venerdì 30 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1968: Kay Medford in Funny Girl

Kay Medford received her only Oscar nomination for her performance as Rose Brice in Funny Girl.

Funny Brice is a remarkable musical about comedienne and entertainer Fanny Brice that depicts both her career and her marriage to gambler Nick Arnstein. I liked the movie much more than I expected to - it's mostly remembered for Barbra Streisand's Oscar winning performance and even if her star-making turn is indeed the movie's strongest asset I still thought it was a quite good picture by its own right. The score is wonderful and the songs are all good (the best of them are absolutely great, and even the less memorable ones are still quite catchy), while the cinematography is quite impressive. Both the costume design and the art direction should have received Oscar nominations and, considering how much the Academy liked this movie, I'm surprised they didn't. Less shocking is William Wyler's snub in the Best Director category: while he does a perfectly fine job, it's probably one of his most ordinary efforts, as I never truly felt his own personal touch that can be perceived in many others of his movies. I've read some criticisms about Omar Sharif's performance as Arnstein, but I personally thought he gave a wholly solid performance. 

Rose Brice is not a very challenging or demanding role: it's a very by-the-numbers depiction of the supportive, warm mother and in terms of screen-time it's particularly limited (around ten minutes in a two hours and a half long film). Kay Medford certainly brings to the part everything it requires - she is a warm, nice presence and in the early scenes of the movie she does a perfectly respectable job at portraying her unconditional support towards her daughter's ambitions even as many people around her tend to dismiss the latter as too unattractive to have a career in show business. Medford's portrayal is sweet and caring and she also does well in the more humorous side of her performance as she nicely depicts her character's sharp-tongued behavior towards her daughter's detractors, but at the same time there is no denying that what's required from her is next to nothing. To be honest Barbra Streisand is probably the only actor in the movie who is allowed to shine, but even among the supporting players Medford is particularly limited as the screenplay does not really give any attention or focus to Rose. Her appearences are sporadic and whenever she is on-screen she goes out too soon to be able to leave any sort of impression: for example, the moment in which she proudly tells Florenz Ziegfeld how lucky he is to have her daughter among his girls is quite enjoyable but in the span of a few seconds she leaves the screen; or the scene at the party when Rose expresses her few reservations about Nick foreshadowing the eventual decay of Fanny's relationship with him is a fine, smartly placed moment - but, again, it's way too brief and it ends before Medford can leave that much of an impression. 

The only moment of Medford's performance that can be described as quite effective is her final scene in which she openly talks to Fanny about Nick and advises her how to help him overcome his weaknesses. It's not a particularly big scene but Medford plays it with subtlety and dignity, portraying Rose with a welcome amount of wisdom and warmth: it's still a pretty brief sequence and it's nothing outstanding, but it's still quite poignant and easily the highlight of Medford's turn here. 

Really in the end there is not much one can say about Kay Medford's performance in Funny Girl: she brings the right warmth to the character, her delivery of her sarcastic remarks is enjoyable enough and her final scene is a nice, solid one, but in her ten minutes of screen-time she never becomes anything that is much more than competent and she is not even the best supporting performer of the movie (even if they're very limited by their roles too, I thought Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis were more impressive). It's a performance that never really stands out for the good or the bad - it's just a decent yet unmemorable piece of work that probably got nominated due to the success of the movie rather than the quality of the performance per se. 


lunedì 26 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1968

And the nominees are...

Lynn Carlin - Faces
Ruth Gordon - Rosemary's Baby
Sondra Locke - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Kay Medford - Funny Girl
Estelle Parsons - Rachel, Rachel

What are your predictions for my ranking? How would you personally rank the nominees?

sabato 24 dicembre 2016

Merry Christmas!

With a gif from my favorite scene of Mean Girls (which is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine) and one from my favorite Christmas movie (The Christmas Story), I wish all of you a Merry Christmas! And I use this occasion also to thank all of you for reading and commenting my posts, if it wasn't for you blogging wouldn't be half as fun!💓

mercoledì 21 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Ranking

5. Kate Winslet in Iris
Kate Winslet oversimplifies her character giving a rather one-note, superficial portrayal. She partly makes up for the inadequacies of her performance thanks to her chemistry with Hugh Bonneville and a few effective moments later on in the movie.
Best scene: Iris opens up about her past lovers.

4. Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind
Jennifer Connelly gives an extremely uneven performance that is quite underwhelming in the beginning, absolutely outstanding in the central act and inconsistent yet occasionally effective in the last third. Overall I think the good of her performance outshine the bad, even if her work is too flawed to be considered truly great.
Best scene: Alice tells John about his illness.

3. Maggie Smith in Gosford Park
Maggie Smith delivers a delightfully entertaining and scene-stealing performance in this ensemble piece and she does a wonderful job at portraying her character's snobbish traits. The lack of depth of her character detract from her performance but within those limitations Smith is still very good.
Best scene: Lady Trentham's reaction when the butler spills coffee on Denton's trousers.

2. Marisa Tomei in In the bedroom
Marisa Tomei delivers an excellent turn in this movie, effectively establishing her character's life and background early on and then slaying in her more emotional moments later. She gives a powerful depiction of her character's grief and she is extremely memorable even her performance lacks a worthy closure. 
Best scene: Natalie meets Matt at the store.

1. Helen Mirren in Gosford Park
Helen Mirren gives a subtle, layered and terrific performance in this movie, quietly hinting at her character's hidden feelings and slowly building up to her final scenes that couldn't be more devastating. It's a much difficult role than it seems at first glance, and Mirren steps up to the plate delivering a brilliant turn. 
Best scene: The breakdown.

