Friday, May 27, 2011

Brenda Blethyn in Secrets & Lies

Brenda Blethyn received her first Oscar nomination for playing Cynthia Rose Purley, a lonely woman, full of disappointment and sorrow but who has some hope in her life thanks to her daughter whom she gave up years ago for adoption in Mike Leigh's movie, Secrets & Lies. I don't think that Brenda Blethyn was that far behind Frances McDormand. It's not that easy to find out who might have been the runners-up for the Oscar since I can imagine a very massive fanbase for Emily Watson but it was Brenda who was the critics' darling along with McDormand. I guess her Golden Globe helped her a lot and she was third at the very least but second is more likely.

Secrets & Lies is a terrific movie and I would probably even say that it's just perfect as it is. It's a really tough and very harrowing experience mostly because it's so incredibly realistic. It's so heartwrenching to see real people suffering and dealing with serious problems in life. The best thing about it is that the director had a really great sense of humor. This movie is not just depressing, it's a much more complex experience. I would say Timothy Spall was cheated out of that Oscar nomination (and probably even a win) for his astonishing performance as Maurice. Marianne Jean-Baptiste is excellent and deserved her nomination.

Brenda Blethyn is a great actress who we don't see as often as we should, really. She's really terrific but since a very successful period in Hollywood (and two Oscar noms), we haven't seen that much from her (that doesn't mean, though, that she doesn't give astonishing performances, just watch London River). Secrets & Lies was the movie that brought international recognition to this lesser known but incredibly talented actress. I guess her award at Cannes was the main breakthrough and then the Oscar nom was the icing on the cake (or was it the real breakthrough, I don't know). All in all, I think she could have easily won had she been a little bit more known.

Blethyn plays Cynthia Rose, a very lonely and bitter woman, full of regrets, pain and secrets. When Frances McDormand delivered her Oscar speech she said all of the nominees had the choice to portray rich, complex female characters. That is certainly the case with Brenda Blethyn whose instant and loud success with this performance is easily understandable as soon as you see it as she's brilliant as Cynthia Rose.

I guess it must be a bit off-putting for some that Blethyn is very over-the-top and almost exaggerated this character. Those incredibly loud, hysterical breakdowns might seem a bit to much but in fact, I feel that Blethyn found the perfect balanced and she was never too much for me. I guess, one has to have a taste for these kinds of performance and I am (I know) a bit snobbish about these things and Blethyn's work as Cynthia totally suits me.

In the beginning, we see a woman who's crying over her days of glory which may not have even existed. It's such a heart-breaking moment when she's holding her breasts as if she was younger andhad "great tits". Another example is when she's talking about her legs. She's wearing ugly slippers and she places her feet as if she was Sharon Stone. And yet she looks awful and doesn't care that much about herself. That's the beginning of Cynthia's journey and it gets just better and better. And Cynthia's loneliness is so close. I loved the scene where she hysterically grabs her brother and says that he's the only one she has.

The most interesting aspect of this character is that Cynthia doesn't always develop gradually. There are traumatic changes that really make her different. The first one is when her long lost daughter calls her on the phone and wants to meet her. It's really no wonder at all that it was her Oscar clip. It's an incredible and very emotional moment and again, heartbreaking. The way she's trembling, the way her mouth is twitching, the way she runs... all just unbelievable. There was so much emotional intensity there that as I was watching her, I felt my heart beating like hell.

However, Cynthia's relationship with Hortense, her daughter develops gradually and it's just wonderful to see the two ladies together. It's simply astonishing that they don't look like each other at all and they are not like each other at all and yet they are the perfect mother and daughter. It's wondeful.

The highlight of the whole movie is a long birthday party scene where all the secrets and lies are revealed and ALL of the actors excell, especially Blethyn and Timothy Spall. When Cynthia reveals the truth about Hortense to her family, it's a really shocking and heavy moment. It's really hard for the audience to deal with that scene emotionally and it took me a long time to find the real brilliance in it. Cynthia becomes as small and vulnerable as an old bird, and all thanks to the terrific Brenda Blethyn. When she sits the down and goes on eating her cake while being hysterical is just gutwrenching and is the work of a true genious.

Brenda is also fantastic in the scene of the reconciliation with her sister-in-law. Both are crying but they are holding each other and it's just a really terrific, magnificent moment. It's not a sentimental scene (oh no, God forbid) but it's quite tearjerking. It was amazing to see so many emotions almost blowing up the screen. Mark my words: amazing.

