Friday, August 20, 2010

Posterized: Dame Emma Thompson

Okay, so she's not a Dame yet. Shut up. It's only a matter of time!

Nanny McPhee costar Maggie Gyllenhaal at Emma's star ceremony
for Hollywood's Walk of Fame earlier this month.

Nanny McPhee Returns is on 2000+ of the nation's screens but I probably won't be seeing it. Remember two days back when we discussed what we were always looking for in a movie? One of my answers should have been beauty. I am not a beauty fascist in real life but I suppose I am at the movie theaters. Hollywood's great actresses should be immortalized with key lights, flawless makeup and evening gowns. Movie stars are supposed to be fantasies... our idealized selves. That's why Old Hollywood still has so much appeal. The studio system understood this. I like beauty on my silver screens so I really don't want to see Emma Thompson -- who can be just ravishing (see Much Ado About Nothing. I mean, my god. She's breathtaking in that movie) -- made to look purposefully hideous.

Anyway... her career in posters.

The Tall Guy (89) | Henry V (89) | Impromptu (91)

Dead Again (91) | Peter's Friends (92) | Howard's End (92)

Much Ado..., Remains of the Day, In the Name of the Father (93)

Junior (94) | Carrington (95) | Sense & Sensibility (95)

Intermission. In early 1996 after five Oscar noms and two wins (acting & screenplay) and several arthouse hits, the screen career seems to slow down. She was only 36. It's difficult to say what caused this. A listers sometimes just volunteer for that and if so who could blame her? Her first six years of fame were crazy huge and chaotic.

<--- Emma with her husband Greg Wise at the premiere of his most recent movie in 2009

Consider... She was 30 when fame hit. The first six years of fame were bookended with her wedding and then divorce from Kenneth Branagh (also often her director and co-star) and the movies were iconic arthouse titles. And then there's that stellar 1993 wherein she won the Oscar in the spring then appeared in three more arthouse smashes, two of which she was Oscar nominated for. [Tangent: If you ask me I think Much Ado... is the best of those three '93 performances -- even if it's the least of the three films -- so it figures it's the one she was snubbed for.]

Or maybe it wasn't an intentional break but maybe the offers just started to dry up? The cinema is sometimes nonsensical like that. This is also the time period in which she and Greg Wise, the dangerously good-looking man who breaks her screen sister Kate Winslet's heart in Sense & Sensibility, fall in love. They've been together ever since and were married in 2003.

The Winter Guest (97) | Primary Colors (98) | Judas Kiss (98)

Wit (01) | Angels in America (03) | Love Actually (03)

Mike Nichols to the rescue with two acclaimed pay cable movies that reminded fans what a sensational screen presence she is.

Imagining Argentina (03) | Nanny McPhee (05) | Stranger Than Fiction (06)

Brideshead Revisited (08) | Last Chance Harvey (08) | An Education (09)

not pictured: Pirate Radio (09), two Harry Potter films (04/07) the current Nanny McPhee sequel and a few cameo parts or voice roles.

How many have you seen? Is it odd that she's not in the last two-part Harry Potter film (I can't remember if that character is in the last book)... or if she is, that they aren't crediting her since she's not listed as being part of the cast? And don't you wish she'd have more plum parts again? She was so moving in Last Chance Harvey but it was one of those sacrificial December lambs needlessly disposed of during the year's busiest month. When I rewatched Angels in America a few weeks ago, I was reminded what a glorious comic personality she has. She's the best of both worlds, really, able to wear both of those iconic thespian masks. She sells comedy and tragedy with equal inspiration.


NicksFlickPicks said...

The Winter Guest, Primary Colors, and Carrington all deserve more viewers than they tend to get, and she's great in all of them. Triple recommendation.


i remember not liking CARRINGTON but maybe i should give it another go.

IslandLiberal said...

I've seen ten of those.

Real shame that she and Branagh couldn't have kept it together, cinematically speaking (personally, of course, they're now both in happy relationships). They were dynamite ("Henry V" is my all-time favourite film).

Timmy said...

She is in fact reprising her role as Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II ;)


I've seen 18 of them plus the Potters of course. i was CRAZED for Emma & Kenneth when they were together.

vg21 said...

