Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good Things in Small Packages

Some wonderful things that come in tiny packages:

cupcakes, old fashioned letters, gifts, reese's peanut butter cups, glitter, gift certificates, fortunes, mp3s, rings, cream filling, Kristin Chenowith, eyeshadow, matches, pills, kittens...

And something else, too: performances. There are no small parts. I'm thinking of this today because my friend Tom told me about a spill Lena Olin took at a Variety screening of The Reader recently. She was descending the insanely steep steps of the Sunshine Cinema in huge heels. He describes
As she was about half way down, Lena stumbled... she was only saved from a serious fall by running smack into Ralph Fiennes's back (his strong, silent, brooding back). She was clearly startled and embarrassed...and probably saw her whole life flash before her eyes...plummeting to her death at the Sunshine Cinemas. How pathetic would that have been...to die for a Q&A? And where was Sydney Bristow when we needed her?
Seriously steep steps @ Sunshine (selling point: the seating for screenings is superb) sssssssssss

Anyway... Lena has a terrifically brittle scene very late in The Reader... which got me to thinking? Which are your favorite very brief acting turns this year? One scene or frequently appearing but totally backgrounded wonders. People you could technically lift out of the movies and still have a movie (I'm not talking about the Viola Davises in Doubt here since that whole movie requires her lynchpin scene to work.). Yes, I'm looking for FYC ideas for my "Best Performances in a Cameo or Limited Role" (last year's nominees if you need a refresher) at the ninth annual FiLM BiTCH Awards which begin in but 3 weeks time.
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46 comments:

Sally Belle said...

I'm probably a bit prejudiced, because I adore her, but, Evan Rachel Wood in The Wrestler really stood out
for me. I had an absent father too, and I get the "scalding anger" Stephanie was expressing in the film.
Also, the longing in her eyes...the terrible need to love and be loved by the father she barely knew.

By the way...I love Lena Olin. So happy to hear she is making ripples in The Reader. Her performance in Romeo Is Bleeding is astounding.

Mikadzuki said...

Hmm... I think Daniel Liu made a pretty memorable contribution as the poker-faced detective in Paranoid Park.

And I enjoyed William Fichtner unexpectedly giving the robbers a run for their money in the beginning of TDK.

Otherwise... how about anybody, anywhere in Rachel Getting Married?

Cristhian said...

I love Karina Fernandez as the flamenco teacher in Happy go lucky. left me in stitches!

E Dot said...

Speaking of 'Rachel Getting Married', the performances that touched my heart were the family member's toasts.

The one in particular: "We are one, all of us. And this is how it's like in heaven. Just like this."

I think it was her mousty voice and sincere demeanor, but her specific part in the film (and trailer) strengthened my love for this film.

Anonymous said...

Would you consider Debra Winger a cameo in Rachel Getting Married? If so, I don't see how anyone even comes close. I dont know how you define cameo exactly. Some of these border between cameo and supporting, but I feel like none of them has more screen time than someone like say Caroline O'Connor in Moulin Rouge! Other possibilities include:

1.) Victor Garber, Milk
2.) Carol Jean Lewis, Rachel Getting Married
3.) Karina Fernandez, Happy-Go-Lucky
4.) Diane Wiest, Synecdoche: New York (a bit of a stretch, but I think it fits)
5.) Fred Willard, Wall-E
6.) Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace (great sacrificial lamb Bond girl)
7.) Samuel Roukin, Happy-Go-Lucky
8.) Francois Bertin, A Christmas Tale
9.) Patty McCormack, Frost/Nixon

Catherine said...

Cristhian, YES! She is so funny. "MY SPACE! MY SPACE!" And all that stomping. In that film, I also love Poppy's younger sister, the real surly one who's studying law. She's like every second girl I knew at school. Brilliant.

Jared said...

I'd have to say Dianne Wiest in Synecdoche, New York. She single-handedly saved the last act from spiraling completely out of control.

NicksFlickPicks said...

