Thursday, July 12, 2007

Top Actress: What Are They Up To? (1 of 2)

One of the most successful projects in Film Experience history was the half decade review of top actors and top actresses of the Aughts (2000-2005). The plan is to revisit in a few years for an official "best of decade" but in the meantime let's check in with our former top 20 this is part one #20 through #11 [part 2: #10 through #1]. How've they done since the list was published? Will they yet pull rabbits out of hats or is their magic hour over?

[FWIW: La Streep and Jake Gyllenhaal's Sister were both outside the top 20 in the fall of 2005 --remember this was only counting film work done between 2000 and mid 2005-- but have been so busy and excellent these past two years that they're easily jostling for top ten ranking when the decade is done]

Tilda Swinton
"the movies are always better for her presence"
Age: 46
Since the list was published we've seen her projected on MoMA's walls and she's swung a nifty double blade as the icy queen in The Chronicles of Narnia . The immediate future looks solid: A supporting role (possibly Oscary?) in Michael Clayton, a gig opposite Brad & Cate in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and even a possible stab at my favorite Shakespearean actress role (Lady MacBeth) in Come Like Shadows with Sean Bean. But with so many actresses coming on strong it'll be tough for her to hold position.

Angelina Jolie
"so potent is her screen presence that the audience will let her get away with murder"
Age: 32
Apart from a controlled performance in A Mighty Heart (review), the movie career is a whisper while the personal life (thanks to the press) is ever shouting. The question with her ranking is whether or not she'll start focusing on movies. She's currently filming Wanted (for the director of the Russian series Night Watch) with the ubiquitous James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman. She's also got a Clint Eastwood picture on the fast-track: The Changeling. The rest is all rumor. She gets plenty of offers. Will she ever say yes.

The Lovely Laura Linney
"what this actress sometimes lacks in surprise she more than makes up for with consistency"
Age: 43
Just two months after the actress list was finalized, Linney amazed us again in The Squid and the Whale. The films after that haven't set the cinema on fire (Breach, The Hottest State, Man of the Year) though people say she's superb in the underseen Jindabyne. Next up: The Nanny Diaries and The Savages. Judging by the trailer of the latter it looks like a master class in comic delivery with dramatic bite. We shall see. I suspect she's moving up this chart by decades end but I worry... no matter how terrific or popular any actress is, the mid 40s seem to be the trouble spot with Hollywood. That's when Pfeiffer vanished, when even Streep couldn't find great roles and when the Oscar parts stopped coming to Glenn Close.

Holly Hunter
"one of the silver screen's MVPs"
Age: 49
Speaking of worrying... Holly should have screenplays written for her, her choice of plum roles, and star perks offered without question -- especially after what she did with The Incredibles (2004) and thirteen (2003), neither of which would have come off so magically in lesser hands. Instead things have been quiet and she'll be dropping in the ranks on this list. She is turning to television right about now. Say it ain't so. She may be a tiny woman but she's big screen all the way. Damn you Hollywood! She even shares your name. Show her some love.

Maggie Cheung
"her mystique is overpowering"
Age: 43
Maggie has already announced retirement (I'm sensing a theme here. uh oh) She hasn't made a picture since the list was published. Goodbye catsuits and noodle runs *sniffle*

Uma Thurman
"tremendous (if haphazardly applied) talent"
Age: 37
Uma neared the top ten on the strength of the Kill Bill saga alone. We've since seen her "flaunt it" as Ulla in The Producers (she was game though the film was gamey) and bomb in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Next she'll be doing some heavy dramatic lifting for In Bloom. Will she be in the Actress Oscar race? I'm hoping she barrels into the top ten but her career is so uneven she could also fall dramatically.

Frances McDormand
"paints her characters with vibrant colors and leaves you wanting more"
Age: 50
She isn't considered a bankable star but the audience always seems to fall in love with her confrontational chutzpah, don't they? In the past two years she's co-starred with Charlize Theron twice, once for an Oscar nomination (North Country) and once, well, not (Aeon Flux). She was a bundle of enjoyable rage in Friends With Money just last year. Frances' next film will offer her a co-starring role (title character even!) with Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day which takes place in the 30s and is about a governess (McDormand) and the actress she works for (Adams). She'll then have a role in next year's Coen Bros picture (she's a regular and of course a Coen by marriage) Burn After Reading. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich are also starring.

Isabelle Huppert
"a model of sturdy excellence and bravery"
Age: 54
France's ballsiest actress is still headlining films at 54 (they revere their legendary actresses more than we do obviously) but I'm getting behind in my viewing even as she's slowing down a bit after a very busy few years. Since the list came out she's Private Property and Gabrielle have made it to US theaters. I'm guessing she slips a few to several notches in the final ranking.