Thank you, Nathaniel, you just made my day!!!! Dame Emma Thompson - sounds terrific. I love both her dramatic and comedic roles, Last Chance Harvey is a true gem and I am actually watching (listening to) the Love Actually audiocommentary right now. Isn't that weird? All those years I never manged to listen to the audiocommentary, and coincidentally it's today that I'm treating myself to it.

I actually saw 22 of the 28 films mentioned, the others are either not available here (The Tall Guy, Impromptu, Carrington, The Winter Guest) or I have the DVD but haven't seen it (Dead Again). Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is in cinemas now, I hope to see it on the big screen soon.

By the way, I was sad to read how much criticism Emma got for her critique of Audrey Hepburn, for planning to take her daughter out of school for a gap year or the ridiculous misinterpretation of her calling Mary Poppins "narcissistic" as "badmouthing the other famous nanny character". These are making her seem conceited but if you watch her saying what is distortedly reported, it turns out she is her old self and her well-known intelligent and generous personality fully justifies her opinions. Good for her for being able to uncomprimisingly and unpretentiously voice her opinion, however unpopular it may be. Go, Emma!

Billy Held An Oscar said...

Emma did a BBC mini-series with Kenneth called Fortunes of War - Very good.

Jim Berg said...

I saw Carrington this week: she was good but I couldn't abide the film. Love her in Love, Actually, but she will always be my go to for Forster and Austen.

BTW, you tricked me with the Twitter feed. Nasty.

Alex said...

Was just watching The Remains of the Day earlier, actually. What a great display of subtle acting.

I think her HBO double whammy of Wit and Angels in America are classics. She could've easily won an Oscar for the former if it had premiered in theaters. I've actually always wondered how Angels would've faired Oscar-wise. Always assumed her and Mary-Louise Parker (who probably would've won) would've been nominated alongside each other in Supporting. Oh, alternate universises, how I long for yee.

Anonymous said...

Howards End, Much Ado About Nothing (long time ago), Sense and Sensibility, Primary Colours, An Education. And that Harry Potter where she says 'Is it something that I said?'

Hayden said...

To me, Emma Thompson is an actress who is so technically perfect that watching her act becomes a lesson in "how a technically perfect actress would approach the role of ________." And somehow it isn't even remotely distracting; it's part of the cerebral charm of watching Emma Thompson conquer a role from the perspective of Emma Thompson.

Kurtis O said...

I, I, I, I, I, I love Emma Thompson. She was totally at a Philadelphia library last Friday night promoting "Nanny 2." I got the press email after I returned from my trip.

Robert Hamer said...

"I am not a beauty fascist in real life but I suppose I am at the movie theaters."

I...completely, utterly disagree with this. I like seeing beautiful scenery and people in films as much as the next moviegoer, but I just can't get behind your idea that ugly movie characters can't be appealing or compelling in their own way.

Ugly people already have it tough enough in the world. They are, generally speaking, treated worse, distrusted more, have less friends, and are often even paid less just for being physically unattractive. On top of that, they are bombarded with films about the gorgeous hero defeating the repulsive villian week after week. Why would you want to enable that? Movies can make great fantasies, but isn't one of the biggest complaints about modern movies is lack of believability? Aren't we supposed to hate Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich for (among other things) casting ravishing twentysomething bombshells all the time, even as a scientist or top government advisor?

One of the things I love about the success of Nanny McPhee is that she's a totally hideous character, yet became popular anyway because of her personality and charm. I know that sounds corny, but it's true. I guess one could complain about someone as beautiful as Emma Thompson "uglying herself up" for a character when someone less attractive could have taken the part, but I feel like that's not the crux of your argument, anyway.

So I say bring on the ugly characters! Let them be the protagonists and heroes and lovable characters from time to time! And with all the Anne Hathaways, Michelle Pfeiffers, and Marion Cotillards of the world, beautiful Hollywood stars would have no threat of under-exposure as a result.

Anonymous said...

Her performance in Wit is my favorite film performance by ay actor ever.

