Sunday, October 26, 2014

Early Fall Predictions: Best Actress

Doesn't it seem like every year brings the same story about the Best Actress category? Mainly, the lack of major contenders and a category that almost every year seems to be deemed "weak". I'm sorry to say that after Cate Blanchett's impassioned speech about more leading roles for woman (they do make money! The world is round, people!), that it doesn't seem like the studios were paying attention. Well, compared to the many Best Actor hopefuls that get mentioned (and have a possibility of getting in), the Actresses don't ever seem to get the same attention. There's already been some great performances from some talented women this year, but they seem to be pretty much ignored as we head into Oscar movie season. And sadly I don't have any inspired choices of who will emerge as the final 5 nominees. In fact, my choices for who I will believe will make it in pretty much aligns with what everyone else seems to agree. Let's just hope we have some shake-ups as the season progresses otherwise it's gonna be a long, predictable couple of months.

Let's first start off with the two sure things. One a four time nominee that has never won before and the other a previous winner that hasn't had the most stellar career post-win.

In a just world, Julianne Moore would by all accounts already be a two-time winner (for Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven), but the Academy passed her over in favor of others all the previous times she was nominated. And she hasn't even received a nomination (despite some traction for her work in The Kids Are All Right and A Single Man) since her double nominations of 2002, showing signs that perhaps the Academy had cooled in their affection for her. But after winning the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her go-for-broke performance in the messy/whackadoo Maps to the Stars (which will now receive a Oscar-qualifying run, but is way too out-there for be a serious contender), the buzz on Moore began. Then, almost out of nowhere, she became the front-runner for not only a nomination, but to win the whole damn thing with her film that debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, Still Alice. Moore plays a linguistics professors that finds she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Word out of the festival was stellar and it may be too soon to get our hopes up of finally being able to say Academy Award winner Julianne Moore, but a nomination seems pretty secured.

Let the 2014 Reesurgence begin! After winning the Best Actress Oscar for 2005's Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon's career, littered with well-meaning prestige films that didn't pan out and just plain awful romantic comedies (let us never speak of This Means War ever again), hasn't exactly inspired audiences, let alone the Academy. But starting with a small turn in last year's Mud, Witherspoon seems to be getting her footing again and with this fall's Wild (which she also produced), Witherspoon's journey to become a respected actress again seems to have come full circle. Playing Cheryl Strayed, the real-life woman that walked the Pacific Crest Trail (and wrote the book that the film is based on) to find herself. Witherspoon is said to give an amazing performance having already gained acclaim when the film showed in Toronto. And the film's director, Jean-Marc Vallée, certainly knows a thing or two about reviving the career of a floundering star, he directed last year's Dallas Buyers Club with Matthew McConaughey which won the actor the Best Actor Oscar and solidified the great McConaissance.

After reading the best-selling novel Gone Girl, I knew that whoever took on the part of Amy Dunne in the film adaptation would be sure to get some awards attention - the role is too juicy not to. Director David Fincher, after passing on bigger name stars, went with the relatively unknown Rosamund Pike, and, sure enough, Pike's star has risen and Oscar talk has begun. Pike, who has excelled in other films in supporting roles (her work as a not-as-dumb-as-she-seems blonde in An Education is a subtle delight), but I was lukewarm to her actual performance and to the film in general. But the film is already a huge hit and has inspired countless internet articles debating the notion of the "cool girl" and whether or not the film is misogynist. People are going to be talking about it for a long time and I think it'll be too big for the Academy not to include her in the Best Actress category.

After winning an acting award at Sundance for her performance in Like Crazy, big things were expected for new "It" girl, Felicity Jones. But critics and awards committees weren't exactly crazy for the film and it ended up being pretty much a non-starter. Jones has worked steadily since but hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. However with this fall's The Theory of Everything, opposite Best Actor hopeful Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Jones plays Hawking's first wife Jane, who met Hawking during university and stuck by him throughout his illness. The film is actually based on the memoir that Jane wrote, making her side of the story just as compelling as the well-known genius's and the Academy has always had a soft spot for the long-suffering wife role. Most of the early praise seems to be for Redmayne's physical transformation, but Jones seems like a safe bet for a nom alongside him for her steadfast performance.

