Sunday, October 13, 2013

Add to Technorati FavoritesMy vote - Best Actress 2012

It’s time to get back on this horse called ranking Oscar’s Best Actress performances. It’s something I had done for years, but then took a break from. And it’s time to finish Best Actress 2012 (to read my thoughts on how the ladies got nominated, click here).

I am getting back to it, but at my own pace, and in a shorter version. No more individual posts for each of the performances, since they are quite time consuming. It’s the final conclusions that count (mind you: I am still counting the screentime – which basically ensures that I see each performance twice).

So here we are with 2012’s ranking. #1 and #2 are two very different performances, but both very close to my heart. I could vote for any of them. #3 is solid, #4 is overrated, but works great for the film. And #5 still has me puzzled.

Best acted scene of the 5 performances? I almost didn’t award it, since the top 2 performances are consistently excellent throughout. A scene that comes to mind from Amour is when Georges and Anne receive the visit of the young pianist – the shame Anne feels for her disability (repeated in the CD/letter scene) still strikes a chord, and I’ll never forget it. So subtle, played perfectly.
And here is how I decided to rank them:

1. Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

The screentime: approximately 61 minutes and 53 seconds (52.2% of the film)

The film: My favourite film of 2012, an unforgettable drama with such a natural, realistic approach that still haunts me to this day. Technically precise, beautifully acted, directed by a master of his craft.

The role: Emmanuelle plays Anne, the intellectual, retired music teacher in her 80s, who has a stroke and has to live through the harrowing decline of her physical health.

The performance: It’s simply put an actress lover’s dream role and performance. Emmanuelle brings such grace, class, elegance to the screen that you know you are in the presence of greatness. The dignity she infuses into the performance increases the emotional experience of the viewer confronted with the character’s imminent decline. It’s exactly what the film needs: such a subtle performance, no vanity, just pure realism, heart-breaking because of the emotions it triggers in the viewer’s mind.

The highlight: The visit of the young pianist.

2. Naomi Watts, The Impossible

The screentime: approximately 40 minutes and 38 seconds (41.7% of the film)

The film: It has an average screenplay transformed into a good film by the excellent performances and some impressive visual scenes. Less Hollywood would’ve made it more heart-breaking, but the film is anyway relevant and easy to watch as it is.

The role: Naomi plays Maria, wife, mother of 3 young boys, on a family vacation in Thailand during the deadly tsunami of 2004. Badly injured, she and her oldest son try to reach safety in the aftermath.

The performance: It took me by surprise the first time I saw it, as I didn’t expect such emotional rawness from Naomi and boy does she deliver. I was cringing in fear as it was all unfolding because her acting is so natural that it almost felt like I was watching a documentary. Her ability of losing herself in the character is so masterfully achieved that it helped me lose myself in the story. Had the film been only about her journey, it would’ve been a winner. She’s so effective that as soon as she’s not on screen the film unavoidably loses steam. Excellent.

The highlight: The hospital scenes – the quiet pain when thinking her other children are dead.

3. Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

The screentime: approximately 54 minutes and 16 seconds (36.3% of the film)

The film: The second best film of 2012; a fascinating war drama, always engaging, perfectly directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Those last 30 minutes are pure action, in the smartest way Hollywood could produce.

The role: Jessica plays Maya, a CIA operative on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, following the 9/11 attacks.

The performance: It’s an incredibly challenging role, given how restraint the screenplay is regarding its hero. It’s all about her professional life, almost no back-story, so Jessica has only one approach: the no-bullshit one. With a character that’s not even necessarily likeable and with tough dialogue to get through, the performance is a success. Against all odds, Jessica delivers a believable, smart performance, with emotions in all the right places, a great hold of the dialogue and a good understanding of the material.

The highlight: Getting on the plane, knowing her work is done here.

4. Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

The screentime: approximately 49 minutes and 19 seconds (42.6% of the film)

The film: It’s a romantic drama that I really enjoyed, because it’s mostly well-written, it’s well directed and it has some fine performances. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s always easy to recommend.

The role: Jennifer plays Tiffany, a troubled young widow who falls for a man recently released from a mental institution and helps him heal.

