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Entries in Smackdown (16)

Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 2: Steel Magnolias, Parenthood, and Movie Memories

Did you listen to part one and read the smackdown?
(If not, do both first.)

In the second half of our Smackdown 1989 companion conversation we discuss the 'regular family' subgenre in movies and television, and our histories with both Parenthood and Steel Magnolias. We also revisit Julia Roberts feud with her director Herbert Ross and debate how Parenthood has aged and where it sits in the raunchy comedy continuum.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your thoughts on these two films. Who's your favorite from these huge ensembles? 

And a big round of applause please for our awesome panel: Nick DavisKevin B LeeTim RobeyTasha RobinsonTodd VanDerWerff  and your host Nathaniel R. We hope you'd give us at least ♥♥♥ 

until next time...

Smackdown Pt 2: Parenthood & Steel Magnolias

Wednesday
Sep032014

Podcast Pt 1: Smackdown Companions & Left Feet: A Love Story

As a companion piece to the Supporting Actress Smackdown, we recorded a companion podcast. In the first half we talk misleading movie posters, Oscar campaigns, the outcome of the smackdown, Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot and Paul Mazursky's Enemies A Love Story and directorial,  acting choices, sexism, and point-of-view storytelling.

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments. We'd love to hear your comments on either film, and what your big takeaway from this month's Smackdown was. 

Smackdown Pt 1: My Left Foot Love Story

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 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug182014

Meet This Month's "Smackdown" Panelists

The Supporting Actress Smackdown of '89 arrives on Sunday August 31st, two weeks from now. We'll be celebrating 1989 here and there until then as "the year of the month". You need to get your votes in, too, (instructions at the end of the post). If you've wandered in from elsewhere and are like, "What's a Smackdown?," here's how it started and here's last month's entry on 1973 with its companion podcast. The year in question this time is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

no, these ladies are not the panelists

The Smackdown Panel for August

Without further ado let's meet the voices who will be watching and discussing the '89 hits Steel Magnolias and Parenthood. They'll also be sounding off on the Oscar-winning bio My Left Foot and the underseen actressy curio Enemies: A Love Story. Stay tuned.

new panelists

KEVIN B LEE
Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker, film critic and producer of nearly 200 video essays exploring film and media. He is Founding Editor and Chief Video Essayist at Fandor Keyframe and founding partner of dGenerate Films (a distribution company for independent Chinese cinema). His video "Transformers: The Premake" was featured in over 20 news outlets including the New York Times, Slate and Entertainment Weekly. [Follow him on Twitter | IMDb]

What does 1989 mean to you?

1989 was such a fascinating year for summer movies: could one imagine the likes of "Do the Right Thing" and "Born on the Fourth of July" slated among the current stack of superhero blockbusters? So many other great movies worth mentioning... but what comes to mind first is "Dead Poets Society" and Robin Williams as the high school English teacher we all wish we had..

 

TASHA ROBINSON
Tasha Robinson is a Senior Editor at The Dissolve, Pitchfork Media’s playground for movie lovers. Her writing and interviews have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles TimesOrlando Weekly,Science Fiction Weekly, and at the NPR Books website, and she's been a recurring guest on Filmspotting, Slashfilm’s Filmcast, and The Sound Of Young America, now known as Bullseye. She is still trying to cope with Hayao Miyazaki’s kinda-for-real-th-s-time retirement. [Follow her on Twitter]

What does 1989 mean to you?:

It was such a crossroads year. The Little Mermaid brought American animation back from the abyss, and the Disney Renaissance enabled the animation boom that followed. We’re still feeling the impact of the revelation that America could produce animation that was not just art, and not just fun for adults as well as bored kids, but insanely profitable in a way that made studios sit up, take notice, and get involved. And James Cameron’s The Abyss was similarly a turning point for CGI effects. That entirely digital not-a-Russian-water-tentacle was like a signpost pointing to how innovative and creative special effects could get, when anything filmmakers could possibly imagine could be rendered inside of a computer. All that, plus Steven Soderbergh’s debut, Spike Lee’s breakthrough, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which gave us Keanu Reeves: Major Movie Star. 

 


TODD VANDERWEFF

Todd VanDerWerff is the Culture Editor for Vox.com, where he writes a lot about TV and movies. Before that, he was the TV Editor at The A.V. Club. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Grantland, Salon, Hitfix, and The House Next Door. [Follow him on Twitter]  

What does 1989 mean to you?

"Honey I Shrunk the Kids". Which isn't even accurate, because I didn't see it until it came out on video the next year. But I remember feverishly waiting all summer, checking the movie listings every week, to see when it would hit one of the two (two!) screens in the nearby "big city" of Mitchell, S.D. Then I would go to the pool, and my friends and I would imagine what the movie might be like, based entirely off of the vague recollections of another friend who had seen it on a trip to Sioux Falls. By the time Honey made it to Mitchell, it was almost time for school. "Batman" had held it off that long. So I didn't see it until the next year, when it finally hit video. I liked it, but of course I would like it. I was 9, and 9-year-olds don't yet know how to be disappointed. (It also received my father's highest praise: "Boy, I'll bet they had fun making this one!") But it might have been my first true movie obsession, and for that, I have to thank it for a lifelong love.

 

returning panelists


NICK DAVIS
Nick Davis tweets, blogs, and writes reviews and is a professor of film, literature, and gender studies at Northwestern University. His first book "The Desiring Image" was published last year. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1989 mean to you?

I experienced 1989 as the Berlin Wall falling to the tunes of "Back to Life" and "Buffalo Stance," with Blush and Bashful spotlights strobing all around us.  My family moved to Germany a year later and I was disappointed to see the reunification going down somewhat differently. No one was dancing in a brown slip before a burning cross, which was how I then conceived of freedom in action.  For the first time, I saw four of five Best Picture nominees in theaters (Oliver Stone excepted) and I walked a mile each way to see "Steel Magnolias" three times in the cinema, which is what all the 12-year-old boys on the Marine Corps base were doing. Ken(ny) Plume and I got in trouble in English class the next winter for talking while Mr. Petrashune was trying to teach us. We were simply agreeing that "Driving Miss Daisy" obviously didn't deserve to win if the director wasn't even nominated.

 


TIM ROBEY
Tim Robey has been reviewing films for the Daily Telegraph since 2000, alongside a few interviews and other bits and bobs. His writing is mostly here. His recommendations series is here. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1989 mean to you?

I'd love to pretend I was all across Hou Hsaio-hsiaen's "A City of Sadness" at age 11, but no. 1989 means scattered things to a bookish child swotting up for exams, not yet a movie buff, much more of a fantasy and computer game nerd. I remember three films at the cinema – "Batman," "Indiana Jones," "Back to the Future III," "Ghostbusters II," at a push. A cast and crew premiere for "License to Kill" (my dad was involved on the insurance side). Strange peer obsession with "Look Who's Talking". This was maybe a year before I was Oscar-aware, but it may mark the point where I started watching flicks on VHS I wasn't meant to see yet ("The Fly," "Aliens," "Robocop") and, via these illicit thrills, just beginning to get the bug.

 

And your host

NATHANIEL R
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience, a reknowned Oscar pundit, and the web's actressexual ringleader. He fell in love with the movies for always at The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) but mostly blames Oscar night (in general) and the 80s filmographies of Kathleen Turner and Michelle Pfeiffer. Though he holds a BFA in Illustration, he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies. He blames Boogie Nights for the career change. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1989 mean to you?

Three visual memories became so burned into my psyche it's like I'm still watching them on loop 25 years later: Pfeiffer slinking on a piano top, Madonna dancing in a field of burning crosses, and Ursula the seawitch's body language.  All other '89 film memories are relatively wispy intangibles by comparison but there's two I should share. This was the year I learned what 'business' was in acting, watching Andie MacDowell fiddle with a glass during conversation in "sex, lies and videotape" and the year I first tasted the lurid addictive thrill of being an 'Opinion Maker' dragging a guy's guy high school friend of mine to "Steel Magnolias" and feeling way too proud when I talked him into loving it. 

 

YOU'RE INVITED, TOO!
The readers are the final (collective) panelist. You have until Thursday August 28th to get your votes in on any of the performances you've seen grading them on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (perfect). We excerpt quotes from reader ballots and your votes count toward the outcome.  

1989 Supporting Actress Nominees
• Brenda Fricker My Left Foot [Netflix Instant | Amazon Instant | iTunes]
• Anjelica Huston & Lena Olin Enemies: A Love Story [Amazon | Netflix | iTunes]
• Julia Roberts Steel Magnolias [Netflix Instant | Amazon | iTunes]
• Dianne Wiest  Parenthood [Amazon Instant -whod've thought that the biggest hit among them would be the hardest to find now? It's not available through either Netflix or iTunes!]

