Category Archives: Best Supporting Actress

The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion’s The Piano is one of my favorite movies of all time. I regretted not having reviewed this for the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair with her and Kathryn Bigelow a couple of months ago. The movie won Oscars for Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. Watching the film again made me marvel at the subtle poetry displayed onscreen.

Ada McGrath (Hunter) is a mute that has not spoken since she was six years old. She is set to be married to Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill) who she had never seen. She has to move across the sea to New Zealand with her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) in tow. The boat she is traveling in is packed with crates of clothes, household items and her cherished piano.

When the ladies arrive on the beach, they have to wait for Mr. Stewart to come and take them to their new home. They had to camp out on the beach overnight until Stewart came with a party of Māori tribe members with his guide, George Baines (Harvey Keitel). Stewart learns right then and there that Ada is mute and only her daughter could interpret the words that she says in sign language.

Stewart wants to take everything on the beach, except for the piano because it would have been too much of a burden to carry. Ada insists on taking the piano with them. It is her only prized possession. It is her way of communicating what she is feeling to the world. Eventually, she realizes that she has to leave the piano behind for the time being.

The marriage is not joyous. There is not love there at all. Ada does not show any affection to Stewart. It really bothers him. When Stewart leaves for a quick trip, Ada and Flora come knocking on the door of Baines to ask to go get the piano. In exchange for getting her piano back into her possession, Baines asks her to teach him how to play. The catch is that he doesn’t want to play, he wants to see Ada plays. Their lessons become increasingly awkward as Baines slowly seduces her.

This movie is beautiful to watch. It’s very moody with the blue wash, the torrential rain and the wonderful score by Michael Nyman. The acting in this movie make it what it is. You think that you are not going to like the love story that is happening, but you are strangely drawn to it. The piano plays a major part of why I love this movie. I have this theory that when a person plays a piano, they win an Oscar. Think about it. Adrien Brody is The Pianist, Jaime Foxx in Ray, Ellen Bustryn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, the list goes on.

The one thing that bothers me about this movie is the Sam Neill character. I know that he is supposed to be the other guy, but I wish I could have how did he fall in love with Ada to make him do some of the things he did in the movie.

Judgment: A beautiful movie to watch and marvel.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Do you no good to go poking around under rocks, Justin. Some very nasty things live under rocks, especially in foreign gardens.

— Sir Bernard Pellegrin

2005 was my snobbiest year to date, because I didn’t see that many of the Oscar nominated films of that year. When Brokeback Mountain came out, it was the end-all-be-all for me. The adaptation of John Le Carré’s book, The Constant Gardener was nominated for 4 Academy Awards and won Rachel Weisz Best Supporting Actress. The movie is a solid effort that swept under the rug.

after coming from his Oscar nominated direction of the seminal movie, City of God, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles followed up with this movie. A diplomat from the British High Commission, Justin Quayle (RalphFPiennes) leanrs of the death of his wife, Tessa (Weisz) from his colleague, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston). They go to a morgue in Loki, Kenya to identify her body. People think that it was an accident, but others think that it was an assassination.

Quayle is reminded to the times that he has had with Tess. He was filling in a lecture for his friend, Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) when the idealistic Tess challenged him about the actions of the US to go to war with Iraq. They have a mutual attraction with each other and quickly marry. Tess wants to go to Africa with Justin so she could do something about the AIDS crisis on the continent.

After Tess’ death, reports surface that Tess was supposedly having an affair with her African escort, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé). Quayle wanted to know why Tess was killed. It could have been from her probing into the pharmaceutical  companies of KDH and Three Bees who are using the African people as lab rats. She wanted to expose the companies for suppressing clinical trails, especially the adverse side effects, for a drug called Dypraxa that would suppose to treat tuberculosis. Justin wants to continue Tess’ crusade and investigate her death when everybody in his life is telling him to leave well enough alone.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie when I was watching the first half of the movie. I have seen movies that are heavy-handed with political messages like Syriana, Rendition or In the Valley of Elah. They will jump a subject down your throat, and you want to turn off the movie. Don’t talk at me. Let me understand what you are saying. When the conspiracy begin to unravel, the movie really started become intriguing where Justin’s life could be in the same peril as Tess’.

It did make me think about how the African people are portrayed as a continent of expendable people. With the rampant AIDS infections, famines, rebel child soldiers, and the ethnic cleansing; it shocks me that almost nothing is being done to help the African people. It makes me sad and angry that they have to fend for themselves.

