Sunday, January 31, 2016

Supporting Actress: Jan's Out, Feb's In

We've reached the end of our first month of the yearlong Supporting Actress retrospective, honoring the 365 movies that have yielded nominations in that category's first 80 years. (This year's AMPAS voters, whatever their other foibles, at least complied with my schema and furnished nominees from five separate films, which keeps my math on track.) I hope you've had fun reading along, if you have been.  You can click the image to the left and visit the Calendar for more on each nominated movie, plus a few individual performance reviews.

So, who are your five favorite nominees from this early batch? And, separate question, what are your five favorites among the films? My own all-star team of performances from this batch probably entails Judith Anderson for Rebecca, Fay Bainter for Jezebel, Jane Darwell for The Grapes of Wrath, Agnes Moorehead for The Magnificent Ambersons, and Barbara O'Neil for All This, and Heaven Too, with apologies to close runner-up Patricia Collinge for The Little Foxes. If we're talking actual movies, my cream of the crop encompasses Dead End, Dodsworth, Gone with the Wind, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Philadelphia Story, though it stings to leave out Grapes, Rebecca, and Stage Door, especially.

What are your thoughts, dear reader? And—one more question—are there supporting performances by women from 1936-1942 that you especially wish had appeared on Oscar's ballot?

Lastly, do consider following along with the Supporting Actress films for February, already posted. The beauty of this feature is that you can already see what film will be up for review on the site and on Twitter for any given day. I'd love to hear other voices on the same movies. I know you're out there, you opinionated queens. Four of February's performances are first-time viewings for me: Paulette Goddard in So Proudly We Hail (1943), Lucile Watson in Watch on the Rhine (1943), and two winners, Ethel Barrymore in None But the Lonely Heart (1944) and Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge (1946). Beyond my curiosity about these four, I'm especially keen to revisit The Song of Bernadette (1943), which I saw once, ages ago. I wish I remembered Crossfire (1947) more clearly. Two famous films that I didn't love the first and only times I saw them, Mildred Pierce (1945) and Key Largo (1948), are also ripe for reassessment.  And somehow, we'll all get through the mid-40s fad for nominating ethnically inappropriate performances: Aline MacMahon's "Chinese" peasant in Dragon Seed (1944), though she at least applies a soft touch; Gale Sondergaard's member of the palace in Anna and the King of Siam (1946); and, easily worst of all, Flora Robson's blackface part in Saratoga Trunk (1945, but nominated in 1946). Jesus, keep me close to the cross.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Live-Blogging the 2016 SAG Awards

9:00pm: Demi nabs one more camera moment to send everyone home. Beneath the credits, Tom Hooper is standing way too close to Julianne Moore and trying to spread his toxic fumes onto her. Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman are borderline making out as they stand up from their chairs, so some things are still exactly as they should be.

8:59pm: Big cheers for Compton while Demi recites, but the winner is—after Demi Moore's significant struggles with the envelope—the cast of Spotlight. I sorta think Tom McCarthy just reached over and victory-patted one of his actors on the butt, but I couldn't tell if it was Crudup or McAdams. Ruffalo winds up as ambassador. The Spotlight cast looks truly surprised and truly overjoyed. Keaton, Crudup, Slattery, and Schreiber all project granite, serious manface, so the camera crew decides to frame Ruffalo against the smilier D'Arcy James and McAdams. Ruffalo passes the SAG baton to Keaton, who says, "This is really for the disenfranchised everywhere... This is for every Flint, Michigan everywhere... This is for the powerless - and you can hang me for that if you want to, I really don't care." Nobody in this room is gonna hang him for that. Certainly not Sunrise Coigney, still the partner and audience member most prone to being emotionally overcome, for which I adore her.

8:58pm: BEST ENSEMBLE (Beasts, Big Short, Spotlight, Compton, Trumbo hahaha) - I still think Spotlight will take this, but if Big Short surprises, that might be all she wrote for the Oscar race. Certainly Spotlight would get my vote, with Compton its only close competitor, and not even that close.

8:57pm: Demi. Just hilarious.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Live-Blogging the 2015 Golden Globes

10:01: "That's it. Sorry, we're out of time." That's Ricky Gervais from offscreen somewhere. Then follows it up with "From Mel Gibson and myself, 'Shalom.'" Hope you've all survived this live-blog. If you found it trying, frivolous, and repetitive, go put things in perspective. Sleep outside, inside an animal.

10:00: It's The Revenant, notwithstanding that The Revenant is terrible. So rather than focus too much on this, can we just have a moment here?  Iñárritu. Those diacritics over the letters are your best friends. They tell you just what to do. Iñ-Á-rritu. If we're going to have to go through this again in a month, which I'm not convinced will be necessary but suddenly looks more likely than it did a few hours ago, just practice!

