Friday, September 30, 2011

I wish I had more time to write more about dear Deborah Kerr, who would’ve turned 90 today… I said I was gonna post about her, and I’m keeping my promise by remembering a bit her Heaven Knows Mr. Allison performance.

While I’m not one of her most devoted admirers, and I still have plenty performances of hers to see, I surely think she hold her own place in film history and in Hollywood history, by inspiring a certain style: beautiful, delicate, sometimes mother-like figure, very elegant, and a lady to be respected, if there ever was one. She seemed to have lived her career with a lot of class, probably her most distinctive quality.

And it might be just the right time to throw in a fragment from my profile of Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows Mr. Allison:

…Then it’s time for her acting skills to inject intelligence & emotion in this otherwise dull-written character. The result is a believable Sister Angela and although the performance doesn’t steal the show, it’s great subtle work. I also suspect it’s that type of actress-magic performance that grows with time. I truly believe Deborah had fun with it; a relaxed performance I have most respect for.

Happy Birthday, Deborah!

For more on this blogathon, go to Waitin’ on a Sunny Day, where Sophie is the expert.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I haven't posted in a week or so (or is it 2?) because I'm in Athens with work, lots'a of work I mean. I also have that annoying tonsillitis (3rd this year!!) with high fever and everything wrong, so that killed a big part of my mood for the past 2 days.

But I'm not taking a break from blogging, no way. I hope to feel better and have Jessica Lange's Sweet Dreams post ready this weekend.

Also, this Friday there's the Deborah Kerr blogathon I signed to. I'll probably show up here with a post on that.

In the meantime, I'm quite active on twitter, my account being @AlexInMovieland

To learn more about the Deborah Kerr blogathon, click HERE.

See ya.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meryl Streep, in Out of Africa
approximately 100 minutes and 51 seconds*
66.7% of the film

The film

In 20th century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with a free-sprited hunter.

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

It’s a film I like, because it’s so pretty and relaxing, a simple but interesting story to watch. The actors are fine, the direction is beautiful, the cinematography is dreamy and the original score is perfection, magic to my ears. And what a start for the film… Memorable.

Meryl Streep as Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke

Meryl will benefit from a lot of things while I write this, mostly generosity, because how can one really resist her charms, even when she’s not even trying… I favour her because she’s probably in my Top 3 favorite actresses, because she is so impressive & intimidating in her Oscar record and because I like Out of Africa quite a lot. And look at the screentime, there’s plenty of Meryl in it, and even more than the numbers would suggest.

Meryl plays Baroness Karen Blixen, a Danish woman who impulsively marries a man she doesn’t love, for his title, to spite her lover & looking for an adventure. They settle in Africa just before WWI and they keep a farm. As she becomes more disappointed with the marriage, she starts an affair with a very free-spirited huntsman. The film is all about her, and while she doesn’t get to cry or scream, it’s quite an emotional role.

As I said, this is not a flashy role, even though there could’ve been opportunities. This might be because the film is so quiet, there’s a certain tranquillity to it, so any unexpected burst of tears & shouting would’ve damaged the balance. In many ways, I appreciate that, it’s like a small sacrifice Meryl has to do, settling for a less demanding, more subtle part. By keeping it natural and flowy, she makes it look so damn easy.

Thankfully, I’ve seen it 3 times now, and I could tell this wasn’t as plain as some might find it. I was ok with the accent and I admire Meryl’s love for the camera and the camera’s love for Meryl, how she gives the right look, the right expression, the right body movement at the right point. She’s delicate, feminine but strong in that feminist way, and as always gave me the impression of a deep understanding of the character.

She’s rarely been so beautiful in a mature way, and brings something warm and likeable to Karen, something any central character should have. And she manages to keep the likeability even in such scenes at the end where Karen is jealous and possessive. With the help of good a screenplay, she keeps it human, playing it in a subtle way, as if arguing in favour of her character’s constant need for possession and security.

It’s certainly not the most challenging role she’s ever had to play, but she is the one mostly carrying the film. While she rarely gets a more volcanic scene, she’s constantly great throughout, slowly building a character that’s both convincing & likeable, even when not hiding from showing us Karen’s flaws. It looks easy because it’s Meryl doing it, and good acting from Meryl definitely gets a from me.

***the screentime was difficult to count, because of the voice-overs and mostly because of shots from long distance, where I wasn’t sure if a body double was used. I expected more screentime, as she is in almost every scene; however, in dialogues, the camera is not always on her, which takes away from the overall screentime.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Anne Bancroft, in Agnes of God
approximately 31 minutes and 17 seconds
33% of the film

The film

When a naive novice nun is discovered with a dead newborn in her conventquarters, a court appointed psychiatrist investigates her case.

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

A mess of a film, with overall uninspired writing, terrible dialogue and ridiculous screenplay solutions. Most of the performances are all over the place, and it sure lacks some strong directorial guidance.

Anne Bancroft as Mother Miriam Ruth

I’m gonna change a bit the regular structure of my Best Actress profiles, as I’ll give the rating right now, in the first paragraph. To justify it, I’ll keep it short. From the 90-something Best Actress performances I got to write about so far, THIS is the worst. Elizabeth Taylor, at least, had some insanity spark going on and nailed the bitchiness in Raintree County. Vanessa Redgrave had nothing to do in Morgan!, but at least she was charming enough to barely make it watchable and almost funny. These ladies had SO few to work with. I have nothing against Anne Bancroft’s acting in general, but when you get a juicy dramatic role and fill it with the most uninspired, awful acting choices, without any understanding of the character or sense of direction… then I have to call you out for this. It’s the first time I’m using this rating, as it’s undoubtedly the WORST performance I’ve written about since starting the series. So, Anne, it’s a .

Anne plays Mother Miriam Ruth, the Mother Superior at a Canadian Convent. When one of her nuns kills her newborn, she tries her best to protect the young woman, while also having to deal with a very persistent psychiatrist, willing to find out the whole truth. Sure, the dialogue in the film is messy, but otherwise it should be

the most interesting character in the film, as she is, in some measure, the puppet-master. The unfortunate result: the most boring, confusing performance.

Both times I saw it I tried to figure out what was wrong with the performance, why isn’t it glued at all, what is Anne trying to tell us… My conclusion is that she isn’t telling us anything, she’s just terribly confused, changing the character’s attitude from one scene to another, sometimes from one line to another, without making it cohesive or even define it as a characteristic of Mother Miriam.

The role was created on stage by Geraldine Page, and I don’t even wanna imagine what such a

creative actress might’ve done with it. It’s a role that allows the actress to play around, and it could work so easily IF you make up your mind on how to act it. Bancroft goes for nun-next-door, creating a character that’s neither smart, nor funny, even though the dialogue wants us to believe that. She goes for a type of character that cracks jokes, tries to be funny, keeps a surprised dumb look on her face and ultimately creates the dullest character in the film.

There’s one scene where she rushes into the psychiatrist’s office, with some energy and fury, and it’s maybe the one decent acting moment because she manages the shouting, but all this with the help of the editing and very often cuts to Jane Fonda. Beyond that there’s nothing but confusion, lazy acting, uninspired line readings, failure to express real emotion or to explore the potential of the character.

There was no acting plan to this performance, no perspective, no angle, just poor, very poor choices. When an actor manages to sink the character even lower than the screenplay had planned for it, than I’m just fine with my 1 star rating. Giving it anything more than that wouldn’t be fair to all those ok performances that received 2 stars from me.