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Entries in Shirley Maclaine (14)

Friday
Nov212014

Ten Great Performances from Mike Nichols' Films

Amir here. Mike Nichols was a true giant of show business, with a career that lasted more than six decades and sprawled across many different media and genres. Nathaniel's heartfelt eulogy already highlighted the dreamy number of classics he directed and the collaborations with Meryl Streep that resulted in some of her most memorable roles; but Meryl wasn't the only performer whom Nichols guided to career-best work.

Team Experience decided to make a list of ten great performances from Mike Nichols' films; we were truly spoilt for choice. If you want a testament to the man's sheer brilliance and chemistry with his actors, look no further than the missing names from our list. An equally long, equally illustrious alternative list can be made of the likes of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War, Jude Law and Natalie Portman in Closer, and many others. 

Here is our team's unranked, personal picks:

Anne Bancroft, The Graduate
Let’s talk about making difficult parts work. On the page, Mrs. Robinson is as slippery, duplicitous, and out-and-out a villainess as they come. But in the hands of the glorious Anne Bancroft, working with but also brilliantly against Nichols’ effervescent direction, Mrs. Robinson becomes someone different and deeper but no less mercurial or indelibly iconic. Fleetingly sensitive, impossibly stylish, and smarter than everyone else around her, Mrs. Robinson still makes life difficult for Benjamin Braddock, but complicates our sympathies and keeps a cryptic, critical, and spellbinding distance while doing so. That’s not just making a difficult part work; it’s making a difficult part soar. - Matthew Eng

Shirley MacLaine, Postcards from the Edge
When Suzanne Vale's mother comes to visit her in rehab we're not told that the woman we're about to meet is a movie star, but as soon as Shirley MacLaine swans in, we know. Adept at creating an audience wherever she goes, MacLaine's Doris Mann is a delicious caricature of the aging star: the Norma Desmond of the musical-comedy era. (Her "I'm Still Here" will floor you.) Her immense ego and her sincere motherly love coexist contentiously, with poignant results. Instead of hammering at monster-mother camp, MacLaine keeps her humanity close, never losing it to the absurd. -Margaret de Larios

Mike Nichols, Nichols and May
Before he was the wunderkind of Broadway or the well-respected Hollywood director, Mike Nichols was half of the smash comedy duo Nichols and May. Later in his career, Nichols would tell actors, “You made it funny. Now make it true.” This was his gift as a comedian: the ability to ground increasingly absurd situations - a phone call between a rocket scientist and his mother, a man losing his dime in a phone booth - in funny, true reactions. Nichols was the master of the exasperated double-take and the monotone quip, two skills he would later pass to actors. -Anne Marie Kelly

Mary Louise Parker, Angels in America
Upon winning the 2003 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, Mary Louise Parker thanked her "mighty" director Mike Nichols by explaining "you could get a great performance out of a quiche". She was right. In "Angels in America" he turned her character, Harper Pitt, from a thankless supporting wife into a sublime exploration of self-discovery. As someone trapped in a marriage with a closeted gay man, Parker beautifully opened up to Harper's fears, disillusionment and horniness. Nichols had her acting opposite CGI penguins and still she remained perhaps the most recognizably human figure in the film. -Jose Solis

Julia Roberts, Closer
Patrick Marber's crude barbs are spat from her mouth but Nichols' work in drawing Roberts into twisted versions of her romantic comedy smashes is equally instrumental in making this, I'd wager, her best ever performance. Roberts unleashes venom and allows her infamously angular features to manifest much of her character's ugliness, in a way that speaks volumes of her trust in the man directing her. She is at the same lithely sexual in a way she'd never been before; Nichols found the panther beneath the kittenish America's Sweetheart, an even deeper level of revelation than her Oscar winning turn four years prior, and the closest she's ever felt to reality. -David Upton

Kurt Russell, Silkwood
I'm going to relish this sentence, because saying it feels like such a rarity, but Mike Nichols’ artistry was so often and so brilliantly focused around women that it can be easy to forget the sensitivity and intelligence he granted men. Kurt Russell is not an actor known for subtlety, but in Silkwood, Russell finds something in himself that defies the rough and tumble box Hollywood liked to put him in. He's just as masculine, just as strong as he ever was as Snake Plissken, but there's a self-assured playfulness to his acting in Silkwood. He's looser here – sexier! – than anywhere else. Masculine posturing was irrelevant in Mike Nichols world, and for that and much more I thank him. - Teo Bugbee

