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Entries in Hamlet (9)

Monday
Oct292018

Stage Door: Bernhardt/Hamlet

by Dancin' Dan

It's a tall enough order to write a play about one of the greatest actresses the world has ever known. It's quite another to write a play about that same actress taking on one of the most famous plays ever written. But Theresa Rebeck has never been one to back away from a challenge. Her delightful new play Bernhardt/Hamlet imagines what it must have been like for the great Sarah Bernhardt to assay the role of none other than Hamlet, all the way back in 1897. To say the least, it was difficult.

Bernhardt (Janet McTeer), in her fifties, was past the point where she could believably play the dying ingénues that made her famous (and also far past the point where she wanted to). Out of money but full of ambition, she decides that Shakespeare's melancholy Dane will be her vehicle for a comeback after her last play, written by Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner), flopped with audiences despite love from critics. But she is having difficulty "finding" the Prince, frustrated by his ease with flowery verse and his inability to take action.

Can a powerful woman play a powerful man? Bernhardt is absolutely sure of it. She says...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep292016

It's More Than Just National Coffee Day Today

First things first. And coffee is always first. Coffee is life. Did you know that up to 60% of the human body is made of coffee? Huh--oh, that's water? You sure it's not water filtered through ground coffee beans? 

But beyond coffee there are other things to celebrate on September 29th. Happy Special day to any reader who arrived on this very day and to the following important events in Cinephile history, Judy Garland lore, and Oscar and Emmy winners...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun282015

Podcast: More 1948 Smackdowning. Which Films Have Aged Well? 

You've read the new Supporting Actress Smackdown. Now here is it's companion podcast. This month there wasn't an obvious theme as in 1979's gender politics, but we had fun discussing the films and genres presented from noir to Shakespeare to soggy memoirs.

Host: Nathaniel R
Special Guests: Abdi Nazemianset, Catherine Stebbins, Joe Reid, and Tim Robey

Contents

  • 00:01 Introductions and how 1948 is new to us
  • 04:20 I Remember Mama is a George Stevens film? And how about those accents in Mama and Johnny Belinda
  • 18:00 Why did Key Largo only get one nomination -was it the noir thing?
  • 21:00 Stage & Cinema - they're all play adaptations but Key Largo and Hamlet both have an Ophelia! Shakespeare archetypes and Orson Welles
  • 33:00 Claire Trevor in Raw Deal (1948)
  • 36:00 Alternate nominees plus other 1948 films we like: Easter Parade, Cry of the City and Red River.
  • 40:00 Goodbyes and remake/recasting pitches from 1948

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes.  Please continue the conversation in the comments. Who would you have nominated in 1948 for the big categories -- particularly in supporting? Which of the four main films we discussed is your favorite? 

And how about that Ann Miller in Easter Parade


 P.S. Further reading. During our 1948 month we looked at five additional films ICYMI: The Red ShoesLetter From an Unknown Woman,the animated shorts of the yearTreasure of the Sierra Madre and Sorry Wrong Number

P.P.S. The next smackdown at the end of July is 1995 so make sure to watch Sense & Sensibility, Mighty Aphrodite, Georgia, Apollo 13, and Nixon this month for a refresher. 

1948 Smackdown Companion

Sunday
Jun282015

Smackdown 1948: Jean, Barbara, Claire, Ellen, and Agnes Moorehead

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '48. A young writer, a drunken chanteuse, two spinster aunties, and a girl who never gets to the nunnery.

THE NOMINEES

1948 is so basic. A typical Best Supporting Actress shortlist looks almost exactly like this: an actress whose paid her dues finally getting a plum opportunity (hello usually uncredited Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama finally stepping into the limelight), a rapidly rising star (Jean Simmons in Hamlet, not her first attention grabbing role in the late 40s), a fresh ingenue in a popular picture (Meet Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama), and if you're lucky in a good year a couple of revered character actresses to class up the shortlist joint (Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda and Claire Trevor in Key Largo). And within that mix you'll usually have a protagonist demoted to "supporting" and Best Picture heat helping at least a few of them find a seat at the table. All of that is true for 1948. What isn't so typical is a supporting actress winning on a picture's sole nomination and that happened here. Key Largo has aged well but Oscar didn't have any time for it back then outside of Trevor's drunk despair. The other three pictures had 24 nominations between them!

