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« Podcast: Smackdown '72 Conversation | Main | Review: "Little Woods" »
Sunday
Apr282019

Smackdown '72: Jeannie vs Eileen vs Susan ...with Geraldine Page and Shelley Winters

An overprotective mother, a vain social butterfly, a swimming grandmother, a newlywed, and a barfly walk into an Oscar ceremony...

Geraldine Page did not attend the ceremony but the rest were there.

The 1972 supporting actress Oscar lineup is quite literally a singular group. It's the only one in all of Best Supporting Actress history to feature not a single Best Picture nominated film. There's always at least one Best Picture represented. Not so in 1972. Even The Poseidon Adventure missed that top category despite 8 nominations in total.

The panelists and part one of the Smackdown after the jump...

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS   

Here to talk about these five nominated turns and either agree with the Academy OR crown a new retrospective winner are Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex Girlfriend), Kathy Deitch (American Horror Story: Freakshow), playwright/actor Arun Welandawe-Prematillek (The One Who Loves You So), and two regular voices here at The Film Experience, Eric Blume and your host Nathaniel R. Now it's time for the main event.

1972
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN  

Jeannie Berlin as "Lila Kolodny" in The Heartbreak Kid
Synopsis: A newlywed has the world's worst honeymoon as her husband leaves her.
Stats: Then 23 yrs old, 7th film, 3rd billed. First and only nomination. 42½ minutes of screen time (or 40% of the running time) 

Donna Lynne Champlin: She’s fantastic. She has to play a range of emotions (mostly all tinged with humor) but what I love most is that she has to listen so much. She’s a master at active listening. And the scene where he tells her (spoiler alert) he’s leaving her in the restaurant. Brilliant. The focus on the physical feeling of nausea. Not the emotional explosion you would expect. I buy every second of it. They’ve given him all the dialogue- but you’re mesmerized by her inner monologue as she goes through the 5 stages of grief with barely any lines. I’m hardly listening to him, which I think is the point. I’m trapped in her mental state because she’s SO GOOD. Her last stage…literally, gasping for air. Like a dying fish. Heart wrenching. Emotionally, she goes from 0-100 in this film. Brava.  ♥♥

Kathy Deitch: Confession: I have a dear friend who is dear friends with Jeannie, so I have had the pleasure of meeting her several times. This was the first movie I chose to watch. I was truly blown away.by her performance; her comedy! So brilliant. Also, heartbreaking, the scene in the seafood restaurant. And being directed by her MOTHER, Elaine May- it's amazing how truthful she is! Such a great character in an awful, misogynistic movie. HA. 

Arun Welandawe-Prematillek: Neither the script nor the protagonist care much for her but Berlin manages through sheer force of personality to give us a specific and vivid portrait. Lila is an easy point of ridicule, but Berlin finds a way to serve the film but never play her as a fool. Lila simply loves her husband thoroughly and without time for embarrassment or withholding. There’s real skill in handling tone, even in scenes like her egg salad lunch where the actor is working to make sure the joke isn’t on the character. Berlin suggests that Lila might notice her flaws are showing, but she simply doesn’t care. 

Eric Blume: It’s tricky for an actress to play annoying:  if you don’t lean into it hard enough, you don’t get the comedy, and if you lean too far, you lose the audience.  Berlin finds a nice balance here, giving Charles Grodin what he needs to make his adjustments. In that way, she’s a great scene partner to him and makes a big contribution to the film.  She’s funny in her early scenes during the drive to the honeymoon, where Berlin lets you see that this woman isn’t yet fully formed, and never really expects to be. Her final scene, as her dreams are dismantled and something real finally happens to her, registers fully.  But in between, she has very little to play …it’s a one-note-on-a-piano-key stretch of acting that I kept wishing were better. ♥♥

Nathaniel RI'm not proud of this but for the first 10 minutes I felt for Charles Grodin's groom. The movie initially felt like an uncomfortable comedy of comeuppance for those who marry too young without really knowing their spouse. Once the movie's allegiances were painfully clear the movie was much harder to stomach but I'm torn on Berlin's contribution. She never lets Lila become a joke (good on her) but she's also too real to be funny. You get the sense that her final scene is meant to be a comic setpiece (albeit a mean-spirited one) but it's far too tragic to laugh at when she's so expertly portrayed the cruel gradual process of being totally gaslit by an unfaithful spouse. 

Reader Write-Ins: "So funny, so obnoxious, and towards the end of her screen time so heartbreaking." - Jackie G (Reader average: )

Actress earns 20  ❤s 

Eileen Heckart as "Mrs Baker" in Butterflies are Free
Synopsis: An uptight suburban mom worries about her blind son's ability to live in the big city and tries to convince him to move home.  
Stats: Then 53 yrs old, 11th film, 2nd billed. Her 2nd and last nomination. 41 minutes of screentime (or 38% of the running time) 

Donna Lynne Champlin: Diva intro with her back to us. This is a big setup, that I just never felt the payoff to. This whole movie feels very dry and technical. It doesn’t feel like it made the appropriate adjustment from stage to screen. Regarding Ms. Heckart, this performance doesn’t pop for me. I get that the character is dry, unflappable and rigid but this feels like a stage performance that didn’t translate to camera. I want to see a character in between trapezes; without a net. Maybe she was at the mercy of her director but it feels like she just swung on one trapeze and never let go. Maybe she won the Oscar because out of all these characters, hers is the only one that isn’t completely tragic and finds redemption? This performance wouldn’t have been my Oscar choice but, admittedly, I was also frequently distracted by how much Edward Albert (who was my favorite part of this movie) looked like the marionette from TEAM AMERICA. So. There’s that. 

