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Entries in Oscars (80s) (103)

Monday
Sep302013

Supporting Actress Smackdown '80: Eileen, Eva, Diana, Cathy, and Mary

It's the return of "Stinky Lulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown" now in its new home at The Film Experience. The year is... [cue: time travelling music] 1980.  That year's Oscar roster was a semi-surprising mix of silly comedy and warm drama with a preference for fresh as dew faces. Oscar ignored notable performances that found favor at the Globes in various ways (Beverly D’Angelo in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Lucy Arnaz in The Jazz Singer, Dolly Parton in Nine to Five and Debra Winger in Urban Cowboy) and instead honored these five...

THE NOMINEES

Eileen Brennan, Eva La Galliene, Cathy Moriarty, Diana Scarwid, and Mary Steenburgen. For each actress it was their first and only Oscar nomination... which is quite rare (as TFE readers have researched/noted. That statistic could theoretically change since Moriarty and Steenburgen still act regularly. Steenburgen was recently even seen in a Best Picture nominee (The Help, 2010) for which she shared in the SAG Best Ensemble win.)

Will Mary Steenburgen win the Smackdown like she won the Oscar? Read on!

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep272013

StinkyLulu's Preliminary Thoughts on The Supporting Actresses of 1980

[Editor's Note: On Monday, the next Smackdown hits, Supporting Actresses of 1980. Here, as intro, is StinkyLulu to continue the festivities. If you missed the revival of the series last month we did 1952. In October we'll hit 1968. -Nathaniel R]

The 53rd Academy Awards were a life-changer for me. The ceremony for 1980 marked (held in March 1981) marked the first time I watched the broadcast and determined that it was my urgent task to see each of these nominated films. A precocious scheme, really, given that I was at the time thirteen years old and living in the middle east when I viewed (on betamax) the taped-from-tv recording of the ceremony months after its actual airing. Still, the 1980 Oscars were a clarion call to this wee little Stinky, a prompt to seek out films worth watching. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I started with the actressing, ultimately screening (mostly via similarly bootlegged betamax tapes that filled my expat community’s lending library) all but one of 1980’s nominated best- and supporting actresses as quick as I could.

Returning to these deeply-imprinted films after so many years in preparation for this weekend’s Supporting Actress Smackdown has been intriguing, to say the least. What’s perhaps most startling is just how clearly, in 1980, Oscar liked his Supporting Actresses to be catalyzing presences. We got three maddening beauties, one sage observer, and one crafty nemesis — each of whom compels the protagonist to and through their transformation pretty much just by being there. To their credit, these particular actresses do not just stand around being the battle-axe (Eileen Brennan, Private Benjamin), the crone (Eva Le Galliene, Resurrection), the moll (Cathy Moriarty, Raging Bull), the neighborhood gal (Diana Scarwid, Inside Moves), or the frustrated wife (Mary Steenburgen, Melvin & Howard). Still, being “that woman” is pretty much all that’s asked of them.

It’s a peculiar paradox really. These films are ripe with “liberated” depictions of the empowering potential of the female orgasm, of women deciding their own sexual partners and futures in defiance of masculine reprobation, of the gruesome brutalities of domestic violence, of the perilous degradations of sexwork, and so on. (Not to mention all Ellen Burstyn’s randy "I'm touching your penis" jokes). Even still, for the supporting actresses in these flicks, it remains presence first, and character second.

Diana Ross & Donald Sutherland presented the 1980 Best Supporting Actress Oscar

But sometimes that’s what actressing at the edges is all about — to shade contour and dimension within the broad strokes of a casually-scripted character, to make a presence into a person. And, for better and worse, 1980 gives us five memorably distinct approaches to this core burden/opportunity of supporting actressness. Notably, Oscar himself anointed a surprise winner, which makes me wonder if this weekend’s Smackdown might also do the same. (I know I have my clear favorite. Do you?)

