Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Best Actress – Emmys edition

I am following the now yearly tradition of watching the episodes that the ladies nominated for Actress in a Comedy Series and Actress in a Drama Series have submitted – and judging (more or less objectively) their episodes, just like the regular Emmy voter does.

The first part of the judging is just my ranking based on MY preference (not who I think will win). Here we go:


1. Claire Danes, for Homeland (episode “The Star”)
My connection to the show: I don’t follow the show, but I was familiar with the characters, from previous Emmy submissions. This episode was the Season 3 finale and a surprisingly good episode.
The performance: It took me by surprise, because we all know Claire loves A-C-T-I-N-G, especially with this particular role, but the performance here was pleasantly underacted most of the times. She stayed true to the character, but without overdoing it, like she tends to do. Her performance was very effective, with the help of some damn good writing; expressing her insecurities about the baby was the highlight scene.

2. Julianna Margulies, for The Good Wife (episode “The Last Call”)
My connection to the show: I have seen every episode. It’s not my favourite show on TV, but I still enjoy watching it.
The performance: It was probably the best tape she could’ve submitted and Julianna does a fine, if not great, job, as usual. My problem here – and why I didn’t choose it as my vote – is that the performance in this particular episode is quite one-note. There is little range, just a lot of grieving – which is done effectively, but I couldn’t help wanting some more. Too much of the same thing (writing’s fault).

3. Michelle Dockery, for Downton Abbey (episode 4.1, which in fact is 4.1 + 4.2)
My connection to the show: I have seen every episode and I generally love it. I find it relaxingly snobbish.
The performance: I must be one of the very few people who get Michelle’s acting and see the talent and the work put into making it seem effortless. Let’s face it: the dialogue is tough and she gets some impossible lines (in this episode including), but she manages to deliver them so gracefully that I must give extra points for it. She gets 2 hours, but the 2nd hour is rather useless; the good stuff is in the first half and she gets right a series of tricky scenes that lead towards a nicely done crying scene. I approve.

4. Robin Wright, for House of Cards (episode Chapter 26)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it. The only other episode I’ve seen was Robin’s submission tape from last year.
The performance: Last year she was my choice for the winner, but Claire won (as I predicted). Her tape this year, however, is underwhelming to say the least – she’s barely in it and her scenes make little sense for those who don’t follow the show. She gets almost nothing to do – I have her in 4th and not lower just because she’s stylish, sexy, tough and super-fierce, all which make me subjective. But really, there isn’t much to this submission.

5. Lizzy Caplan, for Masters of Sex (the pilot episode)
My connection to the show: I have discovered the show now, by watching the pilot. I have no desire to continue with the series.
The performance: Here is where I get even more subjective – this is a fine submission and she gets plenty of screentime. She’s talented, she acts well with what she gets, but there’s something (missing?) that makes me care too little about her performance and presence in this episode. It’s all nicely delivered, I just wasn’t too impressed.

6. Kerry Washington, for Scandal (episode “The Fluffer”)
My connection to the show: Another terrible episode from a really terrible show. Who watches this?! Awful.
The performance: Not much to say expect it was bad. Not only is the writing terribly weak, and she is surrounded by actors giving their worst, Kerry herself does a poor job this time. She delivers those pathetic lines by mostly overdoing it – too grandiose or giving them too much meaning. There’s no subtlety, just the same facial tricks and big words that fall flat.

Who do I think WILL win: It’s a tough-tough call between Claire and Julianna Margulies. I think Julianna might win, because everybody seems to dislike Homeland lately and The Good Wife is quite hot right now. If she doesn’t win, than Claire is definitely a close 2nd. I’m going to say Robin is 3rd, not based on the episode, but on her recent increase in popularity – I suspect people from show business like her. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lizzy wins, because her show has the novelty factor. Kerry is probably 5th and Michelle last (just because people underestimate her effort).