Kathy Deitch: Being the juiciest of the five roles and with what seemed like the most screen time, it makes sense that Eileen would win. Having created the role on Broadway, that character was in her bones in an entirely different way than the other four ladies. She really is one of the true artists that rocks a room with just her presence. And then that VOICE- to die for. The extreme close-ups could have been hilarious but Heckart just knows how to BE. 

Arun Welandawe-Prematillek: I most admired how Heckart sells the rapport between mother and son, even in their arguments there is genuine amusement shared between the two. It’s always clear that they genuinely like each other. She uses her natural gifts (that voice!) to sell the character’s intelligence and depth of feeling, avoiding the stereotypes that one could play to. There are some points where you can read that Heckart has given the performance many times before (as she did on Broadway) but that works? There’s a sense that both mother and son have done this dance before, the circumstances change but the conversations never do. Extra points for that beautifully pained “Jill” that escapes her lips at the restaurant when Hawn finally demands she call her by her name. ♥♥

Eric Blume: Heckart reprises the role she played on Broadway, and the performance still has some of that “set” energy that she locked into during the run.  On one hand, there’s a canned element in that regard…everything feels a bit telegraphed and heavy-handed. On the other hand, she’s commanding and effective.  She has a power and technique that her young co-stars (Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert, who both have lovely moments) lack, and her natural gravitas brings much-needed authority to the film.  Her rapport with Hawn…whom she treats like a little mouse…feels alive, cruel, and fearful all at once. Heckart gives a grieving picture of a woman who is losing control for the first time in her life…it’s a bright and brisk piece of acting, even if it feels stagey here and there. 

Nathaniel RShe's a dry potent presence from her very first scene (a phone call but that's all you need when you have such a superb control of your vocal instrument) to her last, in which Heckart does all she can to keep cheap sentiment at bay. Heckart is especially insightful when it comes to Mrs Baker's condescending wit. She leaves room for an empathetic woman underneath, who is actually taking the measure of her son's girlfriend, and hoping she's wrong about her. More movies should use loooong scenes because within them you can see great actors delineate whole character arcs. This mother's change of heart is a bit too abrupt (as written) but Heckart pulls it off with her rigid but connected scenework with the younger stars.  

Reader Write-Ins: "In big long scenes, she knows when to fill the space and when to stand back and observe. Caustically funny and perfectly self-possessed." - Don B. (Reader average: ¾)

Actress earns 22¾  ❤s 

 

Geraldine Page as "Gertrude" in Pete 'n' Tillie
Synopsis: A consummate cocktail party hostess (age unknown), sets her best friend up on a blind date and eventually recommends a divorce lawyer.
Stats: Then 48 yrs old, 14th film, 3rd billed. 5th (of 8) nominations. 12
 minutes of screen time (or 12% of running time). 

Donna Lynne Champlin: She’s a great actress, but I don’t think anyone less famous than Geraldine Page would be nominated for this role. The “not wanting to tell her age” joke is legendary as well as “the Dynasty fight” which again for the time, was probably very risky and “brave” for a legit actress to attempt. But to me, both of those moments felt very contrived which is not necessarily her fault because she had some really crappy dialogue too. However, unlike Ms. Tyrell (who bippity boppity booed her shit and then some) I don’t think Ms. Page shook off her dramaturgical sandbags. It’s like, she either had “glue” moments cut in post that tied her arc together better? Or she was just like “Fuck it. I’m Geraldine Page. I’m here to act and not to clean up your garbage script.”. I mean, all of her other stuff near the top was well done of course, but…not very difficult. I feel like it’s blasphemy to say this about Geraldine Page in any respect, but…this performance was not for me. 

Kathy Deitch: As I shook my head thoughout this entire movie, I kept waiting for Page's big, Oscar nominated moment. When it was about her disclosing her age at the police station and subsequent fight, I was disillusioned to say the least. I sat through this entire movie for THAT? But she was funny, and it's always nice to see a comic performance recognized. Again, these very narrow relationship movies are a trip! 

Arun Welandawe-Prematillek: Oof. No cliche or tired bit of business is left unused in this performance that seems to cosign all the hideous misogyny in the script. Sex-starved aging spinster who can’t possibly mention her age? Check! Food flying off her fork? Check! So much hat acting you’d think she were at Ascot? Check! To say nothing of that fight scene, which I just… can’t. The film is bizarre and nonsensical, and Page chooses to amp it up and play loud and garish. The performance is broad and brassy but never any fun. A series of choices that never feel unique or fresh, both for the character and the actor. 

