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Entries in Smackdown (24)

Friday
Jul032015

Smackdown 1995. Pass it On!

The next Supporting Actress Smackdown is just three weeks and two days away on Sunday July 26th. Revisit the performances at home and get your votes in by Thursday July 23rd. I'll announce the panelists in one week. Please only vote on the performances you've seen -- the votes are weighted so it doesn't hurt the underseen or help the ubiquitous. This one will could be a squeaker with so many strong performances and memorable films. At least the way I remember it but it'll be fun to revisit these.

The Nominees...

And just for fun a handful of women who probably made some ballots that year but didn't make Oscar's shortlist included Globe nominees Kyra Sedgwick for Something to Talk About and Anjelica Huston for The Crossing Guard, SAG nominee Stockard Channing for Smoke, as well as Rachel Griffiths for Muriel's Wedding, Magda Szubanski for Babe, and (in our fantasies) Gina Gershon for Showgirls.

Sunday
Jun282015

Smackdown 1948: Jean, Barbara, Claire, Ellen, and Agnes Moorehead

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '48. A young writer, a drunken chanteuse, two spinster aunties, and a girl who never gets to the nunnery.

THE NOMINEES

1948 is so basic. A typical Best Supporting Actress shortlist looks almost exactly like this: an actress whose paid her dues finally getting a plum opportunity (hello usually uncredited Ellen Corby in I Remember Mama finally stepping into the limelight), a rapidly rising star (Jean Simmons in Hamlet, not her first attention grabbing role in the late 40s), a fresh ingenue in a popular picture (Meet Barbara Bel Geddes in I Remember Mama), and if you're lucky in a good year a couple of revered character actresses to class up the shortlist joint (Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda and Claire Trevor in Key Largo). And within that mix you'll usually have a protagonist demoted to "supporting" and Best Picture heat helping at least a few of them find a seat at the table. All of that is true for 1948. What isn't so typical is a supporting actress winning on a picture's sole nomination and that happened here. Key Largo has aged well but Oscar didn't have any time for it back then outside of Trevor's drunk despair. The other three pictures had 24 nominations between them!

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are screenwriter/author Abdi Nazemian ("The Walk in Closet"), film blogger Catherine Stebbins (Cinema Enthusiast), freelance journalist Joe Reid, film critic Tim Robey (The Telegraph), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). In addition to this write up we recorded a companion podcast  where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado...

1948
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

BARBARA BEL GEDDES as "Katrin" in I Remember Mama
Synopsis: A teenager who dreams of being a writer finds source material in her immigrant mother
Stats: Then 26 yrs old, 2nd film, first and only nomination. 72 minutes of screen time (or 54% of running time). 

Abdi Nazemian: She carries much of the emotional life of the film, but I found the film unbearably sentimental (this from a man who loves Andy Hardy movies and Little Women). She lacks the unique quirks that young actors like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney brought to the same kinds of roles, and gives us a bland portrayal of adolescence. Of all the nominated actresses, she was given the most screen time, and did the least with it. 

Catherine Stebbins: One of these days I’ll figure out why I’m always so drawn to Bel Geddes. She has a lot of screen time as Katrin, given the unenviable task of holding up the film’s relentless episodic nostalgia. She is narrator, observer, worshiper, and an adult playing an adolescent. Katrin constantly looks at her mother, whether in the background or foreground, with reverent awe. Bel Geddes plays this with a partial cognizance that Katrin is in the gently reenacted memories of her past. ♥♥♥

Joe Reid: I can see how, if you were swept up in the homey charms of George Stevens' film, you'd want to throw accolades at Bel Geddes, who plays such an observant window onto the life of her saintly mother. Her hushed voice-over gets to the gauzy-memoir nature of the story effectively, but I'm not sure the performance ever gets much farther than doe-eyed wonderment.  ♥♥

Tim Robey: Saddled with just about the hoariest framing narration in film history, and doing little to lift it out of sanctified goo, Barbara has a near-impossible task here – making the terminally precious Katrin and her “gifted” (read: soporific) memoirs interesting. She can’t win, but we still need something more than a voice like tree sap to get us through this. In overegged close-ups she’s weirdly divorced from real-time engagement with her scenes, and every co-star seems faintly embarrassed about what to do with her. 

Nathaniel R: In the movie's crowded frames, you can often see just her hair or the back of her head; unfortunately her full closeups aren't that much more expressive, generally landing a single emotion. The narration is even stiffer like she's reading to a very small child from an immobile body cast. (The direction and screenplay all but force this stiff repetitiveness though, so it's not all on her) She aces warm awestruck looks at goddess Irene Dunne, but... I mean... who doesn't?  

