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COMMENT DU JOUR
SMACKDOWN 1954

 "I love that two people independent of one another gave Claire Trevor an extra star simply for being Claire Trevor." - Glenn

"Interesting to see the take of young people on these movies." - Les

"That was fascinating. I love the thoughts on Executive Suite, post-post-WWII and the "benevolent patriarch." " - B.D.

 

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Entries in Supporting Actress (216)

Sunday
Aug302015

Smackdown 1954: Wife, Sister, Secretary, and Passengers

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '54. Two lonely airplane passengers, a cooly competent executive assistant, a Native American cattle rancher's wife, and a sister seeking justice in her brother's death.

1954's supporting actress shortlist is, as you'll surely discover while reading or watching, a mystifying batch, particularly considering several films released that year that stood the test of time more emphatically. What's more, ALL five nominees sprung from well-populated ensemble films, the likeliest type of film to spur divisive conversations about who really deserved a nomination. Aside from Oscar favorite Claire Trevor (The High and the Mighty) -- rather generously included but when they love you they love you --  all were Academy newbies though Katy Jurado (Broken Lance), Nina Foch (Executive Suite) and Jan Sterling (The High and the Mighty) had each co-starred in recent Best Picture contenders (High Noon, An American in Paris, and Johnny Belinda respectively)... which surely helped their momentum towards placement. But what a bizarre shortlist nonetheless. Eva Marie Saint, newly arrived to the cinema, had the biggest role, one might say a leading role, in the year's Best Picture On the Waterfront, which went on to win 8 Oscars on the big night from 12 nominations.

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are returning panelists Brian Herrera (aka Stinky Lulu, author of "Latin Numbers"), Mark Harris (author of "Five Came Back") Anne Marie Kelly (The Film Experience), Manuel Muñoz (author of "What You See in the Dark") Todd VanDerWerff (Vox), and your host Nathaniel R (The Film Experience). After reading their thoughts right here, there's a podcast to listen to wherein we discuss the films themselves as opposed to only the performances.

. And now it's time for the main event... 

1954
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN

NINA FOCH as "Erica Martin" in Executive Suite
Synopsis: A CEO's secretary, reeling from her boss's sudden death, keeps her cool as executives scramble to fill his empty chair
Stats: Then 30 yrs old, 25th film, first and only nomination. 21 minutes of screen time (or 20% of running time). 

Brian Herrera: Easily my favorite kind of Supporting Actress performance. One that evinces a complex emotional arc from a mere outline and then proceeds to act the Foch out of that character/arc, staying always at the edges of the screen’s central action. The way she clutches her stenographer’s pen as if it’s a crucifix? Yum. ♥♥♥♥♥

Mark Harris: This seems to be a case of winning a nomination for tasteful underplaying while surrounded by wild overemoting. As a loyal secretary holding her cards very close while mourning the sudden death of her boss, Foch doesn’t lose her cool even while trapped in a scenery-chomping contest. Executive Suite is an overwrought boardroom melodrama without much wit, and she has virtually nothing to play. But she’s appealingly watchful, and by the end, she’s the only character you want to know more about. ♥♥

Anne Marie Kelly: In a movie where Barbara Stanwyck constantly threatens suicide, June Allyson actually yells, and Shelly Winters vamps until she cries, how is it that Nina Foch got the nomination? Whatever the reason, Foch actually gives a solid, restrained performance. If, during the never-ending speeches about manufacturing, American ingenuity, and the soul of Corporate America, you're unclear of who to root for, watch how Nina Foch reacts to them. She delivers emotional stakes quietly in a movie full of loud overacting, and puts Frederic March in his place.  ♥♥

Manuel Muñoz: Her loyal secretary seems a cliché at first, but Foch’s reserve teases out a marvelous ambiguity about Erica’s proximity to power.  Is she privy to just as much insider information as any of the bigshots?  Just as the questions start to build, she breaks down, only to turn a seeming moment of weakness into the resolve she needs for her brave, small denial to the manipulative Fredric March (her best scene).  From overt (her staircase shadow) to near subliminal (that last, extinguished light in the building as the end credits run), the film admirably insists on her importance.  To my surprise, her nearly wordless presence in the finale kept drawing my attention—and reminding me that this is exactly the kind of peripheral but vital presence that the supporting award was meant to honor. ♥♥♥♥♥

