Sunday, July 15, 2007

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

One of the most successful projects from Film Experience history was the mid decade review of Actors and Actresses of the Aughts (2000-2005). The plan is to revisit in a few years for an official "best of decade" list. In the meantime let's check in with our top 10. When we looked at 20 thru 11 we were reminded that the film world moves quickly... it already looked out of date. This particular lineup (10-1) feels more contemporary. That's either a nod to their collective dominance as talented stars or their younger median age. It's probably both. Hollywood still isn't kind to 40something women.

How have these ten women managed their careers since the list was published in the fall of 2005?

Toni Collette
"always makes the most of her material, even in thankless roles"
Age: 34
Toni has kept up a remarkable work pace for a long time now while rarely letting stock roles feel stock. And she's added rock singer to her busy schedule, too. The stamina on this woman! Her career is still missing that true against-type breakthrough that would serve as corrective eye surgery for Hollywood. They still only see her as "unattractive unhappy girl" (as is evidenced again by her work in Evening and The Dead Girl). Luckily Toni shrugs off such limited views with her expansive talents. Wasn't she great in Little Miss Sunshine? Prediction: She'll fight to keep this top ten spot.

Scarlett Johansson
"her best performances have a fascinatingly still quality"
Age: 22
Whoa nellie! Scarjo has become the very definition of ubiquitous. Since hitting this top ten she's made match Match Point, The Prestige, The Black Dahlia, Scoop, a Justin Timberlake music video and posed for many advertisements, leading me to believe that she's cloned herself. I'm not sure the ubiquity is doing her favors. What once read as mystique seems to now read as "wrong for this role" Because I like her, I'll blame this one on Hollywood who, having succumbed to their insatiable lust for her, wants her to appear in every movie. She has two movies coming out in 2007 (The Nanny Diaries and The Other Boleyn Girl) and three more scheduled, including a reunion with Woody Allen (Midnight in Barcelona). But I suspect she'll do something great again soon and be in movies for the long haul.

Michelle Pfeiffer
"her semi retirement is causing me actual grief"
Age: 49
It is now officially "Pfeiffer Week" on the blog, sponsored by the happy news that she is on the big screen for the remainder of the summer (Hairspray and Stardust. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you). New movies mean she'll hold her position ~ though she'll always be #1 to me.

Cate Blanchett
"the next Meryl Streep"
Age: 38
Cate and I have broken up. I know you think we should get back together but I exhausted her with my ultra specific demands and she exhausted me with her technique --we weren't right for each other! Since the list was compiled two years ago we've seen her in Little Fish, Babel, The Good German, and Notes on a Scandal. I liked her best in Hot Fuzz. She made me giggle with instant recognition and then she was mercifully gone a minute later... which is really unlike her. Even after announcing that she'd take time off from her annual Oscar assault she kept announcing new films.

Julianne Moore
"when she returns to roles worthy of her, she'll regain her place atop any actress list"
Age: 46
The bad film parade continues: Trust the Man, Freedomland, Next. ARGH. We hope that Children of Men [are you sitting down? You need to be sitting down: Julianne Moore is in a GOOD movie! one of the year's best] signifies a change in direction. Upcoming lead roles in Savage Grace (solid reviews at Cannes) and Blindness (great book) and a supporting spot in I'm Not There for her greatest collaborator writer/director Todd Haynes, indicate she realizes she's moved too far from the type of pictures that won her her fame. Still... until I see evidence that she hasn't forgotten how to play anything outside of disturbed and/or childless mothers, I'm going to worry. I'm going to worry a lot.

Samantha Morton
"The magic and the alien grandeur of this actress comes from the way that she seems forever concealed."
Age: 30
Morton has made several movies recently but none of them seem to be in release. The next one you will be allowed to see is The Golden Age (Cate Blanchett's rival queen) Will she snag another Oscar nom?

