Saturday, April 23, 2011

Louise Dresser, in A Ship Comes In

approximately 21 minutes and 23 seconds

30.8% of the film

The film

It tells the story of a family of immigrants coming to the United States.

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

There isn’t much to say about the film, as it brings nothing new and watching it today, 83 years later, makes for a boring, challenging experience. It’s slow, predictable, with the biggest disappointments placed in the screenplay.

Louise Dresser as Mrs. Pleznik

Disliking a film always influences a bit my perspective on a performance, even though sometimes I like to believe the contrary. This happens because most of a film’s problems have to do with the screenplay. When I put it like this, it makes sense: the screenplay is bad, which often means little character development, which means less for the actor to do. Based on this idea, I could hardly find a better example that the case of this performance: poor Louise Dresser gets nothing to do.

Louise plays Mrs. Pleznik, the mother in a family of emigrants, Europeans who come to America searching for a better life. As far as the screenplay goes, we know little to nothing about her, and the performance is based on her reactions to what other characters throw at her. Her purpose in the film is to bring some emotion – there’s hardly any character arc and the focus is never on her.

What she does get to do is to express a series of simple emotions: she’s happy about their new home, she’s worried about their son’s army wishes, she’s sad when he leaves for the army, she’s helpless when the husband’s arrested, she’s sad when the son dies, she’s happy when the husband’s back. Is there anything more about Mrs. Preznik? Not from what the screenplay allows us to see.

But this doesn’t mean she gives a bad performance. She’s definitely the heart of the film and creates the only character to feel sorry for: her face is always sad and she nails the drama and the suffering this woman goes through. Two scenes are in particular well acted, or, better said, well expressed:

First, the disappointment of finding out her son is leaving to war; the fear and resignation she expresses, both of which obviously predict the tragedy to come. Second, there’s the courtroom scene – Louise accurately expresses the helplessness in front of injustice, and really gets a minute or two to show the magnitude of the drama this woman’s going through.

With a screenplay working almost against her, she gets almost nothing to do. The film is just a series of actions, relying fully on the actors to give a bit of an insight on the characters. It would be cruel to give 1 star, I’ve never done that, and it’s not a performance I hate. At least she tries to create something, so it’s a from me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's been a dry season over here. I can blame it on poor health, travelling, lots of work, personal dilemmas... who cares. :)

Yet, let's enjoy this. As you might've noticed from the other blog, I've recently seen Death on the Nile...

When Mia Farrow's character introduces the guy in the photo (her fiancé) to her best friend she says:

Isn't he perfect? Isn't he, Linney?

And you really couldn't look away from that face. Simon MacCorkindale was the actor, and I had never heard of him before. With that face and British charm, he would've surely deserved a better career.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

My favorite thing. Oscar predictions

On July 24th, 2010 I gave a set of Oscar predictions, who I thought would win. This was 6 months before the actual nominations and more than 4 months before the critics started to give us an idea. I did well in predicting wins for both Bale and Melissa Leo even back then. A small recap of who I thought the winners would be or you can check that post HERE. I’ve added my comments in blue:

Best Picture: The Fighter [nominated]

Best Director: Terrence Malick, for The Tree of Life [moved to 2011]

Best Actor: Javier Bardem – Biutiful (the other 4 nominees: Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges, Mark Wahlberg, Johnny Depp) [nominated / 2 out of 5]

Best Actress: Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole (Annette Bening, Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, Lesley Manville) [nominated / 3 out of 5 + 2 of the serious runner-ups]

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale – The Fighter (Ed Harris, Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell, Jack Nicholson) [winner!!!]

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo – The Fighter (Dianne Wiest, Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Cecile De France) [winner!!! / 3 out of 5]

Best Original Screenplay: The Tree of Life [moved to 2011]

Best Adapted Screenplay: Love and Other Drugs [---]

Best Cinematography: True Grit [nominated]

Best Original Score: Inception [nominated]

Best Original Song: Toy Story 3 [winner!!!]