Todd VanDerWerff: While I enjoyed this movie, staginess and all, I can't quite fathom how Nina Foch ended up nominated from it. Yes, she's really good with what she's given, but in a movie with a number of at least interesting female performances, I'm a bit flummoxed with why she rose to the top. I think Oscar sometimes gets it in its head that "the women" or "the men" of a certain ensemble piece are really great in totale, but one has to be singled out. I'm guessing that's what happened with Foch here — she's standing in for the film's sometimes blinkered, always fascinating perspective on women in early 1950s America. ♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: Hypnotized by her pre-Joan Holloway pen necklace, I was. Everyone in this large ensemble is falling apart but Erica Martin is the only one that’s good at hiding it. Foch does so much with just her physicality, revealing utter competence, this office as an organic longtime part of her, and her feelings about each co-worker. And yet, she’s all business. That’s why it’s so riveting when her voice catches up to her expressive body in that amazing “those are the facts” face off. Chills. Sub-zero chills. ♥♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "She delivers the most lived-in performance of this slate; that might not be saying much, but Foch is as comfortable and competent in her role and Erica is at her job." - Bennett P. (Reader average: ♥♥♥)

Actress earns  25 ❤s 

 

KATY JURADO as "Señora Devereaux" in Broken Lance
Synopsis: The Native American wife of an Irish rancher tries to keep the peace between her husband and his boys, the youngest of which is her biological child
Stats: Then 30 yrs old, 28th film, first and only nomination. 17 minutes (or 18% of running time). 

Brian Herrera: The role requires a mystical moral stolidity. An odd fit for Jurado, who’s best at serenely conveying roiling inner turmoil. But despite the performance’s discombobulating incongruities — that syrupy brownface makeup, that refined Mexico City accent, all that Navajo/Diné finery worn by a supposed Comanche “princess” — the palpable emotion of Jurado’s screen presence resonates memorably. ♥♥♥

Mark Harris: Sigh. This is not the first or the last time the Academy congratulated itself for taking a step forward, in this case with the first-ever acting nomination for a Latina performer. Jurado plays the Native American wife of Spencer Tracy, and has zip to do except urge her “hosebahnd” to reconcile with his sons. She has an interestingly somber, heavy-lidded, deep-voiced presence, but her delivery of the hamfisted dialogue is very flat, and the character is a sketchy archetype that gives her nothing to play but a really tired definition of “dignity” and “poise.” 

Anne Marie Kelly: Maybe because the characters in Broken Lance obsess over the idea of Senora Devearaux (or more accurately over her mixed-race marriage), the Academy mistook her for someone important. Broken Lance covers a lot of big themes about racism, family, and the hypocrisies of civil society, but unfortunately, the character best suited to speak about such themes is given little time to speak at all. Jurado could be a good screen presence - her work in High Noon shows just how good - but she's wasted here as the Silent Native American Princess archetype

Manuel Muñoz: Quoth Aretha Franklin on Taylor Swift, “Great gowns…beautiful gowns...”  Except for a brief gleam of parental anger when she interjects among the fighting brothers, Jurado has so little to do except fuss with Spencer Tracy’s tie.  On paper, her backstory promises a plethora of potentially dramatic situations, but she ends up being talked about rather than actually being allowed to participate in any meaningful way.  Given her snub for High Noon, this was the Smackdown performance I had hoped would emerge as a triumphant rediscovery.  A frustrating disappointment. 

Todd VanDerWerff: I love '50s Westerns, which pushed the established themes and character types of the format into downright Shakespearean territory. That's true of this film, with its King Lear echoes and its unusual (for the time) flashback structure. Jurado's work falls into the "supportive wife" type Oscar loves in this category. She's, again, fine, and it's great she was the first Latin-American woman nominated for an Oscar. But she's still playing a race (Native American) other than her own and playing a woman much older than her actual years — two unfortunate Hollywood trends that still haven't gone away.  ♥♥

Nathaniel R: Jurado cuts a striking figure even buried in shawls and holds the camera well. That’s good news for the film which hasn’t written her anything to do beyond calming her hot tempered men— all the drama surrounding her racial identity, for instance, is played out in scenes when she’s not onscreen. That she feels emotionally commanding at all in scenes wherein she often has her head down (a defense against years of social umbrage?) and constantly saying ‘my husband my husband’ is a improbable trick. ♥♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "There’s novelty here, but more in concept than execution.  This isn’t my genre, but including a mother figure in a western at all felt odd, let alone as the younger half of a mixed-race second marriage, all of which the film treats seriously and sympathetically.  A shame Jurado is largely asked to play peacemaker, wise council, and devotee" - Dave S. (Reader average: ♥♥)

Actress earns 13 ❤s 

 

EVA MARIE SAINT as "Edie Doyle" in On the Waterfront
Synopsis: A young woman, whose brother has just been murdered, wants justice and begins to date a man who knows all too much about what happened.
Stats: Then 30 yrs old, debut film, first and only nomination (and win). 43 minutes (or 40% of the running time). 