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are screenwriter/author Abdi Nazemian ("The Walk in Closet"), film blogger Catherine Stebbins (Cinema Enthusiast), freelance journalist Joe Reid, film critic Tim Robey (The Telegraph), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). In addition to this write up we recorded a companion podcast  where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado...

1948
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

BARBARA BEL GEDDES as "Katrin" in I Remember Mama
Synopsis: A teenager who dreams of being a writer finds source material in her immigrant mother
Stats: Then 26 yrs old, 2nd film, first and only nomination. 72 minutes of screen time (or 54% of running time). 

Abdi Nazemian: She carries much of the emotional life of the film, but I found the film unbearably sentimental (this from a man who loves Andy Hardy movies and Little Women). She lacks the unique quirks that young actors like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney brought to the same kinds of roles, and gives us a bland portrayal of adolescence. Of all the nominated actresses, she was given the most screen time, and did the least with it. 

Catherine Stebbins: One of these days I’ll figure out why I’m always so drawn to Bel Geddes. She has a lot of screen time as Katrin, given the unenviable task of holding up the film’s relentless episodic nostalgia. She is narrator, observer, worshiper, and an adult playing an adolescent. Katrin constantly looks at her mother, whether in the background or foreground, with reverent awe. Bel Geddes plays this with a partial cognizance that Katrin is in the gently reenacted memories of her past. ♥♥♥

Joe Reid: I can see how, if you were swept up in the homey charms of George Stevens' film, you'd want to throw accolades at Bel Geddes, who plays such an observant window onto the life of her saintly mother. Her hushed voice-over gets to the gauzy-memoir nature of the story effectively, but I'm not sure the performance ever gets much farther than doe-eyed wonderment.  ♥♥

Tim Robey: Saddled with just about the hoariest framing narration in film history, and doing little to lift it out of sanctified goo, Barbara has a near-impossible task here – making the terminally precious Katrin and her “gifted” (read: soporific) memoirs interesting. She can’t win, but we still need something more than a voice like tree sap to get us through this. In overegged close-ups she’s weirdly divorced from real-time engagement with her scenes, and every co-star seems faintly embarrassed about what to do with her. 

Nathaniel R: In the movie's crowded frames, you can often see just her hair or the back of her head; unfortunately her full closeups aren't that much more expressive, generally landing a single emotion. The narration is even stiffer like she's reading to a very small child from an immobile body cast. (The direction and screenplay all but force this stiff repetitiveness though, so it's not all on her) She aces warm awestruck looks at goddess Irene Dunne, but... I mean... who doesn't?  

Reader Write-Ins: "She is telling THEIR story, which she happens to be in. Therefore she is bland, quiet, blending to the background so others can showcase themselves." - Tom (Reader average: ♥♥¼)

Actress earns 10¼ ❤s 

four more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun252015

Corset Kate: Winslet's Best Period Piece Performances

With "A Little Chaos" opening tomorrow, abstew looks back at Kate in corsets. - Editor  

Oscar winner Kate Winslet returns to the screen tomorrow in A Little Chaos (in select theaters and available on VOD). It's a fictionalized story of how the elaborately lush gardens at the Palace of Versailles were constructed for King Louis XIV. The film is a reunion for Winslet and Alan Rickman (who stars as Louis and also directed the film), who haven't worked together in 20 years. But more importantly, the film reunites Winslet with the corset, getting laced-up again for the first time since 2004's Finding Neverland. For the first few years of her career, Winslet only appeared in period pieces (it wasn't until 1999's Holy Smoke! that she finally starred in a film set in modern-day) so it's time to look back on three of her best performances in those waist-cinching garments! (For purposes of this list, I decided to not include her 1950s set films - a girdle just isn't the same...)

