Saturday, January 30, 2010

[click on it for a full-size pleasure]

Superficial. Rushed. Lack of emotion. Too much singing. Songs not blending. Rob Marshall is not Robert Altman. Sophia Loren's lost it. Fergie knows shit, but sings great. Penelope was counting her steps. Messy cinematography.

Marion deserved better. Underused Nicole. Delicious Judi. Daniel = wrong casting. Rob Marshall screws Kate Hudson. Bad directing choices. Maximum 3-4 nominations.

Nobody whispered when Penelope did A Call from the Vatican.
Saraghina needed to be fat & funny.

Friday, January 15, 2010

And now for the unusual selection for a Best Supporting Actress profile… It had to be foreign-language. It had to be unique and surprising. So I’m gonna write a bit about…

Roxane Duran, as Anna in The White Ribbon

Just to get something out of the way: in my opinion, The White Ribbon has the best ensemble of the year and probably the best child performances (as a group) I have ever seen in a movie, with ages from like 5 to 14! The best performance belongs to a boy, but considering we’re here to analyze achievements in Supporting Actress, I’ll mention one of the most moving female performances of the film…

Roxane Duran plays Anna, the Doctor’s daughter, a shy teenager, whose life hides more drama that we might’ve guessed at first. Her screentime is limited and she gets most attention in 2 important scenes for the character.

The first one is a minimalistic scene, a dialogue with her 5 year old brother at the kitchen table. Someone in town had died and the child does not understand what “death” means. So he keeps asking simple questions, one after the other, provoking rational, justified responses from her sister. It’s probably the best written scene in the film, due to its simplicity and how honest it feels. Behind this innocent dialogue is the truth about life and death and how all of us are really heading the same direction!

Each question gets more difficult for Anna and we soon realize that the dialogue is digging deep into her own past, revealing her mother’s death and how this drama still has an impact on her! Roxane’s acting is simple, natural, adequate and terrific! There wasn’t a second I didn’t believe she really is this well-intentioned, insecure girl living a traumatic life. Her eyes and the line-readings really tell us the story of the scene.

The other one is the incest scene (call it a SPOILER, but it isn’t really one, as this fact has no twist value for the story and it happens somewhere in the middle of the film). It’s a short scene, focused on the young boy catching his father touching Anna. Obviously, the boy does not understand and Anna is trying to protect him by reassuring him, with her trembling voice, that everything is fine and he must go back to sleep! It’s an uncomfortable scene, well acted and respectfully shot!

The screenplay doesn’t allow us to find out what happened to Anna in the end… If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean. But in just a couple of scenes, Roxane Duran manages to give a very touching performance which perfectly fits this acting group of enormous talent. [unfortunately, not even imdb shows her proper respect, as she’s not even mentioned in the list of actors; too bad].

[scroll down for Marion in Public Enemies]

[this link is a part of Stinkylulu’s Supporting Actress Blogathon; to find out more about it or to participate click immediately on Stinkylulu]

This was a demanding year for Marion Cottilard! In one film, her husband made movies; in the other one, her sweetheart robbed banks! I am happy to write some words of appreciation on her second-mentioned acting challenge…

Marion Cotillard, as Billie Frechette in Public Enemies

The gangster’s/outlaw’s girl has always been a very common supporting role for actresses! She’s sexy, always a bit suffering, but loyal enough to stick with him until the very end! They are tough women, but feminine, street-smart and with a very good instinct.

Marion plays Billie, a mixed race poor girl who becomes the love interest of bank robber John Dillinger. When they meet, Billie proves to be a stubborn girl, with a mind of her own, but gradually falls for his promises of a future simple life together!

It’s not hard to tell Marion was cast because of the French accent and the exotic look the role required. She’s charming in the cheap red dress and I can truly believe their attraction, as Marion has a very good chemistry with Johnny Deep. They make a nice pair and the success of the love story helps justify some of Dillinger’s actions in the film!

Marion gives a good performance and she’s charming all the way! Her face is very expressive; those gorgeous eyes suggest both the schoolgirl madly in love with the bad boy, but also the mature woman terrified of what’s going to happen. Her presence is very reassuring and it’s always a pleasure to see her on screen, as an escape from this all-boys-movie.

The screenplay doesn’t disappoint her! Marion seals the deal in a tough interrogation scene (actually 2 scenes), which I’d call one of the best acted scenes from 2009! Aggressed and humiliated, she doesn’t surrender; her blind loyalty puts her in two opposite situations: she’s a victim of the abuse, but at the same time Billie knows she’s on the smart side and reassures the police of how stupid her arrest was! Under that vulnerability, we can feel a victory of the character, as she knows that HER man outsmarted them all!

