Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best Actress 1965

I couldn't make up my mind which year to choose next. So I needed a system; to see what happened & the entire process go to the youtube at the bottom of this post (my voice sounds like shit, there were no doubles and I just assist the process, but it was fun). :))
Anyway, you can see the result: 1965 [why do I spoil it?!] :P So that's the year I'll be talking about. To me, it's somewhere in the middle. Definitely not my first choice.
The obscure Samantha Eggar ruined my group photo. She'd better be excellent in The Collector (which I've never seen). There's no need saying who won the Oscar, right?! Julie Christie shhhhh. But I have NO idea which one will be my favorite; which makes it great. So the 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1965 were:

from left to right, I have the pleasure to introduce:
  • Julie Andrews, in The Sound of Music
  • Samantha Eggar, in The Collector
  • Simone Signoret, in Ship of Fools
  • Elizabeth Hartman, in A Patch of Blue
  • Julie Christie, in Darling
I'll start will Julie Christie.
And here's the infamous :P clip:

Monday, April 27, 2009

The conclusions - Best Actress 2008

I have to be fair: this line-up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. On the contrary: the biggest pleasant surprise was that I found elements of excellency in each and every one of the performances. My favorite, Sally Hawkins, was not nominated :( but I won't bitch about it anymore. At least she won a Golden Globe.
Kate's win was quite predictable. Even if her performance didn't make my Top 3 out of 5, I love Kate so much (as an actress and she does seem like such a good person) and IT WAS her 6th nomination, so the win is satisfying in more than one way. Is it because I'm used to the best performance not winning?! Maybe not, so I'll put the blame for my resignation on Kate's super charm :D I believe Melissa was the runner-up for the win with her Indie Spirit award and actors' support.
It was not an easy ranking. And of course I AM subjective. And, yes, I know I am always very generous with my stars/rating. My biggest problems were with the #1 spot and #4. These are performances I'll go back to over the years; I can tell that. So here they are; you can click on the name to get to that certain performance.

I might just be blinded by some of her decisions. Sorry, haters, but I loved that she was in control of the character and knew exactly where to take it. To me, it’s greatness at work. The dragon power she releases could be equalled only by her vulnerability and quiet despair at the end.
I loved the honesty that she puts into the character and the undeniable connection you can feel between her and Kym. A troubled soul & a very difficult character to play. The detail she puts into the performance is both subtle and impressive, if you have the eye to see it.

It’s deglam done properly. Embracing the spirit of the independent film, Melissa loses all vanity and gives us an honest portrayal of a woman struggling against all odds to offer a better life to her children. A well-balanced performance with one or two well-thought teary moments.

What starts in mediocrity ends up in greatness. It’s the trickiest character one could have, but Kate doesn’t know her that well. The flashy dramatic moments or the smart-ass wicked ones are done properly, but her subtle-wannabe, grumpy take in the beginning is almost a failure.

***EDIT: As stated at the 100th profile celebration (HERE), Kate's performance has been upgraded to  . ;)

Angelina provides some of the best & the worst acting moments of the 5 nominees. The direction and the screenplay are working against her and her rushed acting decisions kill the potential of this Oscar-baity performance. But when she’s good… oh boy. And that makes it the shiftiest biggest disappointment of them all.

Yes, I would've voted for Meryl, and not just out of sentimental reasons :)
Other Best Actress years discussed so far:
Kate Winslet, in The Reader

approximately 38 minutes and 10 seconds
33.2% of the film

The Film

Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.
You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

The film doesn’t live up to the greatness and storytelling of the book. It’s never good to compare, I know, but it’s a sin to waste such good material. As you’ll read by clicking there, my biggest problem was the 1st part.

Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz

Just like Angelina’s performance, this one is also a mixed bag. Among moments of greatness, you can easily find poor choices made by Kate (she’s usually excellent all the way, so I blame the writing and maybe sometimes even the director for misguiding her). Hanna Schmitz is one of the most compelling Nazis you’ll ever see; this simple fact makes it a tricky role to play. And, as I’ve said: some good, some bad, with a final result somewhere in the middle of it all.

Hanna Schmitz is meant to be rigid, tough, unforgiving, BUT (what the screenwriter didn’t get) also smart-ass, a bit mean, playful sometimes, with a superiority complex in a dominatrix way :D And how is Kate for the first part of the film? Too stiff and with a pointless, uncalled for, attempt of a German accent; which she looses anyway halfway through the film.

First impression counts, and by that I mean first 5 minutes of a performance. If you’ve started on the wrong foot, it’s hard/harder for me to fall in love with you later into the film. Though some might say she is building the performance going from here to there, I wouldn’t consider that an excuse even if it would be true. The thing about Hanna Schmitz is that she doesn’t change (one might argue that justifying with the facts that she learns how to read; but you can see in her final scene with Michael that she’s the same Hanna in an old woman’s body). What does strike as a change in Kate’s performance is her going from a somewhat lack of imagination to trying to express something once the trial scenes start.

