Monday, January 09, 2012

Best Actress Birthday Party, Week 1

The first week of my sustained birthday party for Best Actress nominees of the past has come to a close, with new full-length reviews posted for movies that I had never previously seen, featuring early-January babies Jane Wyman, Loretta Young, Diane Keaton, and Imelda Staunton, all pictured above. You can click on any of their photos to read the review in which they appear. Based on site stats, the fewest of you have ventured over to the Heroes for Sale piece, but it's by far the best of the movies and a great, 70-minute rental option that I'm sure plenty of people would enjoy—available in the third of TCM's Forbidden Hollywood DVD sets. And can I say it's the review I'm most proud of? Plus, Loretta pretty much wins the beauty pageant in a walk, right? Particularly given that Jane and Diane ruthlessly disqualified themselves on hair alone.

Born January 1–January 9:
Click here for the full list of entries

Jan 5: Jane Wyman (105; died 2007)
New Review: The Glass Menagerie (1950)
Jane's Best Work: All four of her nominated performances were good ones, but my favorite Wyman performance went unrecognized, in the now-classic All That Heaven Allows
I've Also Seen: Lost in the crowds of Gold Diggers of 1933 and My Man Godfrey; flat and underwritten in The Lost Weekend (Best Pictures from the Outside In); bravely stony in The Yearling (performance review), to her real-life daughter's distress; interestingly warm but flinty in the hard-to-find The Blue Veil; warming up for Sirk, and operated on by a shirtless Rock Hudson, in Magnificent Obsession
Where to Go Next: Wyman disliked Stage Fright, her outing with Hitchcock, and loved Miracle in the Rain, for Rudolph Maté

Jan 5: Diane Keaton (66)
New Review: The Little Drummer Girl (1984)
Diane's Best Work: My far-and-away favorites are her Oscar-winning work in Annie Hall, her unrewarded nomination for tip-top drama in Reds, and her blistering, not-even-shortlisted work as a still-furious divorcée in Shoot the Moon
I've Also Seen: Barely registering in Lovers and Other Strangers; likably daffy with Woody in Play It Again, Sam and Love and Death; a quiet linchpin, running on woundedness and later on anger in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II; shirking typecasting, semi-successfully, in Looking for Mr. Goodbar; newly brittle for Allen, coldly in Interiors (my review) and comically in Manhattan); lacking any spark in Crimes of the Heart; returning favors to old friends in The Godfather Part III and Manhattan Murder Mystery; less comfortable than Goldie but more bearable than Bette in The First Wives Club; tender and nominated in Marvin's Room, even if Streep sticks longer in the memory; spirited and fun if a bit overrated in Something's Gotta Give; intriguing when she's tetchy in The Family Stone; squandered in the stillborn Morning Glory
Where to Go Next: I'll pick a drama over a comedy six days out of seven, so for me, Mrs. Soffel will come around sooner than Sleeper

Jan 7: Loretta Young (99; died 2000)
New Review: Heroes for Sale (1933)
Loretta's Best Work: Given how little I've seen, her second-tier but proficiently rendered part in Heroes might take the cake, though I like the soft-touch melancholy she brings to The Bishop's Wife, devout in her faith but shaken in her marriage
I've Also Seen: Decency personified, without just being dull, in The White Parade; duller in Kentucky; weirdly Oscared for The Farmer's Daughter; nominated again in Come to the Stable
Where to Go Next: A bevy of promising destinations: Laugh, Clown, Laugh; up against Harlow in Platinum Blonde; Taxi!; Zoo in Budapest; likely a good fit for Borzage in Man's Castle; a hit in The House of Rothschild, one of her two 1934 Best Picture nominees; neck and neck in a beauty contest with Tyrone Power in Second Honeymoon; challenging herself with Orson Welles in The Stranger; and in Rachel and the Stranger, which is sadly not a sequel to the Welles

Jan 9: Imelda Staunton (56)
New Review: Twelfth Night (1996)
Imelda's Best Work: Can anyone seriously dispute that it's Vera Drake (my review)? Maybe so: she's absolutely devastating in a single sequence you'll never shake in her other collaboration with Leigh, for Another Year
I've Also Seen: A Branagh supernumerary in Peter's Friends and Much Ado About Nothing; still small-scale, but hilarious crossing one room and sprinting out of another in Sense and Sensibility; a small part of the palace of delights in Shakespeare in Love (my review; Best Pictures from the Outside In); funny in voice-over in Chicken Run; telling Swank to buck up in Freedom Writers; a delight to many but a lost memory to me in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, save for her pink suits; taking it big but more affecting than I thought she'd be in the flyaway Taking Woodstock; a face on a stem, which is the most you'd want to be, in Alice in Wonderland
Where to Go Next: TV, I imagine: the Gambon Singing Detective, and Emma's old sketch show Thompson