Eric Blume: This nomination is one of those true mysteries along the lines of Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook.  Page has a tiny amount of screen time, and she’s so disassociated from the main (super-weird) narrative that her character barely registers.  Physically, she’s imposing, and she’s full of all those patented quirky Page mannerisms that are fun to love and hate at the same time, but this is far from this great actress’ best hour (or ten minutes). 

Nathaniel R: Years of doing the Smackdown will really fine-tune your ability to pry a performance apart from the screenplay and see what the actor is adding, shifting, or gleaning from the text. But Gertrude is baffling on both fronts, script and performance. The script perpetually mentions her, usually in the context of being Tillie's best friend, yet neither Burnett nor Page attempt to sell a long term friendship. Page would have virtually nothing to do in the movie, besides delightfully butterflying around her own social (the movie's opening scene) were it not for a long farcical scene near the end when the police ask her to reveal her age. It's an unbelievablly strung-out joke with the weakest of punchlines. Page really goes for it but it's not just her wig that suffers, but her dignity. 

Reader Write-Ins: "Page is able to turn this caricature of a woman committed to age defying amnesia into a comical penumbra almost worthy of Madelaine Khan's layered transparency in What's Up Doc. Stress on the word almost." - John V. (Reader average: ♥½)

Actress earns 12½ ❤s 

Susan Tyrrell as "Oma" in Fat City
Synopsis: An alcoholic woman with a string of dead or jailed husbands shacks up with a past-his-prime boxer.
Stats: Then 27 yrs old, 4th film, 3rd billed1st and only nomination. 25 
minutes of screentime (or 26% of the running time.)

Donna Lynne Champlin: OMG I am loving her so much from the start that I totally forgot why I was watching this movie in the first place. I am so impressed by actors who can play all levels of drunk; from buzzed to sloshed. It’s SO easy to miscalculate and she’s brilliant at the artform. I love her first scene here she just makes you feel like there’s something a little too loose about her. Like her wheels aren’t gonna come off juuuuusssttt yet, but if she doesn’t get it fixed soon they will. AND OMG DID SHE JUST TAKE THE LINE “So, screw everybody” straight to camera? Because if so…she wins. In her second scene at the bar (and for the rest of the film) she has to make very extreme emotional hairpin turns that are not supported by the script at all. If you just listen to her dialogue it’s swiss cheese. So, she’s not only acting the shit out of this, she’s also simultaneously compensating for and elevating the writing. She’s pulling triple duty here, effortlessly. While Ms. Berlin showed the most range, Ms. Tyrell is the one I believe the most consistently. ♥♥♥♥

Kathy Deitch: I have a few relatives that were a little too close to this part for me. So interesting all of these relationship movies in 1972, right? There were a couple of time that I felt Tyrrell was a bit arched which took me out of the movie briefly. But the absolute physicality of the fighting and drunkenness are incredible. The bar scene where they meet may be one of the best scenes ever caught in film, although the entire movie left me with a big HUH?

Arun Welandawe-Prematillek: This was a tough one for me? I’d seen Tyrrell’s scene at the bar where Keach tries to woo her before and was sort of mesmerized by her wounded bird quality, but I don’t think it works in the context of the film. A performance of big, bold strokes for better or worse. And more often than not, I felt it might be worse. When every other performer is playing in a different register, Tyrell’s choices kept me at a bay. It’s all a little one note, and a very shrill one at that. ♥♥

Eric Blume: To me, this is the category’s one daring, out-there performance.  On the page, the character was likely very confusing, swinging from one mood to the next in ways that are tough to play.  Tyrrell came to the table with a truly original take: she made her a human non-sequitir. The character may be all over the place, but Tyrrell feels in control of this shifting, and she gives this boozy nutjob a wonderful quality of being completely present while at the same time not quite there.  She’s also full-on blowsy, yet also complete with dainty feminine touches. All of Tyrrell’s choices seem to come from a bottomless well of sadness, and her beautiful pixie-hooker face shows all of the character’s history, someone who continually creates her own realities. Bonus love for the red barette in her hair…Tyrrell paints her as an abused adult who doesn’t quite want to leave girlhood despite so many smacks in the face.  ♥♥

Nathaniel R: If you've ever known an alcoholic you will cringe from authenticity watching this. Especially impressive was watching her in moments where she had no dialogue and you can see her wavering lucidity, snapping to attention whenever something surprises or confuses her, but then fogging back up again or shooting off in another direction altogether. Focusing is hard when you're blitzed, y'all! In the end I have to admit that I admired this performance more than quite loved it but in terms of technique this is truly impressive. Take note of those sloshy moodswings and the precisely messy physicality of someone who is always self-medicating but never able to numb out the pain 

Reader Write-Ins: "Terrific, underrated movie, and Susan Tyrrel is astonishing.  I can’t imagine ANY other actress who could have played “Oma” as well as Tyrrel did." - Michael O. (Reader average: ¾)

Actress earns 22¾ ❤s 

 

Shelley Winters as "Belle Rosen" in The Poseidon Adventure
Synopsis: A kindhearted Jewish woman realizes she might not survive a sea voyage to see her new grandchild.
Stats: Then 52 yrs old, 58th film, 7th billed. 4th and final nomination (she had already won two Oscars at this point). 29 minutes of screentime (or 25% of the running time).

