Saturday, November 26, 2011

Irene Dunne, in Cimarron

approximately 52 minutes and 43 seconds

45.45% of the film

The film

A newspaper editor settles in an Oklahoma boom town with his reluctant wife at the end of the nineteenth century.

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

Well, the film is still one of the worst Best Picture winners, I’d say. I’ve first seen it 2 years ago, and I definitely didn’t find it better this time: it’s a naive, clich├ęd, unintentionally racist, silly written epic-wannabe film.

Irene Dunne as Sabra Cravat

I think most of us bloggers can find at least a film we’ve seen in which Irene Dunne was insanely charming, or funny, and definitely adorable. That’s easy; and I think she became even more popular years after her career ended, because she’s so easy to love. Cimarron doesn’t fall into that category of great Irene roles because… well, it was the beginning of her career and I’m sure she was taking whatever they were giving her: including this epic western, in which Irene gets to play the mostly-boring role of the devoted wife.

Irene plays Sabra, a wife and mother who adores her free-spirited justice-seeker husband, a newspaper editor that moves the family to the new land of Oklahoma. There, Sabra gets to
witness the birth of a town and has to deal with her husband’s independent nature and ideas. It doesn’t seem like much of a role, and it probably isn’t; but I did appreciate how Irene’s character slowly takes control of the film towards the ending; and Irene finally gets a couple of decent scenes.

In many ways, this is the typical role of the wife and it offers too little for Irene to work with. She’s nice to look at, investing a maternal, caring quality into the character, but the focus is almost never on her, at least in the first hour. The most she gets to do is to play the faithful wife, with plenty of resignation to her husband’s spirit of adventurer.

At the same time, she’s the one keeping the family together, so Irene does get to act a bit as the bossy woman, the one responsible character in the film, who ends up taking control of the family
business. As I said, she mostly walks around, with little range to be shown other than love & the occasional moments of anger; can’t really blame Irene for that, as the failure falls mostly on the director and the messy screenplay.

Where she does grab the attention is in the final chapter of the film, when the husband character seems finally out of the picture; the focus is now on her, and while the screenplay doesn’t suddenly become attractive, she does get to give a couple of speeches and shakes things up a bit (performance-wise) with the effective aging makeup.

Actually, that might be her best moment in the film: giving a believable performance as the old, wise Sabra who gets to deliver a speech while accepting an award. Irene does justice to the character by properly expressing regret and sadness, and actually making Sabra seem more interesting than she really was.

There isn’t much to say about this performance, given how dated it looks, the limitations of the screenplay and the overall quality of the film. While she doesn’t get to shine, Irene definitely gives the best performance from the cast, she is a calming presence throughout the film, and the one voice of reason that’s not completely annoying.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guys, it's been more than a year since I've showed my face here; literally. Usually, it happens around my birthday. This year, as usual, I was in Athens with work on my birthday, but kept it a big secret, as I wouldn't have wanted any big fuss at work. Now, about a month later, I'm ready with some new pictures, in this yearly post.

These are 2 photos I've taken less than a week ago, from a shooting I like to call Tommy & I. :D 2 vanilla samples here.

Your Romanian blogger salutes you!! Have a nice weekend! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marie Dressler, in Min and Bill
approximately 45 minutes and 8 seconds
70.6% of the film

The film

Min, the owner of a dockside hotel, is forced to make difficult decisions about the future of Nancy, the young woman she took in as an infant.

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

Min and Bill has its fans, but it didn’t intrigue me that much; watching it from today’s perspective, it does look dated and it feels predictable more than not. Marjorie Rambeau is easily best in show, with a delicious supporting villain performance.

Marie Dressler as Min Divot

Not many people are talking about this performance nowadays, because I’m sure plenty of people from the movie world haven’t even seen it. I myself probably wouldn’t have rushed to it, had it not been 1931 the lucky year to be discussed next. It’s not that I had anything against, only that I suspected the film will be quite boring. What is interesting is that most, if not all, of those who have seen it and had expressed an opinion on Dressler’s performance seem to adore it.

