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Entries in Best Actress (321)


And The Honorary Oscars Go To... Debbie Reynolds, Gena Rowlands, and Spike Lee.

No sooner had I published a list of speculation / suggestions for November's Honorary Oscars then the actual awards were announced. (I  must have misread the date on the Academy's meeting about this so we've unpublished and will revisit that topic at a more appropriate time.) For now, a hearty congratulations to a satisfying trio of recipients with very different appeals. We're throwing streamers and popping out of (okay eating) cakes this afternoon to celebrate!

Our Oscar Theme Song

All I do... is dream of you... the whole night through
with the dawn... i still go on... and dream of you
you're every thought... you're every thing
you're every song i ever sing
Summer. Winter.... Autumn and Spring 

DEBBIE REYNOLDS, "America's Sweetheart" back in her heyday (roughly speaking the 50s through the mid 60s), is your populist choice, not unlike Maureen O'Hara last year. Well liked showbiz legends that were never really critics darlings or in the Oscar hunt competitively can win Honorary Oscars if they stick around long enough. So here's to longevity! Reynolds, who is 83, made her first credited movie appearance in 1950, received her sole Best Actress nomination for the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)... and has literally never stopped working. This is a true showbiz trouper.

OF NOTE # 1: Carrie Fisher is going to be much in demand for the next several months given a) her mom's Honorary Oscar victory lap, publicity for her new memoir, and her own return to her signature Princess Leia this December in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

OF NOTE # 2: Postcards from the Edge, the thinly veiled Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds comic biopic starring Meryl Streep and Shirley Maclaine hits its 25th anniversary in a couple of weeks and we'll be celebrating that too.

GENA ROWLANDS was a regular Oscar player in her heyday (roughly speaking the late 60s through the early 80s) and is easily your aesthete's choice this year. She's a hugely influential actor and cinephiles have been bemoaning her Oscar losses for years, due in large part to her groundbreaking early indie work with her husband John Cassavettes. She's also worshipped by discerning film buff actors. Consider Tilda Swinton's quote on her film Julia, which was a loose remake of Gena's earlier film Gloria.

One's always downloading one's heroes, I suppose, all the time.  I remember being asked whether I thought about Gena Rowlands for "Julia" and thinking 'well, I think about Gena Rowlands all the time!' Not just for 'Julia'.

SPIKE LEE you could safely and cynically call this point in the 2015 honorary triangle their diversity choice but he's also entirely deserving so bless the media for putting so much pressure on Oscar voters to diversify! There's more to cinema than old white men (many of them are worth celebrating, too, but Oscar amply covers that without prodding). What's more, unlike Debbie Reynolds and Gena Rowlands, who couldn't really be called mistreated by the Academy for various reasons, AMPAS truly owes this maverick auteur. His indisputable classic Do The Right Thing (1989), his biopic epic Malcolm X (1992), his late career best 25th Hour (2002), and his biggest hit Inside Man (2006) have a measly 4 Oscar nominations between them with no wins. His only nominations to date were for his documentary 4 Little Girls (1997) and the screenplay of Do The Right Thing which, insane as it may sound, both lost. 


Last year we did mini-retrospectives on the Honorary winners when we noticed a dearth of coverage on movie sites (for shame) beyond obligatory news posts of the names and the later ceremony. Which films from each of their filmographies would you most like to revisit or discover for the first time with us before the ceremony on November 14th? 


How Ingrid Bergman Triumphed After "Indiscreet" Affairs

When Ingrid Bergman won the Academy Award in 1957 for Anastasia, it read like the end of a tinseltown screenplay: tarnished star, humbled by exile for her shameless behavior, returns to the city that made her famous, and is welcomed home with open arms. Of course, the truth was a little more complicated. Bergman was unable to attend the Academy Awards. Instead, she received the award from Roberto Rosselini while in the bathtub.

More importantly, despite the years of alienation and recrimination, the Swedish star was far from humbled. Even while attempting to attain a divorce from Rosselini, Bergman refused to regret her decade of tempestuous marriage and moviemaking with the neorealist director. She had taken risks, romantically and artistically, and the result had been more artistic freedom - if not mainstream acceptance - and three beautiful children. Neither did Hollywood fully embrace her. A pre-recorded intervew with Bergman was pulled from The Ed Sullivan Show when an audience poll rejected the idea. So, in 1957, with 2 Oscars, 2 divorces, 4 children, and tenuously positive box office appeal, the question was: what's next?

The answer came from Ingrid Bergman's old friend, Cary Grant. [More...]

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1954 Look Back: Grace Kelly's Fight for Independence

David looks back on the biggest cinematic year of one of cinema's most glamorous stars...

The thrill of this moment keeps me from saying what I really feel. I can only say thank you with all my heart to all who made this possible for me. Thank you. 

Grace Kelly’s surprise Oscar win on 30 March, 1955, was the belated cherry on top of an incredible year by any actress’ standards, and certainly the busiest and most successful of Kelly’s ultimately brief Hollywood career. The basic narrative is now one of legend: the young, popular new star caught the attentions of the Academy over the established older performer; in this case, despite only being seven years older, Judy Garland. Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper said it was a matter of just 6 votes. If you believe her, than it's probably the closest Best Actress race ever, outside of the 1968 Hepburn-Streisand tie.

