July 17, 2008

Five Anjelica Huston Movies You Should See

(Note: I'm avoiding The Addams Family in this countdown. It's one of my all-time favorite movies and I've seen it so many times I can probably quote it verbatim from start to finish. I love it. It's so wonderful. But for this countdown I am focusing on Anjelica Huston performances that are brilliant but that maybe you haven't seen or even thought of seeing before. Everybody, regardless of their familiarity with Anjelica's career, knows The Addams Family so for the purposes of this countdown it's excluded by virtue of sheer recognizability.)

3: Prizzi's Honor

Prizzi's Honor is an odd little gem of a film that at first glance appears incredibly haphazard and possibly schizophrenic. Is it a comedy? It is a mob flick? Is it a romance? In reality it is a clever mix of everything, deftly combining silly comedic set-ups with the sorts of heightened romantic intonations that only movies can ever deliver on all filtered through the lens of America's ongoing obsession with the mafia. Until you read Richard Condon's novel Prizzi's Honour (and the prequel Prizzi's Family) upon which the film is based it's hard to wrap today's Sopranos-attuned minds around the conventions at work. Once you accept that the film is intended to be slightly madcap and the characters amusing, Prizzi's Honor rolls along at a charming pace that will either put you off or take you happily along with it. It concerns itself with the story of Charley Partanna (Jack Nicholson), the Prizzi family's enforcer, and his romance with the beautiful Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner). Irene and Charley are both hired guns but don't find that out until they are hired to off each other and instead try to con their way into acceptance in the family. Anjelica plays Maerose Prizzi, the disgraced black sheep granddaughter of the Prizzi boss (eerily and hilariously played by cadaverous actor William Hickey) who once had a relationship with Charley and ultimately either wants him back or wants him dead - whichever will better aid her designs on becoming the next boss of the family. Charley, as the central fought-over figure, is more or less a dumb post of a man who alternates between charmingly plodding and lethally loyal. Irene is breezy and husky-voiced and inexplicably besotted with Charley. Their romance plays as an amusing parody of romantic film conventions except that each of them truly believes they are in the throes of absolute love. The film carries itself with this same amusing-but-serious tone and you never truly feel what's at stake until the film's rather surprising climax. In this way Prizzi's Honor is an effective little romp that lightly entertains but manages also to defy its own tone and inject a dose of gritty drama where it counts most. The film was directed by John Huston which makes it truly a family affair as daughter Anjelica was at that time living with lead Jack Nicholson. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards but was awarded only one in the end - Anjelica's Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Anjelica Huston, unsurprisingly, is exceptional as Maerose. Her Brooklyn accent, while not as utterly flawless as her Irish brogue in Agnes Browne, is solid and rolls off her tongue believably enough. She has a way with dialogue that renders even the strangest or most awkward lines rather poetic and that certainly infuses them with emotional punch. (Maerose: So let's do it. Charley: With all the lights on? Maerose: Yeah. Right here. On the Oriental. With all the lights on.) Maerose is the woman wronged and plays on our sympathies as she is shunned at her own sister's wedding and used by Charley to get close to Irene. Anjelica has the striking beauty of Maerose (expounded upon in the book) and the strong 'go fuck yourself' demeanor necessary to infuse the character with backbone even at her most fragile. She quickly reveals that her bruised exterior houses all the true fragility of a panther, however, and sets about manipulating events and family members with sly ease. Maerose is clearly the plum role in the film. She's the one who actually holds the balance of power in her hands and for all her rather limited screen time, nothing that happens between Charley and Irene is ultimately outside Maerose's awareness or control. Anjelica plays her with the sort of deft ease of a tightrope walker - you know it's a mind-blowing accomplishment but they make it look so damn simple. In her hands Maerose is a complicated array of bruising, defiance, calculation, and passion. She manages to hold sympathy for Maerose even as she conspires against Charley and plays her own father into her hand. She is amusingly in-your-face (telling Charley at one point to go soak his head) but Anjelica also manages to make you believe that Maerose could be cold enough to want Charley dead even while willfully seducing him. It's a powerhouse performance and a commanding emergence from her father's shadows. Years earlier, when Anjelica was just an inexperienced and awkward seventeen, John Huston cast her as the lead in the ill-fated A Walk with Love and Death which fared poorly and left her savaged by sneering critics. He more than makes up for that misstep in Prizzi's Honor by bestowing upon his daughter the juiciest role of the lot and in turn Anjelica shows exactly what she's made of by stealing both the show and the Oscar. And rightfully so, in my opinion.

July 15, 2008

Your Weekly Catherine

Week Twenty-Seven

We temporarily interrupt the countdown of Five Anjelica Huston Movies You Should See to bring you your regularly scheduled weekly Catherine. There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of Torch's fears and the summit of Gabrielle's knowledge. It is an area which we call the Catherine Zone.

Today's Catherine is brought to you by Letters C, T, and W and Number 3.

Number 3 presents the third photo of Catherine to appear in a random search of season 3 episodes:

Letter C presents Catherine and Nick in the episode called 'Crow's Feet':

Letter T presents Catherine and Warrick in the episode called 'Turn of the Screws':

And Letter W presents Catherine in the episode called 'Who and What':

Tune in next week to find out if Catherine catches the bad guy again.
Same Cat time, same Cat channel.

We now return you to the Anjelica Huston countdown already in progress.