Saturday, March 21, 2009

Duplicity (2009)

Clive Owen = B
I haven't really seen the appeal of Clive Owen, except for his brilliance in Closer, and this movie moves me slightly closer to believing that he's really, really great. That being said, Owen is simply good and decent in this film; he's more than a match for the cheeky dialogue that Gilroy sets up for him, but this isn't a film that sets him up for a truly great performance. It's an understated, slyly comic turn that doesn't aspire to anything greater than the movie does. It's a fun romp, like the movie. I think Owen fares a little bit worse than his co-star simply because he's often the butt of her character's jokes and has the less overtly acting-strong scenes.

Julia Roberts = B+
Roberts returns to her comic roots; she is one of our most gifted mainstream comediennes, and I think it's absolutely wonderful to see her in a movie that is worthy of her talent. Roberts has the most fun with the script I believe, and she also gets the juicier scenes and lines. I think the true beauty of Roberts in this is that she doesn't try to make her character as serious as a lesser actress might, she definitely realises that this has a significant comic edge and plays her character as such. This is clearly evident in her scene with the travel agent, where her cold expression is the best microcosm of the film; a dramatic situation given a comic vibe by the context. I really want to see more of these types of roles for Roberts, clearly in her prime in this kind of role and movie. A big thank you to Tony Gilroy!

Other Notable Performances:
Paul Giamatti - I only mention him because he's technically in a supporting role, but he's not very notable here. I found him very irritating, which I credit to both his performance and the character.
Tom Wilkinson - I found Wilkinson to be better, but he has about three scenes in this movie and doesn't make any real impact.
Carrie Preston - Preston makes much more of an impact in her two-scener than Giamatti and Wilkinson do combined, we cringe when she's introduced to Ray, and even moreso in her scene with Claire. A comic delight.

Overall Movie Grade = B+ (a very high B+, mind.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar: The Best of the Bests

8. Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton (10 points)

I was surprised that Tilda Swinton got enough points to rank this high on the list, considering how recent it is, but I think that considering the talent of the actress involved and the strength of this performance, I should be less surprised. I'm more surprised that Swinton even won the Oscar, considering that this is her only real mainstream performance and when there were more likely candidates (overdue Dee, genderbending Blanchett and critic's favourite Ryan). Robbie Kendall says, "I’m voting for this as my favorite, in spite of it being so recent because it truly is the best supporting performance to have won and though Patty Duke and Rita Moreno come close the only real competition is from Frances McDormand in Fargo." And I completely agree with Jeffrey M. Anderson, "2007 was a great movie year, and in selecting Tilda, the Academy showed something they rarely show: cool."

8. Hattie McDaniel – Gone With The Wind (1o points)

When I remember the history of this award, McDaniel's name comes to mind most readily as what a supporting actress should be; she supports and elevates the film without making her scenes all about her. And seeing her grateful, polite acceptance speech wins me over every time. Robbie Kendall says, "I adore her in this. She, and Olivia de Havilland to an only slightly lesser degree, made this film for me." I think this was another example of the Academy choosing the right performance when nobody expected them to.

8. Kim Hunter – A Streetcar Named Desire (1o points)

Although this performance was loved, nobody commented on it, so I'll provide my own comments. Hunter provides a steady base for this film, a very temperant balance between Leigh and Brando at their best. While they may sometimes tip over into excess, not to the detriment of their performances or the film, Hunter's Stella stays very calm and steady throughout the film. I think it's a very neat coincedence that Hattie McDaniel and Kim Hunter both won, deservedly, for performances where they supported Vivien Leigh.

8. Estelle Parsons - Bonnie and Clyde (1o points)

From what I've gathered around the blogosphere, this is a love-or-hate performance. Parsons isn't understated in her role, and she is often shrill, but she still managed to gather enough lovers to score this ranking. (Personally, I love her in this role and although she isn't the strongest actor in this film, I thinks she taps into what must have been a very difficult to achieve balance between simply being shrill to tapping into a genuine feeling of terror.) Tripp Burton praises her, "Yes, she is larger than life, but she is so in a wonderful way. A perfect performance." with John Henry Roberts conceding, "It helps that she’s in one of the best films to win this category, but Parsons hits the right shrill notes to keep everyone (on screen and off) on edge."

7. Vanessa Redgrave – Julia (12 points)

Vanessa Redgrave's Oscar win for Julia is what I believe to be a rare case of an actor winning for a performance at the peak of their career, she had a few good-to-great performances before this and many great performances after this, but this was the right performance for her to win for, if that makes any sense. The performance itself is a thing of beauty that leaves us guessing and wanting more and she more than satisfies the high expectations the film sets for her and the character. Svanur Petursson says, "The film is named after Redgrave's character and the film belongs to her the entire time. At the time, Redgrave said it was the best work she had ever done. I agree."

6. Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker (13 points)

Patty Duke's win for The Miracle Worker has to be one of the most unconventional performances to win an Oscar, and it is one of the most unrelenting, powerful ones to do so. Nothing Duke, or any actress before or after will do will ever be able to duplicate this performance, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see it rank this high. Robbie Kendall agrees, "Patty Duke has "it" - that connection to the divine creative spirit just flows through her, yes, like water. There is such master in her performance."

5. Rita Moreno - West Side Story (16 points)

I am unsurprised to see this performance rank in the top five, a landmark performance in one of the best regarded film musicals of all time. I'll let the commenters speak for themselves on this performance: Robbie Kendall says: "Haunting and spellbinding and raw. The depth of her conveying the tragedy in this story is unforgettable." While Shawn enthuses, "Moreno knocks it out of the park; her work as Anita is not close to perfection, it’s beyond it." I can add nothing to these words: This is the performance by which all other musical performances are set against, and which few if any have matched.

4. Dorothy Malone - Written on the Wind (22 points)

It's been a few years since I've seen this performance, and I'm not that old, so I think I really need to revisit this. From this comments, it seems like this is the kind of the performance that people should've been complaining that it hadn't won the Oscar, but it somehow did. I think that it, like Sirk, is much more appreciated now than it was then. I'll let the commenters sing their praises, though: " One of the few times the Academy showed foresight -- and a sense of fun. Malone wasn't a great actress, but this performance was irresistible, and it showed respect for Douglas Sirk, who wouldn't be considered a great artist until well after his death," says Jeffrey M. Anderson. Shawn gushes, "It may not be the greatest work to win a Supporting Actress Oscar, but I once called Malone’s Marylee Hadley my favorite supporting performance, and I haven’t seen anyone who’s changed my opinion."

3. Diane Wiest – Hannah and Her Sisters (25 points)

Another performance that I was unsurprised to see rank this highly, a perfect win for one of our most talented supporting actresses, and a performance that I personally adore. The comments ran wild with this one, so I'll let them illuminate the performance:

"The glue that holds this delight of a masterpiece together." – Matt Kilgore.

"Her win for Bullets Over Broadway may be more fun, but it is also the kind of performance that has award written all over it. In Hannah, she gives the kind of performance that is just as challenging, and even more rewarding, but doesn't get Oscars. Her subtle charm and graceful tenderness is a wonder on the screen." – Tripp Burton

"She won twice, both times for Woody Allen films, and for two remarkably different, comic performances. In this one, she's hilariously damaged goods, and heartbreaking in the scene when she slowly realizes that the architect prefers her friend April." – Jeffrey M. Anderson

"If you ask to 10 movie fans who would be their favorite Woody Allen character, I'm pretty sure that 9 of them will say: Annie Hall. But I'd rather not follow the majority and confess that the one who would deserves the first spot for me is Holly. Not because she was wonderfully written: Wiest deserves her credit! Her construction of the confused and junkie, yet lovable sister is great that it's impossible not to be captivated by her. I remember watching this movie with a friend of mine and in the surprising ending, she said: "well, did she slept whit someone else? That's nasty!" And I replied: "oh, well, I forgive her! She's so damn funny!" – Celso Oliveira.

2. Jane Darwell – The Grapes of Wrath (26 points)

I am a fan of this performance, but the voters for this performance muster up a love more eloquent than I can express for it, so I'll let them have at it:
"You can watch the movie without the sound and she will still wrench your gut." – MIKE SAVIDGE

"One of the all-time great screen performances, the strength and tenderness she shows are amazing to watch. The only problem is if she is better than Judith Anderson in Rebecca, whom she defeated." – Tripp Burton

"Darwell's strength almost single-handedly provides the fortitude the Joads need as they make their new start." – Edward Copeland.

"So many actresses won an Oscar for playing the mother of the leading star but Darwell's is a true gem. Her presence on screen is powerful. Her eyes, her gestures, her dialogues with Henry Fonda – playing her son – are incredible and bring the watcher to tears." – Celso Oliveira.