Reader Write-Ins: "She is telling THEIR story, which she happens to be in. Therefore she is bland, quiet, blending to the background so others can showcase themselves." - Tom (Reader average: ♥♥¼)

Actress earns 10¼ ❤s 

four more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jun072015

Podcast: Smackdown Companion 1979

You've read the new Supporting Actress Smackdown. Now hear its companion podcast. Our panel widens its view from the supporting nominees to talk about the unique cinematic landscape of the late 1970s, the women's lib movement and concurrent movie gender wars, and which movies give the best period punch and which we've misremembered completely.

Host: Nathaniel R
Special Guests:  KM Soehnlein,  Kristen SalesBill Chambers, and StinkyLulu.

Contents

  • 00:01 Introductions and memory vs. reality w/ Breaking Away
  • 03:20 Gender Wars of 1979. Misogynistic or merely non-coddling and complicated? 
  • 09:00 Cynicism and Optimism in Starting Over and Manhattan, which is particularly self-critical and discomforting
  • 15:50 Contextualizing the movies. 1979 versus what was to come with shifting tastes. Do people still make movies about "how we live now?"
  • 21:00 Meryl Streep's command of subtext and Kramer vs. Kramer as a film 
  • 28:00 The oddity of Starting Over's comedy - we recommend
  • 31:30 Movies we wish we had had to watch for the Smackdown: Alien & All That Jazz and non-nominated supporting actresses
  • 36:45 Final random observations: valium, money in 1979, and new actors who weren't yet famous
  • 39:00 Meryl Streep then vs Meryl Streep now. Of course we spend the last five minutes on Meryl Streep.

And because we joke about it - Here is Candice Bergen's off-key hit single "Better Than Ever" from Starting Over.

Please to enjoy and continue the conversation in the comments. You can listen at the bottom of this post or download from iTunes tomorrow. THE NEXT SMACKDOWN IS AT THE END OF JUNE. WE'LL BE LOOKING AT 1948 SO ADJUST YOUR QUEUES ACCORDINGLY.

Smackdown Companion 1979

Sunday
Jun072015

Smackdown 1979: Barbara, Candice, Jane, Mariel ...and Meryl Streep!

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '79. Three divorcées trying to find themselves or build new lives (a white hot character type / movie theme in the late 70s) battled for the statue with a simple suburban mom and a precocious student at the 52nd Annual Academy Awards.

THE NOMINEES

 

Candice Bergen and Mariel Hemingway were first-time Oscar players in 1979, but they shared the interesting distinction of being previous Globe nominees in the long since cancelled category of "Promising Newcomer/Acting Debut" in 1966 (The Sand Pebbles) and 1976 (Lipstick) respectively. Barbara Barrie , the eldest nominee, was no stranger to good reviews having previously won Cannes Best Actress (for the little seen interracial romance One Potato Two Potato in 1964) but was largely considered a TV actress. She returned to the small screen immediately after her most beloved film role  -- in a TV series based on that film no less making her the rare performer (the only one?) to have received both an Emmy nomination and Oscar nomination for the same exact role! But the Kramer vs Kramer ladies were the marquee draws in 1979 and not just because the public response to their divorce drama was so seismic: Jane Alexander and Meryl Streep had been nominated before and would be again. Especially La Streep. No one could have then predicted that she'd continually obliterate Oscar records over the next thirty plus years but everyone knew she was the Next Big Thing. 1979 was the year of her true ascendance, a third consecutive year co-starring in a Best Picture contender (Julia, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs Kramer) and the small matter of two other much-raved about performances in the same year (Manhattan and The Seduction of Joe Tynan). 

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are author KM Soehnlein ("The World of Normal Boys") and film bloggers Kristen Sales (Sales on Film), Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central), Brian Herrera (StinkyLulu), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). There's also a must-listen Podcast companion conversation to the Smackdown where we flesh out some of these thoughts and expound on the movies themselves.

Without further ado, the Smackdown...

1979
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 
An in-depth discussion after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Friday
May292015

Smackdown Summer - Revamp Your Queues!

We're just 9 days away from the launch of another Smackdown Summer. Rather than announce piecemeal, we'll give you all five lineups in case you'd like more time to catch up with these films (some of them stone cold classics) over the hot months. Remember to cast your own ballots during each month for the reader-polling (your 1979 votes are due by June 4th). Your votes count toward the final Smackdown win so more of you should join in. 