Honorable Omissions: Gwyneth Paltrow is unforgettable as Margo Tenenbaum in Wes Anderson's stunning The Royal Tenenbaums and her stylized performance fits perfectly Anderson's unique vision. Thanks to her excellent deadpan delivery and her brilliant comedic timing, Paltrow's performance is absolutely hilarious but at the same time she does a brilliant job at subtly conveying her character's depression and vulnerability, bringing an aching tenderness to her scenes with Luke Wilson. On top of that, she is an alluring, magnetic presence and, whenever she's on-screen, you just can't take your eyes off her. Uma Thurman only appears in the third act of the underrated Tape, but when she does she is a hurricane, perfectly holding her own against Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard with her excellent portrayal of an intelligent woman unwilling to give in to the cruel games and twisted manipulations of Hawke's character. I absolutely hated Vanilla Sky but Cameron Diaz' short powerhouse of a performance is remarkable, making her character sexy, deranged, haunting and heartbreaking all at once: her scene in the car with Tom Cruise is by far the movie's highlight and maybe the most effective piece of acting Diaz has ever done. Bandits is for the most part a rather forgettable movie but Cate Blanchett is wonderful in the role: she is endearingly ditzy and she is an hilarious force of nature, but she also delivers in the few more emotional moments. It's an engaging, lovely performance that proves that Blanchett can be just as good in comedy as she is in drama. Gosford Park feature some extremely strong supporting performances: Kristin Scott Thomas effectively conveys the loneliness behind her character's glamourous façade, Kelly MacDonald beautifully portrays her character's subtle arc while being a very endearing presence, Claudie Blakley is very moving as the fragile, plain-looking but sweet Mabel and Emily Watson is terrific as the sassy, hardened yet deep-down kind maid Elsie. Frances O'Connor is touching and effective in A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, bringing to life her character's conflicted emotions while never making the viewer doubt of her motherly love, also thanks to her poignant chemistry with Haley Joel Osment. Scarlett Johansson gives a very memorable turn in Ghost World, sharing an entertaining chemistry with her co-star Thora Birch and then portraying convincingly her character's transition as Rebecca grows more and more distant from Enid.
The next year: 1968. 

My Best Supporting Actress Ballot:
  1. Gwyneth Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums - 5/5
  2. Helen Mirren, Gosford Park
  3. Uma Thurman, Tape - 4.5/5
  4. Cameron Diaz, Vanilla Sky - 4.5/5
  5. Emily Watson, Gosford Park - 4.5/5
  6. Cate Blanchett, Bandits - 4.5/5
  7. Marisa Tomei, In the bedroom
  8. Frances O'Connor, A.I. - Artificial Intelligence - 4/5
  9. Scarlett Johansson, Ghost World - 4/5
  10. Kelly McDonald, Gosford Park - 4/5

domenica 18 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Kate Winslet in Iris

Kate Winslet received her third Oscar nomination for her performance as the young Iris Murdoch in Iris.

Iris is a decent but fairly unremarkable movie about the relationship between writer Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, depicting the early stages of their romance before their marriage and their last years together when Iris is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It's an okay movie with a few good performances even if it's nothing particularly noteworthy overall. I would say the movie suffers from the fact that the plot itself is rather simple, even predictable, and the execution of it is nothing that hasn't been seen or done before. The relationship between Iris and John is explored in depth and not taken for granted but unfortunately the same cannot be said about Iris' work and career - these are supposed to be the most important and incisive part of Iris' life yet they are of very little revelance in the movie. 

Kate Winslet plays Iris in the section of the movie involving the beginning of her romance with John. Winslet is, in my opinion, a terrific, versatile and skilled actress whom I've appreciated in many different movies and role: this turn of hers, unfortunately, ranks among the least impressive I've seen from her - part of the blame goes for the screenplay itself but I have to say that Winslet herself oversimplifies her character considerably and goes for a rather one-dimensional approach that does not do the character any justice. The screenplay seems to indicate us that at a young age Iris was a true free spirit: Winslet portrays her as such but the problem is that, besides this trait, there is very little else to her characterization. Iris' bisexuality could have been an interesting aspect of her character but both the script and Winslet doesn't seem to be interested in it. Also in Winslet's performance, I never felt the passion and interest for words, thoughts and human feelings that Dench conveyed so well in her own segment as the older Iris - Winslet's few speeches regarding this subjects feel rather like elaborate but empty talk, while Dench truly finds the meaning behind her words. Winslet portrays Iris as pretty much careless, which might work in her scenes with Hugh Bonneville (who plays the young John) but feels very out of the place in the few scenes regarding her career as it makes Iris look kind of shallow - something that contrasts Dench's work in not a good way. Dench's and Winslet's performances are actually at completely different wavelenghts and it's often quite hard to believe they are portraying the same person.

But the problem is not only the fact that Winslet focuses on making Iris a free spirit and not much else, but also the fact that she is not particularly great at it in this movie: she does have some natural charm that makes her scenes at least watchable, sometimes even entertaining, but still there is something to be desired in her performance. As I said, she is a fairly appealing presence but she lacks the luminous spark and the unpredictability her character is supposed to have; she does not quite bring the life and energy the character requires, instead she just overdoes some of her line-deliveries, mistaking loudness for exuberance. It's particularly underwhelming because Winslet has proved herself to be capable of being a wonderfully captivating and magnetic presence in other movies, but here she just fails to do that. 

This does not mean her work is entirely poor and admittedly she does have a few effective moments in there. Even if I think she is thoroughly overshadowed by Hugh Bonneville, I also believe the two of them share a sweet, natural chemistry which makes their romantic scenes quite endearing. I particularly like the scene in which Iris and John have sex for the first time as both actors bring the right tenderness and delicacy to it - I would say that while Winslet herself does not quite capture the essence of Iris, she and Bonneville have a good understanding of the relationship between Iris and John and they effectively create the same dynamic that Dench and Broadbent have in their own scenes. As the movie progresses, I think Winslet becomes a much more engaging presence as she tones it down a little bit and she has some moments that are actually quite remarkable, such as her nicely handled singing scene towards the end. Her best moment is by far the scene in which she opens up about her past lovers when John proposes to her: Winslet has an excellent monologue that she delivers to utter perfection - it's a moving, poignant scene that Winslet plays with raw emotional honesty, finally revealing a bit more about her character: she beautifully conveys Iris' regret and vulnerability in this movie as well as the sincerity of her love for John. It's such a beautifully acted moment it really makes you wish her whole performance would have been on the same level. 

Overall, this is a rather uneven performance from Kate Winslet, who is often too one-note missing the potential depth and complexity of her character. She improves considerably as the movie progresses as she strikes up a good chemistry with Hugh Bonneville and has a few effective moments. Overall, it's a fine enough performance from an actress who could have done more. 


mercoledì 14 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Helen Mirren in Gosford Park

Helen Mirren received her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Jane Wilson in Gosford Park.

Mrs. Wilson is the head housekeeper: she appears as an efficient, strict and emotionless woman; to the other characters, she does not seem to exist outside of her job, which she does with the utmost dedication and precision. Mirren establishes her character perfectly: she does not have much screen-time nor much focus, she is often just part of the scene, but she doesn't need that to give the viewer the perfect impression of what her character is supposed to be. She never steals the scene, she perfectly works as a part of the ensemble and only stands out when she knows it's her time to shine: those few moments in which she gets to be in the spotlight are made all the more resonant due to her dedication in the remaining scenes, in which she perfectly builds up to her final scene (the one for which her performance is mostly remembered). 

