Sunday, October 25, 2009

Susan Hayward, in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman
approximately 68 minutes and 56 seconds
68% of the film




The film

The fictional story of Angie Evans, a nightclub singer who interrupts her career to marry struggling songwriter Ken Conway. As he discovers success, she turns into an alcoholic, gradually destroying her life.

You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

It’s a soap opera, but because Susan is great, the film is easy to sit through. When I expected it to go for giant clich├ęs, it stepped a bit back and that was good.





Susan Hayward as Angie Evans

For a long time, I almost didn’t know who Susan Hayward was. I always confused her: first, because I wasn’t familiar with her movies, none that would have a reputation or that I had seen and second of all… well, because years ago I wasn’t as informed as I am today :) my first reason, however, is justified. Susan Hayward is a 5 times Best Actress nominee and she actually won for 1958. But why isn’t she more recognizable? Maybe because her films haven’t aged well, or because she never had a true movie hit! Whatever reason, I’m glad to finally discover her, cause boy does she deliver…


Susan plays Angie Evans, a night club singer who marries the guy she loves and gives up the career for family life. But as her husband becomes a famous singer, she begins to foolishly doubt her marriage and turn to heavy drinking as a confidence boost. The role sounds like TV drama, and it probably is, but because Susan is the one who plays it, she can take the shaky writing and give it life, like few can.

There are a couple of achievements in her performance, other than simply lifting & carrying the entire film. The most obvious acting excellence is the accuracy of playing a drunk. She would later be typecast in such a role, probably because she made it look so believable. Susan looks so natural with the glass in her hand. And even though the screenplay is pretty thin on making us understand reasons, Susan allows us to discover Angie’s insecurities and put a face on this bad habit.

When she’s ready for a drink or talking about how to make one, you can feel the passion in her words and most of all: the thirst! Susan understands the addiction and always gives us proof of the struggle! Sometimes drinking makes Angie a lighter person, someone who cracks jokes and doesn’t realize the visible effect that alcohol has on her. In other scenes, you can feel the desperation that sober Angie goes through; so the accuracy is fantastic, I guarantee that. Any other actress might’ve made it all look like a joke or a caricature, but Susan understands Angie or at least relates to feelings of desperation, anxiety, insecurity and always regret.

Another thing Susan does great in use her sweetness and cute looks to give some kind of likeability to the character. She sets the grounds for understanding the character and by doing so, she can also use her face and charm to make us like her, excuse her drinking, justify for her and in the end hope that she can beat it and not end tragically. I hate drunks, but because Susan makes it believable and goes deep into the character to tell us what her motivation is, I felt for her and somehow understood her action every time she reached for the bottle. As a viewer, I shared the struggle.


Susan gets to play a mother, a wife, a singer (great lip-synching) and the role of her life: a hard-drinking woman. Angie might get smashed-up, but Susan is always in control of the character, lifting it from a standard writing to a human being. The performance is not perfection, nor the most demanding role ever: but because Susan makes it look so believable, you can’t help but admire the talent and get caught in the story of a woman. Undoubtedly at least . Nicely done.

***I had to go mostly for close-up photos because of the image quality. The rest of them will have the usual good quality.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Happy Birthday to meeeee, Happy Birthday to meeeee...



Truth is I don't like it and it's like any other day. I don't feel 23 all of the sudden. It's just a silly convention. :) in my mind I will always feel 19.

But I will gladly eat the birthday cake that Marilyn is bringing me! It looks so pink and sweet! Thank you, Hollywood Goddess!

I will celebrate tonight (I'm still in Athens) with shopping, drinking McDonalds milkshake and watching the screener for District 9 on the dvd player!

October 19th... sounds so distant!



ps: if you're someone from work, please shhhhhhhh... I don't want a birthday party :P

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Loretta Young, in The Farmer's Daughter
approximately 50 minutes and 7 seconds
55.2% of the film




The film

Katrin Holstrom leaves the farm to become a nurse, but is sidetracked into domestic service, romance, and politics.

