Saturday, November 22, 2008

Alphabet Movie Meme - something fun... almost.

Stinkylulu suggested this and just like Scarlett up there, I was kind of intrigued.

Oh, who am I kidding. I was fucking delighted. Although some letters were just impossible to follow. I went from a sophie's choice with A and C to I've seen only 3 movies starting with X?! I know! X and Y suck big time, but I would never go for X-Men :D So here they are:

All About My Mother

Before Sunset

Color Purple, The

Death in Venice

Eight Women

Fahrenheit 9/11

Gone with the Wind

Hours, The



Kill Bill: Vol. I

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring

Man and a Woman, A

Nights of Cabiria

Others, The



Rear Window

Some Like It Hot

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

United 93

Victor / Victoria

Wizard of Oz, The

X-Files, The

Year of Living Dangerously, The


I'm glad that I have Almodovar, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Wilder, Fellini, Wyler, Bergman & Allen on the same board. Though Persona is not my favorite Bergman (that would be Cries and Whispers), Jezebel not my #1 Wyler (I gues that's The Children's Hour) and Interiors & Zelig are far from being my favorites from Woody Allen (try Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets over Broadway, Husbands & Wives or Broadway Danny Rose). Anyway, both fun and frustrating :)

Oh, and I guess it all started here, at Blog Cabins.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anne Bancroft, The Turning Point

Anne Bancroft is undoubtedly one of the best actresses we have lost in the last couple of years. Thaaaa… this is Mrs. Robinson we are talking about! Moving to this particular performance, it’s always a pleasure for me to see 2 leading actresses nominated for the same film. It’s probably the fact that it doesn’t happen too often. Yet, in most cases, it’s usually only one of them who’s the real leading of the film; here, it’s NOT Bancroft. Although she gets her individual scenes, the film is not really about her. Though not in the spotlight, she IS talked about a lot, making her character crucial to the film.

approximately 26 minutes and 41 seconds
23% of the film
The Turning Point
When her daughter joins a ballet company, a former dancer (MacLaine) is forced to confront her long-ago decision to give up the stage to have a family.

This is one of the few films about ballet I have seen. If it wouldn’t have been for the Oscar connected to it, I might not have bothered. I admit I’m no fan of ballet. Though it has an abundance of dance sequences, the story remains focused on the characters. And it’s a nice story although sometimes interpreted too literally. Shirley MacLaine is the ex ballerina now mother of 3 children. Anne Bancroft is still a ballerina but with no real personal life and a fading career. Shirley envies Anne’s career and success and Anne would have wanted to have a family like Shirley’s. We hear this from their mouths in the first 15 minutes.
I liked the leading performances and it was a nice comeback for Shirley MacLaine. The dancing is nice and it’s always a treat to see Baryshnikov dancing or just… sitting there in tight pants :) Nice ending, decent direction and a bit of a funny moment, plus the crucial catfight at the end. It’s also good to remember that The Turning Point holds the negative record for most Oscar nominations without a single win – 11, tied with The Color Purple (1985).
Anne Bancroft as Emma Jacklin
Anne plays Emma Jacklin, a famous ballerina now in her 40’s, trying to hold together her fading career as not getting any younger. The film is kind of a trip for her, as she gradually admits out loud that she’s too old for this business. It’s not an easy thing for her to admit, as she doesn’t really have anything else in her life to look up to except the stage. Seeing Deedee again (20 years ago they were both auditioning for Anna Karenina, Deedee got pregnant, Emma won the role) the past comes to life.
There’s a line from Emma when she sees Deedee’s family, her grownup children: They don’t know how fast time goes, do they?! It’s delivered perfectly by Bancroft, marking a moment of truth that she’ll have to deal with from now on: she’s not young anymore, not even close.
And so, Emma is confronted with what she doesn’t have: a husband, a family, a home. She lives a single life and Bancroft captures that wisely, in a mature way. We don’t really pity Emma, but we understand her regrets. It’s a movie filled with what if s and it’s important not to make it (too) cheesy. The reencounter of the two women is done in a dearly loving way, although Deedee seems to be a bit aggressive even from the start. She would have probably wanted Emma’s life more than the other way around.
We see Emma repeating for a new show, but it’s not working out well and she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind. The truth, unfortunately for her, is quite different: the choreographer doesn’t want her in his show, but had a problem saying it. Though tough on the outside, in a bit of a vulnerable moment Emma unravels her frailty; Bancroft doesn’t give us much, just enough to know that she’s suffering.
And another bad news follows, as she won’t be dancing Giselle at this year’s ballet gala. It sounds a bit like the nail in the coffin that’s her career.
And the man whose mistress she has been for the past 15 years is deciding they should stop seeing each other. It’s a restrained scene with a subtle performance by Bancroft. He asked her to marry him many times years ago but she said no and now when Emma would’ve accepted, he stopped being interested or maybe his pride has had enough hits already. Again, there’s nothing flashy in Bancroft’s performance, but that wouldn’t have fitted the character. Let’s not forget Emma was a career oriented tough woman and showing emotion outside the stage is not that simple for her.
After the big gala, Emma is finally thrown under the bus – to be more exact: the head of the company tells her it’s time to move to directing a ballet, staging it and not dancing in it. It was an important night for her and the news seems now to be both unexpected and inappropriate.