Marion is obviously very close to perfection and has no problem in going through all those emotions previously described! Her portrayal of a strong woman put in a vulnerable situation is both reinforcing and heart-breaking!

Fabulous, Marion! It’s ridiculous how the critics and the Academy totally ignored this performance! Can’t wait to see you in Nine! :P

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Final conclusions - Best Actress 1980

Best Actress 1980 really looked like a weak category, right? I thought of that myself, but going into it again: 3 of the performances really made me happy! In the end: it’s a really interesting line-up, with very different performances! The uneducated biopic singer, the funny sweet blonde, the arrogant intellectual woman, the simple woman with super powers, the gangster’s tough ex-mistress! :D fantastic!

The ranking was difficult for me! #1 is a coin toss between the first 3 ladies (if that would be possible)! I have been a bit too generous with the other 2, but they still make for interesting Oscar cases. In a year with not so good reputation for women (leading AND supporting), Sissy & Goldie & Mary gave career-defining performances, becoming some of the worthiest nominees this category’s ever had.

Here is how I’ve appreciated them (again: just my opinion, not the universal truth). If you want to read more, just click on the name:

1. Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner's Daughter
Forget the singing, even though she’s great at it! Biopic performances rarely get this honest. Sissy refuses to do a glamorized, idealized version of this country legend and creates a down-to-earth character that you might not love, but definitely understand. She’s always in character and at the top of her game!
The highlight: break-down scene on stage!

You rarely see pure wacky comedy getting recognition here! Goldie is unique: with unmatched charm and terrific comedy timing, she seduces us everytime she’s on screen. The line delivery is so delicious, but she keeps it real and grounded and despite the easiness of the film, we can really feel the journey of this woman.
The highlight: [After being issued with an Army uniform] Excuse me, sir, is green the only color these come in?

3. Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary PeopleA haunting performance, even though the screentime is not on her side! She firmly controls a very calculated character and subtly underlines the hidden emotional tragedy of this woman! Her incapacity of real emotional connection is very believable and intelligently presented!
The highlight: the uncomfortable garden scene with her son.

Her presence in any film is always reassuring! It’s not easy when you get some kind of a paranormal storyline and a back-stabbing screenplay and manage to create a believable, balanced character! Her shining moments are the suffering ones, but Ellen does a fine job in making us believe in the healing power!
The highlight: The goodbye scene between her and the grandmother.

***EDIT: As stated at the 100th profile celebration (HERE), Ellen's performance has been downgraded to  . :( Mostly for that terrible acting at the ending.

5. Gena Rowlands, Gloria
Gena Rowlands is an exceptional, intelligent, talented actress, but NOT a miracle worker. With the worst child actor as a screen partner and a screenplay that makes no sense, she barely survives this sinking ship. There are moments of terrific acting and kindness, but very often she drowns in the cliché of the-yelling-woman-with-a-gun.
The highlight: literally standing between the gangsters in the car and the kid; and pleading for his life.

The Academy's choice was pretty obvious. I'm sure they loved Mary Tyler Moore, who also had the Best Picture winner, but Sissy had the screentime; plus an excellent performance and an already established interesting movie career. The runner-up was for sure Mary; Gena Rowlands must've been 3rd because she was Oscar-less, Goldie 4th and Ellen Burstyn with the least chance of winning.

Other Best Actress years discussed so far:

What's next?

Tomorrow I'll post my profiles for Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Blogathon, a bit earlier but I have to finish all by Saturday when I move back to Bucharest. Next Best Actress year? 2009 of course, and I'll start with that hopefully as soon as the nominees are announced February 2nd! Until then: possibly various other comments! :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We'd be bored without Golden Globes...

Let’s not forget: those few Golden Globe voters love MUSICALS (Little Miss Sunshine lost to Dreamgirls, Juno lost to Sweeney Todd...) and movies with most nominations!
Here are my simple, early (not so early really, they’re on Sunday) Golden Globe predictions! I am not bragging and in the end it will probably not end up like this. I just want to have them posted, to be able to look back later!

Best Motion Picture - Drama: Up in the Air (alt: Avatar)
Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical: Nine (alt: It’s Complicated)
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (alt: none)

Best Actor - Drama: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (alt: none)
Best Actor - Comedy/Musical: Daniel Day-Lewis for Nine (alt: Matt Damon)
Best Actress - Drama: Carey Mulligan for An Education (alt: Sandra Bullock)
Best Actress - Comedy/Musical: Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia (alt: Marion Cotillard)

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (alt: Woody Harelson)
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique for Precious (alt: none)

Best Screenplay: Up in the Air (alt: Inglourious Basterds)
Best Original Song: Nine (alt: Avatar; yes, Avatar, not Crazy Heart)
Best Original Score: Avatar (alt: Up)
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet (alt: The White Ribbon)
Best Animated Feature: Up (alt: none)

Easiest prediction: Best Supporting Actress
Most difficult prediction: Best Actor - Comedy/Musical

Gonna be a bit of a full week here. My 1980 conclusions next and Stinkylulu’s Supporting Actress Blogathon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Goldie Hawn, in Private Benjamin
approximately 77 minutes and 15 seconds
71.4% of the film

The film

A sheltered young high society woman joins the army on a whim and finds herself in a more difficult situation than she ever expected.

