Friday, December 31, 2010

The Next Year


The nominees were:
  • Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection
  • Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin
  • Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People
  • Gena Rowlands in Gloria
  • Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter
I'm so excited to do this year. That's it. :-) The predicting contest is naturally on.

I wish you all a very happy new year! May all your wishes come true!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were

Barbra Streisand received her second (and to date last) Best Actress nomination for playing Katie, a leftist girl falling in love with Robert Redford in Sydney Pollack's romantic movie, The Way We Were. I think Barbra had a fair chance of winning. She was a great star, a previous Oscar winner, she was loved by people and she starred in a box office hit, a real audience favorite. I think she was third in the voting quite probably.

The Way We Were is a quite boring romantic movie. It's quite corny and predictable, but it's quite entertaining occasionally. I perfectly understand the reason for its success though: two charming superstars star in a romantic movie about two likeable people who have a doomed love affair, plus Barbra had to sing in it. The Oscar-winning song is quite good, though I definitely would have given it to Live and Let Die, which is one of my favorite songs. I don't get the Best Music win either: there's no music I noticed except for the song. Robert Redford gives quite a standard and bored performance and it's so obvious that he didn't like this movie.

I happen to like Barbra Streisand. I'm not a fan, but I always enjoy her movies. I loved her in Funny Girl and What's Up, Doc?, it might be a shame to admit, but I also loved her as Roz Focker in Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers. She's a superbly talented performer, an exceptional singer and a great actress. She has a great sense of humor, that really gets me every time. Therefore, I was really hoping that I would like her in The Way We Were. And I really did.

Although I liked her performance, I don't think that it's perfect at all. Much like Joanne Woodward (but to a lesser degree), her performance pales as the film goes on. It starts out extremely strong actually, that I even thought that this performance would be a perfect five in the end. However, somewhere in the middle (when they go to Hollywood) it becomes weak and quite weightless. The whole thing is rather mixed bag as a result: it has fantastic moments, but also scenes of mediocrity.

The character herself is a cliché: the Jewish young girl from New York with leftist political views, who ends up falling in love with a gentile boy. It might be possible though that the character became a cliché because of this movie, but it's still a cliché. Babs gets the best out of it though: she excellently delivers the sarcastic one-liners, and she has a kind of lovely presence, which had a very good effect on me. As I said, this first half is excellently handled by Barbra, she shows all the feelings of this girl quite well and you just cannot take your eyes off her.

Barbra shows perfectly well how Katie falls for this guy, despite the fact that they really do not seem to be a match made in heaven. Barbra carefully built this characters, step by step, but quite firmly. She showed that Katie is an extremely stubborn woman, who just doesn't want to give up on her views and beliefs. She never makes excuses for what she does and we feel that it's alright.

At this point, I still loved her performance. However, when she goes to Hollywood, all th positive things about her performance disappear. She just forgets to develop Katie, she's right there, but she doesn't have any depth or something that you can care about. She even loses her magnetic presence and everything becomes quite boring and slow. And you can observe that with the movie (which Barbra alone makes): it starts out strong and interesting and becomes slow and boring in the end, without any wit. Babs' performance always totally fits the movie, though she's always better than the material that she was given, to tell the truth. And this really made me disappointed: I so wanted to like her more and more and yet something was really missing.

I forgive her, though, because she handles the last scene very well: it's a very corny scene, but somehow, she1s so believable and loveable in it, plus the strength of the first half was really visible there.

This is a bit disappointing performance by a great talent. It is surely loved by many, but I just did not like it as much since it's quite a mixed bag: the beginning is fantastic, but the ending is rather mediocre and a bit boring. Too bad, because I know that this could have been a fantastic performance. I cannot overlook the incredible strength of the beginning, though.
Almost a four, but that would have been too much.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class

Actress/politician Glenda Jackson received her third Best Actress nomination and second Oscar for playing Vicki Allessio, a divorced woman who's having an affair with a married man in Melvin Frank's Best Picture nominated movie, A Touch of Class. Glenda's second Oscar is one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history. She was the one who was not expected to win at all and the other actresses must have been (were :D) really pissed off. Furthermore, this became one of the least popular Oscar wins, though nowadays it's gaining more and more fans.

A Touch of Class is quite simply a great, very entertaining movie and I think that it deserved the Best Picture nomination. It's not one for the ages, but it's still better than The Sting, LOL. I thuroughly enjoyed it and there wasn't a boring minute. The screenplay is top-class, though my vote for that year definitely goes to Cries and Whispers. George Segal gives a charismatic lead performance, though his role is not as memorable as Glenda's. The Globe nom was deserved for him, though.

I hate hypocrisy more than anything. People always complain that comedy performances are never recognised at the Oscars, but when there is one lucky one, than it's instantly criticised, hated and so on. They are so eager to find all the flaws and mistakes only to prove that the Academy cannot get it right. Why can't someone appreciate a great lightweight performance as much as a serious one. Comedy is just as hard as drama. I will go further: giving an effective comedy performance is harder. You don't get to benefit from the drama and the sadness, it's all about you and if you miss an opportunity, you fail. That's it.

Glenda Jackson is a great actress. I'm not saying that I'm a fan (haven't seen enough from her), but I have seen all of her nominated works and was impressed by all of them. Her talent and style of acting is so unique. She has a great voice of which I just cannot get enough. She's gorgeous, talented and yeah, I think sexy (I guess I think that Mickey Mouse is sexy, I wonder how many people understood this). She always plays emancipated, free women (usually divorced) who are not ashamed of her own sexual needs. There's Gudrun from Women in Love, Alex Greville from Sunday, Bloody Sunday etc. And there's Vicki Allessio. I don't think that Glenda made many comedies, but this exception is really memorable.

This is quite a lightweight performance by its nature, but its effect is so far from lightweight. Whenever she's on the screen, she has this sizzling, charming presence which makes you listen to her, watch her and never take your eyes off her. Not for a moment. But you really don't want to, to tell the truth. Every line reading, every face of Glenda is just pure delight. Even in her very first scene. She's so coldly and politely sarcastic with Steve. She's cheeky, courageous and strong on the outside. She is far from being demanding, but she gets what she wants. She has a kind of "cut the bullshit" attitude, which makes her so attractive and likeable. But to have this effect she needs to deliver all the lines perfectly and as I said, she's just brilliant at that. None of the jokes falls flat, and the one-liners really hit. Especially in the scene where she has a hilarious argument with Steve at the hotel.

I have never thought about this one before (and many others I think), but Glenda must have put so much effort into this performance. She does it with such ease, but it's really complex acting by Glenda. She adds so many layers to Vicki. On the outside, she's a very sarcastic, strong woman, but inside, she's actually very vulnerable. Vicki wants a man in her life, she wants real happiness, but everything is working against her. In the beginning she just wants carefree sex, but in the end the whole thing becomes quite complicated. Glenda terrificly showed this vulnerable side of Vicki and the whole performance became quite bitter by this. I don't mind it that Glenda put a touch of drama into this movie. I think it really needed it.