Yes, sometimes I get too carried away but I don't feel bad about it in this case because this is probably one of the finest performances I have ever seen in my life. It might be a little bit too much for many, I can accept that but not for me. This is a brutally realistic, terrifying, stunning achievement. The great director may have been very helpful to Brenda Blethyn but eventually, it's her incredible talent that makes this performance a very intense and wonderful experience, one that you don't easily forget. It stays in your guts.
What do you think? Who should be next (don't say Emily :D)?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Frances McDormand in Fargo

Frances McDormand received her second Oscar nomination and only Oscar to date for playing Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police officer investigating in a very odd case in the Best Picture nominee, Fargo. I don't know how much chance she had of winning. I guess she was pretty much the front-runner even though she lost the Globe to Madonna. Still, the other nominees were either too unknown (Blethyn, Scott Thomas and Watson) or not showy enough (Keaton). 1996 was a very unorthodox and interesting line-up without really huge stars.

Fargo is a pretty great movie though I have some minor problems with it. For instance, I think that the solution for the problem is a little bit too sudden and unbelievable. I mean, such a coincidence? But I guess it works because Fargo is quite unusual in itself. The directon of Joel Coen is just wonderful though I'm not sure if he deserved the Oscar over Mike Leigh. We'll see later. The screenplay of the movie is quite great and so is William H. Macy but for me it was Steve Buscemi who really stood out from the cast and he should have received a nomination.

Frances McDormand is an excellent character actress who always gives very great performances in supporting roles. She doesn't play the lead very often and she's not the real lead in Fargo, either. I'm not sure if the category placement for her was right. On the one hand, Margie isn't really the center of the movie and she's just a very entertaining character who makes things very colorful and warm in this cold movie. On the other hand, I couldn't think of anyone else as the leading character of this movie. She actually appears about thirty minutes into the movie and she doesn't really have very much screentime. Interesting enough, people rarely question this leading nomination. I don't think that she had much more time than, say, Patricia Neal in Hud.

That being said, McDormand is just wonderful in this role. I loved the very subtle way that she approached this character. Margie doesn't have loud, over-the-top breakdowns or even huge dramatic scenes. But I wouldn't say that this is a very silent role. The little mannerisms of Margie are just brilliant. Every minute I saw her on screen, I somehow felt so much better. She has this very radiant and warm presence that is really the only pleasant thing about Fargo. One could say that Margie was useless here, but I wouldn't say so. She balances all the terrifying aspects of this story so well and Frances McDormand used every opportunity to do that. To put it more correctly, in the alienated, evil world of Fargo, Margie represents humanity and love. It's lovely that while everybody else is killing others, she is going to give life to someone. Brilliant. I guess, she's more of a symbol and McDormand does it just brilliantly. She perfectly communicated Margie's innocence and incapability of understanding why people are killing for money.

There's so much dramatic weight and true meaning in her scene in the car where she asks the criminal why he did it. We can see all the faces of this character and it's just brilliant. And quite sad, to tell the truth. The lines are rather corny but thanks to McDormand's great delivery they really fit her, so I didn't have a problem with it. And the same goes for her very last scene with her husband. The warmth that McDormand adds to this scene is really touching. Yes, this is what I call a decent life. And McDormand communicated this to the audience terrificly.

The fact that McDormand is also quite hilarious in this part (her deliveries are brilliant) almost totally overshadows the real merits of this performance. Indeed, McDormand's sharp brilliance in the scene where she meets the girls from the bar is impressive. Her face... hilarious. And the same goes for the sequences where she's eating burgers. Again, she's so adorable.

But I don't want to make the mistake of not saying how really, truly wonderful Frances McDormand is in Fargo. She took this very ordinary character (who's actually much more complicated than one would think) added touches of her brilliance and the result was this wonderful, subtle and quite thought-provoking performance. She holds all the moral meanings of Fargo and the way she reveals it is simply perfect. This opinion may not be popular once again, but I just love her.

What do you think? Who should be next? (Emily Watson will be reviewed last to keep the suspense alive)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Next Year


So the nominees were:
  • Brenda Blethyn in Secrets and Lies
  • Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room
  • Frances McDormand in Fargo
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient
  • Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves
Doing this year was a spontaneous decision but it was requested once and I feel like doing it, so let's see whom I'll pick.

What do you think? What are your predictions for my ranking? Who's your pick? What's your ranking?

