Friday, October 10, 2014

Coming Soon: Glenda Jackson in Women In Love

I saw Women In Love yesterday...  such a weird, flawed, yet  beautifully sensual  film, love the imagery too.  Have to rewatch it though, so I can follow Glenda's arc more clearly now that I understand more of the story.  Also, expect a review of Gone Girl  (Seeing it again tonight!)  and Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter very soon!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Performance Review: Jane Fonda in Coming Home

Jane Fonda received her fourth Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for  playing Sally Hyde,  a wife of  a  Vietnam war captain who  goes to volunteer for a veteran's hospital  in Coming Home.

From what sources tell us about the 1978 Best Actress race,  Fonda was in  a  close race with Ingrid Bergman in Autumn Sonata.  Ingrid Bergman had won awards at the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle , and the National Society Of Film Critics and Fonda won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award  and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In A Drama.  Ingrid had sentiment on her side given she was dying from cancer at the time, but Fonda was at her height as an actress and was starring in a film that was one of the frontrunners for Best Picture and Autumn Sonata  wasn't nominated.  I think that was what gave Fonda the edge.

Coming Home is a  strong film, but its also  flawed.  There are some rather phony moments in the film that don't ring true  and it feels so anti-vietnam  that one can call it a preachy, soap box movie.  That said, it is still very well directed and well acted, and the script does create a compelling entertaining story  that reaches  its target by the end.  I don't think it fully deserved  Original Screenplay, but Jon Voight's fantastic performance was more then deserving of the  Oscar.  I think its one of those movies that is flawed, but through its flaws, something powerful and even great comes out of it,  even if it is a mixed bag.

Jane Fonda is an actress who has highly impressed me in her performances.  She is  fantastic in Klute and excellent in Julia, They Shoot Horses Don't They?,  and Agnes Of God.  She excels at playing strong,  opinionated, and multi layered women that are also vulnerable and layered.  So, for me, its hard to  agree with the choice of having her play Sally Hyde,  a perfectly ordinary army wife whose experiences change her for the better.  I just don't think Fonda's extremely technical  style of acting fits with such a simple  character who could have used someone more natural and vulnerable.  She fails to be convincing for the majority of the first half of the film,  even though she is very good technically,  using her face and mannerisms to convey Sally's awkwardness at  caring for veterans.  I just never feel she becomes the character in the beginning and it works against her heavily.

But Fonda greatly improves in the second half as she becomes closer with Voight's character.  The growth and changes in her character that come from her volunteer work, from becoming close with Luke  are  convincing and Fonda  is wonderfully natural and expressive in the performance.  Her presence is  quite strong and her relationship with Voight is beautiful to watch.  Both actors are terrific and very believable as lovers and they both achieve a  beautiful emotional connection that strengthens the film.   But  when her husband comes back home,  her performance becomes less interesting given how cliched and also unbelievable the conclusion of the film is.  She is still very interesting to watch and better then she was in the beginning, but the material sinks her.

So, it's a  very good performance that is quite strong on a technical level,  but unfortunately  the role of Sally Hyde is too cliched and Fonda's acting skills  just aren't the right fit for a role like this,  which required someone who  could create  a more spontaneous, more emotional portrayal.  She's still very watchable though.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Performance Review: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Christoph Waltz received his 2nd Oscar nomination and won his second Oscar for playing Dr.  King Shultz in  Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Christoph Waltz's victory  last   year was slightly surprising, though  not a huge upset.  Best Supporting Actor was a wide-open category that year, but it narrowed  down to a three-way race between Waltz, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert De-Niro.  Some cited Jones as the favorite given his long-term career  and SAG award, but I just didn't see him winning a second Oscar for such an un-showy performance.   Many pundits went with De-Niro and I did too at first, but what Waltz had over him was the fact that he was able to win two precursors, both the Globe and the BAFTA.  None of the other contenders took home a second major precursor, and it just seemed momentum was with him.   So, Waltz pulled off the win as I predicted (Don't mean to brag, but I'm still so proud of this prediction!).

Django Unchained is a fantastic film that I was really surprised at  how much I liked : It's brilliantly made, it's entertaining, and it has great  acting from all around.  Tarantino highly deserved his  2nd Original Screenplay Oscar and I would have loved to have seen DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson nominated.

From the moment Waltz comes on screen, he holds your attention: There's just a dynamic focused quality to this performance which I think comes from the fact that this roles fits him like a glove.  There's no one else who could have played this part like Waltz and it shows.  He makes the character fiendishly devil-like, but charming and even loveable.  Waltz nails his character's  fake persona and he is convincing all the way through. He and Fox both are outstanding together, making them such a natural pair of bounty hunters that you root for, despite their immoral acts.

It's a great performance from Waltz, but unfortunately, it loses some of its impact because of the shifted focus: I loved watching Waltz take the lead in the film, romping through it with such confidence and humor, but he takes a backseat to DiCaprio, Foxx, and the rest of the ensemble because of how the plot shifts. It's dissapointing, because we as an audience love Waltz and don't want him to be away from the spotlight, even though all the other actors are terrific.  It's a testament to how strong Waltz was in the  first half of the film, how strong he made us like his character.  But I just wish there was more.

But it's a still great and wonderful performance that I highly enjoyed, just like the film .  His win was very  deserving.

Congrats to Christoph Waltz for giving  the  first male performance to be reviewed on this blog!  Next Performance Review: Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Performance Review: Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich

Julia Roberts received her third Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for playing  the real life Erin Brokovich,  a woman with a big mouth and no patience.  She has three kids and is struggling to make ends meet.  She gets a job working for her former lawyer and she ends up investigating a case where PG & E  is responsible for poisoning  a whole town.

Just like Cate Blanchett this last year, Julia Roberts was a huge lock for Best Actress that year: She had been nominated and lost twice before, she gives a very dramatic  and entertaining performance ,  she was in a  Best Picture nominated movie that voters were able to reward  with her win, and Hollywood wanted to honor one of their biggest stars. I'm guessing she won in a landslide.

Erin Brokovich is a terrific film: It tells a very entertaining, moving story with excellent acting.  Soderbergh's brilliant visual style does wonders to the film, making it have a very realistic and perfect look.   I feel the movie is highly deserving of it's Oscar nominations, although Traffic was the best that year.

Julia Robert's win is one of the most hated ever.   I guess I can see why: Erin Brokovich is hardly a likeable woman, at least the one thats portrayed in this film and Julia Roberts is a star whose usually considered obnoxious  and arrogant.  If we were judging her by her speech, I'd agree, but here Roberts hits a  high note here,   at least with me.  Erin is supposed to be over the top, throwing herself around and being rude to people. And Roberts nails this. She is terrific and very convincing.  Seriously, could anyone else have played this part?  Her big scenes are excellent, she really shows us that she cares about what she's doing and that it means so much to her.  We see the wonderful self-worth and confidence that her job gives her and Roberts is wonderful at showing the woman behind Erin's confident persona.  The vulnerability and depth she gives to her is  very noteworthy.  I love the scene where Eckart is describing her baby daughter's first word. She beautifully shows the happiness this brings her  and she does it so naturally.  She has great chemistry with Aaron Eckhart and with Albert Finney, although she overshadows both of them, given its so much of her movie.

That said, I do think that  the performance becomes a bit repetitive. It is isn't Julia's fault, but there are so many scenes where she has such a strong opinionated attitude that it gets a bit wearing after a while. It's still impressive, but it does take some points away from her.  There are also times where I think she knows it, which makes some of her scenes unconvincing.

But  overall, Roberts commands the movie with a wonderful performance.  She is entertaining, she has energy, and she understands the character so well that the results are truly great. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The 71st Oscars: A Look Back

Best Picture:  This was one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history, but looking back on it, it's easy to see how it happened. Shakespeare's massive Miramax campaign and 13 nominations made it an incredibly strong contender that was able to gain enough steam to beat out Saving Private Ryan.  I think that voters felt that they had honored Speilberg with Picture and Director too recently and it's early summer release date may have hurt it too.  Shakespeare was a wonderful, enjoyable movie and I think the Academy enjoyed it more then they enjoyed a World War  II film.  Life Is Beautiful may have gotten third place, but voters probably felt it's other wins would be enough to honor it.  Thin Red Line was overshadowed by S.P.R and Elizabeth was really just happy to be nominated.

