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Entries in Sissy Spacek (7)

Thursday
Aug302012

Love Letters Pt. 1: Zachary Quinto, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Messina

© Nick Stepowyj[Editor's Note: Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going) is guest blogging. We love her. And now there's a lotta love to go around. - Nathaniel R]

After my love letter to Noah Taylor I thought it might be kind of fun to write to some people for The Film Experience and ask THEM who they'd want to write a love letter to. Hopefully this is making some kind of sense. So I made a little dream list of people I respect and admire beyond all reason and I sent them a little e-mail saying:

I've seen you do work that has made me want to write you a love letter because it's moved me so deeply. Who or what would you like to write a love letter to? What piece of art or artist or feeling has moved you in this way?"

Here are a few amazing responses I got from these talented and passionate individuals!

To the magnificent & unique Zachary Quinto "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Angels In America!"

Zach's love letter:

I remember so vividly the first time i saw IL POSTINO. i was a freshman in college - completely ravenous for creative inspiration - and i found myself alone at one of the only art house movie theaters in pittsburgh at the time. i was so enraptured by the experience. the tenderness and intimacy of the story. the beauty of the landscape. the powerful exploration of love. and in particular the performance of massimo troisi. it stays with me to this day: his subtlety. his vulnerability. his openness. his humor. and as i learned more about the film and the tragedy of its star - my genuine love for the movie blossomed into something that still inspires me any time i think about it. troisi's commitment to this story ultimately cost him his life. he died just twelve hours after the film wrapped - and only days before he was meant to go to london for the heart transplant that likely would have saved him. but his connection to the project (which he also co-wrote) was so absolute and unwavering that - even in the face of his obviously weakened state - he would not back down until it was complete. and you can see it on screen. his passion and investment in the story is one of the most bittersweet manifestations i have encountered. i love that film and i love that performance. and i love the memory of the first time it all washed over me.
-ZACHARY QUINTO

To the incredibly brave & brilliant actor and director Joe Swanberg "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Nights and Weekends..."

Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig in "Nights and Weekends"

Joe's love letter:

My love letter is to Elaine May. She's one of the coolest filmmakers alive and a constant source of inspiration. I watched THE HEARTBREAK KID and the first 20 minutes of ISHTAR about 5 times each this Summer when I was prepping my new film. She's a brave, adventurous filmmaker and it's a shame she didn't make more work, but what exists fills me with love and gets me excited about making my own stuff."
-JOE SWANBERG 

To the best actress I know, the incredible Tina Holmes "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Six Feet Under..."

Tina's love letter:

There's a scene in the beautiful movie Oslo, August 31st that i can't get out of my head. the movie takes place on the last day of summer. 24 hours in which the main character is struggling to decide whether or not he can bear to go on living. it's sounds so grim, but the movie is filled with life and beauty. anyway the scene that blew me away is where he is watching some friends go for a swim at dawn after a long night's bender. he sits alone and watches them, especially this young beautiful innocent girl he has met that night. the camera stays on his face and he watches in silence and i swear to god you watch him engage with life and hope and then despair and engage and despair and engage and despair and back and forth. all that and i don't think his expression even really changes much. it's haunting. that's when i love acting. when you can see inside someone. it's not even anything they do. i don't even know how it happens really. some people just let you see their soul."
-TINA HOLMES

To the versatile, handsome, showing his heart and constantly working Chris Messina "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Celeste & Jesse Forever..."

Chris's love letter:

I instantly thought of John Cazale and his performances in all 5 of his films. Each one of them so different and nuanced. Dog Day Afternoon was mind-blowing for me as a kid. To see New York in the 70's, the heat, the anti-establishment "Attica" chant, of course watching Pacino felt at the time like finding god. And John Cazale's silence and intensity is something that I will never forget. I was afraid at any moment that he would start shooting the Employees, and then Sonny, Pacino's character asks him what country he wants to go to when the robbery is over and Sal (Cazale) says "Wyoming" not played for laughs, you instantly see into Sal's heart all his vulnerability and desperation. A complex subtle performance that continues to amaze me each time I revisit it.