With her body language alone, Mirren tells everything there is to be known about her character: each of her movements is made with pitch-perfect precision and careful attention, there is not a single gesture that feels even remotely inattentive. Through this, Mirren makes the audience immediately aware of Mrs. Wilson's position among the servants - as she herself later puts it, Mrs. Wilson is "the perfect servant" and Mirren's performance makes you see why as there is not a single moment in her whole performance that would make you doubt of Mrs. Wilson's efficiency. She also holds a strong screen-presence different from the kind displayed by Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas - there is no glamour in her presence, but rather a sense of autority and it's immediately clear why all of the other servants both fear and respect her. 

It's impossible to analyze this performance without mentioning some pretty important plot twists, so the rest of this review will contain some heavy spoilers about her performance. It is revealed by the end of the movie that Mrs. Wilson used to work in Sir William's factory, was seduced by him and became pregnant: forced to choose between her job and her baby, she gave the latter up for adoption, thinking Sir William would assure he was adopted by a wealthy family while in fact he left him at an orphanage; at the beginning, the now grown up son, Robert Parks (Clive Owen), turns up at the house as Lord Stockbridge's valet. Mirren has the extremely difficult task of not giving away the twist of the movie while making it believable and she absolutely delivers - her reaction at the beginning when she realizes there is her son (who doesn't know she is his mother as he had been told she died when he was little) in front of her is extremely subtle so that it's almost impossible to notice it on a first viewing but on a rewatch you realize how perfectly built her work is. She is also outstanding in a later scene when she briefly talks to Robert in his room to assure he is comfortable - again, Mirren does some very subtle facial acting in which she conveys her character's conflicted emotions without even remotely giving the twist away. 

Mrs. Wilson suspects Robert intends to kill Sir William, so she poisons the latter in order to avoid him prison and maybe death sentence. Mirren absolutely delivers in her confrontation with Mary (Kelly MacDonald) who, unlike the detective, has figured out the truth - her monologue about being the perfect servant is a chilling, phenomenal moment that is both shocking and quite moving ("Didn't you hear me? I'm the perfect servant. I have no life") and it's an emotionally powerful moment especially because she finally drops her character's façade showing her rawest and deepest emotions. She is also amazing in her very last scene in which she breakdowns due to the fact that her son will never know she is his mother and the head cook Mrs. Croft (Aileen Atkins) comforts her: it's an absolutely devastating moment especially after finding out of the history between Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Croft (who is in fact Mrs. Wilson's sister who got pregnant by Sir William as well, but decided to lose her job in order to keep the baby who later died of scarlet fever). It's probably my favorite scene of the whole movie and Mirren is simply incredible in it. 

I actually did not care much for her performance the first time I saw the movie, but a rewatch made me realize how perfect her characterization is: Mirren gives an absolutely outstanding performance that is remarkably subdued until the phenomenal final scenes that are absolutely heartbreaking. She is the strongest member of the movie's ensemble and gives a wonderfully layered portrayal that needs multiple views to be truly appreciated.


domenica 11 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Maggie Smith in Gosford Park

Maggie Smith received her sixth Oscar nomination for her performance as Lady Constance Trentham in Gosford Park.

Gosford Park is an excellent film about  a murder that takes place during a party at a country house in England in 1932, affecting the lives of both the guests and the servants. I already liked the movie when I saw it a few years ago, but it grew on me considerably after a rewatch. I believe this to be a masterpiece of screenwriting: in spite of the murder, it's not quite a plot-driven movie but rather a character-driven movie, and here almost every character gets just enough focus to be interesting and compelling in its own way; at the same time, though, the mystery is exceptionally conceived and the ending is brilliantly hinted at but never remotely obvious. The directing by Robert Altman is also pitch-perfect and he would easily be my pick for Best Director if it wasn't for David Lynch. The cast is very strong: even if I think that some of the characters are actually more memorable for the writing than for the acting, it's still a terrific ensemble with a few standouts. 

Maggie Smith plays Constance Trentham, the snobbish aunt of Lady Silvia (Kristin Scott Thomas). The character of Constance is not a particularly challenging one and, actually, it's probably one of the most straightforward of the whole movie: she does not have much complexity and she serves mostly as a comic relief. It's the kind of character Maggie Smith has played very often on screen and this is not a particularly original variation of it: nonetheless, there is no denying that Smith can pull it off like no other and she is always a delightful presence on-screen.

Lady Trentham is one of the very first characters to appear on screen and Maggie Smith establishes her character's bitchy personality perfectly: she perfectly portrays her character's arrogance in a way that is not at all grating or annoying, in fact she manages to make her character's quite endearing despite being technically quite unlikeable. It's a role that relies heavily on facial reactions and line-deliveries and Smith is pretty much brilliant at both ("Could we possibly get on before I freeze to death?", "I haven't a snobbish bone in my body"). In the scenes at the house, Smith also does an excellent job at portraying Constance's demeanor with other people as she speaks with other people but does not exactly socialize - she exhibits a proper behavior yet still keeps herself at distance from others. All of this again works perfectly for her depiction of her character's superior attitude and those scenes nicely contrast to her scenes with Kristin Scott Thomas or Kelly McDonald (who plays her servant Mary): in those scenes Smith is very good as she still portrays her character as snobbish but also reveals a gossipy side of her in a very amusing fashion ("If there's one thing I don't look for in a maid, it's discretion. Except with my own secrets, of course"). Some of her best moments are the ones in which Constance not-so-subtly expresses her disdain for the American film producer Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban) and the actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam): her reactionary shots are absolutely hilarious and she has some brilliantly funny lines ("Please don't encourage him", "Awfully long repertoire"). One of her best scenes is the one in which she calmly humiliates Novello by asking him about his last film which was a huge flop, The Lodger - she is maliciously funny in it. I also love the moment when Constance starts laughing after a butler "accidentally" spills coffee on Henry Denton's (Ryan Phillippe) trousers - it's a hilarious moment thanks to Smith who couldn't be any funnier.

The character of Lady Constance Trentham is, even name-wise, very similar to the character Smith plays in Downton Abbey, Lady Violet Grantham (Downton Abbey was actually supposed to be a spin-off of this movie). Those characters are almost the same on a superficial level - both are rich, sophisticated, scathing old ladies, yet Smith's performance in the miniseries is far superior. Why? Because throughout the seasons Smith had the time to convey a lot of depth in the character of Violet - she portrays a fierce loyalty towards her family and an unexpectedly kind-hearted nature behind her bitchy façade and ends up being the show's most powerful character (possibly after Lady Mary). Due to her limited screen-time and the ensemble nature of the movie itself, Maggie Smith can only do so much with what she has and unfortunately there really is not much substance to her performance in this. It is later on revealed in the movie that Lady Trentham is having some financial troubles and she is worried that Sir William (Michael Gambon) will stop paying for her allowance - Smith conveys this very well as there are certain moments in the movie in which she shows a bit of urgency in few interactions with Gambon, but still that does not make her character much more three-dimensional. She does have a very brief moment of vulnerability towards the end when Lady Trentham reflects with Mary about the possible consequences of the investigation, but still it only amounts to a few seconds and it's not particularly memorable.