 

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Proving that the period piece was a good fit from the start, Winslet's first Oscar nomination came for her wildly romantic turn as Marianne Dashwood in the Best Picture nominated adaptation of Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. But director Ang Lee had to be convinced that Winlset was the right actress for the role as he hadn't cared for her film debut in 1994's Heavenly Creatures. And even after casting her in the role, on the first day of filming, he was unimpressed with her work, telling her that she'll have to be better. The criticism must have lit a fire under her because Winslet completely throws herself into the role with determination and gusto. Her Marianne is all bleeding heart that she pins tellingly on her sleeve for the world to see. Incapable of hiding her turbulent emotions, she allows herself to be ruled by love. And Winslet plays her without judgement of her impulsive nature, embracing Marianne's romanticism and temperament. But even the strongest wildfire can't blaze brightly forever. In the most heartbreaking scene of the film, Marianne's passionate ideals are extinguished as she walks across the moors to gaze upon the home of the man that has abandoned her. Influenced by her devotion to poems and romance novels (as preparation, Winslet read and studied works of the period to achieve Marianne's mindset), she is willing to die for her dreams of love. But instead of death, Marianne experiences a rebirth, allowing herself some of her sister's practical reasoning. Able to look at things with a little more understanding. Marianne's transformation could very easily feel like the character has become defeated, but what Winslet does beautifully is bring Marianne a newfound maturity without losing the spark that makes her still believe in the possibility of love. 

Jude (1996)

In this little-seen, but devastating film, Winslet gives one her most complex performances as Sue Bridehead, an independent and headstrong woman in late 1800's England. As the tragic events unfold in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's controversial novel Jude the Obscure, Winslet's magnetic star-turn saves it from becoming a dreary slog. Her early scenes with Christopher Eccelston's Jude, as they begin to get acquainted, have an easy playfulness, especially in a flirty pub scene in which Sue smokes and drinks beer with the bar patrons. It's reminiscent of Winslet's below-deck escapades in Titanic but the scene here plays earthier and sexier, as Winslet seems more relaxed and natural than she ever does as Rose. And the two actors have wonderful chemistry together, willing us to want their characters to eventually get together despite the fact that they are cousins and already married to other people. Unfortunately Sue's constant need to defy convention, her refusal to comform to the standards of Victorian society, becomes their ultimate undoing. No spoilers here, but the tragic incident hits you like a gut-punch. For most of the harrowing scene, Winslet is silent and still, completely numb to pain. It's in the scene directly after that we get our catharsis as she lies facedown on the ground, twisting her body as she lets out animalistic howls of despair. We are no longer watching an actress give a performance, but viscerally feeling the character's bottomless grief. 

Hamlet (1996)

In a part that has been played on film by Jean Simmons, Marianne Faithful, and Helena Bonham Carter, the definitive screen version of Shakespeare's ill-fated heroine Ophelia, has to be Kate Winslet. In Kenneth Branagh's unabridged, 4-hour version featuring such esteemed thespians as Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, and John Gielgud, it is Winslet that emerges as the film's most memorable player. And it's all the more impressive because, unlike most British actors, Winslet never trained in the classics. Later she even turned down an offer to appear in Sam Mendes' The Bridge Project, performing in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, because she didn't feel like she could tackle them properly. It's surprising because on film, Winslet is an actress never afraid of a challenge and her Ophelia works precisely because of that fearlessness. This is an Ophelia not afraid of her sexuality, a young woman discovering the harsh realities of men's actions and what it means to give yourself to someone. Winslet endows her with womanly understanding while still maintaining the fragility that leads to her downfall. Ophelia is definitely a showy part with its descent into madness, but instead of being overly theatrical or studied, Winslet plays those scenes manic and unhinged, surprising us with bold execution and raw modernity. Which is not to say she's incapable of delivering Shakespeare's language the way it is intended. It's just that she's not slavishly devoted to it, more concerned with capturing Ophelia's state of mind and allowing the text itself to feed her emotions. In a 400-year-old play, the most often produced of all of Shakespeare's work, Winslet interpretation helps you feel like you're witnessing it for the first time.

 

Do you agree with these three choices as Kate's best work in a corset? If not, what's your preference?

