Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best Actress

Oscar Nominations for 2011
  • Annette Benning in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
  • Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
  • Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
I think this is one of the strongest categories in this year's Oscar race and the strongest rosters in many years. A case can be made for each of these actors. Annette Bening was very good in TKAAR, but the part wasn't such a big one and I thought she was better in MOTHER AND CHILD And Julianne Moore was equally good and should have been nominated, so I will eliminate Benning. If she'd been nominated for the other movie, I might have chosen her.

I didn't see RABBIT HOLE-but I'm sure Kidman was good.

The other three women were all outstanding too. None of the movies they starred in would have been the same without their performance. To me that is a key question, can you imagine anyone playing the role better. Which is why Maggie Smith will always be Jean Brodie to me and Vivien Leigh, Scarlet O'Hara.

I loved BLACK SWAN but playing someone going mad seems easier than playing the quieter role of someone trying to save her family or someone falling out of love. Did you ever see a movie about insanity where the actor didn't impress you?

Jennifer Lawrence was terrific in WINTER'S BONE, which was my favorite movie of the year, but her part did not call for the emotional resonance of Michelle Williams' in BLUE VALENTINE. It was a flat, straight forward performance, which suited the tone of the book however.

Williams in BLUE VALENTINE had to fall in and out of love and show you why this happened with subtlety. She had to age five years without any physical change. She did these things expertly and although I doubt she will win, she would be my choice. (It is a crime Ryan Gosling, in an equally great performance, was denied a nomination).

I know I am the only one who sees a movie a week so let's go backwards. Who was the best pick ever for the Best Actress Oscar? My vote goes to Meryl Streep for SOPHIE'S CHOICE.

Here's a list to save you time.


David Cranmer said...

I liked Ingrid Bergman in GASLIGHT. Patricia Neal in HUD is a close second.

Naomi Johnson said...

Geraldine Page in A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. Somewhere/how Page lost herself, and there was only Carrie Watts on screen.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A wonderful movie. Horton Foote, right?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I could listen to Patricia Neal talk all day.

Anonymous said...

Neither of those would be my choice.

But first: how could Hailie Steinfeld, who was in every single scene of TRUE GRIT, be nominated for Supporting Actress? Clearly, as with Tatum O'Neal in PAPER MOON, it was because she was a kid. Unlike O'Neal, however, she is unlikely to win even this consolation prize.

As for this year's choices, the only ones I've seen so far are Bening (who I liked a lot) and Portman (who will surely win).

Unlike you I was not enamored with most of BLACK SWAN (I kept seeing echoes of REPULSION), but the last half hour or so was amazing and she did a great job.

As to best pick ever for Best Actress, hmm.

It's very tough. Meryl, yes, but also Maggie Smith and Sissy Spacek.

I think I might go for Smith as Jean Brodie.

Jeff M.

MP said...

For my two favorite Best Actress wins I have to go all the way back to the 60s, with Elizabeth Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and Katharine Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter". It's hard to vote against Street, though. This year I'll go with Portman, although I haven't seen either "Rabbit Hole" or "Blue Valentine", so I probably shouldn't even pick.

You're absolutely right, though, about Bening in "Mother and Child", which I just saw last week. For most of the movie, Bening's character was virtually impossible to like, which makes it a challenge. The same could be said for Naomi Watts in that movie.

le0pard13 said...

Cher in MOONSTRUCK... Sorry couldn't resist ;-). I could easily go with Streep for SOPHIE'S CHOICE and Page for A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL. But, I also have a secret crush on Maggie Smith for THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE.

Now, if I only could snatch the statue away from Julia Roberts (ERIN BROCKOVICH) and give it to the one who truly deserved it, Ellen Burstyn for REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, I'd die happy.

Charles Gramlich said...

I do know that the oscar is a small gold statue. Yep, I know that.

George said...

Diane and I plan to see BLUE VALENTINE this weekend. Sissy Spacek would get my vote.

Yvette said...

