Sunday, December 25, 2011

Norma Shearer, in A Free Soul

approximately 66 minutes and 4 seconds

71.6% of the film

The film

An alcoholic lawyer who successfully defended a notorious gambler on a murder charge objects when his free-spirited daughter becomes romantically involved with him.

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

A Free Soul is a nice melodrama, with an interesting story. While the screenplay has its obvious flaws, the acting goes from ok to impressive, with a lot of familiar faces giving enjoyable performances. It also has the advantage of not feeling so dated.

Norma Shearer as Jan Ashe

Call me subjective and given that this is the first Norma Shearer Oscar-nominated performance I see, I’m definitely not informed enough to give such verdicts: but, oh I like this lady. Maybe I’m seduced by her prettiness, her status as Hollywood royalty or that lovely smile… but it’s clear: I like her and everytime she came on screen in this 1930s melodrama I was either smiling or very moved by that emotional scene.

Norma plays Jan Ashe, the rich, free-spirited daughter of an alcoholic lawyer who breaks-up with her fiancé after she falls in love with a gambler that her father defended. Jan tries to save her self-destructive father, while also realizing the mistakes she’s making in her romantic life. It’s a role with plenty of drama attached to it, that becomes lighter and more romantic everytime Norma smiles and Jan starts flirting with one or another.

So for the most part it’s not a tense performance, and this fits Norma perfectly. Often enough she is radiant, elegant, joyous, as she charismatically nails both the aristocratic side of Jan, and also the down-to-earth happy girl, so easy to fall in love with. The film puts a lot of focus on the idea that Jan is a very strong minded, independent woman, given her more liberal education.

That doesn’t hurt the character, and again: it fits what Norma has to bring, as her own persona does give the impression of an emancipated, modern woman. The way Jan flirts is also well done, leaving the impression of a fun young woman, confident in her charms, playful but never too aggressive.

While this is all easy to admire, her best acting comes in her scenes with her father. The father-daughter relationship is the most emotional one in the film and it also feels unusually honest. Often enough, I don’t fall for this, but in the case of A Free Soul this family connection feels very authentic and it’s the emotional core of the film. There are plenty of scenes to prove it and in which to admire Norma’s more dramatic abilities, but the most impressive one has to be the final courtroom scene.

Jan taking the stand in the murder trial (which I won’t spoil) is probably the best scene in the film, with Norma equally great throughout; you’ll see tears, big revealing, shame and beautifully acted devotion and love towards her father. That scene is good, complemented by Lionel Barrymore’s impressive performance.

Norma gives a fine performance, ranging from flirtatious and fun to dramatic, teary-eyed and very emotional. I’m sure some would say she’s overacting at times, but I enjoyed it; it’s not the most challenging role ever, nor a masterpiece of a performance, but a damn good one. An easy from me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I know it looks like I've been lazy, but I'm still here. Best Actress 1931 WILL continue, but I also need to catch up with a lot of 2011 films.

Anyway, still a month or so till Best Actress 2011 line-up is announced and by that time I'll have finished BA 1931, did my 100th anniversary, updated predictions and so on.

I'm still here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Golden Globe predictions...

SAG gave us plenty of surprises today... and tomorrow is the day of the Golden Globes. So, just for the fun of it, here are my predictions (future winners marked with ***):

Best Picture - Drama:
The Descendants
The Help
***War Horse
(alt: Extremely Loud...)

Best Picture - Comedy/Musical:
***The Artist
Midnight in Paris
Young Adult
(alt: We Bought a Zoo)

Best Director:
***Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
Steven Spielberg - War Horse
(alt: Clint Eastwood - J. Edgar)

Best Actor - Drama:
***George Clooney - The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio - J. Edgar
Woody Harelson - Rampart
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
(alt: Michael Fassbender - Shame)

Best Actor - Comedy/Musical:
Matt Damon - We Bought a Zoo
***Jean Dujardin - The Artist
John C. Reilly - Carnage
Christoph Waltz - Carnage
Owen Wilson - Midnight in Paris
(alt: Tom Hanks - Larry Crowne)

Best Actress - Drama:
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
***Viola Davis - The Help
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin
(alt: Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Actress - Comedy/Musical:
Jodie Foster - Carnage
Julia Roberts - Larry Crowne
Charlize Theron - Young Adult
***Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Kate Winslet - Carnage
(alt: Kirsten Wiig - Bridesmaids)

Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks - Drive
Armie Hammer - J. Edgar
Nick Nolte - Warrior
***Christopher Plummer - Beginners
(alt: Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud...)

Best Supporting Actress:
***Jessica Chastain - The Help
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
(alt: Berenice Bejo - The Artist)

Well, that's it. :) I'm better I'm predicting winners than nominees. Hope I didn't make any mistakes in placing them in the right categories. We'll see how I did.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Set of Oscar Predictions

Tomorrow they’re gonna announce the SAG nominations and that’s a big deal. I wanted to get these predictions out before that; I actually update them at least once a week, I just don’t get to post them. Not much to comment on them. I’m going with The Artist, given the recent wave of love – I hope it doesn’t happen to me like in the previous season when I switched to Social Network (after cheering for King’s Speech for a long time) just because it won all those critics’ awards. I still feel like the race isn’t over and War Horse still has a shot.

