Sunday, August 28, 2011

Geraldine Page, in The Trip to Bountiful
approximately 72 minutes and 44 seconds
69.3% of the film

The film

Set in the 1940s, it tells the story of an elderly woman, Carrie Watts, who wants to return home to the small town where she grew up.

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

It wouldn’t be much of a film without Geraldine Page in it. The supporting actors deliver boring, uninspired performances, the screenplay loses its track towards the ending, so it’s up to Geraldine to pick up the pieces. Should only be recommended as a study of master class performance.

Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts

When remembering great actress from the old days, not enough people mention Geraldine Page, who seems to have had a great career in theatre and definitely a splendid one on screen. Just by looking at her Oscar nominated roles you can see some incredible diversity in the roles played. She received her 8th Oscar nomination for The Trip to Bountiful, 32 years after the first one, and her final nomination as she died in 1987. It’s a fantastic performance to end an impressive career.

Geraldine plays Carrie Watts, a widow living with her son and a very dislikeable daughter-in-law in a small apartment in Houston. She has a very cheerful, lively personality and all she dreams of is to escape that place and go back to her home town of Bountiful, to her house that she hasn’t seen in 20 years. She manages to get away and sets on a trip that will bring back a lot of memories from the past. It’s a very dramatic role, not so much in the actual writing, but in the opportunity it gives Geraldine to bring her A-game.

When I first saw it a couple of days ago, I was a bit frustrated with the film and especially the story. First, to get it out of the way, I think it’s an EXCELLENT performance. But it annoyed me that the screenplay didn’t give us the ending that we, and Geraldine, deserved. The performance and the story build a lot towards her getting to Bountiful, but those last 30 minutes are probably the most ignorable scenes Geraldine has to do. Maybe she knew that, that’s why she prepared the big punches from the first half of the film.

Words cannot describe the acting experience that can be found in this performance. I’ve noticed it even more the second time I saw it. Geraldine takes an old lady character and completely brings it to life, creating such a relatable likeable person that I rooted for the whole film. Difficult dialogue never stops her, and the overreacting, worrying, maternal feeling, resignation – all these are beautifully shown in the performance. When the camera is on her face with her delivering some short monologue, that’s very close to acting perfection.

Every gesture is perfectly calculated but so well delivered it comes off as the most natural thing, so recognizable, so fit for this character. Geraldine makes it become not just a film about a trip, but a film in which you can easily tell the backstory of the character, the rich emotional life this woman has lived, the drama of getting old and losing those around you. I can write so much about it, but if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.

Her best acting moment is in the bus scenes and a particular one is truly heartbreaking. If you’ve seen it, you might remember her confessing to the young woman that she never loved her husband. The pain of the character while remembering the emotional suffering is so brilliantly played it’s definitely hard to forget.

What disappoints me the most about the film is that it doesn’t give her the possibility to deliver an ever more sensational ending, as I knew she had it in her to blow us away with those scenes in the house. Had the last 30 minutes of the film focused entirely on her character and her emotions, we would’ve witnessed something of Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata calibre. Even so, she manages to give so much with not enough support and it’s one of the best wins this category’s ever had.

for sure. How difficult it will be for me to pick a winner for 1985, as I rarely get this excited (notice I wrote more that usual, and I had to hold back). Loved it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Best Actress 1985

There was a draw for the next Best Actress year and 1985 won. The draw was between available years from the 80s, and the result is somewhere in the middle for me. I admit to have wanted 1989, but I’m happy I didn’t get 1982, so this one will work. :) The Color Purple has been in my Top 10 ever for years now. I have a lot of respect for Out of Africa, and I’ve seen Sweet Dreams a couple of years ago. I’ve never watched The Trip to Bountiful (quite excited about it) and seen only a couple of scenes from Agnes of God.

Let’s make a short analysis. The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1985, in alphabetical order:

Anne Bancroft as Mother Miriam Ruth, in Agnes of God

Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson, in The Color Purple

Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline, in Sweet Dreams

Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts, in The Trip to Bountiful

Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, in Out of Africa

This was the year when it seemed like Oscar will finally have a black actress winning this category. It didn’t happen, but Whoopi came into it as a favorite: she had the Golden Globe win, the award from the National Board of Review and a Best Picture nominated film. Yet Oscar chose Geraldine Page, and how can people really complain: it was her 8th (!) nomination and she had never won. She came into the race with a Golden Globe nomination, an Indie Spirit Award and an award from the Boston Society of Film Critics. You can easily tell what older voters went for.

