Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hot Group Action

Made you look.

My nominees are posted. The reasons you'll always hear me complaining about SAG's choices in this category is because I think they're not paying attention to what an "ensemble" means (or maybe, more generously, they just don't have the same criteria as I do) To me "best ensemble" does not conjure up big casts with one scene stealing standout or simply big casts. To me examples of superior ensembles would be groups of actors who are tonally in balance with each other (everyone feels like they're in the same movie) and groups that use their internal chemistry in the scene work to elevate the movie.

This is one of the reasons I've always been a Robert Altman nut. He actually lets you see more than one performance at once. Most filmmakers cut so often to back and forth reaction shots that you miss the chance to see actors create the character dynamics in tandem. To me that's a shame.

In semi related news...

I had been planning on a post detailing my thoughts on The Dead Girl but it's obviously never going to see the light of day so an "ensemble" discussion is as good a place as any to talk about it: You'll notice that it's not in my nominee lineup. I know some people were plenty fond of its cast and I'll happily agree that three of them work wonders. I'm talking about the always wonderful/beautiful/awesome Kerry Washington, ISA Nominee Mary Beth Hurt and (surprise) Rose Byrne. But it's not much of a cohesive ensemble -- it's more like solo pieces strung together. And the unimaginative casting made me wince more than once. Toni Collette as an ugly unloved girl again? Brittany Murphy as a wildchild. Marcia Gay Harden as an uptight woman. And, worst of all, Piper Laurie all but reprises her Carrie role (only without the advantage of that hilarious final monologue)
He took me, with the stink of filthy roadhouse whiskey on his breath, and I liked it. I liked it!
I could babble about these actresses for hours, but I'll spare you turn it back over to you. What's your idea of hot group action in a movie -- which were your favorite ensemble this year? Anything like mine?


Agustin said...

Finally United 93 gets credit for its cast!!
The Wind That Shakes The Barely should definitely be on that list..

Anonymous said...

nice nominees, but you should have put Chus Lampreave (Aunt Paula) in Volver there... though maybe you're saving her for the Limited Role category :-)
BTW, I'd love to see some Lola Dueñas love in the supporting category, not Maura...


Yaseen Ali said...

Ditto what what anon said - I'm crossing my fingers for Lola in Supporting (although Maura is welcome too!)

Nice stuff, I like the Duck Season mention, although surprised to see no Prada (but I suppose you're going to give 3/4 of the main actors individual nods anyway.)

Anonymous said...

The Departed, Babel, and The Queen have some of the best ensemble performances I have seen this year.

Also, it would be a terrible, terrible shame if Alfonso Cuaron did not get nominated for Best Director. Children of Men has some unbelivably virtuostic visual and one-takes. It would also be a total shame if the Academy showers no recongition to Daniel Craig, whom, I think, was quite outstanding as the new James Bond.

Anonymous said...

I totally forgot to include Little Miss Sunshine, which had a stellar ensemble cast in the previous post.

adam k. said...

FYC: Best Actress in a Cameo or Limited Role:
Julianne Moore for Children of Men.

Also for that category, Linda the bereavement liason in Little Miss Sunshine, and the beauty pageant judge from Little Miss Sunshine.

Joe R. said...

Yeah, Beth Grant is always so awesome in small roles. We match 3/5 here -- I have Prairie and Shortbus in my top five instead of United and Duck Season.


omg. totally forgot shortbus for a finalist or semifinalist. will add

Anonymous said...

"it feels mean to single someone out"

And then you leave out Alec Baldwin. =P

~ santy

Glenn Dunks said...

For me?

The Departed
The Devil Wears Prada
A Prairie Home Companion
United 93

Honourable Mentions going to Little Miss Sunshine, The Descent, Volver, Ten Canoes and Water.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, and if you see Two Hands you wouldn't be surprised to find that Rose Byrne can act.

Anonymous said...

Yes, The Descent had an awesome ensemble. They quickly established themselves as a believable group of friends and did it within the limitations of thriller. When was the last horror film with a cast that rose above a group of random victims?

And good call on United 93, Nat.

Beau said...