Best Art Direction: The Conspirator [moved to 2011]

Best Costume Design: The King’s Speech [nominated]

Best Editing: Inception [---]

Best Sound Mixing: Inception [winner!!!]

Best Sound Editing: TRON Legacy [nominated]

Best Visual Effects: Inception [winner!!!]

Best Makeup: Alice in Wonderland [---]

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3 [winner!!!]

So this year I’m doing it earlier: it’s now more than 9 months before the nominations are announced and more than 10 months before we know the actual winners. And here are the future winners with alphabetical nominees right behind:

Best Picture: Hugo Cabret (The Adventures of Tintin, Carnage, Contagion, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, J. Edgar, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse, Young Adult)

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, for Hugo Cabret (Carnage, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, J. Edgar, The Tree of Life)

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar (George Clooney for Descendants, Johnny Depp for Rum Diary, Tom Hardy for Warrior, Brad Pitt for Moneyball)

Best Actress: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady (Jodie Foster – Carnage, Charlize Theron – Young Adult, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn, Kate Winslet – Carnage)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life (Jim Broadbent – The Iron Lady, Armie Hammer – J. Edgar, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Giovanni Ribisi – Rum Diary)

Best Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave – Coriolanus (Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life, Judi Dench – My Week with Marilyn, Andrea Riseborough – W.E., Naomi Watts – J. Edgar)

Best Original Screenplay: J. Edgar (My Week with Marilyn, Take This Waltz, The Tree of Life, Young Adult)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Carnage (The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo Cabret, Moneyball)

Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life

Best Original Score: The Tree of Life

Best Original Song: Cars 2

Best Art Direction: Hugo Cabret

Best Costume Design: Hugo Cabret

Best Editing: Hugo Cabret

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo Cabret

Best Sound Editing: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Visual Effects: Transformers 3

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

Best Animated Feature: The Adventures of Tintin

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Janet Gaynor, in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
approximately 38 minutes and 56 seconds
44% of the film

The film

A married farmer falls under the spell of a woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.

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

Of course it’s a dated film: it was made over 80 years ago. But getting past that, it does have a hell of an interesting cinematography, very intriguing shots and there are a couple of very inspired directorial choices. Even so, the story made me a bit uncomfortable and I never was fully connected emotionally.

Janet Gaynor as The Wife

Silent movies require a different commitment than a regular movie experience, and that’s not always easy to offer. Even more difficult is to judge the performances that the actors give in such film. Most of the times we don’t see the words on their lips and we can only guess how that certain line from the title card might’ve sounded like. It’s a different movie environment, but when it comes to my rating/ranking I promise I try to stay objective.

Janet Gaynor plays the wife of a farmer, in what is one of her three nominated performances for this Oscar year. She represents the good female character, as opposed to the mistress, and she’s generally presented as a quiet, modest, pretty, supportive wife. As the story takes place in about 24 hours, she goes from being the possible victim of a murder plot to a woman rediscovering the love for her husband and becoming again the object of his affection.

The role is a clichĂ©, no doubt about it, and I would’ve rather seen a film about the Woman from the city, but one can’t deny the fact that Janet does give some warmth to the performance and somehow, at least in the beginning, makes us sympathise with this woman and feel sorry for her. Her face is very expressive and, benefiting from a great direction, the camera is always on her at the right time.

But this is mostly on Janet because the screenplay really does offer too little. In the dramatic scenes, she shines through the emotion displayed; but the more comedic ones are a bit silly and make for too much of a sudden change from the dramatically-charged beginning. The performance is inconsistent because the screenplay goes from giving her little to giving her almost nothing to work with. Her smile and her tears are winning the sympathy of the audience, and you can definitely feel her fear in the first boat scene. But the performance doesn’t have a solid writing to depend on and Janet’s charming way of acting can only do so much. I will go with for this performance, and I swear the blonde wig had no influence on my final judging.

EDIT: The rating for this performance has been changed to a before final conclusions. There are some real honest emotions in the performance.