Brian Herrera: Saint’s luminous in this deservedly acclaimed, star-making role. Saint captures Edie’s guiding conflict, that collision of instinct and ideal. But it’s a lot of screentime, and not every scene offers as clarion a glimpse into Saint’s character as that legendary “glove scene” opposite Brando, where Saint never fails to take my breath away. ♥♥♥♥

Mark Harris: I remembered Saint as the weak link, but revisiting the movie, I was pleased to find that she absolutely holds her own. Her assignment may look easy—she’s “the girl”—but both keeping up with and staying out of the way of Brando as he was reinventing American screen acting must have been challenging. She makes smart choices—as the grieving sister of a murdered man, she holds onto her anger and sorrow throughout, where a lesser actress (or a lesser script) would have let love melt it away. The famous glove scene wouldn’t work without her sadness and tension. And when she finally smiles, it means something. ♥♥♥♥

Anne Marie Kelly: In a year full of the worst that the dying Studio System had to offer, On The Waterfront was a revelation of things to come. Eva Marie Saint's performance, overshadowed by discussions of Brando and Kazan and Bernstein, is tender, violent, and spontaneous. This doesn't always feel like a supporting performance. Edie's drive to find her brother's killer motivates the first half of the film, though the second half of the film belongs to Brando's Terry. I don't know that Saint was ever better.  ♥♥♥♥

Manuel Muñoz: How different the lead actress race could have been had she been nominated in the proper category.  In the beginning, her Edie is headstrong, rash, and surprisingly physical as she works to convince the men around her to stand up to the abuses evident around them all.  Even at rest, her face in the early scenes is stern and resolved in her search for justice.  She matches up wonderfully with Brando in the famous glove scene, ably translating apprehension, consideration, and relief in a seduction scene that ends up working both ways.  The entire stage is ceded to Brando in the last third of the picture, but it’s still a lead performance.  Oscar made the expected choice in a lopsided race but, for the Smackdown, I’m not a supporter of category fraud (hence four, not five hearts). ♥♥♥♥

Todd VanDerWerff:  I always worry when revisiting a film classic that I won't be able to separate my feelings on an individual element from the film's established place in the pantheon. So while I really love Saint here and think she does a terrific job with a role that could have felt thankless, is that her actual work speaking, or the status the film holds in US cinematic history? I think it's the former, but it can be hard to tell.  ♥♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: Imagine trying to hold your own with Brando at the top of his game in your first picture? To Saint’s credit and, more importantly, in keeping with Edie Doyle’s inner steel and unshakeable sense of justice, she never reads intimidated. Kazan was so good with actors and that surely helped her on camera debut. Maybe she could have leaned harder into grief as a baseline, given the plot, but she’s wonderful with spontaneous mercurial feeling, especially when paired with Brando’s beastly mystique. ♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Dominates the crowd scenes...as she started looking directly at Brando, her performance took hold. She really is the strongest secondary character." -Rob S (Reader average: ♥♥♥)

Actress earns 28 ❤s 

 

JAN STERLING as "Sally McKee" in The High and the Mighty
Synopsis: A former popularity contest winner who has lied about her age fears rejection while flying to meet her pen pal fiancé.
Stats: Then 33 yrs old, 17th film, first and only nomination.  17 minutes (or 12% of running time). 

Brian Herrera: A lovely, minor performance. Fully inhabited. Captivating, charismatic, and often quite adorable. Yet Sterling’s choice to play up the character’s neurotic fragilities overwhelms and obscures the scripted contradictions that seem ripe for the playing. Still, it seems one should never ever underestimate the formidable award-garnering power of taking off one’s makeup on camera. 

Mark Harris: Oh, brother. This movie. These performances. What the hell was going on at the Oscars this year?! This is a groaner of a film—the first all-star disaster movie and a basis for much of Airplane!—and Sterling is there to play a bruised, hardbitten, self-loathing blonde who thinks she’s destined for heartbreak. She clearly got this nomination for one big look-at-me-I’m-old-and-ugly scene in which she scrubs off all her makeup and the hideous truth is revealed (except that she looks fine). It’s so Oscars—a not-old, not-ugly woman rewarded for being “honest” enough to admit she’s old and ugly. Look how brave she is! See how vain she isn’t! 