Also, hearing she won't be in HP7(and 8?) makes me upset -- there's a great scene in the final battle where her character would have been scene throwing fortune telling balls everywhere frantically. I was so excited to see her do that. A shame, really.


robert -- i'm not saying that ugly characters can't be compelling. I'm just saying that sweet baby jesus, emma thompson is in few enough movies as it is and THIS is the only way she gets to be a lead??? i remember being absolutely wowed by how sexy she was in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and yet filmmakers kept refusing to give me beautiful sunkissed emma and wanted her to be all buttoned up. and now they want her to have warts and unibrows and whatnot.

and then they want to give all the beauties like charlize, halle, kate, and nicole Oscars, but only when they downplay their beauty.

it's insanity. movie stars are supposed so be pretty. it's in the job description.

but as for the michael bay & roland emmerich note, yes, i object to that too. but it's an unfair dig at my argument :) hear me out ... because i find many more things beautiful than generic interchangeable 20something beauty... and I think most people do, actually. yes, it's stupid when someone who looks more like a playboy bunny is playing a nuclear physicis but i just object to the notion that so many of our actresses should downplay their beauty when they're on the screen and save the beauty fo the red carpet.


as for movies should be more like reality. I don't even know what to say to that because that's not how i feel at all about the movies. for reality, i can watch people on the street or reality tv or whatnot.

i want my movies to be visual feasts.


sorry. button pushed.

let's love EMMA THOMPSON together.

Glenn said...

Definitely agreed about Much Ado and Last Chance Harvey.

Love this woman. She is divinity.

cal roth said...

I love her in everything, from Carrington to Junior!

re: 1993 - I love her in those 3 movies, but I'm always impressed with energy and emotional strengh in In The Name of The Father. Remember what you said about Juliette Binoche in Red Balloon (in the FB Best Actress commentary page)? It's the same thing here. Thompson fills an empty and shallow part so powerfully the one can't help being deeply moved.

She speaks French in Henry V. Maybe she could pull a Kristin Scott Thomas and get a career boost... French speaking actress, like Jodie Foster and Ashley Judd should try France. They give actress very good parts there, no matter the age you have.

Roark said...

My favorite of her performances is Wit. She's simply devastating in that film, which, for my money, is also one of Nichols' best.

This post also reminds me, once again, that I need to get over my no doubt irrational aversion to Merchant Ivory films. So thanks for that!

Paul Outlaw said...

Has anyone seen Imagining Argentina? I've never even heard of it until today...

I've seen 18 of those pictured, plus the Potters. Love her.

(And if I were married to Greg Wise, I'd work less too.)

adam k. said...

It's true, there are few famous actresses who are truly gifted and in top form in both comedy and drama. Thompson is one. Streep has proven herself to be another. Holly Hunter kind of is. Odd that she of all people was the third one to come to mind.

I've got actresses on the brain lately...

Marshall1 said...

Watched Nanny McPhee on tv last week, it turned out to be much better than I've expected! Emma was great, so does Colin Firth, but especially that little boy who anchors the whole movie. Too bad a lot of "top critics" don't really like the second one:(

I cry EVERYTIME when I watch Wit (I think I've watched it three times so far), especially the last part where her former professor was reading the rabbit story to her. Give me chills....

Alex said...

I just looked up pop culture OBE's and am shocked that she isn't in there. I need it explained to me why Timothy Spall has one, but Emma doesn't. Branagh doesn't have one either, which REALLY surprises me...

Leehee said...

Ok, Nathaniel- in one week you've covered Maureen O'Hara, Deborah Kerr and Emma Thompson: my three all time favorite actressess! Are you reading my mind or something?? :-)
Now for the topic at hand: would you believe I have seen EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of those movies? So commenting on all of them would be hard.. But here are some thoughts about my faves and the ones less discussed:
Much Ado- Totally agree with you about how utterly gorgeous she is in that film, and what a strong performance. A Beatrice for the ages!!saw that movie four times at the movie theater when it came out, and started my Emma craze. ;-)
both Sense& Sensibility and Dead Again are favorites, as well as Fortunes of War (one of her first dramatic roles). LOVE her dynamic with her mum in Winter Guest, where they are both very, very good). Peter's Friends and Junior ( though of course varying in quality) are both sentimental favorites- she is hysterically funny in Peter's Friends as well as touching.
Too bad Imagining Argentina was panned- I think it's an ok film with a VERY strong performance by Emma. Likewise, Wit and Carrington make me weep every time I watch them. She is so, so wonderful in both.
She IS going to be in the final Harry Potter, which is amazing since I love the books, movies, and her in them.
Hmmm what else?... Oh, The Tall Guy is a fun little ditty. Her sex scene with Jeff Goldblum (yes, yes) needs to be seen in order to be believed. They actually have very sweet chemistry, and I really like the film and her performance.
LOVE her breakdown scene in Love Actually- I dare say it's my top Emma moment.
I could go on and on... But the bottom line is... There is just no one like her. All hail Dame Emma!!! :-)

Steolicious said...