These Oscar years were chosen after comment reading, dvd searching, handwringing, and desire-to-watch moods.  I wish we had time to squeeze in a dozen Smackdowns each summer! As it is there will be TWO Smackdowns in June, a gift to you since this first episode was delayed.

Sunday June 7th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1979

Meryl Streep won her first of three Oscars while taking her co-star Jane Alexander along for the Oscar ride in Kramer vs. Kramer. The delightful character actress Barbara Barrie was nominated for her mom role in Breaking Away, Mariel Hemingway as Woody Allen's preternaturally wise teenage lover in Manhattan, and Candice Bergen played a singing divorcee in Starting Over - a role that supposedly helped win her Murphy Brown a decade later.

PANELISTS: Nathaniel R (TFE), Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central), Kristen Sales (Sales on Film), Brian Herrera (StinkyLulu) and novelist K. M. Soehnlein ("The World of Normal Boys," "Robin and Rudy")

 

Sunday June 28th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1948

1948's roster has a genuine movie star and one of the most iconic character actresses of all time in Jean Simmons who didn't get to the nunnery in Hamlet and Agnes Moorehead in Johnny Belinda respectively. Also nominated were two women from the immigrant family drama I Remember Mama, Barbara Bel Geddes and Ellen Corby. But taking home the gold was Claire Trevor in the Bogart & Bacall noir Key Largo. Will the panel agree with Oscar's decision? 

PANELISTS: TBA

 

Sunday July 26th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1995

The Oscar went to one-hit wonder Mira Sorvino (okay, two hit wonder: hi Romy & Michelle!) for her hooker with a heart of gold in Mighty Aphrodite but then no one knew what her future had in store. No one knew that for any of the contenders since they were all first timers. Sorvino was up against two familiar ensemble players Kathleen Quinlan in the popular hit Apollo 13, and critical darling Mare Winningham from Georgia, and two "new" faces who'd continue on to future Oscar glories and Great Actress reputations in Kate Winslet (Sense & Sensibility) and Joan Allen (Nixon).

PANELISTS TBA

Sunday August 30th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1954 

Eva Marie Saint dropped a glove and won an Oscar for On the Waterfront opposite Marlon Brando by any margin the most famous of 1954's Oscar nominated films. But what will the panel make of her competition? There's also the formidable Nina Foch in the all-star corporate drama Executive Suite, Katy Jurado, the first Mexican actress ever nominated, for the western Broken Lance and rounding out the category were two women from John Wayne's airline thriller The High and the Mighty, Jan Sterling and Oscar regular Claire Trevor.

PANELISTS TBA

 

Sunday September 27th
The Best Supporting Actresses of 1963 (Season Finale!)  

Since the 2015 film year really heats up in September with the Toronto Film Festival (10th-20th) and Prestige Season Kick-Off, we're taking it easy for the finale with the one of only two years when only three films were nominated in the Supporting Actress category. Margaret Rutherford won the Oscar for The VIPs, a Liz & Dick show, Lilia Skalia was also popular in nun mode for Lilies of the Field but it was the Best Picture winning sex comedy Tom Jones that was the informal star of this category with three of Albert Finney's co-stars nominated (the all time record in this category): Diane Cilento, Joyce Redman, and '60s Oscar fixture Dame Edith Evans (nominated shortly thereafter for both The Chalk Garden and The Whisperers

PANELISTS TBA

 

Queue up those DVDs, readers, and play along at home! Unless you're a semi-famous star or accomplished character actor, oft-employed industry professional, best selling novelists, popular film critic, or AMPAS member in which case, tell me which panel you want to be on! (Shameless Plug). You know you want to join in the movie merriment !!!

Wednesday
May062015

Smackdown May 31st - Pass It On !

UPDATE / MAKE NOTE: Date Changed to Sunday June 7th. 

It's decided. After listening to your comments and perusing the lists again we've narrowed down which years we'll be doing this summer. The next Supporting Actress Smackdown will be 1979... So get to watching out there for maximum enjoyment when it arrives. And your enjoyment comes before that if you do because, BONUS, this is a good batch of films even beyond these talented ladies. 

  • Jane Alexander - Kramer Vs. Kramer
  • Barbara Barrie - Breaking Away
  • Candice Bergen - Starting Over
  • Mariel Hemingway - Manhattan
  • Meryl Streep - Kramer Vs. Kramer

PANELISTS TBA

P.S. This also means that 1979 will be our unofficial 'year of the month' so we'll have other '79 related bits and bobs for you at the end of May. Please to enjoy. Any requests?