Wednesday
Sep252013

Introducing... Five Nominees From 1980

I've always been interested in the way characters / stars are introduced within their films. Sometimes you can feel the filmmaking underlining the moment: look here, you will love this character! Other times intros are nonchalant and the character sneaks up on you.

The Supporting Actress Nominees of 1980 ~ The Introductions

Last month I ranked the 1952 nominees by the quality of their entrances in preparation for their month-end "Smackdown". This month for the 1980 theme, to mix it up, let's just view them in order of when they show up in their movies. When moviegoers were first seeing these movies back in 1980, what did these characters promise them when they walked into the plot, already in progress?

Cathy Moriarty as "Vicki" in Raging Bull
[17 minutes until 'who's that girl'?]

Jake: Who's that girl you were just talking to.
Joey: The friend of mine I was just talking to? The blonde? Vicki.
Jake: Where's she from?
Joey: She's from the neighborhood. She's a neighbor.
Jake: What's her last name?
Joey: Vicki that's all I know. 

 We see a series of fetching closeup glimpses of Cathy Moriarty from Jake's point of view but she gets no dialogue of her own in this debut scene within her film debut. She's just an object of desire for now. She looks pleased with herself in the series of closeups Scorsese lavishes on her face and body by the pool as the dialogue from two sets of men is all about her or taking out the other men who want her. She's only 15 (Moriarty was 20) but Jake asks what her last name is, a fitting detail since he'll soon her give his own and since he's already married.

The promise here is trouble and Raging Bull has plenty of that.

Mary Steenburgen as "Lynda Dummar" in Melvin & Howard
[20 minutes in...]

Our first images of Linda are blocked by her husband Melvin who is arriving to bed late (or early since it's morning) after the film's lengthy prologue in which he meets Howard Hughes (Jason Robards in an Oscar nominated cameo) but soon he's asleep and she's waking up (on the opposite side of the bed... some nookie offscreen obviously). Noises outside have woken her and serve as another reminder of their poverty.

Oh no. Repossessed again."

She packs her bags in a rush to leave her bad luck husband. This character intro promises a sensual woman with an unlikely combination of flighty and sensible impulses and that's just the kind of memorable character we get. Of course she doesn't stay away too long since she is the film's Supporting Actress Nominee. 

Eileen Brennan as "Capt. Doreen Lewis " in Private Benjamin
[23 minutes... on the dot] 

Private Benjamin knows what it's got in Eileen Brennan's deliciously bitchy and funny Army captain and makes sure you know it too, introducing her in military style. Her entrance is shouted, saluted, and she's even blocked from view theatrically until the introducing officer steps aside to reveal her, the frown on her face mysteriously reading as a self satisfied smirk before she's even started mocking her new recruits. Which she does the first chance she gets two beats later when she sees one of them crying. 

What's the madduhr? Are yoo a widdle cwybaby?"

This entrance promises combative comedy to come and Brennan delivers. 

Eva Le Gallienne as "Grandma Pearl" in Resurrection
[23 ½ minutes]

Let me have a look at you, child!"

The legendary stage actress first appears in longshot racing out of her home to greet her granddaughter Edna (Best Actress nominee Ellen Burstyn), now disabled, who is returning to the family home to heal... in more ways than one. This first scene is as modest as the home, and tells you little about "Grams" other than that she's glad to see Edna. They then look at an old scrapbook together. Eva's voice is a marvel though, instantly betraying her stage origins, full of warmth, feeling and memory. (That's all I know for now. I'm still in the process of watching this which I have to say has been painful. Not, I hasten to add, because the movie is bad but because it's so very hard to find a good copy of it. The versions on YouTube are blurry and blown out and no other downloads seem to function well. Such a pity how Hollywood ignores its own history and lets it go unrestored, even when it's in the history books as an Oscar nominated film.)

Diana Scarwid as "Louise" in Inside Moves
[38 minutes late to the party]

Where are my four beers?"

