Friday, June 29, 2012

Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons

Great Glenn received her fifth unsuccessful Oscar nomination for playing Marquise de Merteuil, a bored and vicious aristocrat in the adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos's novel, Dangerous Liaisons. After you fail to win the Oscar for a smash hit, which becomes a classic in a second and you get your fifth nomination, you can expect some goodwill from the Academy and yet Great Glenn, the greatest of them all, has been really unlucky at the Academy Awards. I'm 100% sure that if the precursor awards had been on her side, she would have won, hands down (it's always those damn precursor awards that prevent her from winning the Oscar, I tell you). I suppose she was second even this way and was actually really threatening Jodie Foster's win. Since then, Jodie has won Oscars, Great Glenn zero. Discuss. :)

Dangerous Liaisons is simply one of the best movies ever made, simple as that. I don't like to often use this word, but this movie is just perfect. Not only did it deserve to win for all its nominations, it also should have earned John Malkovich an Oscar for the best male performance of 1988 (by far). Also, the fact that the Oscar field that year was so damn weak makes Dangerous Liaison's case even more puzzling. And Michelle... my goodness, is that woman amazing and very underrated here! Honestly both hers and Malkovich's performances left me breathless on their own right and they cannot even contend for being my favorite performance in this film (OK, we all knew awho it would be). 

I don't even start to talk about how and why I love Great Glenn. I don't give a fuck if it's a popular thing to do, I absolutely adore her, and yes, I think SHE is the greatest living actress who can do no wrong and who's probably one of the most underrated performers. There isn't a performance of hers that doesn't blow my socks off. No matter if it's Alex Forrest or Patty Hewes, Great Glenn's constant, dazzling greatness and magnetic personality shines through the scene. Each and every movement of hers suggest intelligence, confidence and natural greatness. I suppose why I love her to such an extent is down to the fact that her typical stage energy adds something unusual and infinitely amazing to her performances.

And Marquise de Merteuil is the crowning achievement of Great Glenn's whole brilliant career. Although I expected to adore her here and find her amazing (I had already seen the movie, like, six times), I wasn't prepared to be this blown away. It actually took me some time to finally really get this performance and what this whole character is all about. Now all the negative comments I've read about her have become clear. The Marquise is manipulative. True. Playing manipulative is easy. Maybe. Was this part easy? Hell no. Hell no. In the Marquise, Great Glenn created a fascinating, amazing and endlessly intriguing character, with much more under the surface than one would initially expect and Great Glenn reveals all the layers of the Marquise in the most fascinating and mysterious way one can imagine.

It's also amazing to me how Great Glenn added a touch of delicate humor to her performance. Bitchiness is always very delicious if done properly, and boy does Great Glenn nail it: her acidic dialogues are delivered as sharply by her as a razor blade. Great Glenn doesn't miss one single opportunity to kick ass and entertain the viewer. She's vivid, enjoyable, fascinating and utterly irresistable. Her work's just like great chocolate: smooth, delicious and in the end, it's nothing but sheer guilty pleasure. So far I would say that this part was very easy, especially for an actress of Great Glenn's stature.

However, what constantly fascinates me about this performance is Great Glenn's wonderful ability to portray the decline of not only the Marquise, but also a whole society and an era. At one point,  Great Glenn delivers a  very sinister and disturbing line: the century is coming to its end very soon. She fills this simple, almost meaningless sentence with so many meanings, making it probably the very essence of her movie. It seems like the Marquise and the Vicomte are trying to enjoy their brief time left in this world. Their life (on the outside) is limited by the rules of society and the daily routines, just like it's shown at the beginning of the movie. It's just like watching actors prepare for their performances. These bored aristocrats do nothing but constantly putting on shows for each other. 

Also, Great Glenn brilliantly uses her face to portray the viciousness of the Marquise. One blink can add multiple layers to a simple sentence and you just keep marvelling at how strong of an effect she can have on you with one look (no pun intended; or yes... maybe). She tells everything with her strange, assymetric eyes, her mouth and her powdered face. This makes the screen almost explode and also makes her a magnetic, luminous presence. No matter how vicious and evil she is, you just keep pulling for the Marquise. 

However, the only vulnerable side of the Marquise is her desire for Valmont. She says "It's the only time I've been controlled by my desire". It's no surprise that the chemistry between Great Glenn and Malkovich is just brilliant. They are both trying to control one another and it seems as if the two of them are in fact competing with each other. They are allies, friends, lovers, adversaries, even enemies. They can only be hurt by each other and yet both actors show how much these people depend on each other. Great Glenn shows it wonderfully that the Marquise is actually jealous and even a bit broken about the special love the Vicomte feels for Madame de Tourvel. You can see her sorrow when she leans against the wall, breathing. It's one of those rare moments when Great Glenn reveals the insecurities of the Marquise. 

