December 30, 2015

Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress

"I love your wide eyes," says Trevor Howard's Alec to Celia Johnson's Laura. It's a statement that sounds like a cute little affectionate regard, but it speaks to Johnson's entire performance as a whole. Those wide eyes of hers probably made as big of an impression on me since Bette Davis in Of Human BondageBoth two ladies use their eyes as cinematic weapons. But whereas Davis used hers as an more of a vengeful tool to bait and defend, Johnson uses hers to completely pierce into the viewer's hearts.

December 29, 2015

Jennifer Jones, Duel in the Sun

How does one begin to discuss the topic of Jennifer Jones's performance in Duel in the Sun? I find that once I begin to type, my mind then runs in several different directions on account of all the thoughts and feelings I have towards this film and performance. Days after the viewing, I'm still trying my very best to gather and package them up in an organized manner, so bear with me here.

December 25, 2015

James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life


You know I had to save James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life for Christmas day! Believe it or not, I had actually never seen It's a Wonderful Life before, and I was partially convinced it wouldn't live up to its hype as one of the definitive Christmastime films. But I should have known better--Frank Capra, who may very well get my vote as the greatest master of cinematic experiences from this era, crafts a delightful, feel-good picture, and Jimmy Stewart, ever the dependable leading man, is It's a Wonderful Life's heartfelt nucleus.

December 24, 2015

Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives

Won: Academy Award - Best Actor

Fredric March appears in The Best Years of Our Lives much older and seasoned than the Freddie I had gotten to know so well the decade before. And with this age comes something new that hadn't been there prior--a profound sense of translucence, the ability to make the simplest of expressions into exhaustive significance.

December 20, 2015

Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own

Won: Academy Award - Best Actress
Jody Norris in To Each His Own is exactly what Academy Award winning performances are made of. Jody Norris is also pretty similar (surprise!!) to that of Helen Hayes's Academy Award winning performance in  The Sin of Madelon Claudet. So why is it that we often find ourselves in situations where we have winning performances which check every single box on the figurative Oscar Bait Checklist, and yet here we are, decades and decades after the fact, and these very performances have been all but completely forgotten?

December 19, 2015

Laurence Olivier, Henry V

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor | Special Academy Award - Actor, Producer, Director
After having watched Laurence Olivier play the role of the heartthrob in films like Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and Pride & Prejudice to somewhat mixed reviews, I was excited to see him graduate to the next phase of his career, that of the Shakespearean Olivier, the Olivier that most everyone thinks him to be. Or, rather more simply put, the actor Olivier.

Rosalind Russell, Sister Kenny

Won: Golden Globe Award - Best Actress
It's Rosalind Russell as a nurse!! It's the female The Story of Louis Pasteur (or companion piece to Madame Curie??)!! That just about sums up my viewing experience of Sister Kenny. And I'd like to preface this by saying that by no means do I want to diminish the legacy of trailblazing nurse Elizabeth Kenny; but Sister Kenny the film is formulaic oatmeal. It runs too long, its story too conventional and too outdated, with that old-Hollywood touch that makes it another film in a library of sappy 'prestige' biopics that mean well but stink of mediocrity.

December 13, 2015

Larry Parks, The Jolson Story


By now, I've watched a number of biopics and a number of films about actors, but I believe this is the first Oscar-nominated performance in which the actor in question plays a real-life performer who was in Hollywood movies. And so The Jolson Story has got that going for it I suppose. Watching it is like watching a literal lovechild of Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Great Ziegfeld, and Larry Parks is tasked with the hefty challenge of carrying a monotonous film runs much too long.

December 5, 2015

Jane Wyman, The Yearling

I've spent a lot of time complaining about female archetypes and gender roles and the limitations they've played on many a Best Actress Oscar-nominated performance. And Jane Wyman's Orry Baxter--a wife, a mother, and pretty much tertiary to the shenanigans of Jody and Penny--embodies everything I'm not looking for in a Best Actress performance. But herein lies a surprise: in spite of my hang-ups on domestic representations, I didn't think Wyman was so bad. In fact, I think she elevated the role's limitations in the very best way an actress possibly could.

