Thursday, July 31, 2014

Best Supporting Actress 1973: Nominees and Outside Possibilties

This is a picture of me sitting on a hilltop in a fetching blonde bowl cut, while Nathaniel, not unusually dressed as Madeline Kahn, warily approaches. Despite my years of conscientious service, he's actually asking me to bow out from this month's installment of the Supporting Actress Smackdown, dedicated to the roster of 1973, and to let five interlopers sit up front with their big tits.

I guess when the new passengers are extraordinary film critics Bill Chambers and Karina Longworth, peerless popular film historian Mark Harris, sickeningly young movie smarty-smart Kyle Turner, and multiple-Emmy-winning actress Dana Delany, I might see the logic of moving to the back seat. Hell, for that crowd, I'd ride in the trunk.  Just like you, I cannot wait for this episode of the Smackdown and its associated podcast, both because I so admire all the panelists and because—in a major reversal from last month—I think the Academy did an absolutely splendid job filling out this field.  If there'd been room for me on this varsity squad, I'd have said the following... and in 73 words apiece, because you know I don't play:

Linda Blair, The Exorcist
★ ★ ★ ★
I get it: Blair’s performance encompasses major assists from makeup, effects, and a pissed-off Mercedes McCambridge. Awarding her may not be the appropriate channel for recognizing the impact of the characterization. But when the impact is that astounding… Plus, I like her muted, underplayed chipperness and frightening fatigue in the opening acts. You feel that an already-recessive personality is being further endangered, which is more interesting than a precocious dynamo coming under attack.

Candy Clark, American Graffiti
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Nobody's bad in Graffiti but many are boring. Dreyfuss begs to get noticed; others could stand being more noticeable. Oscar's singling out of Clark makes sense: she famously campaigned, but she's also got a peculiar, genuinely comic presence. From the start, foggily contemplating which celebrity she most resembles, she looks perpetually like she's entertaining other, weirder thoughts than the script's, without detaching from scene partners, getting too broad, or leaning into kooky-blonde caricature.

Madeline Kahn, Paper Moon
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Kahn can unmask Trixie's core and animate a whole scene simply by belting "Son of a bitch!" with impressive vulgarity. She gets aroused just hearing about hotel rooms, daddy. Silencing her seditious, over-sharing traveling companion with one look, she gets her laugh while disclosing how terrified Trixie is of blowing even this shoddy chance for—money? companionship? adulation? Still, she sometimes settles for surface. Often more involved in her performances than her films.

Tatum O'Neal, Paper Moon
★ ★ ★ ★
Yes, she's a lead, from first shot to last. More caveats: like Blair, she benefits as much from savvy typecasting as from inspired technique; huge swaths of her performance unfold in isolated close-ups, enlivened as much by editing as by anything Tatum is doing. But? She's sweet, sad, conniving, funny, and ill-tempered without being insufferable. She radiates constantly how unhappy she'd be living in some nice lady's house. She makes the movie work.

Sylvia Sidney, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
★ ★ ★ ★
It's one thing to establish a lasting impression in the first 20 minutes. It's another to convey such steely self-absorption within that narrow window that we believe you'd inspire the biggest chip Joanne Woodward ever had on her shoulder... and she's had a lot of big ones. And to be funny, but not comic, while doing it! And to render a memorably upsetting death scene. Extra points for eye-rolling at that baby’s picture.

Clearly no complaints this time around, even though I'm still not sure whom I'd have voted for—probably Sidney, since hers is the most obvious display of proficiency without editing or effects boosting her along in any way. But really, this category couldn't have gone too wrong.

That said, I always love seizing Nathaniel's monthly focus on a given year to (re)visit as many movies as I can. This month I watched over two dozen releases from 1973 I'd never seen before and re-watched several others, plus some slightly older films that qualified for Oscar in 1973. For the purposes of today, here's what I learned about 18 eligible members of the competitive field from which Oscar culled Blair, Clark, Kahn, O'Neal, and Sidney. Many of these performances, including those nominated for other major awards, might have given those gals a run for their spots (though honestly, consensus seemed pretty strong that these would be The Five). No longer promising 73 words a piece, though. Take what you can get...

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Fifties 2014: Ensemble, Foreign Film, Costumes, Sound



Gloria: A star vehicle and beguiling two-hander that expands gracefully to include relatives and background players of real color and depth.

Hide Your Smiling Faces: The movie I wanted the best parts of Mud to be, with an eye for child actors and adults who do a lot with a little.

Ilo Ilo: Where the kid, the parents, and the nanny all feel intimate with each other and strange to each other. Everyone nails the dramedy.

Only Lovers Left Alive: Another smallish ensemble, but drawing dissimilar actors so fully in line with Jarmusch's peculiar idiom is a feat.

Unrelated: Where almost every actor has at least two roles to play, except the lead, who has no role to play. Gives and takes all marvelous.

Honorable Mentions: Boyhood (missed my cutoff)
Runners Up: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, Begin Again, Borgman, Neighbors, Obvious Child, Young & Beautiful, Cold in July
On the Radar: Non-Stop, The Grand Budapest Hotel, It Felt Like Love

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Fifties 2014: Supporting Actor, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay



Carlo Cecchi, Honey (Miele): Because even if the film hints what he might be up to, the actor keeps you guessing, not just about what but about why.