Another proof is the long monologue where the Marquise reveals how she "invented" herself. Not only is it the highlight and the best scene of the Great Glenn in this particular movie, but it's also up there with one of her best acted moments of her whole career. Each and every word of hers made me feel like I was hit by a sightseeing bus. Great Glenn's acting seems so subtle, cold or even calculating and yet for me, it only proves how passionate she is in her acting. Although her tools are subtle and she's quite technical, there's something astonishingly real and very emotional about this part, very much like  in the case of Jane Fonda in Klute. Both of them show women deformed by society's expectation and both actresses put on seemingly calculated and atrificial performances in order to show how these women are constantly putting on performances.

Also, I found it really astonishing how we were able to look inside the head of the Marquise while Great Glenn was able to maintain the mysterious aura of the character. We understand the hows of this woman, but Great Glenn only gives us hints about why she acts this way (again, very much like Jane in Klute). And both of them are able to communicate the moral of story through their character, without being obvious or predictable. Both ladies are just showing how their respective societies' downfall affects these two women,  who live under very different circumstances.

The huge breakdown of the Marquise towards the end after the death of we-all-know-who seems extremely odd and out of place in the movie and yet considering the things mentioned above, it seems perfectly reasonable. The calculated surface disappears and all that remains is an overwhelming amount of emotions. I always thought the fact that Great Glenn's trying to rip off her own clothes was a symbol of trying to leave the rules of society behind her.

And yes I might have to withdraw my earlier statement. The conclusion of Great Glenn's performance is just pure perfection and it's just as brilliant as her big monologue (Great Glenn has always thought that this ending was one of the most difficult scenes for her). But boy, was she able to pull it off! She doesn't say a single word and yet she was able to affect you only by playing with her face. We can see a total meltdown, a  truly disturbing danse macabre: eventually, the society that created the Marquise destroys her as well and this downfall becomes incredibly terrifying thanks to Great Glenn. The directing was 100% behind her, but in the end, it was all up to Great Glenn if the movie turns out to be a masterpiece or just a great effort, because she could have screwed its effect up by one false movement in those final moments. However, she was able to balance the emotions incredibly and eventually created not only a fabulous character, but also made the whole movie what it is: a real masterpiece.

So in the end, amazing or fantastic or career-best don't even begin to describe how brilliant Great Glenn is as Marquise de Merteuil. Each and every movement of hers is so great that I still keep marvelling at it. Naturally, the Academy refused to acknowledge this earth-shattering performance with an Oscar win and yet that tells something about the Academy itself instead of Great Glenn who's simply electrifying. A true masterclass in acting, which makes me think if I should call Great Glenn Brilliant Glenn or Greatest Glenn from now on. Again, the rating is just wasted.

What do you think? I already painted a red spot on my shirt. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Next Year


So the nominees were:
  • Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons
  • Jodie Foster in The Accused
  • Melanie Griffith in Working Girl
  • Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark
  • Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist
Continuing a Streepathon celebrating Meryl's third, a year with three previous winners of mine and two ladies I haven't yet reviewed. Great Glenn seems to be the odds-on favorite to win here but let's see if I'll jump on the Meryl bandwagon like many of my fellow bloggers or pick someone else. :)

What do you think? Who's your pick? What's your prediction for my ranking? :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Final Conclusion - Best Actress 1984


So the much anticipated ranking is:

Sissy Spacek is just wasted in The River. Her character has no depth, very few juicy scenes and Sissy deserves so much more than this. It's not really her fault, it has more to do with the fact that the movie doesn't seem to care about her character and forces her into the background. While she shines in a few scenes, it's just not enough to make up for everything else (which is nothing). 

I can conclude that while Sally Field does nothing spectacular or really significant with her character, she still gives a proper and likeable performance as Edna in Places in the Heart. The screenplay and the movie is seriously working against her and she wasn't given enough opportunities to fight against it and maybe she didn't even have the strength as an actress in the first place. Still, her performance works just like Places in the Heart does: it relaxes you, entertains you. 

It may not be her strongest work, but Jessica's able to play with my heartstrings even with a limited screenplay and cheesy lines, thanks to her emotional intelligence and enormous talent. She's able to make a scene unforgettable with only one look or a few tears. She's able to make a lasting impression without huge breakdowns and screaming and her dedication for the film is indeed admirable.

Judy Davis gives a wonderful, unforgettable performance as Adela Quested. She staunchly keeps herself to her very own way and she never surrenders to the temptations of going the shorter, easier way just like the rest of the movie does. Although the movie doesn't give her much time or even credit (which is the reason why she doesn't leave you breathless like she does in Husbands and Wives), she's the one who leaves the strongest impression.
I can say that Vanessa is nothing short of fantastic  in The Bostonians. The screentime may not be on her side, she does a mighty fine job with her role, making her character a really inrtiguing and complex woman. Thanks to her beauty, radiant presence and fascinating personality, (just as Katharine Hepburn said) Vanessa is just a thrill to look at and listen to. An interesting, wonderful portrayal full of layers and mysteries.

