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Entries in Oscars (60s) (92)


The Honoraries: Debbie Reynolds in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (1964)

This week we're celebrating the three Honorary Oscar winners. Here's abstew on Debbie Reynolds' favorite role.

Molly Brown is my favorite of all the roles I've played. I love something about almost every part I've done, but I identified with Molly as soon as I met her. In the sometimes blurry line between art and and real life, Molly is the woman I've become as the years have passed. I'm right there with her when she declares, "I ain't down yet!"

-Debbie Reynolds Unsinkable: A Memoir

In her decades long show business career, amid the watchful eye of media scrutiny, Debbie Reynolds has endured trials and tribulations and come out the other side of it stronger. Caught in a Hollywood scandal, the original jilted girl-next-door (long before Jennifer Aniston was even born), Reynolds stood by while then husband Eddie Fisher left her and her two young children for screen siren Elizabeth Taylor. Her luck with men didn't improve later as second husband Harry Karl spent years gambling away her hard-earned money, leaving her with mounting debts to cover. Even her dream of finding a permanent home to house her legendary collection of movie memorabilia never came to pass and forced her to put them up for auction. So you can see how playing a character like the real life Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the Titanic, earning her the moniker "Unsinkable", would find a kindred spirit in the guise of feisty spitfire Debbie Reynolds. The actress, like the legendary woman, simply doesn't know what it means to be defeated...

Click to read more ...


The Alluring Patricia Neal in Hud

Continuing our celebration of 1963 here's Murtada on that year's Best Actress.

Patricia Neal is first introduced 8 minutes into Hud. She walks into the center of the frame and takes hold of it as she gazes at Paul Newman parking his car.

He parked right on my flower bed”.

The way she is framed ensures the audience knows she’s important to the story. The way Neal tosses off that line, we know Alma’s not to be messed with. [More...]

Click to read more ...


1963 Look Back: Liz Taylor's 10 Best Looks From "Cleopatra"

Abstew kicks off our celebration of 1963 as we countdown to the next Smackdown (date TBA but probably early October)...

There's epic film making and then there's Cleopatra. Certainly in a class all of its own, the film spanned different countries, directors, stars, budgets, an original run time that clocked in at over six hours, and one legendary love affair far more interesting than the one being portrayed in the final film. Thanks to audiences wanting to see if La Liz and Richard Burton's explosive relationship off screen was able to be captured on the 70 mm Todd-AO celluloid, Cleopatra ended up being the #1 box office champion of 1963...and still ended up nearly bankrupting 20th Century Fox. Originally budgeted at $2 million, the final budget ballooned into an unprecedented amount of $44 million (roughly over $300 million when judged for inflation today) including a million dollar contract for star Elizabeth Taylor, making her the highest paid performer at the time. (She ended up walking away with over $7 million due to delays and a percentage of the box office.)

And it feels like at least half of that inflated budget went toward Taylor's costumes alone. Setting a Guinness Book of World Record at the time, Taylor goes through 65 costume changes in the film and earned all 3 (yes, 3) of its Costume Designers the Oscar for their efforts. Renié was responsible for the women's costumes, Vittorio Nino Novarese created the men's, and thanks to Irene Sharaff, who was in charge of all of Elizabeth Taylor's looks, we have a sumptuous treasure trove of couture fit for a queen (or at least Hollywood royalty). Deciding on a more modern look and color palette than what would have actually been found in ancient Egypt at the time of the film's setting, Taylor's looks influenced early '60s fashion with an influx in Egyptian like jewelry and even inspired a Revlon "Syphinx" line of make-up. So in honor of the film's sartorial contributions to cinema, let's take a look at 10 of Elizabeth Taylor's best looks as the legendary Queen of the Nile...

10. Travel Rug Chic

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Cactus Flower (1969) - it's all about Bergman dancing

Nearing the conclusion of our Ingrid Bergman celebration, it comes to me, Manuel, to talk about a film that’s perhaps best remembered now for being Goldie Hawn’s Oscar-winning silver screen debut. But I want us instead to think about it as the preeminent film about Bergman dancing.

