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Posts tagged “British actresses

Mary, Queen of Scots ’71


Mary, Queen of Scots is on every other night at CBC. It’s like telling me to finally watch Vanessa Redgrave‘s Oscar nominated performance in the titular role.

So that means yes, I’ve seen the film before in parts. I honestly thought that Glenda Jackson as Mary’s rival Queen Elizabeth I in this film, was the best in show. The way her head and hands move when she’s thinking up a plot to offer her own lover, Sir Robert Dudley, to Mary is fascinating. The first act of the film shows her driving the plot instead of being passive within it. When the rejected Dudley talks about how Mary has charmed him, Elizabeth also gets physically aggressive. Which is fun to watch.

Elizabeth almost steals the show because of the damage done when Mary repeatedly cries out ‘Francois,’ to her dead husband King Francis II. Mary sounds girly, lovesick, dependent. In a way, my fears about the character getting stuck like this has become true, Mary becoming a queen who’s repeatedly imprisoned by her enemies, never becoming a woman and person in her own right. Redgrave keeps pace with those plot points by giving her character a vitality – a woman in her mid-30′s convincingly portraying the youthful obliviousness of someone ten years younger or more. That, nonetheless, is a better portrayal than the saintly inhuman interpretation of Mary in an earlier John Ford film in 1936.

ph. Slant

Of course, those two characters grow up. Elizabeth wants to survive and still holds grudges but won’t use her ruthlessness to even imprison and execute the woman who also happens to be her cousin. She feels sorry for having to send Mary to Forthingray. Mary repeats the same adulterous mistake with a Lord Bothwell that Elizabeth has made with Lord Dudley – Elizabeth suspected of murdering Dudley’s wife, Mary accused of murdering her own king consort for and with Bothwell. She isn’t convincing when she says that she has made peace with her God and pities Elizabeth. She nonetheless carries on to her beauty and dignity, fighting fer her crown till the end.

Mary’s story isn’t told in film with such frequency as Elizabeth’s, the latter being told in film or television every decade. It’s probably because Elizabeth, as an English Queen and one who has reigned for decades and made the kingdom into a superpower, whereas Mary’s seems like the story of an outsider, even if she is the matriarch of England’s future kings. Elizabeth’s is always shown as a victory, whereas Mary’s shows victory and defeat in both sides, which interests me more.

Timothy Dalton and an unrecognizable Ian Holm are also in supporting roles.

ph. Premiere


TIFF: The Whistleblower


The Whistleblower doesn’t start with our lead, police officer Kathryn (Rachel Weisz), but with Luba and Raya, two local girls in the Ukraine partying it up. Luba tells Raya that she can get out of the latter’s job at her mom’s photocopying place and join her to a hotel job in Central Europe. And you already know where this movie is going.

ph. TIFF

Based on a true story, in trying to earn money in a short time, Kathryn’s doing peacekeeping in Bosnia for a British contract company called Democra, her family’s in the States. Kathryn thus has a strained relationship with her children, the eldest of whom is as old as the girls being trafficked. She has to be reminded of how ‘not motherly’ she is. Apparently saving young girls from pimps isn’t motherly. The tribulations in Kathy’s Bosnia occupies her mind so much, she and the audience sometimes forget about home.

I’ll stop yelling at my iPod now, where I’m writing this section of the review. Yelling not because of the movie but because of the jerks stopping Kathryn from helping these girls. The peacekeeping forces are a man’s world, most of them are demons but it would seem fictional if they show a vulnerable side. Besides, she only has one female ally (Vanessa Redgrave) out of the handful of female characters in the film. Yes, we still are unaware of ever so prevalent human trafficking. The film tackles the material with impact-filled storytelling – that’s all we ask for. 4/5.


TIFF: Never Let Me Go


Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, about young adult clones slightly obsessed about their Cytherean childhoods, is now a feature film. Director Mark Romanek uses a linear approach to the story instead of the impressionistic one in the novel, and like any adaptation, it could go either way.

ph. fstage

And sure Romanek mixes up a few things from the source material, a small grievance. And there’s many holes in the script that makes all interactions feel set-up and less organic, a bigger grievance. There’s also a lot of details, beautifully shot, that enhances the object-obsessed part of the story Romanek wants to tell.

But who can resist watching Keira Knightley as Ruth transforming from a histrionic, control freak of a girl into a worn down defeatist, needing a walker, giving a performance that’s the best in her career so far? Or Andrew Garfield as Tommy D., the awkward, gentle, brave boy we can’t help but reach out to?

Charlotte Rampling plays an icy Miss Emily. The script could have also given better justice to Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) and to Kathy (Carey Mulligan). The film unfortunately turns Kathy from the sane one into the less than pretty virgin. Though Mulligan could have been better, I like her better here than in An Education. I also like the girl who plays the younger Ruth, being able to change emotions so subtly. Despite of its flaws, the film does pull on your heartstrings, and in Cythera, that should suffice. My rating – 3/5.


