Friday, February 27, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: The Best Runner-Ups

These are the ladies who managed to garner the attention of some voters while never quite cracking the top 10. (Or eleven in this case!)

12. Ruth Gordon – Rosemary’s Baby (9 points)

A wry performance that's so disarming you can see how Mia Farrow would be suckered in and surprised to learn Gordon's working for Satan. – Edward Copeland

Gordon was always a great actress and screenwriter, but few people know that. She remains known worldwide as the evil-lover-annoying-old-lady-next-door in Rosemary's Baby and it's not by chance. Gordon steals the scene every time she appears and no matter how many times I revisit this film, she always scares the hell out of me. – Celso Oliveira.

13. Anjelica Huston – Prizzi’s Honour (8 points)

It's very hard to steal a movie from Jack Nicholson, but she does in this. – David Gaffen.

John Huston directed his dad to an Oscar win and his daughter to one as well in the performance that was the equivalent of Anjelica's coming out party as one of our best actresses. Maerose Prizzi is manipulative, vindictive and a performance for the ages. – Edward Copeland

13. Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener (8 points)

She puts the audience exactly where the Ralph Fiennes character finds himself: you’re in love with her, yet not sure you know her. Her every gesture seems packed with meaning, yet you never catch her pushing. She and the cinematographer practically dance together, a perfect film performance. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Claire Trover – Key Largo (7 points)

Trevor’s a film noir icon. Not even her best, still great. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Jo Van Fleet – East of Eden (7 points)

She completely walked in the shoes of what has to be a very hard character to play – Mike Savidge

15. Diane Wiest – Bullets Over Broadway (7 points)

Seeing the always solid Wiest bust her patrician shell to play a drama queen (in both senses) is great fun. Hits the peak of hilarity without going over the top. – John Henry Roberts.

15. Catherine Zeta-Jones - Chicago (7 points)

19. Meryl Streep – Kramer vs. Kramer (6 points)

A great performance from Streep and showed the world what was to come. – Svanur Petursson

It's so easy to love Meryl Streep, but somehow she makes us hate her. – Matt Kilgore.

19. Maggie Smith – California Suite (6 points)

A great Oscar-winning performance for playing a boozy Oscar loser opposite an equally good Michael Caine. – Edward Copeland.

21. Celeste Holm – The Gentleman’s Agreement (5 points)

It's easy to look at this dated film and find the central plot -- Gregory Peck's quest to expose anti-Semitism by going undercover as a Jew -- as a bit goofy. What is unfathomable is how 1940s audiences, having lived through a period populated by intoxicating female roles (much of it in the film noir genre) could have possibly not been bewildered by the ending, when Peck's character chooses the lummox played by Dorothy Maguire over the sassy, radiant colleague of his played by Celeste Holm. She owns this movie. – David Gaffen.

21. Cloris Leachman – The Last Picture Show (5 points)

What a great, sad performance, and she was never better. It's a classic, so well-deserved. – David Gaffen.

21. Peggy Ashcroft – A Passage to India (5 points)

21. Mira Sorvino – Mighty Aphrodite (5 points)

21. Kim Basinger – L.A Confidential (5 points)

21. Juliette Binoche – The English Patient (5 points)

Her often unpredictable character lights up this slow burn of a film every time she is on the screen. – Matt Kilgore

This was such a happy surprise at the time. Everyone expected the showy Lauren Bacall to win, but Binoche's performance was understated and in more ways than one kept the film together. – Svanur Petursson

27. Brenda Fricker – My Left Foot (4 points)

Daniel Day-Lewis did amazing work with an extremely difficult role, but was nearly matched by her, the kind of woman every son would want for a mother. – David Gaffen.

27. Linda Hunt – The Year of Living Dangerously (4 points)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I forgot Hunt was a female playing a man throughout the film, but either way, it was a great performance from an underused actress. – Svanur Petursson

Regardless of the sex of the character she plays, she ultimately portrays a living, breathing, vibrant human being. – Robbie Kendall.

