sabato 30 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1999: Ranking

5. Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown
Samantha Morton delivers a sweet and endearing performance that stands as the movie's most powerful aspect but the one-dimensional nature of the role ultimately prevents her from becoming truly great.
Best scene: Hattie's and Emmet's final meeting.

4. Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense
Toni Collette gives a strong performance portraying very well her character's conflicted feelings and her big scene towards the end is indeed amazing, but she never quite manages to escape the limitations the script places upon her.
Best scene: "She saw you dance"

3. Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted
Angelina Jolie delivers a magnetic, captivating turn and excellently portrays both the manipulative, cruel side of her character while still showing the underlying desperation that motives her destructive behavior.
Best scene: Lisa verbally attacks Daisy. 

2. Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich
Catherine Keener gives a deliciously entertaining performance thanks to her perfect timing and her brilliant delivery, but she also does a fantastic job as she slowly and progressively humanize the character over the course of the movie.
Best scene: The phone call.

1. Chloe Sevigny in Boys Don't Cry
Despite having the less showy role, Chloe Sevigny leaves an impression that is just as unforgettable as Hilary Swank's. Her Lana is the heart of the movie, and Sevigny characterize her beautifully and delicately while making the haunting brutality of the story even more vivid.
Best scene: Lana refuses to look at Brandon's body.

Honorable Omissions: Despite not having a huge amount of screen-time, Nicole Kidman gives an amazing performance in Eyes Wide Shut, exploring with rawness and viscerality Alice's darkest and deepest desires while still showing the love and affection towards her family that prevents her from actually realizing them. Melora Walters is heartbreaking in Magnolia, portraying very well her character's loneliness, desperation and volatile emotional state; in the same movie, Julianne Moore also leaves a lasting impression and I think that her wildly over-the-top approach works perfectly, as she gives a performance that is at the same time blazingly funny and painfully moving. Helena Bonham Carter gives a terrific performance in Fight Club and she is alluring, grotesque, funny and poignant all at once. Gwyneth Paltrow gives one of her best performances in The Talented Mr. Ripley - she does a terrific job at portraying her tricky character's arc as her feelings towards Tom shift from sympathy to distrust and finally hatred. Cate Blanchett is also quite effective in the movie as she makes the most out of her limited role thanks to her unique charm and grace, making Meredith a surprisingly moving character at times. In her brief screen-time, Sissy Spacek also leaves a strong impact in The Straight Story, making her character's speech impediment and simple-minded nature feel and sound completely nature while developing a warm, touching chemistry with Richard Farnsworth. Mena Suvari is very good in portraying the insecurities behind her seductive appearance in American Beauty, and in the same movie Tora Birch also gives an affecting and memorable performance. Sigourney Weaver is rather entertaining in Galaxt Quest, and Brittany Murphy leaves a very powerful impact with her poignant turn in Girl, Interrupted. Also, while I prefer Keener, Cameron Diaz would have been a worthy nominee too for her natural, funny and touching performance in Being John Malkovich. 
The next year: As Luke requested, 2013.

My Best Supporting Actress Ballot:
  1. Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut - 5/5
  2. Melora Walters, Magnolia - 5/5
  3. Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don't Cry 
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow, The Talented Mr. Ripley - 4.5/5
  5. Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club - 4.5/5
  6. Julianne Moore, Magnolia - 4.5/5
  7. Sissy Spacek, The Straight Story - 4.5/5
  8. Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
  9. Angelina Jolie, Girl Interrupted
  10. Cate Blanchett, The Talented Mr. Ripley - 4/5

giovedì 28 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1999: Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown

Samantha Morton received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Hattie in Sweet and Lowdown.

Sweet and Lowdown is a fairly unremarkable movie by Woody Allen about a fictional jazz guitarist, Emmet Ray. It's not a bad movie but not exactly a good one either: it's a rather forgettable experience that, despite having a few good things in it, never amounts to anything particularly substantial. It doesn't truly work neither as a drama nor as a comedy: its more serious parts are something quite effective but often rather dull, and its attempts at comedy fail almost completely. It's not among Woody Allen's worst movies (To Rome with Love) but its one of his least memorable efforts.

Samantha Morton plays Hattie, a mute girl who starts a relationship with Emmet. Hattie is not a very challenging role: she is a shy, simple-minded girl who gives love and affection to Emmet who mostly gives her for granted and rarely gives her the attention she deserves. It's a role that evokes sympathy in the audience and it's impossible not to be touched by her plight but at the same time Samantha Morton doesn't quite have to do that much acting-wise. In a way it would be proper to say that it's not quite Samantha Morton's acting style and approach to the role that moves the audience, but rather the role itself. So, Morton benefits from a role that is bound to connect emotionally with the audience, but at the same time she suffers from the writing's limitations and the role's mostly one-dimensional nature. But even if Hattie is not the greatest of the roles, Samantha Morton still gives a rather remarkable performance that might not be truly great by any means but a good effort that stands as the shining light of the movie and, ultimately, the only reason why it is truly worth-watching. In her first scenes, Morton portrays Hattie's shyness very convincingly while still having a low-key, endearing charm that makes you understand why Emmet would find her appealing to a certain extent. Their chemistry is nothing amazing by any means but Sean Penn and Samantha Morton still manage to find some rather touching and tender moments in their relationship and Morton is in particularly very good in portraying Hattie's sincere and genuine love towards Emmet in such an emotionally honest fashion.

My problem with the role of Hattie is not quite the fact that it's simple: in fact, simple doesn't mean limited and sometimes simplicity is actually what makes a performance beautiful (Virginia Cherrill in City Light, for example). The point is that Morton is mostly required to repeat her loving routine over and over which makes her performance becomes extremely one-note - and while Samantha Morton is lovely at playing that one-note, it all still seem quite limited. Her subplot about Hattie's brief career in movies seems more like a time-filler than anything else as it never becomes funny as it wants to be and Hattie is a surprisingly passive presence in it. She still has her moments in the movie though and there a few scenes in which she does some memorable, affecting facial acting: the pure love in her eyes as she gives Emmet her birthday present is hard to forget; and she makes the scene in which Emmet leaves Hattie for another woman truly heartbreaking to witness and, again, she doesn't need to speak to convey her character's devastation.

But her best moment in the movie is easily her final scene towards the end of the movie, in which Emmet meets Hattie again hoping to rekindle their relationship but he finds out she is now married and has a family of her own. It's actually a rather beautiful scene and Samantha Morton does some truly great acting in it: through her expression she manages to convey a wide range of emotions, such as a bittersweet tenderness and a certain pity towards Emmet, maybe a bit of sadness remembering the past but also a quietness and a happiness that she didn't have before.