This is not a typical Oscar-winning performance, but I'm really glad that it was honored, because it's an unforgettable, complex and extremely lovely work by a great actress. I'm sorry that there are not many people who appreciate it. I simply love it. Period. Terrific job, which naturally gets
What do you think? It's time for your last predictions! :)

Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams

Joanne Woodward received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Rita Walden, an extremely depressed houswife in the hard-to-find movie, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. Somewhere I read that Joanne and Barbra were the front-runners to win the Oscar that year, though I myself think that Ellen Burstyn had a great chance of winning, too. I think that despite Joanne's success with the critics, she was probably only fourth or fifth in the voting. Her movie was not a huge hit, she was a previous winner etc.

Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams is a very strange movie: it's neither good nor bad as I said it's very strange. I could never understood the whole point of it (I guess it was an Oscar nomination for Woodward and Sidney), because it was changing the subject so fast and there wasn't enough time to make the impact last. So it's a failed effort partly, but the acting achievements are quite good, especially the one given by Martin Balsam. Not only did he deserve to be nominated, but he also would have deserved to win, in my opinion. I don't undestand Sylvia Sidney's nomination (OK, I get that it's a career nom) since she doesn't do anything except being bitchy for 5 minutes and have a heart attack. Though some people almost orgasm over her acting in this one. I really don't get it.

And there's Joanne Woodward, who's an actress that I just cannot stand. She's (almost) always too mannered, teary and quite annoying, or if she isn't (Mr. & Mrs. Bridge), she doesn't do anything interesting. Therefore, I did not have many expectations from her. Furthermore, I saw this movie a year ago or so and her achievement wasn't surprising. Clearly, this is a role written with an Oscar nomination in mind and I always felt that Woodward was also aware of that. She tries to be as showy as possible in order to make the audience like the performance. Strangely, she succeeds.

I don't like her in usual and that's why I was so surprised to be captivated by the beginning of her performance. It was so impressive and really grabbed my attention despite the fact that I was sleepy. I forgot everything and I only concentrated on Woodward's performance. I felt that she really understood the problems of Rita: she has nothing to do, she's bored, depressed, scared and fed up with her lifestyle. She just needs some changes in her life and has to come to terms with her son's homosexuality. Rita's also full of regrets and she just lives in her past: she cannot let it go, she still wants to be a little girl listening to the stories of her grandmother. Her reaction to her mother's death is so excellently played by Joanne: she's shocked doesn't understand a thing. She's just astonishing in these early scenes.

However, there comes the London part, after which her performance loses its strength and becomes almost as uninteresting as Mrs. Bridge. Her breakdown scene in the underground is just terrific, however. There are so many emotions right there and she really made it a very memorable moment that you cannot easily forget. Her suffering faces, her tears are both annoying and devastating. I don't if it was the right thing, but I liked it, because there was something that made this character very human. Although Rita is very unlikeable, I still cared about her and felt sorry for her.

After this scene, Martin Balsam takes over the movie and he's so terrific that he almost completely overshadows Woodward. I had to force myself to concentrate on Woodward as Balsam really stole the spotlight from her. His character was so interesting and so full of real pain and compared to him, Rita is so dull. And she doesn't get any other great scenes, either. She's not bad as she's able to keep up her strong presence, but she's just not the same anymore. It all becomes quite slow and a bit boring. The dramatic intensity of her performance is really uneven and in my opinion it's always much more fortunate if you're not that strong in the beginning, but you make a lasting impression in the end. In Woodward's case it's the other way around and the viewer is always (mostly) effected by the ending. In the very last scene, Woodward is quite good, even moving, but that crucial lasting effect was just missing and therefore the whole performance became quite lacking. That's too bad.

So after all, I saw an occasionally great, but mostly underwhelming performance, which could have had an effect on me, but it's such a mixed overall achievement, that I was never truly impressed. Although there weren't any WOW! scenes, but I still liked this performance of an actress that I dislike. Good job.
Again I wasn't certain about the rating. I was thinking about 3.5 and even 4.5, but I think that this is fine after all.

What do you think? Any predictions, thoughts?

P.S.: As you can see, I will finish 1973 in 2010, but that's no problem, I think.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty

Marsha Mason received her first Best Actress for playing Maggie Paul, a barroom hooker in the movie Cinderella Liberty. Mason also won the Golden Globe for her performance as a lead actress in a drama, but I doubt that she had much chance of winning that Oscar (the Globe must have been a surprise, I would have expected Streisand to win it for sure, that's the kind of ) as she was relatively unknown and she was competing with previous winners and a very acclaimed previous nominee. I guess she was fourth or fifth in the voting.

Cinderella Liberty is a quite boring, flat movie about a not so unusual relationship between a sailor and a hooker. There's really nothing interesting about it. For most of the time nothing interesting happens and the directing is not very strong here. Mark Rydell's abilities really improved a lot since than as he was able to create the beautiful On Golden Pond eight years later. James Caan, the star of the 70s gives a proper performance, which is not very interesting, but it's quite good. It just serves the movie well.

Unfortunately, Marsha Mason is not much better either. First of all, I really don't want to say anything about the talent of Marsha Mason, since I had previously seen one and a half movies with her in it. In The Goodbye Girl, she gives a very adorable, lovely performance, which is very memorable, so I was hoping that she will be at least as great. Her performance Cinderella Liberty is barely discussed: I read only two in-detail reviews about it, one of them praised her, the other one was not very fond of her. So what should one expect from Cinderella Liberty? Hell, I did not know.

Mason plays Maggie Paul, a fun-loving hooker, who loves being with sailors. She's quite a tough woman, she drinks, hustles the pool, she sleeps with different men every night, has one illegitimate child and a very messy life. Meeting this sailor called John could be a turning point in her life and it is to a certain degree, but Maggie is unable to change.

The first thing we see from Marsha/Maggie in this movie is her lovely bottom (quite directly) while she's playing. She's laughing out so loud, she seems to be very vulgar and common. She has this "Are you coming handsome sailor?" attitude, which could be very annoying after a while, but Mason fortunately avoids this cliché. In The Goodby Girl, Mason has a very strong a lively presence and I expected the same from this performance, but I never really got it. She doesn't have much screentime, so she has to be really strong to give an effective leading performance. Unfortunately the effect is lost in-between and therefore I was never really amazed by her. I liked certain scenes and moments, but the whole thing did not come together. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are next to each other, even at the right place and yet I wasn't able to see the picture as a whole. I mean, what's the point? Who is this Maggie? What does she want? I never really knew this person, she was there, I knew certain things, but Mason never showed me Maggie's real personality. I must admit, though, that she has a great chemistry with James Caan and the two make a great on-screen couple. Their scenes work in a very weird way, but it is not that great.

And yet, despite all the negative things I said about her, there was something positive that I felt. Although I was complaining that her presence was not strong enough, I must say that it had a certain magnetism that drew my eyes. I could never really take my eyes off her and therefore, sometimes I really enjoyed her presence. It was just great when she was there and this is probably the reason why I can say eventually that I LIKED this performance. I am not talking about love, not even real appreciation, but I LIKED it.