Yes, Meryl Streep. (But I am easily swayed since I adore her.)
Others whose wins I could substitute if pressed:
Hillary Swank BOYS DON'T CRY
Patricia Neal HUD
Joanne Woodward THREE FACES OF EVE
Sally Field PLACES IN THE HEART - a mostly forgotten but truly splendid movie. The whole cast was so damn good!!

Two wins I hated and will question to my dying day:
Frances MacDormand in FARGO
Grace Kelly in HIGH NOON (Judy Garland was freakin' robbed!)


Steve Oerkfitz said...

Favs would be Patricia Neal, Sissy Spacek, Frances McDormand(sorry Yvette),Hepburn for Lion in Winter(not for the terrible Guess Whos Coming to Dinner).
Would also like to take back the Oscar from julia Roberts. Also from Hallie Berry, Hillary Swank in Boys Dont Cry(never once did I believe her passing for a boy)and Barbra Streisand.
Also liked Black Swan but still feel its overrated(Repulsion is much better at similar material). And didn't like The Kids are Alright at all. I would give it to Michelle Williams.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Patti...that list was a quick reminder of what a joke the Oscars not only are, but have always been. Luise Rainer for THE GOOD EARTH? Which should've been a showcase for Anna May Wong. And Rainer was terrible.

To answer your first question, Patti--Brad Pitt was hugely inept in portraying the mentally ill character in 12 MONKEYS, damned near bringing the film to a screeching halt. Not the only inept Pitting, but certainly one of the most flagrant.

Patricia Neal, Sissy Spacek, Emma Thompson earned their statues in far less showy roles, as well. And McDormand grounded the film as well as her character. (And I think you don't give Lawrence enough credit for getting the tone just so, and the subtle shifts in WB, though I haven't seen BV yet, either...I've liked Michelle Williams for a while, after she proved that she was rather more talented than her fellow DAWSON'S CREEK survivors.)

Jeff, Steinfeld was overlooked because the Oscars are now and have always been a joke. And as I've noted repeatedly, BLACK SWAN not only echoes REPULSION and THE RED SHOES in ways that do it no credit in comparison, but also PERSONA and several other films, and I've been instructed since that the serious Japanese animated film PERFECT BLUE is echoed to a degree approaching pure plagiarism.

Oscar-bait! (The PERFECT BLUE copyright holders have been bought off.)

pattinase (abbott) said...

There are an awful lot of cringe-worthy nods over the years. But Julia Roberts heads my list. Like Bullock last year, it's like they say it's time. In which case, Annette Benning should win.
Let's face it; it's all about the dresses, right?

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I thought Michelle Williams was fantastic and Blue Valentine was so well made. Heartbreaking. But I can't imagine why Ryan G. didn't get a nomination as well. He was amazing.

Yvette said...

Steve: I am going to say something inflammatory, but w.t.f. If you can't say something inflammatory among friends - when CAN you say it?

I think I simply never did and never will understand FARGO and it's performances. They are just outside my own particular human experience. I speak as a Puerto Rican who grew up in NYC in the 40's and 50's. (And yet, I'm human, so there should be something in this film that speaks to me, regardless...But, nope. The Coen Brothers - nope. Well except for when Clooney 'sings' that little ditty in Oh Brother, Where Are Thou? I think that's the title of the film.)

FARGO, to me, still seems like a movie taking place on another planet and somehow, I'm supposed to be impressed BECAUSE of that.

There is NOTHING in that film I can EVER relate to in ANY way. Even the fact that I too went through a pregnancy and am a mother. Yeah, MacDormand played pregnant while she was a cop - SO??
Make the point. What's the point here? Did anything take place in this film that I could construe as even remotely interesting? Their accents? No. And believe me, I tried. At least three times. Never did manage to sit through the entire flick.

This is one of those times when cultural 'norms' get in the way of the material. I will NEVER agree or even come close to an understanding of why this film induced raptures in the critics and some fans.
Sorry, Steve.

Deb said...