I saw 12 of them. In my opinion her best work is "The Remains of the Day". She's a funny lady, I like her.

pomme said...

12 movies and more the movies from 90's and no one Harry Potter movie

Michael said...

I adore Thompson...but Imagining Argentina is unforgivable. AVOID.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Impromptu is quite awesome.

Leehee said...

I'm sorry, but I respectfully disagree about "Imagining Argentina". It has its merits, though it does veer into the fantastic (as it, suspend your belief kind of fantastic) at times. And to me, her performance is totally worth seeing it at least once. I'm not saying it's a masterpiece or anything, but any Thompson fan has to see it to appreciate her even more.

Nathaneil - Have you seen clips from her tv series "Thompson" on youtube? They're freaking hilarious, and she also sings and dances quite a lot. The clips feature her mother, her sister, Brangah,and a hysterical Imelda Staunton. Two samples:

Leehee said...

Oops sorry for misspelling you name. Typo. :-)

Sara said...

Like 5-10 years ago a list was leaked of all the people offered the OBE who declined it; embarrassingly long list. I believe she was one it.

Scott said...

I'm really glad you noted her ability to bridge that tragic/comic divide. She can seemingly do everything, but that's definitely an unusual strength of hers. I've seen all but 3 or 4 of these (plus other stuff like Fortunes of War), and she's always so good you can barely get your head around it. And yeah, it's a shame her work in Harvey didn't get awards traction. It might be her best performance since 1995.

gabrieloak said...

I've seen most everything but Imagining Argentina and Pirate Radio. I was so glad she had a lead part in Last Chance Harvey, which is a little gem.

Still need to watch Fortunes of War and Look Back in Anger which are in my DVD collection.

Though I didn't care for Carrington, it wasn't the actors' fault.

I agree about The Winter Guest, a sadly neglected film. I have the haunting score to the film on my iPod.

Has anyone seen her skits with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as part of the Cambridge Players? Fun stuff. Also I like her singing on the Me and My Girl CD and wish I had seen on stage.

She doesn't seem to love acting too much at the moment, which is our loss.

Now if she had kept her mouth closed about Audrey Hepburn, she's be practically perfect.

Andrew K. said...

It does kind of suck that she isn't in the last HP film. Emma is just brilliant, I love her so much but she's never really in as much movies as I wish she would...excellent in Howards End and soooooooooo great in Much Ado About Nothing (oddly, un-nominated for that and nominated for In the Name of the Father where she IS good...but...?). I want her back in a nice plum role (that being said the new Nanny McPhee movie is nice, nicer the first and when she does turn pretty at the end I do sigh. Wish she was that nice throughout.)

Anonymous said...

Emma' one of those gorgeous, sexy people who could make a career out of being gorgeous and sexy, but likes making herself ugly. That's why she's an actor. (Brad Pitt seems to be the same way.)

Anyway, she's probably my favorite actress ever. She's amazing in Much Ado and devastating in Sense & Sensibility and Howard's End (still my favorite Emma performance). Wish she got more work-- she can do pretty much anything. She could have a career like Meryl Streep's if she wanted to. My sense is that she doesn't. Otherwise, why would she be writing those Nanny McPhee movies?

Paul K. said...

I've tried and I've tried, but I can't get through "Howards End" to save my life. I'm going to give it another go one of these days though. I do need to see her Oscar-winning performance. I haven't seen too many of her earlier films, but most of the later starring roles I've seen. I do hope that she headlines something great in the future. I'll even take it if it's television (if "Wit" had been a theatrical release, wow). I refuse to watch those "Nanny McPhee" films though.

principessa1121 said...

Oh, my, for a split second, I let myself believe the title might be true... :-) I hope it soon will be.

Of the posters here, I have seen 18 (I mean, the films, not the posters :D) plus the HPs, obviously, and I have two that I could watch on DVD (Angels in America and Imagining Argentina). I think that's pretty much the most I have seen from one actor or actress. Not to mention that I have seen Last Chance Harvey about 50 times already, which shall make up for another 2 or 3 movies. :P Apart from that, my personal favourites are The Remains, S&S and Much Ado, but I also liked Primary Colours and Dead Again a lot.

mrripley said...

