Wednesday, May 07, 2014

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My vote - Best Actress 1961

There had been both worse and better Best Actress years for me to review in the past, but the 3 films Breakfast at Tiffany’s and lately I’ve had a lot of coincidences related to this film. To see the post on how the 5 actresses got nominated, click here.
I discovered were at least interesting and I had always been curious about them. I also had no idea who the winner would be and, in fact, it proved to be a rather easy & obvious choice. Also, it’s always nice to revisit

If #1 was an easy choice for me, the same could be said about my #2. From then on, it’s all a bit mixed up. While I found qualities in all 3 performances following, none was truly exciting. I am literally coming back to this and changing the ranking minutes before posting. In the end, it’s all about passion, I guess. I can’t believe who I’m choosing for #3, but the performance grew on me. #4 makes small mistakes, but it’s also not very creative. My #5 is a performance that people tend to love, but I find it really overrated; no remorse there.

So here is how I ranked them:

1. Sophia Loren, Two Women

The screentime: approximately 71 minutes and 41 seconds (74.4% of the film)

The film: It’s surprisingly good and easy to watch, except towards the end when it loses both the intensity and the fun. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Sophia plays Cesira, a loud-mouthed Italian woman, mother of a teenage girl, trying to keep her daughter safe during WWII.

The performance: You know what, it IS the role she was born to play. Sure, she’s a bit young for the part, but the energy she brings to the screen, the tears and the humour are all fascinating to look at, captivating and often entertaining. It’s the kind of performance only an European actress could’ve created – there’s no fuss to it, just pure emotions on display in what would be the opposite of anything theatrical. She’s extremely beautiful, but the performance doesn’t rely on looks. It’s all about what her character feels and her honesty. The highly dramatic scenes towards the end are carried perfectly, balanced beautifully. An almost 5, since I have no excuse to go for less.

The highlight: Her final scene with her daughter.

2. Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The screentime: approximately 70 minutes and 38 seconds (64.6% of the film)

The film: I had seen it a couple of times before. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s fun and it plays well even nowadays. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Audrey plays Holly, a beautiful party girl and part-time escort, who befriends a handsome neighbour while looking for the right rich guy.

The performance: The character was created for a different kind of girl, but at least we can all agree that Audrey brings a lot of class to it. She tries to be funny and relaxed and look drunk, and it succeeds most of the time, even though you can tell she’s out of her comfort zone. But the performance has class, it has some relatable emotions and some smarts to it. The dramatic talent she brings in the post-engagement scenes feels right for the film and the character’s arc is nicely done. We knew the camera loves Audrey; but such a performance doesn’t become iconic without some real acting behind it. An almost 4.

The highlight: The taxi scene towards the end.

3. Geraldine Page, Summer and Smoke

The screentime: approximately 67 minutes and 29 seconds (59.6% of the film)

The film: Listen, it’s just Tennessee Williams doing his thing. It’s not his best material, so the film is not exciting; but it had me curious. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Geraldine plays Alma, a frustrated spinster whose unrequited love for a handsome doctor creates trouble in their lives.

The performance: To call this performance theatrical feels like the understatement of the year. She had actually played the role on stage, so all she had to do was get ready for her close-up. The performance is gradually growing on me (because I usually tend to favour Geraldine) and I have literally pushed it to #3 just now, but I have to be objective: she creates a dislikeable character that I’m not 100% sure can be put on the writing. She’s delicious to watch throughout, but in an almost involuntarily humorous way. Where there should be nuances, there’s a didactical, almost unnatural acting style. Strangely, there are countless highs and lows in a performance that can be seen as mostly tiresome. I don’t know: I still am rather fascinated and confused by it, even after seeing it twice. A strong 2.

The highlight: Trying to seduce John but realizing it’s too late.

4. Piper Laurie, The Hustler

The screentime: approximately 49 minutes and 46 seconds (37.1% of the film)

The film: A well written and nicely directed film, with a strong acting ensemble and a captivating ending. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Piper plays Sarah, an alcoholic woman who falls in love with an insecure pool player and helps him become a better man.

The performance: Truth is it’s a role that could’ve been played in many different ways. My problem with it is that I never really connected with the character and in the end I didn’t really care about what happened to her. Just like in the case of Natalie, the performance lacks a certain sparkle and I question how emotionally available she allows her character to be. Even in her vulnerable moments, there’s a feeling of arrogance that rubs me the wrong way. There’s too much class in this troubled woman and Piper’s acting ends up looking a bit strange next to Newman’s more realistic approach.

The highlight: Getting drunk at the party and speaking the truth.