"She simply encompasses the pain and endurance of a nation in her every word, action and expression." – Matt Kilgore

1. Sandy Dennis - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (31 points)

Perhaps with a few more voters, another performance would have emerged victorious, but I am very, very happy that one of the my favourite performances of all time managed to nab the top spot. Unfortunately, a lot of the voters were the non-commentators, so I'll have to fill in the gaps myself, and with the YouTube clip above. a. I don’t know what the hell Dennis thinks she’s doing, but I can’t keep my eyes off her (very entertaining, and frequently inspired) neurotic ticking. Shawn says, "An unmatched performance, whether one views Dennis' work in a good or bad sense." Celso Oliveira gives a lengthy write-up which I'll post in it's unedited glory:
"Dennis character in Virginia Woolf has less lines and scenes than any other on screen. Even George Sagall – who plays her husband – appears as much as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who plays the main couple of the story. Conclusion: Dennis plays the only real supporting role in the movie, an annoying and submissive wife who seems to prefer to alienate herself from the conversations than accept the hard reality that she is the victim of George and Martha's cruel games. So what's so great about her acting in this masterpiece? The answer is simple: she knows her place. In the whole movie, you don't see her struggling for getting more attention. Any other actress could just play the role above average, but Sandy's acting succeeds in every level! The result is a superb and captivating performance that captures the watchers from her very first moment on screen until the last scene leaving the public asking "oh, where is here? I want more of her!" The transformation of the submissive, silly wife into a exploding, brandy-drinking rebel who start questioning her husband opinions and orders is really one of a kind! And seriously, who never wanted to grab her hands and go round and round the room singing "Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?... Virginia Woolf… Virginia Woolf…"? – Celso Oliveira.

I think perhaps the best or at least the most unique part of this performance is that Dennis underplays the neuroses and tics of her character, all culminating in her climactic scene, heartbreaking as she crawls on the ground and pleads. Even as Dennis nails the most difficult character arc in the film, the only truly sympathetic character, she nails so many of the little moments, such as her terrified and broken reading of the simple word, "No." in the final scenes. I am completely okay with this perofrmance being voted as the Best Performance to win a Supporting Actress Oscar.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: THE WORST

Here we have it, ladies and gentlemen, from the least worst to the worst:

10. Jessica Lange – Tootsie (10 points)

As I understand it, Jessica Lange's other Oscar-winning turn in Blue Sky isn't that well regarded either, and it surprises me and disappoints me that such a talented actress with such a sure-fire run of successes in the 80s has two Oscars for her most disliked performances. "Does anybody see anything special about her in the movie?" says Mike Savidge, with Svanur Petursson concdes that it's 'not a bad performance but I have never understood the excitement behind it at the time. Edward Copeland gives a particularly scathing review on this performance: Another case of someone who wasn't even the best supporting actress in the movie she won for and in this case the best one (Teri Garr) was nominated. Her performance seemed absent-minded and so loose that at times I was convinced when she cocked her head backward, it would fall off. Carlos Oliveira acknowledges the greatness of her turn in Frances, but concedes that it was going to go to Meryl Streep that year.

10. Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener (1o points)

I felt this choice might've been more noticeable of a general disapproval to the Academy's recent choices, but there seems to be a trend against that in this survey, which I found encouraging. However, it still managed to attract quite a disdain, with Tripp Burton being quite blunt about it: "An actress I have never enjoyed in a plodding film." Jeffrey M. Anderson recounts the Weisz's rather odd race to the podium, "I remember watching helplessly as this bad, overpraised film somehow crept ahead of all the other contenders." Ultimately, for me at least, Rachel Weisz is the actress I have the hardest trouble remembering when recounting recent winners in this category.

9.Miyoshi Umeki – Sayonara (14 points)

This is one Oscar race I would love to go back in time and witness, because I have no idea how an Asian actress would win an Academy Award over the legendary Elsa Lancaster, two nominees in a Best Picture film and another actress who was a rising star. Even if the performance was excellent, which by all accounts it wasn't, it still bewilders me. Most commenters on this performance stray to one of the worst crimes a performer can commit: Boring. Robbie Kendall remembers less about the performance than he should whereas Shawn struggles to recall anything about her performance. (He does, however, recommend her in Flower Drum Song. Fire up the Netflix engines!) Edward Copeland bravely states, "This was P.C. run amok. Umeki did absolutely nothing special to deserve a nomination, let alone a win and the rest of her career sort of bore that out." Perhaps Tripp Burton sums up this performance most effectively and succinctly, though: Eh.

8. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny (15 points)

I was surprised to see this appear outside of the top 5, not because of the actual performance, but because of the reputation it has gained as an urban legend. Has any other win been so supposedly bad to generate suspicion that the presenter read out the wrong name? Many of the detractors to this performance note the strength of the field, Svanurr Petursson thinks that this Oscar should have gone to Judy Davis, a sentiment echoed by John Henry Roberts, who declares that she was "by far the worst of the ‘92 nominees, being the only American on the ballot likely won her the anti-immigrant vote. Amusing caricature in a broad comedy isn’t shameful, but favoring it over Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, that is." Carlos Oliveira is more restrained in his criticisms, saying that it was not at all a bad performance, but not Oscar-worthy. Robbie Kendall holds no bars, though: "Try as I might, I have no words to convey the depth of loathing I feel for the Oscar going to this 'performance'." The one defence I can afford this win is that Tomei is one of the few Academy Award winners to improve upon themselves after their Oscar, and seems to have retroactively earnt it, a bizzare polarity to those who win it long after their prime.

7. Judi Dench – Shakespeare in Love (18 points)

Criticisms of this performance revolve around two aspects; the screentime, and the 'fact' that the Academy was making up for not giving her the Oscar for Mrs. Brown. Jan Baart calls the performance 'absolutely overrated', Svanur Petursson saying that she could 'do it in her sleep'. John Henry Roberts earned a chuckle out of me by snarking, "She’s a great actress, but this was a cameo and the wig did 90% of the work." David Gaffen is gentler on the Dame, however, "A give-back from the Academy for picking Helen Hunt over her in the previous year. There's nothing wrong with this performance, but it's a cameo, ultimately too brief to be worth anything more than a smile." Myself, I think it was a Kate Winslet case; this woman deserves an Oscar, but for the performance that most people don't consider her best just goes down like a bitter pill.

6. Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind (19 points)

Connelly is another one of those who I completely forget has an Academy Award. It just seems like a very odd moniker to attach to her name, especially considering the plummet in her career in the years since (no matter how good she was in Reservation Road, me being one of the two people who saw it). Onto the commentators, Matt Kilgore places the blame on Ron Howard, "I guess it's not all Jennifer's fault that she had to act under the direction of Ron Howard." Robbie Kendall is much more harsh on the actress, "Just a piece of trash in a film that was not much better." And John Henry Roberts is a little bit gentler, "Connelly's refusal to be typecast as eye candy is admirable, but she's a limited actress. In the right role, her low energy plays as subtlety; here she's mush." To fill in the necessary void, I'll mention that Connelly was also much weaker than her fellow nominees, a beautifully underplayed Mirren, a hilarious Smith, a mercurial Winslet and a heartbreaking Tomei. Can we all pretend she won for Requiem of a Dream instead?

5. Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost (21 points)

A performance I was surprised to see rank this high, but one of which attracted some of the most strong criticsms, so I'll let them: David Gaffen throws out, "There's nothing here to suggest that this performance is anything but a stunt. Talk about Marisa Tomei all you want, but at least she's acting in that movie. This is dreck." Matt Kilgore says, "She brings a certain annoying lining to this laughable romantic comedy." John Henry Roberts provides a reason for her win, "Press at the time figured Oscar owed Goldberg after her work in The Color Purple was passed over; compare the performances, it’s a sad decline." As an avid non-menopausal watcher of The View, I will maintain my silence on this performance.

4. Goldie Hawn – Cactus Flower (25 points)

Another one of those actresses that I'm always surprised at when I remember that she's an Academy Award winner. It's a performance I personally like but can definitely understand the dislike for, Tripp Burton quips: "It is nice to know that even 40 years ago they were giving this award out to whichever actress the voters most wanted to sleep with." While Jan Baart adds, "I have to include her because I just generally dislike her and her performances." Which I'm sure sums up a lot of the general opinion towards this win.

3. Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls (29 points)

Jennifer Hudson's win seems more and more surprising as the two years since then pass by; how was it that this performance was considere a lock over the other four, worthy nominees? Not that I think it's particularly bad. Jeffrey M. Anderson makes a callback to that hype that seems so alien to me now, "Her tragic personal life aside, this was one example of hype overcoming reason. I mean, why wasn't Beyonce ever considered? Or why -- for example -- was Hudson better in this than Meryl Streep was in "A Prairie Home Companion"?" Jan Baart sums up the dilemma of her winning an Academy Award straight up, "I generally dislike musicians playing musicians and I haven't seen anything from here that puts her into the category of actors deserving an Oscar, including this work." Not a bad performance, just a very bewildering win for me.

2. Helen Hayes – Aiport (36 points)

Missing out on the top spot by only a single point, Hayes managed to attract a lot of disdain for this win. Shawn starts us off with a little anecdote, "Give Hayes credit, though: in her autobiography she states she kept far, far away from the movie, until she was on a cruise wherein some (supposed) friends tried to force her to finally watch the 1970 blockbuster onboard. Hayes told them she had to go back to her cabin and throw up instead. Smart lady." Svanur Petursson was understandably harsh on the performance, "This was a comedy performance, and it wasn't even funny. Probably the only performance of those who have won this award that I actually didn't like at all." while Jeffrey M. Anderson expresses exasperation at the win, "One of the Academy's worst gimmes. For "Airport"? Really? Why?" Finally, David Gaffen sums up exactly what is up with the Academy giving her this award: "The ultimate in giving an award to the "cute, plucky old lady."