Best Director: Like Ang Lee 7 years later, there was no beating Speilberg here  even if Shakespeare won Best Picture (Which, of course it did). Speilberg was and still is a highly respected film-maker and people still felt he was overdue.  Madden was probably the runner-up, but this was Speilberg's for sure.

Best Actor: A wide open race at first with McKellen  and Nolte taking most of the precursors, but then Life Is Beautiful came out of nowhere and people started loving it which gave Benigni the momentum. His SAG win  (As well as a BAFTA win) was also an excellent forecaster, especially since every  Best Actor winner there had also won at the Oscars.  I'm surprised that it wasn't clearer at the time, but i guess it was because it was a foreign language performance and that Benigni was also going to win Best Foreign Language Film.

Best Actress:  Before the SAG's, it was a two horse race between Paltrow and Blanchett.  But when Paltrow triumphed over her at the SAG's, it was clear she had the support, much like Lawrence over Chastain last year. I think Miramax's campaign as well as the fact that Paltrow was so young and likeable made her the winner. Blanchett, despite her BAFTA win, was too unknown at that time to take the prize. And Elizabeth had no real momemtum. Fernanda Montengro could have won in a split between them (Like Riva last year, wow!), but Paltrow was too far out in front (Like Lawrence!).  Streep and Watson weren't contenders.

Best Supporting Actor: A big upset here.  All the precursors were split:  Critics Choice went with Billy Bob Thorton, Golden Globes went Ed Harris, SAG went with Duvall, and BAFTA went with Rush, not for Shakespeare, but for his work in Elizabeth.  In such an open field, Coburn was able to sneak in, probably because of his career and his very dramatic role.  As for the other nominees, Rush had just won, Thorton had also won a writing Oscar and some thought his role was too similiar to Sling Blade.  Duvall was a possible winner, but the film was hardly loved and neither was Duvall. Harris was also thhe other possible winner, but I don't know if the Academy was passionate  enough about the Truman Show or about him in general to give him the Oscar.

Best Supporting Actress: A race that was difficult to predict at the time,  but  Dench won,  I think , because of the Shakespeare juggernaut and her Oscar loss for Mrs. Brown the year before and also because there were a lot of things going against her competition. Brenda Blethyn's work was considered too over the top and the film had no real Oscar support.  Lynn Redgrave won the Golden Globe, but probably didn't have the buzz to take it and some said it her performance bordered on  parody.  Rachel Griffiths was in another film with no real momentum and was also too much of an unknown.  Bates took the Critics Choice and SAG, but the film was a dud and her Oscar win for Misery was recent enough for voters to pass over her.

Best Original Screenplay: This race was a lock for Shakespeare, due to it being what makes the film  a success.  I'm guessing The Truman Show and Life Is beautiful were the runner ups, but neither could stop Shakespeare's momentum.

Best Adapted Screenplay:    Bill Condon pulled off a surprising win this year over WGA winner Out Of Sight and The Thin Red Line.   I guess voters weren't going to honor a film like Out of Sight which didn't do to well at the box office anyway and support for The Thin Red Line was not strong enough to pull off a win.   The Academy must have liked Gods And Monsters enough to give it three nominations in major and felt that it deserved it here.

Well, I really need to watch more films from this year! It's usually easy for me to analyze the races, (Although some of my reasonings  are more subjective then others)  but this one I think was a trickier year in general to forecast given all the surprise winners.  I really need to see Saving Private Ryan, Life Is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line, The Truman Show, Affliction, and Gods And Monsters.    Anyway  though, what are your thoughts? Did you predict/think Shakespeare would win?  Were you shocked that it did and do you think Saving Private Ryan was robbed? Are you on Team Cate for Best Actress?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

86th Oscars After-Thoughts

First, my predictions: Well, after my not so good showings last year, I've now made a comeback.  22 OUT OF 24! YES!!! I was thrilled to get Her winning Original Screenplay (Thought he would take it, the precursor combo was just too strong for him to lose), Gravity winning Best Editing (Didn't buy that voters would choose this category to honor Captain Phillips, knew it would go empty handed),  Helium winning Best Live Action Short, Great Gatsby winning both Best Production Design and Best Costume Design (Knew that 12 Years and American weren't flashy enough, these wins  prove that movies that aren't necessarily  amazing can easily take  both these categories), Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor (Knew, along with everyone else,  that he was too popular to lose, sorry Tom O'neil !), and 12 Years winning Best Picture (Gravity was just never as loved as people expected and 12 Years was too strong to beat).   I did get Supporting Actress wrong though: I just felt the support for Lupita seemed a bit too strong, like Viola Davis a few years ago, it felt that it was more hype then about how Oscar voters would view the performance, which I was wrong about, but good for her! I also got Animated Feature wrong, thinking Get A Horse would take it. I was so close to going with Mr Hubolot, too bad I didn't, but ah well!  I was also very happy for Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto, both are very worthy winners.  

Secondly, the ceremony:  It was good, entertaining. Ellen did well. That pizza thing was a little out of place, but I thought it was pretty funny and overall worked. Glad the stars didn't starve, lol.   It was a pretty standard Oscar ceremony overall, but very enjoyable.  There were no surprises, which is disappointing, but I did so well in my predictions that I don't care.  I was happy for Frozen pulling off wins. Idina Menzel was good, but I could tell she was a little nervous. I love you Idina! Keep going!! American Hustle getting shut out is surprising to some, but I knew it could happen. Ah well.

So,  what were your thoughts? Were you bummed that there were no surprises? Did you do well in your predictions? Were you pleased with the winners? What were your favorite winners? Your least favorite winners?

Final 86th Academy Award Predictions

So, here they are.  I've  published them every year on the day of the Oscars besides the 84th.  I must say I did worse last year then I liked.  I'm not too ashamed of my Riva prediction, but I should been smart enough to go with Django and Argo in the screenplay categories. I also should have been aware of Ang Lee gaining momentum in the final stretch, especially in such an open field. But at least I got Waltz!  As I said then, I was proud of that prediction! I'm hoping the limb I'm going in one of the acting categories this year will prove to be right, though I'm still a little shaky.   I hope that all the thinking and monitoring of the awards pundits and of looking back into Oscar's history will mean I'll do better this year.  Find me on Gold Derby to get my predictions for the rest of the categories! 

Best Picture:   Who Will Win: 12 Years A Slave will win, I feel. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Gravity win, but I think 12 Years has just been holding a narrow edge at every awards show so far (Besides SAG, but A.H seemed like a clear winner there to me). It's importance and also it's quality will carry it to a win.  I've also  don't understand people citing the preferential ballot as Gravity's advantage: It could help it, but I think 12 Years and American Hustle have an equal chance of benefitting from that. Now, on American Hustle: I feel like it has a good chance of upsetting.  It lost it's frontrunner status, true that PGA tie was a blow, but it's never really disappeared from being a strong contender.  It could benefit a lot from this tight race, especially from the fact it's detractors aren't loud and it's supporters are head over heels for it. So don't  faint if it does win.  I had a temptation to predict it, but I think 12 Years is very strong.   

Who Should Win: 12 Years is very deserving, but Dallas Buyer's Club was the best film I saw  this year. It was an amazing story and it was brilliantly acted and written. However, I feel like I should vote for 12 Years because of the importance of it and it's a masterfully made film.  Both would make very deserving winners, although I might lean towards Dallas. 

Best Director:  Who Will Win: Cuaron seems almost assured, but a win for McQueen is a possibility or even O'Russell if voters do love American Hustle that much, but that's VERY unlikely.  Cuaron has won every directing award this year, so he looks like the winner. 

Who Should Win:  Haven't seen Nebraska or Wolf Of Wall Street, but McQueen should win. He brought out such brilliant performances and the way it was shot, the way the story was told.  Gravity and American Hustle are brilliantly but McQueen should take it for making 12 Years such a quality film. 