The performance: One could make an argument that the casting is not perfect here, since Jennifer is a bit too young for the role – but I strongly believe she really does try her best with what she’s given. It’s a character that takes time getting used to, and it’s meant to be edgy – Jennifer stays true to the role, hitting some high notes, bringing some humour and ultimately delivering a good performance of a character I didn’t love; but it’s a performance I find little fault to. It doesn’t help that her co-star overshadows.

The highlight: Breaking down in front of the movie theatre and then regretting it.

5. Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

The screentime: approximately 53 minutes and 15 seconds (61.3% of the film)

The film: It felt better the second time around. It’s an unusual film, but beautifully shot, with some nicely made directing choices. The original score is best in show.

The role: Quvenzhané plays Hushpuppy, a young girl raised by her father in a southern bayou community, almost cut off from the world. She has to deal with a flood, her father’s sickness and a prehistoric monster created by her imagination.

The performance: I “campaigned” so hard against this nomination... My point is that it shouldn’t exist. It’s a 7-8 year old child, who probably can’t even read, giving a fragmented performance in a project she doesn’t understand. Her performance is all about reacting, not building, and there’s nothing awards-worthy about that, sorry. It’s not conscious acting, since there are noticeable moments when the actress doesn’t know what the hell is going on, she’s just speaking the lines. That being said, there are highlights in the performance and it’s a good child performance. But if you compare it to acting in general, it’s not much. Well, my point is we shouldn’t even compare it. I didn’t give it 1 star because I have only done that once in the past, and to a truly terrible performance. This nomination is not Quvenzhané’s fault, it’s the silly voters writing her on the ballot.

The highlight: Her one achievement, crying on cue in the last scene with her father. [again: since I doubt Quvenzhané understood that scene, it’s hardly conscious acting; they probably told her they killed her dog or something].

How did the Academy vote: I think it was a clearer win for Jennifer than people give it credit. They really wanted to reward Silver Linings Playbook somewhere. It’s very likely that Emmanuelle came 2nd, while Jessica was a close 3rd. I assume Naomi was 4th, and Quvenzhané 5th.

And that’s about it.
What’s next: Continuing with the (even longer-) abandoned 1972. For the introduction of the year: click here. Hope to have it done by end of year. :)
To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right, where it says Best Actress Years. ;)

Do tell me how unfair I was with Quvenzhané!! :))


dinasztie said...

I'd probably also go with Emmanuelle nowadays, but I so love Jennifer's heart-breaking, sharp and strangely weird and funny performance (all those people bitching that she's supporting are jealous of her). Naomi is wonderful. Jessica is very badass, but her movie overshadows her a bit in hindsight. Wallis has such an aura and power, but she's not ready... yet.

So: Emmanuelle>Jen>Naomi>Jessica>Quvenzhané

Alex Constantin said...

Yes, I know you are a big fan of Jen. I think she's a co-lead and could've went both Leading and Supporting, I don't think it's category fraud.

One good thing I can say about Q's campaign is that at least they had the balls to push her as Lead, and didn't chicken out like others did with Hailee.

Allen said...

Glad to see you returning to Best Actress! A little bummed that you won't be doing individual posts anymore, but I get it. Life and work get in the way. I have like 10 performances I've seen and need to write up on but I finding the time is tough.

I've only seen Jennifer and Jessica. I think I liked Jen a lot more than you...and I think I liked Jessica less.

Emmanuelle - haven't gotten around to seeing her. Kind have been putting her off because I'm never sure if I'm ready to deal with all the sadness I'm supposedly going to feel.

Naomi - haven't seen her and have been putting her off because I'm almost never in the mood for a disaster pic.

Quvenzhane - put her off because I just hate children's performances, so chances are I will hate her more than you did.

Excited to see 1972!

Alex Constantin said...

Amour is... not overwhelming. So don't be scared by it. :) It's so beautifully paced... not exactly easy to watch, but it should not bore you. You will want to see it. There's nothing disgusting about it. Or something to make you turn your head. It's just life.

I don't hate Q's performance, as I said, I just hate the nomination. :) Her nomination is not "apples vs oranges". it "apples vs pizza". can't compare.

Juan Carlos Ojano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fritz said...