 

Say "HELLO" to our panel in the comments and tell them what you think of when you think of "89". And like the film experience on Facebook and follow Nathaniel on Twitter while you're at it.

Friday
Aug012014

Podcast: A Smackdown Companion w/ Dana Delany

Dana Delany loves talking movies! You can see her next in "Hand of God" on Amazon PrimeYou've read the Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1973. Now hear its companion Podcast 

On this special episode of the podcast -- meant to enhance and extend the current Supporting Actress Smackdown conversation to include the films themselves -- Nathaniel welcomes two time Emmy winner Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives, Body of Proof), as well as EW editor at large and "Five Came Back" author Mark Harris, "You Must Remember This" podcast goddess Karina Longworth, Bill Chambers from Film Freak Central, and Kyle Turner from The Movie Scene.

You'll want to listen to this one. Trust me on this: your week will not be complete until you hear Dana's Sylvia Sidney impression and Mark's childhood Exorcist story. 

Smackdown 1973
00:01 Introductions
02:45 American Graffiti: nostalgia, sexism, George Lucas, actors vs screenplay
13:15 Summer Wishes Winter Dreams: New Yorkers and Joanne Woodward's psyche
20:30 Paper Moon: Tatum O'Neal and the matter of child actors
23:15 The Exorcist: assembled performances, stand-ins, horror subjectivity
29:45 "Collaborative Performances" Andy Serkis & Linda Blair
34:00 We share childhood stories about seeing scary/adult movies
40:00 Behind the Scenes history & Dana talks Emmys & the awards circus
45:35 Paper Moon: Madeline Kahn, great screenplays, category fraud, and films about The Great Depression 
55:00 Final Questions / Goodbyes 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

NEXT ON THE SMACKDOWN: 1989 on August 31st

Smackdown Companion 1973

Thursday
Jul312014

Smackdown 1973: Candy, Madeline, Linda, Sylvia, and Tatum O'Neal

Behold the five Oscar-nominated Supporting Actresses of 1973: a "bitchin' babe" (Candy Clark), a pint-sized con-artist (Tatum O'Neal), a possessed teenager (Linda Blair), a selfish carnival dancer (Madeline Kahn), and a vinegary New York institution (Sylvia Sidney). 

THE NOMINEES

 

Last month's featured year, 1964, gave us an extremely senior acting shortlist of Oscar regulars but the corresponding shortlist of 1973, apart from Sylvia Sidney who had been a respected working actress for nearly a half-century, skewed very new and very young and not just because it gave us the youngest Oscar winner of all time in Tatum O'Neal; she was 10 years and 148 days old. The four actresses nominated with Sidney were in their first flush of stardom and only acting in their first (O'Neal) second (Kahn & Clark) or third films (Blair). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously approved of their career choice.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

from left to right: Chambers, Delany, Harris, Longworth, Rogers, Turner

You've already heard 'what 1973 means to them' and now here to talk about these five performances are authors Mark Harris ("Five Came Back") and Karina Longworth ("Anatomy of  an Actor: Meryl Streep"), film critics Bill Chambers (Film Freak Central) and Kyle Turner (Movie Scene), your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) and our special guest: two-time Emmy winning actress Dana Delany ("China Beach", "Body of Proof", and the forthcoming "Hand of God").

And, as ever, we must thank 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, part one of the main event.... (here's part two which is a podcast conversation)

1973
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

 

LINDA BLAIR as "Regan" in The Exorcist
Synopsis: The daughter of a famous actress begins acting strangely. Can two priests save her from the demon inside?
Stats: 15 yrs old. First and only nomination. 41 minutes of screen time (or 34% of running time). 