Best Actor:  Who Will Win:  Upsets from Dern, Ejiofor, and Leo are possible, but I really feel McConaughey has the support overall. His wins at Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and SAG create an incredibly strong awards streak .  He has two other acclaimed performances as well as having such a baity role: He plays a real person, he has aids, he emotionally transforms from a homophobic man to a more understanding and moral one.  People really appreciate the strides he has made this year. His win at the Independent Spirit Awards over Ejiofor and Dern doesn't matter much since Oscar voting closed already, but it proves he has  overall industry support. I think that will carry him over to a win.  Check out my last post for the things that are going against the rest, which will help McConaughey a lot.  

Who Should Win:   Haven't seen Dern or Leo, but Matthew McConaughey's performance was incredible.  He should win and I sincerely hope he does. What an indelible and moving performance.  

Best Supporting Actor:   Who Will Win: This is most likely a win for Leto, but I'm a little less skeptical of an upset then others are.  A win for Abdi is a possibility, given his BAFTA win/momemtum, the size of his role, and the admiration for Captain Phillips. But Leto is overall too strong to lose.  His snub at BAFTA can be explained by the DBC not been seen enough, plus critics are loving it there now.  

Who Should Win:  Haven't seen Hill or Abdi, but Leto should win.  There was no ounce of acting in that.  He was Rayon. It was a heartbreaking and brilliantly honest performance.  

Best Actress:   Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett is a lock here and there's not a chance she'll lose.  I thought Adams could be the spoiler and if there is a stunning upset,  I would say it would be her. But it isn't happening. Look for Cate to pick up her second. 

Who Should Win:  I'd go with Blanchett in retrosepect. The rest are quite impressive, especially Adams, but they all have problems that get in the way of them  putting out a flawless performance. Blanchett gives a brilliantly layered and wonderful performance.  It  may not be the masterpiece other people are saying, but unlike the others,  her work has no minuses. 

Best Supporting Actress:  An extremely close one, but I'm going with Lawrence.  I think her performance is the most showy and memorable, one that  steals the movie, something that I've heard people be so impressed by. People feel that she is the best in show of that movie and her precursor wins are quite strong.  People love her immensely and as Tom O'neil says, it's her honeymoon period. Which makes it a lot less harder then people think for her to win her second. I would not be shocked at all if Lupita wins and I am wrong though. I just feel that voters don't love Lupita in the way people think they do, especially since it's such a one-note and lacking performance in general. But it's close. 

Who Should Win: Lawrence. I love Julia, but she is clearly a lead, so I refuse to vote for her.  Lawrence gave a brilliant, incredible SUPPORTING  performance that deserves to win. 

Best Original Screenplay:  Who Will Win: A close one, with American Hustle gaining a lot of steam towards the end, but Her just seems to have the home field advantage with wins from WGA, G.G, and C.C.  This is another category I wouldn't be surprised I got wrong though. I just think people will wait to honor Russell in another year for the two  big awards, Picture and Director.  And people have problems with A.H's script, saying it's uneven and not cohesive enough.  And Jonze is over due.   

Who Should Win:  DBC should take it, but A.H would be deserving as well. 

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Who Will Win:  12 Years A Slave is the frontrunner, but a Philomena upset is possible. It has the Weinsteins behind it and it has a great, sentimental, moving story. It's BAFTA upset could be telling as well, though it has a British advantage there. I'm still going with 12 Years, but watch out for Philomena for sure.  Captain Phillips has the WGA, but 12 Years wasn't nominated there and Philomena triumphed over both of them at BAFTA.I'm  m still going with 12 Years since a B.P usually picks up a screenplay award and because of 12 Years strong support,  but watch out for Philomena for sure.

Who Should Win:  Only seen two, so I can;t say. My rule is you must see at least three to name who your preference is, even though you clearly have to see all 5, still though, that's my rule! 

So, what do you think?  Do you think I will be right? Or do you think I will be wildly  wrong? What are your predictions/preferences? What would be the win you would most want to see and the win you would most not want to see?  Are you excited? BECAUSE I AM!!! 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Best Actor 2013: Who Will Win?

Just like last year with Best Actress, I've decided to do an analysis of Best Actor, which to some is a locked up while to others seem open. This is inspired by Entertainment Weekly's old way of doing predictions,  naming the reasons why a contender will win and what's going against them.  

The contenders are:  

Christian Bale in American Hustle: 

Why He Will Win:  Bale is a terrific, long-working actor giving a very strong performance in American Hustle.  And some say that hair comb deserves it's own Oscar.

Why He Won't Win:  He won just three years ago for The Fighter.  Out of all the performances in American Hustle, his has the least buzz.  

Bruce Dern in Nebraska:  Bruce Dern is the veteran in the race giving a performance that many love.  They may want to honor Nebraska and with the race getting tighter, he could  sneak in and emerge as the surprise winner. 

Why He Won't Win: Many say it's a supporting role, and the SAG was really his last chance at getting some momentum. He may take votes away from Ejiofor and McConaughey, but he won't get enough to win.  

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street: 

Why He Will Win:  Dicaprio gives a wideley acclaimed performance that is gaining steam in the home stretch.  Dicaprio is an A list actors and voters could very  well feel it's time to give him an Oscar  at last  as well as honor the movie.   Given his SAG snub van be explained by the fact that W.O.W.S didn't come out early enough for SAG voters to see it,  his aggressive campaigning could pay off.. 

Why He Won't Win: but it just could as easily not.  The film has loud detractors and the fact that it's a comedy performance and that he's playing a very unlikeable character could stop him from winning.  His BAFTA loss to Ejiofor deprived him of the last minute momentum that would have helped him go all the way.  

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave: 

Why He Will Win:   Ejiofor is a highly respected actor playing the most sympathetic character in this race.  If 12 Years wins Best Picture, a win for him is a possibility. And his BAFTA win proves that. 

Why He Won't Win: His BAFTA win helps, but can be explained away by the fact he had a home-turf advantage since he is British.  Despite the sympathetic nature of the role, it's still a very subtle controlled performance that has no really big Oscar scenes.  He may be too new to take it.  

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club: 

Why He Will Win: He gives an amazing, brilliantly transformative performance in a role that is right up Oscar's ally: An aids patient turned hero. His precursor dominance helps tremendously and Oscar voters seem to love the performance. 

Why He Won't Win:  Dern, Ejiofor, and especially Dicaprio are right on his tail. Some are put off by his speeches, thinking he comes across as arrogant, while others doubt they'll honor both him and Leto. 

My prediction  right now is McConaughey, who seems to be out in front,but Leo's buzz is getting me a little nervous.  Gold Derby expert Tom O'neil is predicting Dicaprio and he was able to  get Waltz, Streep, and Cotillard winning and those have all been the most recent acting upsets.   It's also hard to see both Leto and McConaughey winning, but it definitely has happened in the past and does not hurt his chances in a huge way. And  unlike those three surprise winners, Leo didn't win the BAFTA over his strongest competition, which can be explained by D.B.C's  snub, but it also means that Leo has no opportunity for the  last minute steam that clearly  helped those  three pull of the wins that they did. Although I'll concede  that Dicaprio's snub at SAG is because of voters  not being able to see the film, the SAG award for Best Actor has an incredibly strong track record with the Oscar, having matched perfectly 15 out of 19 times. It's an incredibly strong statistic that can't he thrown out so easily.  And McConaughey is on top right now.   I hope he will win and think he wil, but an upset could happen.   

What do you think?  Do you see McConaughey is assured or are you on team Leo? Or even with Ejiofor or Dern?  What are your thoughts on screenplay races? Those races actually seem the trickiest to me. I'm still at Her and 12 Years, but both seem vulnerable, especially Her which could lose to American Hustle.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Performance Review: Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose

Marion Cotillard received her first Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for playing Edith Piaf, the famous French singer who captured the heart of a nation, in La Vie En Rose.

