Monday, September 11, 2006

2006 (So Far): Best Actress

Why do I always start these review features with my favorite category? It's like I'm eating my dessert first. I have no self control.
"Instant gratification takes too long"
Can you name the Best Actress nominated movie that that classic quote is from?

If the Film Bitch Awards were held today, your nominees would be:

Gretchen Mol as "Bettie Page"
The Notorious Bettie Page
Keke Palmer
as "Akeelah"
Akeelah and the Bee
Meryl Streep as "Miranda"
The Devil Wears Prada
I raved about Mol and Streep in the last roundup. Am I doing this again too soon? (Probably. Shut up). Palmer's adorable lead work in yet another spelling bee movie holds up still, too.

So let's move on the newbies.

Maggie Gyllenhaal as "Sherry" in Sherrybaby
You will probably read a lot of reviews or hear a lot of media coverage that will mention Maggie Gyllenhaal's "bravery" and her "lack of vanity" in tackling the titular role in this new indie. She plays an ex-con and recovering junkie who is trying to win back her young daughter. But don't believe the hype. These types of things are always said about actresses who take unglamorous roles... as long as the performance is at least adequate these things are said. You must approach accolades carefully if any actress has roughed herself up in anyway onscreen. Critics (and Oscar voters) love de-glamming as much as Sherrybaby loves heroin.

That said, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a superb actress. But --and here's my point-- it aint for lack of actorly vanity. If anything, Sherrybaby has plenty o' the stuff. This is a showcase performance piece and Maggie knows it. She takes off running with it. This is 70s style actorly bravado. For me it's very much in the Jane Fonda Klute vein, so it earns my respect. Note the way Maggie demands that you look at her (by being, well, excellent at her job) and then punishes you for looking. You can practically imagine Sherry spitting out "what the f*** are you looking at?" after all of Maggie's best scenes.

In other words: mesmerizing but hostile --so, don't count on her having an easy ride to an Oscar nomination. Sherry is a maddening character. She doesn't care what you think of her. And if there's anything that can put a chill on Oscar's de-glam lovin', it's that. Even Charlize's Monster, for all of her murderous rage, was desperate for your love.

If I love this Sherrybaby star turn a teensy bit less than everyone else is likely to, it's only because I've seen Maggie do this trick before and rather exquisitely in Happy Endings (FB Bronze Medal, 2005) . Plus, I liked her singing better in that one.

Sook-Yin Lee as "Sophia" in Shortbus
For the fifth slot I went with the actress I liked whom I was least familiar with. My apologies to Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada (who is growing on me), Maggie Cheung in Clean (too restrained for me this time), Fernanda Montenegro in House of Sand (wasn't given enough to do) and Shu Qi in Three Times (Uneven. It's definitely the second time wherein my problems with the film and her performance reside.)

When Shortbus opens in a month I'm sure it'll be divisive --being very polysexual, political, and graphic --but even for people who don't respond to it, I suspect the performances will still be a pleasant surprise. Most of the lead players manage to serve the dramatic, comedic, and sexual demands of the film with roughly equal measures of success and without much visible strain in any particular one of those areas. Sook-Yin Lee emerges as one of the two characters that are at the movie's heart. She plays a couples counsellor with orgasm problems. Her face is sometimes opaque and sometimes revealing but her performance is always interesting to watch.

Tags: Maggie Gyllenhaal, shortbus, Oscars, films, Academy Awards, movies

40 comments:

adam k. said...

Yay on the C- for World Trade Center. My thoughts exactly.

If only Maggie could make movies as good as Jake's...

DL said...

Yay for Sook-Yin Lee! You Americans may not be very familiar with her, but being from the Great White North, I am. She was my favorite MuchMusic (Canada's MTV) VJ when she was on-air. I love love love her. And now I'm even more excited for Shortbus (even though I won't be seeing it until it's released on DVD. :(

Kris said...

Shortbus is SO one of the true masterworks of 2006.

Hard to imagine a negative account of something as safe as World Trade Center. That tends to shout a need to dump on something simply due to sentimentality.

adam k. said...

Or maybe it just wasn't very good.

Sorry, that was mean... but that's how I feel.

NATHANIEL R said...

well, i don't see why "safe" rates a higher grade than a C personally. safe = plain = just like everything else = average =c

if this was about any other disaster with people trapped. nobody would question a C

but i'll write more of my feelings on this soon because i do have a couple of things to say

and one of them is (no surprise) Maggie G continues to be awesome in everything.

adam k. said...

So would I be correct in assuming that

A) This means you consider Streep a lead, and

B) She'd win the category from you as of now

?

...one of the odd things about Maggie G is how awesome she always is despite her atrociously bad posture. You'd think an actress couldn't get away with that so easily. Yet she can. She's just cool like that.

Anonymous said...