Also a strong contender was Meryl Streep: her film was the future Best Picture winner, she had a Golden Globe nomination and a win from the Los Angeles Film Critics. What stopped her from ultimately winning this was the fact that she already had 2 Oscars by the age of 36. Anne Bancroft came into the race with only a Golden Globe nomination, while Jessica Lange was a big surprise, with nothing to indicate her film was under the critics’ or Oscar’s radar.

This was Meryl Streep’s 6th Oscar nomination, with 2 previous wins in Supporting for Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and in Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice (1982). It was Anne Bancroft’s 5th nomination, and she was an Oscar winner for her leading performance in The Miracle Worker (1962). Jessica Lange received her 4th Oscar nomination for this performance, and she had previously won the award as a Supporting Actress for Tootsie (1982).
This was Geraldine Page’s 8th Oscar nomination and the only one to bring her the win. Whoopi Goldberg received her 1st nomination for The Color Purple, as the film is considered her feature film debut.

Let’s throw in some names of other actresses that could’ve also been nominated:

Cher – Mask
Norma Aleandro – The Official Story
Sally Field – Murphy’s Romance
Mia Farrow – The Purple Rose of Cairo
Kathleen Turner – Prizzi’s Honor
Jane Fonda – Agnes of God

Most believe, as do I, that Cher would’ve been nominated, had Jessica Lange not sneaked her way into the Top 5.

Here’s the video proof that 1985 was correctly drawn, in case you wanna waste 75 seconds :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Best Actress: Special Emmy Edition – Episode 2/2: Drama

If you’ve missed my ranking of the Best Actress in a Comedy Series, just go to the previous post. As always, these are the Emmy rules:

To vote the winner of the category, you don’t have to see all the episodes from the season. Just one episode that the nominee submits. (that’s why it’s such an important decision). So, just like any other voter :P I’ve watched the tapes of the nominees and I am ready to judge.

Here are the nominees:

Kathy Bates – Harry’s Law (“Innocent Man”)
Connie Britton – Friday Night Lights (“Always”)
Mireille Enos – The Killing (“Missing”)
Mariska Hargitay – Law & Order: SVU (“Rescue”)
Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife (“In Sickness”)
Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men (“The Suitcase”)

The only show I follow regularly is Mad Men.

This line-up is called Every vote counts.
To me, the first 3 performances are equally good and ranking them was very difficult.

MY ranking, based on the episodes:

1. Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men (“The Suitcase”)

The episode: I’ve seen every episode of Mad Men and I really like it. Elisabeth submitted perfectly, as The Suitcase is one of the best drama episodes of the past years. Sure, Jon Hamm is fantastic in it, but Moss is also very good and gets her own moments. I doubt she’ll ever get such a good chance to win.

The performance: I will have the same 4/5 rating for the first 3 performances here, so I need to justify why this is a bit above Margulies & Enos. What I liked most is the versatility that she shows, and which is completely favored by the writing. She gets to cry, she gets to be angry, she confronts Don in a scene we’ve waited for a long time (those who watch it regularly), she’s quite funny, she’s very empathetic, brings new stuff to the character and shows subtle emotion when remembering the child she gave up for adoption. It’s a fine piece of acting. And she always remains likeable. 4/5

2. Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife (“In Sickness”)

The episode: I don’t watch this, but this episode reminded me why I should. I can tell it’s a damn good courtroom procedural, with very well constructed characters. It was very pleasant to watch and it kept my interest all the way to the end. I hear she submitted the best possible episode, which has plenty of drama, tears & meaning.

The performance: As I said, it’s all here: terrifying news, betrayal, emotion, life-changing decisions, tears, scenes with kids… what it lacks (and Moss has) is a versatility in the character’s emotions. It’s not Julianna’s fault, she does convincing drama, but she’s so damn sad and depressed and depressing all episode – I liked what she does acting-wise, but I don’t love it, because in the end I thought maybe her character was exaggerating, I didn’t completely agree with the actions. 4/5

3. Mireille Enos – The Killing (“Missing”)

The episode: I don’t watch The Killing, and this episode wasn’t even about the victim so much. It was focused on Mireille’s character, the police detective investigating the crime who, in this episode, tries to find her own missing son. It was well-written and quite interesting. We see a lot of her character.