In the end, this is not a particularly amazing performance but, even if the writing doesn't work in her favor, Samantha Morton gives a touching, tender and poignant performance that stands out as the best thing about the movie. She creates an endearing character that might not become anything great but still manages to move and entertain the audience. 


mercoledì 27 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1999: Chloe Sevigny in Boys Don't Cry

Chloe Sevigny received her only Oscar nomination to date for her performance as Lana Tisdel in Boys Don't Cry.

Boys Don't Cry is an extremely harrowing and powerful movie about the rape and murder of a young trans man in the early 1990s. It's a truly fantastic movie that lingers in your mind even long after you've seen the movie, helped greatly by Kimberly Pierce's terrific direction that is raw and delicate in equal parts. Each of the supporting roles is played to perfection, with Peter Sarsgaard being particularly effective. Some people complain about the fact that may not be particularly accurate but I personally don't care about it because the emotional impact of the movie makes up for it completely.

In her first scenes in the movie, Chloe Sevigny establishes Lana as a not particularly refined, a bit uncouth girl: I guess that this makes understandable why the real Lana Tisdel described Sevigny's Lana as "lazy and white trash" but I strongly disagree with that. Sevigny portrays perfectly this superficial aspect of Lana's personality but she doesn't make an overbearing or dominating side of her performance - just a small part of Lana's character. And trashy would be the last adjective I would use to describe Lana as presented in the movie, because she's far from it. Sevigny shows that under Lana's appearence lies a smart and tender personality: there is a spark and an intelligence in her portrayal that shows Lana's true potential and that's why over the movie she makes you hope that she'll make it to Menphis where she could finally show what she truly is worth and live the life she truly wants. Chloe Sevigny also manages to project a rough yet luminous charm in her performance: from her first scene in which she sings at the karaoke, she makes Lana a magnetic and captivating presence and Brandon's attraction  towards her never feels odd and unconvincing.

Her chemistry with Hilary Swank is key to the success of the movie, and it's indeed fantastic: they work so beautifully together and they make for an incredibly believable couple. Sevigny never tries to steal the spotlight from Swank's showier performance but she's never less effective than her and her subtlety and delicacy in handling Lana's feelings is something truly remarkable. In the beginning of the movie, she shows that Lana is bored by her life in Falls City and feels trapped and limited: when she meets Brandon and falls in love with him, Sevigny just glows on screen as she portrays Lana's newfound enjoyement and love for life. The scene in which Lana and Brandon plan to move to Menphis is a fantastic movie because both actresses show the intense love and sincere affection the two characters feel for each other, and Sevigny is also great in the scene in which, after Brandon tells her he's an ermaphrodite, Lana reaffirms her love for Brandon anyway. Their genuine happiness in those moments make the third act of the movie even more devastating.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the movie, I find this movie extremely powerful and moving and Chloe Sevigny's performance has a lot to do with that. Particularly the scene in which Tom and John forces Brandon to undress and show his female genitals and then try to make Lana look is an amazing for Sevigny: the way she shields her eyes and tries to look away is simply devastating and her line delivering of "Leave him alone!" is simply chilling to the bone. But one of her greatest moments in the movie is when she meets Brandon after he's been raped: Sevigny shows a wide range of emotions in that scene, going from being heartbroken, to trying to understand until finally accepting Brandon for what he is, and she nails all of them. Again, the actresses' amazing chemistry makes the scene even more powerful and it's just extremely moving to see those two characters finding a little moment of solace and tenderness within the tragedy. And in the murder scene Sevigny couldn't be more fantastic - again, her line-delivery couldn't be more perfect: her shouting of "Candace!" or her screaming in anguish after the killing is unforgettable, and her facial expression as she looks at Brandon in the eyes for the last time is heartbreaking. And it's thanks to her performance that the ending of the movie, with that final smile, feels so emotionally powerful and works so well as it does.

This is a truly brilliant performance from Chloe Sevigny who ends up being just as unforgettable as Hilary Swank, if not even better. Lana is the beating heart of Boys Don't Cry, and that's thanks to Sevigny's complex, vivid and poignant turn. It's a performance that, even after several rewatches, remains just as devastating and heartbreaking as it was the first time I saw it.


lunedì 25 aprile 2016

Best Supporting Actress 1999: Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich

Catherine Keener received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Maxine Lund in Being John Malkovich.

Being John Malkovich is a very original movie about a frustrated, unsatisfied file clerk named Craig who finds a portal that leads to John Malkovich's mind. It's such an unique, interesting movie that benefits greatly from a fantastic screenplay: there a moments or two in which it gets a little messy but it's easy to overlook this flaws when you have such a compelling story. I personally don't care for John Cusack in general and I find him often distractingly broad (the same goes to his sister) but here his acting style fits the role quite well. Cameron Diaz gives a powerful performance that is funny and touching in equal measure while John Malkovich is extremely entertaining as himself.

Catherine Keener plays Maxine Lund, Craig's seductive, manipulative co-worker. Maxine is hardly a very likeable character, nor is she truly supposed to be, but it's a role that in the hands of a lesser actress could have been dreadfully annoying, boringly one-note or broadly cartoonish. Catherine Keener is really cast against type here as she's not exactly the first actress that comes to your mind when you think of a conniving but alluring femme fatale yet she pulls it off amazingly: Keener conveys both the right sort of charisma and the smart, calculative mind needed for the character. She has an oddly appealing screen-presence that makes you understand why Cusack would be attracted to her and she is also an actress that manages to project her own intelligence into the role, something that works perfectly for the character of Maxine who is supposed to be always cleverly planning her next move. But aside from establishing those two important aspects of the character, I think that Keener is also extremely funny in the role: she's delightfully bitchy in the role but what I love the most is that she doesn't seem to put much of an effort in this side of her performance; Keener delivers each of her lines with the utmost ease and nonchalance as if she absolutely couldn't care less which makes each of her scenes extremely funny (the scene in which she tricks Craig into admitting that he finds her attractive and would like to have sex with her before laughing him off by saying "Not a chance" is priceless and hilarious). Keener doesn't try to make Maxine any less unlikeable or any more endearing but she is always a welcome, enjoyable presence and at the same time she never turns Maxine into a exxaggerated caricature, always remaining a surprisingly realistic character.

Keener's performance though doesn't only consists in bitchy, entertaining lines but it's much, much more than that. Keener does a terrific job in portraying her character's greed and ambition but as the movie progresses she's also extremely effective in portraying Maxine's growing feelings towards Lotte, Craig's wife. Particularly, I think the scene in which Lotte calls Maxine telling her that Craig was the one who had sex with her through Malkovich's body, not her, is amazing: Keener does a fantastic job in portraying her joy and satisfaction as she realizes that she can manipulate Malkovich through her influence on Craig while showing at the same time that she does have sincere feelings for Lotte and I love the small moment after she ends the phone call in which, for a second, she seems to regret what she has done.

