Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Best Leading Actress 2016: Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins is a very nice film. It‘s definitely not a masterpiece in terms of biopics, but I definitely had a good time watching it. It is supported by an excellent leading turn by Hugh Grant (the fact that he was campaigned in supporting category is blasphemious, it‘s as bad case of a category fraud, as was Rooney Mara last year) and another cast member. This cast member could be nobody else, but Meryl Streep.
Streep portrays a person who cannnot sing, but she doesn‘t realize it and still wants to spread it to the world. A person like this is definitely not very smart in mind and doesn't have a self-reflection. Streep is wonderful at executing the simpleness of Florence. Personally, I have not seen such a good and respectable portrayal of a simple-minded person in years.
Streep is also masterful in showing the devotion, which Florence sings with. Her entire body language supports it, as well as the line delivery. The way she responds to the question if she wants to do another take of a song is hysterical: ‚It seemed perfect to me.‘
This performance and the nomiantion itself wasn‘t very popular. Many people blame the hype around it being caused by that great Golden Globes‘ speech, but I don‘t agree with that. I think we all take Meryl for granted. She is so magnificent, we don't forgive her anything simply because we‘ve got used to her being flawless. But the truth is, not everyone would be able to handle this role with such charm and wit.
Streep doesn't even do the overacting that has been typical for her in recent years – she has got many subtle moments and those are a proof of the layers Streep found within the character (the example is the scene, in which Grant finds her in the audience room of Carneggie Hall and she tells him that she booked the hall. Streep doesn't overdo the joy of Florence and I can imagine any other actress doing it. She stays subtle and there is a rather bitter feeling under her line readings and expressions).
Let‘s take a look at her Oscar clip, for example, that reminded me how exceptional this performance is. She was able to express the full scale of emotions through tones, which alone is not easy to achieve. But the tones were not supposed to be right. This is what you call acting. On the other hand she‘s excellent at showing the tenderness and vulnerability of Florence Jenkins.
Let alone the singing scenes must have been very difficult, as she had to consciously sing bad. Meryl Streep makes it look incredibly effortless and it‘s charmingly funny. She delivery the comic parts, as well as the heartbreaking ones.
The chances of winning an Oscar: She was fighting for the fourth spot with Negga.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Best Leading Actress 2016: Ruth Negga - Loving

Loving is a very slow and a bit overlonged film about an interracial couple that is being persecuted for marrying each other. Rather than really digging into the problem, the film coldly watches how it affects the relationship, so you get to watch a four-minute-long sequence, in which you only see a routine of two people being quite.
The most important thing about this film has to be the relationship of the main leads and the chemistry between two actors portraying them.
Unfortunately, the film lets us see the working relationship for a very short time, so the contrast that should appear can never work. Now all we get to see is a non-working relationship. The actors are trying to solve it somehow, but they are unable (though the film doesn’t help them very much).
At first I have to mention that Negga’s performance is very subtle. So subtle, that one might say it’s underacted.
It is, but if you look closer, you can see the emotions underneath. It’s all in her eyes. She does well enough to show us the sorrow, the despair, yet the love she feels. I guess the bore and flatness of the performance is not entirely her fault, since Edgerton is underplaying as well (though not that much) and the entire film is having this slow and subtle atmosphere. So probably the director wanted it this way, which is not the best way to express this story, to be honest. She and Edgerton are at least trying, unlike the supporting cast of lawyer and the family members, who seems to be bored throughout every second they spend on the screen.
So here’s the thing. Negga is a lovely actress and I liked watching her. She’s nice and enjoyable to watch at (presence-wise). But I think this is not enough for an actual nomination.
There is every technical aspect done right, even the accent. Yet she misses something that would elevate this performance between the bests of the year.
The chances of winning an Oscar: She was a fill-in nominee. The last one and happy to be there…