You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

In all fairness, the movie did get just a little bit better upon a second viewing. But it’s still (to me) an unconvincing romantic comedy, which mostly lacks the humor and has too much simplicity in the storyline.






Loretta Young as Katrin Holstrom

I had the best of intentions while watching this performance. I knew it is considered one of the worst wins this category has ever had (I’ve heard Mary Pickford holds the title for Coquette). And you know what: it probably is! I can understand the nomination; better said: I can accept it. But the win itself was not a successful decision and the future profiles will prove it, I guess. It’s not awful as some said and because the screenplay is rather bad, you need to look carefully at her performance catching nuances that the story itself did not kill.
Loretta plays Katrin, a simple girl with a Swedish ancestry (and therefore accent) who leaves the farm and goes to the big city to become a nurse, ends up as a maid and (obviously) falls for the rich smart handsome & kind boss. Oh, yeah: and she ends up in Congress! The character is not complicated and the performance is thought to be something of a one-note: she needs to smile a lot, talk like she’s 5, look innocent and with a kind heart. However, Loretta manages to somehow lift the character.

The comedic department is not where she succeeds. For the performance to work as comedy, she would’ve needed a better screenplay: good lines, great timing, better construction of the character. She doesn’t get all this and it damages our perception: if the film is meant to be funny, so should the leading performance. But what I did get from Loretta’s comedic interpretation was just one laughter. One: when she says Yaaa and hits the guy in the head with the log. There really should’ve been more.

So when Loretta noticed that the comedy won’t save her, she attacked the performance from the dramatic side, doing so almost entirely in the second half of the film. Her biggest asset? The eyes! Beautiful ok, but expressive especially in key dramatic moments. Like the scene with her father towards the end, when she realizes that she should’ve fought when done an injustice! Good scene and an important acting moment. I didn’t go nuts for her playing the Swedish accent all the way, but I was warmed up by the kindness in her eyes, or the regret or the nervousness of being in love.

There is a scene before that one: Katrin is in the library and the butler gives her a speech to read (she needs it for a night school thing). It’s a beautiful scene because the speech is beautiful. But Loretta balances it very nicely, underlining the smart message of what she’s reading. And she also makes it believable and natural, as she herself discovers the meaning of those words at the same time as she’s reading them as properly as she can. Again: the eyes and her natural way of being do the work.

Loretta’s performance is hardly Best Actress winner material; but she’s not the only one fitting in this category. However, upon a second viewing I learned to appreciate much more the small elements of greatness in her performance: not in the flashy Swedish accent or the boring humor, but in the quiet scenes where we finally see some heart and (almost) true emotions. It’s mostly where the screenplay doesn’t f*ck it up and Loretta, using acting experience, is able to give us a warm, natural character. So it’s , but NOT 1.5. It’s a 2 alright, because in some ways she rises to the challenge.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Best Actress 1947





It was not the year I had initially planned to do. Not even the decade. But due to my ever lasting desire to see Mourning Becomes Electra, I got interested in this year. And after actually sitting through 3 hours of greek tragedy, I challenged myself to get my hands on these movies, because I knew this race had lots of drama; on screen & off screen. At first it might not look as a glamorous star-filled line-up, but look closer. The most recognizable are Crawford & Russell. But we also have one of the Best Actress veterans: Susan Hayward (I haven't seen any of her movies, but she had a total of 5! Best Actress nominations). Also, a Best Picture winner I have yet to see: Gentleman's Agreement and one of the most infamous BA winners slash Clark Gable lovers: Loretta Young.