Kirsten Dunst
"the sparkliest young actress working"
Age: 25
My most controversial choice in the initial list and her detractors have only multiplied since the publication date. She's the young actress everyone loves to hate. She wasn't playing it safe with Marie Antoinette, taking on a character that only emphasized what already turns people away. But I'm not blind. I get the hate. I'm as bored with her work in Spider-Man 3 as you are and as she is. Pull it together Kiki. Time's a wastin'! She's making a comedy next How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (with Simon Pegg from Hot Fuzz) and I think that's a smart move. She hasn't brought the funny in a good long while and she can.

Kate Winslet
"I love Kate Winslet. No, let me rephrase...I worship Kate Winslet"
Age: 31
Kate doesn't work enough for my taste but she does choose her projects carefully. You have to respect that. She recently tried romantic comedy (The Holiday) a genre she hadn't dabbled in and then did what she does best: slightly bohemian feminine angst in Little Children. Next up: Reuniting with Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road, ten years after Titanic made them household names (related post). Prediction: She looks set to battle it out with Kidman as the definitive Actress of the Aughts.

Patricia Clarkson
"We don't so much experience movies through her like we do with passionate movie stars, we experience it alongside her; We're in it together, just Patty and us"
Age: 47
Patty's superb run of confidantes, mothers, and wives in the decade's first gave her a deserved high rank. Supporting stars have trouble maintaining their casting profile so she'll likely be falling when the list is revised, unless a few more magical roles and neo classics come her way. But really how lucky can one talented actress get? Up next: No Reservations (with CZJ), Lars and the Real Girl (with Ryan Gosling), Married Life (with Chris Cooper and Rachel McAdams), Blind Date (with Stanley Tucci), Elegy (with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz), Midnight in Barcelona (with Scarjo and Javier Bardem), and what sounds like an Oscarbait crusading mother role in Hurricane Mary --if she is in fact the Mary of the title. Who knows. Her character's name is Mary. IMDB can be maddeningly incomplete. Dakota AND Elle Fanning will star as disabled twins (?!?)

Nicole Kidman
"the machinery and chutzpah of her star-making has been a jaw-dropping sight to behold"
Age: 40
It's been quiet in Kidmanland. Fur was only a whisper and more ambitious in concept than successful in execution. But Kidman fever should spread again with her upcoming triple: The Invasion, The Golden Compass (both with Daniel Craig) and Margot at the Wedding (presumably her next Oscar bid). After that we might see her in Need opposite longtime best friend Naomi Watts. But the thing everyone is waiting for is Australia which will reunite her with the person most responsible for her mega stardom --outside of herself I mean-- Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!). She only just turned 40 so if she plays her cards right she still has a few more years atop Hollywood's actress food chain.

To read more articles about any of these women, chase the labels below...


Anonymous said...

So Blanchett is the one to blame for her own ubiquitousness while ScarJo isn't at fault for hers? I think that's a bit inconsistent.

If you don't provide a prediction for an entry does that mean you don't expect her to stay in your top ten?

How about writing a bit about those not already in the top twenty you see moving up?
Will Lohan finally make the top 10?
And will Hillary Duff make the list?


inconsistent. GEMINI. can't help it.

i don't have time for a third article and two years ago i wished that Lohan would make it. Now, i'd be rendered speechless she's gone so far astray...

Anonymous said...

If star signs are valid excuses you should have taken them into consideration for the actresses. :-)

I enjoy reading lists like this one, but do get the impression that they tell us more about the person who compiled it than anything else.

... and that's not meant as criticism. Just a general observation.