What follows next is movie history :) It’s the confrontation between Deedee and Emma. Deedee (I’ll tell more when I’ll do MacLaine’s performance) has big unresolved issues with Emma and in the tension of that evening a fight seems natural.
There were a lot of things untold in the past and they’re all coming to light now, mostly because of Deedee’s frustration of not having the career she wanted. Bancroft lives up to the challenge, as this is both a screaming game but also a physical dispute. This catfight is famous, worthy and perfectly integrated in the storyline.
Yet it ends up well and the two realize that in essence they’re good friends and that you cannot bring up the past, just maybe try to look towards the future.

Bancroft gives a good portrayal of a tough woman who’s losing the most important things in her life: her career and the applauses she was used to. It’s mostly a restrained performance but very effective to the film and Emma is probably the most interesting character. There’s something royal about her and Bancroft does an excellent job to bring that to the light the aristocratic, precious feel of the character. However, if we would’ve seen Bancroft doing some real dancing, my rating would have been much higher (I know, I know, she’s just an actress but still). Also, the fact that Audrey Hepburn (who was somewhat retired back then) almost played Emma makes me sigh a bit thinking on what a rear treat we’ve missed. But nothing bad about Bancroft’s portrayal, so she gets some very well deserved .

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Marsha Mason, The Goodbye Girl