Donna Lynne Champlin: Well, she manages to be funny without choking on the scenery like some of her co-stars (even with those creaky-ass fat jokes every five seconds. Bless.) Maybe she got nominated for being the only thing that didn’t suck absolute balls in this horrible movie? Or maybe for that amazing dive into the water, which was goddam impressive to be sure. I’m sure calling out her own unattractiveness was a very risky and progressive move (especially for a former starlet) at the time. And yes, there is something “amazing” about seeing a woman of a certain age and size doing physical things like climbing a Christmas tree and swimming under water on film. Of course, it’s not unusual to see middle-aged, plus-sized women be physically active in real life, but to see it in a MOVIE (especially 50 years ago), was indeed shocking and taboo. I feel that maybe she was recognized more for her personal “bravery” as a woman than her actual performance as an actress? But in the end, just looking at the performance, it’s not my favorite in this category. ♥♥♥

Kathy Deitch: Even though I m a big fan of Winters, I had never seen The Poseidon Adventure from start to finish. I went to see the presentation of this award at the Oscars and Robert Duvall actually cracks up when he reads Winters' name, and not one person joins in while they show Winters looking bewildered. It was awful! I appreciate what these writers were trying to do -Let's make the fat woman the hero!- but most of it's ideas about weight really seem ancient and tired. Winters, as always, is incredible but some things that come out of her mouth are just so problematic. The tone of the script is what prevents this from being a 5/5 hearts!

Arun Welandawe-Prematillek: Winters works hard here, setting aside the script’s many faults and the film’s bizarre preoccupation with the Mrs. Rosen’s weight to find a character. I’d always heard the performance and the film were high camp but I found her to be a grounding force, particularly sensitive in her scenes with Jack Albertson. Maybe I’m grading on a curve, but in a film where so many of her co-stars seem to revert immediately to screaming (Hackman at Borgnine, Borgnine at Hackman, Hackman at God) she seems the only one who finds ways to illustrate her panic and fear without resorting to bluster. 

Eric Blume: Only because the acting across the board in The Poseidon Adventure is so over-the-top and terrible can Winters’ borscht-belt performance sometimes comes across as subtle.  Her best scene is her first, on the deck with Jack Albertson, where we see a gentle, quiet side to her Jewish grandmother.  But the rest of the movie, Winters delivers her lines in a presentational, faux-theatrical manner where she’s accentuating every intention.  She actively plays the character’s heroism in a way that’s shameless and hambone. Still, she brings a lot to the picture: even overplaying everything, she’s one of the few characters who resembles an actual human being, and she’s fun to watch. ♥♥

Nathaniel RWinters is totally at peace with the film's broadest impulses while miraculously curtailing her own, which is surprising given this infamous broad's (sorry) past and future work. In the water Mrs Rosen is a skinny lady (hee!) but Winters is the film's most bouyant force, keeping it all afloat while the rest of the ensemble falls for histrionics or sinks into unintentional camp. Portraying goodness can be dull, but Winters is at her warmest and most charming. The 'morning after' for Bella Rosen, thanks to Winters finely cured ham, was her iconic place at the heart of Hollywood's most beloved pre-Titanic disaster.  ♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Four hearts for the sheer committed over-the-topness of it all" - Charles G. (Reader average: ¼)

Actress earns 19¼  ❤s 

 

Eileen Heckart took the Oscar with her second nomination 

 

Oh aren't you wunnerful?

Looking back on this cinematic year, the Smackdown agrees... mostly. Somehow even with the counting of unusually high number of reader ballots (for an older film year), which should theoretically prevent a tie, even the reader vote was a deadlock between Heckart (consistent high marks) and Tyrell (more polarizing but more 5 star votes) so a tie it is!  The Smackdown win is shared by Eileen Heckart and Susan Tyrrell.

 

We hope you enjoyed this event.

Want more? A Companion Podcast is coming tonight. 

Other Smackdowns: 1941, 1943, 194419481952, 1954, 196319641968, 1970, 1973, 197719791980, 1984, 19851989, 199419952003, 2016, 2017, and 2018 (prior to those 30+ Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site)

NEXT UP? The 2001 film year on Sunday June 2nd. Get to watching / rewatching Iris, Gosford Park, A Beautiful Mind, and In the Bedroom during May, won'cha?

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Reader Comments (36)

YAY

Ok, in my world Susan Tyrell should have won hands-down, and Jeannie Berlin shoulda been second-place with Heckhart a close third, but overall a good denouement to this long-delayed, long-awaited smackdown.

Loved the panelists but special kudos to Donna Lynne Champlin, whose remarks are especially well-honed and hilarious.