Diana's waitress "Louise" is introduced so casually, in medium shot and profile before quickly whisking by the camera and vanishing again, that if you didn't know who Diana Scarwid is, you'd think nothing of it. The film's lasting claim to fame just wandered into frame and the movie didn't notice. Inside Moves, a strangely executed film about disabled men who form tight bonds at a local bar until one of them leaves to become a professional athlete (don't ask), doesn't even bother to introduce us. We only infer she's the new waitress from the casual concern in the bosses voice "you doin' ok?" Slowly she becomes more prominent in the narrative and eventually begins to slip out of longshots and into her own closeups. It mirrors the way that loved ones start out as strangers, sure, but it's also kind of anti-dramatic and it's a long wait to get to the Scarwid Goods.

Have you seen any of these films? There is still time to vote. We include reader votes in the Smackdown totals so send in your ballot, rating only the performances you've seen, with or without commentary, on a scale of 1 to 5 (best) hearts.  The Smackdown will take place on Monday, September 30th

Tuesday
Sep242013

Top Ten Awesome People, 1980 Vintage

I suspect many of you weren't alive in 1980 but do you think of it fondly? To give you a little context, since we're discussing it in the Supporting Actress Smackdown: Jimmy Carter was having a rough last year as POTUS with the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis and America was about to enter a neo-conservative phase; John Lennon was murdered; "Call Me" by Blondie spent the most weeks as the number one single; "Who Shot J.R.?" was insanely popular via Dallas, DC debuted the awesome 80s comic "New Teen Titans" to compete with Marvel's huge hit "Uncanny X-Men", while Marvel kept it young by adding Kitty Pryde and the disco-leftover superhero Dazzler; Sweeney Todd closed on Broadway and Evita debuted illustrating the shift in the musical theater landscape from the awesome challenging prolific 70s Stephen Sondheim era to the sing-along bombast of British mega musicals of the 80s epitomized by Andrew Lloyd Webber

a tiny sampling of popular 1980 things

But here's why we're here --  Let's savor 1980's cinematic crop for a moment. Are these movies (and people) and things aging well? Is there much left to savor? 

1980, the debut year of Yoda it wasBest Movies According To...
Oscar: Ordinary People*, Coal Miner's Daughter, Raging Bull, The Elephant Man and Tess were the best pictures nominees but they also really dug Fame (6 noms, 2 wins), The Stunt Man (3 noms) and Melvin and Howard (3 noms, 2 wins)
Golden Globe: Raging Bull*, Ordinary People, Tribute, The Stunt Man and The Elephant Man (drama) Coal Miner's Daughter*, Fame, Private Benjamin, Divine Madness, Nine to Five (comedy/musical)
Cannes: [tie] All That Jazz (USA) and Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior (Japan)
Box Office: 1) The Empire Strikes Back 2) Nine to Five 3) Stir Crazy 4) Airplane! 5) Any Which Way You Can
Nathaniel: At the time I was obsesed with only Xanadu and The Empire Strikes Back... so I haven't matured much since then because I still am.

Adorable 1980 Babies after the jump

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep202013

Best Actress "Character" ~ 50 Years 100 Greats

I was cleaning up a few folders on my desktop recently when I noticed this old poll and the accompanying visuals. It was too delicious not to revive. See back in 2011 when The Film Experience got its beautiful redesign as a site, I polled y'all about the most memorable best actress "characters" of the past 50 years (1961-2010) and in chronological order these were the women you voted for...

How many have you seen? I'm still pised that Sally Kirkland's "Anna" and Kathleen Turner's "Peggy Sue" didn't place... but I felt like posting it again right now since 3 Best Actress nominees from 1980, a year we're currently revisiting, placed (Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People, and Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter)

If we updated who do you think would make the list from 2011-2012? Who just sticks in your memory. Let's take a vote on it. You can only choose 2!

 

 

We don't know the 2013 nominees  just yet but I'm guessing Cate Blanchett's very blue "Jasmine" wouldn't have any trouble placing in any such future lists. Which is 90% of why she's still the frontrunner for the win in her category.