Kate’s take on Hanna-the-mysterious-woman from the first part is mostly dull, unimaginative and well… boring. One exception: when Michael is reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover to her and she acts like that’s a dirty shameful book – I loved how Kate handled the hypocrisy of Hanna.

The second part, with the trial, is much better and Kate gets the chance to stand out. And she does it: the simplicity of Hanna, her brutal honesty and later her surrender to whatever they decide for her – all these elements that Kate masterfully offers us create such a compelling character that we understand and… the truth is I felt sorry for her and she broke my heart. Everything is built so that for entire moments in the film you somewhat forget the atrocities and just feel for this woman. Her “suicidal” telling of the truth shows us the innocence (if I can call it that) of Hanna the woman, not the guard.

The third part is the most teasing and most uplifting (up to a point). I would say the final scene between old Hanna and Michael is probably the only well-written scene in the film. Kate is excellent here, balancing the flirting mood (yes, you can feel it; in so many ways, she’s still dominating Michael and Kate does great work showing that), the irritation when asked about the past and also the innocent joy when seeing a familiar face after all those years. The dead are still dead, Hanna says; it doesn’t matter what I think. I love it that you can see both the human and the Nazi guard.

Just as the story it's continuing it's course, Kate goes from mediocre or just ok to believable, expressive, dramatic and in control. Yes, in control – that’s her best achievement. And as Kate becomes more comfortable playing Hanna, we start to get it and feel for her. And, no, you can’t justify all with the story, it’s not Kate’s big strategy of approaching the role; it’s a breach between her and Hanna-the-lover. And that kills a part of the performance. I give her , but this IS a performance to reflect upon again and again in the years to come.

***EDIT: As stated at the 100th profile celebration (HERE), Kate's performance has been upgraded to  . ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown. The year for April was 1959.

Again, I was very happy to participate in another Supporting Actress (I heart this category) discussion over at For April we had 1959 and although I was unsure about my love for these performances (I had already seen 3 of the 4 films in the past), I quickly changed my mind. I was especially impressed by the ladies from Imitation of Life (1959).

To find out more about the nominees and how we, the judges, distributed our love, click on Stinkylulu.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Anne Hathaway,
in Rachel Getting Married
approximately 58 minutes and 15 seconds
54.1% of the film
The film
A young woman who has been in and out from rehab returns home for the weekend for her sister's wedding.
You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.
This is by far one of the most interesting films of 2008. If it’s not you’re favorite, at least admit it has its own place in the big picture. A beautifully directed, excellent acted independent feature.
Anne Hathaway as Kym

Really now, what a tough character to play. Kym is a volcano and a character filled with emotions, desires, regrets, craziness, love, bitchiness, you name it. She’s an ex drug addict, for most of the film she looks rather bad, she’s a mean girl hunting for attention. And she also has Rachel, the sister, who seems like a saint next to her. Kym is a complicated character not just for Anne to play, but also for the viewer. And I’ll get on that right now.

I said about this film that it has scenes that are deliberately uncomfortable: the dinner rehearsal scene is the most obvious. I don’t know if I should give credit to the writer or to the director; there are moments in the film where I felt that the director got control over the story and by using images not explainable in the screenplay was able to create mood and to influence the entire storyline. And Anne has this advantage of a great director.

Kym is not likeable, at least not at first. We all know her: she’s the no-good kid/person that annoys a more conservative dude like I am. Anne is good with her flaws: she knows when to fake it a bit and when to lie. Anne understands Kym, so the selfishness of the character comes almost naturally. Kym is no monster; but she’s built onscreen so that she embarrasses you as a viewer, she makes you uncomfortable and you feel ashamed for her (at least that’s how I felt).

Yet, it’s Anne Hathaway’s challenge to humanize Kym and to try to change our perspective just as we start to gather more information. Anne’s take on Kym’s demons, on her complicated emotional agenda, is done almost effortless and not all at once. She knows when to hold back and not disadvantage the screenplay by stealing a scene or changing the focus. In a very talkative role, Anne knows exactly how to balance the big words with the big facial expressions or tears.

The sharing of the secret from the middle of the film is a big shift for the character. From then on, slowly, I started changing my feelings towards her. Anne lets us take a look at the softer side of Kym. The burden that she’s carrying is so huge and I don’t really remember the last time I saw such a good portrayal of guilt. Kym knows she’ll never forgive herself for the past and so she’s aware of her emotional damage that won’t go away. However, it’s her new purpose to live with the guilt and try to pick up the pieces. Her line Who do I have to be now? in that confrontation scene with her father and sister is impeccably delivered and so heartbreaking that you get the exact idea of what she’s talking about.

