As I’ve said before, Andrew’s 90’s Showdown was a baby that was meticulously conceived and prepared by its multiple fathers. We sent a list – I tried rigging the polls by sending in as many obscure performances as possible, as any douche-y movie lover should. But alas, that didn’t work.
Then we compared each other’s lists from where we had to rank names. I was tired when I got to the actors so I ranked them – they were easier enough. The women, whom I dived into first, were a more daunting task for me so I wrote down if I liked or disliked their performances. I have no idea if this is a scientific method or not – maybe I get juiced up or tired by the time I got to certain parts of the list. The exercise helped me judge as soberly as possible, hoping Andrew despite some of my choices not making it. But instead of letting those words rot in a word file somewhere only to be deleted, I’m posting what I wrote and polished it as much as I can.
But before we get to that here’s Andreas’ own list. His is better, but I’ll still post mine even though I’ve made lists like this before. This will be in series form because I don’t want to tl;dr you, as much as I resent the latter concept. And I can give you three days worth of material for a day’s ‘work.’ Starting from the performances I can only write now but in short form. Sadface.
Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic (1997): She can emit sexuality from behind Sandra Bullock’s puffy wholesomeness. She could do it. Are you going to be worried about The Paperboy now?
Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart (1999): A performance list without Meryl? A list with Meryl but with this instead of Madison? Affirmative action? Her performance here proves that she can step on kittens and get away with it.
Mina Mohammad Khani in Ayneh (1997): Iran needs a star system. We can start with the cast of A Separation then any actress Jafar Panahi has worked with.
Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet (1996): Probably the weakest of the cast, yelling just as much as DiCaprio, but she brings Angela Chase’s self-awareness here. She’s also given us the greatest rendition of the ‘What’s in a name’ soliloquy. Besides, she’s better than Norma Shearer – Disclaimer: I like Shearer but not as a Juliet.
Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures (1994): She has one of the best cries in Hollywood but if this performance was included the bracket would have had too much of her.
Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 (1991): Really? No one backed me up on this? Is this world coming to an end?
Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions (1999): As devilish as she can be. More effective than Glenn Close if I dare say again.
And here are performances that I got to talk more lengthily about.
Natalie Portman in Leon and Beautiful Girls (1994 and 1996): I’m no going to pretend that I’m her biggest fan now. She got away with stuff that Chloe Moretz is being punished for. But still, her early performances showed potential. As Mathilda she tells a hotel receptionist that she’s Leon’s (Jean Reno) lover. As Marty she makes a deal with an older neighbour without making herself look too seductive. That control of showing maturity at such a young age is always surprising.
Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking (1995): Sarandon’s Sister Helen Prejean is an altruistically calming influence to a film dominated by Sean Penn’s energy. She absorbs information about Matthew Poncelet (Penn), her rebuttals acknowledging his prejudices as alien concepts without condemning him. She’s therefore the audience stand in, not judging Matthew even though we could be. She figured in a low place in my earlier lists, having not seen this movie since high school but expressing so much in one line brought her higher.
Catherine Keener in Living in Oblivion (1995): Her character, Nicole embodies of different ways to deal with sadness and wrathful misandry, whether she tolerates Chad Palomino (James LeGros) or joyfully eviscerates him. On the opposite side of that spectrum is Keener dressed as a bride, a metaphor fitting for indie perfection, an appointment that does seem unusual yet fully convincing if you think about it.
More tomorrow, starting with someone who undoes a cover-up.
I’ve seen Stephen Daldry‘s The Hours yea ago.
A movie that has an imprint on my brain. Its deep vibrancy and visuals to show the spark within its three protagonists, all of them connected with Virginia Woolf and her novel “Mrs. Dalloway.” I remember the dialogue and arguments that the characters have with each other, the camera’s close-ups towards these women and the object that surround them.
The parks where Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) strolls to after discovering her first sentence to “Dalloway.” Laura Brown’s (Julianne Moore) colourful suburbs and one-time hotel room that she rents before she resumes her duty as housewife for her husband Dan’s (John C. Reilly) birthday. How Clarissa ‘Dalloway’ Vaughn (Meryl Streep) taps her chin with her finger before doing her chores, walking all over the cold and polished grit of Manhattan to prepare for the party she’s throwing for her poet ex-boyfriend Richard (Ed Harris), starting with deciding to but the flowers herself.