I agree with you. But i can't help but wonder what you're implying.

that i like blondes maybe? ;)

strawberry blondes too. hee.

last time i did this i got a few complaints about lack of diversity though I personally think i did pretty well there given that a) there's a lot of different countries represented in the top 100 b) a wide age range in the top 100 and c) such lists are not just a reflection of my taste in actors but also a reflection of who gets cast in major roles which gives them ample opportunities to show their worth. Hollywood likes blondes most, too, I guess.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, that's one of the Nate's quirks. Because he and Collette are still in the flush of things, he's impressed with her stamina. He and Scar Jo are questioning just where this relationship is heading, he doesn't blame her for her faults (but watch out). He and Cate? They're ex now, so her wanting to act a lot is a sign of greed. The next plateau? The one inhabited by those girls who you used to like but now can't stand (she who cannot be named; Beelzebub).

I'm more curious about current/newer candidates and if they'll make an impact. Neither Maria Bello or Michelle Williams made this list, but they had a great 2005. Can Rachel McAdams crack the top 20 with a strong decade end? Will the Curran/Haneke/Cronenberg run be enough to boost Watts? Will Cornish join the latest line of Australian stars to clog up the system?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Hollywood gives most decent female roles to White women (many overrated in acting and looks). Not your fault Nat.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I don't think Blanchett's fault is that she's been in so many movies in such a short time - I think her fault is that she's been mannered, uninspired and absolutely awful in so many movies in such a short time.

Scarlett is still too young to be blamed for too many things and she's only screwed up roles that were already screwy at script stage.

I'm not a big Toni Collette fan, though her work in Little Miss Sunshine was probably her best and most natural since Muriel's Wedding.

Pfeiffer's a lovely woman and actress but too close to a has-been these days. (Fine, fine, I'll blame Hollywood too.)

Julianne Moore belongs in every top 10 purely for being Julianne Moore (I get to see Savage Grace next week, yaay!)

Samantha Morton belongs in every top 5 because she is original, fierce and impeccable.

I used to be a Kirsten fan but she's starting to look too country club to me.

I thought Kate Winslet was lazy and awful in Little Children, but I forgive her since she's been great and inspired in many other films and is bound to be the same in many many more. I think she deserves that no.1 spot more than any other actress on this list (and while we're at it, Isabelle Huppert should be much higher, and Emmanuelle Devos should be higher still).

Patricia Clarkson is lovely, masterful and underappreciated.

And Kidman gets A for effort but C-for achievement.

Anonymous said...

Kate Winslet is number 1.

Nicole Kidman I don't get the hype at all and I've seen many of her movies.


but goran... tell us how you really feel

and agreed on the mannered part with Blanchett --only less emphatically-- my polite term is 'too much technique' i suspected there might be trouble brewing during The Shipping News. the movie was awful but she was just as bad and I thought: NO! and hoped it a phase.

to be fair i thought she was good in THE GOOD GERMAN last year but i held a grudge on account of her sleepwalking through BABEL --the role was kind of dull but if you're invested and you need it you can make dull roles sparkle. she wasn't and she didn't need it.

blah blah blah. i don't wanna start another Blanchett argument. my bad.

oh also Arkaan --um, can i just call you every week so i can quit these therapy bills?

Neel Mehta said...

She has two movies coming out in 2007 (The Nanny Dairies and The Other Boleyn Girl)

I love it when a typo creates its own commentary. ScarJo and the twins, indeed!

Glenn Dunks said...

Even though her perfs in Babel and Notes on a Scandal were sort of tosh, I'd say she was good as gold in Little Fish and The Good German.

Unfortunately Toni (as you know) is preggers so the unatractive miserable roles will probably dry up for a year or so. :(

Never been a fan of Morton so I don't care about what happens to her. I get to see Savage Grace in a few weeks at the Melbourne Film Festival, which will be exciting! And I wonder if Kiki's Debbie Harry movie will get off the ground before 2009?

Kidman, Winslet and Streep will be battling it out I reckon. But that's in 2010. Christ. It's as bas a predicting the Oscars three years in advance :/

Benji said...

Poor Cate Blanchett... I still think she's great. And she was good in The Good German (a bad film), as was her German, and believe me, I can judge! (Clooney's, on the other hand, was horrible...)