After all, I can say about this very mysterious and hard-to-find performance, that I actually enjoyed it despite the fact that it's a bit failed effort or at least with me. I was never really touched by it, but I enjoyed it to a certain degree. I don't really see the brilliance in it, but I liked it. I really did.
It was a 3.5 first, but I changed it, I might change it back, depending on how much it will grow on me. I just can't give it a 3.5 now. My lenient heart... :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist

Ellen Burstyn received her second Oscar nomination for playing Chris MacNeil, a movie star whose child is possessed by the devil in the classic movie of William Friedkin, The Exorcist. What can I say about the Oscar chances of Ellen Busrtyn? I think that if it hadn't been for that Mercedes affair, she would have won her first Oscar for this performance, and Gena Rowlandss would be an Oscar winner, too. It's interesting to speculate, but 1973 was also a very open field with the least likely winner. Very interesting.

The Exorcist is in my Top 5 Best & Favorite movies ever. I saw it countless times and I always find something new and exciting things about it that I did not notice before. Now that I saw it many-many times, the horror part is not that scary anymore (though it's so much fun and the atmosphere is still brilliant), but the drama is so intense in this movie and I simply love it. I can only think of The Silence of the Lambs as another horror (though some argue about its genre) that has such depth. I find it quite offensive that The Sting could beat this and Cries and Whispers at the Oscars. That Oscar win really stinks, to put it in an extremely polite way.

And all this dramatic intensity inside The Exorcist is due to the stellar performances of the members of the cast, and most especially, Ms. Ellen Burstyn, one of my favorite actresses ever, who quite probably gives her most memorable performance along with the one she gave in Requiem for a Dream. That lady is so versatile, always playing very complicated characters with such ease and subtlety, that I am always amazed by her extraordinary talent (OK, I did not like her that much in Same Time, Next Year, if you're thinking about that). She takes very ordinary characters and shows layers that do not seem to exist at the first glance. This is probably the strongest part of Ellen Burstyn's career. I keep marvelling at her great abilities and it' nothing different in The Exorcist, where she probably gives my favorite performance of hers.

Chris MacNeil seems to be quite a cliché: a movie star with an adorable daughter, an ex-hubby not calling at the child's birthday, who is always nice to her fans, cares about their opinion, always signs autographs, smiles at children at the street etc. So the first task of Ms. Burstyn was simply to be charming and loveable. Not only did Ellen make this happen, but she also wins you over instantly. There's something soothing and lovely about her presence and I cannot get it across. She just feels right there and that was very comforting for me. I know that this sounds very stupid, but I actually felt that way.

However, as the movie progresses, Ellen gives more (and sinister) layers to the character of Chris. She becomes more and more nervous, she everything that felt right disappears so fast. At first, she thinks that her daughter has health problems and hopes that it's gonna be all right, but her enthusiasm dies down quite firmly. And yet we also feel so much hope inside her and the maternal instincts of Chris become visable in Ellen's acting. Chris only wants to save her daughter from anything that's bad and her fight is so heartbreaking and devastating. It's full of dramatic intesity.

Although the comparision might seem to be extremely odd, but she reminded me of Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys: whenever she's off-screen, you can still feel her strong presence and you just don't realize that the screentime is working against her. It's quite probably the greatest thing am actress (or any performer) can achieve: making such a lasting impression, that you're amazed even if she's not on the screen. It is breathtaking.

Ellen isn't scary in this movie (I think she could have been had that been needed), but her presence is so electrifying and dazzling that you become shocked along with her. It's not only amazing, but also extremely tricky. I just loved it.

After all, I can say that one of my favorite actresses gives my favorite performance of hers in a movie that's an old favorite. This 3 favorites resulted in real amazement on my side. This is truly an amazing achievement by Ms. Burstyn, who's really at the top of her game. Excellent, extremely effective acting.
So what do you think?

The Next Year


The nominees were:
  • Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist
  • Glenda Jackson in A Touch of Class
  • Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty
  • Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were
  • Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
OK, this seems to be a very controversial year because of its winner and the reaction of one of the nominees. So you must know how excited I am to do this year first in 2011. So let's just start (basically, it's 2010, but it will end in 2011).

I am using this new type of the nominees' picture as the old ones were too big I think, and changes fit a new year. :-)

What do you think? What's your ranking and who are you rooting for? What are your predictions for my ranking? The contest is on.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

My Best Actress reviews are over for this year, but I will continue in 2011. I am really looking forward to reviewing more years and performances as I think I get to know the races much better this year. However, I also want to honor my winners so far. After 15 covered years, my winners were:

And right now, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and very nice days! Spend the holidays well, I wish you all the best. Merry Chirstmas again! (I post last year's picture again)

Have a nice time and thank you for your attention all year! :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1969

About the field: This was a great year with four brilliant performances and one forgettable one. If we count the number of Meryls, this was the strongest year so far and yet I preferred 1989 a bit. Another great thing is that now I was able to write a profile of marvelous Maggie and that was one of my greatest pleasures. However, when you have such a strong year, the ranking is so damn difficult and you just cannot decide. I was so perplexed and I couldn't make up my mind. I had to wait and think. I mean #1, #2 and #3 are all worthy of the award (I would say even #4), they are all brilliant, unforgettable performances. I am biased in the cases of all of them. I love all three of them. I'm going to feel guilty (Oh #3 please forgive me, you're the greatest!) because I ignored two of them despite the fact they ALL deserve my vote. Still, it's #1 who gave the best performance and I had to choose her in the end.

So the much anticipated ranking:

Geneviève Bujold suffers from a bad movie, an overacting lead actor and a boring screenplay. I give her some credit for the excellence of her last monologue, but I could live without watching the rest. A very mixed performance

I saw a fantastic performance, one that was a really pleasant surprise. It impressed me, had a big effect on me and most importantly I felt connection to the character. Simmons understood the character extremely well and handled her emotions perfectly.

I can safely say that Maggie gives one of her best performances as Miss Jean Brodie, a woman who has to face with the fact that her cherished prime is over. Dame Maggie created an exciting, beautiful character on the screen and you just cannot take your eyes off her.

This is one of those cases when I got way more than I expected. Liza Minnelli's performance is not a surprise, it's fulfillment. I was moved, I laughed, I was heartbroken and went through the emotional states of Pookie. You will just never forget this unbelievable performance.
I can say that Jane Fonda gives a gritty, tough and incredible performance as Gloria, who's full of layers and secrets and Fonda slowly, but firmly reveals the mind of this desperate woman. It's really no wonder that she became the #1 actress of the seventies after this one. Terrific job.

So I can proudly announce
that my winner is...
Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

One of the best performances ever.
  • Ingrid Bergman in Cactus Flower
About the next year: I guess it's not difficult for you to find out that 1973 won. So it's your decision. 2011's first reviewed year is 1973!

Gosh, this was a bit traumatic. You know how I feel about Maggie, right? I feel as if I harmed her. :-(
So what do you think? What's on your mind? Any thoughts, observations?

