May 31, 2014

Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion

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Wendy Hiller had a "spirited radiance" that prompted George Bernard Shaw to cast her as Eliza Doolittle on stage. And it was Shaw's insistence that led to her being cast in the film version of Pygmalion, where she'd soon became the first British actress to nab an Academy Award nomination for a performance in a British film. In a lot of ways, Hiller is quite perfect for the role--she's not your most conventional beauty, and there's an ordinariness to her that's fitting with the character, unlike future Eliza Doolittles Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn, who both have an innate regal quality to them that seems inappropriate for a character that's frequently called a "guttersnipe".

May 30, 2014

Leslie Howard, Pygmalion

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Won: Venice Film Festival - Volpi Cup for Best Actor

By now, there've been two types of performances I've seen from Leslie Howard. That of the thankless supporting character (re: A Free Soul, Gone with the Wind) where the focus of the film is geared toward the leads and thus doesn't have much room for Howard to shine, and that of the thankless lead part (re: Of Human Bondage, Romeo and Juliet) where Howard comes off as stiff and dull because the films themselves are stiff and dull and because his female counterparts are the scene-stealers. And then there's Berkeley Square, a film anchored by Howard which completely sinks because both actor and picture are so devoid of life...but we'll forget that one ever happened. So I hadn't any expectations going into Pygmalion, and I was pleasantly surprised watching him here because for once Howard looks as though he's actually having fun with a part.

May 27, 2014

James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces

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Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor

I'm assuming that James Cagney didn't really stand much of a chance at winning the Oscar, if only because his Rocky Sullivan is the most flawed individual out of 1938's Best Actor lineup and the Academy was a long way's away from being privy to rewarding wicked characters. Cagney's got the perfect mug for bad guy roles, with the structure of his face giving him an unusual look and feel, such that when Cagney grimaces or is even slightly displeased he looks positively sinister. That's what I think is so interesting about him in this film--he's innately threatening yet coolly charming, quite a nice personification of an irresistible type of danger that's alluring but lethal.

May 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Oscargasms!

Today my little blog turns a year old! I'm nowhere near as seasoned as some other bloggers, but I've been blogging about Oscar related performances spastically since 2010 and this marks the first full year where I've remained consistent and devoted to one blog. I pour a lot of my time into Oscargasms, (probably more than I should) and it's rejuvenating to be able to exercise my Oscar-obsessed mentality into an outlet as well as having others willingly read and contribute to my ramblings. So thank you to anyone and everyone who's given me words of support! We are a niche little group of like-minded individuals and I'm glad we've found each other in our love of this little gold statue.

So here's to many more years of Oscargasms--though not too many more years, because I mean, I'd like to get this all done sooner rather than later...I don't want be 50 and still doing this.

May 22, 2014

Charles Boyer, Algiers

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Prior to watching Algiers, I figured I had to first see 1937's Pépé le Moko as a way of honoring the original. And as it would turn out, I ended up really enjoying the picture as well as Jean Gabin's performance. But I should have known better--as is usually the case with remakes, Pépé le Moko was all I could think about while I was watching Algiers, and what Gabin did as Pépé le Moko was all I could think of while watching Charles Boyer. So the challenge here lies in separating Boyer's work from my own biased idea of what the work really ought to be.

May 20, 2014

Spencer Tracy, Boys Town

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actor

Third time's a charm, right? After somehow getting nominated in lead for a supporting role as a priest who helps reform a morally unruly man, and after winning an Oscar the subsequent year for playing a Portuguese fisherman who helps reform an unruly boy, Spencer Tracy comes back (in his third consecutive attempt to win my heart) as another priest who puts it upon himself to build an orphanage that'll serve to reform a couple hundred unruly boys. And he got a second consecutive Oscar for doing it. So by now it just feels as though the members of the Academy back in the mid-to-late thirties were fixing to troll us all. I know I know, it's of the norm for Oscar to get his panties in a bunch over someone and spoil them rotten with his love in the process, but this is frankly the most preposterous instance I've ever seen where blind, unadulterated adulation is being flung on an actor for literally rehashing the same monotonous schtick over and over again.

May 17, 2014

Robert Donat, The Citadel

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On paper, The Citadel doesn't seem like a very exciting film and Robert Donat's Dr. Andrew Manson doesn't seem like a very interesting character. A movie that seeks to tackle moral truth as well as exposing the adversity faced in a well-respected profession made me assume that The Citadel would be like Erin Brockovich except singed with 1930's triteness and corny dialogue. Besides, I've already seen this type of film before--it was called The Story of Louis Pasteur and it was a big fiery pile of hokum crap. But, as it happens, I was proven wrong: The Citadel ended up being a pretty absorbing film, perhaps because it was made outside of the states and co-produced by a British studio, making it possible to escape the cheesy conventions and ideals of American filmmaking. Further, Donat proved to be an even bigger pleasant surprise than The Citadel was--he grabbed my attention from his very first frame and holds on to it for the entire picture.

May 9, 2014

1938 - 11th Academy Awards

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and the nominees were: 
Charles Boyer, Algiers
James Cagney, Angels with Dirty Faces
Robert Donat, The Citadel
Leslie Howard, Pygmalion
Spencer Tracy, Boys Town
Fay Bainter, White Banners
Bette Davis, Jezebel
Wendy Hiller, Pygmalion
Norma Shearer, Marie Antoinette
Margaret Sullavan, Three Comrades

After being a bit underwhelmed by 1937's batch of Best Actress contenders, I'm much more excited for 1938's ladies. In fact, the only nominee overall whom I've absolutely no desire to watch is Spencer Tracy (again with the kids Tracy! You really know how to piss me off!). But yeah, feel free to share your thoughts on these nominees, and go ahead and make a wild guess as to whom you think will tickle my fancy the most :D 

May 6, 2014

Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth

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1937's batch of Best Actress contenders have proven to be tougher for me to evaluate than in other years. Grading Barbara Stanwyck's work in Stella Dallas was confusing in that I initially didn't know what to make of her hamminess. Luise Rainer's performance in The Good Earth was personally divisive given all the racial baggage that comes with the picture. And finally, along comes The Awful Truth, a light and silly comedy which provides some much needed, good 'ol fashioned amusement to balance out the somber deaths and sacrifices seen in the films of the other nominees. Irene Dunne's work in The Awful Truth was kind of difficult for me to analyze initially, because it's such a stark contrast from the scenes of sobbing and pain that I was forced to endure from the other ladies. In fact, it would seem as if Dunne's not putting in as much effort as everybody else, but with a closer look I realized it's easy to miss out on the little details that make her performance so effortlessly delightful.