Her helplessness doesn’t really change during the film; but what does disappear is the selfishness in her cry for help. It goes from more of a demand for attention to a real, visible identity crisis.

It’s in my instinct to write more about Kym than Anne. This is probably a proof of the great skills that Anne used in portraying this troubled girl. It was like Anne the actress gave up on her own vanity to create a different type of vanity that Kym has, especially in the first part. It’s a dark role and it’s a brave decision to risk on it. In the end, there were probably 2 deal-breakers for me regarding this performance (except that who do I have to be now mentioned before).

The first one: when they’re all dancing with those Brazilians in the tent, there’s like a 30 seconds shot that starts with Kym dancing and moving her arms and apparently having fun. Then, after a couple of seconds she slows down, and even her face expression changes a bit. And you realize how much she is trying to let loose, how much she it trying to look like she’s having fun and she’s fitting in with everybody. That self-conscious moment that Kym has tells us much more than words would. (No sense mentioning it’s all to Anne’s credit).

The second one: that sad, heartbreaking Dad she whispers through the window before she leaves. So natural and attention grabbing. Yes, Anne really knew how to read those lines and get through what is an imperfect screenplay, but which manages to do justice to her character. I did feel sorry for Kym in the end; even if I don’t really like her, emotions still stay with me after the film is over. Though confused about my rating, I decided to go with . Anne knew what she was doing and drastically contributed to a film that excels in real emotions.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Angelina Jolie, in Changelingapproximately 75 minutes and 43 seconds
55.2% of the film

The film

A mother's prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn't take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers.
You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE. I was disappointed when I first saw it and it didn’t really get that much better upon a second viewing. To me, it’s a missed opportunity.

Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins

There are two things working against Angelina in this performance. Surprisingly enough, none of them is her star persona. At least not for me, as I did get lost in the character and not went shouting: look, there’s Angie! The 1st element working against her: the direction. Now, I don’t think Eastwood cared too much about the performances or bothered to get the best of his actors (as he usually does). I don’t think he asked for enough takes; or rehearsals.

While watching the film, I felt I saw moments in the performance where I as a director would’ve said: let’s try again. I think this type of performance involving lots of crying and emotional effort requires more attention from the director and a bigger generosity towards the actor.

The second element, somewhat connected to the first one is that Angelina doesn’t always know what to do with the breaks in a performance. I’m not sure that she was always listening to what the other actor was saying (especially in her first scene with Malkovich). When she gets a bit confused or lost, she goes into the lip thing which includes a strange moving of her lips that doesn’t really make sense.

As I’ve started with the negatives, I’ll mention two more: the red (strongest red I’ve ever seen) lipstick right after her son is missing, which grabs the attention from the character’s story (cause I’m thinking like: what the hell? You’re so desperate, but you have time for makeup?!) :P There is also a problematic smile in Angelina’s last scene; I’ve heard an explanation, I’m not buying. Whoever told her it’s ok to give a big fashionable smile in that scene was dead wrong. Again: what the hell?!
Oh, and don’t get me wrong: the screenplay is quite bad and it doesn’t do her big favours, but it’s not as damaging as the elements previously mentioned.

But there is also good in the performance. Even though I didn’t like the fact that it’s all constructed as a tear-jerker, Angelina’s big crying moments are… well… some of them are excellent. When she nails it, it’s all the way and you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor woman. When I first saw the film, I felt like she was crying too much and there wasn’t a real arc to the character or a range that would show us it’s more than tears. However, upon a 2nd viewing, I noticed that I was getting a bit annoyed by the performance every time I saw Christine in a non-desperate mood (especially in the second half).

So that would probably mean that half of her crying scenes are the height of this performance. I don’t think it’s the wrong casting and I admit it’s not an easy character. The mistake of the performance, in my opinion, is that it wasn’t always done too carefully. It required more attention, more work and a greater interest for details.

It’s no secret that I enjoy tears in a performance and at least one big oscarish moment. This performance has lots of such moments, but they are not consistent in greatness. Christine seems to be defined just by her love for her son and ambition to find him. I think a good performance can overcome a bad screenplay. I also think that sometimes Angelina tried to do a better crying than to have a more natural take on what the character is expressing.

At the same time, I could probably find a scene or just a moment in this performance that might actually outshine all the other nominees (for example when she first calls the police). But it’s an uneven performance, so a missed opportunity. Angelina also does great work with her eyes, much better than those lips. For me, it’s the most debatable of the 5 nominated performances, so I won’t be surprised if I change my mind about it in a couple of year. Impossible to rate, I’m going for the middle: .