27. Shelley Winters – The Diary of Anne Frank (4 points)

When I first saw this film I could not stop thinking about it for days, she stands out in an incredible ensemble – Mike Savidge

27. Fay Bainter – Jezebel (4 points)

27. Eva Marie Saint – On The Waterfront (4 points)

She may just be feeding off Brando and Kazan, but Saint’s stuck playing the beauty who makes a sinner want to do better, and manages to come off like an actual person instead of a, uh, saint. Her light touch makes it a much better film than it might have been. – John Henry Robert.

It's really a pity that Saint didn't have so many great roles in movies. She is a wonderful actress and her start on this classic is the proof of it. She is not afraid of sharing the screen with famous actors like Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden. Her acting is as superb as her co-stars and well, she has an Oscar to show it! – Celso Oliveira.

32. Gloria Grahame – The Bad and The Beautiful (3 points)

Actors rarely win Oscars for their best work, but the unbearably sharp, sexy Grahame made lots of great movies, and this was one of them. – Jeffrey M. Anderson

32. Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost (3 points)

I can forgive any missteps in Whoopi’s career just for the scene wherein Oda Mae makes it clear she really doesn’t want to give away that money. She’s hilarious all-around, too. – Shawn.

32. Goldie Hawn – Cactus Flower (3 points)

Holding her own with Bergman & Matthau in a forgotten gem of a movie – Mike Savidge.

Additional proof that work in a comedy can be as Oscar-worthy as any other kind of acting. The film’s not great, but Hawn is on-the-mark in sensational fashion. – Shawn.

35. Shelley Winters – A Patch of Blue (2 points)

I want to slap her whenever I think of the film – Mike Savidge.

35. Beatrice Straight – Network (2 points)

A true supporting role, she takes 8 minutes on screen and nearly runs away with it, a marvel considering the wonderful ensemble cast of the film. – Tripp Burton

35. Mercedes Ruehl – The Fisher King (2 points)

35. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny (2 points)

Of course, everyone thinks this was some kind error, but Tomei went on to prove that she's the #1 supporting actress of the past 20 years with many other great performances, both comic and tragic. – Jeffrey M. Anderson

35. Anna Paquin – The Piano (2 points)

35. Judi Dench – Shakespeare in Love (2 points)

She brings something regal, refined and darkly witty to everything she does. - Matt Kilgore.


Mercedes McCambridge – All The King’s Men

Mary Steenburgen – Melvin and Howard

What ever happened to Steenburgen? She has so much life in this film, and has turned in nothing like this since. – Tripp Burton

Maureen Stapleton – Reds

Among many great performances in this film, Stapleton stood out. A well deserved win for a great actress. – Svanur Petursson

Jessica Lange – Tootsie

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment either way!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Supporting Actress Survey: The Beginning/The Untouched

It's about time to get this show on the road. Even with the extension, I didn't get as many comments or ballots as I would've liked, but have ultimately decided to go ahead with the postign anyway. If you have yet to send a ballot, but wish to send your thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment. Over the next few days, I'll be posting the bests and worsts, along with the runners-ups to each.

HOWEVER. To warm up to the occasion I'm going to post the names of those ladies that were untouched by our voters, good or bad:

Alice Brady - In Old Chicago (1937)
Mary Astor - The Great Lie (1941)
Katina Paxinou - For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)
Ethel Barrymore - None But The Lonely Heart (1944)
Anne Revere - National Velvet (1945)
Anne Baxter - The Razor's Edge (1946)
Josephine Hull - Harvey (1950)
Wendy Hiller - Separate Tables (1959)
Eileen Heckart - Butterflies are Free (1972)
Lee Grant - Shampoo (1975)
Olympia Dukakis - Moonstruck (1987)
Marcia Gay Harden - Pollock (2000)

Any objections to these unvoted ladies? (I'm personally surprised that Dukakis remained untouched for both best and worst, though I would put her in the latter if I were to vote for her.) Is there anybody here that you think gave an awful performance? Or anybody that really deserved to be voted for? Feel free to leave a comment!