The fifth spot seems to be a bit up in the air. There's two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain for her work in the 80's set mob thriller A Most Violent Year. She could easily make the fifth spot as she also has the indie drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby which has admirers and the sure-to-be-big Nolan blockbuster Interstellar out at the same time to raise her profile. Her best shot seems to be AMVY, but votes may split over her other films. Another outside possibility is Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard in Belgium's Best Foreign Language Film entry Two Days, One Night, which she is (once again) brilliant in. But for some reason, the Academy seems reluctant to give the actress a second nomination and this film may be too small and too foreign to make an impact.

So I'm giving the fifth spot to an Academy favorite (she's already received 5 prior nominations without a win), with a film that people have already seemed to have lost faith in, sight unseen. But I still feel that Amy Adams in Tim Burton's Big Eyes, as the real-life painter of creepy/kitschy children with crazy huge peepers, could still make her way in. People are saying the film must not be very good since it's completed and hasn't been viewed at any film festivals, but with Harvey Weinstein behind it, I think he'll be pushing Adams big time in Dec. Adams is clearly liked by the Academy, so for now I'm still giving her the nom. Although a win doesn't seem as likely as it once did, since it seems that Julianne Moore may have come in to take over her overdue-for-a-win story arc...we shall see.

My Predictions
Amy Adams Big Eyes
Felicity Jones The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore Still Alice
Rosamund Pike Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon Wild

My Favorite Best Actress Performances (of what I've seen so far this year)
Marion Cotillard The Immigrant
Marion Cotillard Two Days, One Night
Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin
Gugu Mbatha-Raw Belle
Mia Wasikowska Tracks

Friday, October 24, 2014

Twice a Best Actress: Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda is a lot like Sally Field for me. Like Field, I really adore Fonda and will watch her in just about anything (once I caught the beginning of Monster-In-Law on television and watched the entire film from beginning to end. It didn't even occur to me to change the station at all). Fonda's Best Actress wins seem to also mirror Field's as well in that her first win was much deserved and the second, well, not so much...(I also love that Field and Fonda are real-life friends and made a pact to stop having plastic surgery. According to Fonda, Field has kept the pact, but she has not.) This week we took a look at the performances that won Fonda both her Oscars (Klute and Coming Home) for our weekly blogger roundtable Twice a Best Actress from Fisti at A Fistful of Films. Please read the panels thoughts here and make sure to share your thoughts on Fonda.

Jane Fonda

Best Actress 1971

Julie Christie McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Jane Fonda Klute*
Glenda Jackson Sunday Bloody Sunday
Vanessa Redgrave Mary, Queen of Scots
Janet Suzman Nicholas and Alexandra

My thoughts on Fonda as Bree Daniels in Klute: "And Fonda, the epitome of the 70's liberated woman, has never been more naturalistic, open, and spontaneous on screen..." (Click here to read the complete write-up.) B+

Best Actress 1978

Ingrid Bergman Autumn Sonata*
Ellen Burstyn Same Time, Next Year
Jill Clayburgh An Unmarried Woman
Jane Fonda Coming Home
Geraldine Page Interiors

My thoughts on Fonda as Sally Hyde in Coming Home: "She is too sedate throughout, without enough passion for the love story it's trying to be and not politically volatile enough to be the message movie she desperately wants it to be..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) C-

*My Choices for Best Actress winner

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Twice a Best Actress: Luise Rainer

This week for the Twice a Best Actress blogger roundtable (hosted by Fisti at A Fistful of Films), we looked at a woman that's more remembered as an Oscar footnote rather than the accomplished actress she was (it probably doesn't help that she won over more celebrated actresses like Lombard, Garbo, Stanwyck, and Dunne). After winning her two Best Actress Oscars, Luise Rainer virtually disappeared from Hollywood, the pressure being too much for her to live up to and the studio's inability to know what to do with her talent. But Luise Rainer was the first actor (male or female) to win multiple Oscars and the first to win back-to-back awards (and the only Actress to do so until Katharine Hepburn 30 years later in 67 and 68). She had only 7 more films released after the film that brought her second win, The Good Earth, and only 2 were made after 1938. But although Luise Rainer's time as a Hollywood star was brief, she herself is still breaking records. At 104 years old, Rainer is still alive and still the oldest living Oscar winner in history. She has also placed the highest in our roundtable thus far. So celebrate her work by reading what we all thought of her performances in The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth

Luise Rainer
Best Actress 1936

Irene Dunne Theodora Goes Wild
Gladys George Valiant is the Word for Carrie
Carole Lombard My Man Godfrey*
Luise Rainer The Great Ziegfeld
Norma Shearer Romeo and Juliet