Monday, 10 April 2017

Best Leading Actress 2016: Isabelle Huppert - Elle

During this year‘s Oscar race we witnessed this film and its leading performance slowly getting more and more atttention, which ended up in Huppert‘s performance being nominated. It got so much attention, that some predicted her to win against Emma Stone. Of course, it didn‘t happen. Yet, Elle is a very interesting film and it‘s one of those cases, which is just as good, as is its leading performance. Luckily, Huppert uses most of the given material.
This role is a very challenging one, especially for an actress her age, as it really takes a lot of courage to even accept this role, let alone to play it.
This is a very complicated character, I would call it a combination of Violet in August: Osage County (she always tells the truth) and Amy from Gone Girl (the twisted mind and (sexual) tastes) and just like these mentioned characters it‘s a very ambivalent one. We switch between sympathizing with her and hating her. To execute such a role one must really be experienced and skilled, but we all know Huppert was fit for this role.
Many people say it‘s a monstrious character, but I would not agree with that. Isabelle Huppert is trying to humanize this character of Elle and the fact is that she succeeded at this masterfully. The character is written the way you could just hate it and think she deserved all the nasty things that happened to her, but thanks to Huppert we really have moments that we pity her.
It must be said that it is a very subtle performance, but it works great for the film. For example in a scene, in which she is asked to go to the cellar with a man that we know is dangerous. Huppert‘s reaction to this is wonderful, as she takes a few seconds to answer and it‘s not clear until she says the final word. At first we think she‘ll agree, then that she won‘t and we keep switching between these two states until Huppert speaks. What‘s so masterful about this performance is that this keeps happening during a few seconds. And the same ambivalency she gives to the entire performance.
The chances of winning an Oscar: I guess she still wasn‘t being the second. Natalie Portman was slightly ahead of her, in my opinion.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Best Leading Actress 2016: Emma Stone - La La Land

Okay, I loved La La Land. It‘s a wonderful cinematic experience that is so real, that it will make most of the cynical people cry. Damien Chazelle has proved himself to be a director, whose next film will be highly anticipated.
I‘m not gonna be writting down bullshit, before exposing the truth. So here it is. One of the reasons La La Land was such a wonderful experience is Emma Stone. That‘s it. That being said, I have never been a huge fan of her. She has a speech defect, while she also doesn‘t have a perfect body holding. But after La La Land I understood, why people love her so much. Her on-screen charisma is beyond compare. Despite the flaws she might have, she is able to be so charming, charismatic and most of all an adorable woman. That is something beyond my understanding. During the film I was in a way attracted to her.
The best thing about it is that she is great at acting, too. All of her emotional moments seem so effortless, yet they never become boring. On the other hand she‘s able to elevate the moments that on the first sight don‘t offer her most of an acting opportunity. Yet, she never once is boring. She just is there on the screen and we believe her everything.
Emma was even able to overcome the occasional pathos of the screenplay. The way she delivers the singing line ‘Maybe this appeals to any girl, who feels there‘s some chance for romance‘ is wonderful, as she gives an overview to the whole situation and it seems as if she was making fun of the pathos under these words.
She also has a great chemistry with her co-star Ryan Gosling. This chemistry seems so effortless, one might take it for granted. That‘s a mistake. For example there is a scene of dinner, at which the two have an argument. It‘s as if they had known each other for a long time, as if they had really lived through this relationship. It‘s so heartbreaking and lovely at once. Never for a moment do we doubt about these two loving each other.
Stone is really the heart and the soul of the film. She dances well, sings great and acts flawlessly. This performance might be hated in the future as a weak winner (Gwyneth Paltrow, anyone?), but I don‘t give a shit. Because she does exactly what was required from her and she elevates the entire film (that even otherwise would have been great).

Monday, 6 February 2017

Next Year: Best Leading Actress 2016

The Nominees:
Emma Stone - La La Land
Isabelle Huppert - Elle
Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins
Natalie Portman - Jackie
Ruth Negga - Loving

What do you think about the nominees? What is your ranking? Who are you rooting for? What are your nominees? What do you think will be my ranking, or nominees? Tell us in comments! 