You can find my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

A fun movie that I’ve always liked! Seen by many as superficial, indeed the film doesn’t set too many challenges. But I think it’s nicely balanced and the second, more serious part is necessary to define the trajectory of the leading character.

Goldie Hawn as Judy Benjamin

A leading comedy performance usually needs a weak category to make it to the final 5. It almost doesn’t even have to do with the quality of the performance. We know voters look at Drama actresses first and then, depending on their soft side or how competitive the field is or how famous the actress is, they might consider Comedy. Goldie Hawn was one of those lucky gals! With Private Benjamin, she had weak competition, charming personality, a well-settled comedic career AND a very worthy performance.

Goldie stars as Judy Benjamin, a very unlucky recent-widow, a lazy spoiled woman who is confronted with a life-changing experience: being in the army! Just like the movie itself, the role isn’t too complicated. The changes in the character are presented in a very unsubtle way, so what the screenplay doesn’t offer is MOSTLY demanded from the actress. The big word: charisma! For the movie to work, you need someone who knows comedy timing and is sweet enough not to get bored looking at her! And Goldie has what it takes!

The first half of the movie is pure silliness and a lot of situation comedy! Goldie is perfect at that and I subjectively admit I could never get enough looking at her! She’s pretty, she’s sweet, and likeable and adorable! And this helps! There’s no one who could hold a comedy scene like she does and, watching her acting the silly lines, I could only imagine how fascinating she would’ve been in a 1930s screwball comedy era! She takes a scene like looking up and cursing her dead husband and she makes it the funniest thing ever! :)

Her constant complaining is so deliciously funny, you can’t help but liking Judy! Even when she’s crying, it’s presented in a funny light, so the comedy isn’t thrown off balance. Goldie somehow manages to add more to the character and there’s often a look or a small gesture that hints the occasional drama of the character; fortunately, that supports the movie, without replacing the lightness of it.

When things go romantic in the second part, she doesn’t get more serious in the standard way! What Goldie does is to move the comedy from the situational army wackiness to the fool in love perspective. She is more grounded, but at the same time lost in this romance which feels uncomfortable even from the beginning. Goldie is fun as the cheated fiancĂ©, with crazy red hair and a bit washed-up, but again manages to show a human side as she feels her life slowly becomes pointless.

I love Goldie! And I think this is one of her best performances! She gets to do lots of situation comedy and she’s perfect at it! She’s sweet and very natural and represents at least 90% of the film’s success! It’s all based on her unquestionable charisma! And she also gets to be a romantic lead, to slowly underline the woman who gives up her career and then finds little purpose in her new existence! And at the end of it all, it looks so effortless! .

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kreativ people find all kinds of stuff to do...

Andrew is nice. He has found a new way of celebrating blogging and bloggers. By telling us how nice and smart we all are. :) And my little blog has been included among his favorite 7, or something like that. It's all based on a pay-it-forward concept. But I won't fully do that :)

Instead, I'm writing short words of appreciation. To Andrew for being a good fellow blogger who's always been kind to me; and being a person really dedicated to movies. And to all other occasional readers for visiting once in a while and appreciating this type of selfish movie therapy I do for myself. And, because I also need to write a thing about myself, I'll just make public again the origins of my blogging: admiring Stinkylulu's work for months, maybe years. I wouldn't have started this a year and a half ago, had it not been for his wonderful blog. Thanks!

Getting back to facts: I'll finish with 1980 very soon, only that I found myself trapped in work, preparing to move back to Bucharest and all these 2009 films. 1980 will go down next week, plus Stinkylulu's Blogathon!

Monday, January 04, 2010

An overdirected movie. A bad directed movie. An unexpectedly terrible screenplay. Awful visual effects. Awful romances. Overscored. Superficial writing. Bad casting. Future Razzie nominee Mark Wahlberg. Horrible teenage love interest. Painfully bad screenplay.

Good Saoirse Ronan. Fascinating Stanley Tucci. Unexplainably underused Susan Sarandon (terrific).

Cheesy book + horrible screenplay = bad adaptation. A lovely mess.