Come back tomorrow for the Runner Ups for the Best!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Reader (2008)

Kate Winslet = A.
Right off the bat, I'm not going to say that this is Winslet's best performance, but it would be in her top five. I'm also going to say that she should have won the Oscar for this, it's at the right time, the right performance, the right movie. Now, onto the actual performance. I must admit that it's hard to review, but I will say that Winslet avoids so many easy pitfalls for her character, she doesn't condescend to making Hanna just a victim and endearing herself to the viewer. Throughout the entire film, Winslet aims for the ambiguous treatment of the entire movie by not playing Hanna as though she is outright a villain or outright a victim. She is always the woman who is flawed and either not sure of the brutality of her crimes or not willing to accept it. I also give her massive kudos for not needlessly complicating Hanna and clinging to the simple concepts of shame and complicity in a way that only illuminates the darker shades of the character. And some of those small moments where her face just breaks are what kills me; such as at the train station when she learns of her promotion and at the trial, where she has one decision to make. It's just proof that Winslet is one of our greats and she's only going to continue improving.

David Kross = A-/B+.
Kross shares a great many scenes with the formidable Winslet, but he never cedes them over to her. Even though the spotlight is clearly on Winslet, Kross never forgets that his character is at the centre of the piece and it is through him that we gain a very crucial knowledge of Hanna; Hanna the human being and lover, as opposed to Hanna the criminal. For such a young actor, Kross gets some of the much subtler comic beats of his character nailed down pat and even the difficult transition of his character from wide-eyed youth to jaded college student is handled with a mature grace and clear knowledge of the craft. Like Winslet, he grips the viewer's heart and gut with a vice in some of his scenes, "Do you love me?" being the best momment of any of these. An actor to watch in the future.

Ralph Fiennes = B.
Fiennes got the short end of the stick in terms of plot and character; he has the most difficult and least actor-friendly parts of the movie. And when he doesn't have those, he has the some of the most cliched parts, such as the very tacked on ending. However, when he does hit the right notes, such as in his scene with Lena Olin, he does hit it. But it's merely a competent performance of a role that really exists for other actors to bounce off of.

Lena Olin = A.
Olin is a chronically underappreciated actress who sadly very rarely appears in projects and roles worthy of her distinct talent and clarity, so when she does appear in anything, I eat her right up. The Reader is easily her best performance since her season-long role in Alias, not that there's a lot of competition. She has two distinct performances that are so different, so we get more Olin for our buck! In her first scene, she does a similar thing to Viola Davis in her role, lacking perhaps the same sumptuous dialogue and emotional hooks provided by the screenplay that Davis had. She still manages to bring up massive amounts of previously sealed torment and heartbreak without being overly loud or direct about it. In her second scene, she crucifies Michael with questions that leaves the film a lot more complex and interesting than it would be if the character hadn't graced the movie, or if the actress hadn't layered this character with that same scathing lack of sympathy and empathy with our troubled 'hero'. Two beautiful performances from an actress who plays from the edges superbly.

Other Notable Performances:
Alexandra Maria Lara - Maria Lara has practically no screentime in this movie, but I found her to be vivid in her brief appearences, and her wink towards Michael took me aback a little and I wondered if the movie was trying to suggest anything by it. Still, an actress to watch out for.
Linda Bassett - It took me a while to remember where I recognized this actress from; Daldry's previous film, The Hours, but she delivers even more of an impact this time around with Daldry; she paints a regrettably but unavoidably sparse portrait of a woman just doing her job and trying to do the best for a woman with literally nothing left. Made me wish that this actress was given better parts.

