Best Actress

[7] Joan Crawford won her Oscar for playing the title character in this noir-melodrama from director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). Based on the book by James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce is told largely in flashback, with Crawford spilling the beans to police after her second husband is found murdered in their beach house. She tells them how she divorced her adulterous first husband and pulled herself …

[5] Katharine Hepburn won the first of her record four Oscars for this film about a na├»ve, aspiring actress who ingratiates herself into the Broadway social circle. She isn’t taken seriously at first. In fact, she’s pitied. But a childish sense of self-confidence helps her endure until the opportunity arises to show the theater world what she’s got. The story of Morning Glory is a …

[8] Julie Andrews stars as a magical nanny who swoops into a turn-of-the-century London family’s home to help two neglected children (Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber) reconnect with their busy-body parents. Mary Poppins is often regarded the best of Walt Disney’s live-action efforts, thanks to an effervescent combination of music and fantasy, and charismatic performances from Andrews and co-star Dick Van Dyke, who plays a …

[8.0] An associate History professor (Richard Burton) and his wife, the university president’s daughter (Elizabeth Taylor), invite a new biology faculty member (George Segal) and his wife (Sandy Dennis) to their house for drinks. But the evening goes hellishly south when the older couple begin airing marital grievances, including the whereabouts of their son on the eve of his sixteenth birthday. By sunrise, nasty games …

[6.0] Norma Shearer, ‘the First Lady of MGM,’ won her Academy Award for The Divorcee. Shearer plays against Chester Morris, happily married until she discovers Morris had a fling with a floozy a few months in the past. While he’s away on a work trip, her despair sees her into the arms of another man. When the couple try to reconcile their indiscretions with each …

[7.0] Some of the most enduring films from silent cinema were directed by F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu). One of those classics is Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, about a man (George O’Brien) who is coerced by a lascivious city girl to kill his neglected wife (Janet Gaynor) so they can be together. The man tries to follow through with the plan while sailing with his …

[8] Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this tale of two clinically depressed people (he’s diagnosed bipolar) who strike up an unusual relationship. She teaches him to dance with her for an upcoming competition in exchange for delivering letters to his ex-wife, who has a restraining order against him. While he obsesses over the ex, Lawrence begins to pine for Cooper. Everything comes to …

[7.0] Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer) brings his off-kilter humor to this dark period-piece comedy about a poor but clever scullery maid (Emma Stone) who ingratiates herself to England’s ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) with intentions of replacing the Queen’s longtime confidante and political proxy (Rachel Weisz). You can think of it as a quirky retelling of All About Eve. The …

[8] A curmudgeonly obsessive-compulsive (Jack Nicholson) falls for a charming waitress (Helen Hunt) and strikes up an unlikely friendship with a gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) in As Good as It Gets, another comedy/drama hybrid from the sometimes brilliant mind of James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News). In lesser hands, this one could have turned out a tonal mess, but Brooks and the cast …

[8] A young German man (an award-worthy David Kross) has an affair with an older woman (Kate Winslet), only to discover many years after the affair ends that she was a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After she is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the man (later played by Ralph Fiennes) still can’t get her out of his mind. …

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