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.


Allen said...

Interesting. So Tandy wins it for consistency, yes? I would have guessed Lange or Collins based on your enthusiastic tweets but alas…I can’t judge you on your decision though because Pfeiffer is the only one of the five that I’ve seen ;)

As I’ve mentioned before, I adore Pfeiffer a lot in Fabulous Baker Boys, but the part is on the smallish side so I’m curious if I’ll end up liking any of the other nominees more than her..

And yippee for 1939! Glad to have helped push you towards a 30’s year :D God knows it’s time for someone other than myself to give it a go. I really gotta power through these last few actors!!

Great job!!

Alex in Movieland said...

Tandy, for consistency and me following my heart. It's simply the one I loved most.
Trust me, I was sure I would pick Adjani when it all started because her beauty is hypnotic and it's the type of slight-overacting I usually go for. Had I see all JUST once, Adjani might've been #1; but counting their screentime made me change my mind.

Daniel P. has already criticized my choices, calling Tandy standard & Adjani a hot mess. :) so I am not sensitive. His fav is Pauline.

If I'd have to take a guess, I don't think you'd have Tandy in your Top3 (that's why I said it was such a subjective year for me). It's probably be Michelle or Isabelle for you.

GM said...

Quite admirable performances, but I think for Lange was lacking strength and for Adjani was lacking a great connection with the artistic side of Claudel.

And Tandy is very underrated nowadays :(

Hope you like Garbo in 1939!

Alex in Movieland said...

I hope so too. :)