Anne Marie Kelly: Of the two examples of typical supporting performances on display in this hammy disaster movie, Jan Sterling plays the showier type. The One Scene Wonder gets one large scene to show her chops. Sterling's scene arrives midway through. Despite the fact that she is blonde, gorgeous, and only thirty years old, her character spits out her bitter fear of aging while removing her makeup. She's pitiful in a kind of grotesque way. It's an Oscar bait cliche, but it mostly works.  ♥♥

Manuel Muñoz: Her jello-on-springs intro, complete with leering sailors, goes a long way to helping set up a character who has suffered from the corrosive effects of both unwanted admiration and her vanity.     True, once explained, her dilemma is ridiculous, but Sterling has an easier time merging her character’s internal anxiety with the fact that the damn plane is going down.  When she finally drops the mask, it’s a genuinely startling moment in a movie that can barely hold any of its plotlines together.  An unspectacular but sturdy performance that briefly threatened to make me take the film seriously. ♥♥♥

Todd VanDerWerff: Here's another film where the ensemble elements obviously resulted in certain players being elevated. But I liked Sterling's work quite a bit. It's obviously a bit hammy and campy, but it's definitely in keeping with the tone of the film, and I found her monologue about how she fears the man she loves will realize how deeply she lied to him quite affecting. There were other women I liked more in this very movie, but Sterling is just fine.  ♥♥♥

Nathaniel R: I'd like to think that Sterling’s weaponization of her self-pity is a conscious choice  - purposefully too much, a caged tiger hostility at the man beside her from a beautiful woman angry at her impending middle-age irrelevancy. But nothing in the movie runs that deep. Still… her aggressive makeup removal is a proto-deglam moment that she isn't treating as a gimmick but as a desperate character beat. It earns a bit of (cringey) sympathy at least and she plays fear better than most of her co-stars. ♥♥

Reader Write-Ins: "Does a lot with very little in her few scenes as an anxious catfishing pioneer, but it is undeniably very little.." - Nick T. (Reader average: ♥♥¾)

Actress earns 14¾  ❤s 

 

CLAIRE TREVOR as "May Holst" in The High and the Mighty
Synopsis: An aging good time girl on a flight to San Francisco suddenly worries about lonely old age.
Stats: Then 44 yrs old, 59th film, third and final nomination. 13½ minutes of screen time (or 9% of running time). 

Brian Herrera: Trevor’s giddy garishness — delivering nearly every line as if it were a toast (“Coney Island with Coconuts!”) — is both delicious and deft. Trevor plays May as a gal who knows how to work a room, subtly serving the film at every step. And the way she makes that mink into her tragic scene partner… ♥♥

Mark Harris: The contempt for women in this movie is astonishing. Trevor is great in dramas, but this is essentially a comic-relief role, she’s a loud, vulgar women stuck on a plane in a big blue party dress. And at the end, for no particular reason, the movie has to dismantle her: “There oughta be a home for people like me,” she sighs, “a house with no mirrors in it…the May Holtz home for broken-down broads.” I’m giving her an extra star because she’s Claire Trevor, goddammit, and she nails her compulsories like the pro she was. But come on. ♥♥

Anne Marie Kelly: As the Colorful Side Character, Claire Trevor delivers the other typical supporting performance in The High and the Mighty with a lot of personality and virtually nothing underneath. Trevor's boozy broad is designed for comic relief with occasional melancholy, but nobody can balance the jumble of tones that the movie smashes together. One star for being Claire Trevor, and one star for the way she throws her mink out of the airplane. ♥♥

Manuel Muñoz: There’s no denying that her leg-raising, fur-coat-tossing “broken-down broad” is just the brass and fizz that the film needs to be bearable.  Her sly, predatory smirk as she considers a fellow passenger promises good, campy fun, but once the high drama starts, both the character and the performance are incomprehensible.  She gives her big monologue a good try, but it’s an airless, joyless delivery of a misstep in the script—she looks like she resents it.  Had Trevor been allowed to play only blasé and bemused, she would have been an odd passenger for sure, but far more credible, intriguing, and nomination-worthy. ♥♥

Todd VanDerWerff: I went back and forth on this performance. Her big, dramatic moments fell hollow to me, but when she's basically Auntie Mame bopping around on a doomed airliner, I'm much more into whatever it is she's doing. Still, I should mention that I was more into the work of Doe Avedon, as a sometimes sarcastic, sometimes sweet flight attendant, and Laraine Day as an embittered wife who has a change of heart. The roles in this movie are all types, but those women elevate the types they're handed♥♥

Nathaniel R: You can always count on Trevor to pop in a movie but this role is so beneath her. It’s hard to imagine she wasn’t bored as hell while filming. Even scenes which involve her, like a silly fight between two men, barely make room for her. The visual of her fur coat tossing in blue party dress is fun but that’s literally it for impact. Her big clip scene (and “big” is a generous word for the scene and a too apt description of her choices in it) comes from nowhere; she doesn’t rescue it. 

Reader Write-Ins: "The lady gives good face. In her first scene on the plane, scrubbing the lipstick off her teeth, she delivers not a single line, and then gives the most perfectly composed, yet lascivious, look as she spots the silver fox airline executive across the aisle." - Travis K. (Reader average: ¾)

Actress earns 12¾ ❤s 

 

The Oscar Went To... Eva Marie Saint
And the Smackdown, while thankful that Nina Foch was in the room, seconds the motion.