History has decided that Grace Kelly didn’t deserve it. History may be right.

But at the time, there seemed to be no more fitting capper to Kelly’s incredible year than this reward, one received in such gracious form. In 1954, she starred in 5 films – almost half of her entire cinematic catalogue and a ubiquity comparable to the likes of Julia Roberts in 1990, or Jennifer Lawrence in 2012. While Princess Grace has been mythologised like few other Hollywood stars, the real story is a far more complex one than the romantic image allows. But that, of course, is the Hollywood machine for you. [More...]

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Posterized: Lily Tomlin

with Paul Weitz. Photo via Getty Images

The great Lily Tomlin hits the road literally and figuratively this weekend in Paul Weitz's terrific Grandma, previously reviewed right here by both myself at Sundance and Joe Reid at Tribeca. The movie just opened in the major markets and more cities will follow soon. For my column at Towleroad published earlier today I ranked the ten movie roles that I think of as her best from her now 40 year old movie career. I hope you'll read it.

Consider this weekend the ignition of her Oscar campaign engine, too. It's Lily's first leading role in a feature since (gulp) 1988's Big Business so this doesn't happen very often at all and we must take notice! Go see it I'm so proud that The Film Experience is on the poster for this one.

Lily was Emmy-nominated last month for Grace & Frankie and if Grandma can continue building on this moment of newfound appreciation of a 75 year-old living legend, an Oscar nomination for Best Actress could well follow. You know how that goes sometimes when the culture rallies around an actor in a particular moment like "Oh, right. We've always loved you -- here you go, diva!" (see Diane Keaton's easy nomination rode for Somethings Gotta Give or Julianne Moore's win last seaon)

Let's take a trip through Lily Tomlin's spotty film career via movie posters (with a couple of excerpts from my Towleroad piece)! How many of her 24 features have you seen? 

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"Carol" is a tease

Just gorgeous. We'll Yes No Maybe So it with the full trailer but obviously we're all in. It's Todd Haynes. It's actressy. And the cinematography, by Edward Lachman who previously shot Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce, and I'm Not There for Haynes, is suitably ravishing.

The song, for those who are curious, is Margaret Whiting's rendition of "My Foolish Heart". Add it to your every playlist in anticipation. Whiting was a famous singer in the 40s and 50s and even had her own television series in the 50s with her sister. Margaret provided Susan Hayward's singing voice in Valley of the Dolls (1967) as well.


Life Magazine Best Actress Covers, 1954

Researching 1954 for other posts, I came upon the realization that Life Magazine had featured not one, not two but three of the eventual Best Actress nominees on their covers that year in April (Grace Kelly who had a lot of films out that year including The Country Girl), September (Judy Garland for A Star is Born) and November (Dorothy Dandridge as "Hollywood's Fiery Carmen Jones"). It was "Hollywood's Brightest and Busiest New Star" vs. the World's Greatest Entertainer for the golden statue that year. The tag line to the Judy article was "Judy Garland Takes Off After Oscar" but it was not to be and Grace Kelly cemented the Princess effect with Oscar just a year after that had already helped Audrey Hepburn to her Roman Holiday win. (With Oscar, it rarely turns out that well for the older women, as you know)

This particular Best Actress race will haunt actressexuals forever as Judy Garland's A Star is Born performance is one of the greatest ever committed to celluloid. Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina) and Jane Wyman (Magnificent Obsession) were also nominated that year but did not get a Life cover. That's weird in Audrey's case as she was a regular cover girl. 

Finally while everyone knows that Dorothy Dandridge was a trailblazer this cover represents a twofer: She was not only the first African American nominated for a Leading Role at the Oscars (previous nominations had only happened in Supporting Actress) she was also the very first black woman to appear on the cover of Life Magazine!

Have you ever seen Carmen Jones? We've talked about it before.


Ingrid's First Oscar Nomination

We continue our Ingrid Bergman Centennial with Andrew Kendall on For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)

It's difficult to speak of Ingrid Bergman without consider her place in Oscar history. She's one of the few people to win three acting Oscars. And, she's fourth (only to Kate, Meryl and Bette) when it comes to Oscar's Actress Hierarchy. For modern fans, then, the celebrity of that first nomination is a curio regardless of its quality. When did Oscar first bite? For Ingrid it came four years (and five films) after her Hollywood debut. Not for that year's best picture winner Casablanca, but for the adaptation of For Whom the Bell TollsCasablanca, and Ingrid's "Ilsa," have endured as such integral parts of film culture that her work in For Whom the Bell Tolls immediately faces the scrunity of living up to it. Why the vote for this over her work there? 

But, it’s essential to remember that films and awards as creatures of their time. At the time of its production Casablanca was merely a minor World War II drama and literary adaptations were all the rage (from 1937 through 1942 every Best Picture winner was an adaptation of a recently pubished text). The adaptation of the literary triumph of 1940 was the bigger ticket. Ingrid was desperate for the role and Hemingway also loved the idea.  In a 1971 interview Bergman revealed that Hemingway, a writer typically averse to being too involved in adaptations of his work, lobbied significantly for Bergman to get the role even reportedly sending her a copy of the novel with the inscription

You are the Maria in the book”.

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