And there’s the other common element among the main characters – their female love interests, unrequited and fleeting for both Virginia and Laura. Vanessa (Miranda Richardson), who has three young children and is a better and more benevolent head of the household than her sister Virginia. Kitty (Toni Collette), the well-built yet childless and possibly cancer-stricken housewife next door to Laura with a husband grosser than Dan. And Sally (Alison Janney) who gets to go to dinners with a recently outed action star named Oliver St. Ives. The three having this aura and presence when they walk into a room even if they’re arguably less beautiful than the women who pine for them. It was the early 2000’s and despite the lamented decline of queer content then, this is one of the instances when queer cinema was becoming mainstream.
One of the entries in the trivia section of the movie’s iMDb page: “Although the widely perceived notion was that Michael Cunningham‘s original novel was felt to be unfilmable, adapter David Hare actually thought it was effortlessly cinematic.”After seeing the movie, I read the book to find out.
Hare and Daldry make subtle changes to the story, setting Laura and Clarissa’s story lines two years later than they are in the novel. Clarissa’s Manhattan feels more autumn than June. The movie excises characters like St. Ives and Mary Krull. And sure I had reservations about casting like Moore who is older than Laura. Reilly, despite being well-groomed, is on the schlubby end instead of being in the middle ground of schlub and war veteran as the novel suggests. Clarissa’s competition Louis who is seemingly smaller than Jeff Daniels. Claire Danes has to wear chunky sweaters to remind us that she’s Julia, Clarissa’s Viking-like daughter. But they bring such effortless life and well-rounded nature to these characters.
The novel stays with each protagonist for a longer section of time while we see each women reluctantly start their days. The movie is otherwise loyal with the book’s interwoven time lines, such as portraying what happens to Clarissa before showing how Laura has caused them.
Sentence structures look simple until Cunningham’s urban sense kicks in. He describes the places where the characters live, putting his reader into each world and making us shift our eyes from one building into another, into the sky, making us hear the loud sounds or the silences. The writing evokes the few morsels of Virginia Woolf’s prose that I’ve read both in this novel and in college readings. He pulls out from detail to a bigger picture, these transitions within the paragraph read as easy as Woolf would push in the other way.
It’s also very object-oriented, especially in the novel’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ sections. There, he explains the bourgeois exoticism and how Clarissa likes things like her flowers to appear wild, even if everything is clean and arranged. Equally he writes how detached she is with things like her dishes that feel like her girlfriend Sally’s instead of hers, the same way the other main characters feel dissatisfied and awkward with their own relative comforts and successes. There are still traces of unhappiness in Clarissa’s life even though she’s supposedly the symbol of progress that feels so fleeting that the fictional Virginia and Laura couldn’t grasp it in their minds.
There is also less dialogue in the novel, as if it wants Virginia and Laura to share a kiss and a love for a woman or for Clarissa to successfully negotiate the power dynamic between her and her few guests. I like that the movie lets the characters air their stuff out with each other and let their pathos be more visceral and verbal. Of course that’s the only choice since two people staring or firing short sentences at each other in a room seems anti-cinematic. That makes me sound like a Philistine, right?
- Michael Cunningham discusses The Hours (guardian.co.uk)
Lisa Kudrow is doing her Emmy press tour for her show “Web Therapy” that she produces and stars, sounding like the time Phoebe visited Paul Rudd’s parents in Friends. The only thing that reeled me in is her visit to Chelsea Lately of all places, where she reveals that the surprisingly divisive Meryl Streep was in the show. Gotta watch that.
This first one is the least funny of Streep’s three episodes but it starts the story out between Fiona (Kurdow) and Streep’s character. Seriously, I think the Friends alums are funnier after the show went on permanent hiatus. Her and Cox anyway.
When you double click on the video below, leading you to YouTube’s website, there are Iron Lady trailers on the right hand side. I refuse to watch that shit.
‘…does he wear dresses?’
‘He doesn’t wear dresses. You’ll find out all the details when it’s your turn to see him.’
‘Don’t write this book, it’s a humiliating experience.’
‘It’s an honest account of our breakup.’
So I missed the first 20 minutes of this. Sophie Sheridan (Amada Seyfried) invites three of her potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, who are more shirtless than the women in this film will ever be) to the Greek island resort that she and her mother runs. She does so because it’s her wedding soon and she wants to know which one is the real father. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) doesn’t know about all of this. We wouldn’t suspect sluttiness from someone wearing overalls.
Oh hai Sky, Dominic Cooper having the most ‘decent’ character here for his CV. Also hai Julie Walters, who gets blindsided by bad lighting when she’s with her co-stars. Thankfully she gets a song of her own that’s also an ABBA favourite and does her best to sell it, just like some of the other supporting cast do. Also Skarsgard in his most all-American.