Overall, this is a solid performance by Maggie Smith who gives a very enjoyable, scene-stealing performance. While it's not something I would have necessarily nominated (Emily Watson in the same movie was much more memorable in my opinion) and the role is lacking in depth and substance, she still delivers an entertaining turn that adds some needed humor to the whole picture. Nice, fun work. 


giovedì 8 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind

Jennifer Connelly won the Oscar from her only nomination for her performance as Alicia Narde Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

A Beautiful Mind is a fine movie about brilliant but asocial mathematician John Nash  and his struggle to come to terms with his paranoid schizophrenia. It's an uneven movie that starts off as extremely engaging but muddles a bit in the second half and I don't really think Ron Howard's direction was particularly worthy of its win: it's a movie that relies more on the writing than the direction. Speaking of the writing, it's very good although the Oscar might have been a bit too much. My favorite aspect of the movie is probably the score which is downright beautiful. Overall, it's an occasionally affecting and impressive but ultimately a bit flawed experience. 

Jennifer Connelly's win in this category is usually considered as a case of category fraud but, while she is definitely a borderline case, I would actually agree she is supporting here: there are scenes from her perspective mid-way through the movie but she does not get the same amount of focus as Russell Crowe's and ultimately I consider the movie as mostly John Nash' story rather than the story of his marriage (unlike The Danish Girl, where the movie focuses on Lili as much as it focuses on Gerda). The character of Alicia first appears about forty minutes into the movie as a student in John Nash' class who immediately impresses him due to her intelligence and charm: Connelly is technically fine in those scenes although I believe she could have done a little more - she's beautiful and she's rather charming but she never becomes the luminous presence the movie suggests she is. She is completely fine and develops a decent chemistry with Russell Crowe but I felt she could have been a much more engaging and lively presence - it all feels competent and nicely done, but also a little bit underwhelming, especially the scene in which she explains love's nature to John: the writing is a bit cheesy but she doesn't do much to help especially due to her choice to basically whisper throughout the whole scene with little to no modulation in her voice. She fares much better at portraying her character's intelligence and determination and prevents her character from becoming a passive, one-dimensional love interest because she conveys a perceptive, bright mind behind her character's beauty. 

I think her best moments are in the middle of the movie when she gets much more to do and she actually does a great job: she does an excellent job at portraying Alicia's growing desperation as she feels John becoming more and more distant from her and she makes Alicia's attempts to connect with her husband rather moving. She is terrific in her conversation with Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) in which she has to express a wide range of emotions and she nails all of them, from denial of her husband's illness to confusion to final acceptance. I also found her to be extremely compelling in the few scenes involving Alicia's search for information about John's "secret job" and she shows her determination with convincing grit and strength. The highlight of her whole performance is in my opinion the scene in which Alicia visits John at the psychiatric facility he's been sent to and tells him about his illness and hallucinations: it's a brilliantly acted scene on both ends with Connelly being particularly heartbreaking in her portrayal of her character's exhaustion and distress but also unending love and support. 

Her performance in the last third is unfortunately a bit of a mixed bag that features both great moments and surprisingly mediocre ones. For example, she is very good at portraying Alicia's frustrations over the lack of passion in her marriage with John but her monologue to an old friend about her life with John is a surprisingly empty and disappointing moment that just sort of comes and goes without leaving any sort of impression whatsoever - it could have been an emotionally powerful scene and a great occasion for Connelly to further explore both her character's unsatisfaction and her love for her husband, but she underplays the moment to the point that it ends up being completely forgettable. Her reaction when she finds out John has relapsed is pitch-perfect but when she angrily confronts him for almost letting their son drown in the bathtub she overacts way too much (her shouting of "There's no one here" is so overdone it's almost distracting). The most famous scene of her performance is probably her "You want to know what's real?" monologue and while I don't necessarily find it to be a particularly amazing scene as some do it's indeed a very powerful moment that Connelly plays with just the right amount of grace and warmth. It's a very moving moment and her chemistry with Crowe is probably at its strongest there. She is also quietly effective in the final scene of the movie delivering some impressive teary-eyed, proud looks. 

Overall, this is somewhat problematic but overall good effort from a talented actress: it's a very uneven turn with ups and downs but when she is good, then she is really effective and she has a few truly remarkable scenes over the course of the movie. In the end, I personally believe the good of her performance outshine the not so good and there's no denying that she has some poignant and affecting moment, but her missteps prevent her performance from becoming truly great. 


martedì 6 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001: Marisa Tomei in In the Bedroom

Marisa Tomei received her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Natalie Strout in In the Bedroom.

In the Bedroom is a harrowing movie about a married couple trying to cope with their son's death and with the lack of punishment for his killer. It's an excellent drama with great acting, an intelligent, brilliant screenplay (that probably should have won the Oscar) and an excellent direction; it's a slow-paced experience but it never drags - it's captivating every single step of the way, building up perfectly to the unforgettable, haunting ending. It's a great movie, maybe even a bit underrated.

The first half an hour of the movie focuses on Matt (Tom Wilkinson) and Beth (Sissy Spacek) quietly reacting to their son Frank's (Nick Stahl) relationship with an older divorced woman with two sons, Natalie, played by Tomei. The chemistry between Stahl and Tomei is not necessarily anything truly outstanding, but I don't think it's ever supposed to be: they create a rather quiet and unassuming dynamic that works perfectly within the extremely realistic approach of the movie and realize their character's mutual feelings exceptionally well. Theirs is not supposed to be a legendary romance but rather a low-key, tender connection between two very different people: Stahl portrays Frank as a hopeful, lively young man while Tomei effectively establishes Natalie as a nice but also weary person who knows how life works and does not delude herself in any way; at the same time, though, Stahl and Tomei convey a mutual respect, understanding and warmth in their interactions throughout the movie and they make for a believable couple. One of their best moments together is probably the one in which Frank tells Natalie he wants to take a break from university, much to her dismay: Tomei is particularly excellent here and she's quite moving at showing how Natalie does not want Frank to give up anything in his life for their relationship - there's a heartbreaking sadness in her performance as Tomei conveys Natalie's awareness of the fact that her relationship with Frank could hardly last forever in spite of their honest feelings. Tomei is also very impressive in her portrayal of Natalie's interactions with Matt and Beth: she just captures so vividly and realistically Natalie's feeling of discomfort and embarrassment around Frank's parents - the fact that these moments feel so life-like make them particularly special. She is also extremely good in her few scenes with William Mapother who plays her ill-tempered, abusive ex-husband Richard: Tomei is terrific in their scenes together as she conveys perfectly Natalie's unease or even fear when he is around and even if their past together is never explored in depth there is no need to because both actors manages to give you an idea of their previous life in the couple of scenes devoted to them. 