November 29, 2015

Gregory Peck, The Yearling

Won: Golden Globe - Best Actor

Call me crazy and save me from myself, because I didn't think The Yearling was half bad. For a film about a boy, his pet deer, and his parents which runs a little over two hours, I found it to be well-paced and engaging. And so Gregory Peck is back again, going from Father Francis to the literal Father Penny Baxter, in a performance that is, unsurprisingly, more of the same.

November 4, 2015

1946 - 19th Academy Awards

And the nominees were:

Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives
Laurence Olivier, Henry V
Larry Parks, The Jolson Story
Gregory Peck, The Yearling
James Stewart, It's A Wonderful Life
Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own
Celia Johnson, Brief Encounter
Jennifer Jones, Duel in the Sun
Rosalind Russell, Sister Kenny
Jane Wyman, The Yearling

I've done a lot of bitching about how much I've despised the nominated films of this decade, but at least 1946 is looking a smidgen better. I've no qualms about getting to watch It's a Wonderful Life, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Brief Encounter. I'm uncertain of my feelings about sitting through the combined 4.5+ hours of Duel in the Sun and Henry V. And as always, there're two biopics to look forward to, a Best Actress winning-film that sounds strikingly similar in plot to a previous Best Actress winning-film, and...Roz Russell as a nurse. Plus...The Yearling. So here goes...and as always, let me know who you think I'll love and dislike :) 

November 1, 2015

Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actress 
Mildred Pierce is the film that Joan Crawford is known for. In many ways, the iconography of Mildred in the film nails the image in my head of what I think Crawford to really be--seeing Crawford, steely eyed, stroll about and into a police station, adorned with fur all over her body, only reiterates the perception of Crawford as a glamorous Old-Hollywood icon. On the flip side, seeing this woman play submissive to the characters and circumstances within the film completely contradicts the Mommie Dearest image that has ingrained itself onto Crawford's legacy. In other words, she is as expected and is as not expected here--but overall, she's magnificent.

October 28, 2015

Jennifer Jones, Love Letters

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Scroll through any actor's filmography and you'll find your handful of gems as well as a number of "huh?" films whose titles ring no bells to the collective minds whatsoever. Love Letters is exactly that kind of film. There isn't much to it that's noteworthy. It's a bland, average, trite melodrama released during an era that was chock full of trite melodramas--another face in a sea of faces if you will. But as it happens, Love Letters was a big enough hit to land itself some awards recognition. And so here I am, reviewing Jennifer Jones's performance.

October 27, 2015

Gene Tierney, Leave Her To Heaven

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In a category plagued with long-suffering wives and/or moms, noble damsels in distress and/or sweet saints, how refreshing is it to see such a demented character like Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven, sticking out upon the others like a sore thumb. In a way, I think Gene Tierney is perfect for this role because her beauty is the epitome of what I would consider 'chilling.' Concurrently, the entire time I was watching her I was wanting more, not quite because she was so outstanding but more so because of what she wasn't doing.

October 26, 2015

Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actor | New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor
Cannes Film Festival - Best Actor | Golden Globe Award - Best Actor 

Ray Milland's performance in The Lost Weekend swept just about any and all the Best Actor prizes that were available to be won back in 1945. It's the type of performance that has been heralded for its greatness to this day, and it's also the kind of performance that completely lives up to the hype.

October 6, 2015

Gene Kelly, Anchors Aweigh

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A quick musing: Cornel Wilde is billed beneath Paul Muni (and Merle Oberon) on the posters for A Song to Remember. Likewise, Gene Kelly is billed beneath Frank Sinatra (and Kathryn Grayson) on the posters for Anchors Aweigh. Their nominations, in and of themselves, suggest that Wilde and Kelly were better than their more established co-stars. While I don't feel that way for the former, I do feel that Kelly absolutely steals the show. There's a bias here as I've always been a complete sucker for a song-and-dance guy...but this is the first time in recent memory where a performance made me feel all sorts of blissful happiness while watching it.