Note: I will only start reviewing next weekend.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1983


So the much anticipated ranking is:

There are fantastic scenes in this performance of Jane Alexander but the overall impact is a bit mixed. This work is a bit incoherent and the character could have been developed better. It's the screenplay's fault mostly but Jane Alexander couldn't avoid all the traps set by the writing. Still, some astonishing moments really make up for the weaker ones.

I liked Winger as Emma. I may not be in awe of her as much as others, I can appreciate the merits of Winger's work. Although the performance starts out a bit boring, it improves in time and it becomes a very interesting one that has a great effect on the viewer. It might be the fact that I don't like this type of characters very much but I wasn't that impressed.

I have to say that Shirley MacLaine is just excellent as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment. Although I'm not as impressed by her some many others, I like her performance very much and I found her exceptionally entertaining. I have my problems, unfortunately but the overall effect of it is quite positive.

I cannot deny Meryl's greatness as Karen Silkwood. she's sometimes incredibly great and it's great to see Meryl play such an odd character. I'd really like to praise this performance as I feel it's really great and I most certainly loved her. Meryl is really gripping in this role and shows Karen's development brilliantly.
This performance is not as popular and talked about as the other ones this of year even though it really should be. Julie Walters gives a fantastic, heartwrenching and very emotional performance as Rita, a girl who just wants to sing a better song. I was really touched by Walters' natural acting, loveable presence and great sense of humor.

So I can proudly announce
that my winner is...
Julie Walters
Educating Rita

This is a better song, aye? :)

  • Hédi Temessy in Job's Revolt *My Pick*

Final thoughts: Again, I less than satisfying year. I was first blown away by Julie whose luminous presence made my pick easy in the end, despite the fact that I changed my winner many times. Meryl really grew on me and in the end, but I was still disappointed. Shirley was quite good, Jane and Debra were good, too but not that much. And again, I picked a not-so-popular nominee but I really don't care. I love making controversial decisions. It may not even be controversial, though. :)

About the next year: It's going to be a great one and I start it on 19th. Until that, no posts, sorry. The return will be great, though. :) I won"t give clues this time because I'm not sure which year I should do.

What do you think?

Meryl Streep in Silkwood

Meryl Streep received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Karen Silkwood, a working woman who learns the shocking truth about the place where she works in the movie Silkwood. Under normal circumstances, I would say that Meryl received the second most votes but she had just won her second Oscar a year before. So I guess the Academy was not as eager to give her the third Oscar as they are now. I think only those voted for her who really loved her performance and people primarily voted for her because she was great.

Silkwood is a good film. I wouldn't say it's unforgettable but it's worth watching once or twice. Mike Nichols is a director who made some fantastic movies in the sixties, which are really unforgettable but in time his movies became a bit artificial (in the eighties, precisely). They want to give some social message and yet they don't want to give up on being really entertaining. Why eactly? Many people are blown away by Cher's performance in this movie and although I found her quite impressive, I don't think she should have won over Linda Hunt.

Meryl Streep is pretty much the Academy Award Queen. Or Award Queen, to put it precisely. She's really an awards magnet and I would be very surprised if she didn't win her third for The Iron Lady. OK, I know that they say the movie is gonna suck but come on. Meryl is quite technical and she's really someone who wants everything to be pitch-perfect in her performance. I guess that's sometimes a real advantage and sometimes it can go really wrong. It mostly works but sometimes it really doesn't. Plus, nowadays she has these role where she seemingly haves fun (It's Complicated, Mamma Mia!) and they are horrible though not only because of her.

Meryl seems to be at her prime nowadays but I think that's not really correct. Meryl is always at her prime and there was a period where she wasn't really herself (in the second half of the ninties). She became a major star in the eighties and receieved six Best Actress nominations in one decade. Silkwood came in this very prolific and succesful period of her career and it's become one of her most respected performances and it's always dangerous to write about such a work.

Karen Silkwood is a character who is quite interesting and the performer can benefit very much from that. She had a very mysterious death and as a result, the character herself has some kind of a mystery, too. Still, I think it was a great decision by the filmmakers to make Karen a very ordinary woman (I love using this word with 1983, I know). She's a bit vulgar, a bit unlikeable and so on. However, somehow Meryl wins our sympathy.

The technical part of this performance is just terrific and flawless. Amazing Grace is brilliantly sung by Meryl and it was very touching to hear it. Meryl worked extremely well with the accent, the mannerisms but that's something that you expect from Meryl. I especially loved the small ticks that she added to this character. Really, I couldn't say a single flaw in the technical part. Everything was just fine and excellently done by her.