5. Natalie Wood, Splendor in the Grass

The screentime: approximately 56 minutes and 37 seconds (46.3% of the film)

The film: It’s dated as hell, but there’s some honesty in the screenplay. Strangely enough, the problem comes from the casting. Some thoughts on it: LINK.

The role: Natalie plays Deanie, a good girl who has a nervous breakdown after her handsome boyfriend dumps her.

The performance: What’s the catch? I don’t get it. When she gets a big scene, she hides her face and I can only assume it’s because the acting skills are not there to carry it through the right way. Unlike Geraldine, there’s nothing exciting in her rather theatrical choices, no sparkle, no real energy. There’s little charisma and too much dignity; the performance needed charm and, while I did sense the character’s struggle at times, it’s as if she puts no real effort in making the character even remotely interesting. It’s my opinion she cannot carry the film, not that Beatty’s anywhere close.

The highlight: Reading the poem in the classroom.

How did the Academy vote: I’m quite sure it wasn’t an easy win for Sophia since this was the first time (?) they rewarded a (leading) Oscar to a foreign-language performance. And the film hadn’t received any other nominations. But given the runner-ups, you can tell I’m thrilled with her win. Daniel P. tried to convince me that Natalie was the runner-up, but after seeing Splendor again, I feel like #2 was Geraldine – sure, it’s a polarizing performance, but it’s flashier and it had the critics’ support. Natalie was a close 3rd, for sure (not sure Best Picture winner West Side Story worked in her favour). Feel free to argue on my guessing game. :) The other two nominees didn’t really stand a chance: Audrey was probably 4th, because Breakfast was a hit. Piper was definitely 5th, because she was an unknown and not the star of her film.

And those are my thoughts on 1961.

What’s next: Another draw, this time from the 80s & 90s. There will be 15 options to choose from [all except 1980, 1985, 1992 & 1994 already discussed + 1987 because for some reason, although I’d seen it in the past, I don’t have a copy of Anna to see it again and count the screentime].
To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, you can go to the column on the right.


Allen said...

Hmm...interesting. Didn't expect your #3-#5 to get such low scores. But despite you not liking them, you've piqued my interest and I suddenly want to watch them. Oh well, I'll get around to it some day.

I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's so long ago. I must have been 10 or so. But even back then I didn't really like the movie or her in it. Maybe it'll be more interesting/I'll understand more with a rewatch.

Great job!! I'm excited for the next year because there's a good chance you'll pick a year where I've actually seen multiple nominees. Personally I would be really interested to see your thoughts on the ladies of 1989 and 1996.

Alex in Movieland said...

I'm kinda hoping for some 80s stuff, moreso than 90s. Because with the exception of Marvin's Room & Boys Don't Cry (no, no, no), I've seen all the 90s nominees.
There are plenty of gaps in the 80s.

But hey, I never get the one I want. :) that's fine, in the end.

I'm quite sure u'd like Breakfast more, since you'll have a more mature look at the romance in it. I think the love story kinda works in the end, in a Bridget Jones kinda way (a comparison which only makes sense "in spirit", since there are no real similarities).

How familiar are you with Geraldine's Oscar nominated performances? I like her even when the performance is messy. She's a fascinating actress, that's why I think her Summer will grow in my eyes. I LOVED her in Trip, Sweet Bird. Liked her a lot in Interiors. Thought she was crazy in this, Big Boy & Pete'n'tillie. Haven't seen Hondo or Pope.
If not so much, I'd start with Trip or Interiors. ;)

Allen said...

I just might. I don't even think I got that Holly was an escort from watching it initially, nor would I even know what an escort was at that age lol.

And I’m actually not very familiar with Page's work at all. I haven’t seen any of her nominated performances. I think I remember you saying you really loved Interiors when you reviewed it long ago, and not long after I found the DVD for cheap, but then somewhere along the way I decided to do the chronological thing and so now it sits in my collection, waiting to be watched. Someday. But I always see her described as fascinating or interesting, so I’m real excited to see what the fuss is all about!

Alex in Movieland said...

Yes, Interiors is one of my Top 3 or 5 favourite Woody films. It's Woody's tribute to Bergman. Very minimalistic, very classy.

Holly is not officially named as an escort, but I saw interviews about the film... they couldn't have named Audrey as a prostitute obviously :) but she did get $50 to go to the powder room. ;) from each man. So, it's suggested.

Michael Patison said...

I haven't seen any of these, but I think she actually was somehow the favorite, even if just by a little (over whom I don't know). I'm just guessing that based on the video of her winning. Burt Lancaster forgets to say her name (on purpose, of course), and it sounds like there's almost a riot.

Alex in Movieland said...

His reaction seemed normal to me. He just forgot to read one of the nominees.