The performance: It’s a damn subtle performance; had she had one flashier scene, with the camera completely on her, then she might’ve been a bigger threat. I liked it, I really did, I think she carried the story nicely and beautifully showed the character going from bitchy to honesty, humility and a mother’s despair. However the screenplay wasn’t as demanding at all times. 4/5

4. Kathy Bates – Harry’s Law (“Innocent Man”)

The episode: Well, I can tell the show sucks. It’s pretty bad procedural, and it’s unusually kitschy. Kathy plays Harriet Korn, the tough lawyer, and in this episode she tries to get an innocent man out of prison. She doesn’t appear in the whole episode, and you can tell she’s above the material. Don’t know if this was the best submission, but she does get one or two key moments.

The performance: Unlike the show, the performance is subtle, intelligent and surprisingly quiet even in big scenes. Kathy is a great actress, and when the camera’s on her she takes control of every piece of dialogue; that being said, the screenplay could’ve helped more. Good effort, anyway. 3/5

5. Mariska Hargitay – Law & Order: SVU (“Rescue”)

The episode: Many are outraged by this nomination, that seems to happen every year. But guess what: this time she doesn’t have a bad episode. A Law & Order franchise episode rarely gets fantastic writing, this one doesn’t have it either, but it shows Detective Olivia in a nice, almost-maternal situation. Definitely better than last year’s submission.

The performance: She is not bad, and the episode starts with lots of potential for her character. Sure, it loses a lot of focus by the end of it, but Mariska gets a couple of good scenes, as she gets attached to the kid of a junkie, a boy that now lives with her. Maria Bello is a scene-stealer here, but Mariska can hold her own. Maybe not as worthy of a nomination, but she’s shown us worse. 2/5

6. Connie Britton – Friday Night Lights (“Always”)

The episode: It was the season finale of FNL, a show I’d never wanna see. The episode itself is a great one for Kyle Chandler, and just an ok one for Connie. As the wife of the coach, she gets to almost cry in a restaurant scene and raise her voice once or twice. As the ranking might show, I wasn’t that impressed.

The performance: What I remember the most is her Babe!, Realllly, Babe?, Babe? – and other variations of such, delivered in an annoying voice. I dislike the character, and Connie isn’t helping me much. She gets one or two ok scenes, but I completely forgot them by the end of a veeeeery long series finale. Must be some kind of a sentimental nomination. 2/5

Objectively judging their chances of winning:

1. Julianna Margulies – I actually had her as my favorite last year, and I predicted her, but she lost to Kyra Sedgwick (which had a great episode, and I called her the dark horse of the race). This time, I feel again like it’s happening, because she has a very flashy submission, she is popular, the show is popular and there’s lots of good energy around her. And she hasn’t won since 1995. But it’s a tight race.

2. Elisabeth Moss – Because she’s so damn good in her episode, and the episode itself is a classic. She has a fantastic scene partner and lots of screentime. And Mad Men will probably win Drama Series. It could all happen.

3. Mireille Enos – Because it’s a shinny new show, even though it didn’t score that well nomination-wise. She has a good episode, and she might actually be the dark horse of the race.

4. Kathy Bates – Not because of the show or the episode, but because she’s Kathy Bates, she has like 9 nominations or so, and has never won an Emmy.

5. Connie Britton – She seems to have her fans, but I really really doubt a win here. She should be happy she got nominated.

6. Mariska Hargitay – Not happening because most people really are over her show, and the tape needed to be fantastic to get noticed.

I think it will be a very tight race; I predict Julianna, but of course wouldn’t be upset if my Moss wins.

Last year I predicted a win for Julianna and didn’t happen – click HERE to see my ranking back then.

It’s a difficult one to predict, right?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best Actress: Special Emmy Edition – Episode 1: Comedy

It’s the 2nd year I’m watching the episodes and putting up my ranking and my predictions. It’s fun, and not difficult to do. I’m posting again the rules from last year, as it’s important to know that the voters see just one episode, and not the series:

To vote the winner of the category, you don’t have to see all the episodes from the season. Just one episode that the nominee submits. (that’s why it’s such an important decision). So, just like any other voter :P I’ve watched the tapes of the nominees and I am ready to judge.

Here are the nominees:

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie (“Rat Falls”)
Tina Fey – 30 Rock (“Double-Edged Sword”)
Laura Linney – The Big C (“Pilot”)
Melissa McCarthy – Mike & Molly (“First Date”)
Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope (“Say Cheese”)
Amy Poehler – Parks & Recreation (“Flu Season”)

The only show I follow regularly is 30 Rock.
This line-up is called Laura Linney & the rest of the girls.