In the third act of the movie, Keener's performance takes a completely unexpected turn as it is forced to suddenly lose the more comedic aspects and focus on the more serious, dramatic ones after Maxine marries Malkovich/Craig despite being pregnant from a sexual relationship with Lotte (who was controlling Malkovich's body). It could have felt rushed or unconvincing but Keener manages to handle this sudden change surprisingly well, and she also is surprisingly touching in certain moments, such as when she sorrowfully watches the empty cradle thinking about Lotte. The final scene in which she finally meets Lotte again and tells her she loves her, while also revealing that she is pregnant of their baby, is, unexpectedly, an emotionally powerful moment and the two actresses completely earn it (also because their chemistry is actually quite strong).

I think this is a pretty fantastic performance from Catherine Keener who completely steals the movie thanks to her deliciously entertaining but also emotionally complex turn. Her casting against type pulls off incredibly well, and she delivers a fantastic, unique and unforgettable performance.


domenica 24 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1999: Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense

Toni Collette received her only Oscar nomination to date for her performance as Lynn Searse in The Sixth Sense.

The Sixth Sense is a rather effective thriller about a psychologist's attempts to help a child who communicates with dead people. While I don't think it is the masterpiece some people think it is, I still find it an extremely compelling and thrilling experience thanks to M. Night Shyamalan's pitch-perfect direction and a terrific script. In the leading role Bruce Willis does a solid, memorable job.

Toni Collette, who is in my opinion a wonderful actress, plays the role of the mother of Cole, the child who "sees dead people". Lynn is the kind of role that the Academy loves to reward: the worried, protective but loving and supportive mother. It's the kind of role that has been seen and portrayed million of times, a kind of role that offers an actress some emotional, teary-eyed scenes but is at the same time surprisingly thankless as it rarely gives the role much of a backstory and a vivid personality - it's the kind of character that only exists to support other characters while not truly having a complete life of its own. Unfortunately this is case for Lynn Searse too: who is she? Aside from her relationship with her son, we don't know a lot about her. But even if the role itself may be extremely limited, there is no way to deny that Toni Collette does some moving and powerful work in her performance and she adds a lot to the movie even thought her performance still feels too limited to truly shine. Of course, the most important aspect of her performance is Lynn's relationship with Cole and Toni Collette is fantastic in portraying the complicated emotions that Lynn feels towards her son: she shows perfectly that Lynn doesn't quite know what to do with him, she doesn't know if he's deliberately lying or if he's just imagining things but she never makes Lynn's love for her son is never in question - Collette properly portrays the fear and worries of her character but she always adds a lot of warmth and tenderness in her scenes with Osment and she also does a really good job in showing her sorrow in seeing that her son doesn't have any friends and is often bullied by his classmates. Her chemistry with Osment is also absolutely top-notch as they support beautifully each other and work together in perfect armony. In their ordinary scenes, when the ghosts aren't mentioned and they only seem a bad dream, they manage to create some poignant, warm and memorable moments; and in the scenes in which Cole mentions the ghosts, Collette is very moving in showing her attempts to communicate with her son as she doesn't want him to feel different from other boys (or, as he puts it, a "freak") while still portraying the frustration that comes from her inability to understand him. Collette herself also has a few strong moments even outside her scenes with Osment, particularly she's very good in portraying the shock, disbelief and anger of Lynn in the scene in which a doctor questions her ability as a mother and asks her if she has ever abused her son. Collette portrays Lynn as probably the most realistic character of the movie - she is a hard-working single mother who struggles to balance things out between her son and her job - and thanks to her realism she grounds the movie which, without her, could have been much less affecting as she manages to connect the reality with the supernatural elements.

But, as I said before, while she adds a lot to the movie, her performance never becomes truly great as the role still feels thin and it feels as if her performance improves everything around her while still remaining somewhat limited. But this is absolutely not Toni Collette's fault as she makes the most out of the role and in her almost iconic big scene she's indeed groundbreaking: as Cole tells Lynn that he talked to his dead grandmother and that she told him that she saw Lynn's dance performance when she was little (while Lynn herself thought she didn't come to see her) and that she is proud of her everyday, Toni Collette does some phenomenal, heartbreaking facial acting and the way she slowly breakdowns is the stuff Oscars are made of. With that single scene, she adds a depth, a complexity and a history to a character that doesn't have any.

In the end, this is an extremely hard performance for me to rate: she has one truly incredible scene but the rest of her performance doesn't quite live up to the hype. Her performance is in some ways essential to the movie but at the same time the limitations of the role prevent her from going too far with it. It's a very good, occasionally great, performance but unfortunately I don't find myself sharing the intense love that this performance receives.


While she was originally a 4, I decided to downgrade her performance a little bit. I still think it's a good performance and my thoughts on her haven't changed all that much, I just think I was being a bit too generous with my rating previously.

giovedì 21 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1999: Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted

Angelina Jolie won the Oscar from her first nomination for her performance as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted.

Girl, Interrupted is a fine movie about a depressed girl who is admitted into a mental institution: it focuses on her relationship with fellow patients and her slow process of self-discovery. I don't think the movie is particularly great: I don't think it's particularly well-written, I don't think it's particularly well-directed and I don't think it's particularly remarkable as a whole - but, nonetheless, it works. The movie might not be a masterpiece by any means but it is fairly enjoyable and engaging, it flows well and it has a few good performances to boost it. In the leading role, Winona Ryder doesn't give one of her most memorable performances (she is often overshadowed by the flashier supporting players and her big scene towards the end is a bit overdone) but she gives a fine portrayal of her character's vulnerability. The supporting cast is uniformly fine, with Brittany Murphy being particularly touching as one of the patients.