1. Renee Zellweger – Cold Mountain (37 points)

We have our winner, ladies and gentlemen, and I am not at all shocked. Here are the zingers to this performance in their unedited glory:

Wasn't a fan of this performance at the time. Zellweger is a talented actress but her accent in this film was unconvincing. – Svanur Petursson

Pure and simple, a make-up Oscar from the Academy to apologize for her not winning for Chicago. – Robbie Kendall.

Really, Zellweger ought to be ashamed of this performance. (Didn't I see something just like it on "Hee-Haw"?) – Jeffrey M. Anderson

Leaves me cold. – David Gaffen.

It’s an awesome performance all right, but not in a good way. If only the concept behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was real, so I could erase this one from memory. I’m convinced an evil, untalented twin locked Renee up in a closet and took her place just before Mountain commenced filming, as I refuse to believe this is the same girl we all fell in love with in Jerry Maguire – Shawn.

"Hey, look at me, I'm a hillbilly!" Nothing more to say. – Carlos Oliveira.

And now something from your humble host: I consider this to be the worst performance to win any Academy Award for several reasons:
  1. It's simply a misjudged performance in the context of the film. Every moment involves Zellweger mugging for the camera, every expression and line-reading calculated to draw attention to herself and away from the other performers in the film. She illuminates nothing about her character, and acts from disjointed shot to disjointed shot.
  2. Zellweger is an actress who I considered to be talented. Her performances in Jerry Maguire, One True Thing, Nurse Betty, Bridget Jones' Diary and to an extent, Chicago all display her unique, if not particularly amazing, talent for her craft so it makes little sense that she would slum it for this role.
  3. Her performance is actually very detrimental to the film; it actually degrades it to a level of farce and comedy, and it's not like it was on very steady legs to begin win.
  4. The fellow nominees in the category would all have been worthy winners, particularly Shohreh Aghdashloo and Holly Hunter. The other two wouldn't have been amazing, but I don't think anybody would really be against an Aacademy Award for Patricia Clarkson and overly aghast at seeing Marcia Gay Harden win again.
  5. A completely subjective point: The manner in which she received the Oscar seemed so smug and supercilious that it made me think that this performance was calculated, played the lowest denominator for the sole reason of winning it. It just made me think less of the actress.
So, I can unequicovally call this the worst performance to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Next up: The bests!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen (2009)

This review is not going to be a pleasant one. It's just not. So if you're a fan of this movie, just go away.

I'm going to start off with the good part of this movie; the opening credits. A very sweet approximation of how good the old days were, with some very tender and genuinely felt moments. It set me up for some relatively high hopes for the rest of the movie.

Now the bad part: The entire movie. Usually I can find something about a movie that I find redeeming, which I did above, but usually there's something that keeps me watching. In this, the only thing I could find was the unintentional humour of the angsty voiceovers, the ludicrous plot points and the abundance of both talky heroes and blue penis.

You know that a movie has completely failed in whatever it intended to be when you're trying to notice anything else in the movie, like counting plot points that didn't need to be there, counting voice-overs, counting penis shots and counting how many times this movie could and should have ended right there and then.

The characters range from being ciphers to caricatures, and a viewer can never really identify with any of the heroes or even being to empathise with them. The actors do no better with their characters, scaling the low walls that the script has set up for them without adding any real subtext or gravitas to the situations. There is literally one shot where I felt that this thing was well acted, which was Jackie Earle Haley near the end of the narrative. It's a testament to the movie's lack of gravity that I was thinking how great he's going to be in Scorcese's Shutter Island this year. Even the other actor's talents are dulled as they slum it to deliver the nonsensical lines the scripts hand up to them, particularly Patrick Wilson and Carla Gugino.

The script is one of the movie's main problems, in that there is far too much of it. I counted at least four lengthy voiceovers during the film, all written like the multiple screenwriters thought they were writing All About Eve at the time. As a rule of thumb in a comic book movie, you would hope that although the dialogue is less than amazing, it would at least make up for it with some real neato fight scenes. Watchmen avoids that completely, serving up under-choreographed and over-stunt doubled fight scenes that have no real relevance to the plot. And dovetailing the problems, there is a fight scene late in the hour that is interrupted several times to deliver plot points. Ultimately, when a script hands up the line: "Will you just tell me how it ends?" and fails to deliver, you can call it a definitive failure.

