Best Actress

[7.5] 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 …

[7.5] 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. …

[8.0] Kathy Bates delivers a spooky Oscar-winning performance in Rob Reiner’s film based on the novel by Stephen King. Screenwriter William Goldman builds a tremendous amount of tension and suspense with barely more than two characters and one room. The payoff isn’t as interesting as the build-up, but Misery is still a fun, scary ride. James Caan is great as the victimized writer, and deserves …

[5.0] Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her performance in this film, and that’s pretty much the best reason to see this movie. I’m not sure if it was the best performance of the year, but she is certainly very good — surprisingly controlled and low-key. I have mixed feelings about the story, which is supposed to be the inspirational true story of a Republican/Christian …

[7.0] Ingrid Bergman won the first of her three Oscars for this psychological thriller from George Cukor. Bergman plays a woman increasingly traumatized by her husband, a thief who nearly succeeds in convincing her that she’s losing her mind. It’s easy to invest in a movie when someone’s being mean to Ingrid Bergman. I only wish that she were more empowered in the story’s third …

[6.0] Olivia de Havilland won her first Oscar for this sudsy soap opera about a woman who gives up her infant son and spends the rest of her life trying to reconnect with him. The melodrama may be an acquired taste, but no one can steal audience sympathy better than de Havilland. I went with it, happy ending and all. In a neat (and slightly …

[8.5] Ellen Burstyn stars as a widowed mother who suddenly finds herself having to┬ástart a new life in this engaging comedy/drama from Martin Scorsese. Burstyn plays Alice Hyatt, and if that name sounds familiar it’s because the TV show “Alice” was based on this film (though only Vic Tayback reprises his role in the series). The feature film begins inside Alice’s troubled home life, married …

[8.5] SPOILER REVIEW: Natalie Portman is incredible in Black Swan, the story of a ballerina who must tap into her ‘dark side’ to play the Swan Queen in a New York City performance of Swan Lake. Portman’s performance is a variation on Ingrid Bergman’s in Gaslight, another psychological thriller where you’re never quite sure if things are really happening or if our protagonist is going …

[8.0] Charlize Theron stars as Aileen Wuornos, the infamous Florida prostitute who became a serial killer, in this film chronicling her last few months of freedom before being captured and executed in 2002. Writer/director Patty Jenkins doesn’t shy away from Wuornos’ crimes, but aims to paint a more complex portrait of the woman who committed them. Monster introduces us to Wuornos as she’s contemplating suicide, …

[5.5] This early Best Picture Oscar winner is a three-hour mix of song, dance, and narrative, much like Broadway Melody before it. I was expecting a real stinker, especially when the opening credits revealed “Fashion Parades by Adrian”. But apart from being overly long and anachronistic, it wasn’t so bad. The narrative is fashioned loosely around the life of Broadway’s legendary Florenz Ziegfeld Jr (the …

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