But my bet on the No.1 for the list in 2010 is Kate Winslet. She should beat Nicole Kidman because a) her acclaim has been consistent over the years, while Kidman has to regain it after a few so-so movies and b) the age factor. If age plays as big a role as we all seem to think, then it is Winslet who will last longer in good roles.

Anonymous said...

Kate Winslet is the one I'm really sick of now - not that she works half as much as Streep or Blanchett, but the way some of her wildly aggressive fanboys (not you Nathaniel) fawn over her gives me gas. She's good, but I can feel myself starting to resist her the way a lot of people are Blanchett and Kidman.

I too love Julianne Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer, am eagerly awaiting a big comeback for both. Other veterans I'd like to see make a splashy comeback soon, maybe in a juicy Supporting role which seems more likely given their age: Sigourney Weaver, Judy Davis, Holly Hunter, Debra Winger (a stretch I know, but I love her), Miranda Richardson, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Laura Dern (though her career seems to have gotten a nice boost from Inland Empire), Mary-Louise Parker (not so much a veteran, but a respected stage and TV performer who I'm still waiting to get that great breakthrough movie role that will loudly announce her talent to everyone). And if Jennifer Jason Leigh is as eye-catching as she looks in Margot at the Wedding, I hope she will make a big comeback and be greeted as one of Hollywood's top character actresses, maybe snag a few more juicy supporting roles and at least one Oscar nod.

And a few young 'uns I'll be keeping my eye on over the next few years: Sarah Polley, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Abbie Cornish, Rachel McAdams, Emily Blunt, Rose Byrne, Romola Garai, Rosamund Pike. Christina Ricci too - between Buffalo '66, The Opposite of Sex, The Ice Storm, Monster and Black Snake Moan, there's no doubt she can bring her A-game when required. Not a fan of Natalie Portman. And as for Hilary Swank... please, somebody, make it stop.

Of course all this is speculation and wishful thinking for now. Still fun though!

- Tom

Anonymous said...

This whole decade has been about Naomi Watts and Laura Linney.

Anonymous said...

"Savage Grace (solid reviews at Cannes)" - ok, the film itself got solid reviews. But Julianne's performance got brilliant reviews. Every review I've read so far was thrilled about her performance even if it said the film is bad...

for example:
"...Julianne Moore, in her most challenging role in years, will win plaudits and attract mature audiences to a THOROUGHLY ABSORBING AND POLISHED PIECE OF WORK." (Hollywood Reporter)
"Moore — in a heartbreaking, harrowing performance... "Presented properly, Moore is likely to get a lot of award attention."..."Moore is the film’s greatest asset; that much cannot be disputed." (Foxnews)
"Moore is an undeniably SUPERB ACTRESS" (Variety)

I just had to post this because these are the first fine reviews about Julianne since the "Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio". :D

You lucky people who are able to watch "Savage Grace" soon! You can already watch some small clips here (they look great):
or here:

Anonymous said...

I think Kerry Washington has been in a few decent films and next year she has two coming out "Lakeview Terrace" and "Life is hot in Cracktown"

Anonymous said...

I still haven't seen The Shipping News. In fact, that performance doesn't exist in my Blanchettmania. You see how that works?

As a rule, I don't mind "outside-in" actresses (performers who focus on technique: mannerisms, diction, etc as a way of getting to the heart of the character). Performers like Blanchett, Streep (and to a lesser extent, Kidman and Clarkson), if they're able to find the soul of the character (and generally, they are), it can be shattering. If they're not, it can be dull (Compare Kidman's performance in Birth vs Fur to see what I mean; Blanchett in Heaven vs The Life Aquatic; Streep in virtually anything vs The Manchurian Candidate) or grating (the majority of Annette Bening's work).