I also need to give special note to the film's choice of music. While it may work for the opening credits, it degrades into nonsensical juxtaposition later on in the film, with what I think might be some Beatles during a scene at the graveyard and some guitary folk songs scattered throughout. The worst choice of music is undoubtedly during a laughable sex scene, to the extent where it has ruined that song completely for me.

I know I'm being very harsh and vague about the movie's actual faults, but just as it's hard to review a very good movie that doesn't have any massive failings, it's hard to review an awful movie that doesn't have any massive strengths. Watchmen is just a shallowly-directed, under-edited, non-acted and hackishly-written film that really does have to be seen to believed. It's one of the few movies that I can't imagine anybody liking for any reason.

This movie is a great example of why things should be adapted to the screen and not fully translated. Films are not graphic novels. Graphic novels are not films. To make one suit the other, you need to make certain additions and removals to make it fit that medium. Zack Snyder has provided he can do that with some competence with 300, but shows with this film that he has neither the testicular fortitude to handle something with as much assumed importance as Watchmen does or to face the fans who would surely kill him for changing even one thing. Even Snyder's supposed strength, his visual style, is muted completely in his efforts to translate the graphic novel completely faithfully to the screen. The movie just ends up looking too glossy and like they were trying to save as much money as they possibly could and the lighting was sacrificed as a result.

In the end, this film is a perfect example of why adaptations need to handled very carefully. In many ways, this is one of the laziest adaptations I've seen, Xeroxing the graphic novel onto celluloid (or whatever this was shot on) without any creative flair involved. It takes much more skill to adapt a text with consideration on what should be kept and what should not be (see The Hours, Lord of the Rings, Requiem for a Dream and many other movies which do this better than this). While I'm sure fans of the original will eat this up, I can't imagine anybody else liking it.

The worst insult I can give this is when they make the [Movie] Movie of this, they can just use clips from the movie.

Overall Grade: F

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: The Worst Runner-Ups

12. Ingrid Bergman - Murder on the Orient Express (9 points)

Even the divine Ingrid agrees; she proclaimed from the podium that the Oscar that year belonged to Valentina Cortese for DAY FOR NIGHT. She even begged Valentina to forgive her. Ingrid was right. – Tim Hedgepeth

I adore Bergman and I like "Murder on the Orient Express." But just watch it today and try to figure out why she was singled out for an award. Especially when Bergman already had two Oscars, and especially in that vital year of 1974 when so many other good films were contenders. – Jeffrey M. Anderson

I love Ingrid Bergman, but she wasn't even the best actress on that train. She had two Oscars already, so why a sentimental pick? If that's what they were after, it should have been Lauren Bacall's turn. – Edward Copeland.

12. Beatrice Straight – Network (9 points)

Don't blink or you'll miss her – Mike Savidge

The same complaint as Dench, but at least her character is given a bit to do in her brief appearance. – David Gaffen.

14. Gloria Grahame - The Bad and the Beautiful (8 points)

A compelling and intelligent performance --although I prefer her work in OKLAHOMA! and for starters how can this performance begin to compare with Jean Hagen's brilliant comic turn in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN? – Tim Hedgepeth

This is one of the more underrated films of the 1950s, and it should have won 10 Oscars, but can someone explain what Grahame does in this film that warrants any sort of award? – Tripp Burton.

Grahame was a great actress and probably deserved an Oscar somewhere in her career but how and why she won for this don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-her turn still puzzles me. – Edward Copeland.

14. Mira Sorvino - Mighty Aphrodite (8 points)

Though it took a while to find the bottom, we could tell Woody was already in trouble here and Mira is caught in the middle of it. – Matt Kilgore.

16. Diane Wiest - Bullets Over Broadway (7 points)

16. Estelle Parsons - Bonnie and Clyde (7 points)

18. Catherine Zeta-Jones - Chicago (6 points)

One of the most joyless musical performances of all time, she stiffly plods her way through the film without ever really understanding how Velma needs to work in the film. She has none of the pizzazz or comedic timing to carry the role. – Tripp Burton

Zeta-Jones wasn’t even the best supporting actress in Chicago, let alone 2002. – John Henry Roberts.