6 years ago, Julie Christie's performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Away From Her was easily the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. She had swept the early precursors, taking 13 critics prizes including  the B.C.C.A as well as the  the Golden Globe for Best Actress In A Motion Picture Drama. Throughout the early  season, Ellen Page in Juno  and Marion Cotillard were her closest competitors, with Cotillard taking 4 critics  prizes and Page taking 9.  But when the G.G for Best Actress In A Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy went to Marion Cotillard, it seemed as if Marion had edged out Page as Christie's competition. When Christie triupmhed at SAG over both of them though, most seemed to think that Julie  was assured. But when the BAFTA awards honored the  French born Cotillard instead of British  born Christie, it suddenly gave Marion a huge burst of last minute momentum that   (as well as the  fact that  Oscar voters  were  wowed by her performance,   thinking that she won't win, but  easily should) was enough to put her over the top, beating Christie whose performance was probably too subtle  and understated to take the  prize.  I also think that voters may have gone away thinking that Christie's role is too small compared to on-screen husband Gordon Pinsent.,who becomes the focus of the film after Christie is sent to a recovery center.  

La Vie En Rose was a film I hated the first time I saw it. The film was a huge mess to me and at the time, I had no appreciation or interest in Edith Piaf's life. Now, my feelings have changed. It's strategy of throwing Edith's life around still is a questionable choice, but there are definitely  things to appreciate about the film. It's extremely well made and  it is sort of interesting to see the different moments in Edith's life, never knowing what's next.

Marion Cotillard's performance is an example of how an actress can brilliantly transform herself into a part and produce amazing results.  During Entertainment Weekly's yearly article where Oscar voters give their picks annomoyously, an Oscar voter stated that "there was no trace of Marion in that. It was all Edith Piaf".  Nothing could be a better description of this performance.  Marion's fierce, blazing commitment to the role is so powerful, so immense that there is never any obviousness in her acting. It's an incredibly physical performance because Marion so totally throws herself into Edith, capturing all of her physical mannerisms and her style of performing.  It may seem somewhat exaggerated in the beginning, but Marion easily makes this work in the context of the film.   The fact that Marion can so convincingly play Edith as an old, drugged out woman, as a energetic, clownish like woman in the beginning, and then as a stage diva is a true testament to her abilities as an actress.  As an actor myself, I'd love to know how Marion was able to change her body so tremendously and effectively.

The emotional aspects of the performance are enormously admirable as well.  One thing that can be said is that Marion was not afraid to make the character unlikeable. Edith is a loud, abrasive woman whose diva-like antics are rather unlikeable and Marion stays committed to the character's truth.  She also is wonderful in her scenes with Marcel.  You can tell that Edith is so happy here and Marion is radiant and wonderful to watch.  She perfectly captures the stubbornness  that  Edith had later in her life, the refusal to give up on her audience, the desire to keep going. Her huge, emotional outbursts can be considered over the top, but I thought that they perfectly ft the character and Marion plays them powerfully and with brutal honesty.  I also love her scenes when she is having fun with her friends and the interview on the beach. There is, again, incredible emotional honesty and a wonderful, radiant quality to her scene on the beach, just quietly  enjoying the sunset. It's simple, wonderful work.

The one thing that may hold her back is her film.  She is incredible in every aspect of Edith's life, but the fact that the film's structure makes it so  we are never able to see a full image of Edith Piaf  makes me think how mind-blowing Marion could have been if her arc went from A to Z instead of from A,D, E, and B.

But it's an incredibly small complaint because Marion Cotillard easily gives one of the most stunning and greatest performances ever that is a testament to how realistic and amazing acting can be.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Best Actress 2013: A Note

Well, after finishing Streep's profile, I went on to do my ranking as I usually do when finishing a Best Actress year. But the darndest thing happened: I just could not decide who my pick is. It took me two hours. I went back and forth and when I finally came to a decision, it turns out that none of them will take it.  Yes, I think that I am unable to make a decision here and the reason is is that doing this current year during the midst of Oscar season has caused problems with me judging them fairly. I think the passion and the excitement of Oscar season has made it an impossibility to really form  a fair, definitive opinion for all 5 of the performances. The funnest thing about Oscar season is the rawness of seeing the new films and forming opinions about them.  I think the time to do these rankings is after the Oscar season has ended, so the buzz around them has faded away and our original thoughts have faded too, so it's time to re-evaluate.  It's also been a while since I've done profiles, so that level of focus and objectivity takes continual practice which I haven't had much of lately.  So, I've decided to cancel  the final ranking for this year.  I won't delete the profiles though, because as a blogger it's always interesting to look up old posts.  When I go back, perhaps in the summer time, it'll be interesting to compare them.  But from now on, I won't do the current year during Oscar season.

I have some current stuff coming up now though.  I'll be doing some performance reviews and  then another Best Actress year.  My main goal is to do see and rewatch enough Best Actress performances to do a ranking of the winners, like Fritz did on his blog.  So expect a lot more activity around here soon.

So, what are your thoughts on the Oscars right now? Has BAFTA shaken up your predictions? Who do you think will win Best Actor? Best Supporting Actress? Best Picture?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Meryl Streep in August Osage County

Meryl Streep received  her 18th Oscar nomination for playing Violet Weston, a mean, sadistic woman who is also a drug  addict in August Osage County.

Cate Blanchett must be thanking her lucky stars right now, not only because she took the Best Actress award at the BAFTA just now, but also because it has completed a long precursor awards sweep that probably never would have happened if Meryl Streep hadn't  beat Viola Davis for Best Actress two years ago for The Iron Lady.  If that hadn't happened, this would have been Meryl's year: It's such a juicy role and there would have been an anonymous consensus that Meryl deserved her third Oscar at last. But since that didn't happen, Meryl is now the least likely to win.  She could have gained some momentum if August had been released earlier, but given it's late release and the movie's critical pans, Meryl was even considered a strong possibility to be snubbed.  Well, no Oscar nomination can be slipped past Meryl Streep, and the Academy made a wise choice to include her in the list of the nominees. But (As previously mentioned) the film's reception and her previous win will keep her from winning.

August Osage County is a great movie: The material is brilliant, but the movie itself is great in it's own right much better then all the critics were saying.  It's extremely fun to watch and powerfully dramatic when it needs to be and the performances are all fantastic.  It loses some of it's power towards the end, but the same can be said about the play, whose 2nd act isn't quite as good as it's first, but the same can be said about many plays and musicals, whose first act is usually the juicier and most interesting, and then the 2nd act drops a little.

Meryl Streep delivers a very typical Meryl performance: It's clear that she's having a lot of fun with this character, and her brilliantly calculated style of acting suits Violet very well.  That said, the performance does border a bit on cartoonish, some of her big moments are bit too exaggerated and Meryl sometimes overdoes it.  But Meryl does do an amazing job with the emotional, human aspect of Violet as well:  She shows Violet immense pain and suffering, from having to go through an immensely hard life and not getting much of a letup from anything.  Streep shows her brutal, yet incredibly funny side, the side that causes her to lash out at her family members.  These scenes are very enjoyable to watch, yet incredibly sad as well because of how Streep makes us feel sympathy for Violet. She may be an awful woman on the surface, but Streep makes us her understand her suffering and makes us feel pity for her.

She has many great moments:Meryl packs a punch during the dinner scene, slowly and subtly building up her character's anger and grief, resulting in one of the most powerful scenes  in Meryl's career. It's hard not to hear the truth in Violet's words here, and it's amazing watching Meryl dig deep within this character to deliver such great results. She also adds some heartbreaking vulnerability during a monologue  to her daughters about a childhood crush.  It's great and very meaningful work.

Meryl Streep, overall, delivers a strong, richly powerful performance in a difficult role.  She may over do some of the scenes, but overall it's haunting and great achievement that makes  us  feel joy, feel disgust, appalled, sympathy, and love for this mean, yet wickedly funny and painfully sympathetic woman. She gets

BAFTA Predictions

Best Picture:  12 Years A Slave seems to be the most likely winner, although Gravity is gaining steam as Oscar night approaches. Philomena or American Hustle could sneak in though.

Best Director: I expect Cuaron to triumph, unless voters go with McQueen.

Best Actor:  Dicaprio is also gaining a lot of momentum right now and I predict him to win this one. Ejiofor could also very well win here as well.