Thursday
Sep192013

Movie Teachers: "Fame" (1980)

Back to School Month + 1980 Retrospective- StinkyLulu doubles up for Fame (1980). A partial version of this article first appeared at StinkyLulu in 2007

 

When I was a wee lil Stinky, I watched the original Fame over and over and over again. 'Twas my movie. And possibly because I watched the film so many dang times, the starkly human performances by the actresses playing teachers in the film burrowed deep into my consciousness. I’m not just talking about Debbie Allen’s legendary cameo. Mostly, I’m thinking especially of Anne Meara as Mrs. Sherwood and Joanna Merlin as Miss Berg. 

The roles of Sherwood and Miss Berg are quintessential “actressing at the edges” sorts of parts. Each is relevant to the film’s dramatic arc only insofar as she amplifies the narrative of one of Fame’s principal characters. As the language arts teacher, Meara’s Sherwood is Leroy’s obstacle, while Merlin’s Miss Berg is the ballet teacher who makes Lisa’s life hell. In the student-centric emotional swirl of Fame, Meara’s Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are indeed the hard-ass battle-axes who appear to have nothing better to do than to torment their students. Merlin’s Miss Berg permits the languid Lisa no slack, and Meara’s Sherwood refuses to buckle, even when Leroy explodes in a kinetic blaze of profanity and violence. 

But Fame, to its credit, gives both Meara and Merlin just enough room to be human. For Merlin, the kicker comes when she calls Lisa to her office to cut the young dancer from the program. With measured, unflinching firmness (you can almost tell that Merlin paid the bills by being Harold Prince’s casting director for much of the 1970s), Merlin’s Miss Berg conveys in no uncertain terms that there has no future as a dancer in the department or, in all likelihood, beyond. Merlin’s Miss Berg is brutal in her honesty, deflecting Lisa’s promises and pleas as if she’s waving away flies. Yet, when she opens the door to dismiss Lisa, her eyes brim with a glint of emotion, until she wilts — just that little bit — against the door upon Lisa’s exit.

Merlin in "Fame"

Meara’s moment comes when Leroy (suddenly terrified that his grade in English might actually be important now that his invitation to join a major dance company is contingent on his successful graduation from high school) seeks Sherwood out at the hospital where her husband is undergoing some unnamed "serious" procedure. Meara's Sherwood is at first firm but dismissive when faced with this self-involved student come, to the hospital, for a little bit of friendly grade grubbing. Then when Leroy pushes, accusing her of having it in for him, Meara's Sherwood explodes with sheer, agonizing fury. Her rebuttal ("Don't you kids ever think of anyone but yourself!?) stops Leroy cold, allowing him to grow up a little and to show Sherwood a quiet gesture of empathy and consideration.

In most ways, Meara's Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are thanklessly supporting performances. Everything each does is in support of Leroy’s/Lisa’s character arc. But Meara and Merlin mine every moment for its depth, humanity and humor. (The looks Merlin gives Debbie Allen during Leroy’s audition. The flash of fear that ripples Meara’s stern facade when Leroy physically erupts. Merlin’s way of whispering her true feelings, both snarky and vulnerable, under her breath. Meara’s heart buckling devastation when Leroy tears into Sherwood with the oblique epithet "You people...”) Each line, gesture and sideways glance conveys the simple fact that this woman is really good at her job and that Leroy/Lisa is but one of her more difficult pupils. Neither is a saintly superteacher. Neither is an inhuman gorgon. They are both simply educators working in the NYC public school system, trying to get through another day.

Meara in FAME

Indeed, I will be ever grateful to Anne Meara and Joanna Merlin for crafting these teacher characters so intelligently, so generously, so humanely -- and, in so doing, for also teaching little StinkyLulu how much was to be learned from all the actresses not only at the edges of Fame but also all those other actresses at the edges of fame itself.

 

previously on back to school...
History Lessons from Half Nelson, The Breakfast Club when you're too young for it

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