Judgment: A taut thriller through and through.

Rating: 8/10

The Fighter (2010)

I have known about The Fighter for  some time now. It was originally supposed to be Darren Aronofsky next movie, but it kept getting delayed in the process. He did The Wrestler and felt that this movie would be too similar so he passed the baton to David O. Russell. It has got a lot of buzz this award season. It deserves it.

This is the true life story of Lowell, Massachusetts residents Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) circa 1993. Dicky has a HBO documentary crew follow him around for his comeback to the boxing ring where he shined as knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard, who appears as himself in the film.

Seeing that his time has passed, Dicky trains Mickey to make more goals than he ever did in his career. His decades long crack problem had him wasting away his body, hair, and mind. Their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo) is trying to keep the family together by acting as Mickey’s trainer. Dicky’s crack problem is hampering Mickey’s training and everybody sees that, except for Alice.

Mickey meets a feisty bartender after a night drinking named Charlene (Amy Adams). They begin to have a courtship when a fate steps in. Mickey would supposed to fight one opponent that is in his weight class, but his opponent caught the flu and will not be able to box. Another opponent steps up who is twenty pounds heavier than Mickey. (If you expect me to believe that Mark Wahlberg weighed 145 lbs, you are nuts. I am 160 lbs and I hit like a girl.) He takes the match so the family could get paid. He gets his ass handed to him.

Embarrassed by the loss, Mickey doesn’t want to talk to anybody in his life. Not until a rival manager would train Mickey in Las Vegas so he could have a chance to have a great career ahead of him. Mickey has a tough decision to make about choosing between his family and his career.

The movie overall was a very good exercise in establishing the dynamics between duty and pride, acceptance and being ostracized.

The story gets under your skin and wants warm your heart. It does has its faults. The main problem with this movie is the lead actor. Wahlberg has been training for this part for roughly five years and I was not rooting for him to succeed. He didn’t have the nuance, the charisma to make me be on his corner. Lastly, another down point is the fight sequences in the general were overly rehearsed. It did not feel like that they were hitting each other in the ring. It was like a choreographed dance.

Judgment: This movie is like a sucker punch to the gut.

Rating: ****1/2

East of Eden (1955)

Man has a choice and it’s a choice that makes him a man.

— Cal Trask

East of Eden was a movie that I wanted to see for a long time, but I never get the chance to do until recently. I wasn’t familiar with James Dean’s work until this point. All I know what the legend behind the man. Dean was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar posthumously. This film was nominated for four Oscars including a Best Actor nom for Dean, Best Director for Elia Kazan and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It won Best Supporting Actress for Jo Van Fleet. I’m surprised that this film got so much attention, because it’s not very good.

The only familiarity I have with John Steinbeck and his work was going to my former high school’s production of The Grapes of Wrath. This movie was adapted from another Steinbeck novel by Paul Osborn that deals with a young man named Cal Trask (James Dean) living in 1917 Salinas, California. First of all, I almost laughed out loud knowing this, because you don’t see many men wearing a cream sweater, dress shirt and slacks back then.

Cal is a troubled young man who does not get along with his farmer father, Adam (Raymond Massey) who treats his like a redheaded step-son. His relationship with his all-American type brother, Aron (Richard Davalos) is strained as well. Cal cannot stand that he is perfectly happy with Abra (Julie Harris) who he intends to marry.

Shaking things up, Cal hops a train to Monterrey where he is trying to find his mother that abandoned the family years before. He potentially finds her in Kate (Jo Van Fleet), a madam running a brothel at the edge of town. Cal tries to forge a relationship with her, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him or her old life.

She does have a change of heart when Adam’s investment in transporting his lettuce crop on rail car goes awry. Cal asks her for money to go into a business venture to repay the money that Adam had lost.

I was fully expecting to be swept away with the tale of a misunderstood youth trying to find his way through life. I did not get that. The opening was very awkward and creepy with Cal following Kate to her house. I don’t know. The movie was going on and on and I didn’t like it one bit.

I tried to latch on to the relationship between Cal and Kate forging a bond, not mother and son, but being cordial to each other. Then, I tried to go into the possible love triangle between Cal, Abra, and Aron. There was one part that I liked was the tension between the German immigrant, Gustav Albrecht (Harold Gordon) and the residents who wanted to get the German for what was happening during WWI.

Judgment: How could I recommend this movie? I can’t. Sorry.

