90’s Showdown: The Contenders 1
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’m Finished! Cunningham’s The Hours
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)
Seminal Television: Web Therapy
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 play baseball,…’
‘…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.’
Meryl Streep looks so beautiful here in Manhattan, although a bit cold and mannered. I wonder what would have happened if Woody Allen had scooped her up and made her his muse for ten years.
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.
Seminal Television Roundup
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.
Meryl Streep’s Tough Love
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.
Julie and Julia
Am I the only one who thinks that Amy Adams wasn’t that bad in Julie and Julia? Other critics get reductive when talking about her performance, pronouncing it as one nail in the coffin of her career – the other would be “Leap Year.”
It looks as if some of the critics were just watching the trailer. An actress’s look pigeonholes her, so she’s gonna look cute until she reaches an age. Her performance wasn’t aiming for cute, she was aiming for outright misery bathed with obsession and narcissism. I’m projecting a bit yes, since she’s part of the lost generation. You have no idea how many married people I see who are twice my age yet dress like freshmen skateboarders. Just like her.
Julie belongs in that cover of New York Magazine. She is the face of her generation, a carte blanche that has assigned herself to live up to the archetypes of a previous generation. She aspires to become a great cook like Julia Child, who has already made a mark on an already over-saturated American culture. Julie can only fawns and sighs at this unattainable perfect vision. How can she top that? She also covets what she sees every week – her suit wearing, phone call interrupting bitch friends. The only redeeming part of this table of friends is that Casey Wilson is a good character actress and is funnier here than she was in SNL.
You know who else is awkward, Julia Child (Meryl Streep). So much has already been said about her part and performance on the movie. I’m also the only person who thinks her accent goes in and out, but the stature and mannerisms are there. I still feel the same sentiments when this movie came out, that having Streep in a movie is almost lazy casting. That I don’t know if, say, a more deserving Kathy Bates too on the role and would have gotten the same nomination.
There are so many parallels with the characters Julie and Julia. Both are fish out of water in the recovery periods of tumultuous eras. Both were miserable at the things they were doing before they found their paths. Both adopt the American frontiersman attitude. Julie wasn’t the first blogger nor Julia was the first cook, but they were the right persons at the right time. Some critics just wanted to drop the Julie thing altogether, but Julie makes Julia more human and relatable by showing that Julia was at one point lost like we are lost now.
Also, Jane Lynch and Stanley Tucci steal their own slices of the show from Meryl. Fun movie.
Fighting words from possibly fictional Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage, looking like what Jonah Hill might look like in 20 years) to fictional Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) in “Adaptation.” Those words are more effective than anything Kevin Kline ever says “Sophie’s Choice,” because Charlie’s coming from pain, from a connection and a relationship finally consummated in its own strange way with a woman he’s never physically met until this time. In that scene, both lose important men in their lives. Charlie loses his fictional brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) in an out-of-nowhere car crash, while Susan loses John Laroche (Chris Cooper) to a croc. Their confrontation is both hilarious and sad. The two deceased characters have been Charlie and Susan’s crutches, alter egos, dumber, more oblivious versions of themselves with delusions of grandeur. Charlie unlearns the Susan who’s been both myth and sexual fantasy and sees her just like him, a writer stuck after letting go of an obsession. And now that that part of them is gone, they can fictionalize this part of their lives and move of to other projects.
(Fine, she does look a little pissed here)
I also think this is the first movie I’ve seen where Tilda Swinton looks normal. She’s always been a beauty from another world, but as Valerie Thomas in a light sweater she refreshingly looks more conventionally pretty. There’s also the warmth in her, that as much as Charlie’s repulsed by himself, beautiful women don’t just tolerate but actually accommodate him. Her ‘breathing down his agent’s neck’ only happens off screen.
I kinda wanna talk about Amelia (Cara Seymour) and Donald’s girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal) too. These two women, as well as Valerie and her doppelganger Alice the Waitress (Judy Greer) don’t seem to be repulsed by Charlie, but that’s only because the romantic barrier hasn’t been broken. That only gets broken with Alice, who isn’t as accommodating by then.
(Miranda Priestly is calling you fat)
I’m not sure if I totally love the movie, but it’s not as jolting in its surrealism as “Eternal Sunshine” or “Synecdoche,” as much as I like those movies. A part of it is probably due to listening to the characters’ voices or seeing what cars they drive before actually seeing them. The characters here are humans instead of aesthetic elements filling up the mise-en-scene.
FACT! Meryl Streep’s other movie in 2002, “The Hours,” partners her with Alison Janney, the latter coincidentally plays Chris Cooper’s wife in “American Beauty” three years before. Sluts.
FACT! Meryl Streep stoned and her calling people fat are longer traditions than previously thought.
FACT! Nicholas Cage was once good.
!Senor Fox Fantastico!
(Finally saw this after putting it off for three months.)
(Mr. Fox is getting a reality check. ph. sectret)
I hope my opinion on this movie doesn’t stem out of a bias towards kids’ pictures, and that if by chance I hated this movie I would have been like those people who hate children and have no souls. At the same time this might not be considered a kids movie because Wes Anderson’s voice seeps it movie so much. At the same time adult themes seep into other media targeted for children (Flintstones), and as my old-enough-to-be-parents friends can attest, sarcastic language and tones have been prevalent in children’s media in the past decade.
The first moments of the film did delightedly overwhelmed with cuteness, but nonetheless, the Wes Anderson influence within the narrative was distracting in the first half (I have yet to read the book, and apparently it’s better for someone who writes about film to read the source material). I wanted something universal, and I wanted to see if he could make a film that has different themes from what he’s used to. I couldn’t see both aspects of kids movie and Wes Anderson movie together.
What probably convinced me to were the performances. This movie probably has George Clooney’s best performance of the year. He’s familiar with the heist-y, witty, fragmented masculinity and he’s familiar with these spins on the genre (Soderbergh). Behind the animation is someone perfectly conjuring a character with explosive excitability.
And his leading lady comes to task. I can’t believe I’m admitting this to the internet, but Meryl Streep almost made me cry in that movie. Her character and performance is more motherly and isn’t as fierce and combative as the other female characters in Wes Anderson’s movies (Anjelica Huston comes to mind). She even comes off as motherly in the first scene when she and Clooney portray a younger couple. But she does scratch his face, and it’s hinted that her character has a mysterious past.
Michael Gambon is also enjoyable as always, and Willem Dafoe disappears into his Rat character. And if you’re wondering why animals in n English countryside are speaking with American and Southern accents, I let it go.
What also caught my eye was how textural and sculptural the film is. The hair and the fur on the foxes’ faces, the detail of every set created and the gorgeous scene in the sewer waterfall added to this movie.