What Sidney Lumet did with that story and each and everyone of those actors brought to it... this was a defining moment for me in wanting to be a storyteller."
-CHRIS MESSINA

To the insanely funny, thoughtful director, writer, actor (and also a ridiculously gifted magician), David Wain "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Wet Hot American Summer (obv); Wanderlust... "

Dear NASHVILLE,  thank you for enveloping me in your glow when I discovered you fifteen years after your release! I left our first (nearly 3 hour) date feeling exhilarated, inspired and spent. You opened my eyes to new possibilities in filmmaking, storytelling, comedy, acting, sound. You resonated with me over the last twenty years, always reminding me to be bold and to trust my voice!"
-DAVID WAIN

To the hilarious and authentic and awesome Natasha Lyonne "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: Slums Of Beverly Hills, you in Night At The Golden Eagle..."

[Natasha didn't get back to me with her finished thing but I thought I'd include the things she was thinking she'd write about because they're amazing choices: ' Think I'd choose susan tyrell in fat city or bob fosse & all that jazz ... or Terrence Stamp or Toby Dammit...]

To the super funny, super sweet, unlike any other person living, the genius Michael Showalter "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: "The Baxter"...

Michael Showalter's letter:

Call me sappy but if I'm gonna write a love letter it's gotta be for romantic comedies, so my love letter is for my favorite rom-com filmmaker Richard Curtis (writer/director of Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually.) His bittersweet world of laughter, loss and love is one that I really enjoy visiting - like your favorite bookstore or coffee shop. Everyone is smart, nice and funny. They are optimistic but not necessarily "happy." They like eating good food, talking at length about their neuroses and wear warm clothing. There's never anyone in a Richard Curtis story that feels "too cool." Nope, they are just people. Friends. Acquaintances. Trying to get by, trying to be good, to be better, fallible, trying to grab at some little piece of joy and sweetness.

To the brilliant and intense and funny and great actor Michael Weston I love everything you've ever done but my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: that amazing episode of Six Feet Under where you kidnap David..."

Michael Weston's letter:

You know, there are so many actors and movies and filmmakers who have inspired me... who continue to inspire me. I think I have been really blessed to have a group of friends who are so deeply creative and fun and funny and silly, and I find that they are always my greatest inspiration and what I dwell on in loving revery-time.

But, when I go back to the beginning... where I really felt the power of film and what still makes me laugh because I was so completely moved by it... was the movie "Flash Gordon". I know that's sort of like sitting in some crazy heavenly wine cellar and asking for a bottle of two buck Chuck. But, the truth is, the year was 1980, I was like 7, and that was the moment I wanted to be a part of film. In that finale scene where he's like driving the spaceship and he's about to skewer Ming The Merciless and that awesome music is playing "Flash! Ah-haaahhh! Duhn duhn duhn!". Man... I stood on my seat and f-ing cheered. Literally. I didn't give a hoot who was looking at me because I was so in it. I whooped. And was finally brought back to earth, pulled back into my seat by some kid I was friends with at the time. See, I don't remember who I was with, but, I still find myself, returning to that moment. And I still sing that theme song to myself... and others if they'll listen."
-MICHAEL WESTON 

To the extraordinary, radiant, gorgeous and real Ahna O'Reilly "my love letter to you is mostly me obsessing about: The Help..."

Ahna's letter:

I want to write Sissy Spacek a Love Letter for everything, especially "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Carrie". I want to be her.

-Tommy Lee Jones/Robert Duvall in "Lonesome Dove", I saw this when I was little and it has meant a lot to me ever since. I think it was the first time I understood chemistry between actors.