The Bad Seed is in Frost/Nixon????!

Anonymous said...

Yep, she plays Pat Nixon.

Sally Belle said...

Oh, good lord...I LOVE the new header! Had to mention it.

mrripley said...

amy ryan in changeling far more interesting than angelina and i thought she was ott in gone babt gone.

Anonymous said...

catch lene olin in enemies a love story my 89 supp actress winner.

mrripley said...

can i say this neither kathy bates,jessica lange,susan sarandon,helen hunt,gwyneth paltrow,halle berry,nicole kidman or hilary swank won any serious critics prizes before there oscar in fact they only won globes or sag so let's not rule out kate winslet this year just because the critics are not rallying for her,the academy is different and i am sure she will win best actress.

Katey said...

Ihrfan Khan in Slumdog Millionaire? Is that part too big? I love him in those scenes.

For The Wrestler I'd go for the punk he wrestles in the first match. He seems like such a sweet kid!

Anonymous said...

I've got two PERFECT candidates for "best cameo": Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" and Kate Winslet for "The Reader"!

And seriously: Peter Sarsagaard in "Elegy".

Barry, Milwaukee said...

Holland Taylor in Baby Mama.
Kristin Scott-Thomas in Tell No One.
Siobhan Fallon in Funny Games and Baby Mama.
Dennis Hopper in Elegy.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon --LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone else noticed what happened? Someone has created problems on the site!


Jim

Anonymous said...

Nate, have you done it yourself? But.. It doesn't make any sense.


Jim

Anonymous said...

WTF happened to the site? Kate Winslet has a pencil stuck in her eye! I'm terrified

NATHANIEL R said...

Damn that JOKER!

Anonymous said...

....Nate, if you did it yourself, uhm, it's quite good considering The Joker is really disturbed but you really took me by surprise.

PS: Fix Kate's eye!!


Jim

Matt Noller said...

Not sure if this counts, but Jane Adams in The Wackness, which I otherwise hated, is one of my favorite performances of the year.

Ari Graynor, Nick & Norah's Blah Blah Blah, although that's probably too "important" a part.
Gillian Jacobs (the stripper), Choke.
Daniel Liu, Paranoid Park.
Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances McDormand's platic surgeon in Burn After Reading.
Jack MacBrayer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Chan Marshall/Cat Power, My Blueberry Nights.

Rob said...

Whoever the actress is in "Rachel Getting Married" who plays Rachel's best friend... she's disturbingly similar to so many people I knew growing up. And her dazed/hungover final run-in with Kym rings so true/recognizable/hilarious.

James Colon said...

Emily Watson was excellent in limited time in SYNECDOCHE,NEW YORK.

Stanley Townsend as The Homeless guy in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY is one of the more poignant parts of that movie.

Kurtis O said...

OMG, definitely J.R. Horne in "Burn After Reading." His brief moments as Tilda's lawyer were hilarious.

E Dot said...

Stanley Townsend! Yes, yes, yes! James Colon, you're SO right!

That scene was the emotional root of the entire movie - for me at least. Extremely beautiful.

NATHANIEL R said...

james and edot
can someone explain that scene to me...

it was the only part of happy-go-lucky that lost me. I just couldn't tell where the scene had come from and how it fit in...

James Colon said...

Well, the way I interpreted it was: this is a drunken tramp, that has probably spent the last few years of his life completely ignored by most people. His drunkenness has even prevented him from speaking properly. When Poppy sees him, not only does she not ignore him, but embraces him.

The key to the scene is the homeless man looking deep into Poppy's eyes and says, "Ya know?" He'd been saying it randomly throughout the scene, but this particular time, he says it to Poppy with conviction, and then he just says "ya know...", as if he's finally found someone who can accept him as he is: a drunken mess.

A friend of mine said that he believed that the Homeless guy was in love with her (kind of like Scott ended up being in love with her), but I don't know if I take it that far.

Dame James Henry said...

