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Q&A: Hotel's Casting, Woody's Men, Oscar's Quartets

It's time for our semi-weekly Q&A session. Let's just jump right in since there was no uniting theme this time. If I didn't answer your question, apologies. I select by a very scientific process of Which Ones I Feel Like Answering. 

Jeff Daniels should've been Oscar nominated for The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)LIZZY: What are your favorite male performances in Woody Allen films?

Hee. So typical that I've never even thought of this before as the ringleader of Actressexuality. Let's see. Towering above them all has got to be Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). Both Mia and him should have been nominated that year at the Oscars with threats to win. It's such a delicately specific, stylized, and endearing performance in a movie that's aged superbly well. Completing a top five in no particular order I'd go with: Woody himself in anything/everything between 1977-1986, Max von Sydow in Hannah and Her Sisters, Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris, and Chazz Palminterri in Bullets Over Broadway. But I really had to think on this one... his movies are all about the women, for all his neurosis and intermittent misogyny and/or misanthropy.

It's true. The only man who's ever won an Oscar for acting in a Woody (Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters) is not one I'm particularly fond of. I wouldn't call myself allergic to Michael Caine but he's in the "don't quite get the appeal" column of legendary actors. 

PATRYK: Do you consider Kate Winslet's performance in Steve Jobs annoying? I was surprised how drastically her accent changed. Shame on the Academy if she wins on a tag-a-long nomination instead of someone like our Elizabeth Banks, who might actually be a real contender without tag-a-long Winslet and fraudulent Vikander and Rooney. 

No. I thought Kate was great in the movie. Yes, the accent was dodgy but I've already explained why I'm okay with that. Otherwise she really nailed the most important part: a psychic kind of work wife connection to Fassy's Jobs. I also agree that Banks was fabulous in a potentially dull/underwritten part in Love & Mercy but I'm not so sure she isn't the lead of that movie. I'd like to see it again before determining. 

TYLER: What is your favorite film set in New Orleans?

the answer (not Interview with a Vampire) and enticing Oscary questions after the jump

I've only been to New Orleans once (pre-Katrina) and I stayed in the French Quarter which was creepy/memorable in a playful way. So my mind immediately jumps to gothic stuff like Interview with the Vampire or erotic stuff like The Big Easy (that scene where Dennis Quaid fingers Ellen Barkin is burned into the memory of many people who were sexually naive when they lived through the 1980s... okay, it's burned into my memory). My two favorites are easily the Tennessee Williams double feature A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Suddenly Last Summer (1959). Does Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) count or is it too fantastically New Orleans-alternate universe? 

SVG: If Maureen O'Hara was a young actress these days, what roles do you think she would be taking?

It's so hard to picture the more "womanly" silver screen goddesses getting work if they arrived now. I always assume they'd meet the fate of Christina Hendricks since Hollywood only seems to have eyes for the waif girls or elegant walking clothes-hangers for the past two or three decades. 

MORGANISAQT: Will you ever post your proper thoughts on Hotel? Can we at least hear your thoughts on Gaga, Paulson and Chloe Sevigny who looks just as confused at the fact she's playing a dowdy doctor mother as I am?

Haven't written about it because every time I tried it felt so much like deja vu, the show is so repetitive in its usual flaws but also so opportunity-missing in it's casting concepts. It wisely employs great actors but has very little imagination as to what to challenge them with: oh look it's Angela Bassett as a badass diva out for revenge on her badass blonde diva counterpart; Here's Kathy Bates as the sad mom with a troubled relationship to her children; And there's Denis OHare as the house servant; Plus, Finn Wittrock is a novice serial killer again.

But in the pro column I'd easily place the production design (delicious even during the bald ripoffs) and the casting of the men (surprise!). It's fun that they defined a "type" for the Countess and stuck to it using some of the most tall dark and pale handsomeness that Hollywood has to offer: Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer, Wes Bentley, and Finn Wittrock. Okay, Finn isn't tall (it always surprises me when I meet celebrities who are shorter than me because they seem so larger than life on the screen) but it's fun that the men are so much sexier than in previous seasons.