Marsha Mason is an actress I always knew about, but hadn’t really seen her in (any?) movies. That was before I watched Only When I Laugh (1981) a couple of weeks ago and, right after that, the fabulous The Goodbye Girl. I must admit, just by judging her in these 2 films, I fell in love with her! If you’ve seen them, you know what I mean. She’s like a mother, or a sister; so down-to-earth and likeable. And, of course, she benefits of her (ex-)husband’s great writings. It’s a pleasure to write about Marsha…
approximately 71 minutes and 14 seconds
65.8% of the film
The Goodbye Girl
After being dumped by her live-in boyfriend, an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor.
Just like Annie Hall, this was also a Best Picture nominee (in fact, all 5 nominated actresses are representing Best Picture movies). 1977 was a great year for films. I praised Annie Hall in the previous post and I’m gonna do the same with The Goodbye Girl; though both comedies, these are very different films. It’s ok to say that The Goodbye Girl is a simple traditional film: girl gets dumped, girl meets boy, girl hates boy, boy hates girl, girl loves boy, boy loves girl. You can add some excellent writing by the famous Neil Simon and two leading performers perfectly fit for their roles. The dialogue is witty, smart, everything you could hope for. With the help of Marsha Mason, the film develops in a very romantic story, with lots of heart, humor (I really laughed) and nice feelings without being cheesy. I was practically smiling like an idiot the entire film and I’m not the romantic kind, but was really touched by it. :)
Marsha Mason as Paula McFadden
Paula is this nice kind woman, a good mother, but a very unlucky girl when it comes to men. Especially if they’re actors. The film debuts with her finding out (through a note) that she has been dumped by her boyfriend. It’s a big scene just as the film starts. It’s dramatic, yet written and acted with a touch of humor sustained by Marsha Mason, but also by the kid playing her daughter. I didn’t know what to think of it first; the tears are there, but do I believe her reactions?
It took a second and third viewing of the scene to realize that Marsha is on top of her game, trying in a professional way NOT to make a big fuss out of it, but make it seem like a simple fact of life. It doesn’t inspire tragedy, but you feel sorry for her. She has tears in her eyes, but after taking in the shock you are able to detect (with the help of Marsha’s acting) that she’s gonna move on sooner than we think. In her performance, Marsha mixes things up, going a bit for childish rather than mature (her daughter taking the adult seat for a minute or so), probably trying to make Paula seem human & vulnerable – two attributes that will define the character.
Then she meets Elliot Garfield and, due to a stretched storyline :) I won’t get into, the three of them have to share the apartment. This is the situation that will generate most of the comedy. Though not personally, Paula hates Elliot because of what he represents: a pain in the ass. Both are stubborn people and the chemistry between the actors is great, enforced by the witty remarks and sharp dialogue.
As the two start to hit it off a bit, there’s a scene where some armed men steal her purse. It’s so heartbreaking to see her cry, because that was all the money she had. She’s there on the ground picking up the pasta and through Marsha’s convincing portrayal we feel like she’s alone in the world and there’s no one to give her a helping hand. Lots of heart to it.
Paula starts to grow fond of her strange flatmate. There’s a scene (something of a monologue) where she kind of admits of being stubborn herself, trying to say she’s sorry and reach out to him. Unfortunately for her, Elliot was sleeping so he didn’t hear a thing she said :) Martha makes it believable adding lots of emotion to everything she does.
So he makes a romantic move on her, but she’s a bit reluctant to move from a freshly developed friendship to something more. It all has humor and it’s funny and sweet to see her trying to resist the temptation of saying yes. By now we totally know she likes him, but I can understand why she’d hesitate.
But Elliot knows his game, so he makes a romantic move that really really impresses Paula, setting up dinner on the top of their building. She’s so excited, nervous, impressed and you can read all that on her face because Marsha really knows how to express the feelings of a character, she knows Paula so fell and feels very comfortable in her skin.
And they have fun and make love, but the next day she’s the goodbye girl, totally running away from her feelings. And Elliot, who’s ready for a steady relationship, tells her all that in her face. It’s a very funny balcony scene, acted great by both actors.
Paula realizes that he’s right and that she’s trying to run away from him, to act like nothing has happened. But Elliot’s different from the other men and Paula is finally seeing that. Just look at her facial expression (the picture above), it’s marvelous, terrific, the happy ending that makes us smile and be glad for her.
Yet, there is a small crisis and Marsha’s acting skills really hit jackpot here :) He has to leave for a couple of weeks and, although at first she fears he won’t come back and history’s repeating itself, she quickly realizes she herself has changed. With tears in her eyes she tells him that and now she’s strong enough to land on her feet even if he might not come back. It’s a crucial moment in the film. And then the classic ending…
The guitar scene just before the credits roll. He left his guitar behind (his most personal object) just to assure her he WILL be back. Words can’t describe how romantic, loving, unbelievable touching this ending is. The screenplay’s perfect.


Just as I said about Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Marsha Mason is a natural. She’s so into the character it’s unbelievable. But, Marsha’s performance shows another quality: helped by the screenplay, she puts tons of heart in her character, she charms us with a tear of with a smile and the performance becomes so manipulative, but in the best possible way. I give her because it’s a type of comedy performance I almost never see: one that moves me.

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