Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Best Actress Oscar Nominated Films of 1939

Reviewing the Classics: One Best Actress at a Time

Reviews by:
Jenny Taliadoros, Eileen Rudisill (Rudy) Miller, David Wolfe and Sally Biondi

Our Best Actress Movie Club is growing! David Wolfe's sister Sally has joined us to watch and review films from 1939. Sally was David's first fashion muse. In the 1960s he created trend-setting looks for her, even choosing her hairstyle and makeup. Her look was so fabulous she was signed by The Ford Modeling Agency in New York! Today Sally is a professional artist, selling her watercolor landscapes and house portraits from her home base in Virginia.

Arguably the best year in cinematic history, David chose 1939 so he could re-visit some of his favorite films of all time. This year is so inspiring to David that he created an entire paper doll book on the subject, 1939 Paper Dolls: Hollywood's Golden Year, available from paperdollreview.com

Shown above along with David's 1939 book are paper dolls of our best actress nominees: Vivien Leigh by Marilyn Henry, Bette Davis by Jim Howard, Greta Garbo by Norma Lu Meehan and Greer Garson (1944 reproduction). The Vivien Leigh book was the very last paper doll published by Merrill in 1980. It's hard to find on the collector's market and I'm glad I have a copy of my own. Bette Davis (2011) and Greta Garbo (2009) were both done through my publishing company, Paper Studio Press, but I'm sorry to say the licensing has expired and they're both out of print. One of my favorite memories: When her friends would ask what she was working on, Norma Lu would very proudly respond, "I'm doing Garbo!" 

It's astonishing to consider the number of great films produced in that one year: The Wizard of Oz, The Women, Wuthering Heights, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Only Angels Have Wings, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback of Notre Dame—just to name a few. 

But here we're focusing on the Best Actress Oscar nominated films from 1939: Gone With the Wind, Love Affair, Dark Victory, Ninotchka and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Visit Be Kind Rewind to learn more about these actresses.

Would you like to watch with us? Next we're jumping to 1980.

BEWARE: Reviews contain spoilers.

Vivien Leigh WINNER for Best Actress as Scarlett O’Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton
Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes
A southern belle’s survival of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
Directed by Victor Fleming.
Vivien Leigh Paper Doll (Merrill, 1980) by Marilyn Henry
Jenny's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Every facet of Vivien Leigh. She acts with every aspect of her being—her voice, her face, her eyes, her gestures, her posture, her movement, even her hair communicates her mood, thoughts, and desires. Every inch exudes Scarlett O’Hara.
2. The production is phenomenal! And it was 1939! It’s a brilliant adaptation of the book. The clothes!! Thank you, Walter Plunkett.    
3. This very well could be my favorite film. My appreciation grows with each viewing. 

Two things I disliked:
 1. Well, it is very long.   
 2.  It’s frustrating to watch Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage fall apart basically due to lack of communication. But if things were tied up in a neat bow the story would not be as compelling.    

One thing that surprised me:
I’m surprised how modern Scarlett is. She’s outspoken, determined, fearless, driven, manipulative, selfish, and yet she can be selfless and compassionate. She’s one hundred percent herself.   

Who should have won the Oscar? I bow down to Vivien Leigh. 

Rudy's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

 Rudy's Scarlett design
for The Franklin Mint.
Three things I liked:
1. GWTW is just a gorgeous, grand, well done epic of a movie!  
2. Walter Plunkett's costumes!!! I drew them all so many times in the years when I worked as a product designer for The Franklin Mint. I watched the movie and replayed scenes over and over again. We did a million GWTW projects. Figurines, mini figurines, bell jars, decorated and sculpted eggs, and dolls! 
3. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Are there two more iconic movie roles? Clark Gable was my mother's favorite actor, so whenever I watch GWTW I think of her. 

Two things I disliked:
1. I first saw GWTW when I was a teenager. It was probably its 30 year anniversary re-release and my mom took me. I hated it! I couldn't stand Scarlett. I found her a most annoying and unappealing heroine. When I saw the film again in my thirties, I was a single working girl and I loved her!! I found her to be a strong female character and I admired her cunning, her resilience and her bravery. Now, later on in life, I still feel that way. She is an interesting, complex character played to perfection by Vivien Leigh. Who, by the way was British, which makes her take on a Southern belle in the 1800s even more impressive. 
2. It's really long!! 

One thing that surprised me:
The last time I saw GWTW was a few years ago with my husband, who had never seen it (!), and another couple. For the first time I felt a bit uncomfortable with the whole subject of nostalgia for the glorious days of the Old South and slavery and the plantations like Tara. I understand there are many sides to every story, but in today's culture it's hard not to be mindful of the damage that history inflicted on a whole race of Americans. That being said, the losses incurred by the southerners were indeed painful and well portrayed in this story.    

Who should have won the Oscar?  VIVIEN LEIGH.

David's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked: 
1. I feel that Gone With the Wind is somehow imbedded in my DNA. It was my favorite movie before I even saw it. Being a voracious reader as a kid, I was allowed to borrow books in the adult section of the local library (my favorite hang-out). I was eleven years old when first I read GWTW, undaunted by the 1,000 or so pages in the heavy tome. When Rhett famously said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” I simply went back to the beginning and read it again. I knew there had been a movie and I wished I could see it, but this was before the days of VHS and DVD. I bugged my parents with endless questions about the film. I found a record of the magnificent musical score and played it over and over again. I found a few, very rare stills from the film and copied them in drawings that I pinned up on my bedroom wall. My favorite was the silhouette of Scarlett against the sunrise, vowing to “never be hungry again.” You cannot imagine how excited I was when the film was revived in theaters (I guess that was in the '50s or '60s), I think I’ve watched it a dozen or so times, never growing tired of it. I realized long ago that the reason I like it is so understandable. GWTW is simply the best movie ever made. It is the jewel in the crown of great movies made in 1939, a year generally regarded as the peak perfection of motion picture storytelling. 
2. When I discovered the paper doll artist/collector community, I was delighted to discover that GWTW is very popular with the group and was even the theme for the 1989 convention in Atlanta. Sidebar story: Ann Rutherford, '40s teen star, came to many LA paper doll parties and at one she told of how as a teen she played Scarlett’s kid sister, Careen, and shared this tidbit. She said that she’d told David O. Selznick NOT to allow the make-up man to give Vivien Leigh the pencil line brows that were generally popular in the 1930s. Nice bit of trivia, isn’t it?
3. More things I like about GWTW: The musical score—so evocative and symphonic. The adherence to the novel despite having to edit, edit, edit. The artistic visuals, the silhouettes and special visual effects. Vivien Leigh’s breathtaking beauty. 