MY ranking, based on the episodes:

1. Laura Linney – The Big C (“Pilot”)

The episode: It was one good piece of dramedy: very good character introduction, even though the subject is a bit depressing for me to wanna follow the series. Laura plays a woman diagnosed with untreatable cancer, who decides to have a less tragic perspective on the disease.

The performance: Laura Linney is FANTASTIC. She’s in every scene of the episode and it’s a great showcase of what the amazing actress can do. She creates a very likeable character, she knows how to do sarcasm, gives a reassuring feeling of intelligence and is often funny. Her breakdown in the final scene with the dog is pure talent. 5/5.

2. Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie (“Rat Falls”)

The episode: I guess the episode was ok, nothing groundbreaking, and just as in the case of The Big C, it’s dramedy done well. Edie plays Nurse Jackie, the drug-addicted nurse with a good heart. In this episode, she’s dealing with a very depressed patient and a rat that’s eating her hidden pills.

The performance: I knew she’d probably never match last year’s episode (the pilot) that won her the Emmy. She was incredible in that… now, the writing is not that good and she doesn’t get one big emotional scene to fully win my heart. But she gives a solid performance, and you know how fabulous Edie is with those quiet scenes. She also does sarcasm very well, really knows the character and it’s a subtle, yet solid performance. 4/5.

3. Tina Fey – 30 Rock (“Double-Edged Sword”)

The episode: It so happens it’s one of the two best episodes of the past season of 30 Rock. It’s funny as hell, but only half of that because of Tina. Most of my love went for the scenes with Alec Baldwin & Elizabeth Banks, but Tina & Matt Damon do a great job on their side. Tina, of course, plays Liz Lemon, headwriter for a weekly variety show. In this episode she has a conflict on the plane with her boyfriend, who’s the actual pilot. It’s hilarious.

The performance: The fact that it’s so well-written helps a lot. Tina IS Liz Lemon and her performance here is showier that usual, which is good for an Emmy submission. She goes from trying to play the nice girlfriend, to her usual stubborn-self; the exaggerated situations she deals with on the plane are the perfect platform for Tina to play a very overwhelmed Liz. It’s the best performance coming from the submitted sitcoms. 3.5/5.

4. Amy Poehler – Parks & Recreation (“Flu Season”)

The episode: I actually saw it twice to make sure I got everything in. The parts with Amy Poehler and the scenes with Rob Lowe and the nurse-chick are fine, but the rest seemed boring. I’m also not sure it’s a great submission for Amy. She plays Leslie Knope, the small town public official; in this episode, she gets the flu, right before she’s suppose to give an important speech.

The performance: It’s subtle, that’s why I liked it more the 2nd time around, when I noticed elements of the performance that I ignored at first. It’s not my type of performance, I like them flashier, but you can tell she’s trying her best, and she IS believable, likeable and even funny at times. She has a fast way of delivering the lines, and she definitely elevates the episode – even though I still believe they don’t explore her full potential. 3/5.

5. Melissa McCarthy – Mike & Molly (“First Date”)

The episode: It’s the 2nd episode from a first season sitcom; which usually means it’s gonna be bad. But surprisingly, I didn’t find it awful – sure, it hasn’t gained much courage yet, the screenplay is shaky, but it could’ve gone much worse. Melissa plays Molly, a young woman falling in love with a police officer; in this episode, they have their first date, which goes wrong when Molly takes some crazy-inducing pills.

The performance: It’s meant to be flashy, and it is. I didn’t dislike the overacting, because Melissa is very charismatic and sweet, and there’s some emotional stuff behind the wackiness. I like it how she brings emotion to the character; sure, the writing doesn’t help as much, and the show still needs wings to fly, but it’s a sweet, touching, sometimes funny performance. 2.5/5.

6. Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope (“Say Cheese”)

The episode: I can’t believe I sat through this. I thought it was poorly written, with plenty dislikeable characters, lots of predictability and overused sentiments. Seriously, if this were a film, I’d rate it a 2 out of 10… Martha plays Virginia, a very young grandmother with an attitude problem; in this episode, she remembers the history of their family photos, taken every year.