Would you have chosen similarly?

Want more? The companion podcast is up!

For context of the year we also looked back at Broken Lance's racial drama, the B pleasures of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Life Magazine's view of the Best Actress race, Audrey's suitors in Sabrina, the very big year of Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman's Journey to Italy, the creation of Audrey Hepburn's Style, Federico Fellini's La Strada, looked at 3 animated oddities, heard what the year meant to the panelists and compiled a list of various vintage pleasures

Thank you for attending! 
Previous Smackdowns ICYMI: 1941, 1948195219641968, 1973, 19791980, 1989, 1995 and 2003. (Before that 30+ Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site.)

NEXT UP: We're doing 1963 on September 27th as the season finale so get to watching Tom Jones, Lilies of the Field and The V.I.P.s. the fewest films ever nominated in the category. You know you have time to watch all three and join us in the Smackdowning. 

Friday
Aug282015

Murder on the Orient Express: Ingrid Bergman steals the show - or does she?

We're near the end of Ingrid Bergman's career so here's the penultimate episode in our retrospective. Happy 100th to the superstar on August 29th. Here's Lynn Lee...

 

By 1974, Ingrid Bergman was a grande dame of film in the twilight of her career, with two Best Actress Oscar wins under her belt, and nothing left to prove.  Perhaps that’s why she deliberately opted for such a small part in the star-studded Murder on the Orient Express, despite director Sidney Lumet’s attempts to coax her into taking a bigger one.  And yet, despite her own efforts to stay out of the spotlight, it found her anyway, with her tiny role as a mousy, middle-aged Swedish missionary netting her an unlikely third Oscar.

We don’t see too many movies like Orient Express these days – A-list extravaganzas where most of the stars end up with little more than glorified cameos but just seem to be in it for fun.  And to be fair, the movie is fun and directed with flair, even as it plays up the absurd theatricality of the whodunit setup – something that doesn’t register as strongly when you’re reading Agatha Christie’s plummy prose.  It’s a bit much at times...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug232015

Coming on August 30th: Supporting Actress Smackdown 1954

The Supporting Actress Smackdown (and companion podcast), 1954 Edition, arrives in exactly one week. So let's...

MEET THE SMACKDOWN PANELISTS

We'll be discussing the Supporting Actress Oscar race of 1954 as well as the films themselves: The High and the Mighty, On the Waterfront, Broken Lance and Executive Suite. And you know how these things go. Sometimes other films from the year sneak in. This time we don't have any newbies but an All Stars Edition if you will with all previous panelists. 

Returning...


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]  

(Mark previously participated in the 1973 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

I think of 1954 as a year with one foot planted in two different decades. It's just before Blackboard Jungle, just before rock 'n roll, just before Elvis, just before James Dean. In some ways it feels like the last year that you could describe as "post-WWII" before the country transitioned into being "pre-"something else. In terms of movies, I think of a kind of thick, glossy romanticism--Magnificent Obsession, Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Sabrina.

I think of capitalism and camel-hair coats and cigarettes and immense cars--the American dream inscribed in retail objects. And I think of Brando's first Oscar and of what his performance in On The Waterfront meant to the future of screen acting..

 

MANUEL MUNOZ 
Manuel Muñoz is the author of three books, including the Hitchcock-inspired novel, What You See in the Dark.  He teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

(Manuel previously participated in the 1968 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

With the right drink and the right circle, 1954 means me arguing that "Rear Window" was Hitchcock's strongest Best Director nomination and, after that's settled, listening to anyone who can tell me why Jane Wyman was nominated for "Magnificent Obsession".

 


TODD VANDERWERFF

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]  

(Todd previously participated in the 1989 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

I suppose I could say 1954 means nothing to me. Both my parents turned 5 that year, so that's something, I suppose. Wikipedia tells me that Lassie debuted in 1954, and Willie Mays made "The Catch" at the World Series. Those were both things!

When it comes to the films, however, 1954 is a year where I'm really familiar with the biggest hits (Rear Window! On the Waterfront!) and woefully underseen on some of the smaller treats. For example: I loved White Christmas (the year's top film) when I was 9. Would I still? Who knows. Godzilla hit US shores in 1954, something that's worth celebrating, even if it won't factor into our discussion. But I chose this year precisely because I know so little about the nominees. I look forward to getting to know them.

 

ANNE MARIE KELLY
Anne Marie is the author of TFE series A Year With Kate and Women's Pictures.
Her love of film began as childhood adulation of Katherine Hepburn & the Marx Brothers, and grew into a passion for Technicolor, Hays Code movies, and B-picture scifi. This led to a career in film preservation & history. Anne Marie is currently pursuing a Masters in Cinema Studies at USC. When not writing about movies, Anne Marie can be found working on movies, talking about movies, or watching movies. She also has several other hobbies and occasionally goes outside. [Follow her on Twitter.]