Wednesday
Jun172015

The Year of the Month is... 1948

Lest you forget, we have two Smackdowns this month. The first, already published, was for 1979 and for the second half of the month our retrospective love will be devoted to 1948 when these five women were nominated for Best Supporting Actress

 

  • Barbarba Bell Geddes, I Remember Mama
  • Ellen Corby, I Remember Mama
  • Agnes Moorhead, Johnny Belinda
  • Jean Simmons, Hamlet
  • Claire Trevor, Key Largo [winner]

Readers are the final panelist and your votes count (collectively) so between now and June 25th get your votes in with 1 (ouch) to 5 (total perfection) hearts for each. Please only vote on the performances you've seen (points are proportional so it doesn't affect the widely seen or the underseen).

To give you some context for the year, let's go over some high points of 1948...

Montgomery Clift becomes a superstar right out of the gate with his first two films: The Search and Red River

Great Big Box Office Hits: 1) The Red Shoes, 2) The Three Musketeers, 3) Red River, 4) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 5) When My Baby Smiles at Me 6) Easter Parade 7) Johnny Belinda 8) The Snake Pit 9) Ingrid Bergman as Joan of Arc and 10) Erroll Flynn in The Adventures of Don Juan

Oscar's Best Pictures: Johnny Belinda (12 noms / 1 win), Hamlet (7 noms/4 wins), The Snake Pit (6 noms / 1 win), The Red Shoes (5 noms / 2 wins), and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (4 noms / 3 wins). The Search starring Montgomery Clift probably just missed the cut-off with 4 major nominations, 1 win and a special Juvenile Oscar. Johnny Belinda and Sierra Madre shared the Golden Globe honors while Hamlet won Oscar's top prize

Happenings: Hollywood is still under the thumb of the HUAC hearings and many valuable players have already been blacklisted and/or jailed at this point; Post World War II anti-semitism is a mainstream topic which results in a Best Picture win early in the year for Gentleman's Agreement and then the banning of another film, David Lean's Oliver Twist, due to perceptions of anti-semitism in the character of Fagin (Alec Guiness); The US Supreme Court rules against religious instruction in public schools; Alfred Kinsey publishes "Sexual Behavior in the US Male"; Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated; a subway fare hike in Manhattan kicks it up to a whole dime.

Other Arts: Truman Capote's "Other Voices, Other Rooms" and Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead" are published, Pulitzer winners include James Michenere's "Tales of the South Pacific," Tennessee Williams "A Streetcar Named Desire", and W.H. Auden for "The Age of Anxiety," Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle both begin their historical television superstardom this year with the variety shows "Toast of the Town" and "Texaco Star Theater" both of which will be retitled to reflect their star's name; "Mister Roberts" wins the first Tony Award for Best Play and "Kiss Me Kate" premieres on Broadway and will win the next year's inaugural Best Musical category. 

Some Magazine Covers for Context
Various movie queens, a reference to Shirley Temple's baby (her first child was born in January of '48), hot topics like Alfred Kinsey and Mahatma Gandhi, and more... 

Mix Tape (Born in '48)
Olivia Newton-John, Stevie Nicks, Grace Jones, Kenny Loggins, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Donna Summer, Jackson Browe, and Steve Winwood 

Actors We  ♥♥  Hard at TFE that were born in '48
Bernadette Peters, Dianne Wiest, Barbara Hershey, Kathy Bates and Christopher Guest 

Other Key Showbiz Figures From '48's Fine Vintage
Joe Dallesandro, Samuel L Jackson, John Carpenter, Gérard Depardieu, Bonnie Bedelia, Margot Kidder, Bud Cort, Kate Jackson, Mercedes Reuhl, Phylicia Rashad, Linsday Crouse, Mimi Kennedy, Nathalie Baye, Nell Carter, George RR Martin (author), Ben Burtt (sound genius), Colleen Atwood (costume designer), Javier Aguierresarobe (cinematographer), Edward Lachman (cinematographer), Lindy Hemming (costume designer)

Showtune to Go: Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" is released which will later play a key role in one our mutual favorite films of all time Moulin Rouge! (2001)