Best Supporting Actress

[5.5] In 18th century Italy, an orphan boy comes of age with the help of nuns and a kindly mentor, falls in love, gets embroiled in the slave trade, and fights for his inheritance in this adaptation of Hervey Allen’s sprawling novel. Anthony Adverse looks and sounds great, with immense sets, period costumes, and a rich score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Some of the supporting …

[6.5] Broderick Crawford plays a small-town hick who attracts a populist following that takes him all the way to the governor’s mansion, even though his ascent is riddled with corruption and crime. All the King’s Men is really about Crawford’s support team and how they weather his immorality. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge play the two key supporters. They begin the film bright-eyed and full …

[8.5] Margot Robbie is Oscar-calibre as disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, who was stripped of her titles and banned from the sport after her husband spearheaded an assault on her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, in 1994. I, Tonya paints the picture of a young girl growing up poor and fatherless, with only a ruthless monster of a mother to guide her. Allison Janney (The West Wing) is in …

[6.0] Cary Grant plays a wandering Londoner who’s reluctant to settle down. This changes when he discovers his mother, played by Ethel Barrymore, has terminal cancer. Poverty and loneliness drive Grant and Barrymore to desperate measures, and just when you think things can’t get any gloomier, the film ends with foreshadowing of the second world war. None But the Lonely Heart is a dark film, …

[7.5] Precious is the kind of movie a studio exec must dread hearing a pitch about: “So, there’s this girl, and she’s really sad, her daddy raped her, she named her down syndrome baby Mongo, her mother violently abuses her, she’s HIV-positive, and, yeah, it really sucks to be her.” Surprisingly, Precious doesn’t wallow in melodrama. It plays straight-forward and honest, and you really start …

[7.5] Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are at the top of their game in A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning biopic about John Nash, the brilliant but haunted mathematician who overcame schizophrenia and received the Nobel Prize. These are the best performances I’ve seen from Crowe and Connelly — their relationship is the glue that holds the film together. The first two-thirds of the movie …

[6.0] This star-studded best picture Oscar nominee is credited for kicking off the boom of disaster flicks that plagued (or bedazzled?) the 1970s. It’s entertaining enough, though I much prefer The Towering Inferno. All of the Airport movies (there would be two more over the next seven years) are fun if for no other reason than watching major Hollywood stars and revered actors slumming it …

[7.5] David O. Russell directs a top-notch cast in this story of a Massachusetts boxer who tries to get out from under the influence of his crack-addicted brother and domineering mother. If those character descriptions sound like Oscar-bait, indeed they are — Christian Bale and Melissa Leo both took home supporting performer Oscars for their portrayals. Mark Wahlberg is commendable as the main character, and …

[7.0] Director Sydney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network) takes on Agatha Christie and delivers a light-hearted soufflé of a murder mystery. I always tend to enjoy ensemble films within a claustrophobic setting, so being trapped on the Orient Express during a blizzard with Lumet’s star-studded cast was a real treat. Albert Finney headlines the venerable collection of stage and screen actors as Christie’s famous detective …

[8.0] Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directs this adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel, based loosely on the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first people ever to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) is outstanding as, at first, Einar Wegener, and later as Lili. Redmayne’s transformation is a beguiling one, capturing all the seduction and trepidation a life-altering revelation should …

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