Monday, May 08, 2006

Best Actress (January thru April)

We're a third of the way through the year now. Imagine. So, let's check briefly in with the worst of our Oscar-obsessed selves and the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. If, God forbid, I had to fill out a ballot of Best Actress right at this moment on May 8th, taking only the films from January 1st to April 30th into account, my ballot would look like this (in alpha order)

Lead
Maggie Cheung in Clean
Bryce Dallas Howard in Manderlay
Gretchen Mol in The Notorious Bettie Page
Julianne Moore in Freedomland
Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee

...I would fill it out whilst cringing since two of these I have major problems with, one is pleasant but no great shakes, another is impressive but leaves me cold. There's only one actress here I can root for. She's also, happily, the only one with a potential awards-run at year's end. And who'da thunk it? It's my one-time punching bag Gretchen Mol. I think The Notorious Bettie Page has a lot of problems as a film including a distinct lack of energy (frisky and otherwise) but Mol does a lot to cover up the flaws. I'm particularly fond of the way she manages to modulate her 'aw shucks -why not?' default cheery innocence throughout and also the way she doesn't remotely overplay her characters spirituality especially towards the film's end when many actresses would've viewed that as the juicy bait on the awards hook. Well done. (Plus, she looks great naked)

Supporting
Edie Falco in Freedomland
Catherine Keener in Friends with Money
Frances McDormand in Friends with Money
Danny Perea in Duck Season
Lili Taylor in The Notorious Bettie Page

For those of you immediately asking "Where's Jodie Foster for Inside Man?" Let me just say right off the bat that it's my favorite bad performance of the year. I don't think she has a clue how to play her über power-bitch role but I think it was a ton 'o' fun to watch her flail about. I mean that in the nicest way possible even though it sounds über power-bitchy.

But back to the category. It's much better than lead. Of course there are always more worthy supporting players than leads --simple mathematics. There are more of them to begin with. The biggest surprise in this lineup is Edie Falco in Freedomland. The film is such a mess narratively and even emotionally as many of the character arcs make not a lick of sense or are just poorly handled. But when she's onscreen you get the sense of a much finer movie in her head and her character provides great calm within the storm of poor storytelling choices raging all around her. I'd probably vote for Frances McDormand as the standout in this lineup. If Jennifer Aniston in the lead role of the same film had even half her skill, Friends with Money might've been something, deeply cynical though it would remain. But when the center of your film is lifeless, the film gets dragged down too.

This just in: Friends with Money and The Notorious Bettie Page are flip sides of the same coin. It's what happens when your film has a dead center versus what happens when your film has a lifeless periphery. In truth I liked them both but fix those problems and they immediately become susbtantial movies that are much easier to love.

Related Film Experience Posts/Pages:
Film Seen in 2006 * Actress Oscar Predictions * Supporting Actress Oscar Predictions * Julianne Moore Shrine * Top 100 Actresses of the Aughts (Foster @ #65, Keener @ #26, Cheung @ #16, McDormand @ #14, Moore @ #6 ) * A History of... Jodie Foster *

tags: Jennifer Aniston, movies, celebrities, Oscars, awards, Gretchen Mol, Bettie Page, Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore

15 comments:

Goran said...

Jodie Foster in Inside Man is my least favourite bad performance of the year so far. If for some reason I had to fill in a ballot for Worst Supporting Actress at the end of the year, I couldn't imagine doing it without her.

I think this role kinda exposed her limited range: she's exceptionally good at her particular brand of earnest conviction but little else, it seems. I hope she never again tries to be sexy, scheming or lascivious. She just came off as nervous. She was racing through those lines like she was afraid of Denzel Washington (whose own very relaxed acting made Foster look that much more awkward).

(Coincidentally I also thought she stuck out in a bad way in A Very Long Engagement. Her French was impressive enough, but in a large cast of lovely, natural performers, her manneredness was inappropriate.)

As for my Best Actress for 2006 so far, I have two candidates.

First there's Natalie Portman in "V for Vendetta". Finally free from George Lucas' stunting touch, she was warm, open and thoroughly relatable. As written, the role isn't particularly complex - she could have phoned it in. But she chose to put some thought and feeling into it. Bonus points for overcoming such clunky dialogue too.

My second candidate is Justine Clark for "Look Both Ways", an otherwise unremarkable Aussie "Magnolia" rip-off. Like Portman, Justine Clark is very warm and very open in it. She plays a character with a lot of quirks (she's a struggling artist who's constantly picturing her own death and saying ridiculous things, you know the kind), but she plays it like a human being. Instead of airy and wide-eyed, she comes off as thoughtful and vulnerable.
"Look Both Ways" was a 2005 release in my area and Clark's was maybe among the two or three best performances by a lead actress I saw all year.