-On the topic of things from when I was little: Hitchcock (Almost all of them except "Frenzy" and "Marnie," those were the two sexy ones we weren't allowed to watch); Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers ("Barkley's of Broadway" and many others); "The Sound of Music"; Audrey Hepburn ("Roman Holiday", "Sabrina"), Judy Garland ("Meet Me in St Louis", "Easter Parade"). These people and their movies were pretty much all my parents let us watch...ahhh to be sheltered. 

-Timothy Scott, my heart breaks for him even if I only see his face for a fleeting second in a movie (just re-watched "Days of Heaven" and there he was for 3 seconds, and I loved him).

 -The author Tracy Kidder.

-Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose. I know this is an obvious one. But I could watch this on a loop, the thought of it makes me cry."
-AHNA O'REILLY 

I'm so grateful to all these amazing people!

-Melanie

P.S. UPDATE: More love letters from Rosemarie DeWitt, Kathy Najimy, etcetera

 

Saturday
Apr282012

Happenings: Jackman, Spacek, Turner, Fillion, Kidman

I'm losing patience with today's scientists. The world has changed so rapidly in my lifetime but there doesn't seem to be any progress with teleportation. I don't know about you but I need to be in several places quite often and in quick succewssion. Who has time for planes, trains or automobiles? Look at how much there is to experience near you at unreasonable distances from each other.

War of the Roses (1989)

TORONTO
Today! Kathleen Turner will be honored today with a mini free film festival at the Carlton Cinema: Peggy Sue Got Married and Romancing the Stone this afternoon. The War of the Roses and Body Heat this evening. If you're near there, why miss it? I'd totally hit The War of the Roses because and Body Heat because I haven't seen it in ages (the former) and have never seen it on the big screen (the latter). I think the great lady is in town with her recovery drama High on stage. That closed quickly here on Broadway but they're sure pushing the tour which they can do if a star is willing to tour.

LOS ANGELES
Today Plus! The Getty is hosting a film series "What Becomes a Legend Most"  kicking things off with Rudolph Valentino's The Sheik and the incomparable Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks (which we've covered in our "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series previously. If you're in LA and have never seen it, do not miss the opportunity to see it on the big screen. Other classics coming in the Getty series include two more "Hit Me" alums A Streetcar Named Desire and Rebel Without a Cause

EDINBURGH
Monday The Railway Man, a new World War centric prestige drama about a traumatized soldier and a woman helping him confront his past, starts shooting. The film will star Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, and Stellan Skarsgard (incidentally a friend of the book's author). Kidman's role is apparently being beefed up from what it was on the book's pages. 

CANNES
May 16th-27th The world's most important film festival begins with an opening ceremony hosted by recent Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo and a screening of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom  and closes with the late Claude Miller's Therese Desqueyroux starring Audrey Tautou. Many significant things will happen inbetween. I love MUBI's easy to follow Cannes guide.

LOS ANGELES
May 18th-23rd marks the second annual Hero Complex Film Festival via the Los Angeles Times. They always show geek friendly movies with special guests like the actors of filmmakers. The most exciting day this year, according to me, is Sunday the 20th when they'll show WALL•E with Andrew Stanton there to discuss and preview Brave followed by Serenity (which we were just talking about) with Nathan Fillion appearing.

SEATTLE
June 7th  "An Evening With Sissy Spacek" ! The screen legend is being honored for Outstanding Achievement in Acting via the Seattle International Film Festival. I wonder what she makes of all the Carrie revisionism these days? I'm sure people will ask.

NEW YORK AND ON YOUR TELLY
June 10th The Tony Awards (more on these later) hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and undoubtedly featuring many screen and stage stars. 

NEW YORK
June 23rd Hugh Jackman will be hosting Trop Fest, the world's largest short film festival in Bryant Park. The festival is 20 years old and began in Australia, hence quite possibly the presence of our favorite musical theater mutant. You can reserve a space here -- the event is free but it will obviously "sell out".

What special events are happening in your town in the near future? Should we teleport there as well?

