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.