Catherine Deneuve
"majestic presence: still a world great"
Age: 63
Iconic Deneuve (the oldest actress in the top 20) had a rather stunning run from 2000-2002 when US theaters showcased six of her films (though some were made in France in the late 90s) and most of them were very strong indeed. The second half of the Aughts has been the polar opposite, a Deneuve drought. She had a small role in Kings and Queen (the film is terrific) and will reunite with that film's director, Arnaud Depleschin, and most of its cast for Un conte de Noel but she'll probably be out of the top 40 by decade's end unless the pictures she is making in France make it across the sea.

Joan Allen
"needs about two seconds of screen time before inspiring hosannas and Oscar talk"
Age: 50
Joan Allen had a killer 2005 (Off the Map, Upside of Anger, and Yes all saw release) but otherwise it's been a rough decade with only the Jason Bourne films to showcase her acting gift and formidable presence. She brings it as Pamela Landy but expect a dramatic fall on the list.

The top 20 will look very different come 2010.

For more on these ten actresses, chase the labels below


Benji said...

It really is a pity that Angelina Jolie will probably move down on the list. The studios throw film roles at her but she just turns them down. She already said that she wants to focus on her charity work and her kids, acting is not so important to her.

I really love her, she's my favorite among current actresses (along with the C/Kate double act Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet).

And she is immensely talented, but rarely takes the chance to show it (haven't seen A Mighty Heart yet). Maybe she has a heart for her fans and starts acting a lot in fantastic and challenging movies
*wishful thinking*

Boyd said...

Deneuve barely working??? She was her reliable self in Héros de la famille, a cabaret drama and shocked audiences out of Deneuve lethargy in Après lui, a mourning drama that is her best role in years as a mother trying to cope with the death of her teenage son by obsessing over his best friend who was also responsible for the accident that killed her son. and

She also did the voice work for the animated Persepolis (which, like Après lui was in Cannes), for which she will reprise her role as the mother of the main character in the US version.

Earlier, she also played a role that was a hilarious comic riff on Queen Elizabeth in Palais Royal!, a French farce inspired by Diana's relationship to the Windsor family (no really) but set in the French royal house -- which of course does not exist -- and an evil hag bent on world domination (is there any other kind?) in the supernatural thriller Le concile de pierre (The Stone Council), in which she battles it out with an ugly-mother version of Monica Bellucci (I told you it was supernatural). The latter is based on a novel by Jean-Christophe Grangé, who also penned the inspiration for Les rivières pourpres (Crimson Rivers).

Anyway, obviously, the question is, since you don't like in a French-speaking country, how many of these will you ever see? Persepolis you'll get to see for sure, but apart from that.... who knows!!

Boyd said...

Yes. Right. Of course I meant you do not *live* in a French-speaking country. I am not trying to be polemical here.

Unknown said...

I was disappointed with Angelina in A Mighty Heart. I thought she seemed disconnected from the other actors, especially Dan Futterman. I thought they had no chemistry at all.

So Holly Hunter is going to basic cable a la Kyra Sedgewick and Glenn Close. Sad. I suppose it will be another critically acclaimed series that everybody will talk about and nobody will see. You are right that she deserves better. Hollywood hasn't a clue about what to do with a strong, tough-talkin' southern dame.

Glenn Dunks said...

Maggie was in Clean just last year. And she was very good in it too. She sang!

par3182 said...

that paragraph about the lovely laura linney possibly being doomed to the same fate as close & pfeiffer is so depressing; damn hollywood and its strange fear of women in their prime

(i love the lovely laura linney)

Anonymous said...

I think Holly Hunter's show looks pretty good. Honestly, for women of a certain age, cable television is doing miles better than Hollywood.

and Sam, 'The closer' is the highest rated show on cable, and it has set records for cable premieres.

Anonymous said...

Very nice list overall, but there are a lot of brilliant and hard-working contemporary actresses that weren't mentioned who I feel are much worthier of acclaim and attention than some of these women: Judy Davis, Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sarah Polley, Laura Dern, Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker, Juliette Binoche... (Unless of course they are mentioned in the Top 10, but if memory serves correctly I don't think so.) Nice article though.

- Tom

adam k. said...

Her mid-40s is also when Julianne started ONLY making crap. That sucks. Maybe she just really wasn't getting better scripts than those? How sad.

I think Prime should be counted among Uma's highlights for the decade. She was really good in it, even if she was upstaged by Streep.

Speaking of Streep, I think after she's done with Doubt, Dirty Tricks, First Man, and all the other bajillion films she has coming in the next few years, she'll be deserving of a top 5 spot AT LEAST. I think she's got the best career of any actress right now, of any age group. And I really think AiA should count for her, since it is still a screen role, and is still more cinematic than most films, despite airing on TV.

The big question, I think, is whether Kidman can hold onto #1. Her '05 and '06 were not up to par. But she looks like she'll close out the decade in a good way.

Streep, Kidman, Winslet, and...?

Morton and Dunst have been pretty quiet lately. And ScarJo's been loud, just not in a good way. And we all know how you feel about Blanchett.

Anonymous said...

Nat, You're really into the actresses. lol IDK I'm more interested in the actors this year.

Anonymous said...

