…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Best Actress

90’s Showdown: The Contenders 2


 

Yesterday I talked about this spin-off’s beginning (keep voting on Andrew’s page you guys!), and I promised more performances so here they are.

Kirsten Dunst in Dick (1999): Dick has two leads – Michelle Williams using her doe-eyed delivery with a comic flair that she barely shows, and Kirsten Dunst in her prolonged Torrance Chapman phase. Dunst is so thorough in her sunniness, her delivery of dick jokes quick, matter-of-fact yet hilarious. She also exposes the ridiculousness of the movie’s conceit in unabashedly girly but cunning ways. And if you don’t believe me, the movie is available on YouTube, you guys!

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (1998): Despite recommending expensive shit on her website, we should still honour Paltrow for being one of the few contemporary American actresses who can play British. That can’t be said enough. She also conveys a Renaissance styled warmth – her curly blond locks helping very much to bring this forth – both during her post-coital mornings with a fictional William Shakespeare, telling a man that she knows every word of Juliet and playing multiple levels of the role she was meant to play.

Marie Gignac in Tectonic Plates (1992): To conjure up Gignac’s is admittedly trolly. I serendipitously watched it, yet to confirm or deny that she’s a worthy entry on this list is something you can’t even do through illegal torrents. And trust me, I checked! You have to go a library in Canada to know if I’m not fucking with you. It’s the kind of entry on a list that makes its reader seek out instead of sleepwalkingly confirm what you think you already know, an entry that makes this list personal. And yes, if you get to watch her, the wig she wears to show herself in her college years is kind of ridiculous. But it eventually…grew on me and helped with suspending disbelief. Her performance is meditative, making sense with the movie’s title. That like tectonic plates, her life, whether portrayed in the black cube of a studio or the colourful world of Venice, is full of loss that takes time to heal and sublimate. I’ll also never forget her surprising youthful smile in her character’s older years, where all the pieces of her life come together.

Patricia Arquette in True Romance (1993): I probably don’t hate the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl so much because I see versions of her in creative and sometimes gritty films. Arquette in True Romance is a great example, her bubbliness making even racism palatable. She also makes one half of a great movie couple who should always be together until the end.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien: Resurrection (1997): is one of the most divisive sequels ever, and there’s Weaver’s basketball game among other ridiculous set pieces within the space ship, but she probably works the hardest here more than in any of the Alien franchise movies, having to be compassionate with the alien race to whom she once was deathly afraid.

Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern (1991): She conveys eroticism through the foot massages she receives, her own adult moment. But Li’s character in Raise the Red Lantern is forever a child, her seemingly Western petulance and moodiness, brought forth by oppression and competition from both the men and women within her archaic household, is endlessly fascinating. This has other levels of performance I have yet to discover.

Angelina Jolie in Girl: Interrupted (1999): There are three Angelina Jolies, one is the enemy of the gossip reading bachelorettes who will staunchly be on Team Jennifer. The second is the one with the impenetrable gaze, the grown-up Jolie dressed up by Vogue for red carpets, occasionally appearing in glamorous yet terrible movies. The third one lunged at the screen like a feral child in Girl Interrupted, the one we miss. The one who knows the word attack and uses it to her advantage, who knows the dangerous side of liberation from experience.

Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Rewatching Eyes Wide Shut I will now remember that scene when Kidman is wearing glasses sitting with the actor playing her child, looking at Tom Cruise, smiling while he remembers her sexual dream. It’s not necessarily her acting chops that bring the message of her character’s insidious deviant deception across but Kidman is a great collaborator here. She oscillates between vulnerable girly girl and bourgeois wife at a time in her career when she could.

Tomorrow: Many for the price of six.

 


Hat Trick Girls


Doing this post on a whim. Much more actresses have one or two great movies a year, but due to realizing that the great Claudia Cardinale has been in three great movies in 1963, I decided to do some time-wasting and find out which other women have had the same luck.

Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve only seen Cardinale and Williams’ full list while the rest are below because I’ve seen one or two of each actress’ movies. Many of the women on the list are also here because of their supporting roles. It’s hard to carry a great film. Can you imagine trying to do the same for three?

