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Maureen O'Hara & Harry Belafonte

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Entries in Oscars (80s) (88)

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.

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Wednesday
Aug272014

Introducing... The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1989

It's just a few days until the Smackdown of 1989. Have you voted yet? You've met our panel, now let's meet the Supporting Actress nominees we'll be discussing as they're introduced in their movies. If you hadn't yet seen the movie would you be expecting an Oscar nomination from their first scene? What do the scenes telegraph to the audience?

1 minute in Meet "Mrs Brown" (Brenda Fricker in My Left Foot)
We see Christy Brown's mother before we see Christy Brown (Daniel Day Lewis)... unless you count his eponymous appendage. But it's merely during the credit sequence so we only glean that she's the mum and that they're going somewhere special since she checks herself in the mirror. It doesn't take long to understand her importance. At the end of the first full scene we see a painting Christy made of her with a slow zoom that dissolves into flashback in a maternity ward - a mighty clue that she's absolutely central to the movie. 

A pink-loving bride and three more real characters after the jump

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Thursday
Aug212014

Throwback Thursday FYC: sex, lies, and videotape (1989)

Our 1989 25th anniversary celebration continues...

Have you ever seen sex, lies and videotape? Steven Sodebergh won the Palme D'Or at Cannes for his very first film and somehow it wasn't all downhill from there. The film, which was a minor box office hit, was crucial in planting the seeds for the American indie boom of the 1990s but when Oscar nominations rolled around the Academy played it very safe largely shunning both of the year's most provocative critical darlings (the other being Do the Right Thing which we honored earlier this summer in a post just like this one). I spotted these FYC ads on eBay and thought I'd share them.

Andie MacDowell has won a lot of harsh criticism over the years for various performances, most notably Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (for which she was dubbed over by Glenn Close) and Four Weddings and a Funeral but she's really wonderful in this picture and in Short Cuts. Blame Steven Soderbergh and Altman if you must but don't even try to deny it! 

More...

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