an Oscars amuse-bouche
a cinema visit and my favorite Oscar winning performances
I downed two margaritas at The Metrograph’s bar as I joined my friend for a mid-afternoon screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It was mine and my friend Harrison’s first time at the Metrograph — I invited him because I would describe his personality as always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but in a sweetly endearing way and therefore the perfect person to accompany me for one of Almodóvar’s best films. The 1988 film, Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, it’s the first of Almodóvar’s absolutely breezy comedic films that never feels like he had to do much heavy lifting with the storytelling. (Though I absolutely adore Law of Desire and Matador is as compelling as it is messy.) It’s filmmaking that feels effortless, the kind that had me downing my Junior Mints (they keep them cold here, and also, have the best collection of film snacks I’ve ever seen) and sipping a black cherry soda like that one meme of Carrie Bradshaw eating Malted Milk Balls in the season five premiere of Sex and the City.
There’s something quintessentially New York about taking in a movie in the middle of the afternoon. Whether it’s with a friend, solo, or a date, seeing a movie at 4 in the afternoon means you’ve got a day off or you’re in the middle of being laid off or you’re playing hooky or you make your own schedule. But we were surrounded by a crowd that laughed at every joke like it was opening night of a new Hollywood Blockbuster. I’ll make it a habit now to scan the Metrograph calendar every month to start spending afternoons with some of my favorite films, when I invariably need to take a break from writing.
As I prepare to watch the Oscars this evening, I’ve been leafing through Michael Schulman’s book Oscar Wars because I’m obsessed with learning new film lore that I’ve never heard before and also prepping for him to join as a guest co-host on Keep It this week. Last week, Louis and I shared our five favorite Oscar winning performances ever. I’m expanding that list to ten, for Frank readers.
1. Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
My girl. My everything. My obsession with Salt is all because of my devotion to this woman, my favorite actress who captured my heart here.
2. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs
The king. I answered a tweet once that asked “name a great performance from a man that isn’t yelling.” Anthony is so calm and reserved and chilling as Hannibal Lecter without having to resort to histrionics. An acting masterclass.
3. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire
Put this film on at any time and I would watch it all the way through. Tennessee Williams’ best work and his best adaptation.
4. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine / Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Unfortunately, one thing Woody Allen is gonna do is write a great role for a leading woman. Not my absolute favorite Cate and Penélope roles, that would be Notes on a Scandal and Parallel Mothers respectively, but it’s the best they’ve won for.
5. Denzel Washington, Training Day
Let me tell you something. This performance was fantastic. Denzel had a fucking ball and the Oscar wasn’t just handed to him because he didn’t win for Malcolm X. I love the performance in this film, it’s even Shakespearan at times. And we’d do well to reward actors for performances that actually entertain us.
6. Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost
I was obsessed with this film as a kid and also Whoopi’s performance. I also must say that the moment the villains are dragged into hell terrified me as a kid.
7. Catherine Zeta Jones, Chicago
My favorite movie musical adaptation. Catherine is phenomenal in this. I could watch her play Velma on loop for the rest of my life and die happy.
8. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
You ever stopped breathing when an actor walked on screen? Regina in that green dress. Breathtaking.
9. Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny
An absolutely well-deserved Oscar. One of my favorite comedic performances ever and it’s only gotten better with time.
10. Sean Penn, Milk
I’m shocked listing Sean Penn on this list but this is one of my favorite performances from an actor ever. It’s so sensitive and emotional and I had no idea that he had any of that in him as an actor. I thought Sean Penn was always giving loud, always giving intense. An exceptionally deserved Oscar.