What I disliked about GWTW:
Absolutely NOTHING! 

Best Actress Performance Comparison: 
In my opinion, Vivien Leigh out-classed the other ladies with a multi-dimensional portrait of a survival-heroine you just gotta love. She got a role that demanded a tour de force and she delivered, deserving the Oscar. Her role was more complex than the other excellent nominees. Bette was only dramatic. Irene Dunne was only soignee. Garbo was only funny. Greer was only heartful.

Sally's Review - Gone With the Wind (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What can be said about a flawless motion picture? I have viewed this film numerous times and each time I am taken with its perfection. The adaptation and writing are wonderfully crafted, the direction is seamless although directed by two different directors. Could there be a better casting of characters? I think not. The times certainly dictated a Hollywood star to have the lead, but the choice of Vivien Leigh is so astounding. The makeup is timeless which keeps this movie totally watchable when trends and fashion could have dictated hair styles and make up. 
2. Vivien Leigh's performance is so subtle. With the slightest raise of an eye brow, or a sideway glance she evokes the anger, disgust and even fright that Scarlett exhibits. While Scarlett is a self absorbed, selfish, and somewhat immature girl, we cheer her on because she is so strong and a true survivor.  
3. Then there is the musical score. Max Steiner's score is haunting but not overwhelming. It, too, is perfection. 

What I disliked:
Is there anything that bothers me about this film?I am hard pressed to say.  However, Clark Gables's midwestern accent is troublesome. While all the other actors, although many were English, mastered a Southern accent, Clark seems to have felt that he just needed to be Clark.

Best Actress commentary:
Vivien Leigh won hands down. BUT I cannot help to think if the Academy had not given Judy Garland a "special Academy Award" for The Wizard of Oz would I feel as convinced? Judy's performance is so wonderful, and the idea of Shirley Temple playing Dorothy makes me cringe. Judy was able to play Dorothy with such genuine naivety, and sweetness that it is a performance that should be acknowledged.

Bette Davis nominated for Best Actress as Judith Traherne
George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, Humphrey Bogart as Michael O’Leary, 
Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Ronald Reagan as Alec 
A socialite is diagnosed with brain cancer and falls in love with her doctor.
Directed by Edmund Goulding 
Bette Davis Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2011) by Jim Howard

Jenny's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis - watching her personality change from headstrong socialite to grateful patient to drunken brat and finally a content country wife.

2. The ridiculousness of another era - Driving a car against an obvious video backdrop. Everyone smoking everywhere. Attire for a doctor’s appointment: patient in a fur trimmed dress, doctor in a formal suit. “Tell me, doctor, on what part of my head will you operate?” “Now, now. That’s my worry.”

3. It was fun to see Ronald Reagan as Judith’s tipsy society friend. 

Two things I disliked:

There really isn’t anything I dislike about this film. I appreciate it for what it is: A melodramatic story from another time.

What surprised me:
The expression of love between Judy and Ann - when they said “I love you” before Judy’s surgery, and their dramatic scene together in the garden. 

Bette Davis or Vivien Leigh for the Oscar?

Vivien Leigh for sure. Vivien was Scarlett O’Hara and Bette Davis was still Bette Davis.

Rudy's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

As far as Bette Davis melodramas go, this one is good fun, but I am more partial to Now, Voyager. 

Three things I liked:
1. Bette Davis (even though she is a consummate over-actor) is fascinating to watch.
2. I liked the supporting cast ( although I'm not sure I liked Bogart as the Irish horse trainer) and the great chemistry between George Brent and Bette Davis.
3. The costumes with the fur trim. To die for!!! I found a fun blog with most of the costumes: The Blonde at the Film. The  I've not yet done a Bette Davis paper doll, but it's on my list. Would love to draw some of those outfits!!

Two things I disliked:
1. So over-the-top melodramatic!!! But I guess that was the point. Cheesy death scene.
2. The white halter dress. Davis was too busty to pull it off.  And the acorn beanies she wore to cover her surgery were silly looking.

One thing that surprised me.
Seeing Ronald Reagan on screen. Funny to see him in the movies knowing he would later be president. His hair was the same throughout his entire life!!!

Who should have won the Oscar?
I haven't seen any of the other films yet, except GWTW, but I imagine Vivien Leigh as Scarlett would be hard to top.

David's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
1. Bette Davis! A “woman’s picture” that allowed (and encouraged) Bette’s larger-than-life emotional tsunami. Whereas sometimes she seemed to be over-acting in many of her roles, this movie had such mellow dramatic highs determined by medical and romantic circumstances that anybody would be forgiven for reacting (or over-reacting) as the sorrowful story unfolds. I hate to be shallow, but I must confess that Bette’s wardrobe impressed me… her lavish furs and bejeweled t-shirt top, but not the beanie hat that looked like an acorn top. 

What I disliked:
Geraldine Fitzgerald’s superlative performance was spoiled by her mis-matched false eyelashes (her left-eye lashes were too long and reached her brow, distracting in close-ups. OK, so I’m being shallow again). 

What surprised me: 
Humphrey Bogart cast as a randy horse trainer with a lust-crush on Bette. Ronald Reagan as a society playboy who also was smitten by Bette. Unlikely POTUS, but who can second-guess politics? 

The Oscar? 
I think Bette’s sensitive, but over-the-top portrayal of doomed Judith gave Vivien Leigh a run for her money. The source material mattered. GWTW was a sprawling epic while Dark Victory was a tear-jerking novella. 

Sally's Review - Dark Victory (1939) 

What I liked:
I have seen this film many times, and always enjoyed it. It is a Bette Davis movie, and I would watch it as just that. This time I looked at it with a critical eye and realized her performance while usually over the top, made this a melodramatic performance, while it could have been a truly touching and moving one.  When she finally trudges up the  stairs I was not shedding a single tear, not because I am cold hearted, but I just didn't really care. Is that what she wanted to convey? I think not.  I felt more empathy for her supporting cast. Geraldine Fitzgerald and George Brent play their parts with sympathy and make you truly feel the gravity of the situation.  Humphrey Bogart gives an exceptional non-ganster performance that is so beautifully underplayed. 