Patrick d'Assumçao, Stranger by the Lake: Because he doesn't pity his character and pulls focus from all those penises, deepening the movie.

Jeff Goldblum, Le Week-end: Because even if we've seen this acerbic maybe-asshole from Goldblum before, he's especially spry and funny here.

Tom Hiddleston, Unrelated: For keeping within a limited spectrum, never getting fully attached to Anna but leaning toward and away from her.

Jake Lacy, Obvious Child: For playing a more vanilla guy than the genre or the lead usually invite but convincing us he's a happy accident.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart, made for cable; Ethan Hawke, Boyhood, missed my cutoff
Runners Up: Àlex Brendemühl, The German Doctor; Ronen Rubinstein, It Felt Like Love; Johan Leysen, Young & Beautiful; James Corden, Begin Again

On the Radar: Sam Shepard, Cold in July; Don Johnson, Cold in July; Adam Levine, Begin Again

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Fifties 2014: Editing and Visual Effects



Boyhood (Sandra Adair): The ambition of the project puts a spotlight on the editing process, but making three hours feel so tantalizingly quick is more than just a gimmick.

Edge of Tomorrow
(James Herbert)
: The editing is kind of front and center on this one too, and the whole enterprise would pretty much crash and burn without a sure hand. A few extra thumbs up for the comedy elements in the middle section, almost entirely editing-based.

Hide Your Smiling Faces (Daniel Patrick Carbone): Letting this story unfold at its own pace, with the vagaries and languidness of a childhood summer vacation.

Stranger by the Lake
(Jean-Christophe Hym)
: Suspense born of long- and close-shots, cut together with dreamy precision.

Under the Skin
(Paul Watts)
: Making juuuust enough sense of the plot without spelling it out for the audience. Working in tandem with Johansson to portion out her increasing empathy as deliberately as possible.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Fifties Eligibility Lists, 2014

It's all happening... Joe Reid, whom you know and love from The Wire and from the Film Experience podcasts, will join me again for The Fifties, my annual tradition of listing the best achievements in major Oscar categories in the year by around mid-summer, once I've hit the milestone of seeing 50 U.S. commercial releases from the calendar year. Beyond sharing ridiculous list-mania, Joe and I have a knack for reaching that goalpost at almost exactly the same time without even trying. We don't, however, see all the same movies—this year we only overlap on 26 titles—so you can't draw a one-to-one comparison between our choices.  Happily, the discrepancies increase the overall eligibility pool and make consensus all the more striking when it does emerge.

We are very aware of not finishing our announcements last year. To prevent that happening again, we've already filled out our individual ballots and are planning shorter conversations about our choices. The first categories will be posted soon. For now, here are the lists of films we're each working from, with shared titles in bold. File your favorites and FYC's in the Comments! And use that space to fight over whether Emily Blunt is a lead or a supporting player in Edge of Tomorrow.

P.S. Now that The Fifties are finished, I've included final nomination tallies for each movie in parentheses.

(25 got nominations)
22 Jump Street
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq
Before You Know It
Begin Again (3)
Belle (1)
Blue Ruin (2)
Child's Pose
Closed Curtain
Cold in July
Edge of Tomorrow (9)
The Final Member
Frankie & Alice
The German Doctor (1)
Gloria (4)
Godzilla (2)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (4)
Heli (2)
Hide Your Smiling Faces (1)
Honey (2)
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Ida (5)
Ilo Ilo (4)
The Immigrant (8)
It Felt Like Love
The Last of the Unjust (3)
The LEGO Movie (1)
Like Father, Like Son
Maleficent (1)
The Missing Picture (5)
Night Moves
Norte, the End of History (5)
Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1
Nymphomaniac, Vol. 2
Obvious Child (4)
Only Lovers Left Alive (8)
The Rover
Stranger by the Lake (2)
They Came Together
Under the Skin (7)
Unrelated (8)
Le Week-end (3)
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Young & Beautiful
(29 got nominations)
22 Jump Street (1)
Adult World
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Blue Ruin (3)
Borgman (2)
Boyhood (6)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2)
Chef (1)
The Congress (6)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2)
Devil's Knot
Edge of Tomorrow (8)
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
The German Doctor
Gloria (3)
Godzilla (4)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (3)
Happy Christmas
Hide Your Smiling Faces (3)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (1)
The Immigrant (2)
The LEGO Movie
Locke (2)
Lucky Them
Neighbors (1)
Night Moves
Noah (1)
Obvious Child (6)
Omar (1)
Only Lovers Left Alive (6)
The Pretty One
Raze (1)
The Sacrament
Snowpiercer (6)
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Stranger by the Lake (8)
They Came Together
Trust Me
Under the Skin (8)
Veronica Mars (1)
Le Week-end (1)
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (1)
Winter's Tale
X-Men: Days of Future Past (1)

We both elected to disqualify The Normal Heart and other movies that premiered on U.S. television, as well as films scheduled for U.S. release later this year that haven't technically bowed yet (which for me knocks out Child of God, The Dog, and Tracks). Joe got to Boyhood and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes before the 50-film cutoff but I didn't.

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