I also loved how she developed the character. Karen discovers some really ugly facts about the dangers of the nuclear plant where she was working and the way she became more and more smart was fascinatingly handled by Meryl. This aspect of her performance really did benefit from Meryl's awareness and confidence. Karen's development is rather standard but Meryl makes it all very interesting.

And yet, as I said, I'm a tiny bit disappointed because this is a performance where I keep remembering Black Swan. Just like Nina Sayers, Meryl wanted to get everything just perfect and never lost herself completely. I felt that she was a bit too aware and in control. I felt that she's great enough to let this character go after a while. She could have been thoroughly mindblowing as she IS mindblowing in most of the scenes.

However, this doesn't mean that her acting is not gripping because it is. You don't really see Meryl Streep there, you really see Karen Silkwood, a very determined woman, who's willing to fight for justice. Plus, those shower scenes are brutally effective.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny Meryl's greatness as Karen Silkwood. Despite the fact that I wasn't totally blown away, I just cannot forget her whole performance. The technical part is, of course, flawless, it's just that I wasn't totally blown away by Meryl's whole achievement. Still, she's incredibly great and it's great to see Meryl play such an odd character. I'd really like to praise this performance as I feel it's really great and I most certainly loved her.

What do you think? I don't know when The Final Conclusion comes as the ranking is very hard.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jane Alexander in Testament

Jane Alexander received her fourth (and to date last) Oscar nomination for playing Carol Wetherly, a woman who has to take care of her family without her husband who got lost during nuclear bombing in the movie Testament. It's really interesting to think about Alexander's chances of winning for Testament. This was her fourth nomination but she wasn't really the overdue one because Shirley MacLaine was way ahead to win, plus Alexander was the only nomination for Testament. I guess Alexander was third or fourth or even fifth. I have no idea.

Testament is a movie that is both too depressing and too soft. First of all, it's a bit too short and it doesn't give enough time to all of the characters. It seemed to me as if the writer only wanted to create huge and very hard-hitting scenes and did not care about building the whole story up. For instance, there are really interesting characters about whom we don't get to know enough. We just see them pass by and that's it. Too bad.

Jane Alexander is not one of the most popular Oscar nominees. In fact, many of her nominations are criticised nowadays. Personally, I quite like her and yes I even liked her in All the President's Men. I wouldn't say that she's a favorite of mine but I like her. And when I first saw Testament, I was totally blown away by her, especially the huge scenes.

I guess this is a performance that is much less mindblowig for the second time because you know what to expect from it. I was quite worried about that when I did Natalie Portman's profile for Black Swan. However, the second look at Alexander in Testament wasn't that great. That doesn't mean, though, that I didn't like her, it's just that my appreciation has cooled a bit.

Carol Wetherly is not a very interesting person, she's just an ordinary housewife and mother who's concerned about very ordinary things. That being said, there's nothing really extraordinary about her. We hear her thoughts as Carol has a diary and Alexander narrates the movie after a while and it's most certainly done very well by her.

During the movie, Carol should loose her mind gradually and that's something that I didn't really see in Alexander's performance. I mean I saw big meltdowns like the one when she was shouting "God damn you!". I mean that could work but did they think that people hadn't seen Planet of the Apes. I mean come on. Alexander even had the same gestures as Charlton Heston. It was a bit embarassing.

Other than that, Jane Alexander is quite great. What I loved the most about her is the she showed so many aspects of a mother's love. Sometimes she's angry, sometimes she just feels like dancing with her son (which is by the way the best and most honest moment of the movie because of its naturality). Alexander was just wonderful in these scenes, always remaining believable and realistic. There isn't a a sentimental or soappy moment in her performance and that's really impressive.

I guess the fans of this performance (like I was) mostly love her big scenes, which are indeed quite harrowing. SPOILER ALERT! After a while, people start dying in her town, including two of her children. The way Alexander portrayed the grief is just extraordinary. That teddy bear scene might be a bit over-the-top but I think it worked in the context of the movie. However, the one where she prepares her daughter's body for the funeral is very haunting. It's a quiet and ver heavy moment that's astonishing. SPOILER OFF!

There's Alexander's famous monologue about making love and that's excellently delivered by her. It's a really emotional moment, mostly because of its simplicity and honesty. And the communication between Alexander and Roxana Zal (who plays her daughter) was just brilliant. I really believed that they were mother and daughter.

To sum up, there are fantastic scenes in this performance of Jane Alexander but the overall impact is a bit mixed. This work is a bit incoherent and the character could have been developed better. It's the screenplay's fault mostly but Jane Alexander couldn't avoid all the traps set by the writing. Still, some astonishing moments really make up for the weaker ones.
I was tempted to go higher but I have to be stricter.

