Thursday, March 3, 2011

Last Summer (1969)

1 Nomination, 0 wins

For the Oscar completist, Christmas comes in February with TCM's "31 Days of Oscar." Every year I fill my DVR chock full of Oscar nominated movies that are not available on Netflix, leaving my poor fiancee to search through dozens of films she's never heard of to find the one wedding show she's looking for. Over the coming months I will be watching and reviewing (and more importantly to my fiancee, clearing the DVR) the movies I recorded.

Playing early in the month was a film I had not heard of, Last Summer, directed by Frank Perry. The film stars Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Richard Thomas, and Catherine Burns as four teenagers spending their summer on Long Island. The film, a spiritual predecessor to Y tu Mama Tambien, displays the confused and nascent sexuality of the young characters. Last Summer was a shocking film in its time, and despite the fact that the sexuality has been far surpassed in more recent films, the emotional trauma experienced by the characters is still incredibly raw and uncomfortable to watch.

Last Summer's sole nomination was given to actress Catherine Burns for her supporting role as a younger and far more innocent girl who is both appalled by and attracted to the behavior of the other teenagers. She gives a haunting performance, not only in her scene-stealing monologue in which she describes "the worst thing" in her life, but also in her uncomfortable flirtations and interactions with Richard Thomas. This performance was well-deserving of its nomination, though it lost to Goldie Hawn's breakout role in Cactus Flower.

The film is weighed down by overwrought symbolism and unnecessary scenes. Some of the power of the film's final scenes have supposedly been lost due to the film's editing in order to receive an R rating (it was originally rated X), but the premise of the final scenes still seem to be a sharp right turn from the narrative trajectory. Last Summer is darkly haunting, often boring, yet still powerful, featuring an excellent performance well deserving of its Oscar nomination.

Remaining: 3177 films, 882 Oscars, 5471 nominations

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