Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Add to Technorati FavoritesFinal Oscar predictions

Not much to add. I hope I don’t change them by Sunday. My predictions for Oscar night:

Best Picture
Will win: 12 Years a Slave
Could win: Gravity
My vote: Gravity

Best Director
Will win: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Could win: Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
My vote: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Best Actor
Will win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Could win: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
My vote: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress
Will win: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Could win: Amy Adams – American Hustle
My vote: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Could win: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
My vote: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Could win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle (yeah, yeah, she’s winning. I’m still in denial)
My vote: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay
Will win: Her
Could win: American Hustle
My vote: Nebraska

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: 12 Years a Slave
Could win: Philomena
My vote: Before Midnight

Best Cinematography
Will win: Gravity
Could win: Prisoners
My vote: Gravity

Best Original Score
Will win: Gravity
Could win: Philomena
My vote: Gravity

Best Original Song
Will win: Frozen
Could win: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
My vote: Frozen

Best Editing
Will win: Captain Phillips
Could win: Gravity
My vote: Gravity

Best Production Design
Will win: The Great Gatsby
Could win: Gravity
My vote: The Great Gatsby

Best Costume Design
Will win: The Great Gatsby
Could win: American Hustle
My vote: The Grandmaster (haven’t seen The Invisible Woman)

Best Sound Mixing
Will win: Gravity
Could win: Captain Phillips
My vote: Gravity

Best Sound Editing
Will win: Gravity
Could win: All Is Lost
My vote: All Is Lost

Best Visual Effects
Will win: Gravity
Could win: -
My vote: Gravity

Best Makeup & Hairstyle
Will win: Dallas Buyers Club
Could win: Bad Grandpa
My vote: The Lone Ranger

Best Animated Feature
Will win: Frozen
Could win: The Wind Rises
My vote: The Croods (haven’t seen Wind Rises)

Best Foreign Language Film
Will win: The Great Beauty
Could win: The Hunt
My vote: The Great Beauty (haven’t seen Omar & The Missing Picture)

Best Documentary, Feature
Will win: 20 Feet from Stardom
Could win: The Act of Killing
My vote: -

Friday, February 14, 2014

Add to Technorati FavoritesAn introduction to BEST ACTRESS 1941

There was a draw that took place (video at the end) and destiny chose Best Actress 1941 for me. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it, but then, looking again at the list of 5 nominees, I started to get excited: it’s an interesting line-up of performances from rather young actresses who had already proven their talent. More so, this is a historical year for this category: the first Best Actress line-up not to include any first-time Oscar nominees (other such years were 1944, 1994 & our recent 2013).  

I enter this race having seen only 2 (The Little Foxes & Ball of Fire) of the 5 films, and I am quite curious about at least 1 of the other 3. It was also the first time (and only time?) 2 sisters competed against each other in this race: I’m talking of course about recently departed Joan Fontaine (who ended up winning for Suspicion) and Olivia de Havilland, who is still with us.

I will watch the films, then for a second time while counting the screentime. Of course I have a favourite, but I am open to any change of mind.

The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1941, in alphabetical order:

Bette Davis as Regina Giddens, in The Little Foxes

Olivia de Havilland as Emmy Brown, in Hold Back the Dawn

Joan Fontaine as Lina, in Suspicion

Greer Garson as Edna Gladney, in Blossoms in the Dust

Barbara Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O'Shea, in Ball of Fire

Greer Garson is the only one playing a real life person. With the exception of Ball of Fire, the other 4 films were all included in the 10 nominees for Best Picture of 1941.

This is before even the Golden Globes existed, so it’s hard to guess / order them by the chance of getting nominated. But I’ll give it a try. Let’s put them in context: I imagine Bette Davis had the nomination locked. At that time in history she was the reigning queen of Hollywood and The Little Foxes was one of the hottest films of 1941, with a total of 9 nominations. Bette wasn’t doing so bad herself: this was her 5th Best Actress nomination (if we don’t count the write-in for Of Human Bondage; in 7 calendar years!!) and her 4th consecutive one. By 1941, she was 33 years old and had already won the Oscar twice: for Dangerous (1935) and for Jezebel (1938). I guess you can see now why this nomination was no surprise. [Not to mention she’s excellent in it].

From here on, it’s all arguable. I would say Joan Fontaine was next, because she had won for Suspicion the only American critics’ award that recognized actresses at that time in history (the New York Film Critics Circle Award). And since she ended up winning the Oscar for it, it’s fair to say actors did enjoy her performance. Only 24 years old at the time, she entered the race with some popularity among her peers: I’m sure many felt she should’ve won the previous year for Rebecca (which made for her 1st Oscar nomination).

Barbara Stanwyck had four films opening in 1941, with this one, Meet John Doe and The Lady Eve being all very popular. Not sure how much of a lock this nomination was, since she was giving herself a lot of competition. This was her 2nd Oscar nomination, she had previously competed unsuccessfully with Stella Dallas (1937). Unlike Bette Davis who was already a major star, I think Stanwyck was just gradually becoming a popular actress of that era, maybe a bit more on the comedic / seductress side.

