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Entries in Oscars (80s) (92)

Monday
Oct132014

75th: Absence of Melinda

Two time Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon turns 75 today. Since we don't like any major actresses to totally fade from public consciousness when they stop working, let's look back. Though her last working year was 2007 her most recent high profile gig goes back much further to a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of Magnolia (1999, pictured left) in which she played wife and mother to Phillip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. 

Though she'd been working for a decade before it in small parts (TV guest gigs and improvisational comedy) her first real claim-to-fame came as "Memphis Sue" Woody Guthrie's wife in the Best Picture nominated bio Bound for Glory (1976). She received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Acting Debut" (a now long defunct category) even though it wasn't her debut. Dillon's breakout led to bigger parts and two well-regarded Oscar nominations though curiously the Globes, who had first honored her, skipped her both times when her major hits rolled around. Her first Oscar nod made actually history: as the wide-eyed young mother in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976) she was and will forever remain the first actor to ever receive a nomination for a Steven Spielberg film (it wasn't until The Color Purple when anyone else followed). Later she was nominated as a particularly fragile soul and key character at the heart of a war in Absence of Malice (1981) between journalist Sally Field and businessman Paul Newman (also Oscar-nominated).

Melinda Dillon as "Teresa" in Absence of Malice (1981)

Though Dillon's heyday preceded the birth of my own film/actress obessions I remember getting the sense that she was a critical darling, the kind of actress with a devout if not populist following. By the time I was watching movies regularly and passionately though the roles were all mom roles sometimes with lots of screentime as in A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and sometimes on the peripheries as in those very blonde family flashbacks in Prince of Tides (1991) or "Merna" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995).

If you're familiar with her work what's your favorite of her performances? If she could be coaxed out of her retirement what would you have her do?

Friday
Oct102014

135 Days 'til Oscar: Remember the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion?

Occasionally while typing about the Oscars I accidentally type in the Shrine or the Kodak and especially "The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion" when I mean The Dolby Theater. It's an honest mistake since the Oscars are a bonafide institution and one tends to associate locations with events. The Dolby Theater, the "permanent" home now for Oscar (whatever permanent means considering things such as contracts, name changes, and rights battles for broadcast and whatnot) was once the Kodak Theater and for the last dozen years that's where the Oscars have been held. But until the new millenium, I associated the event with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. That music hall hosted the Oscars the longest from Oliver! (1968) through Shakespeare in Love (1998) though it should be noted that the Shrine auditorium stepped in as substitute for six years during that three decade stretch. 

I've never actually been to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion but for a young movie mad boy in the suburbs of Detroit in the Eighties, 135 North Grand Avenue was the most important address in the world, way cooler than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I still think of it as way more glamorous than the Dolby... but maybe that's because I've been to the Dolby and though it looks great on TV it's inside a shopping mall. Perhaps that's appropriate for a golden idol that's really only gold-plated

Previously on our countdown that's really just begun...
138 Days - Average Best Picture Length
170 Days - Best Actor Trivia 
182 Days - What did Pickford & Fairbanks start?! 

 

Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 2: Steel Magnolias, Parenthood, and Movie Memories

Did you listen to part one and read the smackdown?
(If not, do both first.)

In the second half of our Smackdown 1989 companion conversation we discuss the 'regular family' subgenre in movies and television, and our histories with both Parenthood and Steel Magnolias. We also revisit Julia Roberts feud with her director Herbert Ross and debate how Parenthood has aged and where it sits in the raunchy comedy continuum.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these two films. Who's your favorite from these huge ensembles? 

And a big round of applause please for our awesome panel: Nick DavisKevin B LeeTim RobeyTasha RobinsonTodd VanDerWerff  and your host Nathaniel R. We hope you'd give us at least ♥♥♥ 

until next time...

Smackdown Pt 2: Parenthood & Steel Magnolias

Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 1: Smackdown Companions & Left Feet: A Love Story

As a companion piece to the Supporting Actress Smackdown, we recorded a companion podcast. In the first half we talk misleading movie posters, Oscar campaigns, the outcome of the smackdown, Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot and Paul Mazursky's Enemies A Love Story and directorial,  acting choices, sexism, and point-of-view storytelling.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your comments on either film, and what your big takeaway from this month's Smackdown was. 

Smackdown Pt 1: My Left Foot Love Story

Sunday
Aug312014

Smackdown 1989: Anjelica, Brenda, Dianne, Lena, and Julia Roberts

Presenting the Nominated Supporting Actresses of 1989. Motherhood was the loose theme of the shortlist with a determined mom (Brenda Fricker) facing off against a determined-to-be-a-mom bride (Julia Roberts). Add in 1986's Oscar winner in this category (Dianne Wiest) as a mom so exasperated maybe she wished she hadn't become one in one of 89's top ten box office hits. Rounding out the list was a late breaking pair of women with claims on the same married man. Only one of them is married to him but... well, let's just say it's complicated. It's complicated for all five of these women.

THE NOMINEES

 

Then-unknown Irish character actress Brenda Fricker, gifted with a screen partner who would go on to become Oscar's most-winning Best Actor, took the gold. But the other four were in-demand hot commodities. Lena Olin who had emerged the year before (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) as a memorably erotic screen presence made good on that breakthrough. Anjelica Huston and Dianne Wiest, both recent Oscar winners, had yet more memorable turns in beloved films around the corner. But it was Julia Roberts who was the true breakout of the season... she went super nova literally three days before the actual ceremony with the release of her follow up Pretty Woman. Had the Oscars been a month later she might've won on in-the-moment global mania; the film was a hit everywhere grossing nearly ½ a billion dollars worldwide in 1990.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

You've already heard 'what 1989 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are critics Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks), Kevin B Lee (Fandor Keyframe), Tim Robey (The Telegraph), Tasha Robinson (The Dissolve), Todd VanDerWerff (Vox) and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). With a shoutout to StinkyLulu for the original Smackdown inspiration in which we revisit Oscar shortlists of the past without all the campaigning and heat-of-the-moment politics that infect each awards race.