I got a little breather in the middle of this week, but we've got two-time champ Luise Rainer, unfairly under-employed Faye Dunaway, and current War Horse supporting player Emily Watson blowing out candles before an even bigger party, the Golden Globes, drops on Sunday night. Though, on second thought, if I had the option to go to this year's Golden Globes or go to a party with Jane, Loretta, Diane, Imelda, Luise, Faye, and Emily, I'm pretty sure I'd— oh, wait. Tilda's nominated. All right, well I'd almost pick my own party.

P.S. A fun tidbit for you actressexuals: Jane Wyman tells Rex Reed in a 1968 New York Times interview, on the eve of filming How to Commit Marriage with Bob Hope, that she and Loretta Young were great pals during their studio years. They had offices next door to each other and would swap scripts. Jane's predominant memory was of inheriting all of Loretta's dowdy-girl roles and trading her a bunch of P.Y.T.s in return, laughing, "Loretta, the girls in these are too pretty for me!"

P.P.S. People who wish I'd chime in more often on current releases can at least enjoy some thoughts about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the Little Drummer Girl piece and my conjectures about Clint Eastwood's enduring appeal for certain critics at the end of the Heroes write-up. The Glass Menagerie and Twelfth Night make good companions for all you theater geeks. See? Value added!

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Blogger Andrew K. said...

So strange, I can't think of anything you say about Twelfth Night that I out and out disagree with even though I like it a whole lot more, and I suppose most of that stems from the fact that I just love this play a whole lot even though I will say that I wish a MOVIE director would get their hands on a plumb script and direct the hell out of it because Nunn's direction is a bit limp at times.

Nepotism notwithstanding, it's one of those plays that I think would work so, so, so very well on screen. And, the tendency for Victorian costumes for Shakespeare films IS inexplicable.

How much of my appreciation stems from HBC here? I'm not quite sure, much I suppose. Especially since a) Olivia is the best Shakespeare leading lady that never was (Twelfth Night is a bit perplexing in Shakespeare's comedy cannon for being being so ensemble minded, I think) and b) I have to admit to loving her work in Zeffirelli's Hamlet.

AND, goodness gracious THAT TRAILER??? So wrong, but then considering that some of Shakespeare's contemporaries considered him gauche maybe it's apt. Am I reaching too far?

8:40 PM, January 10, 2012  
Blogger James T said...

Louise Rainer: This is your present, Nick? Danke...

I admire that you prefer to say honest things instead of flattering ones even on a birthday but please, if I ever become an important movie person and you decide to write about me on my birthday, be kinder because I will be reading. :p

Anyway, loving your project and I'll try to think of movie suggestions!

11:08 AM, January 12, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@A:EE: I do like the play a lot, and I felt the cast liked the play a lot. I also met Trevor Nunn once, when I was in high school, and it must have been right around the time he was prepping or wrapping this movie (summer 1995). He was very nice, so I wish I could rate the movie higher, but I suspect I'll remember myself as liking it more than I truly thought it was "good." And I suspect Trevor Nunn is doing just fine without an A from me!

@James T: I know, we're going to wind up stumbling into Tackyville a few times by honoring the birthday with a real raspberry review. I think I only have one or two movies on the list that I find irresistible even though/because they are so legendarily awful, and yet I've never seen them. For the most part, I'm hoping to like as much as possible and have made selections that raise the probability for that. One of the fun things about this project is that I've seen most of the good stuff by so many heavweights (Streep, Moore, Close, Winslet, Blanchett, Kidman in recent years, K.Hepburn, Gaynor, B.Davis, etc., further back) that I'm likely to be at more risk of lemons from them than from some of the women whose Oscar nominations were rarer or more dubious but have some really interesting other stuff on their résumés.

2:10 PM, January 12, 2012  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

"a face on a stem, which is the most you'd want to be, in Alice in Wonderland"

I love you right now.

7:58 AM, January 13, 2012  

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