Dana Delany: William Friedkin clearly created a set where Blair felt free to perform. She is naturally real as a pre-teen and then fully committed  in the physicality when she is possessed. I know it's McCambridge's voice, but Blair deserved this nomination just for what they put her through; the crucifix in the crotch, alone! ♥♥♥

Bill Chambers: This isn't one performance but three--four if you count the makeup unto itself. Blair provides the base coat, of course, and the guilessness she brings to her early scenes is perhaps easy to underrate; she's not just natural, she's impossibly ordinary. (Her squirms and grunts in the hospital scenes are also viscerally authentic.) But Regan is a puppet in both concept and execution, manifesting fewer reactions than she provokes. In the end, this isn't unlike nominating Yoda or something. ♥♥

Karina Longworth: In a movie full of terrible performances, at least Blair's gives you something to think about, in that it takes some work to separate out what she's actually doing on her own, and what is being accomplished via makeup, effects, and voice dubbing. The things that are wrong (dated, laughable) with the movie are not Blair's fault, exactly, but she also doesn't exactly give a sense of the agency or invention that she brings to the role that another actress wouldn't.  ♥♥

Kyle Turner: Though part of what’s memorable about Blair’s performance has to do with Mercedes McCambridge’s voice work, she adds an absolutely crucial element of that innocence and naiveté suddenly taken over by evil. The film is not only horrifying on a visceral level, but on a human level because we sympathise for Regan. She’s going through Hell. Literally. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Mark Harris: Revisiting this, I found myself surprised by how little Blair is in the movie—unlike the adults, she’s not a character but an object, and William Friedkin uses her shrewdly but sparingly, in short, carefully chosen takes, sort of the way Spielberg deployed the shark in Jaws. It’s far from great acting, but her ordinariness works well for the part, and even though it’s a largely lip-synced performance (all hail Mercedes “Pazuzu” McCambridge!), she’s impressively game in every scene. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel R: Those doctors and priests are such fools. Little Regan definitely has an unholy spirit inside her and its name is "McCambridge". Though the sound design, dubbing, and makeup are doing major heavy-lifting, Blair does just fine with her half portions, believably slipping towards catatonic trouble. Plus: watch her demon scenes with the sound off (I tried it!) and there’s still solid physical acting. In short I believed this young actress scratched “Help Me” into her own stomach from the inside. ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-Ins: "Even with all the help this performance gets (makeup, sound, voice actors, etc) I still think Blair was ahead of her age and completely believable. Even after all the spoofs and rip offs I still find her creepy and during the "normal" scenes she's very natural." - Mauro. (Reader average: ♥½)

Actress earns 19½ ❤s 

4 more actresses after the jump


Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul142014

Meet July's "Smackdown" Panelists

The Supporting Actress Smackdown of '73 arrives on July 31st, just over two weeks from now. You need to get your votes in too if you want to participate (instructions at the bottom of this post). If you've wandered in from elsewhere and are like, "What's a Smackdown?," here's how it started.

The Smackdown Panel for July

Without further ado let's meet our panel who will be discussing popular classics Paper Moon, The Exorcist, and American Graffiti as well as the more obscure title Summer Wishes Winter Dreams. All of the Supporting Actress nominees this Oscar vintage were first timers and so are our Smackdown panelists.

Special Guest

DANA DELANY
Dana Delany is an actress working on stage, screen, television and now internet. She was last seen starring in "Body of Proof" on ABC. In August you can rate and review the pilot "Hand of God" in which she co-stars with Ron Perlman on Amazon.com. [Follow her on Twitter | IMDb]

Why did a famous actress like you want to participate?

I wanted to do a Smackdown because there is nothing I like better than watching a movie and discussing it with smart people. Way better than being smacked. 

What does 1973 mean to you?

For me personally it was a hugely transitional year. My parents separated, we moved to Virginia and I escaped by going to the movies before I truly escaped by going to boarding school for my senior year. It was also a transitional year for our country and film. Marriages ended as women asserted their independence and Roe v Wade passed. Economically the US was a mess with gas shortages and NYC was bankrupt. American faith was shaken with the Watergate trial and the beginning of the end of the fruitless Vietnam War. I think that's why you see so much nostalgia in the movies with "The Sting", "American Graffiti", "Paper Moon" and "The Way We Were" in stark contrast to the European "Last Tango in Paris". Even at the Oscars the next spring, David Niven being surprised by a streaker was the embodiment of old Hollywood/new world.

 

And...