Nat...

no Ellen Page in HARD CANDY?


she was searing in that role...
but way too dark i think for Oscar.

Kamikaze Camel said...

"If only Maggie could make movies as good as Jake's..."

Well, in all frankness, Jake has been in some bad movies. Hell, he was in Jarhead just last year. Then there's Moonlight Mile and I remember some people really not liking The Good Girl and Proof (which I haven't seen). And then there's The Day After Tomorrow (which I actually sorta found hilariously entertaining) and lowest of lows Bubble Boy

So, just cause Jakey was in Brokeback doesn't mean he's infallable.

Kamikaze Camel said...

BTW, I'm still a Gyllenhaalic, but even I can see he's made crap.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Oh! Now I remember what I was gonna say.

NONE OF THOSE MOVIES HAVE BEEN RELEASED HERE YET!!

I. Hate. Distributers. Ugh.

For me my top 5 atm are all from Australian films.

Laura Gordon, Em 4 Jay
Victoria Hill, Macbeth
Laura Linney, Jinabybe
Susie Porter, The Caterpillar Wish
Victoria Thaine, The Caterpillar Wish

par3182 said...

"Instant gratification takes too long"

suzanne vale (meryl streep) - postcards from the edge

vince said...

Proof was actually a really good film. Easily Paltrow's best work. Jake good also. Davis good. And Hopkins good too.

adam k. said...

THAT's it. I knew I recognized that quote.

I love Postcards. It gets a sweet A- from me. Meryl was robbed of that globe.

And as for Jake, I think the only movies on that list that were truly bad were Day After Tomorrow and Bubble Boy (I've seen neither).

Proof at least tried to be great, and some people like Nat liked Jarhead (er, I've seen neither). And Good Girl was OK, though weird and offensive at times.

But you're right, when you remove Brokeback, the Gyllenhaals both have similarly uneven filmographies, despite their consistently good performances. Plus, who the hell am I to judge anyway, since I apparently have not seen any of Jake's films.

adam k. said...

But on that subject, Proof the play actually IS great. Great, great play. I am directing it now at school. My Hal is not exactly Jake Gyllenhaal, but he's totally cute and awkward and adorable and perfect, and awesome. SO awesome.

The rest of the cast is good, too.

Anonymous said...

well Ahhh! for the C- for World Trade Center. What a horrible grade to give to such an amazing and powerful movie.

KeKe Palmer would be the winner for me so far this year. My nominations would be: Keke Palmer- AatB, Julianne Moore- FL, Meryl Streep- DWP, Ellen Page- HC and Natalie Portman- VfV.

Sook-Yin Lee was also in a movie called The Art of Woo and I thought she was mesmerizing in it.

I really want to see Sherrybaby and watch Maggie G give another great performance.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any of these movies as I don't think any of them have opened in the UK yet.

My pick as of right now is Penelope Cruz. Oh how I'd love to find me, a month ago, and read that last sentence back to myself.

Rob

RC said...

other than Meryl Streep I don't see any of these making the Oscar Cut.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

douglas said...

i'd go for:
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Sook Yin Lee (Shortbus)
Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page)
Penelope Cruz (Volver)
Kirsten Dunst (Marie Antoinette)

http://racsoawards.madur.net

Kamikaze Camel said...

Adam, that's what I was saying. I don't think anybody is disputing their performances, but really both Jake and Maggie while constantly being good aren't making constantly great movies.

So, yeah. Nothin' against either of them. I just thought it was mean towards Maggie because Jake has picked some equally critically panned movies.

....yeah.

I heart them both though.

NATHANIEL R said...

i'm seeing Annette Bening any day now so it was perhaps stupid to do this post right now. by the end of the week, my feelings will be different ;)

you have to make room for The Bening.

NATHANIEL R said...

i haven't seen Hard Candy for those wondering about Page.

Anonymous said...

Like Vince, I liked Proof too. I thought the standout was Hope Davis. Paltrow was good, Gyllenhaal solid, but I thought Hopkins STANK.

Rob

NATHANIEL R said...

Hopkins has been bad for so long now. *sigh* for the days of remains of the day.

vince said...

I think Hopkins was okay in Proof. Definitely not as bad as most everything else he's done in the last ten years. The reason why I didn't hate him as much as y'all was because he was playing a mentally disturbed man and I expected him to go off the deap-end (in a bad way), but (exhaling) he didn't. IMO

I was really impressed by Gwyneth Paltry, though.

I haven't any of the stage versions, so perhaps I'd think differently if I did.

vince said...

Current predix on Best Actress look really good. I see Kidman, Notes on a Scandal losing steam. I think Margaret is too high. Cruz could *possibly* sneak in, but I don't know who she'd replace (and I haven't seen her perf either).

Still, a part of me hesitates, Nate, because what you have is four previous nominees (one who is a winner). The slate is comprised of familiar, talented, worthy nominees, but, how often is that ever the case?