Thanks to all, I love this feature dearly.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Susan Tyrrell- Fat City
We first meet Tyrrell who plays Oma at a bar. The men are all wearing muted colors and are generally subdued, but she bounces in with her feminine pink clothes and loudly tapping her glasses on the bar for a drink. The men are all sadsacks but Oma ha life in her. Specially she has fight in her. In a movie about boxing, none of the men would have a chance sparing with Tyrrell. Oma spends the entire movie in some form of inebriation and has a combative attitude toward everyone she encounters. Tyrrell is good at playing drunk- taking extra gasps for breath and letting the thoughts flow faster than her mouth can turn them into words. However, this is all that is asked of her. We never see the woman behind the bottle. In the first scene, we understand that Oma likes to drink and that she is a handful. She never wavers from this and as a result her character becomes one note. Her performance is good, but because the movie only looks at Oma in such a narrow way, Tyrrell's range is also narrow. It's not a bad performance, but unfortunately narrow in range and scope. 3 hearts

Geraldine Page- Pete 'N' Tillie- I am convinced this nomination happened because Geraldine Page, acclaimed actress of the stage and screen, used a garbage can as a weapon in a catfight. I can't see any other explanation. Page plays Gertrude, the wealthy lady of leisure best friend of Tillie (Carole Burnett). Gertrude just kind of cruises through life with one party to late lunch to charity event to another. But eveyone gossips and ridicules her behind her back. Most of her acquaintances are only in her presence because of her money. In the first half of the movie, Page has about 2 minutes of screen time to establish that Gertrude is a flighty but loyal friend but also ridiculous, which she is able to do. Then at the end she has one minute to be funny when a police officer asks about her age in front of Tillie. Page is funny, twisting her face in embarrassment. But two minutes of loyalty and one minute of humor isn't enough. That's where the catfight comes in. And it's like a late night skit. A total of about 7 minutes and not much to show for it. 1.5 hearts

Jeannie Berlin- the Heartbreak Kid- Like Page, this movie goes out of it's way to ridicule her. Berlin may have gotten a sympathy vote for the nomination but she holds her own in the movie. Berlin is Lila, a recently wooed and married women on her way to her honeymoon in Miami. Along the way, her husband keeps pointing out a bunch of her annoying flaws (nowadays we would call them quirks) that he apparently didn't notice while they were courting. While the movie seems to be on the husband's side, Berlin doesn't play Lila like a fool or completely stupid. "This is new to me too" She says softly to her husband, after he explodes dealing with her. That line reading alone is almost worth a win. Berlin sees Lila as a women who must be inquisitive about her husband because she really don't know him either. When he explodes over her questions and playfulness, she overcompensates by being more assertive, staying out in the sun longer then she should. The result keeps her sunburned and sidelined for the rest of the trip while her husband coverts with Cybil Shepherd. When he finally breaks up with her, Berlin believably comes off funny and pitiable at the same time. I think one more scene, of her coming home alone, facing her family, or finding new love would have really put her over the edge for a win. 4 hearts
(Side note- Cybil Shepherd was great. Where was her buzz? I suppose she did keep getting cast as the fantasy girl with a manipulative streak (Taxi Driver, the Last Picture Show, Heartbreak Kid) She deserved a nomination too!)

Eileen Heckart- Butterflies are Free- Heckart is Mrs. Baker, a mother both proud that blind son is out in the world and terrified that he is out in the world. When we first meet her, she has a beaming smile at her son, who is momentarily unaware of her presence. However we quickly learn how tired he is of her helicopter parenting. Then Goldie Hawn comes in and knocks the prime and proper Mrs. Baker off her balance. Heckart's interactions with Hawn are fun, but there is nothing more than any other actress could have done. I do like the way that when she gets angry, her words become clipped. The way she says "Snow White"- so over pronounced is the thing I remember most about the movie. Heckart played the role on stage as well, but again, on screen it comes off as merely a competent performance. Slightly above average. Nothing bad, but nothing overly memorable either. 2.5 hearts


Shelley Winters- The Poseidon Adventure- I remember seeing this movie when I was around 5 at my grandmother's house. At the time, I was crushing hard on Pamela Sue Martin and her legs. The men were all duds, so what else was there to pay attention too? Upon many many re watches, My passion for the movie only grew as well as my appreciation for Winters. She portrays Belle Rosen, a Jewish grandmother on her way to see her grandson abroad with her husband (a both exasperated and loving Jack Albertson) Along the way disaster strikes, the ship flips over, and a small group of people try to escape. Belle tries to protect the children, worry about her overweight figure, and keep the hope alive. Winters is so good in this role. I can't think of anyone else playing this part. She is able to balance between fear, seriousness, silliness, and camp- sometimes all in one scene. The fact that a supporting female character has become iconic speaks to how great she was. In the water Belle is a skinny lady, but in the smackdown,Winters is the winner. 5 hearts

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I want to congratulate the panelists. This has to be one of the best written smackdowns ever! Thank you guys so much I really enjoyed reading this one!