What I disliked:
What was disturbing was the way cigarettes were used. I realized only the women were smoking in almost every scene, not the men, not even Humphrey! Geraldine Fitzgerald is holding and smoking even though she must not have smoked in real life as she looks oddly awkward. Bette of course uses them as part of her image. I think the tobacco industry may have helped finance this film, and truly wanted to convince the American woman that smoking was glamorous and acceptable in the best homes. When Bette tells the doctors to help themselves to cigarettes in the other room, I realized it was a very brainwashing suggestion.

The Oscar?
I do not think Bette deserved an award for this role. 

Irene Dunne nominated for Best Actress as Terry McKay 
Co-Starring: Charles Boyer as Michel Marnet, 
Maria Ouspenskaya as Grandmother Janou. 
Directed by Leo McCarey. 
A shipboard romance ends with a plan to meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building.
Irene Dunne Paper Doll from Classic Drama Queens (Paper Studio Press, 2016) by David Wolfe.

Jenny's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. This is a simple, sweet story. Watching this film is a gentle sedative to overproduced movies of today. The love affair between Terry and Michel is primarily nonverbal. We know exactly how they feel about each other through their eyes.
2. I enjoyed “getting to know” Irene Dunne. Although I’ve watched a few of her films, including I Remember Mama (1948) and The Awful Truth (1937), she didn’t stick in my memory like other actresses of her era such as Lana Turner and Bette Davis.
3. Maria Ouspenskaya is terrific as Michel’s grandmother.

What I disliked:
There’s nothing to dislike!

What surprised me:
I’m surprised that I prefer this version over the 1957 remake, An Affair to Remember, in which I found Cary Grant to be a little too Cary Grant.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar?
No one had a chance against Vivien Leigh.

Rudy's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. I have not seen a lot of films with Charles Boyer or Irene Dunne. I loved them both in this.
2. The scene where they kiss behind the door is stunning. I believe it's the only kiss in the whole film. After the kiss, he leaves and she is standing alone wearing a drop-dead backless halter gown and the camera freezes on her looking off into the distance. It's really gorgeous.
3. I love the repartee between Michel and Terry.

Two things I disliked:
1. That scene where she sings in the nightclub. Ugh! That singing style makes me cringe.
2. I've always had a hard time with Terry's decision not to tell Michel about her accident. It makes no sense to me. But, obviously we need it to be that way to make his discovery at the end so moving.

One thing that surprised me:
I adore An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. It's been a favorite since I first saw it as a teenager on the late show. I'd never seen the original until now, and I found it just as charming. So romantic!

Who should have won the Oscar?
Still going with Vivien Leigh.

David's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

What I liked: 
 As always, I liked Irene Dunne and was able to put up with Charles Boyer, but found them to be an unlikely couple, thereby making me unable to suspend disbelief. Irene gave her usual sprightly performance and Monsieur relied upon his smarmy French accent that apparently made the ladies swoon in 1939. I didn’t dislike the movie, but I will never watch it again and I am likely to repair my memory by re-watching Cary and Deborah fall in love and bring me to tears for the all-time great romantic ending. 

What I disliked: 
I was looking forward to seeing Love Affair once again, having seen it many, many years ago. I remembered it as being elegant, glamorous and super-sophisticated. My recollection is evidently faulty and I was very disappointed. I think I must have scrambled my memory and confused it with the '50s remake retitled An Affair to Remember. That remake, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, was indeed elegant, glamorous and super sophisticated. The 1939 version was obviously a low budget, rather maudlin, corny soap opera romance from cheapie RKO Radio Pictures. 

What surprised me: 
I was surprised (and delighted) that I HAD remembered an over-the-top, oversize, monster of a fur jacket that looked like it could be yeti fur. I was surprised by the archaic cinematography, the pedantic, plodding script and the faked rear-projection scenery. How could this old-fashioned effort be made the same year as the brilliant screenplay, visual artistry and performances in Gone With the Wind?

Who should have won the Oscar? 
It’s a big surprise to me that Irene Dunne was even nominated for this film. She delivered an adequate performance, but is the least likely to have won against Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Greer Garson and especially Vivien Leigh’s pitch perfect portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara. 

Sally's Review - Love Affair (1939) 

This film is so bewildering on many levels. While the story is a good story, as it proved in two remakes, this version is really dreadful. It seems that Irene was not told that this was not a comedy. She is smug and delivers a performance that doesn't fit the story at all. Then there are the tedious musical numbers that are too long and uninspired. Perhaps the most bewildering aspect is that she should be nominated for an Academy Award for this performance. The musical score is dreadful and sounds as if it should be cartoon background music. 

Somehow the director has made a movie that should have been released no later than 1930, it is so visually "old fashioned." However, the performance that Charles Boyer gives is touching and solid. He is a likable cad in the beginning of the movie and although the plot is heavy handed at times, he is believable. When he confronts Terry about her absence and is sarcastic (while Irene acts coy and silly) his hurt and anger seem genuine, and finally when he realizes the truth he is touching without being too sentimental. 

I would not recommend this film to anyone who is not a true movie buff.

Greta Garbo nominated for Best Actress as Ninotchka
Melvyn Douglas as Count Leon d’Algout
Ina Claire as Grand Duchess Swana
Directed by Earnst Lubitsch.
A Russian diplomat goes to Paris to assist in the sale of confiscated jewels and discovers love along the way.
Greta Garbo Paper Doll (Paper Studio Press, 2009) by Norma Lu Meehan.

Jenny's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
There are a lot of witty lines in this film. (Billy Wilder was one of the screen writers):
1. Grand Duchess Swana at her dressing table, chatting incessantly to Leon: “It’s really a wretched morning… wretched. I can’t get myself right. I wanted to look mellow and I look brittle. My face doesn’t compose well. It’s all highlights… How can I dim myself down, Leon? Suggest something. I am so bored with this face. I wish I had someone else's face. Whose face would you have if you had your choice? Oh, well, I guess one gets the face one deserves.” 
 2. Ninotchka noticing a strange, cone-shaped hat in a Parisian shop window: “Tsk, tsk, tsk, how can such a civilization survive which permits women to put things like that on their heads.” 
3. Waiter: “Now what shall it be?” Ninotchka: “Raw beets and carrots.” Waiter: “Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.” 

Two things I didn't like:
1. Leon’s wooing is rather disgusting: “Look at the clock. One hand has met the other hand, they kiss… Why do doves bill and coo? Why do snails, coldest of all creatures, circle interminably around each other? Why do flowers slowly open their petals.” Gross, but hey, it was eighty years ago. 
2. The mock firing squad conducted by the two lovers. Yikes. 