Also, I know nothing about the silent era but I’m sure that I’ll eventually learn that the likes of Lillian Gish and Janet Gaynor have hat tricks under their CV’s, the latter winning the first Best Actress Oscar for three performances. It’s also harder to get names of actresses and movies belonging to world cinema. If I could only double myself and extend the hours of a day.

And yes, Williams is here because as much as I hate parts of Shutter Island, I know a lot of you love it. Although I’m sure her 2011 is looking better than her 2010. Here goes the list.

ph. MGM

Olivia de Haviland – 1939 – (Gone with the Wind, Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth of Essex)

ph. Universal

Barbara Stanwyck – 1941 – (The Lady Eve, Meet John Doe, Ball of Fire)

Grace Kelly – 1954 – (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Country Girl)

Claudia Cardinale – 1963 – (8 1/2, The Leopard, The Pink Panther)

Faye Dunaway – 1974 – (Chinatown, The Towering Inferno, Four Musketeers)

ph. Miramax

Minnie Driver – 1997 (Princess Mononoke, Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank)

Patricia Clarkson – 2003 (Dogville, The Station Agent, All the Real Girls)

ph. TWC

Michelle Williams – 2010 – (Shutter Island, Blue Valentine, Meek’s Cutoff)

A factor in making this list involved representing each decade, one actress per decade to be more frank. I chose de Haviland over Bette Davis’s movies in the same year, Kelly over Marilyn Monroe‘s 1953 (it hurt me to do that), Driver over Kirsten Dunst (Driver might be disqualified since her involvement in Mononoke only came through 1998/1999, when Miramax released the film stateside, but Dunst 1999 films are guilty pleasures that I can’t admit to the public yet) or Clarkson over Maggie Gyllenhaal’s 2002. Besides, this post is a picture overload already, as is most of my posts in this blog.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s no actress in the list that has an 80’s hat trick. Great roles and movie seemed spread out generously among the Meryl Streep generation and the Brat Pack girls.

Lastly, I’ll make a list for the boys and the directors, or make hat trick lists for consecutive years or movies, but only if you ask nicely. Or better yet, if you could do the rest 😛


Valentine’s Post: Blue Sky


The story of Blue Sky is set in the late 1950’s but it’s set under the lens of the early 1990’s aesthetic principles, with its electric guitar and synthesizer music accompanying female eroticism. Does that sound like I have preconceived notions and biases against the movie? Because unfortunately, I do, with all the assumptions that this film is gonna seem dated.

Another disadvantage against the film is its two plot lines combined because they couldn’t stand on their own. First is the erotic wildness of Carly Marshall (Jessica Lange), a problem that’s going to get violently fixed or will bring her to her own doom. The second concerns her husband, military man Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), an insubordinate sane voice against the nuclear testing in the two bases he’s assigned in – Hawaii and Mercury, Nevada. This second plot line is the less cringe worthy yet the less interesting one.

Because Hank encourages her to do so, Alex finds a friend with Glenn (Chris O’Donnell!), Johnson’s son. She tells him about ‘noment,’ moments when nothing’s happening, and ‘slowments,’ moments when people are too lazy. I gotta bring those back. He kisses her, which is funny because I would have laughed at those dorky words, being born in the generations when I was. Their kisses are interrupted by Hank and Carly ‘kiss and make up’ after the dance, a heightened, more sexualized version of the adolescent’s innocent love.

Alex and Glenn hang out later at the ‘off-limits,’ area. They talk about the Manhattan Project and marriage in a way that they’re not seriously talking about it. Alex tells Glenn her fears of marrying a military man because marrying one might turn her into her mother. Alex hands Glenn an old grenade, he throws out the window, the grenade explodes. Glenn’s dad, army in tow, finds the two, and Alex’s hair is dishevelled and all. Her mom then throws her all these accusations, the mother sublimating her own guilty past to her daughter.