Nell


ph. Twentieth Century Fox

In his look back into the 90′s, Nathaniel R called this movie underrated. To find out if he’s right, the gods of TV fortunately had it airing at midnight. On a religious channel. I shit you not.

The titular Nell (Jodie Foster), gets discovered by the small town’s Dr. Jerry Lowell (Liam Neeson) after her mother’s death. The childlike feral virgin has unformed relationships with the outside world. Because the South needed another stereotype, she is awkward and has a distorted Dixie-like twin language that Jerry tries to learn and adapt as he camps outside Nell’s cabin. She can either be an institutional prisoner or an oddity splashed all over the media. She is unable to articulate her paranoia of a sexual threat, whether it be Jerry himself or the horny hicks who talk about her in a pool hall nearby.

Dynamics get more complex as Dr. Paula Olsen (Natasha Richrdson RIP) wants Nell to be locked up in a ‘caring’ institution, and she camps out near Nell’s sanctuary to prove she’s right. Again, there’s this lingering possibility that Nell can become Jerry’s lover. Paula even suggests Jerry to ‘educate’ her because, as a phobic, Nell has to ‘face her fears’ – to that we say, ‘please don’t.’ However, Paula’s presence partly directs Nell asserts herself to the role of Jerry’s surrogate child. Which, by default, Paula becomes Nell’s surrogate mother, and you know where this leads.

We fortunately don’t see the worst case scenario, and besides these lingering threats, the story’s mostly about two lonely people who try to communicate with each other. That the story leads me to these different tangents and alternate fates shows that the script isn’t insipid. Nonetheless, it was a queasy journey before the end. And here’s hoping that Trey Parker or Seth McFarlane hasn’t made fun of this movie yet.


In the 90′s Part 2


Coming out of the 90′s my lists would have sucked. I was twelve, I grew up on HBO Asia and Kristie Alley.  I’ll be harsher towards the pictures than the actresses, because honestly, every woman in this list did some great work, but ten years after the 90′s, I had the chance to see better performances and films.  Here’s what my list looks like now. Italics indicate Oscar winners for said categories.

Best Actress

  • Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
  • Linda Hamilton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991)
    I don’t understand how James Cameron’s campaign for her failed.
  • Irene Jacob (The Double Life of Veronique, 1991)
  • Emma Thompson (Howards End, 1992)
  • Patricia Arquette (True Romance, 1993)
  • Julianne Moore (Safe, 1995)
  • Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies, 1996)
  • Demi Moore (G.I. Jane, 1996)
  • Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, 1997)
  • Kate Winslet (Holy Smoke, 1999)

Best Picture

  • Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Last of the Mohicans (1992)
  • The Age of Innocence (1993)
  • Heavenly Creatures (1994)
    There’s a few people in my social circle who thinks this movie is ‘ugly.’ I will one day square off with them.
  • Casino (1995)
  • La Haine (1995)
    Changes yet still romanticizes my perception of Paris.
  • Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    If anything, the advantage it would have had against Thin Red Line is how varied the colours are in this film.
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)

Then come the lists of what I thought then. This is probably a mix of what you guys think as overrated AND underrated.

Old Best Actress List

  • Nicole Kidman (Far and Away, 1992)
    The performance is less complex but more lively than her work a decade later.
  • Winona Ryder (Little Women, 1994)
  • Kate Winslet (Heavently Creatures, 1994)
    Still here.
  • Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, 1995)
  • Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet, 1996)
    Still has the best rendition of the ‘what’s in a name’ soliloquy. Too bad she sucks now, Temple Gradin.
  • Madonna (Evita, 1996)
    I’m still glad this went to Madonna. It would have been just another notch on Meryl’s belt.
  • Demi Moore (G.I. Jane, 1997)
  • Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, 1998)
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions, 1999)
    I don’t understand how she hasn’t made the ‘best evil teen’ list they make once a year.

Old Best Picture List

  • Hook (1991)
    What? It has Magge Smith, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts in it.
  • Dracula (1992)
  • Heavenly Creatures (1994)
    Still love it.
  • The Lion King (1995)
  • Evita (1996)
    Still one of the best edited movies.
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • What Dreams May Come (1996)
    Pure beauty.
  • Titanic (1997)
    You did too. And again, James Cameron can sink a boat.
  • As Good as it Gets (1997)
    Con-science?
  • Elizabeth (1998)
    I kinda think it’s an obscene film now.


So Stuck in the 90′s…


While ruffling through old…stuff I guess, Nathaniel R found issues of his old zine. He re-listed what he thought the greatest performances of that decade are.