Tomei is given some challenging, dramatic moments later on in the movie and she solves them with ease and admirable skill. I would say she is one of the strongest elements of the murder scene - she conveys her character's distress perfectly through her body acting and her trembling line-deliveries add a lot of tension to the whole situation and her scream as the murder occurs couldn't be more chilling. She also conveys a wide range of emotions during the trial scenes - her shock and distress over the situation, her grief over the loss of her boyfriend, her disbelief due to the untactful and unbelievable questions of the lawyer... she does not hold back anything with her acting but she never overdoes it either: she portrays Natalie's shattered, messed-up emotional state so convincingly that she is more than realistic, she is downright raw and devastating. 

Tomei has a very few scenes over the rest of the movie but she makes the most out of all these tiny moments. Her encounter with Tom Wilkinson's Matt is a particularly remarkable scene that Tomei portrays with unexpected quietness: it's a heartbreaking moment that does not have much dialogue on her part but it is not needed - Tomei portrays so perfectly the familiar feeling of wanting to say so much to somebody but just not finding the right words for it. She conveys excellently Natalie's guilt and shame over the whole situation and she is quite moving at showing how Natalie's emotional state has become less desperate but rather more depressed, haggard and melancholic. I actually sort of hate her final scene (my least favorite aspect of the movie) as I felt the character and the performance deserved a much better closure but Tomei is still very good in it.

In the end Marisa Tomei gives a realistic and emotionally resonant performance in In the Bedroom. She flawlessly inhabits her character turning a potential plot-device into a three-dimensional, heartbreaking figure, even if she is dropped unceremoniously halfway through. A powerful performance from a versatile, skilled actress. 


domenica 4 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2001

And the nominees are...

Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Helen Mirren - Gosford Park
Maggie Smith - Gosford Park
Marisa Tomei - In the Bedroom
Kate Winslet - Iris

What are your predictions for my ranking? How would you personally rank the nominees?

giovedì 1 dicembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Ranking

5. Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara
Miyoshi Umeki gives a competent, occasionally moving performance but she is stuck with a thankless role that prevents her from leaving that much of an impression.
Best scene: Katsumi explains the reason why she wanted to undergo a surgery to make her face look Caucasian.

4. Diane Varsi in Peyton Place
Diane Varsi is very good at portraying her character's developement over the years but she does not share a particularly good chemistry with either her on-screen mother, or her on-screen best friend or her on-screen boyfriend and she falters in the more emotional scenes.
Best scene: Allison shows Norman her "secret place".

3. Elsa Lanchester in Witness for the Prosecution
It's a rather limited role but Elsa Lanchaster is a welcome presence whenever she appears, nicely acting as the movie's comic relief and sharing a pitch-perfect chemistry with Charles Laughton.
Best scene: Miss Plimsoll urges Sir Wilfrid to take a new case.

2. Hope Lange in Peyton Place
Hope Lange is by far the highlight of the movie making Selena an endearing and likeable character early on and then portraying her character's plight in a moving and honest fashion, nailing each of the challenging dramatic scene she's given.
Best scene: Selena visits Dr. Swain after the rape.

1. Carolyn Jones in The Bachelor Party
Carolyn Jones delivers a superb performance in just six minutes, beautifully and carefully revealing the desperation behind her character's alluring appearence. It's an incredible characterization that leaves a sad, haunting and unforgettable impression. 
Best scene: "Say you love me"

Honorable Omissions: Isuzu Yamada delivers a mesmerizing performance in Throne of Blood: she gives a chillingly effective portrayal of her character's ruthless, manipulative nature leading up beautifully to her final, outstanding scene that is both frightening and devastating to watch. She's also very good in a similar role in The Lower Depths, portraying extremely well the devious nature of Osugi while still presenting a bitterness that is fitting to her background. Simone Signoret is phenomenal in The Crucible portraying impeccably her character's growing exhaustion and desperation as her life is turned upside down but conveying a fierce dignity even in Elizabeth's lowest moments, It's a subtle, excellent turn from one of the very best actresses ever. Mylène Demongeot is equally outstanding in the same movie: she gives a captivating portrayal of Abigail's manipulations as she carries on her plan of vengeance while showing the vulnerabity and immaturity that motive her action, creating some sort of an understanding for what could have easily been a one-note monster. Ingrid Thulin is superb in Wild Strawberries sharing a lovely, poignant chemistry with Victor Sjostrom and slowly revealing the pain behind her character's reserved façade: it's a delicate portrayal that is one of the reasons why the movie is such an unforgettable masterpiece. In the same movie Bibi Andersson is also very good in her two roles: she brings energy, charm and life to her role as the hitchhiker and she is properly alluring yet sad in her segments as Isak's cousin. Marlene Dietrich is compelling as Christine in Witness for the Prosecution, making the viewer constantly trying to guess her character's movie and then selling perfectly the twist ending. Mitzi Gaynor is the standout of Les Girls: she delivers a luminous and charming turn and meets every challenge the role offers - she excels with her character's sassy one-liners, she is terrific in the musical moments and in the few dramatic moments she is heartwarming and moving. The supporting cast of Il grido is also extremely good: Alida Valli is fantastic at portraying her character's pain and conflicted emotions with raw realism, Betsy Blair is quietly heartbreaking as the leading character's former sweetheart who never got past her love for him and Dorian Gray remarkably portrays her character's seductiveness while hinting at the complicated history behind her character. 
Predictions: Congratulations to Calvin Law, moviefilm, Tahmeed Chowdhury, ruthiehenshallfan99 and Michael Patison for correctly guessing my ranking. You can now request a year (the years that have been already requested are 2001, 1968, 1975, 1992, 1940, 1945, 2014, 1997 and 1954) (Michael Patison can request two years as he has yet to give a request for a previous prediction contest he won). 
The next year: 2001.

