Category Archives: Best Actor

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

You’re too good for me, George. You’re a hundred times too good. And I’d make you most unhappy, most. That is, I’d do my best to.

— Tracy Lord

It’s a known fact that Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison during the early part of her career. It wasn’t until she went to Broadway with the #244 Film of All-Time on IMDB, The Philadelphia Story that her career got back on track. It was a smash hit and ran for year until MGM purchased the rights to the play by Philip Barry and created the motion picture. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor Jimmy Stewart and Best Adapted Screenplay. The farcical nature of the film seemed unnerving to me.

A Philadelphian socialite named Tracy Elizabeth Lord (Hepburn) is getting married to her nouveau riche fiancé, George Kittridge (John Howard) at her parents’ house. The whole action of the movies takes place in the span of three days. Tracy is prepping for her wedding with her mother, Margret (Mary Nash) and her younger sister, Dinah (Virginia Weidler). Their no-good father, Seth (John Halliday) is not invited to the wedding.

A tabloid magazine, Spy headed by Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) wants to infiltrate the wedding to get the scoop on the nuptials when Tracy refuses access to the event. He wants to have his reporter, Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and his photographer girlfriend, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to be a part of the wedding party. How would they do it, you may ask? They enlist the help of former Spy employee and Tracy’s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to pretend that they are friends of Tracy’s younger brother, Julius.

The trio have their plan of action. Macaulay and Liz are looking around the rooms to find any dirt as Dexter schmoozes with his former in-laws. When Tracy sees Dexter, the tension between them is palpable. She wants him out of her house and out of the wedding. She knows that the people pretending to be friends of her brother are working for Dexter. The family pretends to be an eccentric family when the real scoop of the story unfolds with Tracy, George, Macaulay and Dexter.

The movie is a pleasant romp. A comedy of errors, but there were very few genuine laughs in the movie for me. The acting was a little hammy for me.

There were some moments of heart between Stewart and Hepburn. I’m gonna go on a feminist rant here, but I hate it when a strong woman that doesn’t want to get married would settle with an asshole that treated them like shit. their only motivation is not to end up alone. This was the same problem that I had with His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant– I will get to him in a moment. A guy could be a complete bastard to the get the girl and she falls for it. It pisses me off. I know that these movies were before the sexual revelation, but come on. It makes me question the intelligence of these women in the end.

I have a major issue with Cary Grant. I have seen couple of his movies that I have notice that he shows no range. He is delivering lines that would cut through Hepburn’s character, but feels like he is saying the lines. He reminds me of Bill Paxton in his delivery. He has this stoic look on his face. It bothers the hell out of me.

Judgment: A nice fluffy movie with not that much substance.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Crazy Heart (2009)

I want to talk about how bad you make this room look.

— Bad Blake

Crazy Heart is the movie that could finally win Jeff Bridges an Academy after four unsuccessful nominations. People think that it’s time for him to get his due. While I do believe that wholeheartedly, I think this is not the Best Actor performance of the year. This is a performance for the Academy to award, which is a shame.

Based on the book by Thomas Cobb, the movie centers around an aging country musician simply named Bad Blake (Bridges) that had been hitting the bottle too many times to write any songs that made him famous in the first time. He is a down and out guy barely living off the money that his manager Jack Greene (Paul Herman) sent that he pissed away on gas for his jalopy, Betsy, drunk groupies, and his vice of choice; whiskey. Out of the spotlight for so long that he is subjected to playing in bowling alleys and dive bars just to have to chance to sing one more time.

When Bad Blake is playing in a dive bar in Santa Fe, a bar manager, Wesley Barnes (Rick Dial) asks him that his niece, Jean Caddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) could interview him before he performs that night. When Jean shows up at his motel room, Blake is taken with the young woman that wants to get to know the “real” Blake. Jean is weary about Bad Blake’s drinking could be a huge hurdle for their relationship. They begin a love affair inexplicably. What is it about this disheveled 56-year-old mess with greasy hair, permanent sweat stains on his shirt, his pants always unfastened? Is it because of the great song that he wrote that go into his soul? I don’t know.

Blake has a chance to get his name back out there to the modern day audiences if he could be the opening act for a former protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Firth). Not having that much money, he decides to do it. After concert, Tommy asks Bad Blake that he could write songs for him for his upcoming album that he is recording. The problem is that Bad Blake hasn’t written a song in over three years. Blake is trying to find some way to his name out of obscurity before he could be another forgotten tragic music legend.

Everybody is comparing this movie to The Wrestler, which is an apt comparison, but this movie feels soulless. Without the performances of Bridges and Gyllenhaal, this film would be nothing but another rags-to-riches story. I thought the first twenty or so of this movie was very good, but when you have the pseudo-family element tacked on in there, the movie falls apart. I was bored. People were groaning that there was more movie when it fades to black before the last sequence.

When I see Jeff Bridges, I kept thinking about “The Dude” that mumbles his lines and the songs. I didn’t understand most of what he is saying. I don’t understand why Bridges is getting the awards lately, except for sympathy.

You have to classic Oscar-bait tropes here, an alcoholic, poor, has a relationship with the only woman onscreen, he pukes, has some sort of breakdown, running around undressed. The Academy shouldn’t be falling for this, but they are. Bridges will get the Oscar, which is unfair.

Before I close out this review, I had one giant question. When he comes back to Houston, he goes to his house. If this guy doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, how could he afford a decent sized house with running water and gas?

Judgment: This is purely a performance only movie. Don’t expect to be entertained by anything except the music.

Rating: **1/2

Training Day (2001)

Believe it or not, I do try to do some good in the community.

— Alonzo Harris

Director Antoine Fuqua made a big splash with Training Day. The movie was largely ignored when it initially came out in theaters, because the quality of movies in the year 2001 was not that good. It got an extra boost when Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor over perennial frontrunner Russell Crowe. This is a different take on the cop genre, but a good take on it.

As the title suggests, this movie chronicles the day in the life of a rookie cop, Jake (Ethan Hawke) on his first day on the beat. He is nervous about impressing Alonzo (Washington) who might give him leg up in the chain of command.

Jake wants everything that he needs to know about the beat. Alonzo wants to give the noob a reality check about what it’s like to be a real narcotics cop in Los Angeles.

They drive all day in Alonzo’s tricked out black Cadillac. Alonzo’s numerous lessons to Jake are to unlearn what the textbook protocol from the academy. Think with his gut and not with his mind. Not bring his personal life into his job. Have a keen eye on how to handle a shakedown.

The more that Jake gets to know the work ethic of Alonzo, the more he realizes that Alonzo is not a good role model of what it’s like to a narcotics officer. Some of his tactics doesn’t rub Hoyt the right way. If you want to be a good undercover narcotics officer, you have to know what it’s like to be drugs. You have to bends the rules a little bit.

Jake thinks that maybe doing what Alonzo would get him in his good graces, but going against Alonzo might be him killed.

There are two strong performances here from Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. The movie deals with the duality of what’s right and what’s wrong. Denzel’s Alonzo character is morally reprehensible that you don’t feel any sympathy for him. This is the biggest flaw about the movie.

Judgment: If you want to see Denzel be villain, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

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