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Movie Night: There Are No Small Parts...

...only small actors. My heart always melts a little when a child actor gets nominated for an Oscar — most recently, Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine. In some ways, it seems easy to get kids to "act," since they are already impressionable and connected with their emotions. In 1944's Meet Me In St. Louis, the director told young Margaret O'Brien that her dog had died to make her cry so Judy Garland could comfort her by singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

Surely directors have all sorts of tricks to get child stars to cooperate, but when a kid's got it, she's got it — no trickery necessary. Thus, the inspiration for this week's Movie Night: Oscar nominees in miniature.

Paper Moon
As a tiny scam artist in training, Tatum O'Neal steals this movie right out from under her real-life dad, Ryan O'Neal. For her trouble, she took home the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The expertly crafted Peter Bogdanovich dramedy, set in the 1930s, follows a con-man who enlists O'Neal the younger in a Bible-selling scheme. The scenes between the cigarette-smoking 10-year-old and Madeline Kahn as Ryan O'Neal's lady friend are nothing short of brilliant.

To see the other two,

The Piano
Anna Paquin followed in O'Neal's footsteps by earning the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as young Flora McGrath. Set in 1851, Holly Hunter plays Flora's mother Ada, a mute Scottish expatriate who arrives in New Zealand in an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner. When her husband sells her beloved piano to a neighbor, Ada reluctantly strikes a deal with the neighbor (Harvey Keitel) in order to continue playing it. Their relationship soon progresses beyond piano lessons, however, and Ada finds herself in a dangerous situation.

Whale Rider
When Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, someone at the ceremony asked her which actor she would most like to meet. She said shyly, in her adorable New Zealand accent, "Johnny Depp." So the sweet, sexy man actually went and sat next to Keisha and chatted her up a bit. I think I cried watching that as much as I did during Whale Rider! In the movie, Castle-Hughes plays Pai, a member of a New Zealand tribe whose chiefs are considered direct descendants of Paikea, an ancestor whose life was spared when he rode to shore on the back of a whale. Pai's twin brother, who died at birth, would have been the chief, and Pai believes she is destined to inherit the position instead. Her grandfather Koro, whom she adores, is bound by tradition to choose a male chief, so Pai sets out to prove her worth.

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