On the other hand, you have the "inside out" actresses - those who focus more on the character's feelings and thought processes, and let everything else come naturally (I'm thinking of performers like Winslet, Morton, Uma Thurman, Dunst and Collette, ). The upside to these performances is that they have a genuinely lived in quality that can make you believe that most absurd of scenarios (see Morton in her twin 2002 performances: Morvern Callar and Minority Report). The downside? They tend to gravitate towards the same roles, which can get boring (how many free-spirits for you now, Mrs. Winslet? I'm sorry, another slightly shallow young princess, Miss Dunst?). Additionally, if for whatever reason, the performer doesn't completely believe in/commit to the role, the results can be horrendous (see Naomi Watts in 21 Grams or We Don't Live Here Anymore or The Ring or....)

I hated Babel and everything about it (it was basically a sadomasochistic Crash with better technique), so I don't blame Blanchett for sleepwalking through it (though I really thought she should turn down the role). But I loved her in Notes on a Scandal, The Good German (an underrated film) and Little Fish. I'm thoroughly Cate's bitch.


arkaan you are a wise man.

except for the finding Bening grating

ing ing ing

bring her on I say

anonymous. i love kerry washington too. But the stuff she's offered. what a world...

Anonymous said...

Nat, as you can see why I said a few decent films.I hope she gets better opportunities in the future.

Anyway, about Kidman I don't know she's never impressed me in a film.

Beau said...

I love me my Nicky and I love me my Kate.

I SUPPOSE I could see what people missed in Kidman's work in MR, Others, Hours, or even Dogville... maybe.

...but nobody, but nobody, can tell me that her perf in 'Birth' was shite. If you weren't blown away by what she did there, I don't know that it's a matter of acknowledging the obvious talent than it is just a general dislike of the performer herself.

Kate Winslet's never given a bad performance, at least that I've ever seen. No, 'Little Children' was not her greatest work, but definitely nom-worthy. I dig the Blanchett and I seem to be warming up to her (slowly, but still)...

Kirsten has to grow up and Clarkson needs to get more roles. Morton is superb and ScarJo still has to find her second breakthrough (the first being 2003 - LIT & GWAPE)

Anonymous said...

Birth was on of her movies I did see and I didn't like the movie or her in it. IDK she's just bland to me. I didn't even realize I've seen a lot of her movies, but I have. Maybe she'll impress me in the Golden Compass.

I don't dislike her as a person (she's not Paris Hilton), but I don't get the hype at all.

Anonymous said...

Are you gonna do this for the boys too? Er, the actors I mean?


probably but i might wait a bit. less time has past since i completed that actor countdown so there's been less change.

VP81955 said...

To anyone who hates Kirsten Dunst: Rent "The Cat's Meow" and check out her performance as Marion Davies. She captures the spirit of Davies perfectly (even though at the time of filming she was nearly a decade younger than Davies was in real life in 1924, when the film was set). Give Kirsten some meaty roles and not big-budget comic book movies, and I think she'll surprise you.

The Liz said...

I really can't stand Nicole Kidman; her plastic surgery is too distracting. It's like her face has been pulled so tightly back she looks almost like a cat. From what I can tell, the best thing she's done this decade is that Chanel commercial. For me, an actress' face is incredibly important to the overall performance, and Nicole's is completely immobile and bizarre.

I am rooting for Kate Winslet. I'd watch her in anything.

Anonymous said...

Strongly believe that there's a LOT of envy for KIDMAN (may i mention the Blanchett, Winslet fanclub:)

Love Kidman and i admire her creativity and versatility as a performer...such ability to create a textured character and make her understandable to viewers in all of her complexity.....much impt.,-- her ability to make a connection to millions of strangers around the world!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add, i think its human nature to feel a little better when you cut somebody else's down(w/o objectivity).

It's disgusting, but i think its the truth.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my ranting, Nat...i've just been at imdb...lots of catty remarks for Kidman.

What a way to develop a fanbase for other actresses..or maybe it's a PR thing, who knows?