Kerry Washington is probably the most consitent, hard-working actress in the field today who does not get any recognition for her efforts. The woman appears in everything trying to get a breakthrough (FF4, anyone?) that for some reason or another continues to evade her. Shame.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Possibly my favorite ensemble that isn't listed anywhere yet is the one from Sherrybaby: it looks and feels like Maggie's movie, but her brother (Brad William Henke) and his aggravated but occasionally conciliatory wife (Bridget Barkan) fill in the whole family history; Danny Trejo works beautifully with Maggie and the people she introduces him to, keeping us from detecting if he's a good guy or a bad one; Giancarlo Esposito, as always, is great as the P.O.; and all the other "support networks," halfway-house residents and managers, prospective bosses, and family members (except maybe Sam Bottoms as Dad) keep Sherrybaby anchored in a coherent, palpable, and specific world of a New Jersey lower-middle class.

adam k. said...

Glenn, Little Miss Sunshine's ensemble is better than practically all of those!!! I thought you didn't even like The Departed very much...

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen "Duck season" yet but I'm soooo happy to see the other four that I don't give a shit who wins. Thanks for that :)

PS: I didn't like it that much, but where is "Shortbus"???

Anonymous said...

I picked out Little Miss Sunshine too, and of course Volver and The Departed. But my winner is The History Boys. Whatever you make of the movie (and I loved it), the ensemble was pretty flawless. They'd had 2 years of honing the nuances of their performances, and it showed.


Anonymous said...



Glenn Dunks said...

Adam, I keep going back and forth over Little Miss Sunshine. On one hand I remember really liking it for the most part, but then the ending... that ending... part of me really can't get over that ending. I didn't like it at all.

I also keep changing my lineup for ensemble, so by the time I get to do my own awards and I've had the chance to rewatch LMS then it'll probably be back in my lineup.

Although, I strongly doubt United 93, Jindabyne and The Devil Wears Prada will be axed from my list.

Anonymous said...

My own list would look like this:

- The Departed (the clear winner)
- Little Miss Sunshine
- A Prairie Home Companion
- Shortbus
- Volver

United 93 is just outside the list, but, effective as the acting is, they're essentially playing an anonymous group of people, and I guess I tend to prefer ensembles that cohere more fully and feel more lived-in (hence my affection for APHC, which, I agree, tends to vary a bit on the quality end of things).

My regard for U93 lies in the direction, and it kills me that he's not in my Director lineup, but I can't reconcile dropping any of my current nominees:

- Aronofsky
- Coppola
- Cuaron
- Lynch
- Scorsese

Greengrass has missed twice, now, for some really excellent work. Here, for United 93, and in 2004 for The Bourne Supremacy. I hope he continues this streak.


steve --totally understand where you're coming from. The United 93 was a close call with me. And I do feel bad for leaving Shortbus and Prairie Home out. But there was something about the lack of vanity --the anonymousness of 93 that I felt I should honor.

anyway. I like the other films better overall ;)

glenn -LMS will be back in. They are really a team as actors. And y'all know how I feel about this: you can actually see more than one of them at once in a seen. Which is always a big plus. A dream. I am so tired of the relentless editing that's made so many movies feel like the actors only met at the wrap party.

adam k. said...

I suppose the ending could read overly cheesy and ridiculous, but it all depends how you approach it. I didn't think it a flaw, though. I was shocked that with all the buildup, they came up with an ending that worked at all.

I guess maybe you just have to identify, or have that kind of sense of humor. On my second viewing, I was a bit thrown up, and looking for anything at all to criticize. On the third viewing, it was all back to love.

Glenn Dunks said...

My problems with the ending are twofold. Firstly, the silly bit about the family getting up on stage (hi About a Boy!) made me groan. And then there's just the fact that I did not want to watch that beauty pageant.

People talk about horror films crossing the line in terms of what is scary and what is just unwatchable, and I thought that beauty pageant was pretty darn horrific and disgusting. Glad it didn't go on any longer because I wouldn't have wanted to sit through it much longer.

I'm still sad for Steve Carell that he got no love this season.

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