December 25, 2017

Shelley Winters, A Place in the Sun

Through Shelley Winters, Alice Tripp is an anomalous character which presents an array of conflicting feelings. Alice is fundamentally a good person, one who wants to do the right thing when she finds herself in a precarious situation. And yet I didn't like her - and I imagine I'm not the only viewer to have felt this way. More broadly, Alice is a character whose total screen time will make you feel as though she is a supporting character - yet she is deeply central to A Place in the Sun, and the film could not advance without her.

December 4, 2017

Katharine Hepburn, The African Queen

While Tracy Lord was the role that reinvigorated Katharine Hepburn's career, Rose Sayer is one which seems to mark the beginning of a new era for Kate. Watching The African Queen, one might be surprised to realize that she is just a little over ten years older than she was when she played Tracy. Gone are the soft, beautifying studio lights befitting for A Goddess. Gone are the gowns by Adrian. Gone are MGM's opulent mansions. Instead, we see a sweaty, matronly Kate thrusted out in the bright African sunshine and shot in vivid, unforgiving technicolor. The African Queen is the debut of the deglammed, "old maid" Kate.

October 28, 2017

Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen

Won: Academy Award - Best Actor

Humphrey Bogart's victory for The African Queen checks off two common tenets that come with rewarding Academy Awards - the first being that Bogie defeated performances which've become much more iconic or revered in time, and the second being that Bogie won for a performance not widely perceived as being as "good" as other works in his filmography. Needless to say, I was not expecting to have much of a reaction to this particular performance, but was surprised to have liked it as much as I did.

October 7, 2017

Eleanor Parker, Detective Story

Consecutive Oscar nominations are indicative that one is in the Academy's good graces at a specific moment in time. And at first blush, it makes sense why Eleanor Parker would receive a nomination for Detective Story - hot off the success and recognition of Caged, she play Oscar's favorite archetype (the supportive, sort-of long-suffering wife) in a prestige Warner Brothers drama that made a lot of money at the box office. While I don't mean to discredit Parker's work in the role - I do think that this is an afterglow nomination. Had she not been nominated the year prior, I imagine it'd have been tougher for her to snatch up a nomination based on the merit alone of this specific role.

October 4, 2017

Fredric March, Death of a Salesman

Won: Golden Globe (Drama) - Best Actor

20 years after receiving his first Academy Award-nominated performance in the film adaptation of The Royal Family, it is apt that Fredric March would receive his last under similar circumstances. This time, he closes out his Oscar run leading a stage-to-film adaptation of one of the greatest American plays, taking on a part that any consummate, veteran actor would desire. It is interesting then that both actor and film have been forgotten over time; one does not usually think of March when they harken back to this era of film history, and, Salesman, like The Glass Menagerie, is one of those quintessential plays that did not - and likely will not ever - result in a de-facto screen translation.

September 16, 2017

Arthur Kennedy, Bright Victory

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor

Take a look at Arthur Kennedy's career from 1949 through the 1950s - a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor, five(!!) Academy Award nominations, and inaugural stage performances in The Crucible and The Price, among other things - and you'd think he'd have been set to become a much more regarded actor in the collective memory than he is today. That said: in reviewing his sole Oscar nomination in the lead acting category (a performance which also won him the Best Actor prize via the New York Film Critics), I was expecting a sort of dynamism that might complement these impressive highlights in his resume. Alas...

August 12, 2017

Jane Wyman, The Blue Veil

Won: Golden Globe Award - Best Actress in a Drama

Having first watched The Blue Veil years ago, I thought it was necessary to give the picture a revisit, just in case a few years of maturity might have softened some of my initial pointed views. Sitting through it all again, I suppose The Blue Veil as a whole does come off as more bearable. However, my overall sentiment towards Jane Wyman's work and the limitations of her role remains unchanged.

July 2, 2017

Pardon the Construction...

I'm a little late to the party, but it has come to my attention that Photobucket, a photo hosting service that I've used to embed the hundreds of screenshots on this blog for the past four years, has made the decision to immediately instate a subscription model for hosting embeddable images moving forward...meaning all present Photobucket-hosted images out in the web (and on this blog) are broken, unless I pay a hefty annual fee.