1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for Veep (episode “Crate”)
My connection to the show: I’ve seen every episode and I do enjoy it.
The performance: This is a good submission for her, maybe even better than last year’s. She’s funny and, more importantly, she shows a lot of range, going from bitchy to sad, from reacting to disastrous situations to enjoying her victory moment. It’s all in here and she does an excellent job. That bathroom scene is now a classic.

2. Lena Dunham, for Girls (episode “Beach House”)
My connection to the show: You know how much I hated her submission last year. Needless to say, I don’t follow. Not a fan of hers.
The performance: No, hell hasn’t frozen yet. The fact that I am ranking her 2nd is proof of how weak this category is, at least judging from the submissions. But I can look objectively enough to say she’s good in it: not particularly funny, but less annoying that usual. She gets two big confrontation scenes and she does a great job delivering the character’s intentions and feelings. It was good.

3. Melissa McCarthy, for Mike & Molly (episode “Mind over Molly”)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it, it seems a bit light on the writing front.
The performance: One of those cases where it really is hard to judge, since the highlights of the performance come from more dramatic scenes rather than funny. She opens with something of an SNL kind of moment that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but the 2 scenes about her father really ARE touching and well-acted. I still can’t buy the two leading characters as a couple, nor do I understand Molly’s breakdown, but that’s less relevant here.

4. Taylor Schilling, for Orange Is the New Black (episode “The Chickening”)
My connection to the show: I have seen this first season and I liked it.
The performance: I initially thought she might be a threat to win my vote, but then she submitted this. I think the pilot would’ve been a wiser choice, at least screentime-wise. Because it feels like Taylor is barely in this episode, with the other characters doing their own thing, often more interesting. She is eclipsed by Red every time they share a scene and overall she ends up looking just a bit whinny. Taylor does comedy well and I still like her, but this tape is not a winner.

5. Amy Poehler, for Parks and Recreation (episode “Recall Vote”)
My connection to the show: I don’t follow it. I’ve seen an episode here and there.
The performance: Maybe her worst tape for this role. The other storyline that doesn’t involve her (with the chair) is way funnier and more interesting; Amy gets some boring writing that’s never truly funny. She gets to play drunk, but it doesn’t really succeed and overall I felt like she didn’t put too much effort into it. Was there no better episode?!

6. Edie Falco, for Nurse Jackie (episode “Super Greens”)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it. An episode here and there.
The performance: Talk about not funny. Edie is a great actress, but there’s no comedy in here and the dramatic scenes feel a bit like been-there-done-that. It ends up feeling boring and lacking any special element.

Who do I think WILL win: The only way Julia is losing this race is if they are really really really tired of giving her yet another Emmy (which I doubt). Her tape is the funniest, and also the overall best of the group. If they’re tired of Julia, I think they’ll go with Melissa, based on her popularity and the emotional factor of her episode. But this means they’ll have to actually watch the tapes. I would say Taylor is 3rd, based on the popularity of the show. Amy is probably 4th just because she’s Amy Poehler. Lena is 5th, since her show is not that hot anymore and Edie doesn’t stand a chance of winning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My vote - Best Actress 1989

I might have said this more than once in the past, but this year’s ranking was a difficult task, because it came down to seeing the actual performances one more time (after a first look) to decide on who subjective game, of course; I need to put this as a disclaimer, since I doubt there are any other bloggers to agree with my #1 pick. Also, for the first time ever, all the 5 performances received the same number of stars from me. I guess that makes it a really good year for this category.
will be my winner. And even then I had my doubts, but I went with the most constant performance, that also struck an emotional chord. Doing this ranking is a

So, choosing #1 was a complicated task, but it was mostly between two performances, so #2 followed easily once it was decided it won’t be the winner. This #2 would’ve been my guess for the win when it all started, and I am still surprised I didn’t end up choosing her. J This performance is so up my alley. There’s little difference between #3 and #4, and #5 is also very close. There’s no need to add more.

To see how they got nominated, click here. And this is MY ranking:

1. Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy

The screentime: approximately 55 minutes and 5 seconds (57.7% of the film)

The film: The film is not an epic, it’s not a big production or a film with a complicated plot, like other Best Picture winners. It’s simple, but charming and very well written. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Jessica plays Miss Daisy Werthan, a stubborn widow in 1948 Georgia, who is forced by her son to accept having a driver, which creates both funny situations and a lifelong friendship.