Without further ado, the Smackdown...

1989
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

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Friday
Aug292014

When Harry Met Sally... (1989) Food for Thought

Anne Marie here on the 25th anniversary of a genre classic.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any romcom made after 1989 owes large thematic debts to When Harry Met Sally… From the Meet Cute to the Bickering Couple to the Final Romantic Gesture (usually involving holidays and/or running), When Harry Met Sally… set a template that has defined an entire genre, and--depending on who you ask--killed that genre as well. But despite the cliches, Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s Oscar-nominated comedy script continues to sparkle 25 years later, because it is not a movie about romantic gestures. It is a story about people; their observations, their oversights, and most importantly, their food.

Watching When Harry Met Sally… for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking New Yorkers do nothing but eat and argue. As Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) meet, separate, meet again, fall into friendship, and fall in love, they do so against an ever-rotating backdrop of restaurants and parties. (Apparently nobody in New York cooks at home either.) A lingering fear in romantic comedies--a genre about bringing people together--is the fear of being alone, and these are public spaces that force the characters to interact with each other and avoid the lonely New York death that Harry jokes about early on. Most importantly, these settings also givethem a chance to eat.

It comes as no surprise that the woman who would write Julie & Julia twenty years later would be so interested in how food reveals character. Ephron establishes both of her young characters through how they eat. Of course, Sally’s infamously detailed instructions to the first waitress immediately brand the young blonde as a perfectionist who likes control. Meg Ryan's best scenes are ordering from the menu, which she does with neither self-consciousness nor self-awareness, making Sally opinionated but not apolagetic, and somehow very funny.

Sally Albright: But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally Albright: No, I want the pie, but then not heated.

But Harry is also announced through his food, or rather through his bad manners while eating it. In their very first interaction sharing a car driving into New York, Harry introduces himself to Sally and the audience by talking through a mouthful of masticated grapes, and spitting grape seeds at the window. He’s messy, but he’s relaxed. (Minor characters also interact this way, including a brief fling of Harry's who is wrong for him because she bakes and he hates sweets, and Marie and Jess, who bond on a blind date over an article about wine.) Even when they're eating instead of talking, Harry and Sally are deliberately drawn opposites.

In between bites of food, Harry and Sally work as mouthpieces for Ephron’s musings and philosophies on relationships. When Harry Met Sally… plays as a series of dinner table debates interrupted periodically by plot, sex, or food. It’s a testament to Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s charming chemistry that they can make the discussion feel like action, and not just while banging on the table with fake orgasms. Harry and Sally discuss sex, loneliness, real estate, death, the ending of Casablanca, and anything else that pops into Ephron’s mind. 

Primarily, they concern themselves with one question: Can men and women remain friends? Or, to update it to 2014, “Is attraction an insurmountable obstacle to friendship?” Twenty five years later, it’s still a question that single people ask themselves. For the last few years, we've been hearing the supposed death knell of the romantic comedy, with the insistence that this genre is too cliche. But the fact that I had the friend vs romantic partner debate last week says to me that this foreboding may be a bit premature. The best new romcoms, like Obvious Child, are movies that carry on Nora Ephron's real legacy: some scattered observations, a question or two, and maybe a little bit of comfort food. 

Friday
Aug292014

'Common Threads', and Oscar's History with LGBT Documentaries

Today is Wear It Purple Day, which asks people to simply wear the color purple in support of LGBT equality. It's appropriate then that we continue our celebration of 1989 today with a look at that year's Oscar winner for Best Documentary. Glenn is joined in a conversation by friend of The Film Experience and doco-expert Daniel Walber, writer for Nonfics and Film School Rejects.

Glenn: Daniel, thank you for joining us. While I would obviously love to hear your thoughts on the film, I think I would be just as interested to hear about how well you think Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt sits amongst Oscar's documentary history. So few films about gay issues have even been nominated, yet alone won (the only other winner of its kind is The Times of Harvey Milk, also by Rob Epstein), but does Common Threads hold up as a winner? And furthermore, given just one year later they ignored Paris is Burning, does it strike you as just a case of voters simply going for a subject matter that they felt was Important and Worthy rather than any genuine interest in LGBT issues?

Daniel: That's a fascinating question. I'm not sure a movie with the precise scope and loose style of Paris Is Burning would have appealed to the Academy no matter what it was about. They didn't go for Grey Gardens either. Common Threads was definitely helped by the gravity and capital-I Importance of its subject, but I also think it holds up well as a film. Epstein knows what he’s doing, and this one has just as powerful an emotional arc as Harvey Milk. The device of zooming in on panels of the quilt to introduce stories feels a tad schlocky at first, particularly with the Bobby McFerrin music underneath, but it wasn’t long before I was won over by its genuine affection and understanding for its subjects. Perhaps there’s some consternation that it beat For All Mankind [for the Oscar], which I know still has a great reputation (I haven’t seen it), but I do think Common Threads deserved the attention.

How to Survive a Plague, The Celluloid Closet and Film vs TV after the jump.

Click to read more ...