Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mia & Ziyi

Happy Birthday to Mia Farrow (of Woody Allen filmography fame) and Ziyi Zhang (of Memoirs of a Geisha infamy) who turn 61 and 27 respectively today.

Mia Farrow may have long since lost her marbles [not any one thing ~just a cumulative impression] but she is a talented actor who ought to get more respect. She doesn't even seem to be recognized as VERY famous anymore which she has been for decades. Mia is one of, I would say, the top ten of most famous and relatively admired actors who were never nominated for an Oscar. She first gained fame on the Peyton Place TV series, than shot to the celebrity stratosphere by way of becoming Frank Sinatra's third wife at age 21 (he was 51 at the time). She divorced him two years later, the year she also broke through cinematically as the star of Roman Polanski's sensational horror classic Rosemary's Baby. It was the film that brought along with it the first (of many) Oscar snubs. [If you haven't seen this film, do so instantly. Really great stuff.]

My three favorite Farrow performances give or take Rosemary's unfortunate pregnancy? Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), and Alice (1990). That's all Woody Allen but you'll truly marvel at her range within his very specific school of films if you watch all three.

Ziyi Zhang is more familiar to the world at large these days. Currently one could argue that she's the biggest non-English international film sensation. Maggie Cheung & Aishwarya Rai are beloved in specific pockets of moviefandom but don't seem to have fully caught on with the public at large. France, usually second only to Hollywood as an international movie-star factory, hasn't produced a major crossover sensation since Juliette Binoche in the 90s (though not for lack of trying: There are plenty of worthy candidates). I'm still hesistant to fully embrace Ziyi. I thought she was weak in Geisha and highly enjoyable but not necessarily great in her most acclaimed/noticed roles to date on these shores which are within Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon(2000) and The House of Flying Daggers(2004). But there's absolutely no competition when it comes to her best performance. Hands down that's her bewitching star turn in Wong Kar-Wai's gorgeous and haunting 2046 for which, in an ideal world, she would've received the awards attention that greeted her other far inferior 2005 performance.

If Hollywood were to make a biopic on Woody Allen or Mia Farrow right about now, you know they'd be all about snagging Ziyi to play Soon-Yi Previn.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should see her debut, Zhang Yimou's The Road Home. I think it's better than her wuxia work and it's fun to see an actress in her wide-eyed debut when the whole experience of carrying a movie is still new.

John T. said...

Who would you consider the most noteworthy living actor who has somehow been avoided by Oscar?

Jim Carrey
Steve Martin
Mia Farrow
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Donald Sutherland
Christopher Plummer
Sam Neill
Meg Ryan

Who else?

JavierAG said...

Um, Bibi Andersson.

Paul C. said...

Isabelle Huppert would take the cake, methinks.

right said...

First to come to mind: Kevin Bacon

I think Carrey takes the cake here, at least among recent stars (although this would be excluding a whole horde of foreign actors, who are always underrepresented -- Huppert is a great example).

What's funny is that until a week ago, I'd have suggested Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymour Hoffman for the top two slots...

NATHANIEL R said...

anonymous --i've been meaning to see that. just haven't gotten to it yet.

john --that's definitely a good subject on which to post. But one that requires some thinking and research.

javier & paul -yeah, what right said about foreign actors. That's a whole 'nother area that Oscar has never EVER been good at. Though I suspect that they would avoid Huppert even if she were in the English Language. Given that the types of roles in which she excels would frighten them to death.

right said -kevin bacon and jim carrey would probably make the list yes. although I'm not sure how behind them I would be as VERY snubbed. Mia and Donald Sutherland it's just ridiculous. Both have been in more than a few classics with no recognition.

JavierAG said...

I do give them credit for recognizing Latin America's two top actresses EVER - Fernanda Montenegro and Norma Aleandro (though the latter should have been nominated for "The Official Story").

Kamikaze Camel said...

How strange, I just watched The Road Home two nights on on tv (no ads, in widescreen - it counts!). It was a pretty good movie, but my least favourite Yimou film. Ziyi is good in that "wide-eyed debut" sort of way but, yes, 2046 is indeed her best performance.

I must confess to not really knowing any of Mia Farrow's stuff. I mean, i know OF it, but... I've seen Husbands & Wives and that's about it I think.

And I'm sorry, i do not like Donald Sutherland. I don't like Keifer either. If Buffy's mother related to them or is her name just Sutherland?

Nick M. said...

How is Jennifer Jason Leigh a respected actress? I don't believe I've ever been impressed by her.

Nate, have you seen The Purple Rose of Cairo? As a Woody fan, I'd hope you have! It's one my favorite of "Mia Farrow/Woody Allen" movies.

Nick Davis said...

I love Mia Farrow. May I recommend her memoir What Falls Away, even if (like I) you usually avoid celebrity memoirs. Really beautifully written, credibly related, and pretty fascinating. Also big shout-outs to that Purple Rose perf. (Snubbed so that Anne Bancroft, R.I.P., could get rewarded for schticking through the terrible Agnes of God?)

As for the currently working English-language actress who deserves an Oscar nod? I say Tilda Swinton. And Donald Sutherland is a great call. Klute? Ordinary People?

NATHANIEL R said...

OMG. Purple Rose of Cairo? how did i forget. that's my fav performance of hers bar none.

ignore those other choices.
if i were picking oscar noms she would have AT LEAST two nominations. probably more.

Goran said...

I'd rank Mia Farrow among the three or four most talented, bewitching women to ever grace the screen. I adore all of her performances you mentioned, but I think she was at her best in The Purple Rose of Cairo (with Alice coming close second, possibly tied first).

Goran said...

Oh, and if I were picking Oscar noms, she would have at least two wins (85 and 90) and plenty more nominations (69, 83, 84..).

Kamikaze Camel said...

I need to see me some Mia Farrow movies.

And Jennifer Jason Leigh was great stuff for a while (I still love her). Her snub for Last Exit to Brooklyn (one for my all time lists) has saddened me since I saw that movie.

goran said...

I still say Jennifer Jason Leigh did a much better Katharine Hepburn in Husucker Proxy than Cate Blanchett did in the Aviator

Marcelo said...

Never-nominated that come to mind:

Derek Jacobi
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Ewan McGregor
Gary Oldman
Robin Wright Penn
Jonathan Pryce
Aidan Quinn
Charlotte Rampling
Alan Rickman
Theresa Russell