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Magnificent Dame Maggie Smith received her first Best Actress nomination and first Oscar for playing Miss Jean Brodie, a dedicated teacher in Ronald Neame's movie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. 1969 is one of the most wide open races ever. I think that all of the ladies had some chance of winning that night and strangely, Maggie Smith did not have the most. She became triumphant after all, and went on to receive another Oscar (a supporting one) and yet she did not have as many great movies as she deserved to have.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a good movie. It's a very traditional, conservative, decent piece of work that might be a bit slow and boring sometimes, but it's enjoyable. Although the story is very interesting (it is based on a very acclaimed novel), the direction is so simple that the story becomes simple along with it. It features some strong supporting performances especially the ones by Celia Johnson and Pamela Franklin. I'm not saying that they deserved nominations though. They serve the movie quite well and that's about it.

Thank God for Dame Maggie! OK, I know, I know, I know. Along with the wonderful Jane Fonda, she's definitely the greatest living actress (NOT Meryl Streep, sorry), who has such a unique presence and talent, which can turn even the most simple material into an exciting, sizzling performance, which leaves you speechless. Maggie is always very over-the-top in her performances (probably The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which is a MUST SEE if you want to find out who gave the best performance of 1987) and yet it's never distracting since she makes it so enjoyable and loveable and she fantastically feels how much is enough.

Maggie (who seems to be modest from what I saw of her) is the best at playing characters with huge egos. It can be an Oscar loser in California Suite, a snobbish, unhappy wife in Private Function and a radical, egoistic teacher in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Her performances walk a fine line between enjoyable and deep. Jean Brodie is certainly not loveable, but she is indeed very enjoyable. She has an inner beauty that Maggie so amazingly showed and by this she created another unforgettable performance.

Even the looks of Maggie in this movie shows Miss Brodie brilliantly. She always stands up straight, looking up, firmly, with much dignity. Miss Brodie's views are rather interesting: she's not a liberal teacher in a conseravtive school. She is a radical teacher in a conservative school. She has her confusing, overly romantic political views, she admires dictators and conquerors just as much as her beloved artists.

Miss Brodie likes to think about herself as a very emotional and passionate woman, but Maggie shows it thrillingly how repressed she is and how much she's afraid of relationships. She expresses love through poetry and art, and that's what gives her (almost sexual) pleasure. She's extremely self-centered, but she also cares deeply about her girls who mean her real life. She considers them her children (almost) and wants to make them heroines, poets, painters, actresses: in short, things she could never be.

Maggie so firmly underlines the credo of this woman: "I'm a teacher. First, always, last." Above all, Jean is a teacher, a leader to the girls and she's a real leading role that demands an actress of Maggie's calibre. Others would have failed with her mannerisms and over-the-top nature, but Maggie doesn't let us down for a moment. She gives a truly deep, dramatic performance, while also being enjoyable. She almost reaches perfection with Jean. My only complaint can be that sometimes the screentime is working against her.

So, I can safely say that Maggie gives one of her best performances as Miss Jean Brodie, a woman who has to face with the fact that her cherished prime is over. Dame Maggie created an exciting, beautiful character on the screen and you just cannot take your eyes off her. She's just beautiful as she is. Excellent.
The Final Conclusion is soon to come, though I REALLY have to think it over. I'm not sure about anything, so I will take my time.

What do you think?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Geneviève Bujold in Anne Of The Thousand Days

Geneviève Bujold received her only Oscar nomination to date for playing Anne Boleyn in Anne Of The Thousand Days. It's interesting to think about the chances of Bujold that year: she won the Golden Globe previously, but I don't think that she was the front-runner to win as she was neither much of a great star, nor a popular young starlet, who would become a world-famous star. I guess she was fourth or fifth after all, but the Best Actress race of 1969 is one of the most perplexing ones ever.

Actually, so far I said nothing. The movie is quite simply one of the most boring films I have ever seen in my entire life. Sometimes I really had to force myself to go on with it and not finish it. Gee, it is so corny, theatrical, uninteresting and it says nothing new about these characters unfortunately. However, I must say that I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so, and I thought that it would be just fine. Well, it wasn't in the end. Richard Burton starts well, but he is unbearably overacting later on. He really had a tendency towards overacting, and if I'm really honest to myself, I don't consider him one of the greatest actors.

Geneviève Bujold is an interesting case here, and I can feel right now that this will be one of the hardest reviews to write. It's not a very complex performance, but it's extremely difficult to rate. On the one hand, she has some boring, useless, weak and pale moments, which really left me unimpressed and disappointed. On the other hand, she has some extremely strong scenes, and she's so damn beautiful and seductive that you just cannot take your eyes off her.

When we first see her in the movie, nothing interesting happens there, she's just dancing, though I realized that this wasn't going to be the best performance ever. I just saw the king's reaction, but I never understood the reason for it. She wasn't different of anybody else in that crowd and I never got it, why the king was so attrected to her quite suddenly. I think that this early scenes are probably the weak links in her performance since they don't have any effect on the viewer and I felt that Bujold wasn't trying hard enough to be special.

However, I also felt that sometimes she was trying too hard to make Anne a very complex personality. She wants to make her sexy, mysterious, seductive, manipulative, (silently) aggressive and stubborn. There are a lot of adjectives in this sentence which describe Anne's personality quite well and yet Bujold is not able to show them together. She shows bits and pieces of all of them and I think that she should have concentrated on less of them, because she would have been able to make her complex that way. Instead, she becomes totally one-note and uninteresting (and not only in the beginning unfortunately).

I have to admit, though, that sometimes she was able to impress me with the manipulative side of Anne. She has whatever she wants and nobody could step in her way. Henry thinks that he's much stronger and has power on Anne, but it's Anne in fact who controls her husband, the king of a great nation. Bujold was able to show this part of Anne quite well and gained some strength in these scenes.

Her scenes of childbirth are very good and memorable too: she's unwilling to accept that she had a girl and her son died. Bujold perfectly captured the feelings and emotions of Anne and she impressed me once again. While watching them I thought "this might not turn out to be a mediocre performance after all". I was wrong in a way.

Although the scenes of the trial were supposed to be extremely showy and the look as if it had Oscar written all over them , they are really ruined by the bad directing and writing choices. Bujold does not have much to do, except for standing there, being strong and proud. Anne's stubborn personality is also there, but it's always used in a wrong way. However, after that Bujold delivers her thousand days monologue excellently and it was extremely moving. There was so much bitterness and disappointment and it was extremely touching. And yet Richard Burton was able to totally ruin it after he appeared.

After all, I can say that despite some very strong and memorable scenes, Geneviève Bujold put on an extremely mixed performance, which strong and weak at the same time. She suffers from a bad movie, an overacting lead actor and a boring screenplay. I give her some credit for the excellence of her last monologue, but I could live without watching the rest.
And I'm extremely lenient with this 3.5.