My Best Supporting Actress Ballot:
  1. Carolyn Jones, The Bachelor Party
  2. Simone Signoret, The Crucible - 5/5
  3. Mylène Demongeot, The Crucible - 5/5
  4. Isuzu Yamada, Throne of Blood - 5/5
  5. Ingrid Thulin, Wild Strawberries - 5/5
  6. Isuzu Yamada, The Lower Depths - 4.5/5
  7. Marlene Dietrich, Witness for the Prosecution - 4.5/5
  8. Mitzi Gaynor, Les Girls - 4.5/5
  9. Alida Valli, Il grido - 4.5/5
  10. Hope Lange, Peyton Place

martedì 29 novembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Hope Lange in Peyton Place

Hope Lange received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Selena Cross in Peyton Place.

Selena Cross is Allison McKenzie's kind-hearted best friend born on the wrong side of the tracks whose mother works as a housekeeper at the McKenzies' house and whose step-father is an abusive alcoholic. It's a character that very easily elicits sympathy in the audience and it gives the actress plenty of opportunity for tearful, Oscar-baity, big moments. Hope Lange, though, never seems to be actively trying to gain the audience's pity - she gives a performance that is never manipulative, which could have very easily been the case, and instead she portrays her character with welcome honesty and naturalism. Through her performance she always suggests her character's background and she clearly stands out from the very beginning from actors who play her classmates: Lange's Selena does not posesses either Allison's idealism nor Betty's apparent carelessness - she's been through enough not to delude herself with dreamy ambitions but her hard-work and dedication also gave her a maturity and wiseness beyond her years. She conveys all this even when she is technically not doing all that much and among the ensemble she seems to be one of the few to have a clear, deep understanding of her character. Selena is an immediately likeable character not only because it's easy to feel sorry for her condition but also because she is a very sweet, selfless and humble person: again, Lange never overdoes this aspect of this character but she naturally makes Selena a very endearing character and I loved every minute she was on-screen because of how genuine her whole performance feels. 

One of the most admirable aspects of Lange's performance is that she manages to make something even in her scenes with Diane Varsi and David Nelson even if neither of them are particularly satisfying in those scenes. Varsi doesn't really seem to bother striking up a chemistry with Lange but the latter still manages to convince me that there is a meaningful, poignant friendship between Allison and Selena and she alone makes their goodbye scene at the bus station surprisingly moving. She is also very good in her scenes with David Nelson even if I think he gives a rather bland performance as Ted: the two don't share much of a chemistry (the blame is totally on Nelson) but Lange still gives a nice and touching display of love and tenderness in their scenes together, such as in the scene in which Ted has to leave because of the war. Even if I never cared too much for Ted and Selena as a couple, Lange believably portrays her character's love for him and this is essential to the later scenes in the movie in which I never doubted she would have risked everything for him - and that's a true testament to her talent and commitment to the role. 

*This paragraph contains some big spoilers* The strongest part of her performance comes when Lucas, Selena's step-father, rapes her during a drunken rage. Lange makes the scene terrifyingly real and she is particularly devastating in a later scene when Selena visits Dr. Swain for an abortion - it's a truly heartbreaking moment thanks to Lange who powerfully realizes Selena's trauma and she develops a moving, powerful chemistry with Lloyd Nolan (who gives the second best performance in the movie as the doctor). She is extremely impressive later on in a scene in which she tries to run away from Lucas in the woods, a moment she plays with thrilling and compelling intensity, or the one in which he unexpectedly comes back home and tries to attack her again before being finally killed by Selena in self-defense. It's a terrific moment for Lange who in this few seconds unleashes the grief and anguish Selena kept to herself for all that time. The courtroom scenes in the last half an hour on the movie as Selena is put on trial are rather cheesy but Lange overcomes the weaknesses of the screenplay by giving a honest and heartbreaking depiction of her character's desperation as well as her determination to keep the rape a secret in order not to ruin the reputation of Ted. Her scene on the stand is a difficult one that she executes exceptionally and her reactionary shots in the final scene are equally impressive - even if by then I really stopped caring about the rest of the movie, I did not stop caring for Selena's story and fate and this is only because of Lange's compelling turn. *Spoilers Off*

Hope Lange delivers a moving performance that easily stands as the best part of the movie. She takes a role that could have easily been cheesy, melodramatic and manipulative and instead gives a honest and believable portrayal of Selena's plight. It's a terrific performance that gives the movie a reason to be seen. 


domenica 27 novembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Diane Varsi in Peyton Place

Diane Varsi received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Allison McKenzie in Peyton Place.

Peyton Place about the lives of the citizens of a New England small town. It's an enjoyable enough movie but in the end it does not amount to anything more than a soap opera - a fine, nicely made one but still a soap opera. The score and the cinematography are quite remarkable but the cast itself is a mixed bag - there is one standout, while the rest of the cast ranges from quite good to very mediocre. Also I have to say the movie is a bit overlong and not all of the storylines are truly interesting. 

Diane Varsi received a supporting nomination for her turn here but if there is a true lead in Peyton Place it's hers: Lana Turner is the big star, but the main focus of the movie is on Allison's coming of age and Varsi is in many ways the center of the movie. I probably would have placed her in the leading category although supporting does make sense if you consider the movie an ensemble piece. Allison is an intelligent girl who is graduating soon and dreams of being a writer. Varsi is quite good at establishing the character early on - she makes Allison a bright, lively young girl and she carries her scenes with an nice, low-key charm. To be honest, some of my favorite moments of her performance are the ones in which she's acting "naturally" when she details Allison's everyday life: she makes for an endearing character to follow and she comfortably portrays her character's youthful innocence - but she does not make her innocence feel like naivety, instead she clearly shows how Allison is aware of everything around her and that she is definitely not a child anymore. Allison is the character that is presented as closer to the audience - often she's not doing much, she observes everything around her and quietly reacts to it. It's a rather passive character but Varsi makes Allison an acute, intelligent observer that never steps into the background. 