Tuesday
Oct252011

Oscar Horrors: Carrie White Burns In Hell

In the daily Oscar Horrors series we're looking at those rare Oscar nominations for horror movies. Happy Halloween from Team Film Experience.

Here lies… Sissy Spacek’s Oscar for Best Actress in Carrie (1976). Carrie White may burn in hell (along with her ill-fated off-Broadway musical), but Sissy Spacek’s nomination remains a shining beacon of hope that genre fare from little-known actors don’t have to be relegated to, ahem, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films Awards.

Can you conceive of it today? A 26-year-old actress, in one of her first major roles, portraying an introverted teenage high schooler with supernatural powers who kills the students at her senior prom. Sounds like fairly standard genre stuff, especially when coming from the minds of an up-and-coming writer (Stephen King was paid $2,500 for the book rights) and director (Brian De Palma). Yet somehow, it became one of the few horror titles to earn prestigious acting nominations at the Academy Awards. Can you picture this happening today?

Didn’t think so.

Spacek’s performance as the titular Carrie White was only her fourth major film role after Prime Cut (1972), Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), and Ginger in the Morning (1974). Spacek would go on to win the statue just four years later for a musical biopic about Loretta “the Coal Miner’s Daughter” Lynn, which makes this breakthrough Oscar nomination all the crazier. Did the Academy see something in her that broke through the conventions of the genre, or was this merely one of those rare moments when they were able to look past all the barriers and recognise the defining, film-changing performance within? Her only other nomination and win of that awards season came from the National Society of Film Critics. High praise, sure, but tell that to Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Yolande Moreau, Sally Hawkins, Naomi Watts, Reese Witherspoon, Ally Sheedy… well, the list goes on (presumably...the strike rate was so high going back just 10 years that I figure there must be plenty more without spending the time to research.)

Somewhere behind the smooth as honey tracking shots, blood-splattered prom dresses and John Travolta (“in his first motion picture role!”) smashing a pig on the head with a mallet (I couldn’t quite stomach Carrie as a younger man due to this very scene), Spacek emerged. It probably helped that the young actress had the gloriously villainous Piper Laurie in her back pocket to help shine a light on her. Laurie, a previous nominee in 1962 for The Hustler, received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for being a mother that would make even Mary Jones shake in her boots. As mother/daughter combos go, the Whites are a doozy of a pair.

A quick look at the original trailer and you’d be hard-pressed to believe this was the sort of thing that would be to the Academy’s taste and yet Spacek’s repertoire of jutting sideward glances, shy upwards looks from behind flattened hair and high-pitched whelps of demonic terror makes for one of the greatest horror movie performances of all time. At a glance Carrie looks like little more a schlocky teen horror title; would Academy members even watch a film like that today? That Spacek lost the Oscar to Faye Dunaway in Network is hard to quibble with, but the miracle of the nomination is enough to keep me happy. 

 

Related
Oscar Horrors Rosemary's Baby, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Fly and more..
Top 100 Best Actress "Characters"
Sissy Gets Her "Star" 

Thursday
Aug252011

Your Fav' Sixties & Seventies Ladies

During Summer 2011  -- winding down at last! -- we've been asking TFE readers to choose the most memorable Best Actress nominated film characters. Which film characters have you taken into your hearts and headspace most fully? Who is always popping into mind unbidden? Below are the latest voting results for August's polls covering the 1960s & 1970s (previous results: 1980s and 1991-2010). We used five year intervals for voting and asked readers to choose the 5 most memorable characters from each group of 25 Oscar nominees.

If you're looking for these polls to provide a "face" of an era it looks like Julie Andrews wins the early 60s -- she was thoroughly modern back then! -- and Faye Dunaway takes over from there for a long run at the top (1966-1980) [* indicates that it was an Oscar winning role.]