What do you think? It's time to give your final predictions! :)
Maggie's profile comes tomorrow or Wednesday depending on how much strength I will have.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending

Jean Simmons received her second and last Oscar nomination for playing Mary Wilson, an unhappy, alcoholic housewife in her ex-husband's movie, The Happy Ending. I don't know where, but I read that Jean Simmons had a good chance of winning the Oscar as she was considered overdue. I think however, that she did not get that many votes. But who knows? After all she was a very serious and respected actress in a role that was very close to her.

The Happy Ending is a very, I mean very interesting movie, which I really enjoyed, probably even more than The Sterile Cuckoo, but I am really not sure about it. I hear many people complaining about it, so I did not expect anything great or revolutionary and probably that's why the movie was such a pleasant surprise. Despite some slow moments, it was very engaging, mostly due to the great performances by the actors. John Forsythe could really act before he turned to TV and Dynasty, I would probably have given him a supporting actor nom, but the others are also very good. Shirley Jones seems to be the most popular and although I liked her, she was not that special.

However, this movie really is The Jean Simmons Show. OK, I know that you're tired of this terms that I invented, but it's very true in this case. It's so obvious that The Happy Ending was written with her in her husband's mind and I think that Jean Simmons used every opportunity to shine in her role. 1969 was full of interesting, complex female characters, which are very hard to play, but if the actress gets it right, the effect is huge.

First of all, I must admit, that (just like in the case of the movie) I did not expect much from Jean Simmons as I am really not a fan of hers. Actually, I wouldn't even say that as I haven't seen enough movies with her: Hamlet was quite underwhelming, so was Elmer Gantry, though I must admit that I LOVED her guest spot on Murder, She Wrote as the rival crime writer. That being said, I can say that this performance was an extremely pleasant surprise, on that I really did not expect.

Mary is a very ordinary housewife with some minimal problems: she has an unhappy, fake marriage and she's also an alcoholic, by the way. That seems to be a very fun performance, right? From the first moment to the last, she's utterly depressing and has a very sad presence. Even if you look at her face, there's so much disappointment, sadness and anger in it, that it really gives you the blues. Moreover, Jean Simmons has a very unique screen presence, that doesn't always work for me, but here it was just amazing. I was a bit confused by her, but in a very good way.

I had a constant fear though, that her performance is going to turn out to be "I'm so unhappy, get me out of here and give me an Oscar please" acting that I usually see from Joanne Woodward, but I should not have worried. Simmons really believes in her character and she really reflected on her own life with this one. She's not playing herself (I think), but I always felt that Simmons was at the same place where Mary Wilson was. She knew the pain of this character and understood her deeply.

Mary is obsessed with Casablanca, love stories and happy endings in general and she was just so great at the beginning of the movie in the wedding scene. From that her strength never really went down and I was constantly amazed. As I said (and I want to say again), I felt close to this character and I really had some connection to her. Simmons is just so believable and natural in the scene when Mary has to stand still and cannot because she's so drunk. And miraculously she adds some humor to the depressing scenes. Her sarcastic one-liners are perfectly delivered and make her performance even more delicious. My only argument might be that sometimes her acting becomes a bit slow and loses its pace. But that's not a huge problem.

So after all, I have seen another fantastic performance, one that was a really pleasant surprise. It impressed me, had a big effect on me and most importantly I felt connection to the character. Simmons understood the character extremely well and handled her emotions so perfectly that I have to punish her for that with a great rating. :-)
Gee, this year is so strong so far. I wonder about the two other ladies. The next profile comes on Monday probably, I won't have time tomorrow unfortunately.

What do you think? Any predictions now?

BTW: I've just seen Rabbit Hole. Boy, Nicole Kidman is so great in it. She may even be better than Annette Bening, so unless Natalie Portman is THAT great, Nicole might just become my pick after all or it's Annette, I don't know yet. It's a slow, subtle, but very effective performance. The movie is also very good.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo

Liza Minnelli received her first Best Actress nomination for playing Pookie Adams, a sad young girl in The Sterile Cuckoo, a movie that is EXTREMELY hard to find. I have read on some of the imdb message boards (some time ago) that this was only a sympathy nomination for her because of the recent death of her mother (back to that later). I think that she really did not have that much chance to win, I think she might have been fifth in the voting after all.

The Sterile Cuckoo is a very good movie, which is sometimes a bit boring, but it has so much heart and it really has some very important things to say. Wendell Burton gives a proper performance as Jerry, but he does not really reach the stars with his acting. Everything is fine, but his role is almost just a supporting one if we observe it's importance and impact. Pookie is the main character and although Jerry has more scenes, this movie is about Pookie. I must also add that Come Saturday Night is a really touching song, which easily could have won the Oscar, but I'm OK with Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head too.

Now to Liza Minnelli: whoever told on those imdb boards that Liza only got the nomination because of the death of her mother and guilt is either stupid as hell or hasn't seen the movie. These are the only reasonable explanations. Liza gives quite probably the most heartbreaking performance I have ever seen, plain and simple. Not necessarily the best or the most effective, but the most heartbreaking on for sure. She takes an ordinary character full of pain and vulnerablity and she just did magic with it: Pookie is so alive and loveable.

First of all, the character of Pookie is one of the most dangerous ones ever: there's much more chance of becoming annoying while playing it than being this effective. If she had gone too much over-the-top with Pookie's weird personality, her whole performance would have failed. She is always on the edge of failing actually, but her enormous talent just does not let it. Instead, we get an extremely beautiful and charming performance from the very beginning.

Actually, the fact that The Sterile Cuckoo became a very effective and moving movie is all due to Liza Minnelli. She's so towering and gets so much more out of it than anyone. I wouldn't say that this is a role that is tailor-made for her (I think that is Sally Bowles), but nobody else could have played Pookie better. Unlike Sally Bowles, Pookie is not a woman who is morally ruined but they are both extremely vulnerable. Liza always underlines this aspect of the character: Pookie is an extremely lonely, miserable girl, who is so thrilled by a little happiness in her life. However, Pookie also has much fear that it will not last forever. Liza is unforgettable in the scene, where Pookie tells her feelings to Jerry. She's just sitting alone, her eyes are teary and we just feel so sorry for her.

Even from the very first moment, Liza lets us know that Pookie is an extremely tragic character and nothing great is going to happen in the end. Liza always suggests this and yet we hope that Pookie makes it after all and it's so damn devastating to find out things with her. Pookie's whole world collapses because of the selfishness of Jerry (but is he really that selfish) and Pookie is hurt once again.

This performance is full of amazing, unforgettable scenes like the one when Pookie and Jerry are looking at some tombstones and Pookie lies down in front of one. You would imagine that it is bizarre, but it's actually beautiful. Just like when she lies down on the leaves. It's just wonderful.

And yet this scenes are nothing compared to her long monologue (I think that it's without editing, but I'm not sure) on the telephone with Jerry. Boy, that's one of the best acted scenes in history. So many emotions come to the surface: disappointment, sadness, desperation and so on. When she reveals the truth about her previous vacation is just... I am speechless. It's just something I will never forget.