(Anne Marie previously participated in the 1941 Smackdown)

What does 1954 mean to you?

Even though I wasn't born yet, 1954 is the year that changed my life. In 1954, A Star Is Born was released, re-edited, and re-released in a shorter version. Thirty years later, a film historian named Ronald Haver rediscovered the lost scenes, and put together a nearly complete version of George Cukor's theatrical cut. And twenty years after that, my mom gave me the DVD of Ronald Haver's version for Christmas. My confusion at finding production stills in the middle of a WarnerColor Judy Garland musical sparked an interest in preservation that eventually blossomed into a vocation in film restoration. And I owe it all to Judy Garland.

 

BRIAN HERRERA (aka "StinkyLulu")
Brian convened the first Supporting Actress Smackdown and hostessed more than thirty. He is a writer, teacher and scholar presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Follow him on Twitter. Or read his new book "Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in 20th Century US Popular Performance .

(Brian created the Smackdowns originally! He gave us his blessing and participated in the relaunch right here at TFE for the 1952 race)

What does 1954 mean to you?

1954 feels like the decade's pivot year -- the Salk polio vaccine trials begin, Brown v Board is decided, Joe McCarthy goes down in flames -- but it doesn't carry much personal resonance. Aside perhaps from the fact that it was the first year that the Miss America Pageant was televised. (Oscar went live-on-TV the year before.)

 

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 & Michelle Pfeiffer (specifically). 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 1954 mean to you?

It's rather a horrible Oscar year for me as I am NOT fond of the Best Picture list and it was the monster birth of deglam (it may have started before that but Grace Kelly definitely popularized it as an Oscar tactic). But here are a few things I think of that give me great pleasure:

 

Marlon Brando saying "I coulda been a contenduh," Marilyn Monroe in general who kind of defines the 1950s (don't you think?) and had gone supernova the year before, and the following musical pleasures: Judy G singing "The Man That Got Away," the "Sisters" number from White Christmas which two of the most popular girls in my high school used to sing at our Concert Choir events, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse's  sexual chemistry while dancing to "The Heather on the Hill" in Brigadoon and that barn dance in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Did you know there were over 20 musicals released in 1954?! It didn't use to be a special event only genre.


What does 1954 mean to you dear readers?

Do tell in the comments.

And remember to get your votes in on these ladies who give the performances within the films that we'll be discussing. Your ballots are due by Thursday August 27th - only vote on the performances you've seen as we weigh the ballots so that underseen or everyone-has-seen-it doesn't hurt or help.

The Nominees

The 95 smackdown was an absolute squeaker so since YOU are the collective sixth panelist you never know when your vote might count. On the smackdown podcast we'll surely consider this odd factoid: Several Oscar-favored actresses had supporting roles this year but none were nominated: Ritter (Rear Window), Moorehead (Magnificent Obsession), Stanwyck (Executive Suite), McCambridge (Johnny Guitar). What was that about?

Sunday
Aug022015

Podcast Smackdown (Pt 1) Sense & Sensibility & Mighty Aphrodite

You've read the Smackdown proper. Now, it's time for its podcast companion piece in which Nathaniel and his guests discuss the movies in greater detail.

Part 1: 40 Minutes
00:01 Introductions & who were we rooting for back in '95
05:45 Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite and broad comic caricatures in this particular category
14:30 Mira Sorvino’s career
17:26 Apollo 13
23:30 Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility, editing and ensemble work
34:00 Sister movies (Supporting or Lead for Kate & Mare?)

continue to part two

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes tomorrow.  Please continue the conversation in the comments...

Smackdown 1995. Part 1

Sunday
Aug022015

Smackdown 1995: Joan, Kate, Kathleen, Mare and Mira

Presenting the Supporting Actresses of '95. A chain smoking First Lady, a porn actress with dreams of hairdressing, a young romantic who lets her passions get the best of her, a famous musician who just wants to live quietly, and an astronaut's wife worrying for her husband in the stars.

THE NOMINEES 

1995 was a shockingly strong year for lead actresses. Though things were less crowded with possibility that year in the supporting competition (notice the leads crowding in here too) Oscar's roster here was exciting too, not just for its range of acting styles and characters but for an all first-timer field. Kate Winslet, Joan Allen and Mira Sorvino were all fresh faces just beginning to win mass attention. Mare Winningham and Kathleen Quinlan were the veterans, and though they'd both had previous awards attention (and Emmy win for Mare when she was only 21 years old and a Golden Globe nod for Quinlan for 1977's  I Never Promised You a Rose Garden), it had never gotten this glamorous: OSCAR NOMINATIONS!