This is frustrating because a) 98% of the photos on Oscargasms are now images telling all of you that I need to update my account to enable 3rd party hosting and b) I'll need to start the process of re-embedding said hundreds of photos.

So bear with me, and apologies for the ugliness!

May 31, 2017

Bette Davis, All About Eve

as Margo Channing
Bette Davis, All About Eve
Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress • Cannes Film Festival - Best Actress

At long last, we’ve come to Bette Davis. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this performance and have attempted this write-up 3+ times, only to give up and shelve it away for a later time.

Why? Because this is a performance that has been praised to the high heavens, and yet…it’s played in quite a straightforward manner. It's executed in such a way that is potent but far from what one might deem as “mind blowing” or “revelatory.” Unlike the likes of Gloria Swanson and Judy Holliday, Davis isn’t projecting a character with eyesore and ear sore idiosyncrasies. She is playing Margo Channing forthright. Simply put, Davis does not transform into “Margo Channing” - she instead takes the character and shape-shifts it to fit a “Bette Davis” mold. The beauty of it all is that the character is a perfect fit to the actress - Davis may very well be playing herself, but this is an instance in which both character and actress persona fuse together seamlessly.

May 21, 2017

Happy Birthday Oscargasms!

Happy 4th Birthday to Oscargasms!

I'll keep it brief: my apologies for the infrequent posts in the last few months (in tandem with my very lagging coverage of 1950!) I have no excuses - I've been lazy with the free time that I have, and have used it going out, catching up on shows, and laying around doing a whole lot of nothing. Rest assured that I have started the Bette Davis post and hope to queue it up shortly before segueing into 1951, and I will try to cover that year at a more speedier pace. In any case, thank you for your patience and thank you thank you for the continued readership!* It really does means a lot.

*I also seem to be unable to produce comments, not sure why? Hope to get that sorted out soon as well. 

April 29, 2017

Anne Baxter, All About Eve

as Eve Harrington
Anne Baxter, All About Eve
Within the time-honored tale of 1950's Best Actress race, a question presents itself: in demanding that she be campaigned in the lead actress category for her work in All About Eve, did Anne Baxter inadvertently create a vote-splitting scenario against co-star and co-nominee Bette Davis, thereby contributing to the latter's loss to Judy Holliday?

The myth of the vote-split so heavily looms around the lexicon of the Academy Awards and its ensuing awards campaigns such that we've not seen multiple stars of one film in the lead actress category since 1991 (Julia Roberts in August: Osage County and Rooney Mara in Carol be damned). I'm of the belief that the concept of vote splitting in relation to double-nominees from the same film is an inflated myth. As victories from Shirley MacLaine, F. Murray Abraham, and Peter Finch demonstrate, there are external factors that come into play for one's Oscar glory. You can't argue that Debra Winger, Tom Hulce, and William Holden could have realistically won when their counterparts were either more acclaimed or perceived as more "overdue". Such is the case for Baxter - if you eliminated Davis from the equation, would she really have stood a chance against Holliday and Swanson?

March 25, 2017

Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

as Billie Dawn
Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday
Won: Academy Award - Best Actress • Golden Globe - Best Actress, Comedy or Musical

Within the time-honored tale of 1950's Best Actress race, two questions present themselves: how in the hell did newcomer Judy Holliday manage to beat out the career-defining work by legendary veterans Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis? Furthermore, was Holliday's victory an injustice?

When Holliday saunters through the first few minutes of Born Yesterday, she's just your usual gun moll...pretty, glammed-up, and bearing a gaze which reads as mostly unimpressed (or is it vacant? or both?) And then, out of the blue, you're hit with it: "WHAAAAAAAT?" It's a brief yet sharp, potent, Donald Duck quack-like sound with enough power to stimulate at least a smile on your face. My feelings towards that first exchange with Billie essentially summarizes how I feel about Holliday's entire performance.