This is one of those cases when I got way more than I expected. Liza Minnelli's performance is not a surprise, it's fulfillment. I was moved, I laughed, I was heartbroken and went through the emtional states of Pookie. Liza Minelli gently catches you, impresses you and you will just never forget this unbelievable performance, which is one of the best ones ever.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? (Vote on the next year too!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Jane Fonda received her first Oscar nomination for playing Gloria, a desperate, bitter woman taking part in a dance marathon in Sydney Pollack's movie, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? I'm really perplexed. Who was the front-runner that year? Maggie was a real surprise winner, but who was expected to win? I guess it must have been between Bujold and Fonda, who really offended a lot of people by her political actions and beliefs. I guess she was probably second or third in the voting.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? is one of the most depressing and devastating movies I have ever seen. It's truly among the best, but do not expect light entertainment from it. It really is a saddening work by Sydney Pollack (I really can't believe that he also made Tootsie, my favorite movie), who definitely should have won the Best Director Oscar for this one. That sinister, brutal derby scene is alone worthy of that win. The actors give brilliant performances, though I'm not sure if I would vote for the supporting nominees for a win. They were great though.

However, nowadays the most discussed performance of this movie is definitely the one given by the, talented, beautiful Jane Fonda (my favorite actress ever), who reached the stars with this one and became a major dramatic actress going on to win two Best Actress Oscars. I think her political commitment really helped this movie and her acting: I always felt that she deeply believed in the story of the movie and what it represents. I never saw her acting for the Oscar or awards. She did her best for sure, but I never felt that the scenes or her brilliance for that matter was too forced. However, the screenplay does not make it a star turn either. She's not shown in all of the scenes, in fact there's some time, when she completely disappears. And yet that's just something that did not bother me.

One of the biggest achievements of Jane Fonda in this movie is that she was able to show all the layers of this woman: on the outside, Gloria is sarcastic, rough, tough, wants to win, is acting grumpy with a miserable pregnant girl, but inside Gloria is just suffering from the burden of this life. Gloria becomes more and more depressed and Fonda lets us into Gloria's mind, tells us intimate things about her and yet lets her remain mysterious. Gloria never talks about personal things, except for her aunt, but everything she says (observe it, it's worth it) gives us a clue to the very unexpected ending.

The sarcastic remarks of Gloria are delivered flawlessly by Fonda. She's just always in control of her character, both technically and emotionally. Gloria is a very tough role I think as she's very unlikeable and yet she HAS TO make the audience feel sympathy for her. Fonda solved this with real ease. Although I never liked Gloria as a person, I was rooting for her and cared about her. I really became the "victim" of Fonda's acting tricks (if you hae to be a victim than being Jane's is not that bad). It's just wonderful.

Gloria's toughness is however gone instantly, when she's in danger and like everyone else there, she becomes a brutal animal whose only goal is to survive in the jungle. There are only instincts there and really no emotions and Jane really lived this very complicated mental state, when you are just not in control of your actions anymore. Just look at her face in the derby scenes: she is screaming for her life, really. It's a true cry for help.

However, after all Gloria is totally consumed by a wicked system. She loses everything and the scene when she finds out the truth about the whole contest is just amazingly handled by Jane. Those bitter laughs, but also the devastation in her eyes are things that you just cannot forget. It just gets worse and worse (I mean the mood, not her performance): after this, she has a real breakdown after her stocking is torn. That desperate cry was so weird and yet very believable reaction. I haven't seen so much devastation played on the screen and it's probably one of the most depressing scenes I've ever seen.

I don't want to give away the shocking ending to those who haven't seen the movie, but I can tell you that the last lines of hers really stay in your mind. Basically, that's the highlight of her performance, but it's so hard to talk about it without spoiling anything. It really lives up to the rest of her performance: it remains as brutal and devastating as the beginning.

After all, I can say that Jane Fonda gives a gritty, tough and incredible performance as Gloria, who's full of layers and secrets and Jane slowly, but firmly reveals the mind of this desperate woman. It's really no wonder that she became the #1 actress of the seventies after this one. Terrific job.
What do you think? Any predictions now? Also: vote in my new poll for the next year you want me to do!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Next Year

I really did not expect to do this year, but finally I found The Sterile Cuckoo, so I thought that this should be the next one that's it. It's not very often talked about, but I only heard good things, so I just cannot wait. Plus this is going to be the first profile for marvellous Maggie. Gosh, it's great.


So the nominees were:
  • Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days
  • Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
  • Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo
  • Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending
  • Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
So what do you think about this year? Who's your pick, what's your ranking? The predicting contest is on. Oh, I really can't wait, I might start reviewing tomorrow. I'm sick again, so I have time.

NOTE: This is going to be the last year I am going to do in 2010. Probably.

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1966

Középre igazítás
About the field: Well, I expected more from this year and yet I wasn't disappointed. I liked all of the performances and all of the movies (except for Morgan, which was...). My #1 was such an easy win both here and in real life. It's one of those cases when the actress wins for the career-best, right movie. #2 and #5 was also quite easy, however I had some hard time deciding who should be #3. I'm glad that it turned out this way, which I really did not expect. I was quite certain that my #3 becomes #2 before I wrote my review. However, anything can happen, seasons change. Let's see the ranking:

After all, I just feel that I don't have much to say about Vanessa Redgrave in this movie. She's great as usual (and that's going to be rewarded), but the movie is working against her as if she was on a boat during a hurricane.

In the end, I can say that I loved Anouk Aimée in this one very much, but sometimes I felt that her performance lacked something and wasn't constantly strong. It's an extremely simple, beautiful, clean and loveable work to which the viewer can easily connect.

In the end I can say that Ida Kaminska gave an excellent performance, which might be a bit uneven achievement and borderline supporting, but you instantly like the character, care about her and she just breaks your heart in the end. It's a great performance in a movie for the ages.

I must say that I was impressed by Lynn Redgrave's performance as the innocent Georgy, who has many layers and a real depth, though sometimes the performance was not constantly strong. Great and effective work, which even moved me, but I guess I wanted a bit more.

The writing flies away, but Taylor's performance stays with me forever, locked up firmly in my mind. An actress, who was able to show another, unknown and much more interesting side of hers, now really got me. I'm under its effect and I can't be sober. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
So I can proudly announce
that my winner is...
Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Easy win, Ms. Taylor

About the next year: it was so complicated to choose the next year, but after all I picked a brilliant one I really look forward to reviewing. Unfortunately I cannot do posts until next Friday, but after that there's going to be a lot of time. Let's see the clues:
  • Dancing queen...
  • To Miss with Love (?)
  • Don't lose your head! (Sorry)
So what do you think? Any thoughts, request, anything on your mind?
P.S.: Please comment on Ida's profile. :)

Ida Kaminska in The Shop on the Main Street

Ida Kaminska received her only Oscar nomination for playing Rozalie Lautmannová, an old Jewish shopkeeper during the Holocaust in Ján Kádár's movie, The Shop on the Main Street. It's quite amazing that a Ukranian-born stage actress in a Czechoslovakian movie received an Oscar nomination and this is why I love 1966. There was not one, but two foreign-language performances nominated, two English and only one American. Of course, Taylor was winning, but it's a nice achievement of Kaminska anyhow.