18. Teresa Wright – Mrs. Miniver (6 points)

A lovely performance in a shockingly overhyped piece of claptrap. Wright --along with fellow nominee Dame May Whitty -- might be the best thing about the movie, but she had no business taking the award from Agnes Moorehead for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. – Tim Hedgepeth

20. Shelley Winters – The Diary of Anne Frank (5 points)

Nice work here, and perhaps the least mannered actor in a surprisingly stagebound movie version of a pretty good play, but come on: this award belongs to Juanita Moore in IMITATION OF LIFE. Winters did plenty of great and award-worthy work in a remarkable career. This just wasn't one of the best. – Tim Hedgepeth

I just feel this is one of those "we just got to honor this movie and it's participants" awards that's not actually justified by the quality of the work. – Jan Baart.

21. Anna Paquin – The Piano (4 points)

21. Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon (4 points)

21. Celeste Holm – A Gentleman’s Agreement (4 points)

Tepid Actress, tepid role – Mike Savidge

21. Donna Reed – From Here to Eternity (4 points)

Josh R is fond of referring to this performance as the purest hooker in the history of prostitution and I think that about sums it up. – Edward Copeland.

21. Cate Blanchett – The Aviator (4 points)

I could hardly stand her performance as Hepburn. She tried way too hard be her and missed the goal completely. Almost ruined the movie for me. She wasn't anything like Hepburn to me, neither as an actress nor as a private person. – Jan Baart.

26. Jane Darwell – The Grapes of Wrath (3 points)

She has some touching scenes that helped her nab the Big One, but her Ma Joad largely consists of a lot of cloying, one-dimensional acting. – Shawn.

26. Shirley Jones – Elmer Gantry (3 points)

26. Margaret Rutherford – The V.I.Ps (3 points)

I adore her and was looking forward to seeing the film just for this performance. It simply makes no sense that she won an Oscar for this. For Blithe Spirit certainly! – Robbie Kendall.

26. Mercedes Ruehl – The Fisher King (3 points)

26. Kim Basinger – L.A Confidential (3 points)

Let's give Kim Basinger an Oscar for looking like Barbara Stanwyck - JSC

31. Geena Davis – The Accidental Tourist (2 points)

31. Gale Sondergaard – Anthony Adverse (2 points)

The Supporting Actress category’s list of winners got off to a fairly undistinguished start, as Sondergaard also does a lot of showy one-note acting as the adverse villainess, Faith Paleologus. – Shawn.

Single Voters:

Lila Kedrova – Zorba the Greek

Proof that you can win the Oscar by doing nothing great at all. – Celso Oliveira.

Ruth Gordon – Rosemary’s Baby

She does play Ruth Gordon very well – Mike Savidge

Anjelica Huston – Prizzi’s Honour

A predictable performance that's a travesty to the Italian-American genre – Matt Kilgore.

Tune in soon for the best of the bests and worst of the worsts.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: The Best Runner-Ups

These are the ladies who managed to garner the attention of some voters while never quite cracking the top 10. (Or eleven in this case!)

12. Ruth Gordon – Rosemary’s Baby (9 points)

A wry performance that's so disarming you can see how Mia Farrow would be suckered in and surprised to learn Gordon's working for Satan. – Edward Copeland

Gordon was always a great actress and screenwriter, but few people know that. She remains known worldwide as the evil-lover-annoying-old-lady-next-door in Rosemary's Baby and it's not by chance. Gordon steals the scene every time she appears and no matter how many times I revisit this film, she always scares the hell out of me. – Celso Oliveira.

13. Anjelica Huston – Prizzi’s Honour (8 points)

It's very hard to steal a movie from Jack Nicholson, but she does in this. – David Gaffen.

John Huston directed his dad to an Oscar win and his daughter to one as well in the performance that was the equivalent of Anjelica's coming out party as one of our best actresses. Maerose Prizzi is manipulative, vindictive and a performance for the ages. – Edward Copeland

13. Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener (8 points)

She puts the audience exactly where the Ralph Fiennes character finds himself: you’re in love with her, yet not sure you know her. Her every gesture seems packed with meaning, yet you never catch her pushing. She and the cinematographer practically dance together, a perfect film performance. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Claire Trover – Key Largo (7 points)

Trevor’s a film noir icon. Not even her best, still great. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Jo Van Fleet – East of Eden (7 points)

She completely walked in the shoes of what has to be a very hard character to play – Mike Savidge

15. Diane Wiest – Bullets Over Broadway (7 points)

Seeing the always solid Wiest bust her patrician shell to play a drama queen (in both senses) is great fun. Hits the peak of hilarity without going over the top. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Catherine Zeta-Jones - Chicago (7 points)

19. Meryl Streep – Kramer vs. Kramer (6 points)

A great performance from Streep and showed the world what was to come. – Svanur Petursson

It's so easy to love Meryl Streep, but somehow she makes us hate her. – Matt Kilgore.

