and watch. She does nothing substainal with her runtime and her Oscar win can be thanked to her career and Reds overwhelming epic factor. 

4. Elizabeth McGovern as Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime

Ragtime is an obvious attempt to win someone an Oscar for something, unfortunately this kind of Oscar bait can be extremely tedious to watch. Elizabeth McGovern managed to get nominated for her portrayal of a manipulative woman who cannot be trusted no matter what she might claim to be. It's a pretty hard performance to explain to anyone since at the end of Ragtime, it's hard to remember what her purpose was in the film.

3. Melinda Dillon as Teresa in Absence Of Malice

Melinda Dillon appears in Absence of Malice with blazing, mysterious fury playing the supportive and protective friend of Paul Newman. Immediately emotionally drained, Teresa is depressed and holding onto her friendship with Newman as a possible way out of her depression. Dillon is absolutely terrific, finding every way possible to ignore the cliches that could have riddled her performance.

2. Joan Hackett as Toby in Only When I Laugh

I don't quite get the criticism Only When I Laugh receives since it features the most 'down to earth' dialogue Neil Simon wrote and 3 performances (in my opinion) that are very good. Joan Hackett plays the aging, vain Toby who is always criticizing her own looks when in reality she still looks young and is constantly trying to look newer or outdo herself. It's a funny role combined with serious intentions and Hackett really gets the perfect balance - floating between both and matching everyone else every step of the way.

1. Jane Fonda as Chelsea Thayer in On Golden Pond

Jane Fonda is playing on a very personal note in On Golden Pond, but she makes her performance incredibly realistic probably for this same reason. Chelsea has been places in life, accomplished many things, but still pining for the respect and love of her father. It's impossible to ignore, Fonda is maybe so good because it's so close to her life. But, nonethless, she is absolutely terrific delivering all she can give to a kind of empty part.

Honorable Omissions: None.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1946

  • Ethel Barrymore in The Spiral Staircase
  • Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge
  • Lillian Gish in Duel In The Sun
  • Flora Robson in Saratoga Trunk
  • Gale Sondergaard in Anna and The King Of Siam

My Ranking:

5. Lillian Gish as Laura Belle McCallanes in Duel In The Sun

This famous actresses' sole Oscar nomination is simply a joke. The nomination came with the fame of the film, not for Gish's career and when you watch the film you noticed how odd that seems. She does nothing significant in her screentime besides being about as versatile as a piece of metal. Sure she can use what comes natural to an actress like this, but she hardly makes an impact of any kind, just a bizarre Oscar nomination to explain it.

4. Gale Sondergaard as Lady Tiyang in Anna and The King Of Siam

The kind of compassion and motherly love that was needed for this role was turned in for sophisticated line readings and scary cat grins, yes we are talking about Gale Sondergaard playing one of the wives of the king. With her very brief performance, Sondergaard plays her character with alot of invisible depth about how she loves her son so much. The whole performance feels like a misstep of something that the audience is always aware of.

3. Flora Robson as Angelique Buiton in Saratoga Trunk

A performance that ranks among the weirdest ever nomination, British actress Flora Robson as the chaperone of Ingrid Bergman in Saratoga Trunk. She adds nothing substantial in the movie, and she exaggerates most of her performance, but it's so weird that it is watchable. Again, it's not to say it's good but it sure is something otherworldly to watch. She has one good scene with Gary Cooper, but not one that is truly unforgettable.

2. Ethel Barrymore as Mrs. Warren in The Spiral Staircase

Ethel Barrymore has quickly become one of my favorite actresses, her schtick can become quickly annoying for some, but for me, she adds a new variation on everything she does. Here she plays the wealthy, but bed ridden Mrs. Warren, taking care of a mute girl who is being stalked. She provides the first big creepy scares in the beginning, warning the audience of impending doom. It's a totally engaging, beautifully frighting performance by a new favorite.

1. Anne Baxter as Sophie McDonald in The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge is not a good movie by any means, but Anne Baxter's tragic performance as Sophie surely outshines the entire thing. Pretty much, her performance can be described as heartbreaking from beginning to end, destined to be doomed in the beginning and destined to die in the end. She portrays her drunk character with alot of depth and characterization that makes her film nearly worthwhile. It's a magnificent performance that Baxter excels in.

Honorable Omissions: None.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The (Best Of) Honorable Omissions

Since I'm totally slacking off and in serious writer's block, I figured I would try to cover some Honorable Omissions so far.