I don't get to the movies very often and I've only seen "Black Swan" and "The King's Speech" so far. I thought "Black Swan" was horribly garish and over-the-top (and poor Barbara Hershey should sue--she was lit and filmed so badly). From one vantage point, I can see that Natalie Portman poured her heart and soul into the part, but that doesn't mean all her effort and talent was in the service of anything but a lurid nervous breakdown movie. However, I'm sure she'll win the Oscar--and, no matter how much I gripe or how few of the nominated performances I see, I know I'll be sitting watching the show next Sunday.

Regarding best actresses: Vivien Leigh in both of her Oscar performances--as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" and as Blanche du Bois in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think that movie either sweeps you away or it doesn't. I can understand why you didn't like it easily.

Anonymous said...

Yvette, 100% agreement on Grace Kelly va. Judy Garland, which was nothing less than highway robbery.

But I'm with Steve and the others re Frances McDormand in FARGO; sorry.

Yeah, Julia was bad and her acceptance speech was worse. I like the heartfelt (preferably relatively short) speeches from the heart (like Jamie Foxx talking about his grandmother) rather than the laundry list of agents, management and producers.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

REPULSION scared the crap out of me when I first saw it - granted I was a lot younger and more impressionable.

All I noticed for most of BLACK SWAN was how bad Barbara Hershey looked and how skinny Natalie Portman was (no, rib cages are NOT a turn on).

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, way too skinny and Barbara must have had some bad surgery at some point. I tell myself it is better to look old naturally than through surgical means.
It would be great if they would stop thanking people. I mean who wants to hear that. Think of something original to say even if you have to hire a writer.

Ron Scheer said...

Amazing how some of your questions just open the floodgates, Patti. I enjoyed reading the comments just for the reminders of all the great performances it would have taken me hours to recollect on my own.

At the the top of the list, I was there with Patricia Neal and Geraldine Page - yeah - and then got hopelessly lost after that.

Gary Stevens said...

The greatest Best Actress injustice for me was when Bjork wasn't nominated for DANCER IN THE DARK, and then to add insult to injury, everybody made fun of her goose-dress!

Anonymous said...

Jackie wants to put in her vote for Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND. ("She was Scarlet.")

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Portman and Kunis starved themselves so as to look like anorectic ballerinas (not that there are many other sorts).

Again, I didn't hate BLACK SWAN, found it mediocre as well as derivative, with some good performances...I do, however, have ever less patience with those who want it to be a key cultural event in our time. I did wonder if Hershey was intentionally made up to look worse than she does otherwise.

Charlieopera said...

Kate Winslett for Revolutionary Road (even though she won it for The Reader) ... jus watch RR again tonight with my wife. Ann Marie couldn't handle it and threatened my life if it's ever on in the same room as her again (too painful). I'm also reading the book again (for the 5th or 6th time) and can't get enough of either (the book or the movie--and the performances).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love that book and also love THE EASTER PARADE and ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS. Kate is good in every movie. Can't wait to see her Mildred Pearce.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Never saw Dancer in the Dark but thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Love Richard Yates - especially the stories and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. I completely agree Winslet should have won for that; I was not a huge fan of THE READER.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

THE READER was a strange book and stranger movie. But she's always worth watching.

Todd Mason said...

My favorite of her films that tends to be Overlooked is probably HOLY SMOKE. Certainly the best Campion-directed film I've seen.

Erik Donald France said...

I have no idea, but Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Deneuve and Penelope Cruz are usually great. I also like Debbie Harry as an actor. And most definitely Marion Cotillard. Off the top of my head.

Erik Donald France said...

Kate Winslett is definitely powerful. Jennifer Connelly and let's not forget Marisa Tomei.

Erik Donald France said...

Angela Bassett.

R L Kelstrom said...

The dialogue on this blog post reminds me why I enjoy the Oscars- all the controversy, and how it's rarely about who is best. How can it be when reaction to any art form is so subjective. I loved McDormand in Fargo and I love the Coens precisely because they deliver people and worlds outside my usual realms. I especially liked being taken last year into a Jewish reality. I agree with LeOpard on Ellen Burstyn being robbed on Requiem. I like Arronofski's work because it is so visceral. I felt like I was an addict after Requiem, I had a headache in PII, and I felt the feathers growing out of Portman.