Archive for February 16th, 2009

Sam Juliano, Picks Best Supporting Actress….

Actress Amy Adams, in….Doubt

Actress Viola Davis, in….Doubt

Actress Taraji P. Henson in ….The Curious
Case of Benjamin Button

Actress Marissa Tomei in….The Wrestler

The Nominees For Best Supporting Actress:
The Best Supporting Actress line-up contains a full contingent of superlative performances, any of which could rightfully be named as “best” in the category. Normally, when two or more performers are cited from the same film, it is assumed there will be a ‘canceling out’ of supported, and one of the remaining nominees would emerge as victorious.
But there have been instances where that reasoning has not panned out. i.e. Cloris Leachman winning for her role as Ruth Popper in Bogdonovich’s The Last Picture Show in 1971, in the same year her co-star Ellen Burstyn was also among the nominees.

It’s true that there have been even more instances where this rationale has played out, but each instance must be examined on an individual basis. It is widely believed that the African-American actress Viola Davis is in a tight race for the win, and this despite the fact that her co-star Amy Adams was also nominated among Doubt’s stellar ensemble. Her one big scene on a windy school campus with Meryl Streep is the film’s dramatic centerpiece, and it could well win her an Oscar, despite the scant screen time Ms. Davis completed in the film.

Through the years a number of others have won for one scene, the turn in Network by Beatrice Straight the most celebrated of these instances. Adams’s role is far less showy, and she does suffer from not playing on either end of the ‘good vs. bad’ spectrum.
     Two of the other fine performances in this mix seem like extreme long-shots, even if this category has traditionally yielded some major surprises over the years. As Brad Pitt’s surrogate mother in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the newcomer Ms. Henson gives an affecting performance, the kind that Oscar normally loves. In this sweeping emotional film, she plays the film’s most beloved character, and her local cadence is impressive. Marissa Tomei is memorable as an exotic dancer in The Wrestler as a character who understands the title character better than anybody. But the problem here is that Ms. Henson, as an African-American, is seemingly trumped by her fellow Ms. Davis, and Tomei has already been in the winner’s circle for My Cousin Vinny. It is not all all though, out of the question that Henson could pull a major surprise if the race is split all over the place between the others, especially that she plays such a beloved character.

     That leaves us with the performances that at this point must be considered the favorite, that given by Penelope Cruz, who plays the ‘seducer’ of the title characters, and the estranged but fiery ex-wife of Javier Bardem in the Woody Allen dramedy. Cruz has the “babe” factor working for her, not to mention she will surely pull in the art house crowd who has long admired her work in foreign-language films, especially for Pedro Almodovar. She also seems to have an advantage i n that she received her nod for a film directed by Woody Allen. The Woodman’s films have won several other performers supporting Oscars over the years.
     Barring a major upset (like a dark-horse win for Ms. Henson, which is not impossible at all) the race is between Cruz and Davis, with the former rating a slight edge at this point.

(Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: Viola Davis in …Doubt)

(Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: Prediction To Win:Penelope
Cruz, in….Vicky Christina Barcelona)

Actress Penelope Cruz, in….Vicky Christina Barcelona

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1953 92m) DVD1

Beautiful Dreamer

p  William H.Wright  d  Anthony Mann  w  Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom  ph  William C.Mellor  ed  George White  m  Bronislau Kaper  art  Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown

James Stewart (Howard Kemp), Janet Leigh (Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (Ben Vandergroat), Millard Mitchell (Jesse Tate), Ralph Meeker (Roy Anderson),

I first saw The Naked Spur back in 1997.  It was shown as a tribute to James Stewart a few days after he died and was introduced, in his own idiosyncratic style, by Mark Cousins.  He called Stewart “funny, tender and uncomplicated“, but went on to wax lyrical about how Spur was representative of a shadier aspect of Stewart’s on-screen persona, and certainly his series of westerns with Anthony Mann showed that the days of George Bailey and Elwood P.Dowd were behind him. 

            Cut forward seven years and I come to review the film for this work.  This time, it’s the last of the film’s stars, Janet Leigh, who has just passed away.  Indeed, Millard Mitchell had died less than a year after the film’s release.  A sense of doom seems to hang over the film, and yet somehow it seems appropriate, for Spur, like the other Mann classics (and Winchester 73 and The Man from Laramie would be chosen by as many critics as Spur), dwells in the dark places of the mind.  (more…)

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