The performance: Martha is an ok actress, but this role seemed very dislikeable to me. I hated this woman, thought she was a crazy bitch, and not in a good way. Partly, it’s the screenplay’s fault, but come on… Martha could’ve tried to make her not so ridiculously stubborn. Didn’t find it funny, nor emotionally endearing. 1.5/5.

Objectively judging by their chances of winning:

1. Laura Linney – because she’s so DAMN good, and the judges won’t ignore that. They like her, they like dramedy, and it’s the pilot episode with a very good character introduction.

2. Amy Poehler – because it’s Amy Poehler and she’s very popular in the industry. The show gained a lot of buzz lately, she’s never won an Emmy and many feel it’s her time to shine.

3. Tina Fey – because this is a very funny episode of 30 Rock and Tina gets to act next to Matt Damon, which helps (because she’s just as good as he is). It’s the best writing of the episodes submitted and Tina does it justice.

4. Edie Falco – because she’s last year’s winner, however she doesn’t have an episode as fabulous as that one. She also owns something like 4 Emmys, which is a lot.

5. Melissa McCarthy – I’m sure her role in Bridesmaids helped to gain the nomination, and she seems to be popular (really hard to dislike her). But I doubt they care too much about the show and the performance doesn’t feel like a winner.

6. Martha Plimpton – no chance in hell, because she’s so damn dislikeable in her episode. She tries to bring dramedy emotion, but can’t match Linney or Falco, not even close.

I think it will be an easy win for Laura Linney, if they actually watch the episode.
Last year I correctly predicted a win for Edie Falco – click HERE to see my ranking back then.

What do you guys think? Did you also watch the episodes?

Andrew, I know you like Poehler a lot, sorry I don’t feel exactly the same. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My favorite thing. Updated Oscar predictions

It was April 3rd when I've made my first predictions for this year. I always update them gradually, but I've figured now it's time to also post the changes. To check the previous predictions, click HERE.

Just a couple of things to mention before getting to the categories:

- YES, I still believe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is gonna be nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay, because I know it's gonna be a fantastic thriller, and it will have no problem in getting the 5% it needs. It's also Fincher, and I'm sure the directors will reward him with a nomination after last year's fiasco.

- I am not buying Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or whatever the name is. Yes, Daldry is a fabs director, but the project just seems wrong to me. So don't expect to find it anywhere on my list.

- I still DON'T understand the buzz over The Artist, the silent black-and-white film with nobody famous, that looks like a rip-off of A Star Is Born. I have it on the list with just one nomination.

So let the games begin. What is in bold represents who I think will win the category. On the side, the rest of the nominees, in order of their chance of getting nominated.

Best Picture: War Horse (The Ides of March, J. Edgar, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Young Adult, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, Carnage)

Best Director: Steven Spielberg - War Horse (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Ides of March, Drive, J. Edgar)

Best Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio - J. Edgar (George Clooney - The Descendants, Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Ryan Gosling - The Ides of March, Brad Pitt - Moneyball)

Best Actress: Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs (Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady, Charlize Theron - Young Adult, Jodie Foster - Carnage, Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt - The Tree of Life (Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn, Jim Broadbent - The Iron Lady, Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Ides of March, Armie Hammer - J. Edgar)

Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus (Viola Davis - The Help, Andrea Riseborough - W.E., Naomi Watts - J. Edgar, Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs)

Best Original Screenplay: J. Edgar (Young Adult, Martha Macy May Marlene, The Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris)

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Ides of March (Carnage, War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Best Cinematography: War Horse (The Tree of Life, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Best Original Score: War Horse (The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Super 8, The Artist)

Best Original Song: Happy Feet 2 (Cars 2, The Muppets, Captain America, The Help)

Best Editing: War Horse (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, J. Edgar)

Best Art Direction: Hugo (War Horse, Harry Potter, A Dangerous Method, Sherlock Holmes 2)

Best Costume Design: Hugo (War Horse, My Week with Marilyn, Jane Eyre, W.E.)