Seyfried here can handle the comic aspects of this film as with her earlier films. She talks over and under other characters so naturally and sometimes behaves as if she’s surprised by her own words. She and Meryl match both in the emotional levels, rapport and blonde hair. This movie makes the case for her being the best Meryl Streep’s daughter figure in film, the spot held by Lindsay Lohan’s underrated performance in A Prairie Home Companion, but thankfully Seyfried’s whining here still makes Lohan the victor. Speaking of mother-daughter, Michelle Pfeiffer was considered to play Donna, both Seyfried and Pfeiffer having those wide captivating eyes. Before I get depressed.
Oh no, the depression won’t stop, that despite the film does remind me of the licentiousness of the disco group in a time when they seemed tame compared to punk bands, ABBA’s music going well with the women reflecting on their former ways. As well as those ways haunting them when Donna realizes what the former has done. Streep’s vocals and interpretation are the best in this cast, making the lyrics lighter instead of growling them or evoking too much emotion from them. There’s also literal transition between the characters speaking and singing, which I very much appreciate.
Nonetheless they’re still butchering ABBA. And I can’t believe I’m actually putting ABBA on a pedestal by writing that sentence. It’s either Donna Sheridan and her friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) sounding like karaoke that comes up short. There’s also Seyfried being pop autotuned, and I’m not even blaming her for that. I actually like her rendition of “I Have a Dream,” a song I know because Westlife covered it. The seventies flair just isn’t always there, only coming up in songs sung by the chorus group. There’s an ABBA song once every five minutes, reminding us of the cast’s imperfect renditions. Of course, the adapted musical tradition of the songs being used in a montage. There’s also me hating the sight of men in swimsuits for the first time because they’re in flippers and singing another song. Why is Brosnan the lead male cast member? He has great chemistry with Streep, both cancelling each other out, but did they have to give him the most songs? I also don’t mind his voice, but it’s not like he can pay me to listen to him sing again. Also, why is Seyfried wearing a peasant skirt? I know it’s a resort but that trend is three years too old!
For someone dipping her foot into film, director Phyllida Lloyd jumps her camera from one place to another, going against theatrical staging/POV’s. Which I appreciate actually, even if I’m a snob when it comes to letting adapted musicals/plays on film staying as stage-y and with a meditative pace as many musicals and/or plays are. She use the scenes well and making it, I guess, cinematic in its spaciousness. She also makes everything happens so snappily, portraying what seems like a two-day time frame.
I also like the Aegean blue used in the mise-en-scene and costumes. They even use the blue in the shot in Donna’s bedroom, in both cases feminizing a normally masculine colour. The few times the film noticeably breaks from the colour palette happen in the film’s third act is when Donna wears a pink scarf with her blue dress, as she’s pouring her heart out to Brosnan’s character. The second time will be the yellows and browns leading to the wedding scene. I don’t know what those colours mean.
Nonetheless everything and the Chekovian crack on the floor, I forgive this movie for all its transgressions.
The after effect of talking about Strangers on a Train, and applying it on their own lives.
Bart’s on the dumps that Jessica Lovejoy (Meryl Streep) doesn’t talk to him in public, but she tempts him that ‘if it’s a secret…it’s more exciting.’
The debate between The Hurt Locker and Avatar continues.
It’s Roberta Guaspari’s (Meryl Streep) second day at her new job at an East Harlem alternative elementary school teaching violin. Her class is half as large as it has been the first day. They’re still rambunctious with the exception of Naim, who actually pays attention to her. She notices her competition, DeSean, talking about basketball, when she asks him a question on that day’s lesson, about the parts of the violin’s bow. He feigns indifference in not knowing then she replies ‘Yes you were [here], buy you weren’t paying attention. Do you want people to think you’re stupid.’ She turns to her star student, saying ‘Tell him, Naim.’
As the expression goes, her words with the kids are like a confident tightrope walk, and as expected she doesn’t come off as any hurtful. Neither does she look like the naif who miraculously comes up with a quick rebuttal to hurl on the person she’s talking to. Well, she does raise a few alarms from a parent, but that gets ironed out by the urban ‘stop snitching’ code.
The movie also typically shows the difficulties in running and staying in a class related to the arts. The children have to be whipped out of their ADD, which all but one of them apparently have. They have to regard the class as if no other exists. And Roberta deals with her own marital issues and its effects on her own children, having to let them ride a plane on their own on Christmas.
Also cast and crew notes: Directed by horror director Wes Craven, trying something new. Aidan Quinn plays Roberta’s boyfriend. Gloria Estefan plays a teacher/parent who also sang the film’s theme song. The grown-up version of Roberta’s kids are Abe from Mad Men and Kieran Culkin. Don’t pretend you don’t know who that is.