What do you think? It's time for the final predictions! :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Julie Walters in Educating Rita

Julie Walters received her first Oscar nomination her first Oscar nomination for playing Susan/Rita, a young woman who tries to become a better by studying in the British movie, Educating Rita. It's very hard to estimate Walters' chances of winning in 1983. On the one hand, she got the Golden Globe and later a Bafta but she was unknown and British, so I don't think that she got that many votes. However, I know that members of the old Hollywood (Loretta Young, Irene Dunne etc.) loved Educating Rita and I think many of them preferred Walters over MacLaine. I guess Julie was third or fourth.

Educating Rita used to be one of my all-time favorite movies by which I was extremely blown away when I first saw it. And although I'm not that impressed by it now, I still love it very much as it's so deeply human, natural, funny and loveable. I think its screenplay should have won the Oscar. It was much-much better than the one of Terms of Endearment. Educating Rita could have been a very sentimental story but thanks to the workd of the cast and crew, it became just very emotional. Michael Caine gives a very good performance but Duvall is an easy pick for that year (check out Louis' reviews on the year if you haven't).

Julie Walters is an actress whom I really like despite the fact that I haven't seen much of her movies. However, every time when I see her, I am taken over by her warm, radiant presence. She can make movies like Mamma Mia! at least tolerable, plus, (as a minor HP fan) I really like her as Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. I think she was born to play that role. Educating Rita was a kind of breakthrough role for her. Despite her Oscar nomination she did not get as great roles as Rita was.

Rita/Susan is a very interesting character, one that I really love. In general, I love watching inkd-hearted, lovely British working girls who become more fulfilled women by a change in their lives like when Georgy Girl has to raise a baby or when Rita gets a real education that makes her a whole. When we first see her, she's a very funny character who jus wants to be clever and confident. We shouldn't take her seriously and we don't because Walters is absolutely hilarious in those first scenes. Her hairstyle, her walking, her talking are all perfect and extremely funny. I think Michael Caine actually plays the viewer's feelings towards Rita. She' s an uneducated but ambitious woman who doesn't want to get stuck in her old life.

When I was writing about Debra Winger, I said that I wasn't truly satisifed with the way she developed the character of Emma. Well, I cannot say the same about Julie Walters here. The changes that Rita goes through and the way that Walters shows them are simply amazing. I think the way that Julie handled this character should be tought at acting schools. I mean, at the beginning she's a young flower, a bit ugly and green but in the end she's blooming and she's just beautiful.

There are very radical changes in this character that are especially dangerous for the performer. First, when Rita's husband burns her books. The teary, desperate look on Julie's face is heart-breaking and just fantastic. She shows so many emotion. She's both sad and determined and Julie shows it all with her eyes. It's simply amazing. The second one comes at the pub where she should be singing with her family and party and instead she looks at her mother's sad face. Again, a fantastic, wonderful moment.

I think the most beautiful sentence of the movie comes when Rita says that she wants to sing a better song. Such an honest, touching moment. One could accuse the screenplay of being obvious but I don't thinkg so. Rita says everything she feels and she's quite open about everything. Again, the way Julie communicates her feelings is just wonderful.

After that, Rita becomes Susan and everything that she wanted to be. A confident, independant, intelligent woman. The expressions on Julie's face during Maureen Lipman's monologue are just again heartwrenching. We see Rita's (not Susan's) feelings and insecurities coming to surface, something that we last see when Rita doesn't dare to go inside Frank's house. She may not even want this life, or does she? Is she good enough?

Also, the chemistry between Walters and Michael Caine is just excellent. It's a very unlikely Higgins-Doolittle relationship but it works very well. They work fabulously together, always helping the other one and truly supporting each other. It's truly great to look at them when they are together.

This performance is not as popular and talked about as the other ones this of year even though it really should be. Julie Walters gives a fantastic, heartwrenching and very emotional performance as Rita, a girl who just wants to sing a better song. I was really touched by Walters' natural acting, loveable presence and great sense of humor. And the development of Rita is simply terrific.
What do you think?

Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

Debra Winger received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Emma Horton, a woman having a very difficult life, an overbearing mother and an unfaithful husband in Terms of Endearment. In 1983, no one was stopping Shirley MacLaine from winning her overdue Oscar, not even her co-star, Debra Winger. But I think she got many votes, too and was second. I'm wondering if she had won had Shirley won earlier. I think she wouldn't have as they probably would have picked Jane Alexander. Or not?

