Friday, December 27, 2013

Add to Technorati FavoritesMy vote - Best Actress 1972

It’s only now that I finish what I had announced more than a year and a half ago: putting together the ranking for Best Actress 1972 – a year that was not selected by me, but was decided through a draw. The introduction for this particular year (and how the 5 lucky actresses got nominated) can be read by clicking here.

I came into this having seen only 2 of the 5 films: the other 3 ranged from bad to good, but the overall group of nominees here was quite underwhelming. This was not a great year for Best Actress, I must say; maybe one of the weakest I’ve ever reviewed. #1 was an easy choice since it’s the only performance that’s quite excellent. #2 was also clear to me, while the other 3 share the same no. of stars, but feel far from equal or even similar – each has a different set of problems.

Best acted scene will not be awarded for this year – there was no moment to really blow me away in any of the 5 performances, so I’d rather hold back from randomly picking a winner for this special mentioning.

Here is how I decided to rank them:

1. Liza Minnelli, Cabaret

The screentime: approximately 62 minutes and 22 seconds (53.2% of the film)

The film: I am not one of those people who think Cabaret is a divine gift for us mortals (like many bloggers seems to believe). It’s a well-written, very well-directed musical, that is memorable, but I simply cannot love in that passionate way. But good.

The role: Liza plays Sally Bowles, an American performer in 1930s Berlin, a young woman full of life, who gets caught in a love triangle with two very different men.

The performance: It’s quite clear that this film would not function without Liza playing the role – it all relies so much on her charm, her energy and her ability of bringing the humour to a film that could easily go the serious side. Her singing numbers are quite flawless and there’s nothing to comment there, as she puts her heart and soul into every song. The acting for the rest of it is good, often in that screwball comedy kind of way: I applaud it, I admire it, I acknowledge the success of the performance – but I don’t love it enough for 5 stars.

The highlight: I could go for the father scene, though it’s probably the performance of Cabaret.

2. Liv Ullmann, The Emigrants

The screentime: approximately 46 minutes and 38 seconds (25.8% of the film)

The film: It’s the one I’ve seen most recently, so it’s very fresh in my mind. If you go for slow-paced European films with little fun, then it’s a good one. I admire the screenplay, the ensemble performances, but it could’ve definitely used more editing (true: I might’ve seen the director’s cut).

The role: Liv plays Kristina, a 19th century deeply religious, simple-minded young woman who marries a Swedish farmer, builds a home and follows her husband when he decides to move the family to the New Land.

The performance: I guess it’s just that I expected more: more screentime, scenes that were bigger and louder, something more than the quiet dedicated wife performance. Of course, there are a couple of scenes where she gets to show off, but that’s also when the character is less likeable. For the most part, it’s a quiet supportive performance, that I find little fault to, but I wish I would’ve seen more from her. It’s a clear case where the actress does almost exactly what the role demanded, but those limitations on paper influence my perspective on the performance.

The highlight: Maybe the scene where she can’t find her daughter or the ”flees scene” on the boat, combining the funny with the tragic.

3. Cicely Tyson, Sounder

The screentime: approximately 30 minutes and 29 seconds (29.5% of the film)

The film: A boring film, unworthy of being one of the year’s Best Picture nominees. There’s nothing frustrating about it, but I don’t remember one single element to really grab my interest. Dull.

The role: Cicely plays Rebecca Morgan, a wife and mother during the Depression-era, who has to take care of the family by herself when her husband is sent to jail for stealing.

The performance: I cannot explain how this performance won a whole bunch of critics’ awards and so many people seem to love it. It’s so low-key, subtle to the point it’s underplayed, that it’s almost invisible. I was counting on her to save the film – what we got was the quiet presence of a woman whose instinctive intelligence I could feel, but was too shy to properly own the screen. Her eyes do tell a story and you can tell her talent is way above her fellow actors’, but why give us so little to judge, Miss Cicely? I was disappointed, as it felt like a waste of potential.

The highlight: Rrrrr... oh... I don’t know. Trying to see her husband in prison?

4. Maggie Smith, Travels with My Aunt

The screentime: approximately 70 minutes and 39 seconds (69.3% of the film)

The film: This is a film many love to hate. And, while it really is a mess at times, it’s quite easy to watch, almost enjoyable. The fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously works in its favour.

The role: Maggie plays Augusta Bertram, an old eccentric woman who travels around Europe with her nephew trying to find money to rescue a former lover from her past.

The performance: There are plenty who dislike the performance just as much as they dislike the film, but again: I’m not a hater. Maggie has the difficult task of playing a woman both in her 20s and in her 60s-70s and I think she does it rather convincingly. Does anyone doubt she’s the main if not the sole reason the film kind of works? Of course, it’s not much of a role, and considering she’s playing it for laughs, there isn’t much of a stretch; and, truth be told: it happens that she overacts on occasion. Maggie does justice to the silly comedy and nails a more dramatic scene towards the end, but it’s probably not impressive enough to justify an Oscar nomination.

The highlight: Easily, the scene towards the end where she clearly speaks her mind in front of the nephew.

5. Diana Ross, Lady Sings the Blues

The screentime: approximately 119 minutes and 48 seconds (83.7% of the film)

The film: A big failure that combines poor writing with clich├ęd directing and an uncomfortable leading performance. It’s very boring, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

The role: Diana plays Billie Holiday, the famous jazz singer who battles a drug addiction while trying to find her place in the music world.

The performance: I almost gave it a “1 star”, but I’ve only done that once in the past, to a complete disaster. This was not a disaster, but a very strange performance from an actress who clearly didn’t have the experience to carry the role. Actually, she had NO experience, and you could tell. The general feeling was that she was trying too hard, especially in the very dramatic scenes: Diana takes “under the influence” a bit too far, to the point it simply becomes something unconvincing and over-weepy. She brings little personality to a role that really needed energy and charisma. It’s the longest screentime I’ve ever counted (so far I’ve discussed over 25% of Oscar’s Best Actress nominees) but it works against her, as she doesn’t have the power to carry every single scene of the film.

The highlight: Any moment where she gets to sing, I guess.

How did the Academy vote: this must have been an easy win for Liza, I can’t imagine differently. She was competing with too many “minorities”: a foreign actress in a foreign-language film, plus 2 black actresses at a time in Oscar’s history when I bet there were only a handful of African-American members inside the Academy. So Liza won: deservingly. It’s Liv who probably was a distant 2nd, while Cicely must’ve came 3rd (wouldn’t have guessed it myself, but she did win all those critics’ awards). Diana Ross must’ve been 4th, while Maggie Smith didn’t stand a chance of winning.

And that’s about it.
What’s next: Preparing for Best Actress 2013 ;) The nominations will be announced in 3 weeks or so, but we can anticipate/predict the 5. Like in no other year, I honestly hope there’ll be no surprises: I rather they go with the solid 5 since I doubt any of the runner-ups would fit my taste.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right, where it says Best Actress Years. ;)