Saturday, November 27, 2010

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 1994

The line-up was seen as surprisingly underwhelming and deservingly so. After the historical year of 1950, I had the freedom to choose, and I went for this obscure, little talked about Best Actress year. One could say 1994 gave variety, but all in the dramatic genre. Even with some commercial success, the films had little Oscar visibility and most of them managed to break through just in this category, with no success elsewhere.

My #1 was a no brainer for me. It surprised me the most and I felt most emotionally connected to. The next 3 performance could’ve gone either way and I did change my mind more than once. I had found flaws in all of them: either by not having enough screentime and not a winning film genre, not giving the emotional punch that it could, or for not establishing a strong enough connection with the audience.
Here is how I’ve appreciated them. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

Foolishly I thought this performance was gonna be a major flop. The role is incredibly risky and, as clichéd as it might sound, only a Jodie Foster or a Cate Blanchett could’ve pulled this off. To me, it’s a very good example of a calculated performance done right: it’s believable and the second part makes for a very relevant emotional journey, keeping me fascinated up to the very last shot – which is a subtle, emotional knock out.

the highlight: Both joy and pain in her final scene.

This is not the type of performance usually grabbing Oscar’s attention; because the film is so commercially focused, this was not meant to be a great role. But as always, Sarandon brings intelligence, dignity and credibility to her roles and makes the best she can with what she has, somehow transforming a simply-written co-leading character in the most emotionally relevant and captivating performance of the film.

the highlight: Confessing about her dark past.

Winona cannot fail when charisma is required and it’s a driving force of the role. While the film is mostly dull, with forgetful performances and some awful ones here and there, she does manage to shine and pump some life into the film. Her playful side is delightful and always believable, but the second half of the film is so uninteresting that the charms of Jo slip away a bit. The performance makes one smile and feel joyful, but it’s not a complex role or delivery.

the highlight: Her joyful spirit in the ballroom scene.

It takes one gorgeous, sensual, voluptuous, flirty woman like Jessica Lange is to pull off the Marilyn Monroe impersonation that the character does. The role is deeper than it looks at first sight, but the character is so artificial in many ways, so cuckoo, so distant from the viewer that I didn’t emotionally connect. Lange plays well the vulnerability of this woman and the performance is an achievement even if just for the sensual and the seductive side of it.

the highlight: The first breakdown.

If Lange made it look unbalanced and eccentric, Miranda took it directly to the nuthouse. The writing is mostly to blame, because it makes a caricature out of Viv, but there was a point when she should’ve said no and do it her own way. Miranda respects the screenplay: her playing crazy is not always bad, but the few moments when she shines are actually the quiet, introspective ones.

the highlight: Her last scene with her brother.

While it wasn’t a lock, I don’t think it was much of a surprise that Jessica won the Oscar. But who was the runner-up? That’s more complicated. I think Susan came 2nd because it was her fourth nomination and third in 3 years. Winona could’ve also won, because she’s the actress dominating her film the most and some might feel she was snubbed the previous year.

Despite winning the SAG, I think Jodie had a “close” 4th chance and here’s why: I doubt they voted for her when remembering that she already had 2 Oscars and she wasn’t even 35; they loved her, but they admitted it would be too much. And Miranda came 5th obviously, because nobody saw her movie, so I doubt she even got 2% of the votes.

Other Best Actress years discussed so far:


What’s next: I’m still not in Bucharest, so no draw: I have prepared in advance a year from either 30s, 40s or 60s; a Best Actress year from one of these decades will be up for discussion. No hints, because it would be easy to guess; but an unusual line-up anyway.
Also, tomorrow or very soon, I’ll give another look to the blog, as it’s time for some design change.


joe burns said...

I knew it!

I really like Ryder, so we disagree there, but I'm not sure what I'll think of the rest...

Runs Like A Gay said...

Such a weird year in retrospect.

I agree with your choice, but I can't really argue that any of those performances really deserves an Oscar.

btw love the new banner.

Alex in Movieland said...

yes, it was a weird year and that's why I went for it... mostly to clear up my mind about it and I'm happy to have a winner.

one can hardly believe this line-up was just before 1995, which gave such an incredible field of nominees AND snubbed.

thanks, I needed a change. i'll actually post something about it :)

dinasztie said...

I stick to Lange as my pick at the moment.

Cal said...

Another great set of profiles, Alex.

I gotta say that I think Sarandon's nomination is possibly the worst in the Academy's history. I don't think she does anything with the role at all, and it's such an unimaginative pick.

I didn't mind Foster that much but, without having seen Ryder or Richardson, my pick would be Lange. I found it the most interesting and thought-provoking. Obviously Foster's task was fairly mammoth though.

Alex in Movieland said...

"worst in the Academy's history"???? :))) no way! and how could u tell, you haven't seen all :P

if you'd say it's the worst from the past 20 years, I'd obviously not agree also. don't let Andrew find out, he loved it and I've enjoyed it enough to have her as #2.

I don't think Richardson would make anybody's list as #1. except for the NBR, but they are nutty.

Malcolm said...

I'm really happy that you picked Foster! She was just so great in handling the role.

Sarandon was also very good. But the problem lies on her screentime and the fact that she wasn't given that much.

Would you have considered Meryl Streep in The River Wild as a Best Actress contender?

MRRIPLEY said...

Alex,it would be nice with each year if you gave us your top 5,esp 1994.

Anonymous said...

Terrible year. For me, Ryder was my favorite of these lineup:

1. Isabelle Adjani - The Queen Margot
2. Gong Li - To Live
3. Kathleen Turner - Serial Mom
4. Irene Jacob - Three Colors: Red
5. Natalie Portman - Leon
6. Winona Ryder - Little Women
7. Judy Davis - The Ref
8. Melanie Lynskey - Heavenly Creatures
9. Kate Winslet - Heavenly Creatures
10.Verónica Oddó - Golpes a mi Puerta