StinkyLulu’s Smackdown: 1992

I was once again charmed with the opportunity to participate in StinkyLulu’s excellent Supporting Actress Smackdown series, and this year was a great one: 1992. Don’t remember it off the top of your head? Two words: Marisa Tomei. You have to go read the comments and reviews on StinkyLulu’s post! This is one of the best entries in an always-outstanding series. Alex’s video is great, too, as always. So stop reading here and go there! So, for good or ill (probably ill) I have some theories about why Tomei won in 1992. And these theories don’t involve a drunken Jack Palance. As Stinkylulu said, it’s surprising that Tomei was nominated, but not surprising she won. I completely agree, and I think that is the most apt thing anyone has ever said about this controversial win. I can’t tell you why she was nominated. I have no clue. But when looking at the other nominees, it seems as though most of them had a “reason” for losing. “Reason” is in quotes because I don’t think the Oscars have ever been about performances alone, they’ve been about image and politics and favorites, and the reasoning behind half of their awards eludes me to the point that I sometimes think there was no reason at all. Joan Plowright in “Enchanted April” gave a good performance, but this was a pretty light film that started out as a made-for-TV film in the UK. The Academy hates the stink of television on their precious movies. … Continue reading

Bette Davis Project #4: Bordertown (1935)

Bordertown (1935) Paul Muni is Johnny Ramirez, a poor Latino living in L.A. who has just earned his law degree by spending 5 years in night school. His first real case comes when an elderly neighbor is hit by a drunk driver, the exceptionally racist and spoiled Dale Ewell (Margaret Lindsay) and her boyfriend lawyer, who was also in the car at the time. The boyfriend lawyer and judge in the case are classist, racist jerks — as is Dale, who sketches Johnny during the trial and titles the drawing “savage” — and Johnny loses the case, more out of bigotry than his inexperience. When the boyfriend lawyer continues to insult him, Johnny loses his temper and decks him. The judge and boyfriend make sure that Johnny is immediately disbarred. Johnny (and the movie) decide that the problem wasn’t racism, it was money, so Johnny heads south to Bordertown to become rich and powerful in revenge. At first he works as a bouncer for Charlie Roark (Eugene Pallette) but quickly becomes indispensable and a partner in the casino. Meanwhile Charlie’s wife, Marie (Bette Davis), has eyes for Johnny, but he doesn’t reciprocate. Bette does the best with what she is given in this film, which seems to be par for the course in many of the movies before “Dangerous”. Despite her critically acclaimed performance in “Of Human Bondage” she didn’t seem to get many solid roles. She spends most of her time off screen but positively exploding when she appears, … Continue reading

Bette Davis Project #3: Housewife (1934)

Housewife (1934): Bill Reynolds (George Brent) and wife Nan (Ann Dvorak) are happily married but struggling financially and quite frustrated with everyday irritations. Nan tries to get Bill to apply for better jobs because she’s disappointed that he is such a milquetoast, and of course this attitude strains their marriage further. Bill’s new, highly-paid supervisor Patricia (Bette Davis) had been friends with Bill and Nan in high school. Bill had been BMOC and Patricia admired him, then left town heartbroken when he married Nan. Several years later she’s made a name for herself and is back in the old hometown, while Bill is still in a go-nowhere job and refusing to take risks. Ironically, Alfred E Green, who directed this film and many other 1930s Bette Davis films, always seemed the kind of director who never tried new things. He wasn’t the kind of guy to take a risk and improve himself, at least not that I can tell in his films. Green’s films are forgettable unless a performance or something specific in the material stands out from his reliable, unimaginative direction; “Central Airport” is a good example of the forgettable, while “Baby Face” is a good example of the performances raising the quality of the film despite the director. Considering the contrast between Bill’s lack of ambition in this film and Patricia’s exciting, upwardly-mobile career, I wonder if Patricia’s arrival was supposed to trigger Bill’s desire to better himself. It’s not specifically played that way, though, so we’ll never … Continue reading

Counting Down the Zeroes: Gosford Park (2001)

Ibetolis at Film for the Soul is more than just a gifted blogger with an ambitious project, he is also the model of patience. As part of the Counting Down the Zeroes series, I was fortunate enough to again participate with a post about “Gosford Park” (2001) — a post that was a solid week late, thanks to family issues and my struggle to figure out just what I thought about Altman’s film. Below is my review for “Gosford Park”, as originally appeared at Film for the Soul. While you’re there, take time to read the rest of the wonderful reviews for the years 2000 and 2001. You’ll see why Counting Down the Zeroes was nominated as Best Blog-a-thon/Meme for the 2009 LAMMYs. *** “Gosford Park” isn’t an immediately impressive film. When released, publicity called it an English murder mystery turned upside down, made into something it never had been before. I knew the English manor house mystery genre well and was excited at the prospect of a new take on an old friend. After so much anticipation, I watched the film and found myself frustrated and sad when the entire experience was flat and dull. In the intervening years I’d decided it was a film I needed to view again. I was so sure I’d missed the big Something that “Gosford Park” had wowed everyone else with. But now I know that, for good or ill, that big Something was only a phantom. There is no reason to go … Continue reading

Bette Davis Project #2: The Bad Sister (1931)

The Bad Sister (1931) Bette Davis attended John Murray Anderson‘s acting school in her early 20s and hit Broadway in 1929 at the ripe old age of 21, where she was quickly discovered by Universal. The studio realized it had no idea what to do with her, however, and after a few films did not renew her contract. “The Bad Sister” in 1931 was her first film, and she plays the supporting female lead to Sidney Fox,the bad sister of the title. This is Bette’s first film, so of course I had to see it, but you have no idea how hard it is to find. Well, actually, a lot of you probably do. But the copy I had was seriously stinky, thus there is only one screencap. Sorry. As you can see, the film had French subtitles which were more interesting than the film. Like 99.44% of all early talkies, this film was an adaptation of a stage play, which means it moves at a glacial pace and has almost no set changes. The story of the world’s most irritating family and the trials it goes through because of the “bad sister” is a real snooze. Mom dotes on Marianne (Sidney Fox) with apparently no knowledge that the girl is spoiled. Look, Marianne has 6 large portraits of herself above her bed — clue in, moms. The maid (Zasu Pitts) knows Marianne is a spoiled little twit, but because she’s always Zasuing around — Zasu Pitts does nothing but … Continue reading