You see, Cactus Flower, which was the seventh highest grossing film of 1970, is a comedy I very much enjoyed up until the point when I started thinking about it. As if retooling (if not reworking) The Apartment, though of course not really since it’s an adaptation of Broadway play by the same name, I. A. Diamond -- a co-writer for that Oscar-winning film and the writer of Cactus Flower -- opens this 1969 film with a suicide attempt. Dentist Julian Winston (Walter Matthau, here a leading man who women find utterly irresistible despite an almost unsavory but plot-required sense of obliviousness to the women around him) has a "girl" on the side (Goldie Hawn's Toni) whom he has tricked into thinking he's married. Thinking he’s finally chosen to say with his wife rather than go out with her (he’s actually set up a date with another woman), Toni tries to kill herself only to be saved by her neighbor, oft-shirtless Igor.

After Toni tries to kill herself, Dr. Winston decides to marry her only to have to conjure up a wife Toni can meet so as to keep his earlier lie intact. Enter Miss Dickinson (Bergman), Dr. Winston's assistant nurse who has harbored a secret crush on her boss for years and whose role-playing only makes her ache for him even more. You can probably detect where the various plot strands are headed (spoilers in the shots that follow) but that's rarely why we enjoy watching comedies like these.

Miss Dickinson at the start of the film.Miss Dickinson in the film's last scene.

Screwball comedy lives and dies on its performances and thankfully Hawn and Bergman make Diamond's comedy of errors come alive, both imbuing their respective types with a sense of humanity that makes one forgive them the necessary blindspots the plot requires. A trifle of a film with a preposterous setup that somehow sells its female characters short even as it seemingly empowers them, Cactus Flower is worth watching solely for its female performances. Hawn may be best in show (she really does have smart ditz down-pat, those gorgeous giant expressive eyes doing some amazing heavy-lifting) but I urge us to marvel at Bergman who turns her prickly nurse into blooming romantic lead (pun intended) in an amazing dance sequence.

Drunk with adoration (and yes, some alcohol) Miss Dickinson takes over the dance-floor after partying with Señor Arturo Sánchez, and eventually finds herself in the arms of Toni’s Igor, with whom she spends the rest of the night, making both Dr. Winston and Toni jealous. It’s an amazing moment that speaks to the physicality of Bergman’s performance making the word “unwind” feel quite literal:

I mean. Need I say more?

Have you caught Cactus Flower? Can you picture Lauren Bacall or Jennifer Aniston in the role? The former played Miss Dickinson in the Broadway play, the latter in the ill-fated 2010 remake, Just Go With It. 


Oscar Trivia Detour: Albert Finney as Lawrence of Arabia?

In an alternate universe this could have happened...

Jigsaw Lounge posted that image to twitter last night in response to a thread started by Deux Ex Cinema, one I hadn't seen. It blew my mind to learn that the great actor screen-tested for Peter O'Toole's signature part and was, according to some, David Lean's first choice. The question posed: 

Did this five time nominee ever come close to actually winning an Oscar?

I'd argue that he never did though some will disagree. He was way too young for Oscar when he headlined a Best Picture Winner (Tom Jones, 1963) as he was only 27. That would have made him the youngest winner of all time in that category, a record that would have still held since Adrien Brody is the current record holder at 29. At the time I believe Finney was the sixth youngest man ever nominated for lead, but he's since been pushed out of the top ten in the last decade or so by 26 and 27 year olds who were a smidge younger in their years like Ryan Gosling, Heath Ledger, and Jesse Eisenberg. By the time Erin Brockovich (2000), his last nomination, rolled around he was up against a juggernaut contender in Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) who was so popular that he won the SAG as Leading actor before winning the supporting Oscar for the same role.

Albert Finney's last screen appearance was in Skyfall (2012) but he's still alive at 79. Will some filmmaker give him one last great role or should Oscar give him an Honorary?  

Here's a list to ponder...

Living Men with the Most (Acting) Nominations Who've Never Won

  1. Albert Finney (5)
  2. [Tie] Warren Beatty*, Ed Harris, and Leonardo DiCaprio (4 each) 
  3. [Tie] Brad Pitt*, Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Bradley Cooper, Nick Nolte, and Kirk Douglas* (3 each)

* they have Oscars for something else but not a competitive acting Oscar


Smackdown Summer - Revamp Your Queues!

We're just 9 days away from the launch of another Smackdown Summer. Rather than announce piecemeal, we'll give you all five lineups in case you'd like more time to catch up with these films (some of them stone cold classics) over the hot months. Remember to cast your own ballots during each month for the reader-polling (your 1979 votes are due by June 4th). Your votes count toward the final Smackdown win so more of you should join in. 