Overall Movie Grade = A/A-.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: A Visual Aid

A neat little thing I found on YouTube. Keep those e-mails (and plugs) coming, people. Just one more week left!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey Announcement

To allow for some more ballots to be posted in, I'm extending the survey until the 24th! Please keep sending them in or telling your friends who would have an interest in sending one in or pimping this on your blogs. Thanks!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Rebecca Hall = B+
I was pleasantly surprised by Hall in this performance, when I had expected a dull and lifeless performance, aka Johansson. However, Hall proved herself to be much more adept than her blonde co-star at making Woody Allen's dialogue spark with both flair and a naturalistic delivery. However, she is struck with a slightly unbelievable plot twist but she even manages to make that come off as believable for her character. Ultimately, this is a performance that is an achievement and bodes well for the rest of her career. For somebody who is such a novice to the screen, she adapts herself well to the role of the lead lady and shines with movie star-esque charisma. (She was also alarmingly underused in Frost/Nixon this year.)

Javier Bardem = B/B+
In a total turnabout from his Oscar-winning turn, but not so much from his previous Spanish roles, Bardem makes his character believable. He's not asked to do much else, but with a character as ridiculous and ludicrous as Juan Antonio, that's a big ask. Even so, Bardem graces his scenes with a kind of serenity and sexuality that is alarmingly alluring and plays very well off Hall and the superlative Cruz. The only time he seems dull is when he is with Scarlett Johansson; not even he can sell that this man would be attracted to this wash of a woman and it seems like an awkward way of Allen writing his current muse into a glamorous part. However, for the most part Bardem is a gift to the film that adds a much needed male presence that many Allen films lack due to his own participation in them.

Scarlett Johansson = C-
Out of all of Allen's muses, Johansson isn't necessarily the least talented, even though she probably is, but she's definitely the one who has flourished the least under his direction. Prior to her movies with him, she was reviewed very well in Lost in Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring, but while her career has blossomed and bloomed, her talent has only decreased. Interestingly, while her talent has decreased, Cruz's has increased. Just a thought. His next film makes it seem as though he's kissed goodbye to Johansson and moved onto a muse who has shown her talent in a few projects; Evan Rachel Wood of thirteen, Across the Universe and The Wrestler fame. Let's hope he's hit gold again with this one. If you're wondering why I'm not talking about her actual performance here, it's because there's nothing here. She's bland and lifeless here. She's not even appealing on the basest physical level. She says the lines and goes through the motions and that's it. It's not detrimental to the film in particular for some reason, but there's no way I can endorse this performance in any way.

Penelope Cruz = A+
Penelope Cruz, one of my favourite actresses of recent year. Granted, I liked her even before Volver but it was the film that gave me a good reason to legitimately liked her. In a move that nobody expected, she actually improved as an actress since then, with this performance and a dramatic performance in Elegy. Even more amazingly, she crosses the language barrier with little difficulty now which seemed to be her largest hurdle, (Sahara, Vanilla Sky, Gothika), to give a great performance here. And if her next films are anything to go by, another Almodovar film and the Academy Award winner and nominee studded Nine, she's becoming more discerning with her projects.

However, she is a jewel in a film that I already like a lot. She enters the film just as it's beginning to lag and gives it a much needed energy that Allen's flims have lacked since Mira Sorvino won her Oscar. There's just so much to love in her performance here, her constant defiance to speak English, some of her perfect line-readings and the sheer crazy physicality of the role. It's one that is almost played to the rafters, but always in the service of the character; Maria Elena is the kind of character who does this just because that's how she is, not because she thinks anybody is watching. However, she also knows when to downplay the role, like at the table scene, with her hand rubbing against her face in sheer intolerance for Cristina and everything she embodies. It takes a good actress to keep the fires burning at full tilt throughout a performance, it takes a truly gifted and talented actress like Cruz to know when to dull them down in a way that it is service to the performance, character and movie. Absolutely amazing work from an actress that will only continue to improve over time.

Overall Film Grade: B/B+