Where Kidman finishes the decade - we've still got three more years to go - will depend on her giving superb performances in Australia, Margot at the Wedding and Golden Compass. I'm not aware of what's on her plate afterwards (if anything) that can be solidly confirmed.

And - what par3182 said: Damn Hollywood and it's fear of women in their prime. ON the other hand, if Holly's series does well, more people will be watching her than any of her movies. (Quick - how many people - including the vast audience of The Closer - can name a Kyra Sedwick film of the top of their heads?) And cable actually boasts some of the best writing and acting out there. If cable is the outlet that gives these fine actresses a 'second career' then bless it, I'm all for it.



kamikaze i saw clean in 2004 so it counted toward the first roundup. Maggie has not made a movie since the list was published and has not signed on for anything either.

boyd as far as i know we haven't gotten any of those movies (i usually watch for Deneuve)

tom a lot of the women you mention are in the top 100 (the rankings are based on their contributions to films released between January 2000 and September 2005 when the list was finalized) but you have to go through the list to see where they were.

some really outstanding actors did very little in that time period (including one y'all know I love love love "the bening")

anonymous if you're more interested in actors that list is here (but we don't need to check in on that one just yet because it's more recent.

Anonymous said...

I agree with adam re: AiA. You let it count for Jeffrey Wright.

I'm very very curious where Blanchett will place. Will she be back in Nathaniel's good graces after the Dylan/Hanes film? What if she does take a break? Will Nathaniel miss her or enjoy her absence.

Can the beloved Clarkson keep her position?

Anonymous said...

can ms kidman keep her top post? i hope so!! she continues to choose odd stuff and go against the mass... she is the most interesting actress in this decade... still is...

Chinese Odyssey said...

Dont worry, Maggie is not going to retire. She declared this rumor way too many times! The reason why she has not made a movie since Clean is because she is tired of play characters that suffers extreme sorrow, she needs a comedy.

You never mentioned about Comrades: Almost a Love Story when you talk about Maggie. To me, that's her best work beside Centre Stage.

Glenn Dunks said...

What has Patricia Clarkson been up to lately? She was in Lucky McKee's The Woods but, quite frankly, that was a load of tosh.

And, yes, while I would love Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Marianne Jean Baptiste and their ilk to make feature films they truth is that they would if they could. And with TV they are getting paid better, more stability and moe exposure being on these tv series instead of being like Robin Wright Penn and just constantly making bad films that can't be even make a dollar at the box office (if they're even released).

Plus, The Closer is the best work of Kyra Sedgwick's career. As someone else said, she wasn't exactly prolific in features but I always liked her so I'm glad she's got the highest rating show in cable history (or something like that) and is getting awards (a GG last year, an Emmy this year surely) and more recognition now than any other time in her career.

Of course, it'll be hard to Hunter to top something like The Piano.

Anonymous said...

I saw the future last night. Her name is Deborah Francois (The Page Turner).

Regina George said...

At the close of 2009, the actress of the decade will be a knockdown, drag-out fight between Cate, Kate, and Meryl. There's just no two ways about it. For work quantity and quality of work to this point, I'd give it to Cate. For the quantity/quality coming up, it looks like Meryl's got Cate beat for taking risks and making varied choices in the types of films she's signing on for.

In the end, I think Kate will have the most impressive work - she'll just have less of it because she's got young kids and unlike that hag Blanchett, she likes to spend time with them. Meryl's lucky to have the kids out of the house so that she can play all day.

That being said - I'm hoping that Patty Clarkson, Toni Collette, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Frances McDormand, Joan Allen, and Marcia Gay Harden, are all capable of pulling in to the top 10.


the fact that that prediction (meryl) is so plausible is rather astounding if you think about it.

what actress can lay claim to "actress of the decade" in both her 30s and her 50s? craziness. Meryl just won't give up

Anonymous said...

I think Holly Hunter's new show looks like it's going to be pretty amazing- I just read an article about her in More magazine, and she seems picky about what she would choose- I'll definitely be watching the first episode.

The Closer is also a great show- I think HBO has raised the bar in cable television, and other channels have stepped up to the plate.

adam k. said...

My personal inkling is that this decade will belong to Kate when all is said and done. She's not doing tons of work, no, but she is taking the Meryl-in-the-80s approach of doing about one REALLY GOOD film a year, and not wasting time making crap. I can respect that. And this is her prime time (age 25-35).

Kidman could hold the top spot, though, too. And Meryl will be coming on strong. But hasn't she already had her decade? I dunno. Time will tell.

But my bet for the top five (in no particular order) is Winslet, Kidman, Streep, Morton, and Dunst (assuming the latter two keep doing good work). Blanchett, Clarkson, Gyllenhaal, Moore, Pfeiffer, and Collette will be up there, too. Actually I could see Collette slipping into the top 5 if Morton, Dunst, and Clarkson falter. Time will tell.

Glenn Dunks said...

I wonder if Kate's Romance and Cigarettes will ever get a US release before the end of 2009? It is a musical after all.