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS

Here to talk about these five turns are returning panelists Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks) and Guy Lodge (Variety). Your host Nathaniel R also welcomes three new panelists Kevin O'Keeffe (Arts.Mic), Conrado Falco (Coco Hits NY) and new Film Experience contributor Lynn Lee. You've read their brief 1995 memoirs and you can also listen to an indepth conversation on the companion podcast.

And now it's time for the main event... 

1995
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul302015

"Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto"

As we continue celebrating 1995 with the imminent Smackdown, here’s Murtada with a new edition of Great Moments in Screen Bitchery.

Remember the endless jokes last year about that often repeated line in The Imitation Game (We won’t repeat it here - you've heard it enough). Well in Dolores Claiborne a better line is repeated by different characters at different times and yet no one cringes. It's so good you relish it instead. In fact I’d go as far as to say the line is what the movie is all about.  Say it with us after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul212015

Smackdown 1995. Meet the Panelists

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Next Supporting Actress Smackdown has been pushed back one week to Sunday August 2nd. That leaves us just under two weeks for any 1995 madness we want to get off our chest. That's leaves you just under two weeks to finish revisiting the Supporting Actresses at home and get your votes in by Thursday July 30th. Please only vote on the performances you've seen...

Just outside the shortlist that year? Who knows but maybe it was Globe nominees Kyra Sedgwick (Something to Talk About) and Anjelica Huston (The Crossing Guard), or SAG nominee Stockard Channing (Smoke) or future nominee Rachel Griffiths (Muriel's Wedding). Or maybe it was Magda Szubanski (Babe) on account of the Best Pictureness of it all. In our fantasies it was definitely Gina Gershon (Showgirls).

MEET THE PANELISTS
Here's a little bit about our panel to prep you for our conversation as they finish up their screenings...

First Time Smackdowners

KEVIN O'KEEFE
Kevin O'Keeffe occasionally stops talking about "Smash" long enough to think about film. He even writes about it sometimes at Mic, where he's the arts staff writer in residence, but he's also written for The AtlanticThe AdvocateLA Weekly and more. Let him be your star by following him on Twitter.

What does 1995 mean to you?

I'm ashamed to admit I was a child in that year, so my big motion picture experience was Babe. (I'm surprised Babe didn't get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, to be frank.) I hadn't seen many of these movies – the early 90s are a bit of a void for me, since I'm usually revisiting older movies or keeping up with newer ones. That's what drew me to the year for the Smackdown: It was the year I was alive, and yet I knew the least about it of any.

 

LYNN LEE
Lynn is a government lawyer who spends most of her time outside work obsessing over arts and pop culture.  Her current fascination is with "The Americans" on FX. Her first love, though, will always be movies, thanks to parents who raised her on an eclectic diet of Ingmar Bergman, talky French films, 1960s musicals, Star Wars, and Spielberg blockbusters.  You can find her occasional musings on movies and TV on her blog and as a new contributor to TFE.

What does 1995 mean to you?

My life as a movie lover can be divided into two periods: Before 1995 and After 1995.  Before 1995, I watched movies with my parents and friends, but didn't really seek out movies that I wanted to see for myself alone.  All that changed starting the summer of '95, when I graduated from high school and for once had nothing to do but watch movies, and that fall, when I headed off to college in an actual CITY and discovered a whole moviegoing universe I'd only been dimly aware of before.  I discovered there was such a thing as theaters reserved exclusively for "arthouse" and "independent" films.  (First movie seen in such a theater: "The Brothers McMullen," or maybe it was "Chasing Amy.")  I discovered Kate Winslet in "Sense & Sensibility."  I discovered that movies could become the college equivalent of water cooler conversation ("The Usual Suspects").  Above all else, I discovered that movies were something you could discuss with communities of fellow movie lovers - and I've never looked back since then.".

 

CONRADO FALCO
Conrado "Coco" Falco can be described as a student currently earning his undergraduate degree at Hunter College, as an aspiring theater director currently working on a play about the life and death of Taylor Swift, or as a film blogger currently writing for his personal blog Coco Hits New York. First and foremost, however, he is a film lover. [Follow Coco on Twitter.] 

What does 1995 mean to you?

One of my earliest (and most traumatic) memories comes from Christmas Eve 1995. I was three at the time. My grandma told me she had wrapped my gift in the "Snoopy" wrapping paper, so I went straight to it before anyone read the tag. To my surprise, the gift was a Pocahontas Barbie doll. I was mocked by all my cousins in what was one of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood. I don't have many specific '95 memories otherwise, except for the fact that  "Babe" and "Toy Story" were big staples of my childhood. I'm currently revisiting '95 movies in my personal blog, and discovering that it might be one of the most underrated years in American cinema. 