1961-1965


  1. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY (Audrey Hepburn) Breakfast at Tiffany's
  2. MARY POPPINS* (Julie Andrews) Mary Poppins
  3. [tie] MARIA VON TRAPP (Julie Andrews) The Sound of Music and BABY JANE HUDSON (Bette Davis) Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
  4. ANNIE SULLIVAN* (Anne Bancroft) The Miracle Worker

Runners Up: Though the top five were never in question, DEANIE LOOMIS from Splendor in the Grass, ALMA BROWN* from Hud (who also tied) and DIANA SCOTT*, the "sunshine girl" from Darling each had deep pockets of swoony admirers.  The remaining two top ten'ers, further back in voting were MARY TYRONE from Long Day's Journey Into Night, and CESIRA* from Two Women.

Observations: The Julie Andrews characters flip-flopped for the first week of voting until Mary took flight and left Maria behind on the hilltop. Baby Jane tried everything to kick Maria off the mountain: writing letters to daddy, rat dinners, actual kicking; a very tight race that was for third place and in the end they tied. Aside from Audrey's win, there was little consensus.

Geraldine Page finds "pure hard gold" in boytoy Paul Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth

I was disappointed at the lack of substantial votes for Natalie Wood's preggers single gal in Love With the Proper Stranger and Geraldine Page's bitch goddess superstar in Sweet Bird of Youth (though the latter almost cracked the top ten) but voting was all over the place in this round. 

Weakest Showing: No actresses suffered the "no votes" problem in this half decade grouping, but ALMA from Summer and Smoke, JANE FOSSETT from The L Shaped Room and MARGARET HAMMOND from This Sporting Life barely found any favor.

1966-1970


  1. MRS ROBINSON (Anne Bancroft) The Graduate
  2. MARTHA* (Elizabeth Taylor) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  3. BONNIE PARKER (Faye Dunaway) Bonnie & Clyde
  4. FANNY BRICE* (Barbra Streisand) Funny Girl
  5. [TIE] ELEANOR OF ACQUITAINE* (Katharine Hepburn) The Lion in Winter and MISS JEAN BRODIE* (Maggie Smith), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

still in her prime.Runners Up: update. whoops. I misread the chart. Maggie Smith's Oscar winning haughty schoolmarm actually tied with Hepburn's Lion in Winter character in the last couple of days of voting. I had missed that! What a relief, Miss Jean Brodie, still being in her prime!] The remaining four players in the top ten are as follows: GLORIA BEATTY danced as fast as she could for 7th place for They Shoot Horses Don't They? Then with far fewer votes came, JENNIFER CAVALLERI from Love Story, SUSY HENDRIX from Wait Until Dark and CHRISTINA DRAYTON* from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Observations: This was the closest the top spot has ever come to a tie with seductive Mrs. Robinson besting drunk Martha by just 2% of votes gathered. In other kindred spirit news, they're both fond of playing "get the guest".

This is also the closest your votes have ever aligned with the Academy's decisions as four of your top five actually winning the gold for their indelible creations and another top ten'er, too. The further back we go the more obvious it is which films are not readily available for home viewing and how much Oscar wins are worth for longevity. It's an easy way to draw people backwards to see old films. But about the availability of some films... I've said it many times but I'll have to keep saying it. Hollywood is a shameful place. It's an industry with gazillions of dollars in profits and far too few of those bucks get funnelled back into the art form to insure that films are preserved and/or available for the public. At the very least an Oscar nomination ought to mean that your film never disappears for good.

Weakest Showing: "Mary Wilson" from Happy Ending received 0% of the votes. The film is not available on DVD. Morgan!'s "Leonie Delt" and "Rosy Ryan" from Ryan's Daughter just barely escaped this fate.