Prediction: Spotlight. I thought so before the party started, and I still think so, since the Globes are no stranger to the Best Picture-with-no-other-wins thing. Even if The Revenant came out pretty strong tonight.
Preference: Carol, by miles, though I'd be happy with Mad Max or the Globe crowd. The Boston Globe.
Harrison Ford, who has lived another evening without offing himself  from sheer disgust at his vocation and its attendant frou-fra, is here to present it.

9:57: Seriously, though. "From The Hunger Games, Julianne Moore?" That's so messed up.

Prediction: Leonardo DiBisonLiver
Preference: A total and complete recall. I'd tick Fassbender's box (that is not a euphemism, I am not horrifying) but I'd be closing my eyes and thinking about Macbeth while I did it.
Of course Leonardo DiCaprio wins it, and everyone stands up and applauds, because he's the only nominated actor who literally died while making his movie. He does speak with eloquence, and not exactly his fault that his full-throated tribute to First Nations people and their lands doesn't sit all that well with the exoticizing and somewhat hoary depiction of them in the movie. You really get the feeling that people in that room have heard even worse stories than the rest of us have about how awful it got on that set. I assume DiCaprio's in a tricky position and he brings his speech off with class, even if I'm so over the whole thing. The only bit that amazes me is that Kate Winslet isn't crying. She's as steely and focused as Jacob Tremblay was during Brie's. Everybody must be too tired for euphoria.

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Friday, January 01, 2016

A Whole New Year of Actressing

Having just successfully completed one long-deferred project, my resolution for 2016 is to get cracking on updates to the Best Actress section of my website, which has been virtually static for five years.  The rehab will be extensive: ditching the cumbersome html frames, reformatting, editing existing prose, and adding updates from years I have not covered, including the most recent ones.  I'll also make some minimal and carefully curated expansions to cover un-nominated performances by heavy campaigners, by actresses working nowhere near Oscar's tastes, and by non-anglophone performers who too rarely catch the Academy's eye.  As you'll see in this mockup, I've already worked out some of the design issues, at least provisionally, and I'm ready to get watching, re-watching, writing, and re-writing.  For many of you, the Best Actress section was your entryway into the site, or remains your favorite wing of it, or both. I get lots of nice e-mails from you with firm but tactful suggestions that I report back for duty.  So here I am, showing up.  (The old versions will persist on Nick's Flick Picks for a few more weeks before the first new page is ready.)

As I've said before, part of the delay has involved some strategizing about how to reboot this as a website feature while simultaneously developing it as a book or series of books, which I have already discussed with one excited editor who has given me some great leads.  This part of the plan obviously means not giving away all the content for free.  Still, the response to what I've written so far and what currently remains available on the site is why there is a documentable audience for such a publishing venture anyway.  So the compromises here will be twofold: 1) updates and reboots, but rarely for full years, and requiring that portions of what's currently posted will have to come down; and 2) a focus at first on two particular decades, since these subsets of the larger project will serve as the sample material for prospective agents and presses.  My current plans are to start with 1970-79 and 2000-2009, so expect the first wave of new and revised posts to fall within those frameworks.  I hope you'll be excited about this material, and since your enthusiasm will be a huge help in making the case to publishers, please be vigorous in the Comment sections, even when you disagree with me!

Meanwhile, turning from leading ladies to their supporting sisters, this year marks the 80th birthday of the Best Supporting Actress category at the Oscars, meaning we'll soon meet our 400th nominee.  But here's a statistic I don't think you'll read anywhere else: because of multiple nominations from the same movies in many years, our existing constellation of Supporting Actress nominees hails from 360 movies.  Barring the unlikely scenario whereby Rooney Mara's transfixing lead performance in Carol gets nominated in the Supporting race, as per studio wishes, and her castmate Sarah Paulson comes from behind to reap a surprising but well-deserved mention on the same list, we'll be looking at 365 movies over time that reaped recognition in this race.

Did someone say 365?  Who am I to ignore a number as resonant as that?

Yes, I know, 2016 is a leap year. But that won't stop me from posting this handy calendar representing all the movies that have made that category such an enduring joy, if also an occasional head-scratcher or locus of frustration.  When there's time, I'll post some occasional performance reviews here, too.  One's up today for Beulah Bondi in The Gorgeous Hussy, the first name listed on the first ballot in the first year of Best Supporting Actress.  And yes, it's 365 words long.  Obviously, the Supporting Actress Smackdowns at Nathaniel R's The Film Experience, having originated at StinkyLulu's Blog, remain the best, most thorough, and most excitingly multi-voiced spots to investigate "actressing at the edges."  I'll be less of a completist in this area and don't want to horn in on their turf.  Though in fact, the idea of the Smackdowns was initially inspired by my own Best Actress section, so everything comes full circle!

I'll look forward to more posts, conversations, and hopefully publications in 2016.  No website can satisfy all your actressing needs, which I assume are substantial, and no new year ever goes exactly according to plan.  But I'll keep showing up if you do.  Cheers!

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