I give you the 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1947:


from left to right, I have the pleasure to introduce:
  • Loretta Young, in The Farmer's Daughter
  • Joan Crawford, in Possessed
  • Dorothy McGuire, in Gentleman's Agreement
  • Susan Hayward, in Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman
  • Rosalind Russell, in Mourning Becomes Electra






I'll start with Loretta, but no sooner than next week. In the spirit of that, I'll just give a quote from Marlene Dietrich: [on Loretta Young] Every time she "sins", she builds a church. That's why there are so many Catholic churches in Hollywood.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Cheri / Mad Men

I don't make a habit of posting here stuff that's not related to Oscar's Best Actress category! However, I just wanted to shout one or two things! :D

About Cheri

I've seen it. I'm quite sure it's gonna have at least 1 or 2 technical Oscar nominations, but as that hasn't happened yet, I can't post something about it on the other blog: My Latest Oscar Film. So... I've seen it, I understand why some don't like it, but I digg it! I love that it's stylish & erotic and it's my type of film. I don't consider it to be great, but it's a classy effort. It will probably get nominations for Best Art Direction & Costume Design (for sure), but I don't understand why this film isn't also a major contender for Best Cinematography AND Best Original Score. Both of them superb. I just loved how it's all shot in shades of blue. It fits Paris. I don't think Michelle will get nominated, even though she would probably deserve it. And YES, I also believe Kathy Bates is a distraction for the film, but nice to see her anyway.

And the ending scene... I loved the small twist. I thought it was real & dramatic. I smiled. Didn't expect it.



About Mad Men

I've been watching Mad Men since last year, seen all the episodes, including season 1. I like it and usually can't wait for it. Just like Cheri, it's very stylish. And it's the type of drama that I like to see & I would also write. But how good were the last episodes????? Fabulous! The most recent one was very good, but the two before: Brilliant!!! Can this get any better? Four episodes left from Season 3 (I guess). Great show; nothing like it on the market right now!


Those two posters just looked so good put together.
That was all. I'll stick to Best Actress :D

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Final conclusions - Best Actress 1957
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The rating thing is always difficult to do, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve last seen that certain performance. Everything IS relative. But what remains at the end of a Best Actress year is the ranking [slash] in order of preference.
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But before that, one or two ideas: 1957 was a good year, a good match for me because it’s mostly what I looked for: Best Actress years I know little, almost nothing about. I mean, I always know the nominees and trivia stuff, but I don’t always get to see the movies. So, when I started 1957 I had seen just 1. I watched again Peyton Place and seen the other 4 and fortunately enough nothing was predictable. I was filled with admiration for the talent of some (cough Magnani cough) and was happy to criticize others (I’m looking at you, Liz). So another fun year!
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Here’s how I appreciated them, from best to not as good. Number 1 is a clear winner for me. And there’s a very very thin ranking difference between #2 and #3. The ladies:
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Anna is a true force of nature and she gives us the most deliciously natural European acting style. The role seems written specifically for her and she’s all fire and music! The emotion she manages to display is terrific and always wins the heart of the audience. It’s a loud role done right and talk about her chemistry with Quinn!
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Her biggest challenge was to not make it all look like a joke. The spotlight was exclusively on her: and for the basic package, she delivered. I DID SEE 3 different women and considering the over-simplicity of the screenplay, this really is a good performance much above the material. Despite limited experience, her acting decisions were chosen wisely and proved right for the role. Her transformation uncut scenes are a delight.
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Her face and persona do half the job. Then it’s time for her acting skills to inject intelligence & emotion in this otherwise dull-written character. The result is a believable Sister Angela and although the performance doesn’t steal the show, it’s great subtle work. I also suspect it’s that type of actress-magic that grows on you with time. I truly believe Deborah had fun with it; a relaxed performance I have most respect for.
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A big plus for the effort. I can see Lana struggling, waiting for her big splashy scenes. But before she gets to cry, she has to play matronly, frigid and by doing so: stay faithful to the character. That’s what I admired the most. Even after she overacted, she kept the essence of the character and finished the performance in a faithful, dedicated way. The injustices caused to her by her daughter are played beautifully and we get an understanding of what is going on emotionally.
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It’s definitely the worst of Liz’s Oscar nominated performances. The southern thing works for her just when it comes to the looks and playing racist bitch. The role itself is a bit too much… of everything and Taylor can’t rise above the weakness of the screenplay. Bad writing kills her and she doesn’t know all the maneuvers to escape! Her best scene is when she underplays insanity, a decision that would’ve also been useful in other scenes.
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Even though I don’t really agree with the Academy’s decision to give it to Joanne, I can understand the vote. And as I like to guess who the runner-up was: Deborah Kerr 2nd for sure. Anna was too good to be ignored, so she was 3rd. Elizabeth 4th, because of the whole insanity thing and Lana… I think she was last in her chance of winning. It’s almost not even her movie.
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Other Best Actress years discussed so far:



What’s next?