Despite her age, Greer Garson was somewhat at the beginning of her film career; this was only her third year of acting in movies, but she had started on the right foot: her first film Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939) had won her an Oscar nomination. This was her second, and would be the first in line of 5 consecutive ones. She would end up a big movie star, for playing a lot of “decent women”.

I would (almost randomly) say Olivia de Havilland was 5th by nomination chance, just because the film doesn’t seem to be focused so much on her. Contradicting me is the fact that she was already a film star by then: from plenty of adventure films and mostly because of Gone with the Wind, for which she had received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. This was her second Oscar nomination, and the first one in the Leading category (during her career she would end up winning 2 Best Actress Oscars).

Also difficult to figure out is who the runner-ups were. I managed to put together a list of names.

Possible runner-ups:

Barbara Stanwyck, The Lady Eve (in case she didn’t make it for Ball of Fire)
Irene Dunne, Penny Serenade
Jean Arthur, The Devil and Miss Jones
Joan Crawford, A Woman's Face
Carole Lombard, Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Dark horses?

Barbara Stanwyck, Meet John Doe
Vivien Leigh, That Hamilton Woman
Merle Oberon, That Uncertain Feeling
Bette Davis, The Great Lie
Mary Astor, The Maltese Falcon
Marlene Dietrich, The Flame of New Orleans
Greta Garbo, Two-Faced Woman

Other eligible leading performances of 1941:

Wendy Hiller, Major Barbara
Ginger Rogers, Tom Dick and Harry
Maureen O'Hara, How Green Was My Valley
Joan Crawford, When Ladies Meet
Barbara Stanwyck, You Belong to Me
Olivia de Havilland, The Strawberry Blonde
Margaret Lockwood, Night Train to Munich
Gene Tierney, Sundown
Ida Lupino, Ladies in Retirement
Margaret Sullavan, Appointment for Love
Margaret Sullavan, So Ends Our Night
Claudette Colbert, Skylark
Ann Sothern, Lady Be Good
Priscilla Lane, Blues in the Night
Merle Oberon, Lydia
Martha Scott, One Foot in Heaven
Martha Scott, Cheers for Miss Bishop
Evelyn Keyes, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Bette Davis, The Bride Came C.O.D.

The ranking will be posted... this spring. J

...ah, yes, and here’s the proof I didn’t cheat. Pointless video.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My vote - Best Actress 2013

I can’t believe it, I got to put together a Best Actress year before the actual ceremony – that hasn’t happened since forever. And what an Oscar year it is, with these top 3 performances some of the best this
category’s ever seen. And so different… SO different that it was almost impossible choosing a winner. I must compare it, in my mind, to Meryl vs. Viola: the technical precision VS the heart. Back then I chose the technical perfection, and guess what, it’s only fair I go for the same now.

#1, #2, #3 are, as I said, amazing achievements and career best for Cate & Sandra. #4 was easy to choose – a performance that I respect more than I love, from an actress I normally fall for. #5 is not bad, but probably shouldn’t be on this list (give me Julia, Julie, Adele or Emma instead).

I am officially cancelling the “best acted scene” category, and one more comment: boy, was counting Sandra’s screentime in Gravity a pain in the ass. :) Must focus on “approximately”, since the heavy breathing was very hard to keep track of.
Here is how I decided to rank them:

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

The screentime: approximately 65 minutes and 7 seconds (69.5% of the film)

The film: I would call it one of Woody’s mediocre-to-good films. It’s definitely saved by the acting, not just Cate, but Sally and Bobby also. The directing is ok, but the dialogue didn’t always work: I might’ve liked it more had it been more honest in being a Streetcar rip-off.

The role: Cate plays Jasmine, an emotionally unbalanced, troubled socialite, who moves with her sister, trying to recover from her husband’s death and losing all of her fortune.

The performance: Meet Cate Blanchett. The best actress of her generation. Most of you reading know I had doubt preparing for this film: will she overact, how will I feel? Well, it’s an acting class like no other, a real tour-the-force that feels even better the second time around. Nothing is held back: she doesn’t shy away from craziness, but always packs it with a human emotion. In every scene you can feel how hungry Cate is to deliver excellence – and it all works: Jasmine is never a caricature, not in Cate’s hands. The most touching thing is recognizing yourself in some of the emotions, and there are so many layers to the performance. Jasmine crying after Dwight finally calls? Haven’t we all been there, in that tense moment?!

The highlight: Any one of at least 15 impeccably acted scenes. I’d probably go for the ending or the selling shoes on Madison Avenue monologue.

2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity

The screentime: approximately 61 minutes and 54 seconds (74% of the film)

The film: Probably the best film of the year. A film about space that is not science fiction? What a concept! Yet, it doesn’t waste a minute. Not one boring moment, because Alfonso Cuaron is in charge – a story of survival that feels technically flawless. A cinema experience to remembered.

