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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oscars 2014: Buddy Beaverhausen Rides a Streetcar Named Blue Jasmine

I find it perplexing that Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, perhaps his greatest triumph since Hannah and Her Sisters, is not being nominated for this year's Oscar's Best Picture given the sum of its very controlled direction; exquisite acting; Alisa Lepseltzer's gracious, fluid editing; Javier Aguirresarobe's sumptuous cinematography and the film's storyline. I was riveted from start to finish and couldn't turn away.

This tragedy (sprinkled with comic moments) comes off like Ivana Trump takes the Streetcar Named Desire. Allen's story is that of a Manhattan socialite who falls upon hard times and moves in with her somewhat bohemian, working class sister in San Francisco.

Cate Blanchett's Jasmine (nee Jeanette) is a woman beyond the verge of a nervous breakdown in a tour de force performance. She is nominated this year for an Academy Award Best Actress nomination and deservedly. Jasmine is a self-absorbed, egocentric, pill-popping, vodka-guzzling mess in a designer dress who is anything but absolutely fabulous, yet she's like the proverbial train wreck you can't stop watching.

I actually knew this woman, in a way, so Blachette's performance seemed extremely real to me. The woman I was acquainted with was a blond golden girl, patrician Philadelphian background, who became a journalist, was featured on CNN, then had a total emotional meltdown. Her erratic, self-absorbed and high-strung behavior even got her blackballed from temp proofreading jobs where she had no qualms of telling her co-workers and supervisors she was too good for them and for her position there. In Jasmine, I saw so many similarities to this type of real-life, self-destructive ego monster.

England's Sally Hawkins is fabulous and very touching as Jasmine's sister, Ginger (the Stella role). (Actually, the women were adopted daughters of the same family.) It must be added that Cate and Sally have their American regional accents down pat.

Bobby Carnavale is this film's Stanley, reinvented as Chili, Ginger's boyfriend, hot-bodied and dramatically dynamic. And Andrew Dice Clay is a revelation in a serious and sympathetic role as  Ginger's ex-husband. The acting all around is exceptional and Alec Baldwin is particularly notable as Jasmine's cad of an billionaire ex-hubby.

The scene where Jasmine babysits her sister's two boys, having cocktails across from them at a coffee shop, starts as comedy but eventually turns dark, capturing the essence of this movie as a whole. It may be my favorite sequence in this flick.

Kudos to Woody Allen for both his Oscar-nominated directing and screenplay. My favorite line is Jasmine's: "Can you please not fight in here? I don't think I can take it. For some reason, my Xanax isn't kicking in!"

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