BILL CHAMBERS
Bill Chambers is the founder, editor, and webmaster of FilmFreakCentral.net, which recently turned seventeen. A graduate of York University's Film program, he is a member of both the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. He just got a cat. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1973 mean to you?:

I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is Terrence Malick making his directorial debut, and Martin Scorsese formally introducing himself to moviegoers. The seismographic image of 1973 I have in my head is deceptively calm compared to the years that flank it, perhaps because while '73 produced no shortage of future classics, so many of them -- "The Last Detail", "Sisters", "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" -- seem like sleepers to this day, amassing cults without getting the splashy reissues or being front and centre in discussions of their directors' work. And when I factor in genre classics like "Enter the Dragon", "Westworld", even "Don't Look Now", this might be the year in film from that hallowed decade I'd most want with me on a desert island... though I'd probably just try to make a raft out of "Lost Horizon".

 


MARK HARRIS

Mark Harris is an editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, a Grantland columnist (about the Oscars and other things), and a contributor to New York magazine. He is the author of Pictures at a Revolution (2008) and Five Came Back (2014). He lives in New York City. [Follow him on Twitter]  

What does 1973 mean to you?

1973 was the first year I got to have any say in the movies I wanted to see, which, as I recall, were "The Sting", "Sleeper", "Paper Moon", "The Day of the Dolphin", and, because this is a place for truth, Burt Reynolds in "White Lightning". "The Exorcist" was high on my wish list, but only one friend my age had gotten to see it, and only because, as my mother tersely explained to me, 'His parents don't care about him.' That year's movies competed in the first Oscar show I was ever allowed to stay up and watch. Other highlights of that year for me: The televised Watergate hearings, Sonny and Cher, fourth grade.

 


KARINA LONGWORTH 
Karina Longworth is the creator/host of You Must Remember This, a podcast about the secret/forgotten history of Hollywood's first century. She is the author of books about George Lucas, Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, and has contributed to Grantland, Slate, LA Weekly, the Guardian, NPR, Vulture, and other publications. [Follow her on Twitter]

What does 1973 mean to you?

"The Last of Sheila". "Blume in Love". "Scarecrow" winning the Palme D'or. Gloria Steinem with hair colored in emulation of Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Situationism. "Coffy". "The Mother and The Whore".

 


KYLE TURNER
Born in 1994 and enamored of the cinema ever since, Kyle began writing on the internet in 2007 with his blog The Movie Scene. Since then, he has contributed to TheBlackMaria.org, Movie Mezzanine, and IndieWire's /Bent. Xavier Dolan's "I Killed My Mother" is basically his life story and "Bringing Up Baby" is his default favorite film. He likes coffee and is studying film at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He is relieved to know he is not a golem. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1973 mean to you?

From merely an appreciative perspective, it was the year "The Godfather" won Best Picture (for '72), Watergate happened, and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" was released.

 

And your host

NATHANIEL R
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience, a reknowned Oscar pundit, and the web's actressexual ringleader. He fell in love with the movies for always at The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) but also blames Oscar night (in general) and the 80s filmographies of Kathleen Turner and Michelle Pfeiffer. Though he holds a BFA in Illustration, he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies. He blames Boogie Nights for the career change. [Follow him on Twitter]

What does 1973 mean to you?

I have no memories of that year but if I had any they'd surely involve my sister (she's the eldest and I'm the baby) and her friends who were approaching their teenage years and who I generally remember looking at with awe (bell bottoms, long hair and all) just a few years later. As for what it makes me think of now? Exactly 4 things: "Your girl is lovely, Hubbell"; Liza Minnelli's victory tour for her work in 1972 (the Oscar, the Emmy, the BAFTA, the Globe, and the Hasty Puddings Woman of the Year all came her way); political powderkegs Roe v Wade and Watergate; and that unique admirable window of time in America wherein confrontational subtitled art films like Ingmar Bergman movies could be big hits and up for multiple Oscars... the 70s were so weird (read: awesome). 

 

YOU'RE INVITED, TOO!
The readers are the final (collective) panelist. You have 12 more days to get your votes in on any of the performances you've seen grading them on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (perfect). (Paper Moon is on Instant Watch so you have no excuse to miss that one.) We excerpt quotes from reader ballots and your votes count toward the outcome. That matters because sometimes it's a real brawl for the win: see recent editions 1941 and 1964

1973 Supporting Actress Nominees
Linda Blair The Exorcist
Candy Clark American Graffiti
Madeline Kahn Paper Moon
Tatum O'Neal Paper Moon
Sylvia Sidney  Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

 

Say hi to our exciting panel in the comments and tell them what you think of when you think of "73". And like the film experience on Facebook while you're at it.

PROCEED TO THE SMACKDOWN EVENT