My Thoughts on Rainer as Anna Held in The Great Ziegfeld: "Rainer is a fluttery diversion, enjoyable when she's on screen, but quickly forgotten whenever she's not..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) C-

Best Actress 1937

Irene Dunne The Awful Truth
Greta Garbo Camille*
Janet Gaynor A Star Is Born
Luise Rainer The Good Earth
Barbara Stanwyck Stella Dallas

My Thoughts on Rainer as O-Lan in The Good Earth: "Rainer gives a quiet and effective performance, disappearing into herself as she plays a meek yet determined woman..." (Click here for the complete write-up) B-

*My Choices for Best Actress winner. Can we just take a second to admire that line-up in 1937? It was hard to choose a winner, but I ultimately went with Garbo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Early Fall Predictions: Best Actor

Now that we are actually in Oscar Movie Season (the leaves are changing and adult dramas are back in the theaters again - rejoice!), I thought it would be a good time to reevaluate my predictions. That sidebar with my year in advance predictions was starting to look a little dated. (Sorry, Chadwick Boseman. I thought you were great in Get On Up - probably the best part of the entire movie - but a Best Actor nomination just is not going to happen.) And now that we've had the main film festivals (Toronto, Telluride, Venice, and New York) it seems that most of the major players have been viewed, with the top men fighting their way to the 5 spots in Best Actor.

It appears that two actors that are almost guaranteed nominations are a couple of Brits in a couple of baity biopics. Eddie Redmayne, who is already a Tony award winner and gained a little awards traction (or at least talk) a couple years ago when he played Marius in the Oscar-winning Les Misérables, seems to have taken the early frontrunner status for his transformative work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Playing the real-life physicist allows him to not only tackle the mimicry of a well-known figure but he also physically challenges himself as he shows the progression Hawking's body underwent as his disease left him almost entirely paralyzed. It's the sort of performance that Oscar will find hard to ignore and could bring a possible win.

Taking on another important British figure, although one not as well known, the internet's favorite actor (that bears a striking resemblance to a certain aquatic creature), Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius that successfully cracked the Enigma code, a huge step in the Allies winning WWII. But if that wasn't baity enough, Turing was later put to trial for his homosexuality, persecuted by the country that once celebrated him as a savior. Cumberbatch has been the next big thing for awhile. Although things didn't pan out for a nomination last year for the virtually forgotten The Fifth Estate, that there was talk at all for him just shows that people are eager to see him nominated. (His recent Emmy win for the beloved Sherlock certainly helps as well.) And with strong reviews for his performance, it seems he'll be making his way to a first nomination.

Another strong possibility is something of a comeback story. Michael Keaton, whose recent career hasn't exactly been as strong as it was back in his heyday of the late 80's and early 90's (Sorry, I never saw Need for Speed or the Robocop remake), seems to have found a role that could bring the veteran his first nomination. Starring in Oscar-nominated writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's first foray into comedy (but it's a dark comedy), Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor once known for playing a superhero now trying to mount a career-comeback on Broadway. Much has already been said about the parallels between the character and the former Batman's story (in fact, that's been most of what the early press has been about). But word is Keaton hits it out of the park with a nomination almost sure to follow.

Steve Carell may be best known as a comedian, but it seems that his against-type performance in Foxcatcher, in which the star wore a prosthetic nose (well, it worked for Nicole Kidman) and plays the real-life millionaire and murderer John du Pont, might just find his way to an Oscar nomination. That is if he doesn't lose his spot to his costar Channing Tatum said to give the performance of his career in the film. Both have had strong praise and buzz since the film debuted at Cannes back in May, but for now I'm giving the edge to Carell to secure a spot on the list. Both actors are stepping outside their comfort zone, but seeing funny man Carell play a chilling killer seems like the sort of game-changing performance the Academy would recognize.

For my fifth choice, I'm gonna go out on limb here with a film that has yet to be screened at festivals, with a relative unknown actor that's a little younger than Oscar is used to honoring. But after seeing Jack O'Connell in Starred Up this year, he has definitely emerged as a charismatic and talented actor, that seems capable of great things. With his performance in the Angelina Jolie-helmed Unbroken, playing an actual person (Louis Zamperini), who was a Olympian, WWII soldier, survived not only a plane crash but a raft stranded at sea for 47 days and a Japanese POW camp, I just have a hunch that it's a performance that will be too big to ignore. And the other names being tossed around right now (Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice is too weird, Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner seems too stuffy, Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel seems so long ago, and Ben Affleck in Gone Girl is, they don't stand out the way O'Connell does. I think we're looking at an interesting year with some surprises and right now it's looking like a Best Actor category made up entirely of first time nominees.