Angelina Jolie is an actress that I find talented but that not always utilizes her acting abilities properly: when she truly commits to a role, she excels; when she doesn't, she delivers underwhelming performances in which her glamour and star-power can barely make up for the lacking characterization of the role (like in The Tourist). Her performance in Girl, Interrupted is easily her best because she finds the perfect mix between her acting talent and her overwhelming screen-presence - it works so well because she puts her appealing charisma at the service of the role and not the role at the service of her charisma. And indeed her star-power fits perfectly the role of Lisa, a manipulative, unpredictable, wild yet oddly fascinating sociopath. As soon as she enters the movie, she absolutely steals the scene from everyone else and commands the screen with her fiercely compelling performance: it's an extremely exciting turn from her because you simply never know what to expect from Lisa and never know what's coming next. It's an extremely tricky role because not only it requires Jolie to handle difficult, loud scenes but also because she has to make Lisa the despicable character she is without ever making her power and control over the other patients in question: Jolie solves this task easily by projecting her own unique charm on the character while still showing clearly the unlikeable sides of Lisa. Jolie makes it clear that Lisa doesn't genuinely care for Susanna and the other girls - she may laugh and have fun with them but Jolie shows a lack of interest and empathy in Lisa that makes you see immediately that she wouldn't mind turning against them if they get on her way. Still, it's always completely understandable why the other girls would be so drawn to Lisa and would look up to her so much because Jolie is absolutely magnetic and absorbing in every single scene and portrays the character with an incredible amount of energy and life. The screenplay of the movie can get a bit lame sometimes but Angelina Jolie manages to make every single line work. Also I particularly love how she delivers her lines of mockery towards the other patients - it makes you always wonder whether she is just jocking or there is something much meaner and darker behind them.

In the second half of the movie Jolie goes deeper and darker inside her character's personality and I love how, as the movie progresses, she shows that Lisa can not only be aggressive and mean but also outright cruel. A great example of this is the scene in which Lisa, after having escaped from the hospital with Susanna (Ryder), goes to visit Daisy (Murphy), one of the patients who has been recently released, and she taunts her for still cutting herself and being released not because she recovered, but because the doctor gave up, and accuses her of having and incestuous relationship with her own father and enjoying it. It's a brilliantly acted scene by Jolie as the truly is amazing in portraying the viciousness and cruelty of Lisa in that moment - just look at the pure malice in her eyes during her monologue. But she is terrific in showing that behind her cruelty there is a lot of bitterness and jealousy - Lisa knows she might never get out of Claymoore and she knows that outside the hospital there is no one that cares about her and is waiting for her to be released. The scene towards the end in which Susanna stands up to Lisa and accuses her of being emotionally dead because she is lonely and nobody cares about her is supposed to be Winona Ryder's big scene but Angelina Jolie completely owns it by finally unleashing Lisa's pain and desperation that lies underneath. And she also ends her performance on a high note thanks to her brief final scene with Ryder, in which she subtly suggests that maybe in the future Lisa will manage to recover and finally find happiness.

In the end, Angelina Jolie delivers a fantastic performance in Girl, Interrupted and gives a performance that never feels like needless showboating because she builds extremely well Lisa as a complex, three-dimensional character. She is a true force of nature, and her layered and compelling characterization is ultimately one of the very few reasons the movie is still worth-watching.


martedì 19 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Actress 1999

And the nominees are:

Toni Collette - The Sixth Sense
Angelina Jolie - Girl, Interrupted
Catherine Keener - Being John Malkovich
Samantha Morton - Sweet and Lowdown
Chloe Sevigny - Boys Don't Cry

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

lunedì 18 aprile 2016

Best Supporting Actress 1967: Ranking

5. Carol Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie
Carol Channing delivers an almost unbelievably odd performance that achieves the rather unique feat of being over-the-top and dull at the same time.
Best scene: "Jazz Baby"

4. Beah Richards in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Beah Richards squanders a potentially touching role by delivering a surprisingly uninspired and lifeless performance.
Best scene: Her small, reactionary moments during the final scene.

3. Mildred Natwick in Barefoot in the Park
Mildred Natwick is very funny without ever becoming broad but also manages to add some depth and weight to what could have been a stereotypical role.
Best scene: Ethel and Victor kiss for the first time.

2. Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde
Estelle Parsons delivers an over-the-top performance but her loud approach fits perfectly the grating character she's playing. Past that she adds a lot of depth and poignancy to her role and her final scenes are heartbreaking.
Best scene: Blanche realizes she's blind.

1. Katharine Ross in The Graduate
Katharine Ross gives a realistic and powerful performance turning a potentially bland role in a three-dimensional one. She delivers a luminous turn in which she nails every emotional beat.
Best scene: The final scene.

Honorable Omissions: Glenda Jackson was phenomenal in Marat/Sade playing perfectly both Charlotte Corday and patient portraying her: as the former, she's fierce and compelling; as the latter, she's vulnerable and lost. What I love the most though is the fact that the two sides of her performance are not strictly separated - she intertwines so beautifully the two of them delivering a vivid, unpredictable turn that stands as the movie's strongest asset. Nathalie Delon is great in Le Samourai, bringing the needed allure to the character while conveying her character's affection and loyalty towards her lover:  the scene in which she stands up to the detective is passive-agressiveness at its finest. In the same movie,  Cathy Rosier also does a pretty strong job in the story's most enigmatic role. Games is a pretty terrible movie that never seems to decide whether it wants to be a straightforward thriller or something more campy: Simone Signoret goes entirely for camp and I would say she pulls it off for the most part. Save for a couple of misguided moments, she manages to be both entertaining and disturbing, delivering especially in her pitch-perfect final scene. Jo Van Fleet is extremely memorable in her single scene in Cool Hand Luke and Lee Grant makes the most out of her brief screen-time as a grieving widow in In the Heat of the Night. As the depressed, neurotic Allison, Julie Harris is simply devastating in Reflections in a Golden Eye. Billie Whitelaw is excellent in her brief screen-time in Charlie Bubbles, revealing some shades of tenderness behind Lottie's bitter façade.On a side note, while I can't count it as an omission since she was nominated in the leading category, I really believe Anne Bancroft belonged to this category instead for her performance in The Graduate.
The next year: At Calvin's request, 1999.

My Best Supporting Actress Ballot:

  1. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate - 5/5
  2. Julie Harris, Reflections in a Golden Eye - 5/5
  3. Glenda Jackson, Marat/Sade - 5/5
  4. Katharine Ross, The Graduate 
  5. Nathalie Delon, Le Samourai - 4.5/5
  6. Estelle Parsons, Bonnie and Clyde 
  7. Simone Signoret, Games - 4/5
  8. Billie Whitelaw, Charlie Bubbles - 4/5
  9. Jo Van Fleet, Cool Hand Luke - 4/5
  10. Mildred Natwick, Barefoot in the Park 

domenica 17 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967: Katharine Ross in The Graduate

Katharine Ross received her only Oscar nomination to date for her performance as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate. 

The Graduate is a terrific movie about a recently graduated young man who embarks on an affair with an older, married woman and then falls in love with her daughter. It's a deservedly iconic movie which benefits greatly from a smart, wonderfully written script and some truly great performances. Mike Nichols' direction is also pretty great (particularly the final scene is masterfully directed).