Rating: **

L.A. Confidential (1997)

I see Bud because I want to. I see Bud because he can’t hide the good inside of him. I see Bud because he treats me like Lynn Bracken and not some Veronica Lake look-alike who fucks for money.

— Lynn Bracken

It has been years since I have seen Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. Too long, I should say. This is currently #61 on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb. It deserves to be there. I thought it was overshadowed by a certain movie about a doomed boat that dominated the 1997 Oscars. It managed to win Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay for Hanson and fellow screenwriter Brian Helgeland and Best Supporting Actress honors for Kim Basinger. This movie is a masterpiece. There I said it.

Based on the first book from author James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet trilogy, it starts with the murder of known drug dealer, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle). This triggers a systematic takedown of his men. Three 1950s LA cops have to deal with the case from different angles. Officer Bud White, played by at the time unknown to American audiences Russell Crowe. White was the brute of the force that has a short fuse. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) that thinks that he is the star of the precinct because he is the technical advisor on the hit TV cop show, “Badge of Honor.” He is in cahoots with sleazy gossip columnist, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) trading criminals and drugs for money and headlines in Hush-Hush magazine. Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced officer that wants to a detective, but doesn’t have the stomach for the job.

Exley witnesses the extent of the corruption in the station when a group of Mexicans are beaten by most of the officers, because they were suspects of beating up a couple of cops. The fallout of this incident trickled down when White is suspended for not testifying against his boozy partner, Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel). Exley is the complete opposite; he would be labeled ‘the snitch’ to get a new promotion, a deputy lieutenant. Vincennes is reassigned from narcotics to vice. Fellow officers would backstab each other to save their own asses. White would be the muscle working under Capt. Dudley (James Cromwell).

At one of the drug-related murder scenes, Vincennes finds a card for “Fleur-de-lis” that could be connected to a murder at the Nite Owl Café where Stensland gets killed. The station thinks that a trio of Negro shooters was responsible for it. They hunt them down. Meanwhile, White recognizes of one of the victims as a girl he has seen in the back of Pierce Patchett’s (David Strathairn) car with Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) in tow. White learns that Patchett is running a prostitution ring to make the call girl look like Hollywood movie stars.

As the investigation intensifies, loyalties are tested, friendships are broken, and people show their true colors.

I may not have written how brilliant this movie is. All I say is that Curtis Hanson has a created a movie that had fantastic, crisp dialogue delivered perfectly from the main stars to the supporting players. The tension was there. I was on the edge of my seat. I know what was coming, but I still felt something about the characters. What is going to happen to them? The costumes, the art direction, it felt like I was in the 1950s. It didn’t feel like a fake movie set. It was organic. It had a life of its own. I appreciate that. Brava, Mr. Hanson.

Judgment: A fantastic film noir that makes you could to revisit more of them after watching this.

Rating: *****

1001 Movie Club: The Last Picture Show (1971)

Stephen Jay Schneider chose this movie as one of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” He compiled a massive list from the classic to the obscure for his anthology. The most worthy movies are chosen to be on this list. Every year, there is a revision to include the most essential movies to be on the minds of film buffs everywhere.

I personally picked The Last Picture Show as one of the selections on the 1001 Movie Club for this month. I don’t know why. I guess I have a love of Cloris Leachman and that Jeff Bridges in getting so much Oscar attention now that I would go back to the beginning of his career where he received an Oscar nomination with this movie. It was nominated for nine Oscars and won two Supporting Oscars for Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman. People might not get into a story about a small town, but I kinda did.

Based on the book by Larry McMurtry, the movie is set in the small town of Anarene, Texas in the early 1950s, taking a look at the year in the lives of the inhabitants this particular town. You might think that nothing happens in the town, but the small actions can be the newest town gossip.

The movie lays out the coming of age story of the meek Sonny Crawford (Timothy Buttons) and his life long friend with the gruff Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges). They both are captains of the Sonny is in a relationship with the pudgy Charlene (Susan Taggart) that he doesn’t love, but he is in love with Duane’s girlfriend, the privileged Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepard). On their anniversary, Sonny breaks up with Charlene.

Jacy’s mother, Lois (Ellen Burstyn) wonders why Jacy could associate herself with a roughneck that is not suitable. Jacy rebels against her mother to spend more time with Duane. Sonny’s gym teacher, Mr. Popper (Bill Thurman) asks him to be a driver for his wife, Ruth (Cloris Leachman) to her various appointments to the local clinic in favor to skip out his civics class. He takes Ruth to her appointment and they have a connection.