What surprised me: 
I was expecting to see cinema’s most beautiful woman step onto the screen, but instead was introduced to a severe Russian agent in drab dress, barking out orders in a dull, measured cadence. But the writing is on the wall—or script as the case may be. Garbo falls under the spell of love and transforms from drab diplomat to chic sophisticate, topped off with the high fashion hat she previously poo-pooed in the shop window. Her hair style is hilarious. Most of it is quite normal—simple, straight, curled under at the chin, but things take a turn at her forehead with crazy, curly curtain-like bangs. In other words: it’s a party in the front, business in the back. 

Before watching I only knew two things about his movie: the title and Garbo’s Best Actress nomination. Expecting a serious drama, I was delighted to find myself watching a comedy, a political satire to be precise. Although the story is light and silly, it is shadowed by the brutalities of Russia’s dictatorship. Released at the time war was breaking out in Europe, I wonder how audiences responded. Perhaps, like Garbo, they just had a good laugh. 

Who should have won the Oscar? 
Vivien Leigh for sure. Although Garbo was terrific as Ninotchka, her acting is more on the surface, whereas Vivien acts from the inside out. Perhaps Garbo displays more acting chops in her other roles. 

Rudy's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Overall, I liked and enjoyed the film, but I wasn't totally won over. Actually, I fell asleep twice and had to go back and rewatch parts of it. 

Three things I liked: 
1. I loved the three Russian sidekicks who eventually became Ninotchka's friends. (That counts as three things, doesn't it?) 

What I disliked:
1. It was interesting watching Garbo. I've not seen many of her movies and I enjoyed studying her. She's got a brain. That being said, I must confess, I've never quite gotten the whole Garbo fascination. I still don't. There's nothing soft about her, even when her character lightens up later in the film.  
2. I wasn't crazy about Melvin Douglas. He played his part well, but I don't find him that attractive.

What surprised me:
I was surprised at how political it was. And very smart. 

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh gets my vote so far. 

David's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

Three things I liked: 
1. I was captivated by the simple romantic tale that was as intoxicating as the champagne which played an important role in liberating Ninotchka. I loved the film’s determination to have faith in romance even as civilization was about to suffer a cataclysmic war. 
2. Garbo’s carefully nuanced performance was sensitive and believably comic. I so enjoyed the supporting cast of characters—the three comic comrades, the wise butler, the calculating Grand Duchess—all superb. 
3. I felt the aura of sophistication propelled the story arc beautifully. And Garbo is always incandescent, in my eyes. 

What I disliked:
That hat! It should have been giddy but instead it looked like a hollow sweet potato. 

The Oscar? 
I believe the Oscar rightly went to Vivien Leigh. “Garbo laughs!” was the famous tagline used to promote the film and it was fun to see her so gleeful but not worthy of the prize (which should have been hers often in the past). 

Sally's Review - Ninotchka (1939) 

What I liked:
1. This film is a delightful experience. Garbo is exactly perfect as Ninotchka, and made a fan out of me. I have always found her "silent movie acting" somewhat embarrassing. It often was passable because of her roles, but in Ninotchka she has great comic appeal and a softness she never exhibited before. 
2. Melvyn Douglas is wonderful as a besotted playboy fascinated with this odd creature, and of course her three comrades make the film a delight. 

What I disliked: 
The only fault is the wardrobe. Surely they could have designed better clothes for her. 

The Oscar? 
Comic performances seldom, if ever, get Academy Awards, and the fact that Garbo was in the running with Vivien Leigh makes it obvious that Ms. Leigh should win. 

Greer Garson nominated for Best Actress as Katherine
Co-starring Robert Donat as Mr. Chips
The love of a wonderful woman brings out the best in a shy school teacher.
Directed by Sam Wood. 
Greer Garson 1944 Reproduction Paper Doll (2007 Paper Studio Press)

Jenny's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

Three things I liked:
1. Along with the characters in the film I instantly fell under the spell of Greer’s performance. I was truly enchanted by her fairy-godmother-like persona. 
2. I liked watching the decades-long growth of Mr. Chips’ character, going from meek school teacher to happy husband to respected headmaster. 
3. I enjoyed observing the Victorian era—how people interacted with each other and the language used. Then, an orgy was a tea party! 

Two things I disliked:
1. At the beginning of the film, Robert Donat’s exaggerated portrayal of elderly Mr. Chips was so contrived, reminding me of Dick Van Dyke as the old banker in Mary Poppins. However, watching Mr. Chips’ progression through a series of flashbacks, I became more accepting of Donat’s performance. 
2. Yawn! The gentle story put me right to sleep. I needed popcorn and three viewing installments to get through the movie.   

One thing that surprised me:
I was not expecting such impertinent behavior from school boys of the 1800s. Apparently, if they can get away with it, kids will be bad whether it’s 1879 or 2019.   

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar? 
Although her appearance in the film was short, I found more depth in Greer’s performance than some of the other nominees, but still no match for Vivien Leigh. 

Side note: On David’s recommendation I watched MGM’s 1969 musical remake starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark. Unlike David who adores this movie, I did not care for it. Mr. Chips and Katherine were given more dynamic storylines, but the “thought sequence” songs were cringeworthy, sung very slowly with little melody.

Rudy's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
1. What a sweet movie!! I had not seen it before.
2. I loved the characters. They were all so kind-hearted.
3. Greer Garson is so warm and beautiful.
4. I thought the way they aged Robert Donat was very successful.

What I disliked:
Greer Garson's role was too brief. I was devastated when she and the baby died. So sad.

What surprised me: 
I had never even heard of Robert Donat before and I was surprised to read that he won an Academy Award for this movie. Not that he didn't deserve it, but I'm just mystified that I had never heard of him.

Who should have won the Oscar? Vivien Leigh

David's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked?
There is very little to like about this oddly bland and boring movie that (belatedly) launched Greer Garson’s impressive career. She had been “discovered” on the London stage by Louis B. Mayer who was on a talent-scouting trip in Europe. Greer was already in her 30s, too mature for the usual “starlet” treatment. After a long wait in Hollywood, Greer landed the ridiculously brief role of Mrs. Chips, a sweet little vignette that brings a bit of life to the otherwise plodding film. 

Greer’s charm is evident even though her sweetheart make-up and curly coiffure leaves her looking like a Busby Berkeley doll-like chorus girl. It seems likely to me that the studio may have orchestrated Greer’s nomination for this insignificant role, the first step up to well-deserved regal stardom with box office clout. Soon she was cast as Mrs. Miniver, winning the Oscar and looking like the beauteous Queen of MGM for the following decade. 