Anyway, here they are: the predicted winners plus rest of nominees (in the order of their chances of getting nominated)…

Best Picture: The Artist

Nominees: The Descendants, War Horse, Hugo, Moneyball, Extremely Loud, The Tree of Life

Runner-ups: Drive, The Help, Midnight in Paris

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Nominees: Hugo, The Descendants, War Horse, The Tree of Life

Runner-up: Extremely Loud…

Best Actor: George Clooney – The Descendants

Nominees: Brad Pitt - Moneyball, Jean Dujardin – The Artist, Michael Fassbender – Shame, Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Runner-up: Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

Best Actress: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Nominees: Viola Davis – The Help, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn, Charlize Theron - Young Adult, Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Runner-up: Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer - Beginners

Nominees: Albert Brooks – Drive, Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn, Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud, Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life

Runner-up: Patton Oswalt – Young Adult

Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus

Nominees: Octavia Spencer – The Help, Shailene Woodley – The Descendants, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids

Runner-up: Berenice Bejo – The Artist

Best Original Screenplay: The Artist

Nominees: Midnight in Paris, Margin Call, Young Adult, Win Win

Runner-up: 50/50

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Nominees: Moneyball, Extremely Loud, War Horse, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Runner-up: The Help

Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life

Nominees: War Horse, Hugo, The Artist, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Runner-up: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Original Score: The Artist

Nominees: War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Extremely Loud

Runner-up: Hugo

Best Original Song: Gnomeo and Juliet

Nominees: The Muppets, The Muppets, Captain America, Cars 2

Runner-up: The Help

Best Editing: War Horse

Nominees: The Artist, Hugo, Moneyball, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Runner-up: Drive

Best Art Direction: Hugo

Nominees: War Horse, Harry Potter, The Artist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Runner-up: The Tree of Life

Best Costume Design: Hugo

Nominees: The Artist, War Horse, Jane Eyre, W.E.

Runner-up: My Week with Marilyn

Best Sound: War Horse

Nominees: Hugo, Super 8, Transformers 3, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Runner-up: MI4

Best Sound Editing: War Horse

Nominees: Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, Transformers 3, MI4

Runner-up: Super 8

Best Visual Effects: Harry Potter

Nominees: Transformers 3, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Hugo, The Tree of Life

Runner-up: Pirates of the Caribbean 4

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

Nominees: J. Edgar, Green Lantern

Runner-up: Pirates of the Caribbean 4

Best Animated Feature: Rango

Nominees: Arthur Christmas, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2, Puss in Boots

Runner-up: The Adventures of Tintin

You can also check my previous predictions here:

August 16th, 2011

April 3rd, 2011

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Ann Harding, in Holiday

approximately 56 minutes and 32 seconds

63.1% of the film

The film

The story of two sisters and a young man who is torn between his free-thinking lifestyle and the tradition of his wealthy fiancée's family.

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

It's a light comedy, or better said a romantic film, that’s easy to watch but never truly smart or very engaging. I did appreciate the performances and Mary Astor’s beauty and attitude were mesmerizing to me.

Ann Harding as Linda Seton

It is a truth universally acknowledged that… that most people have no idea who Ann Harding is. I wouldn’t have known either had I not been a mostly-die-hard Best Actress fan; I don’t know any other films of hers, though she seems to have appeared in plenty of pictures. Based on her imdb page, this was one of her first film roles and she does get to give an interesting performance.

Ann plays Linda Seton, a rich but down-to-earth, charming, romantic woman that falls in love with her sister’s fiancé, slowly realizing that she’s the right woman for him, and not her arrogant sister. It’s a role neither very dramatic, nor very comedic; what is does require is a lot of personality from its actress and some ability to deliver some very stagey lines. That being said, in my opinion there’s not enough strong writing to make this a great performance; but Ann handles well what she has to do.

The highest achievement in Ann’s performance is to make Linda very likeable and as honest as possible. There’s a fantastic kindness that Ann shows us that felt very natural to me, and beautifully contrasting Mary Astor cold, sharp performance as Julia. Ann understands the lightness of the film and doesn’t bother to get from the character more drama that it’s actually given.

The performance consists mostly of sarcastic lines that Ann delivers well, with touches of real emotion here and there. There’s a scene where

Linda confronts her father, it’s the most emotional one and it’s nicely played, but otherwise the screenplay is pretty dry and doesn’t give Ann anything too demanding or juicy enough to show real range.

Another plus is her chemistry with her co-stars, especially the actor who plays her brother; they have a couple of nice scenes together, and both acted like they knew each other well enough, therefore creating a nice emotional connection that the film could really use.

It’s a stagey performance, but how else could it be given the dialogue; Ann is what she’s supposed to be: charming, likeable, natural, sweet, but she doesn’t get enough chances to show real emotion and range. I’m not saying every performance must do that, but based on the way I judge them I tend to appreciate the difficulty of a role, which isn’t the case here. It’s a strong from me.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

National Board of Review predictions...

I'm posting some quick predictions for the NBR, as they're announcing in a couple of hours I think. We've started the week with the NYFCC awards, where, though I didn't write about it here, I correctly predicted wins for Artist & Meryl, though not for Brad. That Brad Pitt win was surprising to me.

Anyway, here's how I think NBR critics will vote:

Best Film: The Artist
alternative: The Descendants

Best Director: Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive
alternative: Terrence Malick - Tree of Life

Best Actor: George Clooney - The Descendants
alternative: Woody Harelson - Rampart

Best Actress: Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
alternative: Charlize Theron - Young Adult

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks - Drive
alternative: Christopher Plummer - Beginners

Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain - The Help. Tree of Life, Take Shelter
alternative: Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus

Best Breakthrough Performance - Male: Jean Dujardin - The Artist

Best Breakthrough Performance - Female: Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene

Wow, I think they'll look very similar to the NYFCC... We'll see.