The performance: This is a performance that could’ve been clichéd or downright awful, but it’s saved, and few people give Miss Tandy credit for it. In the hands of a Bette Davis or a Katharine Hepburn, it would’ve been a disaster. Jessica brings a strange delicacy to the role, femininity and a sparkle of youth that balance well with the sarcastic attitude in the more comedic scenes. The acting is so beautiful and pleasant and reassuring, backed up by smart dialogue, that you almost don’t see it as acting. It combines the funny with the emotional; the role could’ve been so mechanical, but Jessica still had the hunger for acting, so it feels full of life.

The highlight: As they stop on the side of the road, on their way to Mobile, Alabama, for a sandwich, Miss Daisy relives the first time she saw the ocean. With the camera on her face, there is such a loving emotion in her eyes that I was taken by surprise and felt instant sympathy.

2. Isabelle Adjani, Camille Claudel
The screentime: approximately 91* minutes and 27 seconds (59.8% of the film) [*must note I have seen the 158 min version, not the 175 min]

The film: The first half of this long biographical film is more interesting, while the second half is less focused, slightly boring. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Isabelle plays Camille Claudel, the temperamental and ambitious young sculptor who becomes the mistress and protégé of the famous Auguste Rodin.

The performance: The film relies so much on her beauty, her expressive eyes and the love that the camera has for her. What is not in writing, she can compensate by one look of despair or shame. This is a flashy role, mostly in the better sense: there’s no holding back on the tears and the screaming, but as the screenplay doesn’t always rise to the occasion, it sometimes feels in vain. But even as the craziness of Camille is poorly explained, Isabelle tries to create something of an arc for her: there’s a distinctive regress. With one of the most beautiful faces in history, tears like no other, and enough energy to make it work, Isabelle’s performance is mostly a success.

The highlight: Her last scene with her father combines nicely the confusion of the woman slipping into madness and the shame of the daughter trying to reconnect with real life. Perfectly delivered vulnerability.

3. Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys

The screentime: approximately 47 minutes and 16 seconds (43.4% of the film)

The film: It’s easy to watch and it has a couple of good scenes that almost make it memorable. The story is nicely balanced. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Michelle plays Susie Diamond, a high-class call girl who turns singer, bringing a breath of fresh air to the duet of two piano playing brothers.

The performance: I know everyone loves this performance, and I respect it more than love it. To me the role is less challenging and I give Michelle credit for delivering almost perfectly what was required. And what she does get is a damn good scene towards the end and a couple of comedic touches, for which she finds just the right timing. She is sweet, and likeable, and her presence does improve the film a lot. There’s vulnerability, and smarts, tears played at the right moment and the camera loves her. I didn’t really understand why the character was so chill about being a prostitute, and I also don’t think her singing was that good. Sorry. But still: an almost 4.

The highlight: Her big scene with Jeff, which basically makes the performance work. The you’re full of shit. You’re a fake speech is very well delivered.

4. Jessica Lange, Music Box

The screentime: approximately 83 minutes (71% of the film)
The film: It starts with poor writing and slow pace, and then gradually gets better and better. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Jessica plays Ann Talbot, an American lawyer of Hungarian origins, who has to defend her father when he is accused of horrible war crimes.

The performance: Here is a performance in what I like to call the “Angelina in Changeling” category, meaning it has such low or mediocre acting choices, but the highs are so impressive that you can’t ignore them. Just like the film, the performance starts on a bad note: Jessica creates this overly-precious, delicate woman that’s just boring to watch. But as the trial starts, the film gets better, and Jessica’s acting becomes more real, more dynamic. The music box discovery is a memorable moment, but what justifies my ranking (and me calling this one of the few Lange film performances I really like) is that breath-taking confrontation scene that might just be this category’s best acted scene. The fear in her eyes, combined with anger and despair is pricelessly acted. But I must cut points for the weak start, so this is an almost 4.