Marie Dressler plays Min, a tough old lady who owns a cheap hotel near the docks. She saves all of her money dreaming of a nice house, while also keeping an eye on and protecting Nancy, a young woman she raised since she was a baby. But when Nancy’s real mother, a selfish alcoholic trouble-maker, comes to town, Min has to do everything she can to protect the future and the happiness of the girl.

The casting seems perfect and what I admired the most was Dressler’s intimidating presence throughout the film. She creates a great character that takes no nonsense, a strong woman with plenty of life experience, who doesn’t hesitate when she sets out to do something. Her one weakness is Nancy, though it’s not really a weakness: you can tell in fact Nancy is Min’s one pride & joy, even though she chooses not to share that with the girl.

Min keeps her tough mask on in front of Nancy, but Marie Dressler allows the audience to really notice how Min fells about the girl. It’s great that we get to see a human side of Min, though sometimes I wished the subtle wasn’t that obvious – that meaning that we could’ve noticed such feelings and nuances even with less acting & hints.

This is probably my biggest issue with the performance, that it sometimes looks a bit too expressive; sure, the movie industry had just come out of the silent era, but to me those face expressions were maybe too much, too theatrical at times. Also, I have to be honest: in her scenes with Marjorie Rambeau, I couldn’t take my eyes off Marjorie, and neither could the camera.

Marie Dressler gives a solid performance, and I could recognize the talent. You can see the changes in the character and she has the strong presence that any leading actress should have. However, the role is not the most challenging, and while I respect it a lot, I was never too excited about the performance. To me, it’s a strong ; and who knows… I have yet to see the other nominees, so this rating might actually bring her my win.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Best Actress 1931

The draw for the next Best Actress year took place before I left for Athens, and the result was announced on Twitter. This year is generally known as 1930-1931, but I always call it as Best Actress 1931. Being the 4th Oscar ceremony, I am not very familiar with this group, and, at the time of the draw, I had seen only Cimarron, the Best Picture winner for that year. So it will be nice to discover this Best Actress line-up that very few people talk about. That being said, I’m not expecting to be blown away by any of the performances. :)

The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1931, in alphabetical order:

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly, in Morocco

Marie Dressler as Min Divot, in Min and Bill

Irene Dunne as Sabra Cravat, in Cimarron

Ann Harding as Linda Seton, in Holiday

Norma Shearer as Jan Ashe, in A Free Soul

I cannot say if any of these were surprising nominations or not, as we’re talking about 1930-1931 films, I’m not familiar with the releases and anyway who knows what the voters were thinking back then, how they chose their performances. But even so, it’s worth going over the nominees, as 3 of these actresses are considered nowadays among the best of their generation.

Marlene Dietrich was already a silent-films star back in Germany, but 1930 was her breakthrough year in Hollywood, with Morocco and most importantly with The Blue Angel. The early 1930s turned her into an icon, but this was the only Oscar nomination she received during her career.

This was Irene Dunne’s second film and she would quickly become one of Hollywood’s most adored actresses, mostly due to her charming acting style, best used in screwball comedies and romantic films.

Norma Shearer was undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Hollywood at that time. She was the wife of Irving Thalbert, producer at MGM, already had an established career and was the Best Actress winner of the previous year. I suspect this nomination could’ve have been a surprise, given her popularity.

Marie Dressler, who ended up winning for Min and Bill, had a solid film career, but was best known for her theatre work and she was considered a major vaudeville star. I don’t know much about Ann Harding and people never seem to talk about her; she was a Broadway actress and also made plenty of films, but this would be her only nomination.

I’ll start with the winner, as usual.

It’s also worth mentioning that this will be the 20th Best Actress year I write about, so I’ll get to do the 100th profile – given the year, I’ll celebrate with a diva, so Marlene Dietrich’s performance will be the last one reviewed.

And here’s the video proof that 1931 was drawn, in case you wanna waste 60 seconds :)