I think her small supporting role in love actuall is the best of her,i would have given her the 2003 supporting actress trophy.

Timmy said...

For the love of GOD...

she IS in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (it's just not listed on the IMDb)



For the record, I've seen all but Dead Again and The Winter Guest, and my favourites are Howards End and The Remains of the Day. Not such a fun of In the Name of the Father and Primary Colours.

I've actually met the woman and she was nice enough. Her son went to my uni.

vg21 said...

mrripley, I agree, that role in LA is fantastically played by Emma. So much drama, so much subtlety. I never understood those who said the film was no more than a superficial feel-good movie. Too bad it was possibly too small a role for a supporting Oscar nomination.

joy said...

So where is everybody's top ten list?

I. Wit
2. Howard's End
3. Remains of the Day
4. Much Ado About Nothing
5. The Winter Guest
6. Last Chance Harvey
7. Sense & Sensibility
8. Angels in America
9. In the Name of the Father
10. Carrington

Brian said...

Emma was my obsession, too, from about 1992 - 1999...

I doubt that she'll ever be 'damed', though, mostly because she's such a leftie -- probably wouldn't accept it even if offered. I miss her onscreen and am sad when she only gets cameos and small roles. But she's decided to have a full life -- raising her family and working admirably for lots of political causes.

What do we think of her proposed screenplay for a remake of 'My Fair Lady'??? I think the idea is very intriguing, but I wonder if the producers will actually allow her to do any radical changes...

Anonymous said...

She's pure gold.

MRRIPLEY said...

I don't think the perf was too small in love actually the rest of the film i can do without but those 2 scenes - the one in the bedroom and when she confronts rickman have so much power & emotion,i'd give it to her in a shot,i still think about that bedroom scene now!!!


Brian -- i hadn't heard what she wanted to do it, just that she was doing it. Are you still in London? Maybe you'll run into her ;)

Timmy -- isn't that odd though since they list just about every other character in the final credits list, but not her (Harry Potter)

oh and see DEAD AGAIN. Hokey in its hugely theatrical delivery, but lots of fun in the performance/thriller/style way.

Paul K -- why on earth? That movie is so great. So deserved BP in 1992... at least among the actual nominees.

Scott Willison said...

I believe the reason for her absence from the screen was down to a change of priorities after she married Greg Wise; apparently she had a great deal of trouble conceiving a child and so after she gave birth, Gaia became her priority.

She's a fantastic actress and screen presence; any time she shows up in a film you're guaranteed to be entertained.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading somewhere a while back (EW I think) that Emma Thompson had turned down the opportunity to appear in the final Potter films because it conflicted with the filming of Nanny 2, which she really wanted to do. I don't know if anything changed since then, because that was a long time ago, but it would kill me to not have her in it. And Trelawney is such a vital part of the story, that if they wrote her out or recast the role, it would be very upsetting :(


gabrieloak said...

Didn't Emma just say that she is in the last two Potter films? Unless she was referring to her past work?

Sawyer said...

Love, love, love her. Easily one of the 5 best screen actresses of all-time.

The Remains of the Day is my favorite film featuring Emma, but I think her best performance might be Much Ado.

Sawyer said...

Regarding Love Actually.

This movie is a gem. It's my favorite Christmas-time movie pleasure. The scene at the end where Colin Firth bumbles Portuguese to propose to Lucia Moniz in the restaurant = one of the most romantic movie scenes ever. Emma and Alan are great together - I would love to see them team up again. Just a perfect little treat of a movie!

Burning Reels said...

Agreed, Dame Emma Thompson - only a matter of time...a great person.

I never quite got the Howards End love - Dame Vanessa was the star of that show in my opinion

Seen most of them - never seen Wit or The Winter Guest.

Her vulnerability in Last Chance Harvey was typically moving.

But The Remains of the Day, well...I haven't seen that film for a while, maybe I should but my emotions spill out too much.

Deborah said...

I've seen 7.

Interesting when you run these on someone and I see how much I've missed. It makes me realize sometimes how, when we're talking about a particular actor, I may be missing parts of the conversation.