Best Sound: War Horse (Hugo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive, Super 8)

Best Sound Editing: War Horse (Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, Transformers 3, Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Best Visual Effects: Harry Potter (Transformers 3, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8, Pirates of the Caribbean 4)

Best Makeup: Green Lantern (The Iron Lady, J. Edgar)

Best Animated Feature: Rango (Happy Feet 2, Arthur Christmas, Kung Fu Panda 2)

So that's about it. Yes, I think War Horse will get a whole bunch of them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 1945

I’ve started this line-up having seen only one of the films years ago, the very popular nowadays Mildred Pierce. While the other 4 proved quite ignorable or annoying pictures (3 of them scored less than a 5/10 from me), the performances were quite different and fun to discover. It’s easier to criticize than to write about the good stuff, so having to give just 2 stars to 3 of the performances was not as painful as it looks. None of them is truly awful, only that, as I coincidentally predicted, the year has Crawford & Bergman, and then there’s the rest…

My #1 was quite easy to choose, as it was the most complex performance and had the kind of drama I easily fall for, with tears & everything. #2 is also quite obvious, though unlike my winner, it holds the best until too far into the film. After that, the order seems almost randomly, though I clearly preferred #3 to the ones to follow.

Starting with this line-up, I’m also introducing a Best Acted Scene award, which this time goes to:

Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary’s – the very emotional scene where Sister Mary Benedict asks God to remove the bitterness from her heart, in a moment of pure honesty, humility and willingness to forgive.

Here is how I’ve appreciated and ranked the performances. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

1. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

Few actresses gave such calculated performances like Joan Crawford did. And this is a great example: she’s very in-control, and you can see the experience: she knows where the camera is, when to show tears and so on. But beyond the technical flawlessness, there’s the humility she brings to the role, the easiness to win the audience’s sympathy and the ability to carry the film by herself without any serious acting competition.

the highlight: The introduction of the character, while contemplating suicide.

Above anything else, this is a playful and extremely smart performance. I’m sure she had fun doing it. Ingrid brings joy, optimism, she makes it look so light and charming, and it’s a pleasure to see her on screen. When all this is over, she takes it to a new level, in a 5-7 minute ending that is so dramatically rich and fantastically acted it almost won my heart. A bit of this also in the beginning would’ve made it unbeatable.

the highlight: Her final prayer.

3. Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision
There are some issues with the accent, and of course she’s too damn old to play this character, but Greer has a good understanding of who Mary is. She plays the role with impressive humbleness, which quickly wins the approval of the audience. In a couple of great scenes, she (and not the screenplay) lets us know a lot about class differences and struggles of that kind.

the highlight: Feeling guilty for making Paul fall in love with her, while she’s confessing to Mrs. Scott.

She’s at her best when she’s the bitchiest. But I’ll keep saying: this performance lacks courage, either as to take it as far as making her look crazy, or… well, true, she couldn’t have written her own screenplay. But what I saw was a half-cooked character, with almost no believability. She’s good in the quiet moments, especially of jealousy or cruelty, but otherwise I found it loud, undecided, forgettable.

the highlight: Her unusual honestly while talking to the doctor, both terrifying and funny.

Jennifer chooses to act amnesia as a combination of silly schoolgirl daydreaming and crazy looks of the Norma Desmond style. This doesn’t work. Sure, she has her good moments, I was quite impressed with the final revelation scene, but then she screws up again in the ending. It’s an inconsistent performance, with some bad acting choices, and she doesn’t rise above the awful screenplay.

the highlight: Remembering the night of the murder.

Time to play the guessing game of who got more votes. I don’t think it was an easy victory for Joan, considering the love for Ingrid – but the fact that Ingrid already had the gold man gave voters the edge to go for Joan. Ingrid was obvious 2nd. Gene Tierney was an easy 3rd because, except for Joan, she was the only Oscarless actress here, her film was box-office hit and people still remembered Laura. I doubt the next 2 got more than 5% together; let’s say Jennifer was 4th, because some seem to like her amnesia flick, and Greer 5th because I don’t think many had seen it.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right.

What’s next: Gonna be talking the Emmy submissions for Actress in a Comedy / Drama, then some updated Oscar predictions, and after that going for another Best Actress field from the 1980s, chosen through a draw.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ingrid Bergman, in The Bells of St. Mary's
approximately 61 minutes and 37 seconds
49.5% of the film

The film

At a big city Catholic school, Father O'Malley and Sister Benedict indulge in friendly rivalry, and succeed in extending the school through the gift of a building.

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

The film can’t help from being cheesy too often, but I couldn’t have expected differently after seeing Going My Way. The new element to rise the quality of the series is Ingrid Bergman, who’s energetic performance and knock-out final scenes bring more emotion.