I already expressed some of my feelings towards Terms of Endearment and I have to go on. I wouldn't have given this movie that many Oscars. The Best Adapted Screenplay was not very worthy, either. I probably would have picked Educating Rita or The Dresser, probably. John Lithgow gave a very nice performance as the sympathetic guy who begins an affair with Emma, however, I don't think that he was very worthy of his nomination.

Debra Winger is a notoriously difficult actress. She doesn't make very good relationships while working, in fact, most peolpe really disliked her. However, when you get two gigantic egos together (Winger and MacLaine), the outcome will be either a disaster or a total triumph. Fortunately for both ladies (and us), the latter came true at the Oscars. They were both nominated and they both seemed to have fun over the past.

Winger plays Emma Horton, who's the most dramatic character of Terms of Endearment. She got everything that made Terms of Endearment a typical 80s weepie: children, marital problems, adultery and cancer. Yes, Winger got the huge dramatic role that all the young actresses want. Interesting enough, it was Sissy Spacek who was planned to play the role. I guess the outcome would have been much different then (and Jennifer Jones as Aurora, wow, it would have been quite a big movie).

Debra Winger is a very interesting actress who can make roles like the one in An Officer and a Gentleman but Emma is a very different character. And I think she did justice with Emma: she took everything she got and gave a very proper and impressive performance. In the beginning, she looks a bit awkward but she really improves in time. Athough the way she developed Emma could have been a bit slower but I think she was quite good.

When she has scenes with Shirley MacLaine, it's easy to see who's the more talented actress of the two. It might be also the fact that Emma's character is much less entertaining than Aurora but I wasn't really, truly impressed by her. At least not constantly. Whenever you watch two performances in a movie and focus on them both, sometimes you just have to decide which one is the better. For me, it was Shirley. When they had their scenes together, I observed Shirley and not because I didn't care about Winger or liked her less. It's just that Winger' character got a bit one-dimensional compared to Shirley's.

However, as I said her performance really improves a lot. The scenes where we see her as a struggling wife as quite touching and very great. You just can't help it and just feel sorry for poor Emma. Winger showed quite well how Emma became tougher and stronger over the years. The way she realises the truth about her husband is played very well by Winger.

Also, her scenes after Emma realises that she has cancer are exceptional, espcially the one in New York, where she says her a big monologue to her friend. I think it's quite probably the best moment of hers in the whole movie. And after that, her goodbye scene to her children comes. To be totally honest, that scene was a bit too much working for the tears. Yes, it's a heartwrenching and unforgettable moment and the climax of the movie but as a result, the rest of the movie pales in comparision with it.

Still, I liked Winger as Emma. I may not be in awe of her as much as others, I can appreciate the merits of Winger's work. Although the performance starts out a bit boring, it improves in time and it becomes a very interesting one that has a great effect on the viewer. It might be the fact that I don't like this type of characters very much but I wasn't that impressed. Still, something keeps resonating with me, so I will go with
Without hesitation. Wow, deciding between her and Shirley will be tough.

What do you think?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment

Shirley MacLaine received her sixth and to date last Oscar nomination for playing Aurora Greenway, a very complicated widow and mother in the Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment. MacLaine's win was quite secured, I think even though with hindsight it looks a very tight race. Her triumph was something that has to come every once in a while. That was the case with Susan Hayward (ironically, she beat MacLaine), Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet. All these ladies lost to many times to be ignored once again. I guess if Julianne Moore or Annette Bening get nominated once again, they would win. The presenters (Liza Minnelli and Rock Hudson) did not even try to hide that they were rooting for Shirley. But I guess it was just more natural that way.

Terms of Endearment is an interesting case. At least with me. It's very much like Driving Miss Daisy. For the first time, I was totally taken by the emotions and it blew me away but this time I was a bit more sceptical and I felt that it was quite boring sometimes. It's a typical 80s weepie, slightly different from the movies like Love Story. James L. Brooks' Best Director win over Ingmar Bergman is an outrage, in my opinion. Jack Nicholson gives a very fun (almost cameo) performance but I'm not sure of he totally deserved the Oscar. But more on the movie on Winger's profile.

Shirley MacLaine is an actress that I don't really like but my dislike never really influences me (at least not to such an extent as it does with, say, Joanne Woodward) because I actually always enjoy her performances. It's just that I'm not always totally taken over by her. But what can you do when you see a performance of hers that's universally loved and respected? As Aurora Greenway, she gave a very huge and quite over-the-top performance, which serves her movie quite well (Or does it make the movie?).