Gaga has been pretty good though the show which has played very smartly to her strengths, not asking for much in the way of actual acting -- I remain suspect that she could survive, say, a scene that relied on great line delivery and emotive conversation --  but given her short fierce dialogue and lots of glam/grotesque posing, it works. As per usual Sarah Paulson, the only regular actor that they have actually given totally different types of characters every time, is killing it. Year after year she delivers and yet other people win Emmys. Boo! Her trophy free shelf is scarier than anything on the show. 

MIKE: To what extent do you think an actor's face / bone structure contributes to his or her effectiveness on-screen?

Given that film is a visual medium, quite a lot! Strong cheekbones and jawlines offer great planes for lighting. I don't know much about physiognomy -- nor do I trust it -- but obviously big eyes are a huge assett in cinema. But, really, so much depends on the individual stars. Small eyes didn't hurt Glenn Close & Dianne Wiest's screen magnetism, did they? A distinctly large nose didn't interrupt Adrien Brody's sexiness at his peak. My theory is that standards of what is attractive / interesting to look at for hours on end are entirely dependent on intangibles like screen presence, talent, and charisma. We shift what we consider attractive based on the person we're looking at. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," is the famous saying but it's way more complicated than that. Beauty can also be willed into being by the charisma of the beholden.

CRAVER: Which foreign country's movies do you get most excited about?

Gong Li got a smidgeon of Oscar buzz way back in 1993 for Farewell My Concubine

The first foreign film I ever saw was, I think, the Gerard Depardieu comedy Les Comperes (1984) and the first two foreign movies I was obsessed with were Manon of the Spring (1987 in the US) and Diva (1981) which I discovered on VHS around the same time. Those are all from France so the Francophilia stuck. Plus France has the best movie star actresses: it's VERY hard to argue against a country that gives you Adjani, Binoche, Cotillard, Deneuve, and Huppert. And that's just the biggest names! I'm also drawn to Chinese language cinema for the same reason of inarguably mesmerizing movie stars. Frankly, if you had an arthouse cinema near you in the 1990s and you weren't obsessed with Gong Li there was something terribly terribly wrong with you and you were not to be trusted.

Scandinavian film I'm usually interested in, not just from proncounced Bergman and "dogme 95" fandom but for personal reasons. Otherwise I tend to drift to wherever the critical excitement is, going through my mandatory South Korean and Romanian phases prescribed by cinephilia. At the very moment I'm curious about South American cinema -- Chile and Argentina and Brazil have all had impressive films recently -- but who knows what will stick!

CASH: If you could be a member of the Academy, which branch would you be in?

Obviously acting because then you could nominate in five categories on your ballot! And they need so much help there, too, correcting category fraud and remembering performances that aren't heavily campaigned. I can't act to save my life but I assume we're talking fantasy-land? And you know I'd be signing up for every volunteer comittee -- foreign language film voting here I come!

STEVE: Which Oscars awarded the best quartet of acting winners?  I live for the press photos of each ceremony's four acting winners. Live for them.

This was such a hard question. I'm actually not going to answer it -- I'm so mean! But I do wanna talk about the photos and why it's so hard to get them perfect.

CASE IN POINT 1: Someone doesn't show up. Here we have Sydney Pollack standing in for Don Ameche but it's hard not to love all four 1985 winners. Look how young William Hurt was! Geraldine Page was still alive. Anjelica Huston had just slyly emerged from under the giant shadows of both her father and her boyfriend... by working with both of them! Don Ameche's win for Cocoon was sentimental - Klaus Maria Brandauer so deserved it for Out of Africa -- but it's hard to hate on Ameche nonetheless.

CASE IN POINT 2: All four people are awesome but you can't deal with it because someone you love sooooo much lost.
I mean, the immensity of talent collected in 2007 is jaw-dropping. This actually might be the best winning quartet that ever happened talent-wise though my heart was and still is with Julie Christie in Away From Her that year and Marion Cotillard has done stronger less overstated work since. P.S. Sometimes remembering that Tilda Swinton is an Oscar winner can restore your faith in the world. Try it if you're having a rough day.

CASE IN POINT 3: All four performances are great but something irks you...
Like Category Fraud. And Smug Self-Satisfaction. Or Being Russell Crowe. 

But at least most years aren't like...