September 26, 2015

Cornel Wilde, A Song to Remember

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The positive: it's always refreshing to view the singular Oscar nominated performance of an otherwise forgotten actor, because you can only handle reoccurring presences of Gary Cooper, Greer Garson, and Bette Davis for so long. In this case it's Cornel Wilde, who, after taking a gander at his filmography, probably wouldn't be at all on my radar if it wasn't for this nomination. The negative: this nomination is for a biopic on Frédéric Chopin, which is just about as exciting as you would expect it to be.

September 23, 2015

Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision

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At long last, we've reached the end of Greer Garson's reign as the perennial nominee of the forties. And what an extraordinarily banal run it was. I see similarities here to that of Amy Adams; for whatever reason, both came/have come through on the backs of several performances that, when boiled down, are pretty much the same, with tiny different elements here and there. What's more, as talented as they are within the confines of their respective schticks, I don't believe them to be very transcendent actresses. Because of this, I find myself exhausted by their presences at the Oscars, and at this point I feel as though I am without the inspiration to give Garson a proper review--because what can I possibly critique here that's any different from my last five reviews?

September 19, 2015

Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary's

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Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress | Golden Globe - Best Actress
Fresh off her Best Actress win, Ingrid Bergman came roaring back in a big way in 1945. With The Bells of St. Mary's being the highest grossing flick of the year, not to mention Spellbound and Saratoga Trunk being the second and seventh highest grossing flicks of the year, her star power was, without a doubt, at supernova levels. Today Mildred Pierce has carried on a more reputable legacy, but Bergman came pretty close to having her own Luise Rainer/Spencer Tracy moment, having picked up Best Actress prizes at the still infantile Golden Globes and the NYFCC. I for one am glad they didn't reward Bergman; not because of the content to which I am averse; rather, in my opinion it's just not a very "winning" role.

September 13, 2015

Bing Crosby, The Bells of St. Mary's

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And now comes the second-nominated priest performance of 1945, the second in a row from Bing Crosby (playing the same character to boot!), and the fourth in the Best Actor category total across 1944-1945 (40%'s as painful for me as it is hilarious). Ultimately, The Bells of St. Mary's isn't very different from Going My Way, and Crosby's work in the sequel is pretty much the same schtick we had seen the year before.

September 12, 2015

Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom

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The Keys of the Kingdom is one of those interesting cases in the sense that it looks like it got a New York release one year but didn't get a Los Angeles release until the next. Gregory Peck was honored with a Best Actor nomination at the 1946 Academy Awards ceremony in spite of this movie being marked as a 1944 film everywhere you look. I bring this up because the movie basically could have not been nominated, and if I had it my way I'd have preferred that the Academy had forgotten about this movie altogether. Because I hated it. And Peck, bless his heart, does not have the goods to make this film worthwhile.

August 31, 2015

1945 - 18th Academy Awards

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and the nominees were:

Bing Crosby, The Bells of St. Mary's
Gene Kelly, Anchors Aweigh
Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend
Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom
Cornel Wilde, A Song to Remember
Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary's
Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce
Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision
Jennifer Jones, Love Letters
Gene Tierney, Leave Her to Heaven

Well--after a nice little vacation from the 1940s, we are back to the old grind again. Halfway through the decade, I come back to literally the same, repurposed material--Greer Garson in her 100th nominated turn, Jennifer Jones in her third nominated turn, Ingrid Bergman goes from back-to-back turns as innocent girls to flat out becoming a nun in her third consecutive nominated turn in Going My Way II, PLUS an extra film about a priest (though this time with Gregory Peck, so there's that), PLUS another obligatory biopic. Give me strength to power through this atrocious decade!! (Can you tell from the collage which film I'm most looking forward to?)

So as per usual, feel free to let me know your thoughts on who you think I'll like/dislike, and which ones are your personal favorites!

SOME HOUSEKEEPING: The Oscargasms Hall of Fame gallery is being updated (a work in progress!). And if you haven't already noticed, I've messed around with the layout of the site. Should look fine on iOS, but if not, let me know so I can tweak accordingly!