Best Actress:  Adams and Dench in particular are strong spoilers here, but Cate is my prediction.  Amy needs this to be able to knock off Blanchett on Oscar night, and if Dench wins, I guess it could help, but given they love her here profusely (10 Wins!) , I don't think it will help her much in the long run.

Best Supporting Actor:  Fassbender and Abdi  are strong contenders, but I think we'll see Matt Damon walk away with a win for Behind The Candelabra.

Best Supporting Actress.  Jennifer needs this to win and if she loses to Lupita, I doubt she has much of a chance of winning anymore.  I predict that will happen, although I have a strange feeling Hawkins could take it here. But I'm not betting on it.

Best Original Screenplay:   A tough one, but I'll go out on a limb and say Nebraska.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  12 Years A Slave.

Best British Film: Philomena.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Judi Dench in Philomena

Judi Dench received her 7th Oscar nomination for playing Philomena Lee, an elderly woman who was made to give up her son by the nuns she was made to live with after she got pregnant. 50 years later, she enlists the help of a reporter to go and find him.

During the pre-Oscar nominations season, some felt that Dench would be snubbed in favor of Adams or Streep. But with Phillmena being a strong favorite to get nominated in Best Picture and Dench hot nominated at the  B.C.C.A, G.G, SAG, and BAFTA, Dench was obviously a solid nominee this year. Her chances of winning are very slim though. She hasn"t won anything thing major for this performance and even if she wins the BAFTA, that won"t mean much (she"s won there many times and the BAFTA sometimes endorses the more European choice). So, unless voters want to give Philomena something or they want to give Judi a Best Actress Oscar (she won in supporting 15 years ago), expect her to lose for a 6th time.

Philomena is a good, but flawed film. It tells s very moving, dratix story that.  succeeded when it was just that: a drama. The movie unfortunately tries to add to much comic relief in the relationship between Philomena and the reporter (Steve Coogan), which detract from the tone of the film.  The scenes are simply not very funny and don't work. However, the movie still is entertaining  and well made, as well as hitting it's emotional  mark in the right place.

Judi Dench is an actress who I like very much. She has the same quality or center in many of her performances, but she always does something interesting with it or she stretches herself to create something completely different. It's refreshing here to see her play a character of lesser status.  Philomena isn't a weak woman, but her values and eccentricities make her a  less powerful person then M or Barbara Covett for example. Her irish accent is wonderful and it fits the character perfectly.  You can tell that Dench understands who Philomena is very well.  Unfortunately, the comic scenes in the beginning ruin a lot of the potential to male this a great performance.  Dench's eccentric and comic scenes with Coogan are somewhat funny and not badly played, but they are just rather slight and unimpressive.  I found a hard time liking these scenes, because although Dench plays them  well, I much preferred  her more dramatic, subtle material.  We also don't see enough of the reason of why Dench is so forgiving of the nuns who made her give up her child, instead Philomena simply says "I don't want to blame the church" which is understandable given her religious values, but when the film is trying to give us an explanation, it unfortunately fails because of Coogan's bland performance and the slightness of the scenes between them.

However, the performance is an excellent, even outstanding one.  When the movie is working with her, when it's the dramatic moving story it should be, Judi Dench is wonderful. We can see the pain that she's carried around with her whole life and Dench beautifully shows the arc of the character, her journey to finding what happened to her son, brilliantly without taking a misstep.  We can see all the aspects of the character, her religion, her guilt and shame for her pregnancy, her longing to find her son, her determination through Dench's face and the brilliant subtle quality of it.  It's too bad the script doesn't balance the strength of Philomena with the comic moments or this could have been a fantastic performance.

But Judi Dench still gives an excellent performance that carries her film very well and it's so good to see her back at the Oscars after her 7 years!  She gets

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Actress Overall Winners: Part 4

So, I've been a little slower then I would like although  I hope to get Best Actress 2013 finished this week.   But for now, I've decided to continue with these and if Dench's profile isn't up by tomorrow, I'll either wrap this up  with Part 5 or do a A Look Back Series Post (Any suggestions for Oscar years?).  So, continuing on:

Best Actress 1980:  Mary Tyler Moore no doubt has her share of supporters, but most would overwhelmingly go with Spacek here.   Sage picked Spacek, Alex picked Spacek,  and Dinasztie picked Ellen Burstyn.

Oscar Winner: Sissy Spacek

Overall Winner: Sissy Spacek

Best Actress 1981:  Katharine Hepburn won this year but her  win is largeley controversial.  It's really hard to say who's the actress that most prefer from this year, but I'd go with Meryl or Diane, with an edge to Diane.  Sage picked Mason though.

Oscar Winner: Katharine Hepburn

Overall Winner:  Diane Keaton

Best Actress 1982:  Hmm, this one is so hard to say who's the overall winner. I am completely stumped. Lol, Meryl is the undisputed favorite this year. People may love Jessica, but the Jessica fanbase is  hardly enough  to topple Meryl's fans, who are complete fanatics. Sage went with Meryl, Dinasztie went with Meryl, and Fritz went  (Although Jessica was close) with Meryl.

Oscar Winner: Meryl Streep

Overall Winner: Meryl Streep

Best Actress 1983:  Shirley Maclaine may have won the Oscar, but I personally am not sure if everyone loves her here. I could see it going both ways, but I think the fact that Alexander and Walters are not buzed about and that Debra and Meryl' fanbases aren't  amazingly strong that Shirley's Oscar is mostly considered deserved, but this is one I could definitely be wrong about.  Sage picked Alexander at first, but then switched to Meryl in her final ranking and Dinasztie went with Walters.

Oscar Winner:  Shirley Maclaine

Overall Winner:  Shirley Maclaine

Best Actress 1984:  Oh My, such a weak year! I think that that's a reason why Field won, because the other contenders are so mediocre.  I think most would go with Davis, but this year is so weak and undiscussed that she may be the pick by default. Sage picked Spacek, Dinasztie picked Davis, and I picked Davis.

Oscar Winner:  Sally Field

Overall Winner:  Judy Davis

Best Actress 1985:  I was surprised when I discovered that so many on here love Geraldine and think she deserved her win this year. Not that I think she was bad of course, but I expected most to pick Whoopi.  I think Geraldine is the overall winner, but Whoopi is VERY, VERY close. Just like the actual race where I'm sure Whoopi was close. Fritz picked Geraldine, Sage picked Geraldine, I picked  Whoopi, and Alex picked Geraldine.

Oscar Winner: Geraldine Page

Oscar Winner:  Geraldine Page

Best Actress 1986:   A year that is mostly not discussed, but I wish more people would realize the astonishing brilliance of Marlee Matlin, who gave one of the most powerful performances ever and very much deserved her win. I guess Signourney Weaver, who granted I haven't seen, but I wish Matlin wasn't so underrated. Sage picked Matlin and Dinasztie picked Weaver.

Oscar Winner: Marlee Matlin

Overall Winner:  Signourney Weaver

Best Actress 1987:  Cher's win is either loved or hated.  I don't think Kirkland or Hunter have a lot of support and Streep  as well (Though she's got more then the other two). I think Glenn is the definitely the overall winner this year. Her performance is so iconic and loved among both Oscar lovers and film lovers that she has to be the performance most people think should have won this year, as well as the performance most concede she was robbed for.  Sage picked Glenn and Dinasztie picked Glenn.

Oscar Winner: Cher

Overall Winner: Glenn Close

Best Actress 1988:  You would think Foster's performance  would be loved, but it seems to have a good share of admirers, but a good share of  critics as well.  Melanie is certainly not a liked nominee, Singnourney's performance is loved by some but some are critical of it including me. Meryl has a lot of supporters, so much that I would almost give her the O.W this year, but Great Glenn wins again. Her performance is brilliant, and her fans are definitely crazy enough to put her on top for the 2nd year in a row.   Fritz picked Meryl, Sage picked Foster, Dinasztie picked Great Glenn, and I picked Great Glenn.