Best Leading Actress 1981

5. Susan Sarandon - Atlantic City
Sarandon is very fine the subtle moments of the film, but they don't very much fit the context of the film. The explosive moment are too overacted, on the other hand. But her chemistry with Lancaster is great and she had some very fine moments here and there.

4. Meryl Streep - The French Lieutenant's Woman
Meryl had recently said that this is a performance she is the least satisfied with. And I might in fact agree with her. She was miscast at the time and she simply failed to bring the required charm and energy to the screen. It's technically a fine performance, yet it misses the needed spark.

3. Marsha Mason - Only When I Laugh
Mason is a wonderful leader of this film and her chemistry with her co-stars (especially James Coco and Kristy McNichol) seems so effortless one might take it for granted. On the other hand she overacts some moment too much in the moments it's a bit distracting. 

2. Diane Keaton - Reds
Keaton is wonderfully leading this film without a help from her co-lead, which is quite impressive. She even managed to create some chemistry with Beatty, as well as with the rest of the cast. When she is on screen with Nicholson, it's a pleasure to watch. On the other hand the subtle moments are mostly too dormant.

1. Katherine Hepburn - On Golden Pond
Hepburn is such a delight in this film. I know, it's not her best performance, it's not even the best performance in this category of the year, but nobody can say it's a bad performance. She makes a wonderful couple with Henry Fonda and she made a believable mother to Jane Fonda. And that was an achievement! 

My Nominees:
1. Kathleen Turner - Body Heat
2. Sally Field - Absence of Malice
3. Katherine Hepburn - On Golden Pond
4. Bernadette Peters - Pennies from Heaven
5. Faye Dunaway - Mommie Dearest (guilty pleasure of mine, such a pleasure to watch)

Best Leading Actress 1981: Diane Keaton - Reds

Reds is a very well directed film, but it's utterly protracted. Luckily it's supported by some very good performances and the above-mentioned directing.
It's not easy to lead the film that lasts more than three hours. Diane Keaton had Warren Beatty to help her, but as an actor he wasn't very helpful.
The role of Louise Bryant is a difficult, yet very complex and good character to play. It's one of those that rarely happen for actresses these times. She is a feminist, she's an intelligent woman, who has her opinion and knows exactly what she wants. Though most of the time this is a very subtle portrayal, it is very convincing and strong. It's exactly the scenes, where Louise has to stand for what she wants, that Keaton shines most in. It doesn't matter if it's a court scene, where she must sustain her opinion, or it's an argument scene with Beatty. She handles all of them quite well.
It's interesting that though she is the leading character of the film, there are moments, in which she is pushed into corner and the true leader of that particular moment is Warren Beatty. However, Keaton handles these situations quite well, because despite she only has two short cuts to her face, we know what Louise is currently thinking about the main action taking place right now.
Keaton is also very good at having a good chemistry with her colleagues. And having a good chemistry with Beatty is a tough thing to achieve, but Keaton is good even at this. (Alright, their chemistry si not perfect, but it's as good, as possible.) But she has the best chemistry with Jack Nicholson. When these two have a scene together, it's a pleasure to watch. Both of them are really great, as both of them fully understood the character and they somehow fulfill each other's performance.
The only blame I'd have against Keaton would the above-mentioned fact that there are scenes, in which she doesn't have many things to do. Sometimes it's not just scenes, where she doesn't have anything to do, but the scenes that she is present in for the whole time and she has an opportunity to play something. She somehow underplays them. I don't know, if it's the result of Beatty's self-centeredness, or it's Keaton, who is to blame here, but that's the way I see it. On the other hand I think it's not only Beatty's fault, because she underplays some reactions even in scenes without Beatty. A because it happens often throughout Reds, I had to lower down her score.
The chances of winning an Oscar: Since Hepburn's win was not expected, I'm going to say that it was a fight between Streep and Keaton, which was won by someone third.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Best Leading Actress 1981: Marsha Mason - Only When I Laugh