The highlight: As I said, the big confrontation scene with her father. Perfect.

5. Pauline Collins, Shirley Valentine

The screentime: approximately 78 minutes and 11 seconds (73.9% of the film)

The film: It’s dated through its execution, but very relevant through its theme of dissatisfaction and changing your life; surprising. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Pauline plays Shirley, a funny and lively woman, who likes to talk to herself. She realizes how unhappy she’s been with her life and decides to escape to the Greek islands.

The performance: It feels a bit stupid to have Pauline in 5th, since I loved the film, and the film depends almost entirely on her acting. And she is lovely, she really is: I like it a lot, but for some reason I just can’t rank her higher. She is fun to look at, has a great delivery of the funny lines and a good understanding of the dramatic aspects of the film. The constant look of surprise on her face works both for her, because it helps bring the laughs, but also makes it all look so easy and the character arc less noticeable outside of the plot. It has a charming lack of vanity. An almost 4.

The highlight: Maybe the scene on the bus, thinking of her life: Shirley Valentine turned into this.

How did the Academy vote? Well, the older voters in the Academy got their way, so Jessica Tandy won (deservingly so, I might say, though I know you won’t agree). The fact that Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture definitely also had something to do with it. But it was mostly because they liked the performance, I guess, and because Tandy was such a respected theatre legend. At 80 years old she was (and the record still stands) the oldest winner in the Best Actress category. #2 was a very close runner-up, clearly Michelle Pfeiffer. They were the only ones with a shot at winning this. The other 3 had no chance. From there on, it’s a guessing game. You’ll definitely doubt me, but I think Isabelle was a very distant #3; hear me out: even though it’s a foreign-language performance, and we know how they feel about those, it’s also a very flashy one, with a lot of acting, in a biographical film that was also up for a Foreign Language Oscar. More so, Adjani was a worldwide movie star, having been nominated before. I would guess that Pauline was #4 (random thought; not 3rd, because she was little known despite the Tony win, and it’s a small film) and Jessica 5th (the Academy wasn’t in any hurry to give her a 2nd Oscar, and Music Box seems to have plenty of haters).

What’s next: For the first time since... I don’t know when, there won’t be a draw like there usually is. I still have 30s, 50s and 90s to choose from, and I will pick a year myself from those decades. Allen and his great blog http://oscargasms.blogspot.com/ have inspired me to want to do 1939 (what a year!) and that’s the one up next. 

But before that, I’ll share my thoughts on Emmy’s Best Actress – Drama & Best Actress – Comedy races, watching the submissions, ranking the nominees, I’ve done it before. ;)

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, you can go to the column on the right.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Oscar predictions - The Acting 

Not much to say about it. I said on Twitter I wasn't going to post early predictions this year, but I'm doing it now just for the 4 acting categories (especially since my 1989 post will probably get delayed, I think).

So here they are, in alphabetical order. I'm feeling quite confident about some of them. Predicted winners in blue (no, not in the photos - I work with what I have).

Best Actress:

Amy Adams – Big Eyes

Cate Blanchett – Carol

Jessica Chastain – The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Hilary Swank – The Homesman

Michelle Williams – Suite Francaise

(Runner-up: Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl)

Best Actor:

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – [Untitled Cameron Crowe Film]

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice

Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner

(Runner-up: Robert Downey Jr – The Judge)

Best Supporting Actress:

Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year

Rooney Mara – Carol

Sarah Paulson – Carol

Kristin Scott Thomas – Suite Francaise

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

(Runner-up: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood)

Best Supporting Actor:

Johnny Depp – Into the Woods

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum – Foxcatcher

Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes

(Runner-up: Albert Brooks – A Most Violent Year)

They'd look like interesting nominations.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An introduction to BEST ACTRESS 1989

As usual, there’s a video at the end of the post to show I didn’t cheat with the draw. :) 1989 was actually one of my top choices, because I haven’t seen most of the films and I feel the year isn’t talked about enough [though I know some bloggers who have ;) ]. That being said, at the time of the draw (2 days ago) I had only seen Driving Miss Daisy. I am familiar with scenes from Fabulous Baker Boys and Music Box, but not with the films as a whole. I haven’t seen Camille Claudel and I only saw Shirley Valentine last night (it was GREAT). I don’t expect this to be the year with the most fabulous performances, but they’re all quite different.