Oscar Winner: Jodie Foster

Overall Winner:  Glenn Close

Best Actress 1989:  Michelle Pfeiffer is beloved by everybody around the internet, but I personally find her performance overrated. She's a limited actress in my opinion and I think people love her more for her sex appeal as well as her "Making Whoopee" scene more then her actual acting, which is good, but not great. I will rewatch of course when I do this year (That could be my next 80's year), but right now, I don't love her like everybody else does.  I think she and Jessica Tandy are almost tied in terms of support, but I think Tandy narrows her out.  Sage picked Pfeiffer and Dinasztie picked Pfeiffer.

Oscar Winner: Jessica Tandy

Overall Winner: Jessica Tandy

Best Actress 1990:   Bates is hands down the overall winner, though I'm one of the few who doesn't love her. Some would go with Huston or maybe Meryl, but none of their supporters are numerous enough to beat Bates.  Sage picked Bates and Dinasztie picked Bates.

Oscar Winner: Kathy Bates

Overall Winner: Kathy Bates

Best Actress 1991:  Despite  the love for Thelma And Louise's Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, Foster's win is highly regarded as one of the best performances in this category. Unlike her win for The Accused, most seem to be unnamious that she deserved it this year.  Sage picked Jodie.

Oscar Winner: Jodie Foster

Overall Winner: Jodie Foster

Best Actress 1992:  A year that is considered rather weak and undiscussed.  Emma's performance is  easy to be considered the overall winner for this year so I'll go with her.  Sage picked McDonnell at first, but then switched to Pfieffer, Alex picked Thompson, and  Dinaztie picked McDonnell.

Oscar Winner: Emma Thompson

Overall Winner: Emma Thompson

Best Actress 1993:   Holly Hunter's win , like Foster's, is largely considered one of the best winners, though Channing and especially Basset have their supporters, but I think Hunter's win is loved by nearly everyone.   Sage picked Hunter, and I picked Hunter.

Oscar Winner:  Holly Hunter

Overall Winner: Holly Hunter

Best Actress 1994:  Another year  that many consider weak.  Despite the fact that many consider Jessica's performance to be over the top and her win to be undeserved, but I do think that she is the overall winner anyway, given none of these nominees are considered amazing.  Alex picked Foster,  and Sage picked Lange.

So, that's it for now! What are your thoughts? Your opinions? Would you disagree with many of the Academy's  Best Actress winners in the 80's?  The 90's years I've covered so far?  Comment!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Rest In Peace

Rest In Peace Phillip Seymour Hoffman, you were a fantastic actor who impressed me so much.  Rest In Peace.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Best Actress Overall Winners: Part 3

On my former blog Oscarfan way back in 2010 , I published a post about  who is the most loved winner nowadays, or the most overall winner. All of the Best Actress nominees in their year have their supporters of course, but there are some years that are barely discussed and one nominee seems to take it all (Or the winner for that matter).  I think it would be fun to delve back into this idea and continue until the more recent years (Although I think the 2010's are too recent to really evaluate this yet). I will start from where I left off all those years ago, with Best Actress 1964. Here's a link to the first post: and a link to the second post:

Best Actress 1964:   When I first started to be active on the internet Oscar world, I was enormously surprised that everyone seems to hate Julie Andrews.  Although now I agree that she isn't quite Oscar-worthy, I think she is quite undeserving of the enormous hate thrown at her. Never the less, she  is certainly not the overall winner.  As for the bloggers around here, Sage picked Stanley and Dinasztie picked Andrews (!).  I think both Stanley and Bancroft have their share of supporters, but if pressed, I'd go with Bancroft.

Oscar winner: Julie  Andrews

Overall Winner:  Anne Bancroft

Best Actress 1965:  Hmm, a difficult one. I would say Andrews, because the performance has become so iconic and beloved. But Elizabeth Hartman and the winner Julie Christie have their share of supporters.   Sage picked Christie, Alex from Alex In Movieland  also picked Christie,  and Fritz picked Elizabeth Hartman. I've also started this year on here, and I plan to finish it up at some point!

Oscar Winner:  Julie Christie

Overall Winner: Julie Andrews.

Best Actress 1966:  Do we even need to ask? Elizabeth Taylor.

Oscar winner: Elizabeth Taylor

Overall winner: Elizabeth Taylor

Best Actress 1967:  Katharine Hepburn won this year and she is one of the most hated winners from this decade.  I didn't think she was terrible, but the role is very thin which makes her efforts underwhelming at best.  All of the other nominees have their strong fanbases, but it's clear that Anne Bancroft gets the most love (Both Fritz and Sage went for her).

Oscar winner: Katharine Hepburn

Overall Winner: Anne Bancroft

Best Actress 1968: Another year where all the nominees have strong fan bases. I'd almost say all of them, but since I'm biased, I'd go with Hepburn as the nominee most people seem to love. Out of all her wins, this is one that is universally loved and decreed as deserving.  (Sage went with Hepburn, and I did as well).

Oscar Winner: Katharine Hepburn And Barbara Streisand

Overall Winner: Katharine Hepburn

Best Actress 1969:  Another incredibly strong year. I think Maggie is the one most people would go for, but Jane rivals her for sure (I went with Smith,  Dinasztie went with Fonda,  Sage went with Liza, and Fritz went with Maggie).

Oscar Winner: Maggie Smith

Overall Winner: Maggie Smith

Best Actress 1970:  Glenda Jackson's win seems to be widely supported in a weak-looking and little discussed year , although Carrie Snodgrasss is praised as well (Sage is the only blogger who's done this year so far and she went with Glenda).

Oscar winner: Glenda Jackson

Overall Winner: Glenda Jackson

Best Actress 1971:  Ah, this is Jane's year for sure.  Although Glenda and Christie have some support, Jane's fans are too crazy to ignore (I'm looking at you Dinasztie!).  Fritz went with Christie, Sage had Fonda at first but then switched to Glenda, and Dinasztie went with Fonda.  I haven't finished this year yet either, so my lips are sealed.

Oscar Winner: Jane Fonda

Overall Winner: Jane Fonda

Best Actress 1972:   Liza is definitely the winner, although I think all the rest have supporters. But in terms of the overall winner, Liza wins clearly here .  Sage and Dinasztie both gave it to Liza, deservedly of course :).

Oscar Winner: Liza Minnelli

Overall Winner: Liza Minnelli

Best Actress 1973: One of the least discussed years ever.  I'm going to say Ellen is the overall winner because she seems to be most people's pick, but Glenda and Barbara have gotten love as well. (Sage picked Glenda, and Dinasztie, it says on your blog you've done this year, but I don't see your ranking, only the profiles?).

Oscar Winner

Overall Winner: Ellen Burstyn.

Best Actress 1974:  I think that Dunaway, Burstyn, and Rowlands all have strong and passionate acclaim from all areas of the Oscar world, but  I think Rowlands gets the most love. Dinasztie picked Rowlands, Sage picked Burstyn, and I picked Rowlands (Although I think I was a bit rushed  with myself and a little inexperienced when I did that year, so I might  re-do  it on here).

Oscar Winner: Ellen Burstyn

Overall Winner:  Gena Rowlands

Best Actress 1975:  A year that's usually considered weak or just undiscussed. Fletcher's win seems loved by most, but she has some detractors as well (Sage, Dinasztie, and myself).  Fritz picked her though, Dinasztie went with Isabelle Adjani, and Sage went with Glenda Jackson.

Oscar Winner: Louise Fletcher

Overall Winner: Louise Fletcher

Best Actress 1976:  Faye won  the Oscar this year, and I would say most agree with that  but I think Sissy and Liv have their supporters too.  I would go with Liv personally, but Faye is fantastic.  Sage picked Faye, but now has Sissy as her winner and Dinasztie went with Spacek.

Oscar Winner: Faye Dunaway

Overall Winner: Faye Dunaway

Best Actress 1977:  Diane Keaton is the clear winner here, and I think it's well deserved, because she certainly is fantastic, and she deserves her iconic status.  Jane and Marsha are liked, but they don't come close to unseating Keaton. Sage  and Alex went with Marsha, me and Dinasztie went with Diane.

Oscar winner:  Diane Keaton

Overall Winner: Diane Keaton

Best Actress 1978: Jane Fonda's win here is the anti-thesis of her win for Klute. Most dislike the performance a great deal, but some like it as well, while with Klute, it's the other way around . I think Ingrid gets the most love, but Jill Clayburg anf even Geraldine Page are well liked too. Sage went with Fonda, Alex and  Dinasztie went with Ingrid.

Oscar Winner: Jane Fonda

Overall Winner: Ingrid Bergman

Best Actress 1979:  Some love Bette Midler here and feel that she was robbed, but Field is loved by so many I feel that her win is considered deserved.

Oscar Winner: Sally Field

So, that's it for now. Best Actress 1980-1994 will be posted soon as well as Best Actress 1995-2012 soon after that.  But what are your thoughts? Who do you think is the most popular nominee from various? Do you think I'm right on with my thoughts or am I completely wrong?  Who are your favorite nominees and winners?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Cate Blanchett received her 6th Oscar nomination for playing Jeanette "Jasmine" Francis in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Sometimes, there's  a performance that seems to be all locked up for the Oscar before any of the awards season starts. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Monique in Precious, and Christopher Plummer in Beginners come to mind.  This year, it look's like it's Cate Blanchett, who has been able to stay buzzed about all season long, not to mention winning  nearly all the critics awards, the Golden Globe, and the SAG for her performance in Blue Jasmine. She's made sure Sandra Bullock  nor anyone else was able to put a wrench in her awards sweep  and unless someone gets a late surge (Even if someone else wins the BAFTA), expect her to win on Oscar night.

Blue Jasmine was a film I did not like when I first saw it. I usually love Woody Allen, but some of his newer pieces have been disappointing and although I thought this was well made and well acted, I couldn't care about or like any of the character's in it. On a rewatch, my opinions changed. I don't think it's a masterpiece or one of Woody's best, but it is still an  entertaining and interesting piece with excellent acting. It's about a woman named Jasmine (Blanchett) whose husband was arrested by the FBI  for banking fraud (This scenario is based off real life Bernie Madoff)and killed himself in jail  shortly after.  Jasmine, left broke and desperate, goes to live with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, who is a recently divorced mother of two who can't get her romantic life under control.  The film follows Jasimine's attempts to try to create a new life for herself and also flashes back to Jasmine's days as a rich, wealthy woman.

Blanchett plays Jasmine with the perfect amount of snobishness and shallowness. Jasmine is a very  selfish   woman who puts on airs about her wealth constantly in order to feel good about herself again and Blanchett plays all of these moments very well.   You can tell that she understands the character perfectly and knows exactly how to execute it.  This might seem  like a calculated performance, but Blanchett makes it all work.

Jasmine is a mess of a character though, and Blanchett wonderfully lets us see her darker, more disturbed side when Jasmine is close to breaking down.  These scenes are deliciously funny to watch, yet also incredibly depressing as well as awkward, and Blanchett plays it all perfectly. She  makes us feel for Jasmine by showing  us glimpses of Jasmine's sadness and anger at her life turning out the way it has. Mind you, I never liked Jasmine, but one can't help but feel sorry for her and her terrible situation.  Her flashback scenes are quite  brilliantly played by her as well: We see Jasmine much more confident, in her element among the rich, glamourous world of New York and we see her selfishness in a different way then how we see it in the beginning. Blanchett also shows us that Jasmine loves her husband very much and has powerful anger at him for the way he is treating her. It's a side of Jasmine that is particularly  interesting, given she is often not assertive an  character in most of her scenes, and Blanchett handles this superbly.  Her chemistry with Sally Hawkins is also terrific: We don't know much about their background, but the two actresses work extremely well together to create a strong relationship between them.  I'm listening to some interviews with her right now, and she talks about working with the tone of Allen's films. Blanchett sets the tone and blends in with the tone of this film wonderfully.

It's a terrific, brilliantly executed performance, but I don't find her to be amazing here. As good as she is and as perfectly as she fits the part (Who else can you picture as Jasmine?), I didn't find that the role was particularly challenging for her, nor did it blow me away. Never the less, Blanchett gives a marvelous performance full of rich  layers  that is extremely effective and carries the film wonderfully. She gets

Best Actress 2013: Amy Adams in American Hustle

Amy Adams received her 5th Oscar nomination (Her first in Best Actress!) for playing Sydney Prosser/Edith Greensly in American Hustle.

When Adams was being touted as the person to bump off Meryl (Or Emma) as the 5th Best Actress nominee this year ,  she seemed to be  gaining a lot of momentum, perhaps enough to unseat Cate at the Oscars. But now I think her  buzz was more  about  snubbing Meryl then about actually winning.  Cate is nearly unstoppable at this point and it would take massive buzz, as well as winning the BAFTA to make Adams the frontrunner.  She'll win someday , but just not yet.

American Hustle is a great film. It's brilliantly directed by David O. Russell and the film is enormously entertaining and filled with such visual detail (Not to mention the music Russell uses!) that it is truly a terrific movie experience. The script's seams do show though: I think it should have been reworked to make all the interactions between the characters make more sense.  The pace of the film is wonderful, but sometimes, you wish it could give the plot time to simmer down a little bit.

Adams plays Sydney Prosser, who we first see as a young woman meeting  Irving (Christian Bale)for the first time.  The first thing that I noticed about this performance is how subtle Adams is.  The rest of the character's get juicy, very dramatic scenes, but Adams uses her face and onscreen presensense to create this character.  It's a beautifully subtle performance that Adams excels in.  She is really playing multiple roles here and the radiance that she brings to Edith is truly  perfect. You can tell that Sydney enjoys the confidence and status that Edith's persona gives her, much more then who she used to be, and Adams injects Edith with so much radiance, magnetism, as well sexiness, not just with her words and actions, but with her body. The way Adams holds herself and all of the ticks that she adds to the character are brilliant.

Adams also shows her strength as a dramatic actress in her scenes with Christian Bale.  Adams is truly fantastic here, making us see her love for him as well how much he makes her feel better about herself. When's she angry with him, wanting him to pay attention to her and wanting her to be happy, she is a force to be reckoned with. Her scenes with Jennifer Lawrence (Who is superb by the way) are truly great to watch  too.

The only problem and perhaps the greatest strength of the performance is this: Her character is a constant enigma.  Is she really in love with Irving or is she manipulating him? Is she in love with Ritchie (Bradley Cooper) or is she really using him for the sake of possibly needing him in the future? Or is she doing it for her own sake? I guess we never really know, even by the end of the film, but Adams make us keep guessing throughout.   It's something that works about the performance, but I also think doesn't work because the script doesn't know what to do with the character at some points, or rather we don't get enough hints about who Sydney Prosser is and what she wants. Her Edith is wonderful and I understand that Sydney is a pathetic character whose playing Edith is really her own way of being confident, but I think that if there had been more scenes with her as Sydney, more chances to develop her background and her truth, that the roles of both Sydney and Edith would have made a lot  more sense. Perhaps Adams could have worked a little harder on bridging the gaps, but I think it is really the script's fault.

It's a very minor complaint though because Adams pulls off a fantastic, beautifully done performance that, to me, is the best she's ever done.  She gets

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Sandra Bullock received her 2nd Oscar nomination for playing Dr. Ryan Stone in Gravity.

Although Cate Blanchett has been far and away the frontrunner for most of the season, Sandra Bullock was considered her strongest competition given the difficulty of the role and the fact that Gravity was such a blockbuster hit that seemed destined to get Oscar attention (Which of course, it did).  But Blanchett has had such a strong lead throughout the season and the SAG was really Bullock's last real chance to knock her off her pedestal. Although we never know until the envelope is opened, I doubt Sandra Bullock's name will be in it. But never say never :).

Anyways, Gravity is certainly one of the best movie experiences of the year. Alfonso Cuaron has made one of the most innovative and gripping movies in a while.  His direction is fantastic and  a win would be very deserving. The amount of fear that I and the rest of the audience had for Bullock and Clooney was the kind of on the edge fear that I haven't felt for a while.  Unfortunately, the script is underwritten and filled with unbelieveable and annoying cliches.  With such a well made film that's focus isn't really plot, I guess it doesn't really matter, but I personally felt the film could have been a masterpiece if it had developed it's plot more and started on earth or developed the characters in space more before plunging straight into the action.