Only When I Laugh is quite an enjoyable film that is especially interesting, if you are aware of some paralells with the actual life of Neil Simon. But apart from that, it's a great exhibition of some wonderful performances.
Marsha Mason plays the leading character Georgia, who we see getting back from the rehab. She used to be an alcoholic and now she is starting a new life. She portrays the joy very well. She is determined to begin a completely new chapter, yet she's not naive about it. In fact, I think that many feminists these times would welcome a film like this in the present. Georgia a strong woman and a very showy part to play. Here must be said that Mason uses all of the given potential.
She has got two great friends, who are waiting for her. One is a gay man played by James Coco and the second is a woman her age, who cares too much about her appearance played by Joan Hackett. Chemistry between Mason and Coco is outstanding. I really believed them, that they have known each other for a long time. The easiness and comfort they talk to each other with, is something that I miss with the chemistry between Mason and Hackett. Especially at the beginning of the film, I felt as if they were some further relatives, rather than close friends. This is mainly Hackett's fault, because in her first scenes she really seemed very reserved. It gets better later in the film, but I thought they are not as close, as with Coco. But it isn't a complaint, because it seems logical on the other hand. Hackett has got her own family to take care of. Coco is single and therefore he might have had more time to spend with Mason.
One excellent part of the film is Georgia's relationship with her daughter. They haven't seen each other for quite a long time and Georgia wants to take care of her. We see in Mason's behaviour the enormous trying to be the best mother. This is portrayed flawlessly and the more their relationship seems to be good, the more devastating will the dramatic change at the end of the film be. Both of the actresses (Mason, as well as Kristy McNichol) did their best and delivered first-class performances.
There is a scene in Only When I Laugh, in which her daughter organised a blind date for Georgia and the daughter's teacher. Georgia thinks the teacher wants to talk to her and he thinks she wants to talk to him. How Georgia finds out what's going on, is very well handled by Mason. What I liked even more was a small conniption. It is overacted, there's no doubt about it, but it fits the character 'I am an actress and you're not going to fool around with me!'
Another example of a great overacting is in her scene at the theatre rehearsal. She plays that she is playing and douring this scene I even had shivers. That's exactly a great example of the overacting I love. There is also a great change between acting and a real emotional outburst, that doesn't seem forced and is also very enjoyable.
There is a scene, in which Mason is supposed to be drunk. She plays drunk extremely well. She doesn't overact the drunkeness, she overreacts just like a drunk person does. She is effective in this scene, as she shows equally well, how her character is having a good time, as well as how serious the situation is.
I really liked this performance. Mason was really great. The only blame I'd have is the occasional inconsistency between the authentic real acting and overacting. Both of them I enjoyed, but together, as a part of one performance they don't work as well as they probably should and could have.
The chances of winning an Oscar: She was worshipped in her times and she was Oscar-less. There must have been some overdue factor and the strong character factor. In spite of that, the year and the campaigning was strong and maybe the film's reputation didn't help. She was the fourth.  

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Best Leading Actress 1981: Susan Sarandon - Atlantic City