At town social, Sonny and Ruth begin to start an illicit affair. Duane lets his feelings known to JAcy, who doesn’t love him leaves with another privileged kid, Lester Marlow (Randy Quaid) to naked pool party about Bobby Sheen’s (Gary Brockette) house. Jacy is infatuated with Bobby, but he cannot have sex with her until after she loses her virginity. Jacy is on a quest to break her hymen quickly.

Sonny has run-ins with the locals like waitress, Genevieve (Eileen Brennan), Silent Billy (Sam Buttons) who is the son of Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) who owns the pool hall the youth hangs out at, the movie theater and diner that Sonny frequents.

Before the two buddies graduate and go off their separate ways, Sonny and Duane take a overnight trip to Mexico and back. When they come back, they realized that their world is crumbling down before them when there is a sudden death in their absence.

These people are stuck in a different time and place. When you are bored, you would do stupid, dangerous things. Have some sort of excitement in their ho-hum little lives. The crazy shit I’ve ever done with when I was bored out of my mind. I understood why the people did what they did. It might be morally wrong in a conservative, but they need to have some excitement in their lives. I don’t blame them.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movie Club Approved

Judgment: This is an accurate portrait of small town life.

Rating: ***1/2

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. No… not the artful postures of love, not playful and poetical games of love for the amusement of an evening, but love that… over-throws life. Unbiddable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love – like there has never been in a play.

— Viola de Lesseps

During my senior year, my high school put on a disastrous modernized retelling on Romeo and Juliet. Around the same time, Shakespeare in Love just opened in theaters and it was an assignment to watch the movie for some extra credit. At first, I didn’t know that it was supposed to be a comedy. That aspect of the film went completely over my head. When I owned the movie on video, I paid attention to the comedy and I loved it. I still do.

This movie fictionally retells the life of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) when he was exiled from his former life circa 1593. Times in his new home, London, are not faring so well. The plague rages across the land. Any public forums are closed including the theaters, which is not good for writers like Will or actors or the theater owners like Mr. Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush).

Henslowe owes a lot of money to Mr. Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson), who is like an investor for new plays in England. Will has to take small acting jobs when he can and other professional actors have to travel to other lands to perform.

Henslowe wants Will to write a new play that could be successful to pay off his debts. There is a problem. Will has no inspirations, no muse to let the words flow. He thought he had a muse with a loose woman, Rosaline (Sandra Reinton), but not.

With the advice of the country’s number playwright at time, Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett) plants the idea of Romeo and Juliet to Will. Henslowe has auditions for the men who will plays all the parts. At the time, women were not allowed by law to be on the stage.

One privileged woman, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) dreamed about being an actor. She is helped by her nurse (Imelda Staunton) to masquerade as a man, Thomas Kent, to audition to be in William Shakespeare’s new play. Will is taken by Thomas Kent that he wants him as his Romeo.

Their love blossoms at a chance encounter at a party at the de Lessep’s, but there is a wrench in the plan with Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) attends to make Viola his bride and bring her to the New World. Having only two weeks together, Viola and William begin a forbidden love affair that mirror the greatest love story ever told.

This is a love letter to the works of Shakespeare. I thought that it was ironic that at the time Marlowe was a bigger “celebrity” that he was. Shakespeare’s works are still revived today, but Marlowe is almost lost in time. The intertwining of our modern day catch phrase and the Elizabethan language is more hilarious every time I see it.

This movie was controversial when it won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Should it have won? In some ways, yes. The problem with Ryan is that there are too many endings. Spielberg tacked on a happy ending that doesn’t need to be there. To me, Shakespeare in Love was more heart wrenching and sweeping that Ryan. That’s just my opinion.

Judgment: Revisit this movie if you haven’t seen this movie since it won the Oscar.

Rating: ****1/2

Precious (2009)

precious

My name is Clareece Precious Jones. I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish a had a light-skinned boyfriend with good hair. But first I want to be in one of those BET videos.

— Clareece “Precious” Jones

When I saw the trailer Precious for on Oprah, I teared up. That’s rare for me to cry looking at a trailer. The story of Clareece “Precious” Jones struck as a cord with me so deep that I had to catch the movie opening weekend. My expectations were high for the movie. It’s a good movie, but it’s not perfect.

Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, the movie centers around in Harlem 1987. An obese 16-year-old Clareece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe) is pulled into Principal Lichtenstein’s (Nealla Gordon) office. She is concerned about the lack of education that Precious has received. She is still in junior high school that is virtually illiterate, pregnant with her second child by her mother, Mary’s (Mo’Nique) boyfriend who happens to be her father.

Whenever something terrible happens to Precious, she retreats into her daydreams where she wants to be famous and have a light-skinned boyfriend (Barret Helms). Mrs. Lichtenstein wants help Precious to have a proper education. The situation at home are awful. She is treated like a slave by her mother that orders Precious to cook her food. If Mary doesn’t get her way, she throws anything at Precious. Mary wants Precious to quit and get on welfare like herself.

The principal enrolls Precious into “Each One, Teach One”, an alternative school for people who seek to get their GED. She is lead to the ABC class by Cornrows (Sherri Shepard). Precious is introduced to the other students of the class; Rita, Rhonda, Jermaine, Joann and Consuelo (Stephanie Andujar, Chyna Layne, Amina Robinson, Xosha Roquemore, Angelic Zambrana). The ABC teacher, Ms. Blu Rain (Paula Patton) pushes Precious to learn how to read at a high school grade level.

Precious goes to the welfare office where a no-nonsense social worker, Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey) wants Precious to open up with her life story. When she does, Precious’ life spirals out of control.

The last thirty minutes of the movie is heartbreaking, devastating, shocking, and poignant. Everybody knows a Precious in their lives. In varying degrees, I knew a “Precious” in my life. This movie could be tough to watch, but it’s not brutal for the sake of it. This is another facet of life that is rarely discussed because it’s swept under the rug. Don’t talk about that. It’s too taboo. It need to be said. I’m glad that Lee Daniels is not afraid to have this material out to the masses.

Judgment: This move will make you laugh, cry, but most of all it will touch your heart.

Rating: ****1/2

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Here is another movie that have been nominated for 4 Golden Globes recently. Best Actor for Javier Bardem, Best Actress for Rebecca Hall, Best Supporting Actress for Penélope Cruz and Best Picture – Comedy.

This is a movie that I actually liked. It was showing at one movie theater here in Houston. I saw the movie yesterday.

This movies is the latest Woody Allen movie in European tour after he abandoned his beloved New York City behind a couple of years ago. After I was disappointed with his latest efforts, I was surprised that I loved this film. I heard that Allen was offered some money from the Spanish government to film a movie there. Here Vicky Cristina Barcelona is born.

The movie is about a pair of friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) visiting Barcelona for a couple of months. Vicky is a timid college student that is studying the Catalan culture of Spain. She is engaged to Doug (Chris Messina) that is working in New York. Cristina is free-spirited woman that does not want to led a boring life. She is trying to find herself and passion for something more in life.

They stay in the house of Vicky’s distant relative, Judy Nash (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband, Mark(Kevin Dunn).

One night when they are out at an art gallery, they meet a broodingly handsome painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Cristina is immediately attracted to him. Out to dinner, they run into Juan Antonio, who blatantly propositions them to a threesome at his house in Oviedo. Vicky brutally rebuffs him, but Cristina is gung-ho about bedding down a total stranger.

Eventually, romantic entanglements occur between Vicky and Juan Antonio, Cristina and Juan Antonio and also between Cristina, Juan Antonio and his spitfire ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz).

Everybody was salivating with the kiss between Cristina and Maria Elena. It was very sweet. Nothing sexual.

During the course of the film, the personalities between Cristina and Vicky switch. Cristina wants to be in a monogamous relationship with Juan Antonio, but Maria Elena is a complication in the matter. Vicky takes a chance at being reckless with her relationship toward Juan Antonio and her engagement to Doug.

I liked this movie better than “Scoop” or “Cassandra’s Dream.” It was on par with “Match Point.” The scenery was wonderful. It reminded me of the time when I visited Spain over a decade ago. Fond memories.

I will say that I have a problem with the narration by Christopher Evan Welch. It does not need to be in this movie. I think it was very lazy in that respect. Why can’t we have silence? Contemplation? I wanted to have that period to reflect the action of action. I don’t need everything being spelled out to me.

Lastly, I think that Woody Allen did a disservice for the Spanish characters in this movie. The male as the stereotypical Latin lover/Lothario character and the female as the spitfire. Really, Woody? We have seen these archetypes again and again.

My rating: ***1/2 stars.

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