James Spader, Wolf
By 1994, Spader could play the venal yuppie with feathered hair and a predatory smile in his sleep. But it was under Nichols, in this savage parable of the New York publishing world, that his stock character reached its height. Playing the human villain in a story about werewolves and still feeling like the most dangerous person in the cast is no mean feat, but Spader did it with smarmy ease, while being the only member of the cast to successfully navigate the film’s wobbly shift into explicit horror, largely because his backstabbing striver was already a fairy tale monster. -Tim Brayton

Emma Thompson, Wit
Vivian Bearing would be the second of three roles under Nichols’ direction for Emma, and the most significant. University professor Vivian may be dying of cancer but she retains her Thompson-esque traits – that slightly sardonic piquancy, the quiet dignity, the wit. But even as the affectations are all Emma, the performance is suffused with Mike, his warmth, his quiet effectiveness. The film, invariably, depends on their duet. Mike’s direction trusts Emma, giving her room and allowing her to devastate as Vivian. In a career of superlative work it’s hard to call Vivian Bearing Emma’s best but it’s a type of performance I’m grateful to Nichols for getting out of her, in touch with her usual sensibilities as an actor but pushed just further to become one of the most superior displays of suffering on screen. -Andrew Kendall

Robin Williams, The Birdcage
Williams was at his best when he harnessed his boisterous madcap energy into a fully delineated character whose quieter moments shaded his brassy zingers. His Armand, which could have so easily turned into a caricature with his loud shirts, his bushy mustache and his campy sense of humor comes alive with Williams' warmth: "Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I'm a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am." -Manuel Betancourt

Patrick Wilson, Angels in America
In a cast full of established masters (Streep, Pacino) and future stars (Jeffrey Wright, Mary Louise Parker), it would take a truly great performance to stand out, and that’s exactly what Wilson gave in the miniseries that put him on the map. It’s one of the script’s showier roles, to be fair – a Mormon denying his sexual identity – but Wilson plays it with note-perfect sensitivity, confusion, self-doubt, and yearning. The actor’s subsequent decade of fine, but hardly complicated performances in limiting projects only serves to make his achievement here that much more impressive. -Tim Brayton

Wednesday
May072014

Drag Race: "What a Way To Go!"

There's so much to say which is perhaps why I never say it.  And why I'll let you say it instead since I gave up trying to write up my thoughts each week (too many thoughts!) COMMENT PARTY! You're invited. Bring your own comments.

Ben's farewell at the Glitter BallAnd the predicted winner is... Adore (love that bitch) though my true heart belongs to Bianca

Ben de la Creme at least understood filling the entire workroom mirror with lipstick brain vomit when he departed last week leaving only four... and then three Monday night (Adore, Bianca, and Courtney) to compete for the crown tiara of America's Next Drag Superstar.  

But what a way to go... and Ben even referenced What a Way To Go! (1964) at one point (though I regret to inform that I couldn't find it to prove it in screencap form) before sashaying away. Which made her exit all the more painful since a queen who can reference old movies and has a grasp of cultural history to draw from beyond current reality tv and Beyoncé (the only two things the lesser queens seem to "get" each season) is always a better queen for it. I still cringe thinking of that old episode where even drag queens didn't know what Grey Gardens (1975) was -- and this was even after the Emmy & Globe winning Jessica Lange and Drew Barry more version in 2009 -- and chastised Jinkx for choosing an "obscure" celebrity to riff on. RuPaul didn't dress them down for it but justice in the end because guess who won the whole season. 

My point is two-fold and as yet unexpressed. See how I can't focus with this show?

1) The last couple of episodes have been curiously muted and I hope the show finds a way to put a little pep back into its step when it goes away again at the finale and

2) there are surely few better films to draw inspiration from if you're a man in a dress than What a Way To Go!. Consider Miss Shirley Maclaine in the Oscar nominated costumes by Moss Mabry and Edith Head in gif form after the jump... if you dare...