The character of Elaine doesn't actually appear in the movie until about fifty minutes after the movie begins, but it is frequently mentioned by other characters and her presence can be almost costantly felt: it's a long build-up that might not have been easy to live up to, but Katharine Ross surprisingly does. Elaine isn't an extremely complex or complicated character but thanks to Ross it never feels limited or shallow by any means and when she appears Ross manages to make Elaine a character just as strong and memorable as Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Her first scene in the movie occurs when Benjamin takes Elaine out on a date and attempts to repulse her because of a promise made to Mrs. Robinson: Ross is actually very moving in the scene by realistically portraying the embarrassment, shock and confusion of the situation and it's not hard to understand why Benjamin would immediately have a change of heart. After he apologize, Benjamin and Elaine spend a nice, enjoyable night out together and both actors make the most out of that moment: they have a natural, wonderful chemistry and they make their characters' interactions incredibly sweet and endearing - they don't actually share a particularly large amount of screen-time together but they make Ben and Elaine a couple you root for. On her own, Ross makes Elaine an extremely charming and luminous character that is always nice to have on screen.

Their romance unfortunately can't last very long as Mrs. Robinson forces Benjamin to confess their affair to Elaine, prompting the girl to break up with him: the scene in which Elaine finds out about the affair is excellently acted by Ross, even if Mike Nichols had something totally different in mind for it; apparently, he wanted Ross to starts crying but she wasn't able to. In my opinion, if she had cried the scene wouldn't have been quite as powerful as it is in the movie: the way her face goes from a wide, loving smile to a hurt, heartbroken and angered look is simply amazing and it's just extremely impressive to watch how she manages to switch from warmth to coldness in such a short time and in such a convincing manner.

Later on in the movie, after Benjamin goes to Berkeley attempting to reunite with her, Ross does a great job in showing that to some extent Elaine still loves Benjamin but can't quite forgive him yet. I particularly love the scene in which she confronts Benjamin over his affair with her mother: Ross is great suggesting that, deep down, Elaine knows that her mother isn't as innocent as she made her believe but at the same time she refuses to think that her mother wanted to have an affair so she prefers to believe that she was raped (as she told her). After they briefly reunite, Hoffman and Ross manage to strike up again the great, tender chemistry they shared earlier - before they're separated again. Which leads to the brilliant final scene, in which (spoiler) Elaine marries another man but right after she says yes she sees Benjamin screaming her name and decides to run away with him (spoiler off). Ross's facial acting as she watches Ben and slowly moves towards him before screaming his name in return is something truly amazing and in every single second you can see the emotions battling inside her - also, that "Ben!" at the end of the scene couldn't have been more perfect and powerful. But she also is terrific in the final few moments of the movie, as her smile slowly freezes and she starts to realize that ahead of them there is a future full of uncertainty.

Elaine could have been just a plot-device or an object of desire but Katharine Ross manages to turn her into a three-dimensional, realistic creation. She delivers a luminous, moving turn and gives a performance that is simply so beautiful in its simplicity.


giovedì 14 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967: Carol Channing in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Carol Channing received her only Oscar nomination for her performance as Muzzy van Hossmere in Thoroughly Modern Millie. 

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a very average comedy about the adventures of a young, naive woman in the "roaring twenties". While it's not an awful movie, it's not one I found very interesting or amusing whatsoever: it's pretty watchable but it's nothing particularly special. It's very nice and colorful with a few good, catchy songs but that's it. The cast isn't particularly special: Julie Andrews and James Foxx are sweet enough and Mary Tyler Moore is actually pretty charming, but John Gavin delivers an extremely wooden performance and Beatrice Lillie is an extremely weak and forgettable villain. 

Carol Channing plays Muzzy, an eccentric widow who likes to do crazy stuff and throw expensive parties who befriends Millie and her friends. From the first moment in which she appears, Channing seems to be pretty much set on the idea of making Muzzy an extremely larger-than-life, wacky character: I suppose that it's the right approach for this kind of role but in every single moment of her performance Channing overplays the role to maximum to the point of becoming an extremely unbearable, almost insufferable character killing any sort of amusement that might have come out of her performance. There isn't a single thing that she seems to get right in her performance: her line-delivery manages to be extremely over-the-top yet strangely robotic at the same time; her facial-expressions are mostly overdone and they are always basically the same (either a wide-eyed, smiling face or a concerned, supposedly sad one); her body language is broad and exaggerated and always sort of  not spontaneous and unnatural. To be fair, the role itself isn't far from being a caricature and the writing regarding Muzzy is rather repetitive (her routine, which consists in doing something crazy, unexpected and "funny" while uttering her catchphrase "Raspberries!", gets very tiresome very quickly): but Channing herself does nothing herself to prevent her character from becoming a broad, cartoonish joke that ends up being dreadfully unfunny. 

There is one scene that I come close to liking which would be her big number, "Jazz Baby" which is an extremely catchy and enjoyable song and Carol Channing has a unique, beautiful singing voice but even this scene still feels somehow mixed because while her singing is great she still does some rather odd acting choices during the scene and again her body movements feel somehow forced.

I might have liked her performance a little bit more if she had acted at least decently in her few serious moments where she isn't required to be particularly wacky but even in those scenes Channing doesn't tone down her acting. She doesn't bring any poignancy or emotional weight to them but instead comes off as somewhat dull and stilted. The scene in which she opens up a bit more about her deceased husband feels particularly like a missed opportunity because it could have been a touching, heartfelt moment - instead it is extremely unremarkable and forgettable. Even when the script gives the occasion to humanize the character, Channing makes Muzzy more of a parody rather than a honest character. Also the twist at the end of the movie regarding Muzzy doesn't really work very much and this is mostly because Channing didn't really earn that moment at all. 

In the end, this is in my opinion a very poor performance by Carol Channing: while the role itself was pretty much a cartoon, she still could have been quite enjoyable but she squanders any sort of potential that the role might have offered. She delivers an annoying and overbearing turn and while she puts a lot of energy in the performance and is clearly having a lot of fun, I was not amused to say the least.


martedì 12 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967: Estelle Parsons in Bonnie and Clyde

Estelle Parsons won the Oscar from her first nomination for her performance as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde. 

Bonnie and Clyde tells the true story of robbers Clyde Barrow and Blanche Parker, following them from their first crimes until their downfall. The movie might glamourize their life a little bit but it's still an excellent and compelling movie and I'd say that Arthur Penn probably should have Best Director for this. Its win for Best Cinematography is also richly deserved in my opinion. 