There are no favourites for now and I’m prepared to be surprised.

The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen as nominees for 1989, in alphabetical order:


Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel, in Camille Claudel

Pauline Collins as Shirley Valentine, in Shirley Valentine

Jessica Lange as Ann Talbot, in Music Box

Michelle Pfeiffer as Susie Diamond, in The Fabulous Baker Boys


Jessica Tandy as Daisy Werthan, in Driving Miss Daisy

From the 5 nominees, only Adjani plays a real life person. Driving Miss Daisy is the only film of the 5 to be nominated for Best Picture and, as it happens, it also won. This is the part where I try to guess how they got nominated:

There were two clear front-runners before the nominations were announced. First one, I’d say, was Jessica Tandy. This must have been an easy nomination to get, judging from the success of the film: Miss Daisy received 9 nominations and ended up winning 4 Oscars. This was the first Oscar nomination for 80-year-old Tandy, who had done some films in the past, but was better known for her stage work, having won a couple of Tonys. She entered the race having won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Comedy/Musical and minor awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics & the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. She was also the unofficial runner-up for the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics awards.

Another sure bet for a nomination was Michelle Pfeiffer. She entered the race having won the most awards from the critics: the Golden Globe for Actress in a Drama and the recognition from critics’ groups such as the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. Those are basically all the important wins she could’ve received. This was Michelle’s 2nd Oscar nomination, having been nominated the previous year for her supporting role in Dangerous Liaisons.

If these two were locks, the next 3 actresses weren’t such safe bets. Looking at the competition, it seems like there could’ve been all kinds of combinations for the nomination list. I think it’s safe to say next in line was Jessica Lange. Prior to the Oscar nominations, for this role she had received only a nomination for Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes. However, given that this is a serious role in a serious drama AND Jessica was a darling of the 80s, I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting she had the 3rd chance of getting the 1989 Oscar nomination. This was Jessica’s 5th nomination (and 4th in Leading), at that point having won just once, for her supporting performance in Tootsie (1982).

I’d say that Pauline Collins was next, because I imagine she had the British voters on her side. And she had just won the Tony award for playing Shirley on Broadway. So there was some buzz around this performance. Prior to the nomination, she had received just a nomination at the Golden Globes for Actress in a Comedy/Musical. This was Pauline’s first time at the Oscars.

And then we get to Isabelle Adjani, who I hear is quite amazing in Camille Claudel and she was a true movie star at that time, however there was nothing to suggest her film was a success in the US, AND it’s a foreign language film, AND she did not benefit from critics’ support (like it had previously happened for L’Histoire d’Adele H). But somehow she made it. Not that it influenced the Oscars, but prior to the nomination she had won back in Europe awards from the César and the Berlin Film Festival for this role. This was Isabelle’s 2nd Oscar nomination, having been nomination 14 years before for Adele H.

I think there was a strong runner-up for a nomination and two other interesting contenders:

6. Andie MacDowell, Sex, Lies, and Videotape – Golden Globe nomination for Actress in a Drama, wins from: the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (tied with Pfeiffer) and the Independent Spirit awards.

Meg Ryan, When Harry Met Sally...

Sally Field, Steel Magnolias

Dark horses:
Ellen Barkin, Sea of Love
Kathleen Turner, The War of the Roses
Winona Ryder, Heathers
Kelly Lynch, Drugstore Cowboy

Maybe got a couple of votes:
Liv Ullmann - The Rose Garden
Annette Bening - Valmont
Annabella Sciorra - True Love
Nicole Kidman - Dead Calm
Susan Sarandon - A Dry White Season
Cybill Shepherd - Chances Are