Best Supporting Actor


- Joe Pesci, Goodfellas, (199o)
Hey look, it’s Joe Pesci with feelings!

- Ted Levine, Silence of the the Lambs, (1991)
You know what, this performance is a little bit campy, but scary and will offend generations to come.
- Anthony Hopkins, Dracula (1992)
Scarier here than as Hannibal Lecter.
- Leonardo di Caprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
He’s proven what he can do at such a young age.
- Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction (1994)
Put cool, hilarious and scary into one gunman.
- Vincent Cassel, La Haine (1995)
Great as the funny, deluded guy from the Paris ghetto.
- Steve Buscemi, Fargo (1996)
Makes the audience realize how crazy these kidnapping plans go.
- Timothy Spall, Secrets and Lies (1996)
This family man role puts him on different emotional fields.
- Robert Forster, Jackie Brown (1997)
You wouldn’t think of him as Pam Grier’s best leading man, but there he is.
- Brendan Fraser, Gods and Monsters (1998)
Remember when this guy did actual acting?

Best Supporting Actress

- ETA: Lorraine Bracco, Goodfellas (1990)
Can’t believe I forgot about this innocent turned crazy-emotional performance
- Jessica Lange, Cape Fear (1991)
Smoldering sexuality comes easy with this lady.
- Angela Bassett, Malcolm X (1992)
The only woman who could play Malcolm X’s wife and in one or two incidents, his formidable opponent.
- Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence (1993)
As May Archer, a woman who sounds so nice saying the most manipulative things.
- Melanie Lynskey, Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Gotta give Ms. Lynskey a hand for how brave she tackled her sexually blossoming character.
- Sharon Stone, Casino (1995)
Goes all out as Ginger, the boss’ damaged wife.
- Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard III (1995)
The best in show in a film of great women, she gives her one speaking scene as Queen Anne great complexity.
- Bridget Fonda, Jackie Brown (1997)
Exudes confidence as the surfer girl, Melanie.
- Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights (1997)
That scene outside the courthouse.


Best Actor

- Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Slithers his way into Clarice Starling’s sympathies, and ours too.

- Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (1992)
Great range from anger to spiritual enlightenment.
- Colm Feore, Thirty-Three Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993)
Feore helps us learn about this fascinating man.
- Bruce Willis, Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Out of the performances in this list, his is the most visceral.
- Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade (1996)
He makes interesting choices in this role.
- Samuel L. Jackson, One Eight Seven (1997)
Again, scarier than Jules when he teaches us about the ‘philanges.’
- Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco (1997)
One of the greatest performances within the performance.
- Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski (1998)
Boring answer, but he plays a stoner awake.
- Dylan Baker, Happiness (1998)
Such a sympathetic portrayal that you won’t even believe the truth about him.
- Matt Damon, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Great as a love-to-hate shape shifter.

ETA: Italics represent Oscar winners.


Laurel Canyon


ph. Focus

Laurel Canyon, the perfect boring couple, Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) talk at each other and sometimes lie to each other. Sam has to move back to the titular Laurel Canyon to practice psychiatry in a great hospital there, and Alex comes with to finish her dissertation. temporary bunking with Sam’s mother Jane (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ian (Alessandro Nivola), the environment proves to hinder work and shake up relationships.

Hey! Catherine Hardwicke and Wally Pfister helped make this movie.

It’s funny that 60% of the major players in this film are British but make for more convincing Californians than Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. And that bale and Nivola could have changed roles but the American Nivola does fit the hairy-chested, childlike Chris Martin-eqsue role better.

Alex is such a complex character that Cholodenko has to justify the script’s choices within and around her. When she gets invited to join Jane’s group, Jane explains that she can judge Jane’s work because common sense drives popular music, thus anyone can judge it. When Sam pours his heart out to Sara, it follows with a scene when Alex misunderstands everything he’s been saying to her. A question is often followed by an answer, thankfully those answers aren’t too expository.

And oh Lord, Kate Beckinsale. I’ll always love her for her deadpan fierceness, if that exists, in The Last Days of Disco. Her MUBI profile doesn’t show how derided she is after The Aviator. As the soft-spoken Alex, her retreat with Sam lets her go through a sexual awakening at the same time as Sam, but hers is more intense, later on explaining that she’s never experienced fucking up. Within the film, she goes from routine lovemaking to romantic desire. It’s sad that they didn’t go through the full experience together. And she smokes a joint like a true beginner. I miss this girl.

Would it be fair to say that Cholodenko almost perfectly encapsulates the white experience? She doesn’t have the Holofcener/Fey guilt thing, but Cholodenko puts the straight-laced and the wild ones within the same square inch, or in this case, the same family. Most of the movie shows Sam and Jane treat each other passive aggressively until the big explosive scene in the denouement, which air some raw emotions out.

And again, time to download me some Mercury Rev.


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