Unfortunately, her performance does not fare quite as well in some other regards. My main reservation about her performance is that she never seems to strike a particularly good chemistry with any of the other cast members, and that's exactly why I mostly prefer Allison's few moments of solitude and reflection. I don't think she really shares much of a chemistry with Hope Lange who plays Allison's best friend Selena - their friendship never feels as meaningful and powerful as it should, and the emotional power is brought in their scenes by Lange exclusively, who really seems to strive to find any sort of chemistry with Varsi. Allison's relationship with a shy boy, Norman (Russ Tamblyn), also falls flat since the two of them are nothing particularly special together for most of their scenes (here, though, I think most of the blame goes to Tumblyn). I did like one of their scenes together, the one at Allison's secret place: in this scene, the two actors actually bring a nice amount of warmth and tenderness to their interactions and it's actually one of my favorite scenes of the movie. Even here, though, Varsi is much more effective at portraying Allison's ambition for her future rather than her affection for Norman - she perfectly captures Allison's dreams of escaping for Peyton Place and becoming a successful writer somewhere else, and brings the right determination to her character's longing. Instead, some of her weakest scenes are opposite Lana Turner as her mother's Constance; I think their scenes together are more one-note than they should and that's also because of Varsi who seems to focus on just one aspect of her character here. She does a fine enough job at portraying her character's disdain for her mother's narrow-minded nature but in the moments in which she is supposed to show some love for her she falls short. Also I feel she's rather unconvincing in her stormy confrontations with Turner - she can't pull off the louder acting these scenes request, and she manages to be awkwardly stilted and overdramatic at the same time. Their final reconciliation does not pack the needed emotional punch especially because the storyline itself pales next to Selena's one (which is by far the best of the movie).

Over the course of the movie, the script clearly indicates that Allison becomes a much more mature woman as the years passes. I actually never felt Varsi portrayed Allison's arc all that well - she becomes slightly colder and loses the youthful charm of the beginning, but it all feels a bit too rushed and portrayed a bit too shallowly to truly leave an impact. Varsi's performance also lacks a true closure - she is mostly quite unimpressive in the movie's last half an hour as she is completely overshadowed by Hope Lange's storyline and performance, and her reunion with Norman could have been way more powerful, feeling a bit like a missed opportunity for her performance.

Diane Varsi does not give a bad performance at all - she's particularly effective in the movie's first hour at portraying her character's intelligence, ambition and bright spirit. But later on in the movie she becomes progressively less impressive and most of her storylines ends up amounting to very little because she never seems to find a particularly strong connection to her fellow cast-members. It's still a nice enough performance that serves as a fine centerpiece for the movie, even if it's not something that deserves particular recognition. 


giovedì 24 novembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Elsa Lanchester in Witness for the Prosecution

Elsa Lanchester received her second Oscar nomination for her performance as Miss Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution.

Witness for the Prosecution is an excellent movie about a barrister (Charles Laughton) who is still recovering from a heart attack and yet decides to defend a man accused of murder. It's a compelling courtroom drama skillfully written and directed by Billy Wilder. The usually dull Tyrone Power gives a fantastic performance here that adds a lot to the movie never giving away the truth of the case and Marlene Dietrich despite having a couple of awkward moments still delivers an effective, remarkable turn. 

In 1957, I think the majority of people were expecting Lanchester to win the Oscar: she was by far the most famous actress out of the five nominees, she was a veteran who had been part of the industry for more than twenty years and she won a Golden Globe for her portrayal. At the same time, it's sort of understandable why she ultimately lost the Oscar: it's the kind of flashy and colorful supporting role that can be very entertaining when done right, but at the same time it lacks any depth or substance whatsoever - Carolyn Jones' character in The Bachelor Party is heartbreaking and complex, Hope Lange in Peyton Place has many challenging emotional moments and her character is one that easily elicits sympathy, Diane Varsi in the same movie has a few "big" moments and a real character arc and Miyoshi Umeki, despite having nothing to do, still packs an emotional punch due to the tragic nature of the role itself in Sayonara, while Lanchester is technically nothing more than a comic relief. There is no denying that her performance in this movie is rather one-dimensional, and Lanchaster herself wastes an early moment in which Miss Plimsoll, who is the barrister's nurse, talks about her engagement with a lawyer who died of peritonitis, but at the same time her work is still very enjoyable within its limitations. 

The key to the success of her performance is the chemistry between her and her real-life husband Charles Laughton: the two actors are highly entertaining to watch together as they share such a perfect chemistry and their timing is always pretty much flawless. Their scenes together throughout the whole movie are actually quite repetitive, as they consist mostly of Miss Plimsoll trying to get Sir Wilfrid to rest and take his pills while he thinks of new ways to hide cigars and brandy from her, but they never feel as such because the two actors pay off each other so well. Miss Plimsoll is a character that is both thankless and challenging - the former because it is rather one-note, the latter because it can be very easily grating. Lanchester brings the right amount of energy to her performance and she manages to make petulance enjoyable and even endearing. She is always very funny at portraying Miss Plimsoll's sunny yet insistent personality that constrasts so wonderfully Laughton's portrayal of Sir Wilfrid's grumpy attitude. I wouldn't necessarily say she is a scene-stealing presence - the mystery is by far, and rightfully so, the most remarkable aspect of the movie but she adds nicely to every scene she's in. And some of her line-deliveries are absolute gold ("Teeny weeny flight of steps, Sir Wilfrid, we musn't forget we've had a teeny weeny heart attack"). She gets progressively less focus and screen-time as the movie goes on and starts focusing more on the trial, but she still makes the most out of her small moments in those scenes as Miss Plimsoll still wants to get sure Sir Wilfrid takes his medicine. And I just love the moment towards the end when she utters "Wilfrid the Fox! That's what they call him, and that's what he is", just priceless. My favorite moment of her performance is probably her last scene, after the trial is over but a new one is ahead: in this moment, in which Miss Plimsoll's unexpectedly urges Sir Wilfrid to take the new case, Lanchester is great at portraying her character's more understanding side and I love how the two actors subvert their character's antagonism into complicity. 

Overall, this is not a great performance as the role itself is a little bit to slight, but Elsa Lanchester still gives a very entertaining and memorable piece of work. She might not be the best thing in the movie but she adds nicely to it and I can't imagine anyone being better than her in the role or sharing a better chemistry with Charles Laughton. It's a nice, colorful supporting performance that I enjoyed all the way through. 


martedì 22 novembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara

Miyoshi Umeki won the Oscar from her first nomination for her performance as Katsumi Kelly in Sayonara.

Sayonara is a rather weak film about a US air force major who opposes marriages about American services and Janapese women has to overcome his own prejudice when he falls in love with a beautiful woman in Japan. I've never really cared for this movie, and on a rewatch I liked it even less: the central romance is incredibly boring due to Marlon Brando and Miiko Tana having absolutely no chemistry, the subplot about the American girlfriend is flat and standard and while the one involving Gruver's (Brando) friend and his wife is not that bad it's not on screen enough to save this dull movie. The cinematography is occasionally quite good, but that's about it.