Returning Panelists

Nick gets a big photo because he worked 1995 into his bio photo. Look at all those movies!

NICK DAVIS
Nick Davis writes the reviews and features at the website Nick's Flick Picks.  The site's unpredictable cycles of frenzied activity and long dormancy have to do with his also being an Associate Professor of English and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern, where his research and teaching mostly concern narrative film in different eras, genres, and countries. [Follow Nick on Twitter]

What does 1995 mean to you?

I started college in 1995 and also started going to movies by myself in, at last, a big city with broad offerings. You work out which development was more exciting. I bought the Entertainment Weekly Summer Preview and concluded that five movies were unmissable: "The Bridges of Madison County" (because even the terrible book made me cry), "Little Odessa" (Redgrave, I guess?), "Mad Love" (crush on Chris O'Donnell), "Nine Months" (crush on Hugh Grant), and "Species" (crush on Natasha Henstridge, plus aliens, plus ambivalence about procreating). I saw "Apollo 13" with my dad before I left for school and "Sense and Sensibility" with my mom when I came home, and "Nixon" with my dad over that same Christmas, so basically you're asking me to pick between my parents. I saw "Babe" at least four times and forced skeptics to come with me. I deduced instantly who Keyser Söze was and didn't give a flying coffee cup. I deterred silent, unwanted advances from a friend while we watched "Se7en" and wondered how this movie could possibly be arousing her. I was the only man at near-empty opening-day matinees of "Home for the Holidays" and "How to Make an American Quilt". I walked into a genuine surprise birthday party my friends in the freshman dorm had thrown for me, but I left after two minutes because, I'm sorry, I'd already bought a ticket to "To Die For". I liberally quoted Angela Bassett from "Strange Days" like I was deep. I saw "Leaving Las Vegas" with the same friend I took to "Se7en". She didn't start stroking my neck this time, and we rode home in 20 minutes of unbroken silence, because by that time, a month later, I really was deep. I didn't get "Shorty". I was the face of love. I skipped "Braveheart" till the desperate studio re-released it in February, because these are our crosses to bear, sometimes literally. I skipped "Toy Story" like a damn fool. I saw it plenty of times later. I never saw "Mad Love," so what has it all been for?

 

GUY LODGE
Born in Johannesburg but based in London, Guy is the chief UK film critic for Variety, and a home entertainment columnist for The Observer. His writing also appears at Time Out, Empire, The Guardian and any outlet willing to pay for long-form thinkpieces about knitwear in the movies. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyLodge.

What does 1995 mean to you?

In 1995, I was twelve years old and in my last year of primary school — on the knife-edge, then, between feeling confidently grown and authoritative, and being tossed out of my depth into adolescence. My cultural diet was in a similarly transitional state. After a hovering period, 1995 was the year I said goodbye to the children's section of the library and devoured “Jane Eyre” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”; at the movies, my parents merged my growing interests with theirs and took me to see “Three Colours: Red.” (It was both the first subtitled film I saw in the cinema, as well as the first with a no-under-16s certificate. I appreciated their trust.) Out in the larger world, my fellow South Africans were celebrating our rugby team's against-all-odds World Cup victory, joyously consolidating the national repairwork started by the previous year's election. It wouldn't last, and Clint Eastwood would later make that moment in time seem that much drabber. But the memory of temporary invincibility remains..

 

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 & Michelle Pfeiffer (specifically). 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 1995 mean to you?

'I'm getting a bit old for that whorey look.'

 

1995 is when I graduated from college so it was a big year but it seems to have entirely evaporated in my memory but for the birth of the late 20th century's New Trash Masterpiece "Showgirls".

If I dig a little-bit harder into the memory banks I remember heavy rotation among roommates and friends for Alanis Morrisette's "Jagged Little Pill," Björk's "Post" and the "Pocahontas" soundtrack (showtunes 4ever! Don't judge). Cinematically, I was in deep deep throes of love for broken-winged Brad Pitt in "Se7en," Elisabeth Shue's booze-drenched boobs in "Leaving Las Vegas," and Angela Bassett's fierce elocution and even fiercer hair in "Strange Days." My least favorite movie-going memory was seeing "Braveheart" in the theater and hearing audiences cheering its ridiculous homophobia. My best movie-going memory from '95 is taking my three little nephews to see "Babe" which they loved and kept quoting in their adorable squeaky little kid voices which they would try to make yet squeakier to approximate the mice. One of them just announced his engagement  - Eeek! How was 1995 twenty whole years ago!?!?!


What does 1995 mean to you dear readers?

Do tell in the comments.