What I disliked:
Robert Donat. His portrayal had two notes. As a young professor he was charmless, unpopular and effete until he meets Greer and instantly falls in love. As an elderly Head Master he switches to a somewhat comic performance, looking a bit daffy, beloved by his pupils. 

The plot is so expected that I was never surprised. 

Oscar for Greer’s screen debut? 
Not for this thankless role that should not have been nominated. Vivien’s Oscar deserves her well-deserved award. 

Suggestion: I recommend the brilliant, heartfelt musical version made in the '60s and starring Peter O’Toole as a lovable, loving Mr. Chips who falls for Petula Clark, an adorable soubrette. 

Sally's Review - Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) 

What I liked:
If I am only reviewing the Greer Garson aspect of this movie, I would give it thumbs up without any hesitation. The moment she appears, like a beacon in a foggy sea of a mediocre script and performances, the film is so enjoyable, She always has a wonderful presence, but there is an earthy quality to her in this role. The fact that the film is nostalgic about World War l seems quaint, knowing that in 1939 World War II was looming around the corner makes those of us from the future feel sorry for the poor souls living their safe lives in Britain.  

What I disliked:
The only thing I don't like is the script. I never read the book, but may just do that to see if there is some explanation for Chips' reclusiveness. Also I am not a fan of Donat in any role, so that, too, detracts from my liking the film.

The Oscar?
There is too little of Greer Garson, who truly lit up the screen. Her tiny role hardly seems to deserve a Best Actress award.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Polynesian Paper Dolls Featured in Paperdoll Review Magazine Issue 74

Polynesian Paper Dolls

Paperdoll Review Magazine Issue 74 featuring
Hawaiian Princess paper doll by Brenda Sneathen Mattox 

The current edition of Paperdoll Review (Issue 74) highlights Polynesian paper dolls with a fascinating article about the history, culture and fashions of the South Seas by Amanda Hallay and Lorna Currie Thomopoulos. Click here for the complete article! Shown above is our pretty cover paper doll of Hawaiian Princess Ka’iulani by Brenda Sneathen Mattox

Also in this issue, Marilyn Henry highlights Piggie Paper Dolls, Artist Peggy Jo Rosamond and Baby Paper Dolls. Linda Ocasio tells the story of Gary Ruddell's paper doll publishing company, Hobby House Press. Amanda Hallay covers the career and paper dolls of Dorothy Lamour. Plus we have Martha Raively's report of the Kansas City Paper Doll Convention and Jim Howard's paper doll of Mitzi Gaynor in South Pacific, created just for this issue.

A tremendous amount of work goes into each issue, with managing editor Marilyn Henry pulling together contributions by a wonderful group of writers, illustrators and collectors—most of whom generously volunteer their time and treasures from their collections. We can't keep this specialty magazine going without subscribers, and I encourage you to send $26 to Paperdoll Review, PO Box 14, Kingfield, ME 04947 or subscribe through paperdollreview.com. Plus we've got tons of back issues to enhance your love of paper dolls. Issue 74 is available for $7.

Below are a few of my favorite Polynesian paper dolls from our feature article, images courtesy of Lorna Currie Thomopoulos from her personal collection. 

Waikiki Wardrobe Cutout by Neva Schultz, from The Golden Magazine, May 1966.

A paper doll celebration of King Kamehameha I who united the eight islands of Hawaii. By Janet Smalley, Jack & Jill, June 1951.

Hawaiian Dancers in two languages, illustrated by Bernard Atkins, published in Hawaii in 1984.

Two sweet little girls with island wear featuring the many colors under the Hawaiian Rainbow. Illustrated by Yuko Green for Island Heritage Publishing, 1999.

As the weather turns cold I find myself longing for a tropical island breeze rather than the brisk November winds of northern Maine. So to help bring a little Polynesia into my world—and yours—Amanda Hallay offers some fun tips! Be sure to check out Amanda's "Fashion and the Tiki Craze" episode on her YouTube channel, The Ultimate Fashion History.


1. Take a "couch vacation" with the following movies, all of which are available to stream.

Blue Hawaii (1961)
Elvis returns to his home in Hawaii after completing his military service. Mom Angela Lansbury wants Elvis to join her husband’s pineapple empire, but The King has his own ideas! Shot on location, this Technicolor treat is a sumptuous confection of singing, sunshine and surfing, with Edith Head sourcing Alfred Shaheen textiles for her fabulous costumes.

Pagan Love Song (1950)
Esther Williams (at her zenith) is accompanied by Howard Keel on this island romp that finds Esther masquerading as a native serving girl to teach mainlander Howard a lesson. Gorgeous locations and wonderful songs will instantly transport you to not only another place but another time.

South Pacific (1958)
Bali Hai has probably already called you more than once when it comes to this sumptuous screen version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, yet who needs an excuse to view South Pacific again?

Kon-Tiki (2012)
Even with its Oscar nominations and high approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this Norwegian biopic of Thor Heyerdahl and his adventures in the South Pacific remains relatively unknown. Filmed in both Norwegian and English (be sure to catch the English version), the movie is both epic and intimate, and it's impossible to not become emotionally involved with those brave guys on that balsa wood raft.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Although audience members evidently burst out laughing the moment Marlon Brando opened his mouth (his English accent came as a shock, yet it’s actually very good), this "boat and breadfruit" saga is a classic, and the sumptuous Polynesian locations inspired Mr. Brando to move to Tahiti. Who could blame him?

Donovan’s Reef (1963)
Believed by many to be the masterpiece movie of the Tiki craze, Donovan’s Reef finds John Wayne, Dorothy Lamour and Lee Marvin fighting it out in this colorful comedy.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Filmed almost entirely at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, this rom-com makes you feel like you, too, are on vacation. It features some brilliant comedic performances by Jason Segel (as the heartbroken Peter), Russell Brand as his rock-star romantic rival and Paul Rudd, the perpetually stoned surfing instructor who got his Hawaiian name of Kunu from an online generator.

2. Click on Spotify, Pandora or YouTube and indulge in the multiple playlists that feature both traditional Polynesian music and the "Exotica" of artists such as Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter and Martin Denny.

3. Host a Hawaiian dinner party using recipes from the wonderful Aloha Kitchen cookbook, available on Amazon and at most good book stores.

4. Turn your tub into a South Pacific spa with Herbivore Coconut Bath Soak, Eminence Coconut Sugar Scrub and Pure Fiji shampoo and conditioner. Top it all off with one of Tahitian-based fragrance company Comptoir Sud Pacifique's beautiful, tropical scents. All products available online, many through Amazon.