Estelle Parsons plays the role of Blanche Barrow, a preacher's daughter and wife of Clyde's brother, Buck. Her win is not a particularly popular - it's not universally hated but it's incredibly divisive: people seem to either hate her work or love it, with nothing in between. I personally understand perfectly people's complaints about this performance: it's extremely loud and it's often grating. But, ultimately, I can't help but strongly appreciate what Parsons does with this part and I don't think that the fact that her performance is jarring and annoying is something wrong - because the role of Blanche is jarring and annoying itself. When she first appears, Parsons does a great job in portrating a certain feeling of awkwardness in Blanche - she doesn't like her Bonnie's and Clyde's lifestyle and she only follows them because she sincerely and deeply loves Buck. Parsons is great because in every moment of the movie she makes Blanche somehow out of the place - her fearful, nervous personality doesn't fit with Clyde's seductive charm and Bonnie's explosive energy. She also develops a tender, sweet chemistry with Gene Hackman and she is so convincing in her portrayal of Blanche's genuine love for Buck that it feels perfectly believable that Blanche would lead this kind of life she doesn't appreciate just because of her loyalty to her husband.

I can totally see the problems people have with some of her scenes such as when they are found by the police and they are forced to run away: Parsons is indeed extremely shrill in those scenes and I totally get why someone would be put off by her acting and, just like Bonnie, would like to scream at her to shut up, but as annoying as she might be I think that it's the right approach for the role and it works perfectly within her whole characterization of Blanche. I also have to admit that I never thought she went too far with this and I thought that her screaming around during the shootout with the police was even somewhat funny to an extent. Parsons never turns Blanche into an overblown caricature but always shows that her behavior is caused by her understandable fear of the situtation, and she seems to be the only character in the movie to actually realize the danger they're in.

Towards the end of the movie, Parsons gets some more serious, dramatic moments and, in my opinion, she absolutely excels. I particularly like her quieter, subtler moment in the car with Michael J. Pollard in which she reflects about her father: it's a surprisingly beautiful and affecting moment and Parsons and Pollard poignantly bring tenderness and regret to it. And I think she's terrific in the scene in which they are found again by the police and they aren't quite so lucky this time - Parsons does some moving, heartbreaking work as Blanche finds out her husband was killed and slowly realizes she can't see anymore and it's absolutely devastating to watch this woman as she witnesses her world falling apart. Her realistic and downright chilling acting makes the horror of the scene even more haunting and unforgettable. Her final scene in which she is questioned in the police blind and alone in a cell is a terrific end to her performance, and Parsons is very poignant in her portrayal of the desperation of this woman who has lost everything she loved.

As I mentioned previously, I totally get why some people can't stand this performance but in my opinion everything she does fits perfectly the role she's playing. Parsons is over the top in certain scenes but she never crosses the line between loud and hammy acting, and she knows when to hold back and underplay a bit. She plays Blanche Barrow just as she needed, and delivers a great and haunting performance featuring some truly unforgettable moments.


domenica 10 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967: Beah Richards in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Beah Richards received her only Oscar nomination for her performance as Mary Prentice in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner focuses about a young black physician and a white girl who want to get married, and the problems that their decision causes to their families. It's a fine movie with some strong moments and a few good performances, but it's hardly a great movie and definitely not one that has aged well. The whole movie feels a bit too stagey and it deals with its (very important) theme in an extremely heavy-handed fashion (as it is usually the case with Stanley Kramer's movies). Also, it features a truly terrible performance from Katharine Houghton. It's not a bad movie at all but there are many flaws in it. 

The role of Mary Prentice shows up quite late in the movie and it doesn't get a whole lot of screen-time, but it's actually a pretty good role with a couple of juicy and potentially moving scenes. I suppose you could say actually that Mary, along with Christina, is the heart of the movie - on paper. Unfortunately, what's on screen isn't even remotely moving or interesting whatsoever because Beah Richards fails to fulfill any of the tasks that are placed on her by the script. She does have a couple of decent moments - particularly there a few reactionary shots of her during the final scene that are impressively done - but those moments can hardly save a performance that is thoroughly bland and forgettable. When the Prantices arrive to the Draytons' home, Beah Richards doesn't have a whole lot to do but even the little she does feels extremely underwhelming: she basically sleepwalks, keeping the same somber and dour expression over and over and uttering her lines in a monotonous and robotic fashion. She's constantly overshadowed by performances that I don't even like all that much and just fails to leave any sort of impact.

I suppose she could have saved her performances if she had delivered in her two big scenes - but, sadly, she doesn't. In the first one, in which Mary tells Christina that she supports Joanna's and John's decision, Richards is again mostly quite dull - maybe she thought that looking teary-eyed was enough but it's not. Her line-delivery and facial expression are just sort of lifeless and she fails to convey the unconditional motherly love of Mary for her son. But she's probably even worse in the following scene, in which she reminds Matt (Spencer Tracy) of the  love and passion that people feel in their youth and accuses him of having forgotten that kind of love. It had the potential to be an extremely powerful moment but unfortunately Beah Richards fails to deliver it in the right way: she plays the scene with an overwrought and overbearing intensity in her facial expressions that doesn't match at all her awkwardly stilted line-delivery. There isn't a single moment in that scene in which she doesn't come across as fake and overcooked and it's a pity because, as I said, the scene had real potential. 

This nomination is undeserved for many reasons: first off, it's not a good performance; secondly, it's not even the best female supporting performance in the movie as Isabel Sanford delivered a good and interesting portrayal of the black maid who is actually racist in her own way; thirdly, Beah Richards delivered a much better performance as the abortionist in In the Heath of the Night - she had only one brief scene in that movie but she was an intriguing and mysterious presence. I wouldn't have minded it if she had received a nomination for her performance in that movie, unfortunately the Academy decided to honor her for a forgettable and disappointing performance in a role that allowed for much more. 


sabato 9 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967: Mildred Natwick in Barefoot in the Park

Mildred Natwick received her only Oscar nomination for her performance as Edith Banks in Barefoot in the Park. 

Barefoot in the Park is an enjoyable comedy about the recently married Paul, a quiet, nice lawyer, and Corie, a vivacious and lively young woman, who are forced to face their differences when they move together in their new five-flight walk-up apartment. It's a rather entertaining movie with a very well-written screenplay (written by Neil Simon who also wrote the play on which the movie is based). As the two leads, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda give good performances, particularly Fonda who I thought was rather funny in her role. Charles Boyer might be a bit too broad at times but he's still fine. 