The Honorable Omissions section has long been a favorite thing of mine - yes, I have not seen every movie ever
made in every year, nor do I pretend to know this, but it's always the most blunt section of my reviews. When you see 5 nominees reviewed and you see me suddenly throw out some odd little actress in probably a odd little movie, it's a bold statement. The supporting category has let me down this go-round, but there are some ladies who have made a bold impression in this series of ranking. Here's my favorite 6 (yes, 6) so far:

6. Mila Kunis in Black Swan (2010) 

There is something thoroughly haunting and engaging about Mila Kunis in Black Swan, and out of everyone about to be mentioned, she is the only one who came extremely close to actually being nominated (how she didn't is just as mysterious as her character).

5. Helena Kallianiotes in Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Playing super hippie bitch in one of my favorite movies ever, gives you a slight advantage, and mostly unknown actress Helena Kallianiotes is simply amazing in her constant criticizing and hippie blabbering.

4. Betsy Palmer in Friday The 13th  (1980)

Yeah, some people might boggle their eyes at me (which doesn't bother me at all) but this remains one of the few performances that actually have the power to scare me. The first movie in this series remains the scariest because it is most explainable and terrifying. Palmer's take on a vengeful mother is terrific.

3. Judith Light in Save Me (2008)

I have a certain affection for characters like this (denying bitchy women who want things their way) but Judith Light's character is much more complex, justifying her brutal actions with the grace of God. This performance is shocking and heartbreaking at the same time.

2. Ann Noland in Best Friends (1974)

It's long been an inspiring performance in a movie that maybe doesn't deserve it, Ann Noland's emotional and ditzy performance of a lazy waif Jo Ella. Everytime she is on-screen, her screen power becomes more and more apparent and by the end, she makes a lasting impression no matter which way the viewer chooses to take it.

1. Mary Lynn Raskub in Mysterious Skin (2004)

Yes, there may be a bit of bias going on here, but this time I choose Mary Lynn Raskub as giving best Honorable Omissions performance so far. One part of the title refers specifically to her: she is a mystery.

She constantly challenges the viewer with her downhome manners, dowdy appearance, and weak limp. She is really only on-screen for about 10 minutes and disappears 1 hour into the film, but she leaves me utterly enchanted in this challenging, disturbing, and brilliant film.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 1994

  • Rosemary Harris in Tom and Viv
  • Helen Mirren in The Madness Of King George
  • Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction
  • Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway
  • Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway

My Ranking:

5. Rosemary Harris as Rose Haigh-Wood in Tom and Viv

The woman couldn't be more lifeless if she was playing a robot - Rosemary Harris' dry performance as the quiet, dignified Rose Haigh-Wood is a testament to how bad Oscar bait can get. Sometimes I feel Oscar bait is alot more substantial then box office bait, but Tom and Viv is pointless and dreadfully boring. And so is Rosemary Harris who finds no life, light, depth, or any kind of direction in her performance.

4. Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction

My problem with Uma Thurman's performance (and Pulp Fiction itself) is how calculated it is, nothing feels authentic and Tarantino's style is something that has always bothered me. Thurman holds her unusual (uninteresting) character together enough to make it through the film, but again, it's just a matter of taste and for me the performance is void of everything.

3. Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte in The Madness Of King George

Another performance that is wildly dull, Helen Mirren's imperious performance as Queen Charlotte. There's not much to it, the Queen loves her crazy husband and tries to understand him even though the world around him is tumbling down. That's about it, besides have a few teary eyed predictable moments that are absolutely unmoving and unneeded.

2. Jennifer Tilly as Olive Neal in Bullets Over Broadway

Jennifer Tilly's performance isn't exactly a masterpiece or really that funny, but she is pretty good. Playing the ingenue of the play (and a gangster's moll) she has alot of moments where she could hit it out of the park, unfortunately for me, she misses most of the opportunities, but again, it's still a good, charming performance. She's actually above most of the cast for me.

1. Dianne Wiest as Helen Sinclair in Bullets Over Broadway 

In the end, it was a hardly a contest. Dianne Wiest's performance as aging actress and diva extraordinaire Helen Sinclair is wickedly funny. She plays the part to perfection, milking every over-exaggerated diva line for all it's worth. The film would honestly be nothing without her - everytime she comes on-screen, the pace changes and becomes a bit magical. It's a terrific charming Woody Allen performance.

Honorable Omissions: None.