Sunday, December 30, 2007

1967: The Year of the Victim

I love love love love love StinkyLulu and his monthly Supporting Actress Smackdown. When he asked for participants to the '67 extravaganza I jumped at the chance. It's an overlooked category, and my obsession with the Oscars reaches no limits, so writing about the women that are deemed 'secondary' is a true joy.

The Supporting Actress category isn't always my favourite when it comes to Oscar. Their recent winnners (Renee Zelwegger, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Hudson) haven't exactly been the greatest. But give them their due, the supporting women of 1967 are interesting characters -- if not always backed up by solid performances. Let's be honest, you do the best with what you have, but some characters are used merely to hammer home a point, and thus written shallowly. Estelle Parsons is blessed with a memorable and showy character, and crucially a victimised character. Katharine Ross is given a similarly baity role as the plain Jane who's wronged for simply being overlooked. Yet she's considerably more powerful than Parsons' loud-mouthed housewife. Beah Richards gives a lovely performance, but it's coated in the prejudice and importance of social history that Oscar desperately needs to reward. Natwick, and particularly Channing, are 'victimised' less, but are often used as figures of ridicule in their respective films. My C+ for Barefoot In the Park may appear harsh -- and it's an incredibly entertaining film -- but I feel it doesn't understand its main character (played by Jane Fonda) and in the end exhausts her. Millie is better because despite its dated, sexist ways it at least understands its own tone, and never feels overlong given its theatrical 140-minute showcase.

I would undoubtedly award the win to Katharine Ross, whose performance reminds me of Mariel Hemingway, Betsy Blair etc. They're all performances that feel natural and powerful in their honesty and cuteness. Channing is a close second because she doesn't have as much pressure in terms of characterisation, and Richards doesn't have that much to do. But overall I love this year. I really mean that ;-)

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