The role: Sandra plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer who tries to survive and get back to Earth, after an incident leaves her adrift in space.

The performance: By no accident, this almost ended up being my #1 choice, because I was thinking with my heart. There’s one scene in this film (yes, the crying scene) that makes the performance what it is. Of course, Sandra is excellent throughout by giving a performance that feels so natural, so honest, despite its very physical demands; the difficulty level of this role is higher than people tend to realize. I found her incredibly charismatic in a very unfussy kind of way – the scene where she finally loses hope is so surprisingly emotional and intimate, one of the most touching I’ve ever seen.

The highlight: Like I’d need to say: I’m dying, Aningaaq, and there she goes breaking our hearts.

3. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

The screentime: approximately 51 minutes and 19 seconds (45% of the film)

The film: I’ve heard a lot of complaining about it, but it’s a fine film that depends a lot on its actors. The screenplay mostly works, what the film needed was a director with a bit more vision and a bit more personality (though not too much).

The role: Meryl plays Violet Weston, a woman with cancer, addicted to pills, whose family goes through (another) crisis when her husband kills himself.

The performance: It’s not a subtle performance, that’s pretty clear. But then: it’s not a subtle role either, so I wouldn’t blame Meryl. It takes someone who really knows acting to carry a role so emotionally intense, and Meryl succeeds, with the laughs, with the heartbreaking moments, with the ones that are over-the-top. There’s a lack of vanity that gained my respect, and there’s a sense that she knows this woman, that she understands where she’s coming from and is not afraid to lose herself in the character. The dinner table scene is dynamite and Meryl deserves most of the credit for it.

The highlight: Anything at the dinner table (Tell her what an attack looks like – heartbreaking) or the boots monologue.

4. Judi Dench, Philomena

The screentime: approximately 48 minutes and 25 seconds (52.7% of the film)

The film: It’s an amazing true story that, in my humble opinion, should have been adapted in a very different way: it needed less laughs, witty lines and commercial bullshit and a deeper journey into the mind of Judi’s character. I do appreciate it showing both views on religion.

The role: Judi plays Philomena Lee, a woman in search of her long-lost son, who was taken from her 50 years prior, when sold into adoption.

The performance: I’ve had a big dilemma with this performance, since I can tell it’s good, it really is, but I simply don’t love it. It might be because it doesn’t deliver the emotional punch it could have, but, given the screenplay, this might just be as good as it gets. This is Judi Dench, and even ok Judi Dench is quite amazing to begin with, but I felt the humour of the screenplay damaged the performance by breaking the rhythm, if that makes any sense. Sure, Judi can handle even the funny lines, but the end result left me rather cold, as if I didn’t really care. The great acting does come from the more silent moments when we get a glimpse of her soul, through Judi’s very expressive eyes.

The highlight: Looking at the montage with Anthony’s life, I did not abandon my son.

5. Amy Adams, American Hustle

The screentime: approximately 48 minutes and 4 seconds (36.8% of the film)

The film: It tries too much to be Goodfellas at times, when it should just be a David O. Russell film. The screenplay is the problem, and it’s never too deep as to feel important in any way. Leaves little impression afterwards.

The role: Amy plays Sydney Prosser, a con artist forced to work with the FBI after she and her con man lover get caught.

The performance: For some reason, I’ve had some issues seeing Amy in this part. I’ve liked her a lot in the past (Junebug, Doubt) but I just couldn’t buy her as a seductive woman from the fashion world who ends up a great con artist. My feeling was that for some of this performance Amy simply looks embarrassed to be there, as she’s just about to run from the set. Yes, yes, I know the character is vulnerable, with self-trust issues, but something just didn’t seem convincing enough (not talking about the accent). That said, I guess she’s ok: she gets two rather dramatic scenes with the guys and does a good job with them, she looks hot in the clothes, but I just didn’t care a lot for her character. We’re looking at almost 3 stars; I try to stay as objective, otherwise I might’ve went for less.

The highlight: ‘This is what we do to survive’.

How will the Academy vote? Well… Cate should be the clear, obvious winner and I so HOPE it will happen. Her only competition comes from Amy, who has the advantage of never winning before (her 5th nomination) and a good campaign late in the game. I guess Sandra is 3rd, with little chance of pulling a surprise win (also because people still rightfully feel she didn’t deserve her first). Judi will get some votes from older Academy members, and I think Meryl is 5th just because the film wasn’t much of a success and she won her 3rd Oscar just 2 years ago; so no pressure.

And that’s about it.

What’s next: A DRAW (!!!) which I haven’t done in a looong while. :) If you’re new to it, I’ll just put some pieces of paper in a bag (with eligible Best Actress years) and pick one without cheating. And film it all, of course. I feel like going really vintage, so 30s-40s it is. The years entering the draw will be 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946 and 1948. A reminder that 1928, 1931, 1937, 1945 & 1947 have already been discussed (you can click on them). 30, 32, 36 & 49 are not available to me, so they’re not entering. :) Fun. I have my favourites, though I never cheat.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right (which needs a bit of updating).