Great to see you back! :-)

I've only seen Jennifer yet from this year but I am somehow excited to see all the others (this does not happen all the time; i have no desire to see the nominees from last year, for example...)

Alex Constantin said...

@Mister Man's Blogspot, why did u delete your comment? :)

Well, there are no real bad films in the group. In fact think I've rated each at least an 8. :) BTW: where did you get My Foolish Heart from? Is it around? thx

Anonymous said...

How did I somehow miss this? lol.

Of these three ladies, I'm torn between Riva, Watts, and JLaw for the win. I was originally all for Naomi (so glad you loved her, I felt like the only one for awhile) but then went back and forth between her, Riva's high difficulty performance and JLaw's entertaining one. Any of them winning would have been fine with me.

As for Chastain, I never really felt much of a character there (like you said), and it sometimes feels like a collection of line readings and "badass" as her defining personality trait. Meh.

I'm very torn on Wallis. On one hand I agree the director's influence is so heavily felt, but at the same time she DID actually perform the emotions herself no matter how she got there. So I get why people love it, I suppose.

Marion Cotillard in Rust & Bone > All of these ladies imo

Alex Constantin said...

Jessica is a 3 1/2 for me, but I sure don't regret her placing.

I AM noticing however how you guys don't really like her... I thought she had the most difficult dialogue of the group, and she did deliver it the best anyone could've. It sure is an usual nomination... But I kinda like it for that.

Marion would've ranked an easy #3 for me, with 4 solid stars. I liked Rust & Bone quite a lot.

Fritz said...

@Alex: it was on a youtube-channel that uploads videos for 24 hours but it's already down again...but it might be back again some day (not a great movie anyway...)

Sebbers said...

Every actor is coached by a director, why should it matter how the performance came about? Shouldn't it be about the end result? Unlike most popular child performances, Hushpuppy remains incredibly childlike, and the film is centered around this. As the film progresses she is forced to grow up, but still keeps her nativity and innocence. The scene with her "mother" and the "no crying" scene are worlds above anything else delivered last year.

It's just sad that some people cannot accept the fact that children CAN act, this performance couldn't have come from any other child, it is unique because Quvenzhane, in her own way, understood Hushpuppy.

Alex Constantin said...

Yes, it's so sad I don't "get" Miss Wallis's performance, that I feel like sitting down & crying for hours. not.

the arguement of every performance coached by a director contradicts all you are saying.
You are saying that she has no input in her performance since the result we see on screen is the director's coaching. Then exacly: what should I applaud a performance that was obtained strictly/mostly from the director's hand, with almost no input from the actor.

I don't know what Q was thinking in various scenes (as long as it worked - like the crying scene at end), but she seemed LOST more than once.

I never expect consensus

ND said...

First of all, don't underestimate children. They know a lot more than you think. They're not as experienced as adults, but their minds are like sponges. They absorb information quickly. Don't presume to know that Wallis had absolutely no idea what she was doing. You don't know what her thought process was. You're making all kinds of assumptions just so you can support your hatred of the nomination.

Secondly, reacting is also acting. ReACTING. ;) Delivering a performance is not just about building a character on your own. It's also about reacting to your surroundings. Wallis wasn't playing an experienced adult. She was playing a child who wasn't fully aware of the reality of her circumstances.

Finally, the performance wasn't obtained mostly from the director's hand. I never understood the scandalousness of saying she was coached by her director. All actors are coached by their director. Just because she's a child, it doesn't mean the director did all the work. Regardless of what was done to get the performance, the director didn't give the performance. Wallis is the one you see on screen. When I watched her performance, I never thought about what the director did to help her. I thought of how talented she was. A performance is also about presence. She brought a distinct presence to her character that goes beyond what the director demands. Presence can't be obtained from the director. Presence is innate; you either have it or you don't. Wallis has it. I don't think any child actor could've done what she did, so she brought something unique to the film. She didn't just obey cues and cry when she was supposed to. She took the cues and made them truthful. That's what acting is all about...being truthful in the moment. Had she given an utterly unconvincing and forced performance, I'd probably agree with some of your points. But she was extremely believable, and that can't all be chalked up to the director.