Carly supposed to be the insane one who has to be cured, but Hank actually steps on a few delicate toes. Instead of confronting his boss about the latter’s indiscretions with his own wife, actually faces him about the nuclear testing that has irradiated two people. This leads to a physical argument that gets him to prison and then to a mental hospital where he is drugged. Nonetheless, its’ her duty now in the film’s third act to defend her husband from all the lies, while I wonder how her husband would defend her if this movie took the usual path of making her the insane one.

The only ray of optimism comes from Jessica Lange’s Oscar win, and if you’re a latent completist just like I am, this film is a must watch. But is her performance perfect? There’s something performatively cunning about her pretending that her father works for the New York Times, as if she’s winking to us,blatantly pointing to her character’s delusions. There are moments, however, where Lange doesn’t use clichés. Instead of being spiteful because Hank won’t dance with her, she dances with his boss not out of spite but with a human insanity all her own.

It’s also interesting to watch Carly’s ability to make her own fictions with her frustrated life. As she tells the Johnson’s wife that ‘a woman’s charm is mostly illusion.’ She puts red cloth over the lamps and suddenly an army base living room is now a cabaret room, a place where she can teach her girls to dance. An important theme in this film is Carly dressing like movie stars because that’s apparently that’s the only way for the audience to tell eras. The film ends with Carly putting away her vulnerably sexy Monroe-Bardot-Charisse hybrid to looking like Elizabeth Taylor, to looking like a survivor.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


Rule number 4 or whatever of blogging – Be careful when you’re blogging while drunk and/or angry. I wouldn’t recommend people to do it because instead of writing seven hundred words for a piece, I end up writing half of that when I’m drunk and/or angry. That, however, often means I get a lot of work done because of either fatigue and just wanting to get things over. Speaking of…repeat after me kids, drunk and/or angry, I’m only one of those things tonight but the characters of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf are both. I’ve had the chance finally to buy the book since one of my coworkers have, and decided to read it while playing the movie. Not the best idea since there’s a lot of cut, paste and add in the film’s script, but do as I say, not as I do. I haven’t finished rewatching the film, but I’ve fed you kids trash for the past two days might as well talk about a great film, although I’m not sure if I give justice to it.

ph. Warner

I also want to say that I kept imagining Henry Fonda as George, who was offered the role on the play’s first Broadway production. I also want to say that George (Richard Burton) concedes the play to Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). I don’t know why that is. Maybe he plays the calmer host to Martha’s angry drunk host. I’m not gonna say that Burton’s performance isn’t great because I don’t even believe that, but he has the most lines yet it doesn’t feel that way. I will now try to entertain you with the best line reads in the film.

MARTHA (In a so-there, childish voice) Daddy said we should be nice to them.

eta. MARTHA Ha HA! Wonderful; marvelous. (Sings) “Just a gigolo…Everywhere I go,…”

HONEY (Sandy Dennis) He’s not a floozie…he can’t be a floozie..you’re a floozie.

GEORGE And that’s how you play get the guests.

ETA GEORGE Flores; Flores para los muetros. Flores.

NICK (George Segal, who honestly is as good looking as he is young and fit) Where is your husBAND?


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Catholic education, in my experience, gave me the most intelligent and well-read adults who unfortunately aren’t good teachers.

ph. 20th Century Fox

Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the movie where she won her first Oscar, gave me high expectations. I want to dismiss her performance. Her Jean Brodie is intentionally a caricature and I’ve seen deluded done better. Sometimes she slows down and lowers the pitch of her voice thinking that she’s fooling both the other character and the audience that she’s being profound. The character’s interesting, as she ‘educates’ nine year olds about her lovers is an education. But hey, she talks about Flanders field and quotes Robert Burns – THAT’s an education, right? This talk about ‘intruders’ and ‘do as I say’ eventually leads to more vulgar discussions and at one point I was wondering when should one girl stand up and put an and to her.