I guess the immense love the surrounds the performance has very much to do with the character of Aurora Greenway. Debra Winger got the big dramatic moments but I would argue on who got the juicier and baitier role. Winger's Emma is the character that you sympathize with, the one you feel sorry for but ulitmately it's Aurora who gives the most fun. She's the most entertaining thing about the movie and she holds it together. She's the mother tiger, a lion, a true predator who can be incredibly grumpy sometimes.

When you get a really entertaining, amusing character, it's not very difficult to excel or fail. Fortunately, MacLaine achieved the former as she gives a really great performance as Aurora Greenway. First of all, I feel that MacLaine is the best when she acts in a comedy, so the funny parts are all done incredibly well by MacLaine. In 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I read that the chemistry between MacLaine and Nicholson is so great and they are both so fantastic that it almost ruins the movie. And I have to admit that I don't agre completely. However, I also have to admit that MacLaine's scenes are all very dynamic and fun.

Also, the chemistry between Nicholson and her is just perfect. Their scenes truly rock and they seem to be parts of another, better movie. So it's no wonder really that many think that they are both perfect.

Furthermore, the really crucial scenes with Shirley and Winger are also excellently handled by Shirley and the fight-and-make-up relationship between them is astonishing. The two ladies had notorious fights during the filming and everyone thinks that they really payed off. And they really did. There's always so much tension between them and it's just great. OK, don't expect something like Autumn Sonata, but still. They are wonderful together. And yes, the "GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!!" scene is fantastically acted by Shirley.

However, something really keeps me from totally embracing this performance. On the one hand, it's exceptionally entertaining and fun but somehow I felt that she was too overwhelming after a while and I became quite tired of her. And yes, she became quite boring after a while. I guess many disagree but I think that Shirley MacLaine becomes boring in this movie eventually.

Still, I have to say that Shirley MacLaine is just excellent as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment. Although I'm not as impressed by her some many others, I like her performance very much and I found her exceptionally entertaining. I have my problems, unfortunately but the overall effect of it is quite positive.

What do you think?

The Next Year


So the nominees were:
  • Jane Alexander in Testament
  • Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment
  • Meryl Streep in Silkwood
  • Julie Walters in Educating Rita
  • Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment
A fantastic looking year, a year that I know well as I have previously seen all of the ladies so I'm very excited (just like with 2006) how much my opinion changed.

What do you think? What are your predictions for my ranking? Who's your pick? What's your ranking?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1972


So the much anticipated ranking is:

I have very mixed feelings towards Diana Ross' performance as Billie Holiday. On the one hand, Ross is quite strong in some of the scenes and she has a lots of star power, which can be impressive, occasionally. On the other hand, I cannot overlook the fact that in some of the scenes she's very weak and she wasn't mature enough as an actress to play this part.

I keep asking myself: is this enough from the great Dame Maggie Smith? Not really. I always kept wanting more and more. I missed Maggie's usual dazzling presence and despite the fact that I was entertained quite well, I still wanted more. Still, I have to say that Dame Maggie Smith is entertaining and amusing as Aunt Augusta Bertram.

I have to say that Cicely Tyson gives a beautiful performance as Rebecca Morgan. Tyson adds real emotional depth to this (tiny bit) standard character. Her unique, very interesting presence, her great acting choices result in truly great work. Had she been given more to work with, she would have got my vote for this year, rather easily.

Liv Ullmann is really great as Kristina in The Emigrants. It's not her best performance and it's true that she's the best with Bergman but it would be very unjust to deny her merits in The Emigrants. Although the movie works against her, Ullmann was able to make a lasting impression and have a great effect on me. It's very effective acting by a terrific talent.
I could praise Liza Minnelli endlessly for this huge, unforgettable and wonderful performance as Sally Bowles. Liza Minnelli is the heart and soul of this brilliant movie and if I may say so, she gives the best performance ever in a musical. I'm not a fan of the genre but I'm crazy about this one. You can watch Liza over and over again in this movie but you'll have just as much fun and you'll be just as touched as you were for the first time.
So I can proudly announce
that my winner is...
Liza Minnelli
Everybody loves a winner... :)