5. Relax with one of these recommended books:
Hawaii by James Michener (1959)
Epic tale of 19th century settlers to Hawaii and their offspring that was later turned into the Julie Andrews' movie.

The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux (1992)
Noted travel writer Paul Theroux charts his experiences island hopping by canoe. At times hilariously snarky, at others, incredibly touching, nothing brings the islands to life – both the best of them and the worst – like this excellent read.

The Waikiki Widow, The Kahuna Killer, The Mamo Murders: these excellent murder mysteries all hail from the 1950s, and all are by Hawaii-based author Juanita Sheridan.

6. Enter a vicious bidding war for Alfred Shaheen original shirts and sarongs on Ebay.

7. Visit a local Tiki bar. New Tiki bars are opening all over the world to cash in on the revival of this tropical subculture. Avoid any bars that mention "rockabilly," the two subcultures sometimes overlap, but the more upscale Pacific-inspired restaurants and bars are pure Polynesia.

8. Invite your friends over for a classic Mai Tai!
½ ounces of white rum
½ ounce of Triple Sec or Cointreau
½ ounce of fresh lime juice
½ ounce of orgeat syrup* 
(*amaretto is a good substitute if you can’t find orgeat)
½ ounce of dark rum
Mint leaves and hibiscus flowers dusted in powdered sugar for garnish.

Pour everything except the dark rum and the garnish into a cocktail shaker. Shake for ten seconds, then pour into an Old Fashioned (or similar) glass. Pour the dark rum on the top (but do not mix) and add garnish. Aloha!

9. Download an animated Pacific Island screen saver to your TV, phone, or laptop. Better still, Livestream a screen saver, and watch Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and even Fiji in real time.

10.  Re-mortgage your home and take an Oceanic holiday! Actually, with good advice, there are indeed ways to visit the Pacific Islands without resorting to selling either grandmother or soul. Visit neverendingfootsteps.com for an excellent article on planning a Pacific vacation on a budget by a well-seasoned travel writer.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Jenny, David and Rudy's Best Actress Movie Reviews - 1987

Best Actress Nominated Films - 1987

Inspired by the excellent Be Kind Rewind YouTube Channel, I've given myself the challenge to watch Best Actress nominated films from random years throughout Oscar history, inviting my good friends and talented paper doll artists David Wolfe and Eileen Rudisill "Rudy" Miller to join me.

Since we live in different parts of the country, I devised a questionnaire to share our movie watching experience with each other... and you! I hope you'll be inspired to watch with us!

First up, 1987 films starring Meryl Streep in Ironwood, Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Cher in Moonstruck and Sally Kirkland in Anna. Stay tuned for 1939.

BEWARE: Reviews contain spoilers.

 IRONWEED (1987)
Meryl Streep nominated for Best Actress as Helen Archer
Co-starring: Jack Nicholson as Francis Phelan
Drama directed by Héctor about the relationship of a homeless couple during The Depression.

Jenny’s Review - Ironweed (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. Jack Nicholson’s vulnerable performance.
2. Excellent representation of the Depression Era.
3. The tenderness and care expressed by some of the characters, especially Francis.

Two things I disliked.
1. The red makeup around Meryl Streep’s eyes!
2. I had trouble hearing the dialogue (mumbling, quiet talking) so had to use closed captioning.

What surprised me.
Nathan Lane!

Who should have won the Oscar? Meryl Streep or Cher?
Cher! Her performance was more engaging, relatable and enjoyable. And it was more of a starring role.

Rudy’s Review - Ironweed (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. Jack Nicholson's performance! So nuanced and tender and human.
2. How authentic it felt to me.
3. Love seeing Tom Waits in anything. (For another stellar Tom Waits performance watch The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018 Coen Bros. film.) I also loved that his character was named "Rudy” (hee hee).

Two things I disliked.
1. It was too long!! The built up in the first part depicting their sad and squalid lives was so painful to watch and very drawn out. Felt a bit uneven to me. At times I hated it, then at times I found it quite compelling. it almost felt like two different movies to me—the first half and the second half.
2. I'm sorry to say that Meryl Streep's character got on my nerves.

What surprised me.
How tender it was at times. Especially the part where Nicholson goes back to his family.

Who should have won the Oscar? Meryl Streep or Cher?

David's Review - Ironweed (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. I liked Jack Nicolson’s performance which surprised me because I think he so rarely sublimates his usual “smart aleck’ persona. I found Francis to be a surprisingly sympathetic character. And in fact, the film’s gentle approach to the melancholia and violence was something pretentious Quentin Tarantino will NEVER understand.
2. I LOVED Meryl’s performance her usual brilliant tour de force, so “cleverly crafted” that Jack’s toned-down delivery seemed like an impressive deep dive into a soulful, mortally wounded man. I found myself wondering which came first, the baby’s death or Jack’s schizoid hallucinations (which I did not think were even necessary.
3. I very much admired the Depression ambiance and attention to detail. I was very much impressed with the “filthy, discolored teeth on the entire cast…also liked Jack’s “intentionally inept” hair-cut. I liked Meryl’s red-eye make-up and her total “look.”

What I disliked.
I found Nathan Lane’s appearance to be a distraction, knowing what was yet to come in his career.

What surprised me.
The big surprise for me was Carrol Baker’s de-glamourization/transformation into sweetly gentle Annie. I was deeply moved by the film and confess that I had a tear or two at its end. Who should have won the Oscar? Meryl Streep or Cher? I remember rooting for Cher to win the Oscar but that was just because I felt I knew her as a “’friend” so well. Of course I DON’T know her as friend (despite the fact we were seated next to each other at an obscure fashion show long, long ago and it was her first time attending the NY shows and she didn’t know that deal about celebs making a late grand entrance. She actually asked me if I could help her get tickets. I explained she’d have no trouble and I told her “handler” how to contact the right people.)

Holly Hunter nominated for Best Actress as Jane Craig
Co-starring: William Hurt as Tom Grunick, Albert Brooks as Aaron Altman
Romantic comedy-drama by James L. Brooks about the three characters who work in television news.

Jenny’s Review - Broadcast News (1987)

Three things I liked:
1. Holly Hunter! I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. It felt like the part was written for her. One of my favorite quotes… Network executive: It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room. Jane: No. It's awful.
2. It’s amazing to watch the behind-the-scenes of a newsroom. It freaks me out how those folks can think, talk and listen at the same time. I have a good friend who is a news producer and I'm happy I had the opportunity to visit a real newsroom a couple of years ago.
3. It’s simply a pleasant movie to watch. The script was good enough to stay engaged and I didn’t have to put my emotions through the wringer. I was rooting for Jane and was happy she moved on from ding dong Tom and ho hum Aaron. Loved seeing Jane in a sophisticated outfit at the end, leaving her frumpy frocks in the past.