1971-1975


  1. SALLY BOWLES* (Liza Minnelli) Cabaret
  2. NURSE RATCHED* (Louise Fletcher) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  3. EVELYN CROSS MULWRAY (Faye Dunaway) Chinatown
  4. CHRIS MACNEIL (Ellen Burstyn) The Exorcist
  5. ALICE HYATT* (Ellen Burstyn) Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Runners Up: the rest of the top ten in descending order were BREE DANIELS* Klute, MABEL LONGHETTI A Woman Under the Influence, and KATIE MOROSKY The Way We Were, CONSTANCE MILLER McCabe and Mrs Miller and ADELE The Story of Adele H.

Jane Fonda as "Bree" in KluteObservations: This five year period surprised me the most of all the polls in terms of how well various women fared. Ellen Burstyn is a national treasure but I wasn't expecting either of her roles to show up in the top five, let alone both of them! It seems to me that her past star would not shine as bright without that shocking resurrection that was Requiem for a Dream (2000). Let that be a lesson to all actresses. Don't give up when you've crossed the senior citizen mark. An acclaimed golden years performance can restore major luminosity to to your earlier shining successes. Speaking of which, Jane Fonda could use one final hurrah performance herself to remind people of what an irreplaceable actress she is. I was personally very disappointed to see her Klute performance outside the top five (It was a narrow miss but it shocked me. I'd rank it among the ten best actress performances of all time). But the #8 rank for Barbra's famous romantic heroine from The Way We Were was the biggest lower-than-expect shocker and at the very least it suggests that Carrie Bradshaw was definitely not voting on these polls. 

Weakest Showing: Marsha Mason's "Maggie Paul" from Cinderella Liberty received no votes with the little seen these days "Gitl" from Hester Street nearly meeting the same fate.

1976-1980


  1. ANNIE HALL* (Diane Keaton) Annie Hall
  2. CARRIE WHITE (Sissy Spacek) Carrie
  3. DIANA CHRISTENSEN* (Faye Dunaway) Network
  4. LORETTA LYNN* (Sissy Spacek) Coal Miner's Daughter
  5. NORMA RAE WEBSTER* (Sally Field)

Runners Up: the rest of the top ten in descending order was composed of bad mommy BETH JARRETT from Ordinary People, Goldie Hawn's PRIVATE BENJAMIN, Bette Midler's MARY ROSE FOSTER from The Rose, delusional beige EVE from Interiors and "Yo, ADRIAN" from Rocky just barely knocked Gena Rowland's GLORIA and Ingrid Bergman's CHARLOTTE ANDERGAST of the ring to nab spot #10.

Observations:  I was surprised to see Mary Tyler Moore's legendary Bad Mommy performance in Ordinary People outside the top five but she was just one or two votes shy of making it a three way tie with the two biographical performances ahead of her. 

Marsha... no one is on the line!Weakest Showing: Marsha Mason's "Jenny Maclaine" in Chapter Two received no votes. I thought about voting for this character myself but there were too many other strong options. I used to just love that movie though I have only the dimmest recall of it now so I couldn't say "most memorable!". Mason was a very hot Oscar commodity for a few short years but none of her characters have done well in the polls indicating that her films have either not aged well for one reason or another or people just haven't seen them or, most likely, some combination of both. Is it time for some enterprising young director to take her on as a project: Marsha Mason revival!

This is a lot to process, I know. Any surprises, disappointments or observations you want to share? Have you been inspired to add any of these pictures to your rental queues?

Tuesday
Aug092011

Will Oscar Hire "The Help"?

Here's a quickie conversation with Katey Rich and I about Tate Taylor's The Help and its Oscarable cast. We accidentally ran into each other outside the theater (hitting different screenings on the same day) so we decided we should have a brief chat.

How might the ladies campaign? Who really owns the film? Is this an Oscar vehicle for Viola and Emma or something more like momentum for a future Oscar?

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are the title characters but we also discuss the work of Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, and an unrecognizable Jessica Chastain if The Tree of Life is all you have to go on. And that was all I had to go on going in.

The movie opens tomorrow in theaters. Have a listen.

Katey and Nathaniel on "The Help"