 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Apr132014

1963 Oscar Flashback: Sidney, Cleopatra, Hud

Something is wrong with me. I miss the Oscars already even though I've just barely recovered from the March 2nd related exhaustion. (Nathaniel the Masochist) So the other day I got a little Oscar happy and was looking back at various years, so let's talk the 36th Academy Awards briefly. You in?

They were held exactly 50 years ago today. Tom Jones, just discussed by Andrew, won 1963's Best Picture and three other trophies but the evening is best remembered today for Sidney Poitier's historic win for Lilies of the Field.

Sidney was the first black actor to win in either leading category but it was 38 years before it happened again (with Halle & Denzel on the same night). Now of course it's a fairly regular occurrence in both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress... the other two categories not so much. 

Lots more photos and trivia after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec082013

LinkLove

Randomness
Salon Rashida Jones clarifies her earlier statements about pop stars #actinglikewhores 
Washington Post Shirley Maclaine gets the Kennedy Center Honors. What a career
Variety The Square takes the top prize at the International Documentary Awards. The doc Oscar race is really really competitive this year!
In Contention European Film Awards. We shared the winners earlier but Guy has extensive coverage
Daily News Madonna's daughter Lola plays Rizzo in Grease at NY's performing arts high school (aka the Fame school) 
Salon has a really interesting piece on the Coen Bros obsession with failure via Inside Llewyn Davis though I would suggest not reading it before you've seen the movie since it reveals virtually every pivotal plot point and punchline. Save it for later

CoSign!
Jonathan Rosenbaum on "the season of critical inflation" Yes, to this. Just yes.
John Forde on the loud reactions to diver Tom Daley's coming out
i09 Wicked imagined as an animated musical (no, not Frozen

Tis the Season of List-Making
Slant Kurt looks at 20 great shots from the film year from Spring Breakers through undersung indies like Mother of George and new treats like Her
Guardian looks at the best screen "robbers" because I guess The Great Train Robbery is coming to TV or something? (I'm not clear) from Mr Pink (interesting choice) through Bodhi (duh)
NY Post Lou Lumenick and Kyle Smith battle it out over their top ten lists - they share only Mud and Gravity
Time Magazine Richard Corliss loves The Hobbit (again? ugh) but my favorite bit is this line on Spike Jonze Her...

In a future Los Angeles so near-Utopian that no scene takes place in a car...

hee!

Wednesday
Feb272013

Bunheads: They Dreamed A Dream

SusanP here, with thoughts on the season (series?) finale of Bunheads. A lot is at stake in the episode, but as in real life, not much is fully resolved. I’ll be disappointed if this turns out to be the last episode. Not because it was a bad, but it was anticlimactic for a finale. I’m anxious to spend more time in this world with these characters. I’d hate for this to be the last hour I get.

This Week on Bunheads…
A couple of weeks ago, TFE commenter Denny noted  that Bunheads is in many ways a show about what happens when an extremely talented person doesn’t catch a break and make it big. Denny wrote:

I like to think of Michelle as an alternate universe version of Sutton Foster - one in which she's almost exactly the same (except for focusing on dancing more than singing) but somehow always manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to make it the way Sutton has. And this feels very true to me. Growing up in the theater world, I cannot tell you how many supremely talented people I know who have just never made it, and not through lack of trying. This thread of "what does a talented person do when they just don't make the big time?" is one of my favorite parts of the show.

Potential can only get a performer (or a person) so far in life. The show tackles this idea head-on in “Next!” [more after the jump]

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan132013

Terms of EnLinkment

E! Online Jessica Chastain sings Happy Birthday to Marc Malkin and sounds damn fine doing it. Laughs about the now broken 'Chastain Curse'. 
Vanity Fair looks back at their photos of our new Oscar Nominees
Self Styled Siren watches old movies with her mom over the holidays 
Timothy Brayton on Silver Linings Playbook. Lots of salient points in this mixed review which never once BELLOWS like the movie does.
The Hot Blogs Look what the Life of Pi team will be wearing to the Globes 

Just Jared Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult are both available again. You're free to ask them out... well, separately I mean.
Pajiba an all female (photoshopped) Avengers - have you seen Alison Brie as Captain America?
The Geek Twins every Superman logo for the past 75 years. Oh yeah, I somehow didn't notice that Man of Steel is arriving for Superman's 75th Anniversary year. Good timing. 
Carpetbagger talks to Jacki Weaver who admits she didn't cast an Oscar ballot this year
The White House's legit, official, and officially hilarious response to the petition to build a real Death Star.  

Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Touchy Touchy Touchy - Everyone Gets So Touchy This Time of the Movie Year
In Contention Kris Tapley speaks his mind about the "Critics Choice Awards". I agree with almost all of this. The BFCA have always had a problem in trying to feel superior to the Globes but in practice being inferior or at least equally shameless about what they're actually up to with celebrity fawning. Trust that I understand the celebrity fawning impulse but I hope it gets better. Why not be a "principled alternative"?
IndieWire filmmaker Alex Gibney defends his attacks on Zero Dark Thirty 
Huffington Post Scott Mendelson is up in arms about the treatment of Kathryn Bigelow by the media
THR Quentin Tarantino thinks he's above criticism when it comes to discussions of violence in film
Film.com 'I don't agree with the Quvenzhane Wallis nomination'
Oscah Fevah "this has been a visual review of Les Misérables"

On Les Miz, please to note: I no longer cringe at the hyperbolic hate. That got boring after two weeks. I've officially turned a corner and I now find people's overwhelming loathing of Les Miz terribly amusing in all its narcimasochistic performativity -- if only one of the legion of haters would actually gouge their eyes out instead of just saying they'd rather do that or wanted to while watching it, than we'd have a story. Come on, people. COMMIT ! Tom Hooper did ;) Hating Les Miz is now the run amok mob equivalent of that nun orgy scene in Ken Russell's The Devils. And I love The Devils so I'm good here. Let it all out. Work yourself into a point-of-no-return frenzy!

Shirley Maclaine visit Downton Abbey

I Forgot to Mention This Weeks Ago
Michael Musto says that Shirley Maclaine's daughter has written a tell all. Good timing since Shirley Maclaine has been resurrecting her stardom lately with small movie roles (I wish she had more to do in Bernie) and a showcase television gig (sparring with the stuffy Brits of Downton Abbey... though her dialogue is bizarre, no?). So this book... Mommie Dearest 2.0? Uh oh.

Which movie star's parenting skills would you love to read about?

Saturday
Jan122013

Golden Globe Predictions (+ Shirley Maclaine's Third Jack)

The Golden Globes are tomorrow night, so I'll surely be here tweeting or live-blogging. One wonders if any of the HFPA's oft wined and dined members were treated to Christmas carols from one Jack Black over the holiday break? If not he missed quite an opportunity. If you've seen Bernie you know the man can sang. Though I doubt anyone can work around what's shaping up to be a Silver Linings Celebration tomorrow night (The Globes do love their Weinstein Co. product) the Comedy/Musical categories are typically home to the biggest Globe surprises throughout the years so Jack Black as a surprise winner has crossed my mind a time or two during the season. Remember when Sally Hawkins and Colin Farrell won in 2008? No one was expecting that! If Silver Linings were a little less beloved I'd assume that the Comedy or Musical prize would be going to "24601" himself Hugh Jackman but I'm guessing that now it's Bradley Cooper's to lose.

But back to Black. The comic's awards campaign for Bernie started fairly early-- there's something to be said for early launches -- and when I met him very briefly da few months ago he was so completely casual he almost seemed like a member of the press himself, just there for the free food which he kept recommending. I immediately broached the topic of working with Shirley Maclaine because, well, I am me. They bonded over the musical genre and Jack implied that Shirley kinda takes credit for Bob Fosse's film career basically under the from her movie clout at the time 'I'll do Sweet Charity but I want Bob Fosse to direct it!' I was told that Shirley referred to Jack Black as "My Third Jack"  

Me: Fine company to be in. LEMMON. NICHOLSON. Nerve-wracking! Or maybe you're confidently okay with it?
Jack Black: Not too shabby. I'm okay with it! It's hard to choose between the two. Lemmon kicks so much ass in "The Apartment"... but Nicholson in "Cuckoo's Nest"!

It didn't occur to me until his Globe nomination arrived that both of the performances he name checked were Golden Globe Winners in their days. Coincidence or subliminal sign of his nomination to come?!

Is it annoying that I always bury the lede? Golden Globe predictions are after the jump

Click to read more ...