November 30, 2014

Robert Montgomery, Here Comes Mr. Jordan


Given the type of work that the Academy frequently nominates, you'd think that you'd need makeup, some sort of overwhelmingly dramatic arc, some sort of real life historical figure, immersive mimicry and tics, or some sort of combination of the aforementioned in order to make a "good" performance. There's almost always a gimmick involved that in turn signifies to us that what we're watching is outstanding. We've become conditioned to hold that big scene in high regard, that "Oscar-clip" of which fine acting is exemplified. After having trekked through Orson Welles aging an entire lifetime, Gary Cooper emulating a real life WWI sergeant, Cary Grant taking a stab at heartstring-tugging drama, and Walter Huston personifying diabolical wickedness, I can't tell you how refreshing it was to end with Robert Montgomery, who really hadn't anything to bring to the table outside of doing the very best he could with a wholly enjoyable picture.

November 29, 2014

Walter Huston, The Devil and Daniel Webster


The Devil and Daniel Webster is such a stimulatingly eccentric picture. This coupled with the fact that it managed to snag Walter Huston a Best Actor nomination surely has to speak to the industry's immense respect for him. I say this because while it's not a bad performance by any means, Huston's role is noticeably tinier than that of fellow co-stars Edward Arnold and James Craig. To say that his performance should fall into the lead category is a total joke, but at the same time I can't help but cheer on this nomination.

November 28, 2014

Cary Grant, Penny Serenade


Leave it to the Academy to flat out ignore Cary Grant's excellent comedic performances in some of the most acclaimed comedies of the time again and again, and then finally throwing him a bone for an utterly forgettable (and totally mediocre) melodrama. It often feels peculiar to be judging Grant for this particular performance, partly because he's a little bit out of his element and partly because he is stifled by a real clunker of a movie. As a result, it never feels like Grant is truly "on" in this movie like he is in his more iconic films, and the entire film and nomination feels so hasty, as if the Academy was saying, "look! we're acknowledging him! look at him here! he's so dramatic!"

November 27, 2014

Gary Cooper, Sergeant York

Won: Academy Award - Best Actor | New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor

The internet tells me that Gary Cooper moved to Los Angeles from Montana on Thanksgiving day exactly 90 years ago, where he was influenced by a few friends to work as a film extra (what a perfect little coincidence!), and thus a movie star was born. I must admit that I don't "get" Cooper. By now I've seen a handful of his films and I've yet to have a lightbulb moment in which I am able to rationalize his appeal. In spite of my hatred of Spencer Tracy's triple nominations, I still liked him enough in Libeled Lady (and I hear he's great in Fury) to believe that beneath the crappy nominations and wins lies a true-to-heart actor. I may have been indifferent towards Paul Muni, but at least he had a chameleonic schtick he was working with. Clark Gable, probably the closest contemporary I can think of to Cooper in terms of their man! images, had a palpably engaging charm about him. But what of Cooper? What exactly does he bring to the table? I don't know if I can say that he was born to act, and it's not as though he has much versatility. And I don't find Cooper very compelling either...he's kind of just always there--this rather aloof presence, an embodiment of qualities that a 1940's public would embrace...handsome, tall, masculine, Republican, Caucasian. Read his profile on IMDB and he's summed up quite perfectly: "This tall, silent hero was the American ideal for many people of his generation" So it's no surprise that this living, breathing "American ideal" would win an Academy Award for playing a religious WWI war veteran in a time when WWII was unfolding.

November 26, 2014

Orson Welles, Citizen Kane


After having the life sucked out of me while watching How Green Was My Valley, I had an overwhelming urge to follow it up with Citizen Kane, if only so that I could rinse my moviegoing palate with some much-needed invigoration. I was happy to find that Citizen Kane held up just as amazingly as it did when I first watched it years ago. The film itself offers storytelling and execution that is so much more daring and imaginative than anything else I've seen from this time period. Today Citizen Kane still registers as rather quirky and a bit offbeat--it likely hadn't any realistic chance at winning Best Picture, even if you take away all the controversy and politics that shrouded the film upon release. Still, it goes without saying that wunderkind Orson Welles--having producer, director, co-writer, and acting responsibilities--achieves an extraordinary feat with his debut picture. But does Welles' starring turn as Charles Foster Kane match up with the overall greatness of the film?

November 15, 2014

1941 - 14th Academy Awards

 photo 1941.jpg

and the nominees were:
Gary Cooper, Sergeant York
Cary Grant, Penny Serenade
Walter Huston, The Devil and Daniel Webster
Robert Montgomery, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Orson Welles, Citizen Kane
Bette Davis, The Little Foxes
Olivia de Havilland, Hold Back the Dawn
Joan Fontaine, Suspicion
Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust
Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire

And here we go!! 1940 was one of my most anticipated years, and 1941 is one of several "meh" years from this decade that I'm not particularly excited about. I've already watched Citizen Kane a long time ago, so there's not a whole lot from this year's slate to look forward to. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm will mean that some films/performances will surprise me. Please share with me any of your favorites from '41, as well as who you think I'll like and dislike :)

November 14, 2014

Predictions: 87th Academy Awards

I can hardly believe that it's that time of year again...time flies by quick! There are officially 100 days left until the 87th Academy Awards, and once again I put it upon myself to throw out my yearly predictions. I used to do this a few years ago but stopped for some odd reason, so here goes!