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I didn't turn in a ballot, but I saw all of these last summer when '72 was originally supposed to run. Fat City, Poseidon, and Butterflies were all films I saw for the second or third time. Tyrrell holds up magnificently but the surprise was Heckart. I've take a liking to performances that reward you on subsequent viewings. I really liked her this time around, surprised by a command and presence that I don't think registers completely on first viewing. A genuine toss-up between these two, though Tyrrell would've been a terrific, idiosyncratic representative of what's possible in this category.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterzig

Cheers fellas,I think Berlin was the favourtie on the night.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Geraldine Page, Pete n Tillie – Imagine an experimental theater company that stages a grim, fully deadpan production of a Neil Simon play. Then after intermission they do a grim, fully deadpan staging of the second act of an entirely different Neil Simon play. Geraldine Page is allotted 3 minutes in each act to be charming, frivolous, knowing, and oblivious. Light refreshments are served, at incorrect temperatures. 3 hearts

Jeannie Berlin, Heartbreak Kid – Early on I thought this might be a much bigger performance, but underplaying was the right decision. Grodin’s character is the monster here; Berlin just has to be a convincingly banal. I like Berlin, I do, but the whole premise is built around how little she gets to do – and this movie is such a drag. 2 hearts

Susan Tyrrell, Fat City – Oma is like if quicksand could pull you in several directions at once. She stubbornly refuses to be a supporting character: responding to casual flirtation with scads of unprompted back story, refusing to take orders, crying over unspecified past incidents, or – my favorite – looking terribly bored when Billy talks about his glory days. She’s the star of a whole other movie, though it would be a hard one to watch. Tyrrell is a marvel, varying her drunkenness, more or less lucid at different times. Sometimes it seems like Oma doesn’t understand the gravity of her own words, and at others it seems that she is absolutely crushed by them, all too aware of her own tragedies. 5 hearts

Shelley Winters, Poseidon Adventure – Soppy even before she’s sopping. This year has some eccentric nominations, but Winters’ nom is basically a participation award, right? Shelley – we love you, you’re a legend, you’re showing up, trying something new, and you’re able to withstand some mild action and a lot of fat jokes. A sentimental fav, sure. But as a performance, it’s no big whoop. 2.5 stars

Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free – Perfectly calibrated, in writing and execution. I should have known that Mrs. Baker wouldn’t be a true villain – Don speaks of her with annoyance, not contempt. But when she finally enters she both lives up to the reputation and surprises several times over. She frets, but she also banters, jokes, assesses the situation while missing her own blind spots. What clinches it for me is how clearly Heckart’s own catlike mannerisms and presence are value added here – it’s a good script but one that needs charisma to push it across the finish line. Heckart has it. 4.5 hearts

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

Loved these write-ups, thanks to the panel.

Pleasantly surprised to see Heckart get such a fair shake here. Between her and Tyrell we see two very different kinds of movies and performance styles. And Heckart's strikes me as the less currently fashionable/more of its time of the two on both counts.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I saw Heckart on the stage and screen, and thought she was amazing.

She has my vote..

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

Thanks everyone! Now I want to watch Fat City.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

My two cents:

Susan Tyrrell, Fat City - five hearts

Among the most convincing drunks to ever grace (right up there with Milland in The Lost Weekend and Dunaway and Rourke in Barfly), Tyrrell's Oma is the most riveting of hot messes. You can practically see the alcohol seeping through her pores as the wobbly Oma looks liable to fall flat on her face at any moment. This trainwreck also, however, happens to have the biggest of hearts, so it's devastating to have that feeling, right from the get-go, that the romance between Oma and Keach's Tully is doomed. This is one of the all-time great and most inspired Best Supporting Actress nominations.

Shelley Winters, The Poseidon Adventure - five hearts

Leaps and bounds more memorable than fellow disaster flick Best Supporting Actress contenders Helen Hayes & Maureen Stapleton (Airport) and Jan Sterling & Claire Trevor (The High and the Mighty), Winters' lively performance also happens to be much more satisfying than her two Oscar-winning turns. For most of the proceedings, Winters is simply a hoot, stealing her scenes with ease. She also has a lovely, lived-in rapport with co-star Jack Albertson. Ultimately, the marvelously funny nature of her turn makes it all the more shocking and heartbreaking when Belle Rosen meets her watery grave. In most years, Winters would be my pick.

Eileen Heckart, Butterflies Are Free - four hearts

If the film itself hasn't aged terribly well, Heckart's warm and willful performance (reprising her turn from the Broadway production) is still a winner. It's a far cry from her other Best Supporting Actress appearance, boozing it up and devouring every inch of scenery in The Bad Seed. While Heckart again dominates her scenes here, she's in decidedly less unhinged form, instead painting a strong and soulful woman who cannot come to terms with letting her son go. While the clunky writing and stagebound nature of the film threaten to work against her, Heckart more than overcomes the picture's shortcomings.

Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid - four hearts

Under the expert direction of mama Elaine May (who manages to transcend Neil Simon's middling screenplay), Berlin flourishes, especially slaying in the picture's cringe-inducing breakup scene. I just wish there was more of her. Once Lila drops off the face of the earth, the proceedings become increasingly less compelling. This is less a knock on Berlin than it is on Simon and a role which, while brilliantly portrayed, is ultimately underwritten.

Geraldine Page, Pete 'n' Tillie - three hearts

Speaking of pictures that haven't aged well, this thing is an insufferable pill that hasn't a clue how to function, whether as a comedy, drama or romance. The question is whether an old pro like Page make something out of such misery and the answer is...sort of. This is surely the weakest of her eight Oscar-nominated turns but she does have her moments as Burnett's bestie, a flamboyant broad who dresses lavishly, keeps mum on her age and looks and feels like something out of a Jacqueline Susann novel. The big Gertrude-Tillie showdown toward the picture's end is amazing but such relief is all too fleeting. Page, per usual, gives it her all but it's not enough to save the film from its drab self.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

After watching Pete N Tillie I realised Burnett should have done more dramatic film work.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

*1967 is my vote for a July Smackdown. I’ll re-watch Bonnie & Clyde/The Graduate anytime, Channing and Neil Simon have passed, so Modern Millie/Barefoot can be revisiting, then there’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for light summer escapism.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

Tyrrell would’ve got my vote without questions. One of my favorite supporting actress nominated performances ever. Berlin would be my runner-up.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRayLewis1997

I was randomly reading an article about Elaine May the other day. THE HEARTBREAK KID was *really* dark and she refused to change it

My dad rented THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and the only things I remember are Shelley Winters swimming, a mean line about Ol' Fatass, and Ernest Borgnine yelling about Linda.

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Imagine Duvall introducing Bullock or Malek

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

good grief, 48-53 was a lot older in those days

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Legend has it that what cracked this guys up was saying "Shelley Winters" immediately after saying "Fat City." Most men are children, and not in a good way.

#TeamTyrrell

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

....oh, and I agree with everyone else: all the new panelists were great!!

April 28, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

@par, you can say that again. From what I understand, Winters lived a hard life (and by hard I mean good!), and particularly Heckart and Page were long-time, heavy smokers, which can do a real number on you. (Page, for example, was not even 60 when she filmed A Trip to Bountiful, which is stunning.)

Anyway, Duvall is a prick for the way he disrespected Winters. It’s not like he was ever a prize, but of course he gets a pass. Jesus Christ the amount of shit actresses (and women in general) are subjected to by creeps like him.

Awesome panel discussion. Well done, guys! 👏🏼

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

My decision has been made for me. #TeamTyrell. Also my obligatory mention of ‘perennial’.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I believe Duvall apologized to Winters afterwards. Has anyone else read this?

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterShmeebs

@TOM: over at Stinky Lulu they already did the 1967 Smackdown:
http://stinkylulu.blogspot.com/search/label/1967

With surprising results!

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Great smackdown, thank you panelists, but you’ve been outclassed by Andrew Carden.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterThe T

Tyrrell is definitely my winner but, having watched these films last summer, I still recall Heckart's performance very vividly, so I'm pleased with this result.

You may not want to do a second modern Smackdown this year, but I'd like to see 2005. I rewatched Junebug when it was added to Netflix recently and wow, Amy Adams is more amazing than I recall. I'd like to see how she and Weisz are reevaluated, particularly in light of last year's Oscar race.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Rob-did scan through the Stinky Lulu site
/1967-but TFE has more detailed panelist comments that are worth reading. Could go for an update after all the years are covered.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

Here are my votes. Love this year!

Eileen Heckart--Five hearts

It's a damn shame that this movie is so obscure, because I believe it is a small gem. It has a humble sincerity about it that you don't often find in movies from this decade. Eileen is the villain of the piece, and she lets you know it with little flourishes, but always keeps this controlling mother deserving of our sympathy and understanding. Her chemistry with Goldie is the main draw of the movie--they get into a comic rhythm together that's a joy to watch. Eileen drops a joke line with extreme, lethal stealth. And if they say that most of acting is reacting, that alone seals the deal. She so deserved this Oscar.

Jeannie Berlin--Four hearts

It's hard sometimes to remember The Heartbreak Kid is a comedy--sometimes I felt I was watching a horror movie. The premise is terrifying--and Jeannie makes it even more so. She plays an impossible humiliation as if she's in a slasher film where the killer is a deadpan comic. The script asks her to play a bride whose annoying tendencies allow her cheating husband to remain a sympathetic character. It's a tricky thing, but it works. Still, this poor woman becomes a tragic character without losing all of her dignity. A small miracle.

Shelley Winters--Four and a half hearts

The fact that this iconic character has suffered a tidal wave of parody and can still remain intact as a tragic figure is testament to Shelley's ability to ground this lady in the real world and not just a crazy disaster movie. She also gets the big emotional moment of the movie, and it still resonates today. She had such an impact, she created her own trope--the kindly older lady in a disaster flick who tried to save lives. See Jennifer Jones in The Towering Inferno, Olivia de Havilland in Airport '77 and Claire Bloom in Daylight.