Mildred Natwick plays the role of Ethel, Corie's mother, and I have to admit that the first time I saw the movie I was completely unimpressed by her performance. I thought she had a moment or two but overall was just okay. This is a performance that benefited greatly from a rewatch, and this time around I actually thought she was the best part of the movie. Natwick's first scene shows Edith coming to visit Paul and Corie in their new apartment and to my surprise, considering the first time I thought she was pretty dull, I found her absolutely hilarious: clearly Natwick has a very good screenplay on her side but what makes her performance so funny are her terrific line-delivery and her pitch-perfect facial expressions. As Edith sees Corie's apartment for the first time and pretends to be impressed despite clearly hating it, Natwick is just incredibly entertaining and each of her fake smiles and reactions are just excellently done. She has an excellent comedic timing and delivery and I was surprised by how much she actually steals the scene from the two leads. As charming as they are, they actually kind of disappear when they're next to her. Also, what I loved best is that she never makes Edith a caricature and she never goes too broad with her acting style - she underplays the role and delivers every line naturally and nonchalantly. This approach makes her performance actually all the more funny (while a louder approach could have made Edith dreadfully unbearable). She is also very funny in later scenes, particularly when Corie decides to set up a date between Edith and her neighbor Victor, so the two ladies, Victor and Paul go to an exotic restaurant (to Corie's and Victor's delight and to Edith's and Paul's horror). Natwick is hilarious in each of her confused, shocked, exhausted reactions and she has an engaging, terrific chemistry with all of the other cast members - it's a very entertaining scene and all of the actors work together exceptionally well. Particularly she shares a wonderful, playful chemistry with Charles Boyer - his exuberance matches perfectly her more reserved style and they are just a lot of fun to watch. And, again, her line-delivery couldn't be more priceless ("I feel like we've died and went to heaven. Only we had to climb up"). 

Her performance is definitely comedic and she's indeed very funny, but in the space between words she manages to ground her character quite a bit. In the beginning, she shows how happy Edith is about her daughter's marriage but she also manages to portray her character's loneliness now that her husband is dead and her daughter is married. During the evening with Victor, Caurie and Paul, Natwick not only is hilarious but she also is very human and spontaneous in her portrayal of Edith's nervousness, and then she is actually quite moving in showing how, thanks to that evening, she feels young and alive again. Her final, more serious scene with Jane Fonda is beautifully played by Natwick and she shows a more tender and wise side of Edith and in that moment the two actresses create a believable and honest mother-daughter relationship. 

This is not an amazing performance and it's not a masterpiece of comedy, but it's a nice, funny, enjoyable performance. She is a joy to watch whenever she is on screen and downplays the more stereotypical side of her character - instead she manages to create a believable character arc making Edith a human and touching presence. A very good performance, and I'm glad this talented actress received at least one nomination.  


mercoledì 6 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1967

And the nominees are:

Charol Channing - Thoroughly Modern Millie
Mildred Natwick - Barefoot in the Park
Estelle Parsons - Bonnie and Clyde
Beah Richards - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Katharine Ross - The Graduate

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

martedì 5 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1962: Ranking

5. Thelma Ritter in Birdman of Alcatraz
Thelma Ritter delivers in her final two scenes but otherwise she fails to bring life to an already limited and underwritten part.
Best scene: Elizabeth abandons Robert.

4. Mary Badham in To Kill a Mockingbird
Mary Badham gives a sweet, endearing performance and she has a few strong moments but doesn't quite bring justice to an amazing role and ends up being often overshadowed by the her co-stars. 
Best scene: Scout meets Boo.

3. Shirley Knight in Sweet Bird of Youth
Heavenly Finley isn't a particularly complex character but Shirley Knight delivers a luminous and moving turn that defies the limitations of the script.
Best scene: Heavenly's and Chance's encounter in the lighthouse.

2. Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker
Patty Duke delivers an amazing performance not only nailing the physical side of the role but also giving glimpes of the strong and intelligent mind that lies under the surface.
Best scene: Helen speaks for the first time.

1. Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate
I like Duke's and Lansbury's performance just about the same but for the time being I'm giving the edge to Lansbury who creates one of the most chilling and unforgettable villains ever. She dominates the whole movie with her domineering and powerful presence that haunts you even long after you've seen the movie.
Best scene: The monologue. 

Honorable Omissions: Shelley Winters delivered a great performance in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita which was probably snubbed due to category confusion (even if she's clearly supporting). Sue Lyon maybe oversimplified some aspects of the character but she nonetheless was very strong in the same movie. Julie Harris delivers a deeply moving performance as the tender, lonely social worker in Requiem for a Heavyweight and Susannah York delivers a vivid and compelling portrayal of the traumatized Cecily in Freud: The Secret Passion. Nicole Courcel delivers a layered, nuanced performance of a very complex character in the amazing Sundays and Cybele, and in the same movie Patricia Gozzi delivers a genuine, heartbreaking performance while sharing a tremendous chemistry with Hardy Kruger. The L-Shaped Room is a brilliant movie with an excellent cast: Cicely Courtneidge is fantastic and heartbreaking as the fading vaudevillian and Patricia Phoenix, despite not having much screen-time, excels in the scene in which she opens up about her past. Collin Wilcox was quite effective in To Kill a Mockingbird, and while I don't love Inga Swenson in The Miracle Worker, Madeleine Sherwood in Sweet Bird of Youth and Maidie Norman in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I thought they were much more deserving of a nomination than Thelma Ritter. 
The next year: Congratulations to Luke, GM and Calvin who predicted my ranking! Since you predicted right, you can choose the next three years I'll review among the Best Supporting Actress line-ups I'm available to do. Those years are: 1942, 1950, 1953, 1955, 1967, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014.

My Supporting Actress Ballot:
  1. Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate
  2. Shelley Winters, Lolita - 4.5/5
  3. Nicole Courcel, Sundays and Cybele - 4.5/5
  4. Patricia Gozzi, Sundays and Cybele - 4.5/5
  5. Cicely Courtneidge, The L-Shaped Room - 4.5/5
  6. Julie Harris, Requiem for a Heavyweight - 4.5/5
  7. Susannah York, Freud: The Secret Passion - 4.5/5
  8. Shirley Knight, Sweet Bird of Youth
  9. Sue Lyon, Lolita - 4/5
  10. Patricia Phoenix, The L-Shaped Room - 4/5
I used to consider Patty Duke as supporting in The Miracle Worker but, while I don't think that it is a terrible case of category fraud, I've come to the conclusion that she probably belongs to the leading category. It's true that the story is told from Anne Bancroft's perspective but Duke's character is just too central and prominent to be considered supporting. 

lunedì 4 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1962: Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker

Patty Duke (who, sadly, passed away a few days ago) won the Oscar for her performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. 

The Miracle Worker is a terrific movie about Helen Keller, a young deafblind girl, and Anne Sullivan, the woman who taught her how to communicate. It's truly a pity that Arthur Penn was against David Lean and Robert Mulligan at the Oscars because his direction never feels stagey and is, quite simply, masterful. Among the supporting players, Inga Swenson and Victor Jory stand out with their deeply felt performances as Helen's parents. 