March 12, 2017

Eleanor Parker, Caged

as Marie Allen
Eleanor Parker, Caged
Won: Volpi Cup for Best Actress

Within the time-honored tale of 1950's Best Actress race, an assertion presents itself: all of those nominated for leading actress had the goods to win the prize, including Eleanor Parker's work in Caged, whose excellence has been largely overshadowed by the drama surrounding the Gloria Swanson-Bette Davis-Judy Holliday triumvirate.

One of the earliest images you see in Caged is that of Parker, bearing a palpable sense of horror across her face just before she's led into prison. It's a brief, searing visual which sets the tone for much of Parker's performance - one that's deeply earnest and absorbent.

February 25, 2017

Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd.

as Norma Desmond
Gloria Swanson, Sunset Blvd.
Won: Golden Globe - Best Actress in a Drama • National Board of Review - Best Actress
Within the time-honored tale of 1950's Best Actress race, a question presents itself: how could Gloria Swanson lose the prize for her work in Sunset Boulevard? She did, after all, produce a performance that is nothing short of legendary. She should have won! What a travesty!

One cannot dispute that Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond is an image which has engrained itself into the annals of cinematic legend and iconography, for as long as one may merely think of Sunset Boulevard, one may instantly recall Swanson, her eyes bulging from out of their sockets, her voice bouncing through exaggerated, eerie timbres, her head cocked back with stretched eyebrows in an upward arch, elongating that remarkable face of hers. The worship for her work is unbounded - and my insouciance towards it confounds me.

February 19, 2017

In Remembrance: IMDB Message Boards

The very first time I ever came across was in 2000, when I was obsessively researching the new Charlie's Angels movie that was set to come out. I was a wee baby then, my age in the single digits, and upon clicking the link to the Charlie's Angels main page, my mind was blown. Here was comprehensive archive that would feed me with all the movie trivia my little mini-cinephile-in-the-making ass could possibly need.

February 4, 2017

William Holden, Sunset Boulevard

as Joe Gillis
Screen Shot 2017-02-04 at 10.07.59 PM
It's known as the part that reinvigorated William Holden's career - Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter, finds his way into the world of a disturbed former silent film star, after which he begrudgingly yet acquiescently becomes her "kept man" as she plots her ill-fated comeback. It's a part that's mostly passive and reactive, taking a backseat to a dynamic, theatrical character with a greater call-to-action against the plot. It's not Holden's fault that I don't "get" this performance, at least not its nomination - the fiber of the character just isn't meant to be that compelling...not when you're sharing the screen with Norma Desmond.

January 25, 2017

Postmortem Oscargasm: 2016

The Academy has spoken! If you're like me, then you were probably up at the 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, perplexed by the new, cheesy infomercial format that was adopted for the announcement, as well as seething over their use of the trend of splitting nomination announcements into two halves with a mini intermission in between instead of announcing every damn thing in one full swoop. That said, there's some thoughts to be said on the 89th Academy Awards.

January 23, 2017

Final Predictions: 2016

It's that time of year y'all: Oscar Nominations 2017! Happy to say that I've seen a lion's share of these films and performances; I'll keep my opinions to my self for the time being, but here's my stab at the names and films I'm predicting will be called out in just a few short some quick thoughts on the leading categories. Tune in tomorrow for a postmortem - and as per most other years, I plan to have 1 alcoholic beverage per false prediction.*

January 13, 2017

Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride

as Stanley T. Banks

I've had a complicated relationship with Spencer Tracy - anyone who’s read some of my 30s reviews knows that. Though when I try to boil it down as to why - I don’t have a concrete answer. Part of it is attributed to a quick succession of (what in my opinion were) fruitless performances within that 1936-1938 timeframe - first impressions tends to stay with you after all. Another part of is due to Tracy as a performer - he’s not a showboater and he doesn’t exactly command your attention with his acting - his is a more simple style and presence, and I prefer actors and performances that resonate. And so, with Father of the Bride, I was expecting more of the same, albeit with a few more chuckles.

January 7, 2017

James Stewart, Harvey

as Elwood P. Dowd

And for the third stage-to-film adaptation wiggling its way into 1950’s Best Actor field, we have Harvey - a lighthearted and amusing little picture starring James Stewart in one of his more understated performances to have received an Oscar nomination.