In a couple of days I will announce the Best Actress year I’m reviewing for October and (probably) November. I’ve already made up my mind and it’s gonna be from the 3 decades I haven’t attacked until now (30s, 40s and 80s). As I’ve said it before, I appreciate strange, less talked about years. But being a categorizing freak, I’d appreciate any year.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Deborah Kerr, in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
approximately 50 minutes and 49 seconds
48.1% of the film





The Film

A Marine and a Nun, both shipwrecked on a Pacific Island, find solace in one another as the two wait out the war.

You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

When a film is a bit uneventful (and not in the artsy way) but has nice landscape & cinematography, I’m partly satisfied. It’s the case here: not a boring film, but mostly vanilla on both concept & execution.





Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela

Let me start by saying that I am not the biggest fan of the style of acting that Miss Kerr usually used. It’s British, mostly quiet, subtle, dignified, depending the most on the screenplay. I respect such acting, I admire it. But it’s not what knocks me off my feet. As you might’ve noticed, I’m more into Anna Magnani-style or Meryl or Bette Davis. Yet I’m always opened to different types of actressing and I’ve always admired the ladyest of them all: Deborah Kerr.

Kerr plays Sister Angela, a nun stranded on an Asian island during WWII who has a fortunate encounter with an American soldier and they’re both trying to survive a Japanese invasion. It could be considered an intimate movie and because you have just two characters it’s mostly human interaction. Sister Angela is a perfect nun: she has tons of faith, she’s kind, modest and she would sacrifice herself for others. With a face like Deborah Kerr’s, it’s not difficult playing a saint.

For the most of it, the role requires being nice and kind, having a welcoming smile and a surprised look when anything out-of-the-ordinary occurs. Do not get me wrong: the nun is not dumb and she knows a bit more about life that we’d believe at first. We don’t get to know her past, but in the ocean of innocence and purity we notice small elements (to Deborah’s credit!) that suggest that she knows things about the world, but she chooses her own way of looking at life. Deborah brings an intelligent feeling to the performance. With some other actress, we might’ve taken her for dumb.

I kinda think of her as Melanie Hamilton (Gone with the Wind) with a nun’s veil. :) That’s why it’s a very likeable character! It’s not a complicated role, but Deborah makes it look like she’s injecting some acting into it, more than the role required. Her face of course does all the work. We feel for her when she’s eating raw fish and tries to brave it out and we understand her desperation when the man goes missing and she thinks he’s dead. This is Deborah’s biggest accomplishment to me: making us like Sister Angela, care for her, understand her and not seeing her as just another rigid nun.

Deborah is a natural, always believable and doesn’t overplay the saintful part. She manages to make Sister Angela’s clumsiness look adorable and proves lots of acting experience in the moments of tension. One of her best scenes is her unexpected but dignified breakdown when confronted with a drunk Mr. Allison. It’s good acting, without forcing it. Also: the scene of the first bombing and the honest fear that you could read in her eyes.

Was Sister Angela tempted by Mr. Allison? Would she have surrendered to his love feelings? I really don’t know the answer, but in a way I like it that Deborah doesn’t let us find out. Miss Kerr gives a good performance, with almost no flaws. She has ok moments for the most of it and she’s actually really good at times. However... However… this is not the most difficult or demanding role. And the casting itself solved half of the problem. I don’t want to take the credit away from her: Deborah does a fine fine job, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. – very well deserved.
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This was the last performance for 1957. In a couple of days I'm gonna post the final conclusions.