Sandy (Pamela Franklin) comes to our rescue, and is this movie’s best in show. Jean calls Sandy dependable, faint praise for calling someone boring, and Sandy does seem boring since other girls are assigned by Miss Brodie to be more interesting. But she takes of her glasses – a cliché yet an effective one thanks to her – and does the best reverse striptease, showing how much a girl of the 1930’s has to put on. And young Sandy owning a 43-year old Mr. Lloyd. ‘You could go on painting. You don’t need a model,’ indeed. She does the simplest but most effective things. Again, Brodie is right in saying that any girl she teaches is hers for life, as Sandy can change one thing around her, and can do it again in her future.

I almost forgot that Celia Johnson gives a deceptive performance as Miss Mackay. While talking to the girls about how artistic and musical Miss Brodie is, I wonder if she’s jealous of Brodie or letting the girls think that she’s ‘cool,’ warming up to them so they can tell the truth.

After this movie, TVO showed Elephant, obviously.

Nonetheless, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They and California Suite better be awesome.


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.


Howards End


ph. Merchant Ivory

The Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End has its Murnauesque tendencies. A drama about property, class, and family, the film’s first four minutes have no dialogue, as Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), owner of the titular house, walks ghostly outside in the garden. She looks in while her husband Henry (Anthony Hopkins), the rest of her family, and a guest, Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) are inside having a party. The film evokes a poetic atmosphere within the English suburbs, with the grass and wisteria and trees and the moon. Helen lightly blames the moonlight for her short engagement with one of the Wilcox son, Paul.

Helen’s poor friend Leonard Bast gets enthralled by his environment as well, and thus gets his silent sequences. They meet after a lecture on Beethoven’s Music and Meaning, showing his intellectual side despite his poverty. She steals his umbrella, he walks in the rain to get it back. He goes on walks because of a book he’s read, much to the chagrin of his wife Jacky. He also has a strange recollection of his first meeting with Helen, the gates close on him but she looks back, smiling.

Howards End is a movie of many tones, but I don’t mean that it’s uneven. There’s the comedy of errors tone, when the other Wilcox son Charles (James Wilby) drives the Schlegel aunt to the house. She confuses him for Paul and a row ensues. Helen and Margaret (Emma Thompson) are pretty funny characters themselves, calling themselves chatterboxes, the Schlegel children critical of their outspoken ways.

Then there’s the elegy, represented by Ruth. If you’ll indulge me in overreading, Ruth is also after a Biblical figure of unwavering loyalty and standing by her family. She was born in Howards End, Howard being a prominent name in some noblemen, a family plagued by tragedy. She’s kind of fragile, most of her children have grown up and married. and her husband tends to leave her in the house for business. She symbolizes permanence, shocked by the notion that Margaret has to move from the house where the latter was born. She has bursts of energy now and then, thanks to Margaret’s friendship, and there’s an implication that Henry and her family bring her down. This role’s part of the roles Redgrave has been getting in her later years, a woman haunted by her past.

There’s also a sense of urgency in the film’s drama, culminating in the forty minute mark, with Margaret becoming the protagonist. She’s like sunshine to this movie, her early moments especially with Ruth, we see her smiling and accommodating. Ruth’s last wish is that Margaret would inherit Howards End, Henry eventually asks Margaret to marry him. In Ruth’s last moments, she inadvertently passes the torch to Margaret, her silence replaced by Margaret’s protestations. Thompson made leading roles out of being the elder sister or friend with the voice of sanity, and her Margaret is still that archetype to Helen. But here in Howards End, she’s stuck between Helen’s idealism and Henry’s ruthless prejudice. Her last fight with Henry is one of the riveting arguments I’ve seen in a British period film and perfectly encapsulates Forster’s liberal stance.

There’s no need to say that Anthony Hopkins is amazing in this film. He plays his character with charm, ruthlessness yet repressed humiliation, opposite yet same from the cannibal that won him the Oscar. It’s reminiscent of other actors doing something different after their Oscar-winning or infamous roles. Like Marlon Brando dabbling in musicals after winning for “On the Waterfront,” or Denzel Washington becoming a sensitive shrink after becoming a psychotic cop, or Jack Nicholson playing a wounded playwright after playing a homicidal novelist, or John Wayne playing fatherly after playing racist.