Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Supporting Actress 1952: The Movies

A funny thing about how I would rank the Supporting Actresses of 1952 is that it is wildly different from how I would rank the movies themselves.  So here are some quick thoughts (and rankings, from least favorite to most beloved) on the movies that the nominated actresses were in.

With a Song in My Heart
I didn't dislike this movie, not really, I just thought it was a little too forgettable.  It tells the life story of Jane Froman (or, at least, her life up until the movie was made) and it comes across as more of a 'Greatest Hits' biopic when a focus on one aspect of her life might have been a stronger choice.  The movie plays like it is building up to the plane crash she was in during World War II, but keeps getting sidelined by marital drama that is, quite frankly, terribly uninteresting.  In fact, the movie is at its very best while following Froman's recovery from the crash, but even there it has marital drama forced in where it isn't needed.  Susan Hayward and Thelma Ritter are both quite strong in their roles, often fighting against the glib performance of David Wayne and the personality-free performance of Rory Calhoun (although, to be fair, the movie asks Calhoun to do very little).  With a sharper focus, this movie could have been great, but instead must settle for being 'just alright.'   6.5 out of 10

Singin' in the Rain
As I mentioned back when I wrote my initial Revisited post, I feel like I should love this movie more than I actually do.  The technical skill of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor's dancing is excellent, and Jean Hagen gives my favorite performance of the nominated supporting actresses that year, but the movie is lacking that special something to make me love it.  Structurally, I feel like the movie wanders off course far too often (most especially in the 'Gotta Dance!' sequence, which feels like it belongs in an entirely different film) and doesn't really make up for it with memorable songs.  The characters (sans O'Connor and Hagen) are inconsistently written, and the movie takes an awfully long time to figure out what story it wants to tell.  For me, watching the film is akin to looking at a celebrated piece of art and wondering what all the fuss is about.  I do give it a higher score than Come Back, Little Sheba, but I would much rather watch that film a second time than give this one a third go-around.  7.5 out of 10.

Come Back, Little Sheba
This movie was the hardest for me to find (I ended up buying a DVD online that has a case covered in Korean and a default setting of Korean subtitles, so that was fun), but well worth the effort.  Essentially a two-person movie with Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth (although Terry Moore is there to occasionally give them another person to talk to) delving into marital drama that is actually worth following (as opposed to With a Song in My Heart).  Shirley Booth, frankly, is pretty fucking phenomenal in the role of Lola.  The character comes across as slightly grating at first, but as the film goes on you see all the little things that led her to her current state, mainly her recovering alcoholic husband.  Lancaster is solid as Doc, although I wish he had given more for Booth to play off of instead of the more reserved performance we did get. The big scene towards the end when Doc falls off the wagon is built to beautifully by Booth, but Lancaster - although effective - doesn't really set up Doc for the fall.  The movie doesn't quite overcome its stage-ness, but does manage to get characters out of the house a few times at least.  Not a bad film at all.  7.0 out of 10.

Moulin Rouge
Now here is a movie I quite enjoyed.  Focusing on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's life, it makes the smart decision to focus on just the last few years instead of trying to sum everything up in a two hour movie.  Jose Ferrer plays Henri, and the performance is a study in subtle suffering.  Everything about the performance rings true, and I feel an immediate need to bump High Noon to the top of my Netflix queue so I can see the performance that somehow beat this one.  What's really nice is that all of the supporting performances (save the one that inexplicably got the actual Oscar nomination) are also strong, resulting in a movie that is a pleasure to watch almost from start to finish.  In particular, I enjoyed Suzanne Flon as Myriamme Hyam, a woman who falls in love with Henri late in life.  In fact, had she been nominated, she might have been my pick over Jean Hagen.  8.5 out of 10

The Bad and the Beautiful
Probably the best part of this project has been seeing movies I hadn't even heard of and discovering what might be a new favorite movie.  The Bad and the Beautiful hold the record for most Oscar wins without a Best Picture nomination, and it is rather shocking that it didn't make that particular shortlist.  This movie features great performances, an intriguing story, and a rather smart (if misordered) set-up:  An actress, a director, and a writer are all called by an associate of Jonathan Shields (played by Kirk Douglas) to help him make a movie since he no longer has the money or the clout to make it on his own.  All three feel that they have been wronged by him and the movie flashes back to each incident that caused the feeling.  None of the sections feel like they go on too long, and the 'in-betweens' are just as engaging as the flashbacks.  The only minor quibble is the order in which they tell the stories:  It goes Director-Actress-Writer when it probably would have been better to reverse it - especially as what ruins Jonathan is his taking over as director on a film and doing a terrible job of it.  But aside from that bit of 'story-smoothing,' I have no other critiques.  9.5 out of 10.

No comments: