Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1998

About the field: Three totally forgettable works and two brilliant performances. 1998 was not a very balanced year in terms of greatness. The field is worth not more than 3 Meryls, however if we see the individual performances, we can see that actually, this race was very colorful. We can find many characters: a monarch, a poetic young girl, a lonely woman, a cancer-stricken mum and a musician. Not all the performances were great, but I actually liked all the movies except for One True Thing. In the case of this year, the decision was much easier (Gosh, I'm still a bit sour about Carey Mulligan) and probably even obvious for me. Actually, this was the ranking that I imagined at the very beginning. So here it is:

5. Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
This is a performance of which I did not have a very high opinion and I still don't, but I managed to like or at least appreciate it. In the last 20 minutes she was utterly charming and lovable, probably what she should have been during the whole movie. I'm not saying this is Oscar material but not bad anyway.

4. Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
She mostly gives the same performance she did in Breaking the Waves in a more subtle way. From a mediocre actress, this would have been a terrific achievement. However, we must NOT forget that this is Emily Watson, an amazing talent and therefore you can understand why I was so disappointed with this performance.

3. Meryl Streep in One True Thing
This performance was probably not as bad as it might seem to be from my review, yet I was just very-very disappointed as this is probably the weakest performance I've ever seen from Meryl Streep. I really hoped for something heartbreakingly sad, but never reall got what I wanted. Too bad for her.

2. Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
The perfect example of "in another year".The best thing about this performance is probably Blanchett's magnetic and flaming on-screen presence, which is so strong, that she does not only commands the screen, she becomes a true dictator or if you like it, a queen with absolute power.
Amazing work by an amazing talent.

1. Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
This performance is so indescribable as it relies mostly on emotions, so you cannot really get it across unfortunately. I thought that would not impress me that muchi but I was truly wrong. She does not only break your heart and makes you feel sorry for the character, but also lets you know the regrets, desires, thoughts of this person. Totally mesmerizing, beautiful performance for the ages.

So I can proudly announce 
that my winner for this year is,
Fernanda Montenegro 
in Central Station

I have already chosen my next year (which I won't begin until next Thursday unfortunately) and I give some clues so that you can find out:
  • a winner with a horrible personal life
  • a nominee who's a member of a legendary comedy couple
  • Britain rules
  • a foreign nominee
  • one of the LEAST talked about races ever (if not the one)
These clues might be misleading, so think twice and don't think about the most obvious one.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station

Fernanda Montenegro became the first Brazilian actress ever to be nominated for an Academy Award and she was the dark horse to win the award. In Central Station she plays Dora, the lonely, retired schoolteacher who writes letters for illiterate people, but never sends them. Once she meets a woman whose letter she also does not post, however when the woman dies she feels guilty and helps her son find his father he's never seen.

Central Station is a moving, beautiful movie about the friendship of an aging woman and a little boy. We can say that it's a road-movie, however we don't get to know the country, the movie rather focuses on their relationship, starting from dislike, ending in a beautiful friendship. This movie definitely desereved Best Foreign Language Film, which is probably the category where the Academy makes its worst decisions nowadays. The actors give truly honest, loveable performances, which is very rare. They benefit a lot from the realistic and precise screenplay. And I must also add how beautiful the score is.

Fernanda Montenegro is on a whole different level though. It takes a very special not English-speaking performance to be nominated for an Oscar (in 1999 they were in the right mood as Roberto Benigni won for his Italian-speaking overacting in Life is Beautiful) and Montenegro does not only give a very special performance, she simply blows you away with her emotional honesty and she's brutally realistic, especially in the scenes where she tries to hold the truck driver's hands (and in the scene which comes afterwards), she's so indescribably heartbreaking, that you'll never see something so realistic in an American movie.

When we first see her, we immediately think that she's a grumpy old spinster, but she adds real depth to her cahracter. Unlike Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth, she did not have the most baity role, yet she was able to show just as much strength. Dora is a very simple woman, but we can see that she longs for a better life, she wants to be young again. The weight of her regrets is so heavy that the screen nearly blows and so does your heart when you see her. She's not loveable at all, yet we feel immediate sympathy for her and we root for her and care about what happens to her.

I must also add that her scenes with the little boy, Josué are far from soappy or sentimental, they are all very lovely, humorous and realistic. Their chemistry is brilliant and they work miraculously well together. They have the most unusual friendship and conversations full of humor and love. They do well with the comedy inside this heavy and harrowing drama (for example I loved the hliarious shoplifting scene or when they talk about sleeping naked). Montenegro deals with everything in this part with brilliance, great subtlety and dignity. She makes us understand that Dora is esentially a good and caring person, she's just doing inapproriate things because of money. And I almost forgot to tell about brilliance when she's talking about her father and their relationship. Those scenes are probably the highlights of her performance. Not to mention when she reads a letter to Josué's family. At one point, I almost broke down from her gutwrenching greatness.

I have so much to say, but this performance is so indescribable as it relies mostly on emotions, so you cannot really get it across unfortunately. I thought that it would not impress me that much but I was truly wrong. She does not only break your heart and makes you feel sorry for the character, but also lets you know the regrets, desires, thoughts of this person. She lets you in her mind and you don't want to leave her. Totally mesmerizing, beautiful performance for the ages.

This rating seems so low for her, but whatsoever. :)

If you want to see a surprise, just click here.

So what did you feel about Montenegro? Do you agree with me? I'm greedy today so I would like to see MANY comments. What are your predictions for the final outcome?

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth

Fabulous Cate Blanchett received her first nomination for playing the legendary queen of England, Elizabeth I, which is one of the most brilliant roles that an actress get ever get (just see which actresses played her). However, in Elizabeth we don't see the strong and merciless queen until the very end of the movie, we rather get to know an inconfident girl who has to deal with the unexpected responsibility, the possibility of marriage, vicious enemies and above all, a ruined and weak England.

Elizabeth is a brilliantly made movie of rarely seen quality. The technical part of the movie is one-of-a-kind and simply breathtaking. The editing, the cinematography, the art direction, the costumes and the catchy music are really impressive. However, the best thing about Elizabeth is the unforgettable acting ensemble. Geoffrey Rush should have received a nom for his role as Sir Walsingham (instead of Shakespeare in Love). His performance is very subtle and simply great. Joseph Fiennes gives a reliable, good performance and so does Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud and so on.

Yet, this movie is the one-woman show of Cate Blanchett, playing her first significant role. Although she was not a big star at all at the time, she had as much confidence as she has today. She shows every possible face of Elizabeth, making her a truly unique, exciting character, one you care about, but never truly like. She masterfully deals with all the emotions and knows exactly well what the audience can handle at the time.

In her frist scene, we see a naive young girl dancing and having fun with her friends. We can almost touch her fear and desperartion, but also her courage in the scenes when she's sent to prison and after all the dignity which she handles her new state with. We can feel that this woman will be a great monarch, but Blanchett perfectly show how immature Elizabeth is at the beginning and how much she lacks self-confidence.

The best thing about this performance is probably Blanchett's magnetic and flaming on-screen presence, which is so strong, that she does not only commands the screen, she becomes a true dictator or if you like it, a queen with absolute power. It's so marvellous, that Cate Blanchett also transforms as her character develops. Blanchett plays her in many different ways, she never repeats herself, her talent flows like a river. I can't think about any other performance which is as strong as Blanchett in Elizabeth.

And I also love that she puts very much humor and irony into this performance, I especially loved her bitchy one-liners, despite the fact that I am not a big fan of on-screen bitchiness. And Blanchett also nails it. If I had to pick the higlight of this performance, I cannot really think about one. Her whole thing is the highlight, but if I really had to choose one, it would be probably her monologue about how religion divided England. It's not a coincidence that it was her Oscar clip as it was just breathtaking. However, her breakdowns are also worth mentioning.

It's interesting that although this performance is loved and respected by nearly everyone, and almost nobody likes her in the sequel. I also loved her in that one, but that's a different story. We just have to agree that in Elizabeth, she's not a dynamite, she's a nuclear bomb.

So, to sum up, I got the performance I've been waiting, hoping, praying for. This year has been so weak so far and it was so refreshing to see breathtaking, gutwrenching, tearjerking, exciting and dignified acting on screen. Excellent work by an amazing talent.
Were you also this amazed by great Cate or you simply despised her? Tell me in your comments that I am EAGER to read.

There's only Fernanda Montenegro left, whom I watch in about two hours. I reveal the results on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Meryl Streep in One True Thing

Meryl Streep received her eleventh nomination for playing Kate, a perfect housewife with a beautiful family. However, things get a little darker when she turns out to suffer from cancer. Soon her carrerist daughter, Ellen (Renée Zellweger) has to take care of her and their distance becomes true love, they become very close and naturally, Ellen finds out that family is very important and it's very difficult to be responsible for a household.

One True Thing is a very dull cancer drama from the 90s. It has absolutly no depth or reality in it, it's full of clichés, "moving moments", Christmas and piano music. It's not able to deal with cancer properly (very-very few movies can) and throughout the movie I constantly thought Terms of Endearment part 2 - The reverse or Marvin's Room - Another family tragedy. It has absolutely no credibility and you should see Cries and Whispers to see a great movie about the effects of cancer both emotionally and phisically. William Hurt gives a so-so performance in the one-note role of the husband. However, Reneé Zellweger gives a very decent performance as the true lead of the movie, Ellen (would have deserved a nom more).

And marvellous Meryl here is simply Meryl. My most reasonable argument against this nomination is that her role is not really the lead of the movie and leans much more towards supporting. She's there between the fights of Zellweger and Hurt, cries, shows dignity, says a monologue and leaves. Her role is just like the one of Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room: it lacks every credibility or depth. With the exception, that you don't get as close to her as you got to Keaton (who was not at the top of her game either).

Despite this, the beginning of her performance is very well-done. She's the very happy housewife preparing for the birthday of her husband, her vitality and lust can be extremeily well felt and these are probably the only scenes where we can say that "yes, this is Meryl Streep". She solved the first scenes of her disease decently, but I don't really know where this performance loses everything. As the disease of Kate becomes more serious, Meryl goes more and more downhill.

But this is not only Meryl's fault. The screenplay is horrible and although it offers tear-jerking monologues and scenes for Meryl, the creation of a true character was not at all successful. Kate is so one-note and clichéd, it's the typical smiling housewife, baking cookies, doing charities and so on. The fact is, that in her scenes with her daughter, there's no conflict seen, even though there should be som real emotion between them (I did not even dare dream about tension) .

Although the Christmas scene is very sentimental with Meryl singing Silent Night, she's able to do it in a very subtle way, so I was satisfied with that scene. However, towards the end, her gigantic breakdowns are so far from what Meryl usually does that I was certainly surprised. She breaks the plates in her anger, which is illogical from this character and does not fit the story in general.

When I read comments about this movie, I saw the most of the people were truly moved by this it and Meryl, yet personally I felt nothing. I was even more neutral than in the case of Emily Watson. I knew and felt that this was a horrible thing, but I just did not feel anything unfortunately. Too bad, as I really hoped for something heartbreakingly sad.

To sum up, I was disappointed once again unfortunately and this was certainly more shocking than in the other cases (as we're talking about Meryl Streep). However, to tell the truth, Meryl gave her weakest performances in the 90s (and received the worst noms too) and this thing lasted until Adaptation, where she found herself again, I guess. Nevertheless, this performance was not as bad as it might seem to be from this review, yet I was just very-very disappointed. Too weak from Meryl.

What do you think? What are your prediction for the final results? :) I need comments. :)

Anyway, Happy Birthday Meryl! :) This review was not a great way to celebrate, but she won my award for 2009, so that's my gift. XD

Monday, June 21, 2010

Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie

British actress Emily Watson received her second Academy Award nomination for playing Jacqueline du Pré, the tortured music legend and woman. Jackie's immense talent is discovered when she's a child and soon becomes a celebrated musician travelling around the world, while her sister Hilary (Rachel Griffith) settles down and raises children. Although they have conflicts, Hilary always tries to provide Jackie with the love and attention she requires, even though as a child Hilary was considered to be more talented and the future musician.

Hilary and Jackie is a solid movie about the complex relationship of these two women through the years. The other members of the family are barely mentioned, the movie focuses on the girls, especially Jackie, who's the true lead of the movie. Rachel Griffith gives a fine, subtle performance in the co-leading role of Hilary, the supportive and loving sister. Contrary to a lot of people, in my opinion it was a wise decision to nominate her supporting (the best of that category, Beverly D'Angelo in American History X was not even nominated). A win would have been to much though.

After her famed first role in Breaking the Waves, Emily Watson got the chance to play another baity role as the mentally unstable Jackie suffering from multiple sclerosis. Emily Watson is a great actress with immense talent (as she proved it in Breaking the Waves), in this movie however is not in her best form. She mostly gives the same performance she did in Breaking the Waves in a more subtle way, and this is quite a big problem as there are not many similarities between the two characters.

In her first scene she's playing the chello, smiling. In the very first scene I found her to be a bit lifeless and boring, I was actually very suprised that I was watching Emily Watson. I desperately wanted her to give some life to this character and finally she was able to (in time). The whole movie focuses on her, even the part which should be about her sister. Despite all these things, I thought that Rachel Griffith gave a superior but not nearly as showy performance as Watson. I felt sympathy for her, however Watson does not let us like this character or feel sorry for her and this is in a way the right thing to do, still somehow the viewer mustn't be neutral towards the lead.

The highlight and probably the best part of her performance is probably when she visits her sister. Watson nails those scene to a degree and she becomes very impressive sometimes. Her naked breakdown scene is great and shows the unstable mind of this character very well, even though it's just like Breaking the Waves, which wasn't much of a problem in those scenes.

However, I must admit that in a strange way, I still liked this performance. I liked that she showed that this woman is a sort of manipulative person with huge breakdowns. Still I could never decide if she was jealous of her sister or not. Because if you wait for a conflict or a catfight like in The Turning Point (oh that's a horrible movie), you will be disappointed. Fortunately, the conflicts in this movie are handled with dignity and subtlety. You can see how desperately this woman loves her sister and deeply in her soul she wants themselves to be five years old, playing. Watson captured Jackie's desires and insecurities quite well.

From a mediocre actress, this would have been a terrific achievement, because of this, my rating won't be very low. However, we must NOT forget that this is Emily Watson, an amazing talent and you can understand why I was so disappointed with this performance. As I am writing this review and think about it, I like it much less than I did when I was watching her. The definition of disappointment for me, I expected so much more.

What do you think?

P.S. I know I'm writing these reviews kinda fast, but I have to finish it until Thursday.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love

Gwyneth Paltrow received her only nomination and won the Oscar, for playing Viola de Lesseps, a young girl, who's dreaming about becoming an actor and soon gets the part of Romeo in William Shakespeare's (Joseph Fieness) brand new play, Romeo and Juliet and she also becomes romantically involved with the famed author and player, however she's forced to marry the humorless Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) as she has to obey her parents and the Queen (Judi Dench).

Shakespeare in Love is a witty and and entertaining romantic comedy, which is widely hated because it won the Oscar over Saving Private Ryan, still I loved it because of some memories and also because I find it a very good and enjoyable movie, which wasn't necessarily deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. I admit though that it requires a special mood and you cannot always enjoy it (when I rewatched it yesterday I wasn't that impressed either). The music is probably the best thing about it, the screenplay is colorful, witty and smart and the comedy part is OK. Just like the actors, who give solid performances and only the always brilliant Judi Dench stands out, but when doesn't she?

Last time you read anything I wrote (a line) about Gwyneth Paltrow on this blog, it wasn't much of a praise and I kind of regret it, because it just wasn't that fair to say. Gwyneth Platrow is actually a talented and charming performer, who can give very good performances and who's also a very good comedienne (see Iron Man for proof). Just like in the case of Carey Mulligan, she was often compared to Audrey Hepburn at the time (well mainly by the campaign of Harvey Weinstein), which I really don't understand. Paltrow has a totally different personality from Hepburn, she acts in a very different way and they don't even look like each other. This role might be a little like Princess Ann in Roman Holiday. A rich girl who does not enjoy and would rather be with normal people. Roughly, this is the only comparision.

The first time we see Paltrow on scene, she's just laughing charmingly and then whispering the lines of Shakespeare rather awkwardly. We see that she's a girl who's a true dreamer and this is probably too exaggerated in the screenplay and Paltrow could not really handle this. She could either take the role a 100% seriously or emphasise the humor and be a bit ironic, a charicature of Juliet from the play. She wants them both and the two things mix weirdly and the result is being plain and a bit boring.

As this performance is by no means bad, it's only a bit watered and uninteresting. But it's not only the fault of Paltrow, as she's not provided with a very complicated and interesting role and she does not have the opportunity to truly shine. Or there was actually an opportunity but she could not use it. I cannot decide it though.

She also gets the classic comic role of a crossdresser, because in order to become a player Viola has to pretend that she's a man. In the role of Thomas Kent, she's quite good and funny, she brilliantly caught the clumsiness of this young girl who has to act like a man. The way she speaks or walk are both (limitedly) funny, meaning that you are amused by it at first, but then you get nothing special out of it.

However, I have to admit that in the very last scenes she reaches greatness and she even moved me. She perfectly solved her last scene with Shakespeare, which had many traps but she managed to avoid all of them. In the last 20 minutes she was utterly charming and lovable, probably what she should have been during the whole movie and is probably the reason why I give her this rating.

So to sum up, this is a performance of which I did not have a very high opinion and I still don't, but I managed to find like or appreciate. I'm not saying this is Oscar material but not bad anyway. So see my brand new rating system:

Definitely stronger 3 than Sandra Bullock's.

So what do you think? Do you agree?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The next year...

I have to wait until 1995 to get Dead Man Walking (last time I saw I borrowed it from the school library, but now there's no school), but I figured that I could do another year until then and I decided that it would be...


And the nominees were:
  • Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
  • Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
  • Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love*
  • Meryl Streep in One True Thing
  • Emily Watson in Hillary and Jackie
So who do you predict to win? Who do you want to win?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 2009

We finally got to the end of our reviewed first year, 2009. Actually, many say that this was a truly weak, and of course giving five stars to four performances means that I was deeply satisfied with this year's nominees and had any of the members of my top 3 won, I also would have been satisfied. These ladies prove that you can give a stellar performance no matter what. Stone-cold sober I find these women fascinating (Whom did I quote?:D). Gosh this decision was so painful as I feel really sorry for #2 (especially her) and #3, but in time one of them might become my pick. This is just how I feel at the moment. But I won't let the suspense go on, let's just jump to the ranking:

5. Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Although Bullock suffers from an awful screenplay, a predictable movie and a terrible cast, she was still able to give a decent, but not brilliant performance, which was definitelyworthy of winning the Oscar, but was able to save a movie from being a total disaster with the help of Bullock's charm.

4. Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Although I used to way too generous in my rating, I am still very shocked how much people dislike Dame Helen in The Last Station. As Sofya Tolstoya, she was able to give a fine performance which is unfortunately not for everyone (and this might be its biggest flaw), but still amazed me.

3. Gabourey Sidibe in Precious
This is a devastating, moving and heartbreaking piece of work, which is not without flaws, though. Despite Sidibe's inexperience, her performance truly speaks for itself and one just cannot get across Sidibe's greatness, which I hope to see very often in the future.

2. Carey Mulligan in An Education
Mulligan solves everything with grace and amazing naturality, I can't say enough times how great she really is. To sum up, this is a beautiful and really memorable performance by a rising beauty and star, who's sure to become a marvellous and acclaimed actress

1. Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia
Had the movie been only about Julia (and hadn't it been for that dreadful It's Complicated which ruined her chances) Meryl would have easily won her third. She did not, but again she gifted us with a performance which is truly-truly unforgettable and top-class. I felt lucky that I saw her and could experience her greatness.

So I announce that my winner for this year is...
Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia
Bon appétit! Viva Meryl!.

So what do you think about my reviews? Should I go on doing this or am I completely awful? Do you agree with my ranking or do you say Bullock deserved to win? You can also suggest years I should do next, and I tell if it's possible (I have a plan too) .

Friday, June 18, 2010

Carey Mulligan in An Education

Rising talent and future Academy Award winner Carey Mulligan received her first nomination for playing Jenny, a very clever English schoolgirl, who plans to go to Oxford, but eventually falls in love with a much older, but charming man, who turns out to be different from what she thought. Jenny is an well-written character with not as many opportunities as one would think, however Carey Mulligan was able to charm audiences and critics, who often called her the next Audrey Hepburn. After all this is a star-is-born performance with all of its advantages and disadvantages.

An Education is a fairy enjoyable, but also a tiny bit clichéd movie about the 60s and although it seems as if the Organization of Teachers ordered it, you can get something out of it and is worth watching mostly because of the excellent performances of the cast. And here I must underline the performances of Rosamund Pike and Alfred Molina who truly stand out even in the shadow of our rising star. The screenplay is also well-written and of good quality, even though it's a bit conventional.

I really don't get the comparison with Audrey Hepburn as this performance is quite different from what Hepburn did in her movies and also they don't really look like each other. The only common thing between them is probably the subtlety and grace with which they handle their characters. Mulligan created a breathing, truly living character, which cannot be compared to anything we've ever seen. A great actor is known for being unique, and Mulligan has a lot of potential and possibilities to become a leading star.

The first time I saw An Education, I wasn't that impressed by Mulligan as I found nothing challenging or hard about her role. But time has proven me wrong and I was simply mesmerized this time. She handles this character with the dignity of a queen, simply like a great and experienced actress. The way she catches the insecurities of this young girl, the embarassed little giggling, the joy she feels when she gets introduced to this new world. It's actually a fascinating character study, done very wisely and confidently. Actually, it takes some time to completely warm up to it, however, it's still an amazing feat.

Even in the first scenes, we see a hard-working, blooming young girl having a plain and boring life in the 60s. And her transformation could be compared to flowering. Mulligan slowly, but (again) confidently shows all the dimensions of this exciting character which seems one dimensional at first sight. However it is really-really three dimensional, real person.

And again she immediatly wins our simpathy. I was so moved and shocked when I saw the scene when she knows the whole truth. It's probably as close to cathartic as a performance can be. Mulligan's star power can be seen so easily, you really think that this girl was born to do this role. Not to mention the humor she also puts into this performance: Jenny is an ironic girl, but Mulligan never exaggerates this, she perfectly finds the balanced.

Contrary to Gabby Sidibe, here I did not feel that this is her first serious role. Mulligan solves everything with grace and amazing naturality, I can't say enough times how amazing she really is. As I'm going towards the end of this review, I can get the comparison with Audrey Hepburn and I even go further and don't send me to hell immediately: Mulligan's going to be an even better actress as she relies her acting chops way more than her charm.

So, to sum up, this is a terrific, beautiful and even poetic performance by a rising beauty. Who's sure to become a marvellous and acclaimed actress. Fantastic.

Now, we have got to the end. The final conclusion is due tomorrow. I hope you're excited and I'm eager to see your predictions of my ranking. I'm not very sure about it either. :)

Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

Academy Award Queen Meryl Streep received her record-breaking 16th nomination for playing Julia Child (and lost it to Sandra Bullock, God Almighty!), the legendary American chef, who basically taught America how to cook like the French do. She's tall with a funny voice, she's full of joy and independance, and is a person who enjoys life as much as she can along with her husband with whom she has the most beautiful relationship. Actually this character is so marvellous in every possible way and Streep uses every opportunity to shine.

Julie and Julia is a very entertaining and enjoyable comedy about realtionships, food, love and joy. I've seen it several times, but enjoyed as much as I did for the first time. Stanley Tucci gives a nomination-worthy performance as Paul Child, the supportive husband. His scenes with Meryl are probably this movie's greatest moments. Amy Adams and Chris Messina are decent in their no too inetersting storyline, however, if there's Meryl Streep in a movie, then you can easily realize that it's all about her.

Meryl Streep is masterful in every possible way: she nails the technical part of this performance so well, that in my opinion it's also convincing for the sceptical people. She has the voice and the accent. In fact she's so good with these accents, that it's no wonder Geraldine Page asked the question ironically if Meryl could speak normally.

It's the technical part you admire first in a Meryl Streep performance, still in this movie for me it wasn't about her faces, but mainly about her joyeous spirit. She captured Julia's soul so thrillingly, actually the real life person and Meryl become one and you can't decide what's real. Only with her first scenes she simply made my heart melt like butter, she's so... cute. Actually I don't have many other words for her first scene than cute. If I said Sandra Bullock had charm, than Meryl has gigaübercharm. And her laugh is so indescribably sweet and funny.

Meryl also nails the very few dramatic scenes and handles them with great ease. That crying scene was extremely dangerous, she easily could have ruined that scene, but she knew exactly well when to hold herself back. Some say that scene is bad and useless and in a way I agree (it did not really happen in real life, that was fiction), however I think Meryl solved this little problem quite well.

And of course, the humor department. It's so delicious, subtle and lovely, which is I guess mostly due to Meryl and Tucci. I especially loved her scenes with Jane Lynch, which were simply hilarious (especially the one in front of the mirror). But I must also mention Meryl's brilliant line readings, the way she say "surprised" is so funny. I actually did not mind that Meryl's performance emphasised the comedy and humor of this beautiful character.

And another question came to my mind? Who else could've played this role other than Meryl Streep? Julia Child is a character Meryl was born to do. I read somewhere that Sigourney Weaver would have been better, I doubt it, just because Sigourney is also tall, she's completely different from Julia.

Nevertheless, had the movie been only about Julia (and hadn't it been for that dreadful It's Complicated which ruined her chances) Meryl would have easily won her third. She did not, but again she gifted us with a performance which is (again) definitely not for everyone. But I felt lucky that I saw her and could experience her brilliance. Thank you!

Carey Mulligan's next and after her comes the Conclusion and my ultimate, final pick for 2009 Best Actress. I'm excited and enjoy this thing very much.

Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Fresh face Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress for her role as the illiterate, but smart abused girl in Precious, and was the dark horse for the Best Actress prize, which she lost to Sandra Bullock. However her Best Picture nominated movie won two awards for Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Although she lost, she now has terrific opportunities to show her talent again and to prove that she was not one-role-wonder.

Precious is a quite overdirected movie with some terrific moments and some really shining actors. The screenplay doesn't scream Oscar to me actually as I find it a bit unbalanced and clichéd. However, it's the terrific acting performances of Gabby Sidibe and Mo'Nique that makes it being worth watching. In my opinion (and I'm not alone on this one), Mo'Nique gives one of the greatest supporting performances ever, winning a much deserved Oscar which nobody would have believed, say, three years ago. But Gabby Sidibe was even more surprising as we did not know anything about this girl, who might become a true star or disappear in a couple of years.

You can see perfectly well that this is the first role Gabby has ever played. She has much to learn about the technical part, however she's masterful with the emotional part. From the moment we see Precious, we feel sympathy for her (instantly) and it's simply heartbreaking to see her fight and difficulities. As Precious she's so realistic that it's no wonder people think that she's actually just like Precious. There's nothing wrong with the credibility, we can always feel and see the pain of this character, but Sidibe also fills her with hope.

Narration is not the best thing you can do in a movie, still Sidibe handles them with such naturality and ease that you are simply amazed and (or at least me) speechless. And her case is not very easy as she has to be impressive with the tour-de-force performance of Mo'Nique, who's truly brilliant. But instead of outacting each other and stealing the spotlight, they co-opearte so well, that in their scenes they both stand out.

Gabourey Sidibe is also brilliant in the very few funny scenes and she knows perfrectly well how and when to use her humor, when to hold herself back and when to show what. However, this brilliance could seem a bit sterile (like I felt when I first saw her), but once you warm up to her, she instantly gets your guts and does not let you.

And her big scene where she reveals a terrible secret of ehrs to the class is simply just mindblowing and it's very hard even for the most stone-hearted person not to cry or at least sob. We get so many emotions right in our faces, it's simply exploding and you just can't to anything and you don't understand your own feeling. This emotional avalanche is probably the highlight of the performance and is probably one of the most heartbreaking scenes I've ever seen.

It's no wonder she's often compared to Whoopi Goldberg's legendary performance as Celie in The Color Purple. The characters are very similar and they both have this naturality and realism which is rarely seen on the silver screen. I hope though that Sidibe will not end up being a talk show host, and I think she definitely has the potential to win an Oscar (if she gets another right part). No matter what, I'm rooting for her career.

OK, to sum up, this is a devastating, moving and heartbreaking piece of art, which could become the part of the history of movies. It truly speaks for itself and one just cannot get across Sidibe's brilliance. The rating is easy and definitely not surprising.

Meryl's next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock received her first nomination and won the Little Golden Guy for playing Leigh Anne Touhy, a conservative, rich and controlling Southern woman adopting a homless black boy, who turns out to be a real sport talent. And naturally Leigh Anne offers everything she can until the very-very surprising and shocking ending (kidding).

The Blind Side is a rather dumb movie and when I realised that it was nominated for Best Picture I was incredibly shocked and furious. I could understand Sandra's nomination but the movie itself was way behind it's competition. I guess Bullock's popularity led the movie to the nomination. The screenplay is so sentimental and unrealistic, that it makes it truly hard to believe that this is actually a true story. I don't want to be cynical, but this is a true American (male) cinderella story, the rich men's Precious. The acting is also so-so at best, except for the always reliable Sandra Bullock (and maybe Kathy Bates in her brief role).

Now, if you think that I'm gonna say as many bad things about Sandra Bullock as I can, then you can easily be wrong. I would not say that she's talented, but has a natural charm and in my opinion was born to become a rom-com queen. For example, she almost does miracles with these movies, see The Proposal, While You Were Sleeping or Miss Congeniality. These are entertaining, relaxing flicks, which are perfect on a Sunday evening on TV or on a hot summer day in a cold movie theatre. However, this defintitely DOESN'T equal an Oscar. At least not with me.

Yet, most of the problems of this performance are due to the previously mentioned terrible screenplay. Nobody could be able to give life to those cheesy and corny lines, nobody could have been brilliant with such bad actors (except for Kathy Bates of course) and the lame directing. So we can say actually that Sandra saves this movie for being a disaster, but she doesn't give enough to make this movie great. I have the same feeling when I watch her that I felt while watching Loretta Young in The Farmer's Daughter. Some great moments, but the whole thing is more of mediocore.

The directing does not help her either. In her first scene, we see her yelling with her exaggerated Southern accent (it gets a bit softer as the movie goes on) and you immediately resist this performance. It begins as annoying and if you don't watch it at least twice (I know it's a torture), you will hardly find anything to like in her. But since I'm crazy and a real Oscar nerd, I have seen this movie three times and at a third viewing, I found some very good things about this performance.

First of all, there's Bullock's natural charm, which always works (at least with me), and after a while she injects some humor and irony into this humorless character. Bullock knows perfectly well what to do, when and how. We can say, that she's a craftsperson. She doesn't give a true depth to her character, but she makes them at least human and entertaining. And I was entertained by her quite often.

There are some scenes though which she can't deal with, for example the one when she's looking for Michael, she was not credible enough for me. I could not feel her desperation or something else (but again this is also the screenplay's fault). Although these mistakes are not very severe, the ruin the overall picture a bit. Nevertheless, Bullock's comedy skills help her a great deal.

But then a question comes up: does being charming and entertaining equal an Oscar win? And the answer is a very quick no. However, had she only been nominated, I would have been OK with it, I just can't understand this Oscar, even though it's much better than the other so-called "star-crowning" wins. I had some problems how I should rate her, because sometimes she's a very strong four, but sometimes she's only a weak two. I guess I'll be generous and use mathematics to rate Ms. Bullock.

So I'm waiting for the comments where you can share your thoughts and pick who should be the next reviewed lady.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Helen Mirren in The Last Station

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren received her fourth nomination for playing Countess Sofya Tolstoy, the stubborn and desperate wife of Lev Tolstoy, the author of the world-famous novels Anna Karenina and naturally War and Peace.

The Last Station is a rather interesting movie about the elder days of Sofya and Lev and of course their conflicts. Tolstoy wants to give the copyrights of his books to the Russian people, while Sofya wants her children to have them and she also want to get rid of Chertkhov (warning it's NOT Chekhov who died in 1904). I truly enjoyed this very underrated movie (I don't know why), which is not a masterpiece but it's of good quality and way better than The Blind Side or the overrated District 9. The actors give solid performances and Christopher Plummer deserved the nomination, even though he does not have the most baity role.

However, Helen Mirren (one of my absolute favorite actresses) has a very Oscary role, full of showy scenes. Still, he had as much chance of winning as she had of losing for The Queen. Most people see this nomination as some kind of a filler, which is mostly due to the fact in my opinion that her movie is largely unseen. I can only agree with the opinion that not many Academy members saw this movie. Needless to say, she can only be better than Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

Mirren gives two kinds of performances: subtle ones (like The Queen or Gosford Park) or a bit over-the-top ones (like the miniseries Elizabeth I) and in The Last Station we can see an example of the latter. We first see Sofya getting up in the morning, going to her husband's room and lies next to him. We can instantly see this woman's pride and noblety, but Mirren also shows her desperation. Sofya cannot put up with rejection or contradiction, in a way she a bit like Sandra Bullock's character in The Blind Side. A woman who can control, however the fact that she's an aristocrat is the most important for her after her love for her husband.

We can instantly understand through Mirren's great acting, that the only truly important things for her are her husband and children and she never lets them down. She finds someone whom she can trust (the young man played by James McAvoy).

But again, this is a mostly loud performance with great outbreaks, which do not really annoy me, actually I even like them. Her breakdown during the dinner is excellent: Mirren knows when to do what and how. The screentime does not help her, however she uses every opportunity to show her brilliance. She's like Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People: when she's there she completely commands the screen, so you don't actually feel her small screentime.

I admit though that this performance can amaze only a small bunch of people (this does not mean that those who don't love it are totally stupid) as it's really the kind of acting that doesn't amaze everyone, probably the huge fans of Mirren and the lovers of Russian culture. I'm both, so it was easy for me, but I can completely understand those who don't like it.

So to sum up, this is a terrific performance which is unfortunately not for everyone (and this might be its biggest flaw), but still amazed me. I know I am alone with this opinon, but I loved this performance so badly because I did not expect it at all. The most pleasant surprise.

Another experiment

As I'm moving along with the Best Supporting Actor reviews, I'm trying something else to see who it is to do this thing that everyone else those, but I haven't started it.

So now, it's my pleasure to announce that I'm going to do my very first Best Actress Profiles and let's get stylish my first year is going to be this year.

So Best Actress profile #1 and the year is 2009.

The nominees were:
• Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
• Helen Mirren in The Last Station
• Carey Mulligan in An Education
• Gabourey Sidibe in Precious
• Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

My first reviewed lady will be Helen Mirren, but after her you tell me in your comments who should be next.