Even the new face (Judd) would be a welcome addition (if she's good ... I don't like her much either, but she's really a really focused actress, which I admire)

I hold my breath.

adam k. said...

What was so bad about Hopkins in Proof? I haven't seen the film version.

I'd really like to know, too, cause I'm directing Proof on stage right now.

Anonymous said...

So are you figuring Toni Collette in the supporting category for Little Miss Sunshine? I'm having such a weird time categorizing the players in that movie. For me, the much of the movie's conflict was created the Mom and Pops characters and they were such a huge presence and influence on everything, that I consider them the true leads (Collette and Greg Kinnear). I guess I'm having the same difficulty you had last year with Rachel Weisz. Toni just registers as a lead for me. Even when she wasn't the primary focus of a scene, her presence was felt and she had quite a few big scenes on top of that. Weird, because I was perfectly comfortable with putting Weisz in supporting last year.

- Adam

RC said...

i thought hopkin's did alright in proof...more than anyone I was impressed with Hope Davis.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

John P. said...

I'll add to the props for Sook-Yin Lee; I watched her for years on Much. I haven't seen Shortbus yet but it's playing at the Vancouver Intl. Film Festival this year and I'm a volunteer, so hopefully I will. She had such a unique personality for someone on national television that I'm amazed she lasted as long as she did without getting canned.

(I remember an interview she did with Anthony Kiedis and Flea where they asked her what her 'CCC' ring meant, and she replied that it stood for 'Cats, Cunts and Rubber Cocks' and went into a detailed explanation. The shocked look on their faces was some of the most priceless TV I've ever seen.)

NATHANIEL R said...

Adam - I don't figure that anyone is a lead in LMS. To me it's a true ensemble like Magnolia. It's all supporting roles. That's my take on it anyway. The only lead argument, imho, is Breslin because the story is about her. But I still think they're all supporting since it's more about the entire unit of this family than any one character.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm interpreting the movie differently, then, because for me, the movie wasn't about the Amy Breslin character. Her story was only an undercurrent in a much larger problem: the parents' troubled marriage. I don't quite know, but I really want to see this movie again.

- Adam

Kamikaze Camel said...

Vince, I've been saying that for while to many Oscar predictors. I highly doubt they'll nominate five previous oscar winners/nominees without one new face.

I think the first timer spot will go to Penelope Cruz. As I keep saying, I just have a big hunch on her getting in.

NATHANIEL R said...

well it's not impossible though. Particularly if that's what that given year offers.

the first-timers that could be competing are mostly and classically the type they like to nominate i.e. people who aren't entirely respected as actors that suddenly/possibly make good --the surprise factor combined with low expectations: CRUZ, BEYONCE, JUDD, & MILLER.

if you're somebody who is EXPECTED to be good/great (i.e. Winslet. Bening. Weaver. Streep. Close. Pfeiffer. Moore. etc...) it's more difficult. The timing and role and year and everything has to be working in favor to get you a win. Or, that's what it seems like to me. It's a little maddening.

Beau said...

Ellen Page has given the most searing and intense performance of the year. My choice for Best Actress so far.

Kyle said...

I'll have my fingers crossed for Sook-Yin but if Kate Winslet doesn't win an Oscar this year I'm gonna kill myself. Seriously. Halle Berry has an Oscar. Broadback Zeta-Jones has an Oscar. And Hilary Horseface Swank x2. When will the reign of terror end?!

NATHANIEL R said...

kyle.
suicide is not the answer.

the reign of terror ends this year. even if winslet loses she'll lose to someone older and more awesome than the type that usually wins. and I think that's got to come as a relief to everyone (except for possibly Hilary Skank, who'd like to win them all so we could memorize her speech)

vince said...

Can't submit for this category yet.

*heaves & sobs*

vince said...

Can I just say that I think it's so FUNNY that we all hate the skank? I just love, love, love, love, love, LOVE it. But, I wish we could like her. I really wish we could like her. (Why am I hearing Sally Fields' 1985 speech going through my head?) But, she makes it so difficult. I want to steal her oscars and give one to Julianne Moore and one to Imelda Staunton. Yes, I know that leaves Bening and Winslet out, but my theory on Bening is that as long as she keeps losing, she'll continue to be nominated ... repeatedly ... which would be killer in it of itself. And, Winslet, come on! The girl is going to keep getting nominated until she's 90, which would also be cool.

Guys, I don't care about the wins so much as the nom's. I guess I'm in a minority. But, noms mean more to me than wins. Winning is great, but it's better to be nominated than not, right?

NATHANIEL R said...

vince, for the most part i agree. noms are more important than wins. BUT for people like Winslet it becomes about the win because it just makes the Academy look so stupid. How could Kate the Great lose forever.

argh. they are dumb.

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