Ingrid Bergman as Sister Mary Benedict

Oh, Ingrid, what you do to me, and I haven’t even seen most of your performances. No wonder Joan was nervous on Oscar night: you had the Golden Globe win & the award from the New York film critics! I am picking on Ingrid in a good way, because this is a surprisingly sly performance, she’s so tricky as to take a performance that’s average for 90% of the film and move it into a whole new direction in less than 10 minutes. All the rest of the performance seems like a rehearsal, while she completely has me in some ending scenes that made for the best acting scenes of this field.

Ingrid plays Sister Mary Benedict, the nun in charge of the school Father O’Malley is assigned to. She’s a young nun, very intelligent and wise, strict in many ways, but always up for any kind of well-intended competition. She’s a happy person, very optimistic when it comes to the future of the school, and never hesitating in speaking her mind. It’s a co-starring role that requites lots of smiling, joyous attitude and some fantastic acting abilities for the ending.

For the most of the film, Ingrid is not required to do much. Her acting is very luminous, very natural and comforting. Her presence on screen is always a joy, and she’s very convincing both as a nun, and as someone who feels friendly and comfortable around children, as a teacher and as a friend. While it’s always good to see her in a scene, there are no big dramatic moments to show real dramatic range.

That is, until the final part. There’s a scene that predicts the greatness to come, when she argues with Father O’Malley on not allowing Patsy, a young girl, to graduate. Her stubbornness is very well acted, and with an innocent guilt, maybe a bit of shame, elements that easily sell the scene. There’s also some singing in Swedish, and Ingrid has a beautiful voice. But what justifies the nomination and the almost-win comes from the very last 2 scenes of the character.

The most touching one is when Sister Mary is praying in the church asking God to remove the bitterness from her heart. I’m trying not to spoil the plot, especially the ending, so I won’t go into story details. The camera is on her for about 3 minutes, and it’s a perfectly believable, fantastically acted scene, all on the face. This is what you call an Oscar scene, and a smart move from the writing part, as you simply cannot take your eyes off Ingrid in this scene. It’s a short one, but so well positioned in the story that it surely becomes the one thing to take away from the film.

Very good acting can also be found in the final dialogue, seconds after the prayer scene, when Sister Benedict has a very emotional dialogue with Bing Crosby’s character (great chemistry between these 2, by the way), with both actors creating a special moment, beautifully acted and giving us through face and words more than the screenplay ever dreamed off.

Had Ingrid not won the previous year for Gaslight, the race might’ve gone differently. It’s not because she’s amazing throughout the film, as I’ve said she’s just a sweet, enjoyable presence for the most part, but the big key dramatic moments are so well positioned, it all wows, and it gives the impression you’ve just seen something very special acting-wise. Only Ingrid can make me switch from an almost-3-stars performance to a solid-4 just by bringing it with a lot of determination in the final 5-7 minutes. So: .

Final conclusions soon to come.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Andrew is celebrating the television shows of the past season, and he has prepared a blogathon. This post is my contribution. And the question asked was rather simple: what episode from the past season of any current show do I feel like writing about. Considering I’ve stopped watching so many shows because of the limited free-time, I immediately went for 30 Rock.

30 Rock is the only sitcom I still watch regularly and I’ll write something about my favorite episode of the part season, called: Everything Sunny All the Time Always (Season 3, Episode 21).

The plot:
When Avery is kidnapped while on assignment in North Korea, Jack turns to an old girlfriend to get her released. Meanwhile, Tracy makes the entourage recreate an inside joke, and Liz wages war on a plastic bag in a tree outside her window.

Thoughts on the episode:

  • The storyline with Tracy is clearly to be ignored. The ones that got my interest are Liz’s attempt to take control over her life and especially the interaction between Jack & Avery.

  • The screenplay is very funny, probably the best of the season, next to Double-Edged Sword. I always love Jack & Avery and their Republican jokes, and this episode delivers a lot of incredibly funny one-liners.

  • Condoleeza Rice is a brave woman for accepting to Guest-Star as herself. She was good.

  • And the whole North Korea thing is hilarious, especially the inspired, mocking way to portray dictator Kim-Jong Il. :)) They often cut to the character, and the lines are outrageous. The music, the direction – they’re all perfect. Just look at how funny this clip is:

  • It’s funny how once in a while there’s an episode to remind us how hilarious 30 Rock can be, and how damn creative. I hope they keep Elizabeth Banks around, she’s fantastic as Avery. And that line with the North Korean Emmy – priceless :))

Go to Andrew’s BLOG for more on the Blog-a-thon and feel free to contribute.