My Predictions
Steve Carell Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton Birdman
Jack O'Connell Unbroken
Eddie Redmayne The Theory of Everything

My Favorite Best Actor Performances (of what I've seen so far this year)
Ralph Fiennes Grand Budapest Hotel
John Lithgow Love Is Strange
Alfred Molina Love Is Strange
Jack O'Connell Starred Up
Miles Teller Whiplash

Friday, October 10, 2014

Twice a Best Actress: Sally Field

I adore Sally Field. So I was very excited for this week's edition of Twice a Best Actress from Fisti over at A Fistful of Films in which we looked at the actress' award-winning performances. Despite my love of Sally (and Oscar), I have somehow not seen either of her wins before this past week. I wish I could say that I was a fan of both...but you'll just have to see what I and my fellow panelists had to say here. After her two wins, it seemed like the Academy was done honoring Field. Passing over such great work in Steel Magnolias (Oh, my god! That scene in the cemetery) and her hilarious work in Soapdish (okay, an nomination was never gonna happen. But she's so good in it!), so I was pleased when she managed a Best Supporting Actress nomination in 2012 (almost 30 years after her last nom) for her work as Mary Todd Lincoln in Spielberg's film. Hopefully it won't be her last...

Sally Field
Best Actress 1979

Jill Clayburgh Starting Over
Sally Field Norma Rae
Jane Fonda The China Syndrome
Marsha Mason Chapter Two
Bette Midler The Rose*

My Thoughts on Field as Norma Rae Webster in, well, Norma Rae: "Field, who possess an authentic likability that lends any character she plays an instant appeal, digs deep into the hardscrabble background of Norma Rae..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) B

Best Actress 1984

Judy Davis A Passage to India*
Sally Field Places in the Heart
Jessica Lange Country
Vanessa Redgrave The Bostonians
Sissy Spacek The River

My Thoughts on Field as Edna Spalding in Places in the Heart: "We never really learn anything about Edna except her kindness and determination, but the work relies too heavily on our established connection to Field as an actress..." (Click here to read the complete write-up) D

*My choice for Best Actress winner. Although I do enjoy Field in Norma Rae, I'd give the win to Midler that year. In 84, the choices are all so lackluster that I'd reluctantly give it to Davis in the only film that is even remotely remembered (mainly because of the novel).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Twice a Best Actress: Jodie Foster

Week 2 of the Twice a Best Actress Blogger Roundtable from Fisti at A Fistful of Films takes on former child star/director/respected actress Jodie Foster. I've been a fan of the actress since I was young and saw her for the first time in Maverick (Shut up! She's good in it!). Foster has a total of 4 career Oscar nominations and has been working so long in the entertainment industry that she's already received the Cecil B DeMille award (considered a lifetime achievement award) at the Golden Globes when she was only 50. Concentrating more on working behind the camera in recent years, the past couple of times she's stepped in front as an actress haven't exactly been her best work. (Seriously, if someone can explain what she was going for in Elysium, I'd love to know. She was on a completely different planet, literally.) So it's nice to look back on her two wins and remember what a great actress Jodie Foster can be. (Both her Best Actress winning performances are streaming now on Netflix Instant Watch, so make sure to watch the performances now and leave comments!)

Jodie Foster
Best Actress 1988

Glenn Close Dangerous Liaisons*
Jodie Foster The Accused
Melanie Griffith Working Girl
Meryl Streep A Cry in the Dark
Sigourney Weaver Gorillas in the Mist

My Thoughts on Foster as Sarah Tobias in The Accused: "Foster tackles the adult subject matter with the skill of a seasoned professional, never backing away from showing the hurt, humiliation, and anger that Sarah feels in the aftermath of the incident..." (Click here for the complete write-up) B

Best Actress 1991

Geena Davis Thelma & Louise
Laura Dern Rambling Rose
Jodie Foster The Silence of the Lambs*
Bette Midler For the Boys
Susan Sarandon Thelma & Louise

My Thoughts on Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs: "Foster excels in showing Clarice's conflict of emotions, her psychological pull to a perceptive man who is essentially a monster..." (Click here for the complete write-up) B+

*My choice for Best Actress winner