Many people think of Patty Duke's nomination (and eventual win) as a case of category fraud but I'm actually not quite sure about that. On one hand, her character is always seen through Anne's perspective but on the other hand she is clearly the central character of the movie. I don't know whether I would put her in the leading or supporting category, but I have no doubt about the quality of the performance which is, quite simply, a masterclass in acting. On a physical point of view, Patty Duke's performance is simply flawless. Every movement, every gesture could have gone awfully wrong as Helen Keller is a role that allows for the worst type of overacting - but Duke (who previously created the role on stage) gives an incredibly vivid and believable performance in which every single moment rings true and seems utterly convincing. Duke properly creates a sort of distance between her and the other cast members and perfectly establishes Keller as a character who seems to live in her own world - she isn't able to connect with other people and she mostly doesn't know what is around her. Duke manages to create a sort of impenetrable and invisible wall around Helen and, as throughout the movie Anne manages to find a connection between her and Helen, Duke is equally amazing in showing to the audience how the wall has been slowly penetrated. The scenes in which Helen starts to discover the world around her and to learn how to recognize things are wonderfully portrayed by Duke who makes those moments properly powerful and moving and she shows beautifully the joy and the excitement in the character. And of course the dining room battle is one of the most amazingly acted scenes ever and both actresses are simply fantastic in it: I couldn't help but sit in awe watching how well Duke manages to be so incredibly real in a role that screams for theatrics and mannerisms, and the way she works so perfectly with Anne Bancroft and the way they match each other's performances is just stunning. 

The role of Helen Keller is not only an extremely difficult one technically, but it's also a role that risks to appear one-note and shallow: Duke completely avoids that by showing that inside Keller there is a clever mind and a strong personality that she doesn't quite know how to express but that are definitely there. Duke also is very admirable for not relying at all on the audience's sympathy: she refuses to play Keller as a victim and she actually shows very well Helen's more negative, even manipulative sides - she shows how Helen understands that her parents feel sorry for her and don't dare to punish her for her rude behavior and therefore acts as she wants. And, of course, she shares an amazing chemistry with Anne Bancroft and their growing friendship is not only portrayed believably but also very poignantly. As the movie progresses, Duke is great in slowly adding a great deal of warmth to her performance as she grows closer to Anne and together they share some truly sweet, powerful moments. And she does a phenomenal job in showing through her body movements and facial expressions how Helen slowly becomes more mature and aware of the world and life itself and her portrayal of discovery is just beautiful and heartwarming to witness. And of course there is the scene towards the end in which Helen finally manages to utter the word "water": Duke's line-delivery, again, could have done so wrong yet it's just perfect and completely believable. 

Patty Duke takes a role that could have been a mannered mess or a one-note portrayal and delivers an amazing masterclass in acting. Whether she's leading or supporting, you can't deny how deserved her Oscar win is. It's just a stunning performance that you can't help but deeply respect and admire because what Duke achieves with this work is something truly incredible. A very worthy win and a powerful, unforgettable performance. 


domenica 3 aprile 2016

Best Actress in a Supporting Role 1962: Mary Badham in To Kill a Mockingbird

Mary Badham received her only Oscar nomination to date for her performance as Jean Louise "Scout" Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing movie about a lawyer who defends a black man from an accuse of a crime he didn't commit in a racist, Southern town. It's just a wonderful movie that is both brilliantly written and beautifully directed. I also found the cinematography to be quite stunning and I thought it played a key role in creating the unique atmosphere this movie has. The movie is quite well-acted and, aside from its iconic leading performance, there are a few other supporting turns that are quite remarkable: Brock Peters is fantastic and heartbreaking as the innocent man; Robert Duvall makes the most out of his very small screen-time; and Collin Wilcox, although a bit over-the-top in moments, gives a pretty good performance.

Many people complain about Patty Duke's category fraud but in my opinion Mary Badham belongs in the supporting category even less: she is the lead of the movie just as much as Atticus, maybe even more so in parts, and even if she steps into the background during the trial she is the central character of the movie otherwise. But what about her actual performance? Is the performance great or simply just iconic? In my opinion, it's the latter. In the book, Scout was an amazing character, a precocious kid with some childish behaviors but mature thoughts. In the movie the beauty and originality of the character, unfortunately, went lost: it's not at all the writers' fault as you can see that everything that Harper Lee wrote about Scout is still very much in the screenplay too, but Mary Badham isn't quite able to capture the nature and the complexities of Scout and instead portrays her as straight-forward as possible. She doesn't do a bad job actually: she's mostly quite good in the role and is rather entertaining in portraying the tomboy personality of Scout. She has a nice, sweet screen-presence and she makes for a rather endearing character that is always nice to watch but it's not quite the acting per se the problem, but rather her inability to handle a complex character making it a far more standard and conventional one than it was intended. But even if the acting itself isn't truly the problem, it doesn't mean it's perfect either. She doesn't even give the best child performance in the movie (Philip Alford, who plays Scout's brother Jem, does) and she isn't completely natural and comfortable in the role. As I said, she's pretty good for the most part but a few line-deliveries come off as rehearsed and unconvincing. There are moments in the movie when you can literally see Badham struggling with the role and overthinking about what to do next, coming off as a bit unnatural. 

Now I don't want to sound too critical about her performance though because she is far from being bad and she has a few moments in which she is actually rather effective. I thought that she did a very good job in the lynch mob scene, making it unclear whether Scout is unaware of the situation or is cleverly and intentionally preventing the crowd from going forward with their plan (it probably wasn't even intentional but it works very well). Her chemistry with Gregory Peck is also quite great and their interactions are very warm and tender - they pay off each other extremely well and they make their relationship something truly special. Badham actually fails to impress in their pivotal scenes and when she's required to do some heavier acting she isn't up to the task but the quieter, ordinary moments are what makes their relationship so memorable and powerful and in those scenes Badham is sweet and believable. Also I feel she deserves credit for the final scene - she's actually quite great in it and she is one of the reasons why it's one of the best endings ever. Her reaction when she sees Boo Ridley for the first time and her line-delivery of "Hi Boo" are pretty much perfect and in that small moment she and Duvall works together perfectly and it's very impressive considering they didn't share the screen before - in that brief scene, they just click and it's pure magic. 

Overall, Mary Badham gives a decent performance and she carries her scenes quite well but ultimately her inexperience and inability to fully inhabit the character prevents her performance from becoming truly great. And while I get why this performance is so iconic, I think it's a slightly unsatisfying effort considering that the role allowed for greatness. I like her performance well enough but maybe someone else could have pulled off the role better.