The Shop on the Main Street is most definitely the best movie about the Holocaust (along with The Pianist). It really shows the reactions and feelings of everyone and it's free of the sentimentality of Schindler's List (which is terrific too, of course). The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was more than deserved, it's quite probably one of my favorite winners of the category. Jozef Króner gives a great and very natural performance as Tono, who's the real lead of the movie. It's mostly about him and his feelings.

Therefore, Ida Kaminska is borderline supporting. It's one of those cases, where it's just not obvious where she belongs. The definition of a leading role is (no matter what) that the character should be crucial to the storyline and without that character, the movie would not be the same. Well, that's the role of Rozalie Lautmannová. The screentime is working against her unfortunately, she just doesn't have the opportunity to shine as much as she could have. She's too substantial to be supporting, but not enough for leading.

However, this doesn't mean that she gives a weak performance. Oh no. Kaminska, who was a veteran stage actress, really nailed the character of Mrs. Lautmann, who's nearly deaf and blind, old and dumb. Kaminska showed the dementia of this woman so thrillingly that it's almost heartbreaking just to look at her. The emptiness of her smile just makes you sad and shows the terrible state of this person. However, she can only stick to her memories, traditions and religion. She lives in a word which has disappeared, but which is very alive to her. She has considerable pride, she cares about what people are saying about her. She always furious when Tono wants to open the shop on Saturday. She says "what are they going to think about me?".

It's also a very important factor that Kaminska gets to work with some terrific material. The role of Mrs. Lautmann is an excellent one for any elderly actress. She immediately wins the sympathy of the viewer as Mrs. Lautmann is a very likeable character. Or that might be only pity, but personally, I liked Mrs. Lautmann.

Her chemistry with Jozef Króner is just excellent. They work extremely well together, with Kaminska as the mother and Króner as the son of this relationship. Mrs. Lautmann likes Tono, gives him food, cares about him, but she's not afraid of yelling when he's clumsy or stupid. It's a very interesting relationship as I would not call it a friendship, it's something very weird, but as I said, very interesting.

Kaminska has some really terrific and memorable moments like the one where the truth becomes clear to her and starts praying. It's simply terrific, but I felt that the overall effectiveness of this performance was a bit uneven. When she's great, she's extremely great, but when she does not have much to do, she's not very special. I wouldn't say though that she's weak for a moment. She's only a bit uneven.

In the end I can say that Ida Kaminska gave an excellent performance, which might be a bit uneven achievement and borderline supporting, but you instantly like the character, care about her and she just breaks your heart in the end. It's a great performance in a movie for the ages. Good job.
This seems fair, I think.
What do you think? No official predictions now as the final conclusion comes very soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vanessa Redgrave in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment

Vanessa Redgrave received her first Oscar nomination for playing Leonie Delt in Morgan. Wow, I have absolutely no idea how much chance Redgrave had of winning the Oscar. I think she was the fourth eventually as I think Elizabeth Taylor ruled the competition with Lynn Redgrave and Anouk Aimée as runners-up for the prize. That being said, after 1966 (the) Redgrave(s) became world-famous and gave us many great performances.

Morgan is such a weird movie and I have so many ambivalent feelings about it. Sometimes it's simply intolerable to watch and so weird, that it's really unnecessary. However, there were times when I enjoyed it to a degree and that's mostly due to the fact that I am a huge Carry On! fan and was extremely pleased to see Bernard Bresslaw, who actually gave the most entertaining performance. Karel Reisz is an interesting and great director, but this was quite a mixed bag. I am really fond of free cinema, but this movie was not my cup of tea.

Vanessa Redgrave is an extremely strange case here. She's quite probably the most original and uniquely brilliant actress of the silver screen (along with Tilda Swinton probably) and I really mean this. She has such a beautiful presence and face, it has such a radiant quality in it. It's not a co-incidence that Katharine Hepburn really admired her. If you see Vanessa Redgrave, you just CANNOT take your eyes off her. Even with the smallest, most minimal role she's able to create something memorable (see Atonement as a proof).

However, in this movie she's really not my cup of tea. Actually, she has that previously mentioned radiant quality, but her role as Leonie is just rotten. That's it, it's such a stupid material that she just cannot be very impressive. In addition, the movie mostly concentrates on the character of Morgan and Leonie is co-lead at best. The screentimes is working against Vanessa and unfortunately, she just can't do very much about it. When she's not there, she's not there and I have a feeling that something is missing. It's too bad.

The character of Leonie is so hard to understand as she really doesn't make any sense. I just did not know where to put her, I wasn't even sure if I should take her seriously. Plus I never really found out if she still had some feelings for Morgan. It's so confusing overall and no matter how much I tried, I really did not understand her. I wanted to know so much about her, but there wasn't anything. I think the writer must have thought, Morgan is the main character, why the hell should I write a whole story for Leonie? And that's it. Redgrave is just not able to build a palace with crap. That's it.

Miraculously, after a while, I was captivated simply by the beauty and immense presence of Vanessa Redgrave. I just fell in love with her after a while. I fell in love with Vanessa and not Leonie. I just felt that, yes, I waited for this, this is that very anticipated feeling. Slowly, but firmly, Vanessa just impressed me with her talent. Unfortunately, that feeling was not constant as she almost disappears in the end, it just got lost somewhere. It was a great feeling though when it lasted.

After all, I just feel that I don't have much to say about Vanessa Redgrave in this movie. She's great as usual (and that's going to be rewarded), but the movie is working against her as if she was on a boat during a hurricane. It is worth watching however to see Vanessa's immense beauty and enormous talent. The rating seems to be higher than expected, but actually the effort is a 5.
More of a 3.7, but I give it a 4 after all.

What do you think? It's time to give your last predictions!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Anouk Aimée in A Man and a Woman

Anouk Aimée received her only Oscar nomination to date for playing Anne Gauthier, a repressed young widow in the French classic, A Man and a Woman. I don't know what to think about her chances of winning: on the one hand, she won the Golden Globe, which was pretty much a miracle, considering the fact that the Globes reward exclusively stars, but on the other hand, Elizabeth Taylor was the one to beat. I think Aimée might have been third in the voting, but I imagine that Taylor got about 75% of the votes at least.

A Man and a Woman is quite simply a great movie: yes, simply, as the main principle of this movie is simplicity. Everything is so nice, ordinary and therefore, simply loveable. The screenplay win was, in my opinion, richly deserved. The situations, the dialogues, the characters' thoughts are so damn realistic: it's not a heavy drama with huge scenes, outbursts and breakdowns, it's just a quiet tale of some natural emotions. I think the Foreign Language Picture award was also deserved.

The performances are just like the movie: quiet, simply, subtle and emotional. The chemistry between the two leads is just excellent: you can feel that they love each other, care about each other and want to be happy with each other, but it's as if there was a huge wall of grief between them. It's especially Anne who suffers from the loss of her husband. As she says in the end: he IS dead, but not for me. Knowing these emotions, Anouk Aimée was able to create a beautiful performance.