Two things I did not like:
1. The height difference! Holly Hunter looks like a little girl next to William Hurt.
2. Was something left on the cutting room floor? Early in the film I could have used a segue scene between Tom and Jane’s decision to meet for drinks and their intimate conversation in her hotel room.

What surprised me:
Duh. I just got the irony. Jane had her crying spells, which appeared forced, and she broke up with Tom because of his forced crying in his news piece.

Who should have won the Oscar? Holly Hunter or Cher?

Rudy's Review - Broadcast News (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. I loved the scenes where they were producing the news.
2. Holly Hunter was a fast talking power house.
3. I loved the repartee between Holly Hunter's character and her best friend played by Albert Brooks.

Two things I disliked.
1. OK, you know how the way your relate to the same movie can change over the course of your life? Well, I remember loving this movie back in the day. I was 33 years old in 1988 when I first saw this. I was single and just starting my job as a product designer at the Franklin Mint. I related to Holly Hunter's character big time. Now, as a much older woman in a very different place in my life, I found the Holly Hunter character's inability to make up her mind about these two men really trying. I guess that means my older self would find my younger self really annoying. Haha.
2. I hated Holly Hunter's hairdo when she was all dressed up for her date with William Hurt.

What surprised me.
I forgot how good looking William Hurt was!!

Who should have won the Oscar? Holly Hunter or Cher?
Holly Hunter was great, but I'm still going with Cher.

David’s Review - Broadcast News (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. The look inside a Newsroom in 1987.  I wondered if I was watching an accurate portrayal of a TV newsroom of the time? I suspect not because it was all too “nice” and I distrust the veracity of the film’s workplace ambiance. In fact, I found the whole movie, the cast and the situations to be more suited to the “Hallmark” channel than to reality.
2. I liked the concept of a not-very-romantic romance movie giving the audience of that time a look into a TV newsroom.
3. I like the fact the moviemakers attempted to address the “entertainment versus real news”… the birth of Fake News? I confess to being happy to see gorgeous, sophisticated model Lois Chiles trying to act.  Sorry, Lois.

Two things I disliked.
1. Holly Hunter…sorry but I found her performance cloying. Or was she supposed to be 12 years old? I would have been happier if her character had been a college (or high school... or JUNIOR high school) intern. Molly Ringwald would have been just ducky, as far as I am concerned.  WTF about Holly’s “glamorized” night out with a perm that made her hair look like a Brillo pad? I shouldn't comment as I had the same perm way back then.
2. I wish Joan Cusack could have been better utilized… then I would have believed the movie was really a sit-com. Her hair! All in all, I found the movie to be too “fluffy.”

Best Actress Oscar: Holly Hunter vs. Cher
NO Oscar for Holly Hunter from me. Too shallow. I stick with wishing Meryl had won.

Glenn Close nominated for Best Actress as Jane Craig
Co-starring: Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, Anne Archer as Beth Gallagher
Psychological thriller directed by Adrian Lyne about a casual fling that becomes an obsession.

Jenny’s Review - Fatal Attraction (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. During the book launch party, Jimmy’s description of Alex following his attempt to flirt with her: “If looks could kill.”
2. The dinner party when Dan talks about climbing the corporate ladder, moving to the suburbs and leaving his friends behind, joking: “In fact, this is our last dinner with you.” A light moment in the disturbing plot line.
3. Glenn Close plays a good psycho.

Two things I disliked.
1. 1987 style! Pillowy shoulder pads, terrible perms! Why in Sam Hill was the 6-year old daughter dressed in adult sized shirts?
2. The 1980s trend of showing bare breasts in movies. Alex was just as provocative, if not more so, when her chest was covered. What surprised me. I had forgotten who was killed in the end, so that was a surprise to me. It was indeed a fatal attraction. Who should have won the Oscar? Glenn Close or Cher? Cher!!

Rudy’s Review - Fatal Attraction (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. It was incredibly suspenseful!
2. The acting was top notch.
3. It was a really well done psychological thriller!

Two things I disliked. Honestly, I can't think of any. I wouldn't call it my favorite movie, but I have to say that it held up really well after all these years, and it was a pleasure ( if you can call it that) to see it again. For me, it did everything it was supposed to do and was a very satisfying genre piece.

What surprised me.

It’s so well known, it's almost a cliche, so as I got ready to watch it, i was thinking ok, so I will endure this. But I really thought it was great!! I saw it many years ago and so many of the scenes are so famous, I knew what was coming... but I was still on the edge of my seat throughout the film. Of course, Glenn Close is renowned for playing this against-type character so well, but I think Michael Douglas isn't given enough credit. He is so good at playing the arrogant ladies’ man, but I have to say, he compelled the movie forward. I could feel his fear, and anxiety and desperation once he realized how sick Alex was. Quite the morality tale!!

Who should have won the Oscar?
Glenn Close was excellent, but Cher is still my sentimental favorite.

David’s Review - Fatal Attraction (1987)

Three things I liked: 1. Super-slick production that delivered a fail-safe formula film artfully crafted with very sophisticated visualization. I liked the pace although I think I would have enjoyed a more complex deeper dive into the main character''s motivation.
2. Glenn was sooo crazee right from the moment we met her and Micheal was sooo shallow and it seemed he was Tefloncoated when it would have been more interesting if his cavalier behavior had been more than merely self-gratifying.
3. Anne Archer (whatever happened to her career, I wonder?) was an emotional punching bag and sooo forgiving.  I loved the fashion and beauty extreme chic ‘80s style. Now that so many years have passed, we can laugh a lot over the perms and shoulder pads.

Two things I disliked:
1. One dimensional storyline minus a real "mystery/"  If only we hadn't known exactly what each of the main characters provided to propel this psycho-sexual tale which was regarded as shocking in its day.
2. Glenn's performance was so over the top that sometimes she  reminded me of Faye Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest."  The performances were too obvious to be Oscar worthy, in my opinion.

Cher vs. Glenn for the Oscar?
I still believe Meryl deserved the award.