John T. said...

For my Best Supporting Actress race, it would be Jodie Foster (I find something delicious in her hamminess) and Catherine Keener (she was the only thing worth watching in the dull-as-dirt Friends with Money).

I haven't seen Notorious Bettie Page, but considering the lot of actors I'd have to choose from, I'd most likely go with Mol and hope for the best.

Kevin Laforest said...

Definitely Natalie Portman in V

Radha Mitchell in SILENT HILL

Amanda Bynes in SHE'S THE MAN (for real!)

That's all I got.

Josh T said...

I'm working on my own little 1/3rd of the year awards. For best actress, Ellen Page (Hard Candy) gets the top prize hands down. For best supporting actress - Catherine Keener in Friends With Money.

tim r said...

I can't believe you've got me thinking about this already. Can't agree with Moore in Freedomland, who was so gormlessly misdirected outside of her big monologues, or Portman in V for Vendetta, who looked and sounded for all the world like she was doing a first read-through of the script.

The UK release schedules are out of synch with yours, but simply from the movies I've seen in 2006 (including at festivals), regardless of US release dates or eventual awards eligibility, my picks would be:

Lead:

Pauline Malefane (U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha)
Stephanie Leonidas (MirrorMask)
Emmanuelle Béart (Strayed)
Sandra Hüller (Requiem)
Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page)

Supporting:

Edie Falco (Freedomland)
Charlotte Rampling (Lemming)
Meryl Streep (A Prairie Home Companion)
Emily Watson (The Proposition)
Nichola Burley (Love + Hate)

NATHANIEL R said...

i don't agree with julianne moore either. but there's only so many lead actresses i've seen so far. the other options were whatshername from she's the man and thats way too much mugging for me.

and portman in v for vendetta... so no.

Jason said...

Loved loved LOVED your selection of Danny Perea. After seeing "Duck Season" I was ready to run to LA and grab an Oscar off of someone else's shelf (Basinger's? Pacino's?) and hand it to her while genuflecting. Glad to see someone else loving her as well, even though she has no chance whatsoever.

Kamikaze Camel said...

"My second candidate is Justine Clark for "Look Both Ways", an otherwise unremarkable Aussie "Magnolia" rip-off."

Goran is dead to me right about now. NOT ALL MOVIES WITH MULTIPLE STORIES AT MAGNOLIA RIPOFFS!!!!!!

On the matter of Jodie Foster I absolutely loved her in Inside Man. Delicious vixon. That constant grin she has on her face is a delight. Plus, she's got killer legs - who knew?!

(btw, Goran - j/k. Although I did love Look Both Ways and I do think movies that have multiple naratives aren't all Magnolia or Short Cuts ripoffs. That's a dumb thought :(

Other than Foster I haven't seen any performances that warrant any acknowledgement. But all the movies you mentioned aren't out here yet. So... *grrr*

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel...

Did you see HARD CANDY yet???

Ellen Page was AMAZING!!!

NATHANIEL R said...

i did not see it yet no. but i kinda want to do to Patrick Wilson

Matt K. said...

Please note My Choices are only out of the 6 movies I've seen this year, however I will give the choices I could actually vote for a *.

Lead
Natalie Portman-V For Vendetta*
Mandy Moore-American Dreamz
Anna Faris-Scary Movie 4
Cecilia Cheung-The Promise (Wu Ji)*
Alyson Hannigan-Date Movie

Supporting
Sinéad Cusack-V For Vendetta*
Hong Chen-The Promise (Wu Ji)
Shoreh Aghdashloo-American Dreamz
Carmen Electra-Scary Movie 4
Emily Mortimer-The Pink Panther

However I'm going to the movies twice this weekend so my choices are most likely gonna change

Anonymous said...

UGH! I am so ready for Winslet, Bening, Kidman and Blanchett!!!

Hope it gets good soon. The only performance that I dare mention is Gretchen Mol. She was amazing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am so ready for Kidman, Winslet, Bening and Blanchett!!!

It is time for real best actresses in the list.

Anonymous said...

Sigourney Weaver, though Alan Rickman is more deserving of accolades for Snowcake than she is.

Andy Scott said...

Glad you included Keke Palmer. Akeelah was a sweet little movie. Predictable, but sweet nonetheless.