When we first see Anne, she's nothing special, she's just a smiling mum having fun with her daughter, telling tales and she seems to be perfectly happy. This is the surface, but Aimée showed the soul of this character with such ease, that it's almost invisible. Yes, Aimée is extremely subtle, but I always felt that there was real foce inside.

Again, when she meets Jean-Louis, nothing special happens: they are in the car talking in a very standard, polite way with a bit embarassment. These little nervous ticks are so exciting and show so much of them: we actually get to know a lot about them even at the beginning of the whole story. The movie itself is rather interesting too and it really helps the performances: everything becomes so natural, that you have actually NO doubt that this could happen in real life.

I always felt that Aimée understood her character quite well, she knew what there was inside her head and was familiar with the insecurities, sadness and guilt of this woman. Anne cannot let her late husband go even though she loves Jean-Louis and wants something more from him. Anne just doesn't have the courage to begin that relationship since she would think it's adultery.

As I said, this is a very natural performance, which has such a beauty that might come from the real beauty of Anouk Aimée. Let's face it: only looking at her is enough, as she charms you instantly becauseof her beauty. If you like a character instantly, it's much easier to connect to her emotionally and it's no problem with Anne: you root for her from the beginning, but in a very odd way. You just wish all the best for her.

However, this immense subtlety also makes her performance a bit undercooked and weak sometimes, especially when the movie focuses on Jean-Louis. When it's mostly about Anne, it doesn't bother you, but she should have been had a bit more impact on me, so that I do not lose connection to her. This is in the middle of the movie, and thankfully, in the end she really gains a lot of strength.

The scene where they are making love (and it's the best expression for it, it's not just having sex, there is so much true love there) focuses on the face Aimée and it's just terrific: there is a strange mix of joy and guilt in it, sometimes she feels great, but sometimes her eyes looks teary. Anouk Aimée perfectly handled and combined all the emotions, which really have an effect on the viewer. It's even better when she's on the train, sitting and thinking. That's probably the most memorable scene of Anouk and quite probably the whole movie too. It's just breathtaking.

In the end, I can say that I loved Anouk Aimée in this one very much, but sometimes I felt that her performance lacked something and wasn't constantly strong. It's an extremely simple, beautiful, clean and loveable work to which the viewer can easily connect. Not a huge achievement, but a great one anyhow.
A firm four.

What do you think? Any thoughts, observations? Tell me!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Elizabeth Taylor received her fifth (and to date last) Best Actress nomination and second Oscar for playing Martha, a vulgar, alcoholic mess in Mike Nichols' first movie, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This win was probably the easiest one ever: Liz was the only nominee, who was actually a star, she had a huge performance, which was also very unusual and also she starred in a brilliant movie. So it wasn't any competition there, I don't really understand why she skipped the show (they say she boycotted the even because Burton was not going to win).

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is quite simply a triumph. Everything about it is just groundbreaking, unusual, exciting, fresh and everything. It's quite simply perfection. That's why I am so horribly shocked that it lost Best Picture and Director to a great, but usual movie. I guess this movie was considered offensive by the older members, and therefore they went with the reliable choice. The acting is, again, a triumph: Richard Burton was robbed of the Oscar for his extremely moving performance, so was George Segal, who's terrific as the big-faced guy, and Sandy Dennis gives a brilliant supporting performance, richly deserving of the award.

However, just like in the case of Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (maybe not that much), this is the Elizabeth Taylor Show. There are performances, which could be considered the best of the performer, but there are works which define them as artists. This is such a work by Ms. Taylor. I'll admit without any hesitation that sometimes I can't bear the acting style of Liz. Her loud, over-the-top voice can kill me (Suddenly, Last Summer), her big tears can annoy me to hell. BUT, when she rocks it's an earthquake. If I said that Lynn Redgrave was not a hurricane, than Taylor is Category 9000 hurricane and destroys countries in this movie. It's a showcase of so many complicated emotions, which are so damn difficult to handle.

Martha is one of the most unlikeable characters. I go further: she's just a disgusting, nasty, alcoholic mess, who's just a total waste. Much like Mo'Nique in Precious (she even makes Mo'Nique pale in comparision with her, check out the two breakdown scenes and compare), she doesn't have much to do and therefore tortures the only person on whom they could rely. But in Martha, very deep inside, there's so many love to express and this really makes this character heartbreaking. Taylor shows the hopelessness of Martha, but also the hope inside her. I'm contradicting myself, but so does this performance, which never makes sense and by this it's as natural as it can get.

When we first see her, she's drunk, she's swearing like a sailor, she's disgusting, vulgar and ugly. I don't see how a beautiful, 34-year-old actress at her prime was able to be so ugly. It took tons of courage from Ms. Taylor. Yes, she made the decision to jump into the edge, but with this self-sacrifice she created something for the ages. Something, which is more than Elizabeth Taylor, the superstar, the queen of Hollywood. It's no wonder that the great roles avoided her after this: there was nowhere to go from here. Taylor reached the star and one cannot go further, that's it. Not only is this work her best, but it was revolutionary for acting too. After this, beautiful actresses were not afraid to become fat, ugly and ordinary.

Incredibly the things I most dislike about Taylor's acting make this performance really work. With exaggerating her mannerisms, it just becomes so interesting despite the fact that it's crazily over-the-top. It's quite simply breathtaking to witness this harrowing experience as you get to see the everything, the point (which Nick doesn't see), the soul of this character. Is she mentally ill or is she simply bitter? I think it's the mix of the two, or the illness is the result of her bitterness and disappointments. Martha wanted something more than anything and than it's taken away from her. It's one of the most heartbreaking moments ever.

Also, I am not halfway done with analyzing her performance: this review would be so incomplete without mentioning the crazily intense chemistry between her and Richard Burton. Their fight-and-make-up relationship in real life affected this work of theirs, but in the most positive way possible. George and Martha are addicted to each other, they don't have anyone else. They fight all the time, which is mostly the result of the intense love and hate between them. Her scene in the kitchen (I mean her huge monologue) is simply heartbreaking and explains all the feelings. The emotional force in it is so captivating, that after all this weight on you becomes so heavy, that you actually break down along with the characters. Taylor (with the other actors) makes you a part of their crazy, sick games and you just can't get out. There are breaks for them, but not for you. From the first second, Taylor grabs you by your guts and never lets you go, not for a single moment. And incredibly there's also a fair amount of humor and irony in Taylor towards this character: after all Martha is just a person who seeks happiness like any of us, and it's not only her fault that she is a total failure.

After all, I don't want to let this performance go. I just so want to write and write and write for hours, but you have to wrap it up. The writing flies away, but Taylor's performance stays with me forever, locked up firmly in my mind. An actress, who was able to show another, unknown and much more interesting side of hers, now really got me. I'm under its effect and I can't be sober. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
This is again one of those cases, where I don't need a rating.

What do you think?