Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mommie Dearest

Back in 1981, this seemed to be the movie to garner all the awards. It had all the elements, for sure: major biopic on a major Hollywood star, big acting (I'll explain), and alotta drama. Yes, Mommie Dearest appeared to have the Oscars as a certainty. Strangely, it received no recognition of the kind. To clarify, I do not agree with what I said about it being a sure-thing for award buzz by means of quality, only that it did in fact. No, the film did not receive any esteem, quite the contrary actually. In 1981, during awards season, someone out there, stunned by the absence of Mommie Dearest, maybe even reveling in it a bit, made a decision. This stroke of genius, in that someone's mind anyway, was the creation of the Anti-Oscars. An awards ceremony where the movies were dishonored and disgraced by a group of nobodies. The Golden Raspberry Awards. (Such a moronic name. Referring to the noise of a "raspberry" no doubt.) Over the years, the Razzies have evolved into awarding truly dreadful movies, such as Gigli, Disaster Movie (and the like of them), Twilight, and many others. Also a trend of the Razzies is nominating great actors, such as Elizabeth Taylor or Jack Nicholson, solely because of their fame. They, as an "organization", are massive posers, in that they believe their choice of the Worst really affects the recipient. It doesn't. It really doesn't. Did you know the actual statuette is made of plastic? Classy.
Now, why mention such a filthy thing? Well, just what I was talking about in the beginning, silly. Mommie Dearest, the "biopic" about Joan Crawford, based on her adopted daughter's memoir, is the first-ever Razzie recipient. The film "won" Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Faye Dunaway), Worst Supporting Actor (Steve Forrest), Worst Supporting Actress (Diana Scarwid), and Worst Screenplay. Quite a sweep, if I do say so myself. Ironically, Faye Dunaway placed second in the New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics' awards, practically guaranteeing her an Oscar nod. Instead, she established the most infamous award for actors everywhere. Even though the Razzies are not as grandiose as the Academy Awards, people still do not look forward to getting them. What actor would enjoy being named the Worst of the year? Am I right, Adam Sandler? (Mischievous laugh.) Anyway, I really do not agree with the film's title of Worst Picture, nor do I comply with the many condemnations of it being the worst ever. While the screenplay did deserve a nod, as did Diana Scarwid and Mara Hobel, who both played versions of Christina Crawford. That makes sense, considering the highly-plausible fabrication of this entire story. I very much doubt Joan Crawford was that abusive. If so, she would have never died, for she is the devil. (Isn't the devil supposed to be immortal?) Allow me to elaborate on this theory of mine.

In the film, they depict Christina as this poor little victim of a girl, abused both physically and emotionally by her god-awful mother. She is meant to be seen, also, as a harmless angel and wonderful daughter, for even after her mother's meltdowns, Christina always loves her mommie dearest. "Wow, after all that, she still loves that wretched, so-called mother? What a harmless angel and wonderful daughter." By my sardonic tone, you can probably assume that I do not see this image at all. In fact, I view Christina as an ungrateful, petulant, and even mocking little girl. Oh, and when she's older, ever more so, as well as rebellious. What enhances this portrait of Christina is my overall judgment on the book the film was based on. For those who are not aware, Christina was adopted, lifted from poverty and homelessness into the lavish life of Joan Crawford. Of course, this is a somewhat eye-rolling justification, as if this makes Ms. Crawford's actions reasonable. No, if Joan Crawford did, in fact, abuse her daughter, it is unforgivable and utterly vile. Notice the emphasis on if. I find it very hard to believe that Joan Crawford, a Hollywood legend, acted in such a cruel way towards her own adopted daughter. Why would she adopt a child, one off the street no less, only to behave that way? If you ask me, something does not add up. Even taking into consideration the actress's situation, that she was abandoned by her husband and deemed "box office poison" (therefore, undesired by movie companies), it still seems doubtful Ms. Crawford would act so horrid.

Onto the film's overall quality. The acting. Faye Dunaway is uncanny as Joan Crawford, appearance-wise. Otherwise, I'm not a good judge in comparing Faye Dunaway to the famed actress, as I have never seen a film with her. Either of them, actually. Evaluating Faye Dunaway's performance, in general, I would say there was nothing too horrible about it, certainly not Razzie-worthy. Her performance was a tad over-dramatic and perhaps even extremely exaggerated. No, it was definitely exaggerated. But was that really to the fault of Dunaway's acting? I think not. More likely the script is to blame. Even more likely, Christina Crawford's petty publication of such a terrible memoir is to blame. Once again, Faye Dunaway gave a strong performance, given the circumstances.
The two actresses portraying young and old versions of Christina Crawford were, however, atrocious, and it had nothing to do with the script. For some peculiar reason, I perceive both actresses as if they were the actual Christina Crawford, which increases my dislike for them both. Mara Hobel, as a child actress, really should not be disgraced in such a way as to be nominated for Worst Supporting Actress, for she is a minor, inexperienced in the ways of acting. With this girl, I'd really have to back up her nod, as she was absolutely dreadful as the four-year-old Christina. When her mother burst in violent tantrums, Mara Hobel simply whimpered, unconvincingly mind you, and shrugged away from her in faux-terror. I will not reveal any particular outburst--watch it for yourself, if you're in the mood for some cinematic torture. As for the elder Christina, Diana Scarwid did, indeed, snatch a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. While I'd rather see Mara Hobel walk away with the plastic toy, her older counterpart was almost as bad as she; Diana Scarwid, playing a now-rebellious Christina, shoots her mother dirty glances while winking at random strange men. That may be unfair, since she nearly slept with only one guy her age and winked at a waiter for kicks. Either way, she has a saturated tramp-vibe. And her attitude towards her mother, who, after sending her child away to boarding school, treats her daughter with kindness, as if to apologize for her behavior in the past. Sure, maybe it was totally unacceptable and unforgivable, but at least she's trying. I have a feeling this argument, or whatever you would call it, is going nowhere. To sum up, the acting was not the greatest, but surprising as to the fact they were the first to be dishonored by the Golden Raspberry Awards.

I compare this film to an over-stuffed, over-fluffed, ivory cotton feather pillow. From a book filled with events that may or may not be factual, the director and/or writer "fluffed" the material up, highlighting the especially juicy details. They made the viewers pity and sympathize with Christina (the author's intention as well), while plaguing Joan Crawford's corpse. Do not deny this accusation--watch the film yourself and decide whether you hold her in high regard or not. The pillow is ivory, not white, because the film tries to achieve perfection and elegance, as if Joan Crawford herself were observing the production, prepared to burst at the appearance of one error. Of course, this is all my imagination. I've no idea how this movie was made, and under what circumstances. As I said, I compare this. Ergo, my opinion. Gee, I love saying that, don't I?

1 comment:

  1. It's a bit campy. What I remember most is Dunaway's eyebrows and this quote: "No wire hangers, EVER!"

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