Miyoshi Umeki plays Katsumi, a sweet Japanese woman who marries Joe Kelly, Gruver's fellow serviceman and best friend. This is an extremely unpopolar win nowadays, with people ranking her among the worst Oscar wins of all time. It's not hard to understand why - it's an extremely small performance with very little dialogue and overall just not much to do. It's certainly quite odd that this is the only Oscar-winning performance from an Asian actress considering that Machiko Kyo did not receive any recognition for her beautiful work in Rashomon and Floating Weeds (and she is only one of the many possible examples). Umeki's is not even the best performance from an Asian actress from 1957 - Isuzu Yamada was simply amazing in Throne of Blood and she is supposedly also very strong in The Lower Depths from the same year. But this does not necessarily mean it's a bad performance: to be perfectly honest, I actually quite like what she does on-screen during her limited appearence. In her first scene, she barely speaks at all - in fact, it's Red Buttons as Joe who has almost all of the lines, often speaking in her behalf - but she still leaves quite a lovely impression and her chemistry with Buttons, while not anything groundbreaking, is very tender to watch. They don't share all that many scenes together but the sincerity of their love is never in question due to the honesty of Buttons' and Umeki's performance. Her second scene is not really demanding either, but she again makes for a sweet, endearing presence; actually I can sort of understand why someone would see her performance as incredibly dull, but I think her approach works for the character who is supposed to not know much English and her slow-paced line-deliveries work quite well in conveying Katsumi's simple and down-to-earth personality. Her few scenes later on in the movie are probably her most memorable and they are the ones in which Umeki is asked to do a little more: the first one of these scenes is the one in which Joe finds out Katsumi had been planning to undergo a surgery in order to make her eyes look Caucasian - Umeki makes the scene rather touching and her delivery of "Then I have good eyes, I fool everybody... I look like Joe... I want him to be proud of me" as she struggles through the tears is extremely affecting. And her last scene when Katsumi and Joe are watching a puppet show in which the characters of the star-crossed lovers kill themselves because they can't face life any longer and Katsumi dreamily utters: "It is so beautiful... They will live in an another world, on a beautiful lake... Floating always together, like water lillies". It's a very simple line, even a not particularly inspired one, but Umeki's delivery is very moving in its quietness and her facial reactions in this scene are rather impressive. 

So, yes, contrary to most people, I don't hate this performance all - but to be honest there is not much to get wrong in the role. As I mentioned before, Buttons is the one who speaks the most in their scenes together and Umeki is mostly required to just stand still smiling warmly at Buttons' and Brando's characters - she's forced to be an extremely passive presence and even if it's very easy for me to enjoy her time on-screen I also forgot quickly about her after each of her scenes was over. She is probably one of the strongest elements of Sayonara - but, still, being one of the best things of a pretty bad movie is not a particularly outstanding achievement and even if she leaves a bigger impact than the film does, I still never found her performance to be particularly lasting. It's not her fault and I think that if she had a little more to do on paper and a larger screen-time she would have been a solid contender for the Oscar, but this performance amounts to little more than nothing. Obviously you feel for her character but, even if Umeki does deserve a little merit for it, the role itself was bound to get an emotional reaction from the audience - the truth is the character is more memorable for its tragic fate rather than for Umeki's execution of the part. 

Overall, this is a perfectly competent performance - Umeki is rather sweet in the role and she does exactly what she is required to do in the role. But despite a couple of emotionally resonant moments Umeki ultimately does not have enough to do to leave a lasting impression - her love story with Red Buttons is much more effective than Brando's and Miiko Tana's, but still there is no denying that Joe and Katsumi get very little focus, screen-time and attention from the movie. It's a nice bit of work from an obviously fine actress and I'm tempted to be generous with her as I did like what she did - but at the same time I can't deny the fact that what she does is almost nothing.


domenica 20 novembre 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1957: Carolyn Jones in The Bachelor Party

Carolyn Jones received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as The Existentialist in The Bachelor Party.

The Bachelor Party is a fine film about five friends who meet up for a fun night out to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of one of them. It's a beautifully written movie and Paddy Chayefsky's profound, realistic and delicate screenplay should have received a nomination for sure; the movie, though, leaves quite a lot to be desired in terms of visuals, as there is a stagey feeling that detracts a bit from the experience. Still, it's a good movie with an effective leading turn from Don Murray.

This nomination must have been quite a surprise back then: she was not a particularly well known actress starring in a not particularly successful movie, she had not received any recognition from the critic awards and the Golden Globes and she plays a very tiny role that is on-screen for about six minutes. It's one of the Academy's most unusual choices in this category, but it's also one of the very best as Carolyn Jones manages to give an astonishing characterization to her nameless character. She first appears in the movie about half-an-hour into it, when the friends approach her on street: Jones is absolutely terrific in this very brief moment as she brings a great amount of mystery and allure to her character, keeping her at distance from both the other characters and the viewer as well - her performance is purposefully detatched as she is first seen from the others as an almost unachievable object of desire. Despite this Jones never allows her character to become a passive presence: instead, she completely owns the screen switching effortlessly from passive-aggressiveness to annoyance to playful flirtiness. 

We don't meet again "The Existentialist" until the final act of the movie, when Charlie (Murray) and two of the friends show up at the party she is attending. She and Charlie start talking and what follows is an absolutely outstanding moment that is played to perfection by Jones: it's a long, fast-paced monologue in which "The Existentialist" details the events of her day and it's simply astonishing to watch. Jones reveals so much about her character in just those few minutes - she gives us a full understanding of what her character's life is and shows that past her attractive looks there is an intelligent and educated person. She beautifully deconstructs the mysterious and distant image she gave in the beginning to uncover her character's aloofness and vulnerability. She at first refuses Charlie's offer to join him upstairs to find some privacy, but she eventually gives in: when he tries to kiss her, she pulls him away and tells him "Just say you love me. Say you love me you don't have to mean it". It's a heartbreaking moment made even more powerful by Jones' soft, simple delivery and in this very moment both Charlie and the viewer realize how lonely and miserable "The Existentialist" truly is - she knows Charlie does not love her, but she wants to believe it because she is unwilling to acknowledge the emptiness of her lifestyle. In her final moment when she tells Charlie to meet her later at the bar across the street because she "can't stand being alone at night", Jones again manages to convey her character's history of empty one-night stands that don't do anything to alleviate her desperation and you can see the longing and neediness in her eyes. Eventually Charlie decides not to meet her, and even if she's never seen her again her melancholic creation is what ultimately stays with you when the movie is over. 

Carolyn Jones gives a simply astounding portrayal of a sad, haunting, unforgettable character: she beautifully swifts from the alluring distance of her first moments to the painful loneliness of her final ones and in six minutes she managed to convey her character's whole lifetime. It's a beautiful, stunning achievement that should be far more remembered than it is nowadays.