It's been so long since I've seen Pete 'N Tillie and Fat City that I can't vote on Susan and Geraldine. I do remember Gerry saying the word "pistol" in a very suggestive way. So that's something LOL.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

This Smackdown is great and all but first can I just say DONNA LYNNE CHAMPLIN!!!!!!! Squeeeeeeee! My bf and I just finished CEG and I am so sad I don't get to spend any more time with her. A friend and I were talking about what a treasure she is and we hope we get to see her more and soon! Such a talent and her remarks here and both funny and astute.

Anyway...

Jeannie Berlin - The film rushes through Lenny and Lila's courtship so quickly that the only reason you're led to believe he wants to marry her is because she plays hard to get. But then once they're on their honeymoon you see why he thinks he made a mistake: she's sloppy, clingy and loud. But she's also playful, sexy, gullible and confused and heartbreakingly hurt by his negligence. I'm not sure she's quite up to the (unreasonable) demands of her final scene of having to bawl through a long dinner, but she gets close enough. 4 hearts

Eileen Heckart - She makes this look so effortless I wondered if it really was? But really, in one big, long scene, knows when to fill the space and when to stand back and observe, she caustically funny and perfectly self-possessed. I would have liked to see the moment where she changes her mind about her son's circumstances a little more fully, but otherwise she's a lot of fun. You wish that this movie had either been a) a bigger hit back then or b) released now so that she could become a meme generator and influence for drag queens. 4 hearts.

Geraldine Page - This nomination seems generous. Oh, she's perfectly fine and a nice bubbly counterpoint to leads' low-key melancholia, but she doesn't have much to do until her hilarious scene where she has to but can't quite reveal her age. But that moment is literally just a moment. I have a feeling voters were impressed with how game she was to throw herself into that utterly bizarre and undeserved catfight with Burnett and hey, physical comedy like that is just as much a skill and talent as anything else, but otherwise I don't totally get it. 2 hearts

Susan Tyrrel - I'm not sure I've ever met this woman, and yet something about Tyrrel's performance made me believe I have totally met this woman before. She's just wonderfully, nakedly vulnerable and needy, yet selfish and oblivious, that you want to hug her and shake some sense into her at the same time. 4 hearts

Shelley Winters - Another nomination I don't totally get. I'm assuming the voters wanted to support how game their 52-year-old friend and colleague was to literally throw herself into her big swimming scene. She's perfectly fine in her other scenes, getting Belle's self-deprecating humor and how it covers up her insecurities, plus her love for her husband and the dawning but practical sadness that they might not be together much longer. But none of this is a challenge (besides the swimming, which seems effortless for her and is pretty fun to watch) and, as much as I love her, I don't love this nomination. 2 hearts

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

@TOM: I hear you, my friend! I want TFE to do a Smackdown for every single year, Stinky Lulu or no!

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Rob & Tom -- but there are still so many years we haven't done! I'd rather have a sequel series on leading actresses than try to do this for another decade by do-overs ;) it's a lot of work (fun work, but still)

DJ DeeDay -- Donna says she has some things cooking (but wont discuss them due to superstition but I bet we'll see her again soon. She's way too talented for Hollywood to ignore (well, it's true that hasn't stopped them before -- sigh -- but let's be hopeful. At the very least I suspect she'll be back on Broadway since she's moving to NYC. (She hasn't done a show here since Billy Elliott the musical)

Suzanne -- i considered 2005 for this summer but I think we'll wait til next summer. It is on the shortlist so maybe we'll start with it next May?

Nick -- glad you liked it. Eager to have you back among the panelists!

April 29, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I never realized until now that by voting for my choices, Duvall and Winters, I would have set up one hell of a post-ceremonies party!

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

KEN -- lollolol

April 29, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel: I love the idea of you doing Lead Actress Smackdowns someday - omg, how I would love it.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

@fdr you bitch.

My decision has been made for me. #TeamTyrell. Also my obligatory mention of ‘perennial’.

April 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

We need less prayer in schools, and more Andrew Carden invitations to the Smackdown.

May 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterThe Preacher's Wife

It was so fun to read the post and listen to the pod. I don't know how Nathaniel organizes those 5-person discussions... which always have some good insights!
And thanks to this pod, i saw 4 interesting movies I likely would not have seen otherwise. I especially enjoy these older editions which introduce me movies that might not be "canon", but definitely are a window into the kind of films that were being made in the era. Thanks also for picking a year that featured THREE SF/Bay Area movies... in the early 70s!!!

1972 had a lot of good films, but some of my favorites include:
- What's Up Doc? One of my all-time favorites. I loved it as a kid and it *still* makes me laugh out loud as an adult.
- The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant- top 5 Fassbinder for me.
- The Godfather
- Cabaret
- Sisters. (early DePalma)

May 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSFOTroy

LOL at the fellow referring to Robert Duvall as "this guy" for the horrible crime of chuckling. Some men are children, indeed.

August 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

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