  • Goldie Hawn in Butterflies are Free

Final thoughts: This year was not as fantastic as it seemed to be. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it because I had only seen Liza in advance and it was good to discover new performances. With me, Liza had an easy win. She was way ahead of her competition. I mean, OMG, how was it even a question who the best was? Good God. I wasn't sure about my #2, but I'm glad I went this way. Liv and Cicely were excellent but I wanted to see more of them. Diana is one of the most overrated nominees ever. I really don't see why some think she should have won over Liza. I really need to relax. Maggie is one of the most disliked nominees ever, so I was really interested in her and I can tell you, I have seen much worse. Still, I feel a bit disappointed about her.
Anyway, Anonymous gave correct predictions but after the deadline, so semi-congrats. :)

The ranking of the reviewed years:

  1. 1944
  2. 1969
  3. 1974
  4. 1989
  5. 1959
  6. 2006
  7. 1964
  8. 1939
  9. 1977
  10. 2010
  11. 1997
  12. 2009
  13. 1980
  14. 1941
  15. 1972
  16. 1963
  17. 1966
  18. 1973
  19. 1990
  20. 1978
  21. 1954
  22. 1948
  23. 2002
  24. 1957
  25. 1940
  26. 1998
About the next year: I will slow down until May 19th but after that everything will be fine. But until then my posts won't be very regular. Sorry about that. But I'll give you clues about the next year:
  • I'm saying let's just GIVE THE SHOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTT!
What do you think?

Maggie Smith in Travels with my Aunt

Maggie Smith received her third Oscar nomination for playing Augusta Bertram, an extremely eccentric woman in George Cukor's movie. Poor Maggie didn't have any chance of winning in 1972. She was the only previous winner, the reviews of Travels with my Aunt were quite mixed and I guess everyone was mad or at least disappointed that it wasn't Katharine Hepburn that they saw on the screen. So, I guess Maggie Smith was fifth just like in (I think) 2001. Maggie didn't even attend the ceremony in 1972.

Travels with My Aunt is a movie that I wouldn't recommend even for George Cukor's most dedicated fans. His directing style seems so dated compared to the innovative, exciting movies of the seventies. Had this movie been made a couple of years earlier, it would have been a bigger hit. Or not. This story fits a novel much more than a movie, I think. I don't see how this movie beat Cabaret for Best Costume Design. I really don't. The score is quite good, though. The ending is, however, incredibly predictable. At least, I found it out in the first ten minutes. But that's more of the fault of the writing, I guess.

I so love Dame Maggie Smith. I'm not afraid to say that she's probably the greatest British actress. She's always so utterly brilliant in both comedy and drama. She could play over-the-top, snobbish characters like no one else in this world. This women are reluctant to give up luxury or things they got used to. In Private Function (her greatest performance ever), her character says something like 'I want a future that at least lives up to my past'. In Gosford Park, she's a woman who has to almost beg for some money. All of Maggie's characters have a very dramatic side and it's always so great to see her reveal this side. She does it like flower blossoms. First, you wonder how the ending is possible and then it comes unexpectedly and it's all so beautiful.

In Travels with My Aunt, she plays a somewhat similar character, Aunt Augusta. This time, however, her character feels quite out of place on the screen. Everything is so modern and she wears these gigantic hats, furs and so on. Naturally, this character is ver over-the-top, so it needs a bit exaggerated performing by the actress who plays her. Maggie did so and was very over-the-top and by this she gained quite an amount of haters. This nomination is one of the least liked ones in history? It's true that it's one of Maggie's lesser effort but one of the worst nominations ever? Oh no.

I kept wondering what Maggie thinks of this performance of hers. For me, one word sums up the whole thing: entertaining but nothing much more. I guess that was the intention of Dame Maggie with it. To entertain and not harm anyone. And she did it perfectly. Her performance starts hilariously. Her out-of-tune (and rhytm), horrible singing is just wonderfully funny and amusing.

Kill me, but I felt that Maggie's exaggerated mannerisms worked for this character. I mean, how do play Aunt Augusta subtly? You just can't and shouldn't. All the decisions of Maggie worked quite well. I mean all she had to do was be funny and amusing and she was indeed. Aunt Augusta is very artificial but Maggie wasn't. Her eccentric behaviour is excellently played by the brilliant Dame Maggie.

But I keep asking myself: is this enough from the great Dame Maggie Smith? Not really. I always kept wanting more and more. And not because it's so great that I couldn't get enough. I missed Maggie's usual dazzling presence and despite the fact that I was entertained quite well, I still wanted more. Still, I have to say that Dame Maggie Smith is very entertaining and amusing as Aunt Augusta Bertram. I may have wanted more but she was quite good anyhow.

What do you think?