Anna Kendrick in Twilight...effortlessly hilarious

E Dot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E Dot said...

Ditto. Throughout the movie, Poppy turns even the darkest moments into something positive. She never look through people because nobody deserves that. Instead, she finds something deeper.

This scene, to me, was the heart of the film. She meets this man that most people, if not all, would ignore and brush off. Not Poppy. Like James said, she notices him, listens to him, accepts him, and embraces him. Yes, Poppy is happy, bubbly, but mostly she's caring. And this scene proves she sees the positive in everyone.

remy said...

cat power in my bluberry nights
jk simons in burn after reading
debbie harry in elegy
sigourney weaver in be kind, rewind
sandra oh in blindness
dianne wiest in synecdoche, new york
tobey maguire in tropic thunder

Jeff GP said...

I never thought anyone else would mention Daniel Liu, but Mikadzuki went ahead and did it for me. Riveting stuff.

Also, I agree about all the bit players in HGL, but not about your interpretations of that scene. I think it's less about the positive and caring in Poppy and more about expressing her inner turmoil and darkness through that man. She does feel for him, not simply because she's a giving person, but she understands what would drive someone to such reclusive madness. This scene comes as Poppy is having a crisis, being confronted with the difficulty of not being able to help that young boy, and contemplating the trauma he must face. She's disturbed, and this man's frustration with the world is an extension of her own, and that's how they connect. His incoherence is a near-perfect manifestation of her own frustrations with the situation with the abused child.

E Dot said...

That's an interesting way of thinking about it. That's another reason I love that scene, it's open to interpretation.

Ben said...

William Fitchner in The Dark Knight
J.K. Simmons in Burn After Reading
Jordan Prentice (little Jimmy) in In Bruges - my personal favorite

By the way, I thought I'd mention the all-time best limited/cameo role, Bruce McGill in The Insider.

Now, WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE!!!
[Insert gaping mouths/stunned silence]

Kamikaze Camel said...

The only ones you would have seen are Karina Fernandez in Happy-Go-Lucky and JK Simmons in Burn After Reading. I haven't actually noticed that many small/cameo parts this year. What about Eric Roberts in The Dark Knight? I remember liking him and I think it was a very brief role.

NATHANIEL R said...

who did daniel liu play in Paranoid Park? my memory of the movie is an fuzzy as some of the images

Jeff GP said...

Daniel Liu plays the aptly named "Detective Liu." He's the fellow who comes to the school to investigate the skateboard lead.

I didn't totally love the movie, but his bit part was one of the standouts of the year for me.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I'm going to give a 'yay' for a post centered on Lena Olin; a tremendously underrated actress, and I'm so happy to see that she's been cast in decent material again.

Surely people -must- remember The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Right?

And if not that, then Alias? (circa Season 2/4)

Anonymous said...

Put Debra Winger in this category instead of supporting. I'm positive she says less than 100 words in the whole thing.

Jer said...

I know she isn't a background player, but for me, the scene of the year for cinema was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal in "The Dark Knight". The scene where Rachel is trying to comfort Harvey because she truly believes that Batman is coming for her and Harvey is going to die is heartbreaking to me. The shift that occurs in her face and her entire body when she hears that Bruce/Batman has entered the room to save Harvey is absolutely heart-wrenching. The best 2(?) minutes of acting I have seen in a long time.

Derek said...

Yay for Lena Olin! Except, does she qualify for limited? She has two fairly extended scenes, albeit as different characters...

Also, I'd like to FYC Dylan Baker in Revolutionary Road, who provides a humorous break every time he appears on screen for 5 seconds or so.

NATHANIEL R said...

derek --hmmm. good point.

ugh. i have nobody for these categories. must think harder.

Rachel said...

I prefer David Rasche in "Burn After Reading". His facial expressions while telling the story were awesome.

I'll also say take a look at Mariah Carey as 'Mariah Carey' in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan". Terrible film, but her two scenes are gold.

Rachel said...

Oh! And Bette Midler in "The Women".