MOONSTRUCK (1987) Cher WINNER for Best Actress as Loretta Castorini
Co-starring: Nicolas Cage as Ronnie Cammareri, Danny Aiello as Johnny Cammareri, Olympia Dukakis as Rose Castorini, Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo Castorini
Romantic comedy directed by Norman Jewison about an Italian-American widow who falls for her fiancé’s younger brother.

Jenny’s Review - Moonstruck (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. I LOVE this movie! Cher brings us into her story and we’re along for the ride.
2. The gestures and facial expressions, whether subtle or grand. Johnny Cammareri’s dramatic head scratching prior to his engagement speech: “My scalp is not getting enough blood sometimes.” That’s just funny. At the bakery, when Loretta asks for Ronny, Chrissy gives her the bug eye and then looks her up and down. No words needed. The father! So dramatic-Italian all the time!
3. A strong ensemble cast (Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, etc.) and brilliant dialogue. There are so many witty lines without being obvious jokes. “She’s dying, but I could still hear her big mouth.” “Old man, you give those dogs another piece of my food and I’m gonna kick you ’til your dead.”

Two things I disliked.
1. That’s tough because I super love every moment of this movie. If anything, Cher’s Brooklyn accent doesn’t seem quite right.
2. Loretta’s fireplace scene—the soft music, the glass of wine, the looking at the shoes—it’s all a little too contrived.

What surprised me.
The thing that surprised me about this movie is me! When this movie was released in 1987 I was just 21 years old, without the life experience to appreciate the histrionics of these Italian characters. It wasn’t until I lived near Gloucester, MA, heavily populated with Greeks, Italians and Portuguese, and married into a Greek family, that I “got it.” Originally I thought Cage’s character was so unappealing and even scary—“Chrissy, bring me the big knife… I want to cut my throat.” But now I recognize it’s just his overdramatic way of expressing his misery. These days I enjoy my own host of dramatic outbursts and gesticulations.

Who should have won the Best Actress Oscar?

Rudy’s Review - Moonstruck (1987)

Three things I liked.
1. Cher.
2. All of it! The story, the characters, the romance, the opera, the humor.
3. There are so many great lines: When Nick Cage tells Cher he loves her, she smacks him across the face and says, SNAP OUT OF IT!! When Grandpa cries at the breakfast table and when he's asked what's wrong he says, I'M CONFUSED. COSMO'S MOON. And so many more...

Two things I disliked.
I love everything about this movie.

What surprised me.
This is one of my all time favorites and I've seen it many times. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed seeing it all over again! It gets better with each watching.

Who should have won the Oscar?

David’s Review - Moonstruck (1987)

What I liked.
1. The courage Cher demonstrated by deglamorizing herself while maintaining the heartfelt warmth of her personality. I like her! I really like her! And with each of her films I always felt I had "discovered" her. Without Cher I think the movie would not have been so magical.  It was that rare thing... an adult fairy tale that wasn't all pixie dust and dastardly villains.
2. I very much admired the kind, lively, realistic supporting cast. I remember being irritated by Nicolas Cage when I first saw the film, but I have forgiven him and was totally charmed.

What I disliked.
I did not dislike anything about this movie. It is a "small" story, perfectly told.

Should Cher have won the Oscar?
Cher gave a perfect performance but I expect tour de force acting to earn an Oscar  and I don't feel that's what I saw. I'm sticking with Meryl's genius to take home the Oscar.

ANNA (1987) Sally Kirkland nominated for Best Actress as Anna
Co-starring: Paulina Porizkova as Krystyna
Starry-eyed Czech immigrant travels to New York City to meet her hero, a once-famous actress from her homeland. Directed by Yurek Bogayevicz.

Jenny’s Review - Anna (1987)

Three things I liked. 
1. Getting a glimpse of the New York theater scene from the perspective of a foreigner. 
2. Sally’s portrayal of a Czechoslovakian actress was believable. 
3. Paulina Porizkova is strikingly beautiful. 

Two things I disliked. 
1. There were a number of things that bothered me. I disliked the score. The tinkly instrumentals reminded me of a lame made-for-TV movie. Anna’s ex-husband looked more like an accountant than a movie star. Gratuitous nudity again! There was no need to show Anna’s bare breasts in the bathtub scene. The play in which Anna was hired as an understudy was so weird! Are some acting auditions as demeaning as depicted in this film? Krystyna learned English way too quickly to be believable. Anna told Krystyna to use her backstory as her own, and when she does, Anna has a nervous breakdown. Well, duh. You told her to do it. 
2. This was an odd movie for me. It felt like I watching a foreign film in English. It was a sad story but I didn’t invest in the characters enough to care what happened to them. 

What surprised me. 
Hair and fashion was not typical ’80s style. Also, I was also surprised to learn this film was based on a true story. 

Who should have won the Oscar? Sally or Cher? 
Cher for sure. Sally’s performance did not warrant the Oscar nod. Barbra Streisand should have taken that spot for her performance in Nuts

Rudy’s Review - Anna (1987)

What I liked/did not like. 
I was very ambivalent about this film. I alternately liked it and didn't like it. It intrigued me, but overall, didn't grab me. I liked Sally Kirkland. She was quirky. I liked that it was about acting and I liked the acting scenes. It was "All about Eve" but not as well done. What surprised me. I noticed in the end credits that Sofia Coppola played Noodle. (The person Krystyna was writing to) I love making those kinds of discoveries. 

Who should have won the Oscar? 

David’s Review - Anna (1987)

What I liked: 
To my great surprise, I liked this oddly intense bizarre little movie. I remember when I saw it 1987 there was a great deal of hype about it. I liked this film’s heavily “European Indie” mood. I found myself comparing it to Moonstruck as it was similar in that it was driven by a female who was so emotional: angry, frustrated, suffering, loving. Anna really gripped me and I’m so glad I saw it again. I don’t recall much about Sally Kirkland other than this film. I found her performance to be sad and sweet. 

What I disliked: 
What I didn’t like about this movie was what made it so European… not slick and polished, but messy and surprising, unexpected. I was stunned when Anna shot Kristina on the beach. Surprise! I wish that the play would have been more believable not so crazy. What surprised me: Model Paulina Porizkova was the big surprise to me. I think she was enchanting: klutzy and willowy, innately elegant and childlike. I loved Paulina hair! So like spun silk. 

Sally vs. Cher for the Oscar: 
I think that Sally’s performance was more Oscar-worthy than Cher’s as I suffered along with Anna whereas I felt that Cher’s dynamite charisma got in the way of her subtle portrayal. However, Barbra Streisand should have been nominated for her performance in Nuts instead of Sally. Barbra probably would have beat Cher's Oscar.