CASE IN POINT 4: When you can't even understand what Oscar was thinking. Period. Across the board. 

CAPITA: Don't you think you contribute to category fraud when you count main and supporting nominations together? Main and supporting categories are not the same. Thelma Ritter is no Deborah Kerr.

No. Also: Thelma Ritter > Deborah Kerr.


That's it for the Q&A this week. Hope you enjoyed. Care to answer any of these questions yourselves?

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Reader Comments (32)

I knew you were going to say that. Both things. :-)

You kept on pushing for Maureen. I'll keep at it too. Cate Blanchett is no Ingrid Bergman, even if la Bergman didn't have that extra SUPPORTING O.

By the way, the Academy does read you. After I posted that Bette's write-in was no longer listed as so they changed it back. All of them. Paul Muni's, Michael Curtiz's, et al.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCapita

Would love to see a post about all of these Oscar quartets photos. Some of these I hadn't seen before. It sure is fascinating to see them all lined up together like that and consider who could be there instead.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

I truly question anyone who thinks Out of Africa was a good movie.

Obviously the best is 1985 because F. Murray Abraham and Her Royal Highness Sally Field won.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRahul

Thank you <3

I feel like I have deja vu, but every year Paulson is just so wonderful and it lures you in then disappoints you. Like a one night stand you already know you'll regret tomorrow but do it anyway.

2007 was perfection really, the talent!

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMorganLambert

Thanks for somewhat answering (addressing?) my question. When I asked it, my first thought was that most people would probably say 2007. All four of those winners seemed to be hugely popular with both critics and popular audiences (And one of the very few times none of the four acting winners were American).

Can anyone else think of great years? I tried to find an easy database to do some research, but can't seem to find anything set up to compare all of the acting winners of a year.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I love Kim Basinger's Oscar win. Sure Moore was more deserving but her first lost made the narrative for her Still Alice Best Actress victory in her 50's all the more miraculous!

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Rahul: 1984.
Nat: All those fields were really bad though, even by Oscar standards. When that happens, inexplicable choices result. 1997 Lead Actor: Greg Kinnear hit with the category fraud stick. No Mark Wahlberg. No John Cusack. No Aaron Eckhart. With the field we got, Nicholson probably WAS the best guy on the ballot. 1997 Lead Actress: Yeah, there's no excuse that that field didn't go to Helena Bonham-Carter or Judi Dench. 1997 Supporting Actor: If the best choice is "best performance that's actually supporting", it should have been Forster's to lose. If it's "best work regardless of that crap", Kinnear should have taken it. 1997 Supporting Actress: Man this field is bad. One is a case of "Right person, wrong movie" (Joan Cusack should have been cited for GPB, not In & Out), one is a case of "Right person, wrong movie AND wrong category" (Minnie Driver should have gotten a lead citation for GPB), but Moore absolutely should have taken it of the field offered.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'm with Patrick! The four winning actor shots also seems like such an interesting representation of the year when seeing them in retrospect.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I like your choices regarding Leading men in Woody Allen films, particularly Jeff Daniels in "The Purple Rose of Cairo". I loved that performance.
Those photos of the winning Oscar quartet are nostalgic and infuriating at the same time. Seeing Helen Hunt still exasperates me after all these years.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I would love a full slideshow of pictures throughout the years of the 4 acting winners. The 2007 one is the best!

Regarding Woody's male performances: Woody in Annie Hall, Daniels in Purple Rose and Chazz Palmintieri in Bullets Over Broadway are tops. However, I would also like to throw notices out to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers for Match Point, Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris and Martin Landau for Crimes and Misdemeanors.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChris James

I don't really forget how jaw-droppingly beautiful Marion Cotillard is, but it's always nice to be reminded by photos.

Also Helen Hunt is G-R-E-A-T in As Good As It Gets.

And Amen to Thelma Ritter > Deborah Kerr. (Though I do love Kerr too.)

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Best performance by a male in a Woody Allen film: Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanours

Steve, if you go to the oscar website, it works quite nicely, but some quartets for your perusal

1939: Donat, Leigh, McDaniel, Mitchell
Leigh sorta towers over them, but each gave great performances in their own right and are definitely top tier winners.