These Oscar years were chosen after comment reading, dvd searching, handwringing, and desire-to-watch moods.  I wish we had time to squeeze in a dozen Smackdowns each summer! As it is there will be TWO Smackdowns in June, a gift to you since this first episode was delayed.

Sunday June 7th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1979

Meryl Streep won her first of three Oscars while taking her co-star Jane Alexander along for the Oscar ride in Kramer vs. Kramer. The delightful character actress Barbara Barrie was nominated for her mom role in Breaking Away, Mariel Hemingway as Woody Allen's preternaturally wise teenage lover in Manhattan, and Candice Bergen played a singing divorcee in Starting Over - a role that supposedly helped win her Murphy Brown a decade later.

PANELISTS: Nathaniel R (TFE), Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central), Kristen Sales (Sales on Film), Brian Herrera (StinkyLulu) and novelist K. M. Soehnlein ("The World of Normal Boys," "Robin and Rudy")


Sunday June 28th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1948

1948's roster has a genuine movie star and one of the most iconic character actresses of all time in Jean Simmons who didn't get to the nunnery in Hamlet and Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda respectively. Also nominated were two women from the immigrant family drama I Remember Mama, Barbara Bel Geddes and Ellen Corby. But taking home the gold was Claire Trevor in the Bogart & Bacall noir Key Largo. Will the panel agree with Oscar's decision? 



Sunday July 26th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1995

The Oscar went to one-hit wonder Mira Sorvino (okay, two hit wonder: hi Romy & Michelle!) for her hooker with a heart of gold in Mighty Aphrodite but then no one knew what her future had in store. No one knew that for any of the contenders since they were all first timers. Sorvino was up against two familiar ensemble players Kathleen Quinlan in the popular hit Apollo 13, and critical darling Mare Winningham from Georgia, and two "new" faces who'd continue on to future Oscar glories and Great Actress reputations in Kate Winslet (Sense & Sensibility) and Joan Allen (Nixon).


Sunday August 30th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1954 

Eva Marie Saint dropped a glove and won an Oscar for On the Waterfront opposite Marlon Brando by any margin the most famous of 1954's Oscar nominated films. But what will the panel make of her competition? There's also the formidable Nina Foch in the all-star corporate drama Executive Suite, Katy Jurado, the first Mexican actress ever nominated, for the western Broken Lance and rounding out the category were two women from John Wayne's airline thriller The High and the Mighty, Jan Sterling and Oscar regular Claire Trevor.



Sunday September 27th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1963 (Season Finale!)  

Since the 2015 film year really heats up in September with the Toronto Film Festival (10th-20th) and Prestige Season Kick-Off, we're taking it easy for the finale with the one of only two years when only three films were nominated in the Supporting Actress category. Margaret Rutherford won the Oscar for The VIPs, a Liz & Dick show, Lilia Skalia was also popular in nun mode for Lilies of the Field but it was the Best Picture winning sex comedy Tom Jones that was the informal star of this category with three of Albert Finney's co-stars nominated (the all time record in this category): Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman, and '60s Oscar fixture Dame Edith Evans (nominated shortly thereafter for both The Chalk Garden and The Whisperers



Queue up those DVDs, readers, and play along at home! Unless you're a semi-famous star or accomplished character actor, oft-employed industry professional, best selling novelists, popular film critic, or AMPAS member in which case, tell me which panel you want to be on! (Shameless Plug). You know you want to join in the movie merriment !!!


Two Women. Two Questions

First a Question For You
Have you ever been baffled or resentful of an Oscar win (any category) only to finally see the picture and go "Oh, okay. I get it" and feel sheepish about your past dismissal (even if it wouldn't quite change your vote)? 

Such was the case with me and Sophia Loren's Two Women (1961) the only 1960s Best Actress win I hadn't seen, largely because I was so angry about it growing up given my intense love of Natalie Wood, who lost her best shot at the statue (Splendor in the Grass) in the peak year of her popularity (West Side Story). But when the Walter Reade screened Vittoria de Sica's Two Women this weekend I decided to fix the gap. Sophia was terrific, particularly in the final act when the movie takes quite a dark turn (in some ways it's a very strange film, a mix of lightly charming Star Vehicle, brutal Neorealism, and Melodrama)

My Turn. "Ask Nathaniel..."
Once you've answered my question in the comments, ask me one! (It should not be Sophia related. I just needed to ask you that question.) I'll answer two handfuls of your questions tomorrow night in the Q&A column.

Ready. Set. Go...