 So I can proudly announce
that the winner is...
Vanessa Redgrave
The Bostonians
A very close one. :)

Final thoughts: Wow, it took ages to finish this year. I've already explained why, not going to do it once again. Anyway, this year was quite weak, but not as much as I expected. The winner was almost a coin toss,  though unfortunately it wasn't because of the embarassment of the riches. In the end, my winner was obvious #4 and #5 were easy. I don't want to waste much time on explaining why this year was that weak. I was just glad to see three movies that are quite hard to find and actually, this year was exciting as I had only seen Sally previously. :)

Omissions (I have one pick but I want to pick them all, they are so brilliant):
  • Mia Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose
  • Helena Ruzicková in Sun, Straw, Strawberry (undecided if she's supporting or leading)
  • Maggie Smith in A Private Function
  • Dorottya Udvaros - You bloody life! *MY PICK* 
The next year: 
  • I"ll be going on with my two postponed years. :) One of them you remember, one of them you may not.
What do you think? Any thoughts on your mind?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sissy Spacek in The River

Sissy Spacek received her fourth Oscar nomination for playing Mae Garvey, another woman who's determined to survive hardships on a farm. Although The River received four nominations, I don't think that Sissy was ever a real contender for the Best Actress Oscar. She may have gotten ahead of Vanessa, but that's just because the movie got more nominations. I suppose Sally Field's second win was inevitable after Peggy Aschcroft turned out to be supporting, wasn't it. We'll never know, especially with such a weak field. 

I'm (sort of) grateful that I watched The River so long after Country as I would seriously mix up the two of them in my mind. They are so incredibly alike in many ways, I even think that guy at the auction was played by the same person in both movies. However, The River doesn't have that devastating, depressing edge, which made Country so memorable. I can conclude that The River is a more watered and lighter version of Country. I guess that had a lot to do with Mark Rydell who tends to go this way. On Golden Pond worked because it was very sentimental material in the first place but The River shouldn't have been approached this way. Still, I have to acknowledge Vilmos Zsigmond's great (as always) cinematography, which makes the movie memorable visually, at the very least. 

Sissy Spacek is no stranger to this blog and having already reviewed five of her six nominated performances, I can say I wasn't worried about what this performance would turn out to be. Even in her weaker efforts (Missing or Crimes of the Heart), there's her glowing, radiant personality that makes her a thrill to look at, not to mention her incredible performance in Coal Miner's Daughter, Carrie or In the Bedroom. All in all, Sissy is a wonderful actress who can turn the weakest, most underwritten parts into something extraordinary or at least intriguing. 

That way, The River was an incredible challenge for her. Mae Garvey's character is (not even) paper thin. I was actually really stunned, why an actress, at the peak of her wonderful career, took on such a nothing character. Mae seems to be a mere accessory for Mel Gibson's character. The thing that really bothered me was how many opportunities in Mae's character were ignored by the writer and the director. She could have been a constantly fascinating personality, very much like Jessica Lange's Jewell, who is a simple woman but a complex character in the film (or Sally Field for that matter who didn't get much to work with either and yet had some kind of an impact). With these basics, not even a brilliant actress like Sissy could have worked miracles with Mae. 

As I said, Sissy's radiant presence makes up for lots of things. Well, certainly not for not having a complete character who was lost somewhere in the beginning. I couldn't quite make it out what she was doing there. I guess her character was intended to be support. In fact, a less well-known would have been campaigned in supporting (but a less well-known actress never would have had any recognition for this, let's be honest). Since she's reduced to be an accessory to men in this film, Sissy's performance works the best when she's around Mel Gibson and Scott Glenn, especially the latter. Whenever they share a scene, its atmosphere changes and the whole movie begins to work, thanks to their wonderful chemistry. 

The highlight of Sissy's performance is also connected to Glenn, after his character takes Mae home after her injury (following a clumsily directed scene, which wasn't nearly as exciting and intense as it could have been), when she refuses to think about cheating her husband. Sissy elevated another potentially clumsy scene with the way she portrayed the emotions of this woman. It was the only time the movie had some real depth and was indeed real. 

With Mel Gibson, Sissy is much less outstanding and their chemistry is not nearly as strong as the one with Glenn. Still, they share some tender, nice scenes but it's just all too familiar and clichéd with the moody, sometimes agressive husband and the calm, loving wife. However, The River even fails to use clichés for its own good and makes it all so boring. I would have even forgiven fake drama in exchange for some real story. 

I wish to be lenient and forgiving with Sissy about this performance but I'm just unable too feel anything about this movie and her performance. I just wasn't intrigued for a momen, except for that surprisingly tender, life-saving scene with Scott Glenn. It's really a real challange to even think something about this movie and character. 

To sum up, Sissy Spacek is just wasted in The River. Her character has no depth, very few juicy scenes and Sissy deserves so much more than this. It's not really her fault, it has more to do with the fact that the movie doesn't seem to care about her character and forces her into the background. While she shines in a few scenes, it's just not enough to make up for everything else (which is nothing). I'm very sad that I had to finish my journey with Sissy on a bit sour note. 

What do you think? 

Yes, I'm back, finished with my exams, ready to focus on more important things. I wish it happened with some wonderful performance. I'll be posting regularly until July then I'm going on a trip and won't have Internet access but I'll write some posts in advance and time them. You just won't get repliest to your comments. I hope you missed me. :)))