The film is about Dr. Ryan Stone and her crew who are conducting experiments in space until suddenly , pieces of debree from the Russian's fly off and hit them,  leaving many of the crew dead and Bullock (SPOILER ALERT!) eventually told to leave Clooney's character and save herself, which she eventually does.

Sandra Bullock pulls off what is probably her best performance: She beautifully develops her character, having Dr. Ryan Stone go through all the various emotions the film requires to go through, her biggest success being she never relies on the special effects, instead creating a real character.  I could feel the fear and  panic she had when going through space, and I could feel the fear for her as well.  Bullock shows how Ryan has never been the type of person to have been prepared for THIS type of situation and we see Ryan's journey from  being highly  unsure and inexperienced to  having the confidence to pull off finally getting back to earth.  I think her best moments  are when she is all alone in the escape pod, thinking she is going to die and wanting to.  These scenes are kind of Oscar bait scenes, but Bullock plays it so well that it doesn't really matter.  When she finally  decides to go back to earth, Bullock wonderfully shows the strength that Ryan now has, as well as the determination that she has to succeed.

But I don't quite think Bullock is perfection here: The script holds her back in a lot of ways such as the fact that some of the scenes are cliched and as I've said, Oscar baity. We also never get to know hardly anything about Stone's background.  We get vague hints from her discussions with Clooney (Whose charascter is totally unbelievable, BTW), but we never really know who this woman is. Which is a pity, because  Bullock could have been amazing.

But what Sandra Bullock does in the part is certainly great work and I don't want to disregard any of it. She gives a powerfully emotional performance which is able to rise above  the trap of being totally held by the script and she gets

Monday, January 20, 2014

Best Actress 2013


   The next Best Actress year I will be doing is, low and behold, this year's race,  2013 and the nominees are :

Amy Adams in American Hustle

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Judi Dench in Philomena

Meryl Streep in August Osage County

So, who do you predict?  Who do you think will be my winner? Will I go with the frontrunner or with any of these other actresses? What do you think my ranking will be?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 78 Oscars: A Look Back

So, to shake things up a little bit from the constant awards tracking, I've decided to look back at one of the most controversial Oscars in history.  I  love doing these and expect more in the future.  

Best Picture:  Before the Oscars, Brokeback Mountain won everything:  The Golden Globe, The Critics Choice Award, DGA, PGA, BAFTA, and countless other critics awards.  But a film called Crash, which came out in May but still had solid support from audiences and key critics (Ebert And Roeper, among others) was able to get 6 Oscar nominations and bested Brokeback at the SAG's for Best Ensemble Cast, making many believe it to be the only film that could  beat it on Oscar night. But given the film's brilliant ensemble cast and also that this was a hugely actor based film, pundits didn't think much of it.  But when Jack Nicholson  opened the envelope, it wasn't Brokeback that was in it. It was Crash.  I was shocked as everybody else in the world was that it wasn't Brokeback. as mentioned above, it won everything. How could it lose?  Firstly, I think people didn't notice that there was not a lot of passion amongst people in regards to Brokeback Mountain. Despite all of it's wins, I doubt that people were so moved and shaken by the film given it's slowness and overall somber tone. It's certainly heartbreaking, but it isn't moving  or gut-wrenching like Crash is. That's the other reason: Crash riveted people and that's the reason it won.  It reaches inside us and moves us by the end.  I personally love the film, although I admit it's coincidences are a bit unbelievable towards the third act of the film, but that's a minor complaint.  As for the homophobia angle, I can't lie and say that I think homophobia wasn't a reason in SOME voters minds. The Academy is largely  older and comprised of males, so it could have played a part in the reasons why it won, but they could have voted for G.A.G.L or Munich or even Capote (Although that has homosexuality in it too). But as I've said,  it was the lack of passion for Brokeback as well as the support  for and the quality of Crash  that put it over the top. One of the most deserving Best Picture wins.  

Best Director:  Unlike Best Picture, this was always a slam dunk for Ang Lee.  Brokeback was considered to be a great achievement and Ang Lee had made such great films in the last 10 years that people thought that it was time to honor him.  I'm guessing Haggis was the runner up given the fact Crash won Best Picture, but maybe George Clooney picked up a few votes?  

Best Actor:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a big lock here and he deserved it.  At the time, people thought Heath Ledger could take it, but his work was too subtle to triumph over Hoffman. Joquain Phoenix was most likely third but I think voters felt a win for Witherspoon would be enough to honor them both.    However, I think Hoffman won by a landslide given the quality of his work and the fact that they wanted to spread the wealth and honor Capote somewhere.  Straitharin and Howard were not contenders.

Best Actress:  Reese Witherspoon won the majority of the critics prizes and the Musical/Comedy Globe, but when Huffman won at the Globes as well, I'm sure people thought that it would be a two horse race between them.  Although I agree that Huffman was second, I think, like Hoffman, Witherspoon won by a landslide given her wins at SAG and BAFTA, as well as Walk The LIne's immense popularity. It was the most sucessful and widely seen film by far of the five nominees. Felicity Huffman gave a great performance, one that should have won, but Transamerica was widely under the radar at the Oscars.  And Witherspoon was showing unexpected range and depth as well as doing her own singing, although I honestly find neither to be overly impressive. I'm guessing Dench was third, given their love of her, and Theron and Keira were last.  

Best Supporting Actor:  This was one of the only times in  the mid to late 2000's that Best Supporting Actor was actually a somewhat open race.  Alan Arkin's win aside, the winners in that period were all sure things. Excluding Waltz,  the rest of the winners in the 2010's were all locks too. This year though was a race  between SAG  winner Paul Giamatti and Golden Globe and eventual Oscar winner George Clooney. I think voters wanted to honor Clooney somewhere. His work on Good Night And Good Luck must have impressed them a lot and he'd been loved in Hollywood for so long that the Academy wanted to finally give him an Oscar.  As for Giamatti, I think Cinderella Man was an absolute  flop  and there wasn't much going for him besides his SAG win. I think the Actor's branch may have  liked him, but the rest of the branches gave Clooney overwhelming support. I think Gyllenhaal and Dillon had equal chances at winning, although I'd say that Gyllenhaal might have had a little more  going for him, given his BAFTA win, but it just wasn't likely for either of them. William Hurt winning was highly unlikely.   

Best Supporting Actress: An interesting race this year for sure. I think Rachel Weisz won because of her wins at G.G and the SAG.   Probably the thing that made voters rally  around her performance is that that her role is the largest out of all them.  I don't know if she has the most screen-time (if anybody does, tell me!), but her character  has  the largest impact on  her film film by far out of any of these nominees, so much that one could consider her a lead (i do not not, but I get the legitimacy of the argument, although I personally would say she's supporting). I'd say the runner up was Amy Adams who was a fresh breakout star who could have been the surprise  winner this year, but I think not enough voters saw Junebug  to put her over the top. Michelle Williams was most likely third and she could have been Brokeback's best shot at an acting  win, but her role is too subtle and also too unimportant to win the award.   Keener and  especially McDormand had no chance.   

Best Orignal Screenplay: Crash won here, and it was an obvious win given it's precursor awards and that pundits thought that it was here where the Academy would honor it. I'd say Goodnight And Good Luck was the runner up, although I guess Squid And The Whale could have gotten some votes too. 

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Brokeback Mountain was a sure thing here as well, although if there was an upset, I would say Capote would have won. It's a great adaptation and a win would have been very deserving.  

P.S: I usually post my picks for these as well, but I need to see some of the other nominees and rewatch a lot from this year so I decided to not post them quite yet. Tell me yours below though! What are your thoughts? Picks and preferences? Do you hate Crash just as much as everybody else does?  Or is it Witherspoon's win that grates on you the most?  Do you like Brokeback and Crash, but prefer one of the other nominees?  What did you think, LOL, of It's Hard Out here For A Pimp winning Best  Original Song?