19. Maggie Smith – California Suite (6 points)

A great Oscar-winning performance for playing a boozy Oscar loser opposite an equally good Michael Caine. – Edward Copeland.

21. Celeste Holm – The Gentleman’s Agreement (5 points)

It's easy to look at this dated film and find the central plot -- Gregory Peck's quest to expose anti-Semitism by going undercover as a Jew -- as a bit goofy. What is unfathomable is how 1940s audiences, having lived through a period populated by intoxicating female roles (much of it in the film noir genre) could have possibly not been bewildered by the ending, when Peck's character chooses the lummox played by Dorothy Maguire over the sassy, radiant colleague of his played by Celeste Holm. She owns this movie. – David Gaffen.

21. Cloris Leachman – The Last Picture Show (5 points)

What a great, sad performance, and she was never better. It's a classic, so well-deserved. – David Gaffen.

21. Peggy Ashcroft – A Passage to India (5 points)

21. Mira Sorvino – Mighty Aphrodite (5 points)

21. Kim Basinger – L.A Confidential (5 points)

21. Juliette Binoche – The English Patient (5 points)

Her often unpredictable character lights up this slow burn of a film every time she is on the screen. – Matt Kilgore

This was such a happy surprise at the time. Everyone expected the showy Lauren Bacall to win, but Binoche's performance was understated and in more ways than one kept the film together. – Svanur Petursson

27. Brenda Fricker – My Left Foot (4 points)

Daniel Day-Lewis did amazing work with an extremely difficult role, but was nearly matched by her, the kind of woman every son would want for a mother. – David Gaffen.

27. Linda Hunt – The Year of Living Dangerously (4 points)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I forgot Hunt was a female playing a man throughout the film, but either way, it was a great performance from an underused actress. – Svanur Petursson

Regardless of the sex of the character she plays, she ultimately portrays a living, breathing, vibrant human being. – Robbie Kendall.

27. Shelley Winters – The Diary of Anne Frank (4 points)

When I first saw this film I could not stop thinking about it for days, she stands out in an incredible ensemble – Mike Savidge

27. Fay Bainter – Jezebel (4 points)

27. Eva Marie Saint – On The Waterfront (4 points)

She may just be feeding off Brando and Kazan, but Saint’s stuck playing the beauty who makes a sinner want to do better, and manages to come off like an actual person instead of a, uh, saint. Her light touch makes it a much better film than it might have been. – John Henry Robert.

It's really a pity that Saint didn't have so many great roles in movies. She is a wonderful actress and her start on this classic is the proof of it. She is not afraid of sharing the screen with famous actors like Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden. Her acting is as superb as her co-stars and well, she has an Oscar to show it! – Celso Oliveira.

32. Gloria Grahame – The Bad and The Beautiful (3 points)

Actors rarely win Oscars for their best work, but the unbearably sharp, sexy Grahame made lots of great movies, and this was one of them. – Jeffrey M. Anderson

32. Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost (3 points)

I can forgive any missteps in Whoopi’s career just for the scene wherein Oda Mae makes it clear she really doesn’t want to give away that money. She’s hilarious all-around, too. – Shawn.

32. Goldie Hawn – Cactus Flower (3 points)

Holding her own with Bergman & Matthau in a forgotten gem of a movie – Mike Savidge.

Additional proof that work in a comedy can be as Oscar-worthy as any other kind of acting. The film’s not great, but Hawn is on-the-mark in sensational fashion. – Shawn.

35. Shelley Winters – A Patch of Blue (2 points)

I want to slap her whenever I think of the film – Mike Savidge.

35. Beatrice Straight – Network (2 points)

A true supporting role, she takes 8 minutes on screen and nearly runs away with it, a marvel considering the wonderful ensemble cast of the film. – Tripp Burton

35. Mercedes Ruehl – The Fisher King (2 points)

35. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny (2 points)

Of course, everyone thinks this was some kind error, but Tomei went on to prove that she's the #1 supporting actress of the past 20 years with many other great performances, both comic and tragic. – Jeffrey M. Anderson

35. Anna Paquin – The Piano (2 points)

35. Judi Dench – Shakespeare in Love (2 points)

She brings something regal, refined and darkly witty to everything she does. - Matt Kilgore.


Mercedes McCambridge – All The King’s Men

Mary Steenburgen – Melvin and Howard

What ever happened to Steenburgen? She has so much life in this film, and has turned in nothing like this since. – Tripp Burton

Maureen Stapleton – Reds

Among many great performances in this film, Stapleton stood out. A well deserved win for a great actress. – Svanur Petursson

Jessica Lange – Tootsie

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment either way!