1945: Milland, Cradford, Revere, Dunn
Milland and Crawford at their best. Revere and Dunn as the kind of great character performances the oscars should be awarding. Also brilliant.

1962: Peck, Bancroft, Duke, Begley
Mileage will definitely vary.

2002: Brody, Kidman, Zeta-Jones, Cooper
Yeah, I'm gonna stick with this one. For an oscar watcher, the 2002/03 oscars were undeniably thrilling. It's as if someone stuck dynamite in half the envelopes.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

arkaasn -- ooh now that you bring it up 2002 is very impressive.

everyone -- MY GOD. I FORGOT MARTIN LANDAU in crimes & misdemeanors. Obviously he should be on the list so subtract um Max von Sydpw for Hannah

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Thank you so much for answering another one of my questions, Nathaniel! I have been obsessed with all things NOLA for months now - I booked a trip for early December a couple of weeks ago! Also, no mention of Landau in "Crimes and Misdemeanors"? :(

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Thanks for the tip, Arkaan. Which section of the website?

Love your choices of 1939 and 1962. I considered 2002, but ultimately found Kidman to be too much of a weak link (the rare time you will ever hear me say that).

I think 1940 and 1976 are good lineups, but I'll have to do some more research to see what the truly great ones are.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Love your choices of Woody's men! I'll never understand why people think he doesn't "act" in his films.

You must be quite tall, because Finn Wittrock is 5'11"!

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

Nat - Who does the "smug self-satisfaction" refer to?

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Lizzy -- he lies! I am 5'10" and when i met him he was slightly shorter than me or about the same size.

November 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I actually like Out of Africa, so you can question me. It's the rare best picture that is largely told from the heroine's point of view. Streep is memorable as a strong, smart woman, and Klaus Maria Brandauer was mischevious and adorable. Going back earlier, I also still like the press pictures of Jess and Meryl when they both won Oscars in 1983. They seem so happy.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

ultimately found Kidman to be too much of a weak link

Never at an Oscar ceremony which awarded Brody and Zeta-Jones! I would have picked Streep over her and you all know how I feel about Streep in general.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Volvagia -- your obsession with Grosse Pointe Blank seems to know no bounds! I don't remember it being anything special but perhaps i'll rewatch.

November 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Co-sign on Jeff Daniels and Max von Sydow. I also liked Sean Penn in "Sweet and Lowdown," which surprised me because I am generally not a fan of his.

I just watched "Away From Her" for the first time. Julie Christie really was amazing in it. But that '07 lineup is hard to deny.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercash

Capita: What do you mean by "even if la Bergman didn't have that extra SUPPORTING O"? In addition to her two leading actress Oscars, la Bergman won Supporting Actress for Murder in the Orient Express (1974).

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos


Let me know if that works.

November 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Sydney Pollack in Husbands and Wives was just wonderful!

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I remember having 2001's winning quartet photo as my wallpaper for like a year. Benicio+Marcia+Roberts+Crowe <3

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAgustin

I question anyone who DOESN'T think Out of Africa was a good movie.

It's so nice to see that photo of Marcia with her Oscar, I think that tips the balance to 2000 for me even though I'm not a fan of Crowe...

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Volvagia - re: 1997, Duvall was a much better choice than Nicholson.

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Julie Christie losing the 2007 Oscar=eternal heartbreak.

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The 44th Oscars were a pretty amazing line-up, but I can't find a photo of all four of them...

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Phew, I'm so glad that everyone has mentioned Martin Landau in Crimes & Misdemeanors. It's actually one of my favorite performances ever. I tend to favor "subtlety" over scenery chewing. Actually, I found Crimes & Misdemeanors thrilling in a lot of ways.

That 2007 collection of talent is amazing, but it might the beauty that's even more dazzling.

November 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

Thelma Ritter > Deborah Kerr???!!! HOW DARE U!!!! Lol

They were both terrific actresses in a class o their own...Ritter shld;ve won for Pickup on South Street & Kerr, The King & I or The Sundowners (Her best perf was The Innocents, a pity no nom)

I too thot Christie was gonna win that yr too since she won both the GG & SAG & Cotillard's perf was fr a foreign lang pic...I guess it muz hav been a stroke o bad luck on Christie's part

November 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

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