Thursday, March 04, 2010

When Pandering Went Wrong

My friend Eric put together a terrific slide show for Slate in anticipation of this Sunday’s Oscars. It details a dozen performances throughout history that “pandered to the academy but didn’t even get a nomination.” For instance, Meg Ryan as an alcoholic mother in When a Man Loves a Woman: “Marketed as a love story between Ryan and a smoldering Andy Garcia, the film couches a grim account of addiction within a jukebox romance, trading on Ryan's easy appeal while feebly pretending to complicate it. The result is one of the least convincing portraits of addiction you'll ever see.”

Or Kevin Spacey: “In Pay it Forward (2000), a notorious car wreck of pandering sanctimony and tone-deaf sociology, Spacey is the Oscar-bait equivalent of a busking one-man band—pounding on the inspirational teacher drum, strumming the abused child strings, and blowing on the burn-victim kazoo. He makes an awful, embarrassing clamor, yet you can't look away.”

Oh, did I mention all 12 are accompanied by video clips of the wreckage? Perhaps most startling (and hilarious) of all is the clip from Mommie Dearest. I share it below, after the whole write-up, which is too good to just excerpt. Anyway, enjoy it, and then go to Slate for the rest.
Mommie Dearest (1981) has become such a beloved artifact of camp that it's easy to forget that on paper Frank Perry's tell-all biopic had all the trappings of an awards-getter, and that lead Faye Dunaway was at the time still one of the most respected actresses of her generation. Alas, not for long. The Academy Award-winner and three-time nominee sank her fangs into the part of a waxworks Joan Crawford with such unguarded, eager-to-impress ferocity that every moment of her performance articulates another aspect of unintentional kitsch. The film derailed her A-list career, relegating her to a series of disposable genre films ironically on par with Crawford's self-parodic late work. She won a Razzie for worst actress of the year for her work on Mommie Dearest and has since been nominated another six times.


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