It's just a few days until the Smackdown of 1989. Have you voted yet? You've met our panel, now let's meet the Supporting Actress nominees we'll be discussing as they're introduced in their movies. If you hadn't yet seen the movie would you be expecting an Oscar nomination from their first scene? What do the scenes telegraph to the audience?
1 minute in Meet "Mrs Brown" (Brenda Fricker in My Left Foot)
We see Christy Brown's mother before we see Christy Brown (Daniel Day Lewis)... unless you count his eponymous appendage. But it's merely during the credit sequence so we only glean that she's the mum and that they're going somewhere special since she checks herself in the mirror. It doesn't take long to understand her importance. At the end of the first full scene we see a painting Christy made of her with a slow zoom that dissolves into flashback in a maternity ward - a mighty clue that she's absolutely central to the movie.
A pink-loving bride and three more real characters after the jump
Momma, momma, MOMMA! Momma, this nail polish is drying way too dark. Practically pink my foot!
3 minutes in Meet "Shelby" (Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias)
Though the first character we see is Annelle (Daryl Hannah), Shelby quickly follows running down the stairs inside the house Annelle is watching. Aside from her father yelling at the birds in the yard, Shelby has the first real line in this southern fried comedy and she's the first character called by name, too. She's obviously a bride to be given the wedding cake and decore all around the scene and if you'd never heard of Steel Magnolias before this moment you'd assume she was the lead. Thankfully, though the narrative centers on her this film is crowded with show-off actresses in her orbit none of whom will gladly give away a scene and so it plays like a true ensemble piece.
Hi Gary. You're up so early.
11 minutes in Meet "Helen Buckman" (Dianne Wiest in Parenthood)
Dianne's entry piggybacks on her son Gary's (Joaquin Phoenix, age 15, in his last credited role as Leaf Phoenix before switching to his birth name). We've already heard he's "a kid with problems" when we see him trying to sneak out without his mom noticing him. Helen surrounded by bills and paperwork still notices and tries to make conversation and maintain a huge smile with him and her daughter shortly thereafter. It doesn't go well and she ends up finishing the conversations herself "nice talking to you." We've instantly gleaned that she's a single sweet mother but stressed out by moody hormonal teenagers. Since it's the great Dianne Wiest, only a few years past her first Oscar win, we know there's funny drama and painful comedy to come.
11½ minutes in Meet "Masha" (Lena Olin in Enemies: A Love Story)
We've spent 10 minutes with Herman Broder (Ron Silver), which is long enough to know that he lies to his immigrant wife and his friends. So it isn't a surprise when he gives a false address in the The Bronx and who do we find there but his mistress. The camera starts with a closeup of her arm (instantly revealing, visually, that she's a concentration camp survivor) and pans up to a gorgeous sensual face, lost in romantic canoodling. They dance and kiss until ugly coughing interrupts the moment. Masha gives delicious annoyed side eye and a deadpan "my mother." Her mood shifts very quickly, from silent lover to rebellious child to morbid philosophizer. She seems like quite a character... even characters. Where will her mood go next?
26 minutes in Meet "Tamara Broder" (Anjelica Huston in Enemies: A Love Story)
Herman is juggling a wife and lover. Then a mysterious newspaper personal ad summons him to the Lower East Side. An elderly couple lets him into the address given. Who is in inside but an Oscar winning actress slowly limping toward him, theme music delicatedly underscoring the otherwise silent stunned moment. Herman looks like he's seen a ghost. Now, this is an entrance. But who is she?
The old man breaks the silence...
Your wife has returned!"
His first wife who died years ago? This movie just got way more complicated...
The Smackdown arrives this holiday weekend. You have until the end of the day tomorrow to vote. So send in those ballots.