So who will be my pick? Who do YOU want to win?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Best Supporting Actor reviews: Arthur (1981)

I really don't know why I chose to see this movie instead of the others, probably I was willing to watch a comedy instead of a heavy drama and I'm glad I did so as I ahven't seen such an entertaining, relaxing and funny movie (and also a Best Supporting Actor winner) since The More the Merrier (so not a long time LOL).
Arthur tells the story of Arthur (Dudley Moore), a not-so-young millionaire who's also a cheerful drunk having a cynical servant Hobson (Sir John Gielgud). Arthur has to marry a real plain-Jane, called Susan (Jill Eikenberry) in order to get a great fortune. However, he falls in love with an also not-so-young, but optimistic woman, Linda (Liza Minelli).
I just felt joy throughout this movie. It's so utterly entertaining and just pure delight, it's just like tasting a good cake. Back in the eighties they made such great comedies. Naturally lots of credit goes to the director, Steve Gordon who's comedy direction is simply brilliant. I feel the same for his flawless screenplay, which is also one-of-a-kind. Those line are so funny (and a bit dumb but in a good way if you know what I mean) and witty that you're constantly amazed by them. I really do love Chariots of Fire (and I think it defintely, 100% deserved that Oscar and was 2 times better than all the other nominated movies), but I would have given the screenplay win to Arthur.
Dudley gives a fun performance as Arthur. Although I don't know his work at all,
I can say that he was hilarious in this one. His overacting really fits this character and it was a good idea to make him some kind of a cliché character, the happy drunk. I'm saying that his nomination was truly deserved (also his Golden Globe), but that Oscar deservedly went to Henry Fonda.
However, I'm just SHOCKED and APPALLED that Liza Minnelli was not nominated as she gave one of her greatest screen performances (after Cabaret of course) as Linda the kind and sweet love of Arthur. She's so radiant, warm and witty, that you're constantly amazed at her grand talent. I'm not much of a fan of hers, but I've always enjoyed her works and I'm glad she was such a great and essential part of her movie.
And naturally, Sir John Gielgud, that brilliant British acting legend. All the words and expressions of praise can't be enough to salute his great performance that magnificently combines those hysterical one-liners with the dramatic part. If you want to see totally mindblowing comedy acting, he's your choice. I mean, although I was completely confident that nobody could be better than Jack Nicholson in Reds, I was wrong. Gielgud more than deserved his award in that very strong race, where everyone was worthy (including Razzie-nominee James Coco who was also great). A sure member of my Top 10.
And my review would be annoyingly incomplete if I did not mention the catchy and classic score of Burt Bacharach. I'm sad that it was NOT nominated along with the also classic and very deserving score of Chariots of Fire. But thank God Arthur won Best Song.
Gosh, I'm so happy that I saw this movie and I would watch it anytime. Once again: pure fun.
Nominations: Best Actor; Best Supporting Actor (Gielgud WON); Best Original Screenplay; Best Original Song (WON)
My wins: Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Song

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Supporting Actor reviews: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Our next movie is Miracle on 34th Street, one of the biggest Christmas classics ever. Am I insane that I watch it right now? Maybe, but it was available right now. :-)
It tells the story of a single, hard-working young woman (Maureen O'Hara), who organises a Thanksgiving parade, but the guy who plays Santa is as drunk as possible. An appalled elderly man (Edmund Gwenn) helps her in this embarassing situation and he more than just helps, he becomes the new sensation of Macy's and he even becomes a friend of Doris' sceptical daughter, Susie (Natalie Wood) and also the idealistic Fred (John Payne) who also gets closer to Doris.
The Christmas episode of Modern Family came to my mind: Jay was watching this movie, sobbing and wondering why the kids didn't like it. Yes, the world has changed a great deal since 1947, and we see Miracle on 34th Street with out cynism and sarcasm. We just expect another soappy flick about the spirit of Christmas.
However, it's not as sentimental as I thought. Although the humor is not the strongest part of the movie, there are some good lines and situations and it has some deeply-hidden wit, even though the characters are totally one-dimensional and their actions were sometimes illogical and unrealistic. However, this is not a Bergman movie, so this does not hurt that much, even though I find the screenplay wins quite undeserved.
The acting ensemble is solid at best as they were not provided with baity roles. Maureen O'Hara is very good though as Doris and does not really overdo her role, she's just right there, we can see her act decently and then she leaves, we leave without any dissapointment or such things. Same for John Payne, who was however in some scenes annoying with his optimism.
Still, there's a performance for which it's 100% worth watching this movie: yes, it's Natalie Wood. She shows her immense talent, shines with her radiant personality and it's no wonder she become a huge star. And add the fact that she was only nine years old at the time. The studio heads might have tortured the child stars and ruined their lives forever, but the achievements of these children were undeniable. A Juvenile Oscar would have been richly deserved.
Unlike the Best Supporting Actor Oscar of Edmund Gwenn, who simply doesn't do anything Oscar-worthy. We can see that Gwenn decided that this guy was really Santa, still he plays him like an old fool or just like an ordinary guy acting like Santa. This win is by no means awful (hi Cuba Gooding Jr. and George Chakiris), it's very-very undeserved.
Although I don't seem to like this movie, that's not true. I enjoyed it, and would gladly re-watch it at Christmas when my mind is changed and I'm not influenced by my cynism.
Grade: 7/10 I enjoyed it. I don't know what else to say.
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gwenn WON); Best Writing, Screenplay (WON); Best Writing, Original Story (WON)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My ranking of the Best Supporting Actor winners right now

I decided to share this one with you. I have plenty more to go (21 winners and I must re-watch Jim Broadbent's performance because I don't know where to put him) and I'm a bit embarassed, but here's how it looks like right now. It's a bit unusual I know, but this category offers way more surprising performances than one would imagine.
01. Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People
02. Melvyn Douglas in Hud
03. Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter
04. Martin Landau in Ed Wood
05. Joe Pesci in Goodfellas
06. Chris Cooper in Adaptation
07. Ben Johnson in The Last Picture Show
08. Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach
09. Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way
10. George Sanders in All about Eve
11. Karl Malden in A Streetcar Named Desire
12. Michael Caine in Hannah and her Sisters
13. James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
14. Haing S. Ngor in The Killing Fields
15. Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects
16. Gig Young in They Shoot Horses Don’t They?
17. Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment
18. Joel Grey in Cabaret
19. Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda
20. Walter Matthau in The Fortune Cookie
21. Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier
22. John Mills in Ryan’s Daughter
23. Donald Crisp in How Green Was My Valley
24. Ed Begley in Sweet Bird of Youth
25. Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
26. Jason Robards in Julia
27. George Burns in The Sunshine Boys
28. Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts
29. Melvyn Douglas in Being There
30. Walter Huston in The Treasure of Sierra Madre
31. George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke
32. Tim Robbins in Mystic River
33. Joseph Shildkraut in The Life of Emile Zola
34. Hugh Griffith in Ben-Hur
35. Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II
36. Peter Ustinov in Spartacus
37. Benicio Del Toro in Traffic
38. Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
39. Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby
40. Gene Hackman in Unforgiven
41. Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
42. Jason Robards in All the President’s Men
43. Denzel Washington in Glory
44. Louis Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentleman
45. Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules
46. Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting
47. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
48. Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity
49. Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive
50. Sean Connery in The Untouchables
51. George Chakiris in West Side Story
52. Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire

I'm waiting for the death threats. :-)

Best Supporting Actor reviews: The More the Merrier (1943)

So, the next reviewed movie of our new series, the Best Supporting Actor reviews is The More the Merrier, a delightful comedy taking place in Washington during the housing shortage in WWII. Connie (Jean Arthur) decides to share her apartment as she's a consciencious member of the American nation. Soon, she finds herself in an apartment with an elderly man (Charles Coburn), who turns out to have been a matchmaker in one of his previous lives when he invites another man (Joel McCrea) to live with them. We get everything we can expect from a great screwball comedy: the loser fiancé, the joyeous fight between women and men, hilarious crying scenes, a wedding and scene-stealing actors.
Yes, yes, I know I am a HUGE fan of screwball comedies, so no wonder that I immediately warmed up to this one. Naturally, it cannot reach the brilliance of His Girl Friday or my personal favorite, The Awful Truth, but it's still sooooooooo good.
Jean Arthur was a brilliant-brilliant actress who retired way too soon. She was brilliant in the Frank Capra movies, but this performance is truly her best. Gosh, she cries in such a way that she also makes you cry... from laughter and joy. Her radiant, funny self truly shines the silver screen and it's no exaggeration when I say that she deserved an Oscar for this performance (even though you know how much I love and admire the win of Jennifer Jones).
Joel McCrea gives a bit standard, but still very smart performance as the handsome, but not very bright Joe (who's ferquently called Bill). It's great to see his comic gifts as he's mostly known for his work in western movies. So he also deserves some praise for his amusing job, but a nomination would have been much.
However, I don't have enough words to praise Mr. Charles Coburn, who in this movie gives us a defintion of what's called scene-stealing. His win is not very popular, which is probably due to the fact that he won against the brilliant Claude Rains in Casablanca (who certainly was deserving), but still his performance is so enjoyable. The way he plays an old fool and Cupido at the same time is just amazingly well-balanced. He never really goes over-the-top and a total fool, he really found th right tone. Also, every time when he's on screen, everything becomes even wittier. So in my opinion (and I might be alone again) this is a deserved Oscar.
That screenplay win certainly belonged to Casablanca, but it easily could have won for Best Story. This screenplay is so witty, smart and wise, the lines are just like fireworks: fast and fascinating. Apart from the acting, the screenplay is probably the best thing about this movie.
However, we also must not underestimate the directing skills of George Stevens, who did a real pro job here and also the unfairly unnominated cinematography, which is spectacular in some scenes.
To sum up, I saw a movie, which can entertain anyone, anytime, anywhere and anyway. Pure delight.
Grade: 9/10 A comic masterpiece.
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Director (Stevens); Best Actress (Arthur); Best Supporting Actor (Coburn WON); Best Writing, Original Story; Best Writing, Screenplay
My wins: Best Actress and Supporting Actor

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Supporting Actor reviews: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

As I promised, the next Best Supporting Actor review is about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a movie about a the Nolans, a poor family living in Brooklyn. The very bright and promising young girl, Francie (Peggy Ann Garner) is encouraged by her idealistic alcoholic father Johnny (James Dunn) to learn and know the world and we can witness as she becomes an adult as a result of their hardships.
This movie is not nearly as sentimental as I would have thought or anyone who reads the story and it was certainly a great surprise. The number of cheesy dialogues is fortunately low, which is pretty miraculous considering the fact that this is a movie made in the 1940s. So in my opinion, that screenplay nomination was deserved.
Of course, when you look at who directed this movie (Elia Kazan) than you won't be surprised at how great the acting ensemble is, another rare thing. Of course, don't expect something like A Streetcar Named Desire or On the Waterfront, but they are still all brilliant. Naturally, a lto of that is due to the brilliant directing genious of Kazan. That guy was miraculously great with actors and directors like him are not very common anymore unfortunately.
Although Dorothy McGuire (a very underrated actress) was nominated (in my opinion deservedly and I think I'm alone in this) for Gentleman's Agreement (also directed by Kazan), this performance of hers as Mrs. Nolan was probably even better. Her character is very complicated and easily dislikeable, but she's able to give her some humanity and made us understand her choices.
Peggy Ann Garner, the real lead of this movie gave a beautiful child performance in a bit standard role, but I can only say good things about her as she did not go too over-the-top with her charm, so she was great.
Joan Blondell probably should have been nominated for her impressive turn as Aunt Sissy, a good looking, nice and free woman. Blondell's screen presence was really brilliant and you really can't take your eyes off her.
Still, this movie belongs to James Dunn, who gives a brilliant performance as the alcoholic dreamer, Johnny Nolan. That Oscar was not only well-deserved, but also one of the truly-truly deserved one. He also did not go over-the-top with his alcoholism and I salute him for that. That year was a lucky one for men who played alcoholics as Ray Milland also won that year for his brilliant turn in The Lost Weekend. But back to Dunn: his performance is brilliantly mixing joy with desperation, humor with tragedy and he's truly moving.
This movie is based on a novel which I haven't read yet, but I enjoyed this one without any previous knowledge. Good work.
Grade: 8/10 Great movie.
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (James Dunn WON); Best Writing, Screenplay
My wins: Supporting Actor for Dunn

Next reviews coming: The Barefoot Contessa, The More the Merrier, Sayonara (not in this order probably)