This performance has been the topic of many discussions, since it was campaigned in the supporting category, but it got nominated in the leading. It's the same case, as with Kate Winslet's win, but both of the times I think the Academy got it right. Both ladies are clearly female leads of their film.
Susan Srandon plays Sally, a woman who has had some problems with her life and she starts having an affair with an old retired mob Lou, played by Burt Lancaster. At first their relationship is not very close.
But some time around the first hour of the film, Lancaster's character Lou changes a bit. He starts doing business and it changes him. He starts to be very gentle and kind to Sarandon's character Sally. Sarandon is very good at her reactions to this change. We can clearly see just through her eyes what she thinks about it, but she wants to stay polite, because she needs his help. But then later in the film, their relationship develops too quick, from Sarandon's side. The director and even Lancaster are trying ot make it as slow and realistic, as possible, but Sarandon maybe pushes a bit too much. This is very obvious in a scene at the restaurant. I don't know, if she was trying to play a bit drunk, but if yes, then it wasn't enough and if no, then it was too quick.
On the other hand, later in the film she again gets to those tiny reactions that express she's not interested in Lou. Though they are very well handled by her, they simply don't work in context of the film.
Sarandon has got a overview over her character, which would normally not be bad, but this time it's transformed in the performance in the worst possible way. She became underwhelming throughout her entire performance. It's very disappointing to see it happen, since her character could in fact have been a juicy part to play. (SPOILER ALERT) For example, in a scene, where she sees her husband dead. There is a long take on her face, but there was nothing I could see in her eyes. She doesn't even try. I know that her relationship with him wasn't very good, but it must have done something to her. (SPOILER ENDS)
What is very strange about this performance is the fact that it seemed to me, as if Sarandon didn't know, what attitude Sally has towards Lou. It's like a roller-coaster. Sometime she plays disinterest, sometimes confusion, sometimes she is all right with it and even provokes Lancaster. When those scenes are cut one after another, it really seems odd and improbable.
I must as well say that this performance does have its good parts. For example the scene in the casino at the end of the film, in which she screams at everyone. After this scene she suddenly uses what's given to her and plays just like her previous scenes should have been played.
We all know that Sarandon is not a bad actress. She handled her character this way on purpose. But most of the time I just found it too underwhelming to like it. It's not a bad performance. It's rather a disappointing one.
The chances of winning an Oscar: The category confusion and the fact this is her first nomination weren't very helpful. Another case of 'just happy for the nomination'...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Best Leading Actress 1981: Meryl Streep - The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a very fine film with a wonderful leading performance of Jeremy Irons. There is another leading performance in the film given by Meryl Streep. Was her performance equally wonderful? Let's find out.
At the beginning of the film, Streep's character Sarah is kind of a mysterious woman. She is sad from something and she has a secret. It's all very well transformed into Streep's performance, yet I quite don't understand, why she was cast into this role. She succeeded in the acting part of the role, but somehow I didn't think that if I met such woman, I would have cared for her. Probably I wouldn't even notice her. It's about charm, or beauty, or some pizzazz that Streep misses.
Then after some time passes, we find out that she is called among all the town people „the french lieutenant's whore“, because she slept with a married man. We get to know the story of how it happened from Sarah's view. But even after we find out, what her story is, she always seems so mysterious. And that is probably the least juicy part for an actor, because if he doesn't have enough screen charisma, he becomes very bland. And that's exactly what happened in this case. Don't get me wrong, I love Meryl. But I can't help myself, I always found some of her primary performances to be a bit boring.
When Sarah and Jeremy Irons' character fall in love, it seems kind of forced. Their relationship simply doesn't have a development, it just happens. Me, as a man, couldn't see, why Irons would fall for her so madly. But when he did, Streep suddenly plays a woman in love and she is very good at it. She becomes very active and she wonderfully portrayed her happiness. It somehow works with her previous behavior. Beacuse later on we find out another truth that is a bit shocking, but I couldn't somehow take attitude towards it in terms of Streep's performance. Her previous performance is so ambiguous that after this shock, my reaction wasn't that her previous behavior somehow made sense. My reaction was simply: Okay, so now it's all different. It didn't affect me anyhow.
The other thing I have to mention is the fact that the film is separated in two parts. The main story that takes place in the past and the present, which is about the actors playing those parts. Streep is extremely bland in these scenes. She is very good at an axact characterization of a woman, but she is overshadowed by her co-star Irons, who has much bigger screen persona. I don't believe I am writing down these words, because Meryl is really my favourite actress, but it's how I felt about it. She only makes it up for me in her last scene that is her emotional outburst that is just wonderful. And that is exactly why this performance doesn't work for me. Because it is like a roller-coaster.
Meryl herself has recently said that if she has to point out one performance she's not satisfied with, it's this one. And I understand it. I'm even glad she said it, because I don't feel so bad for criticising her, now. She's not bad, but she's probably the least good in this.
The chances of winning an Oscar: I guess she was the second. Sarandon was a newcomer, so she was happy to be nominated, in addition the campaign in suppoting category wasn't very helpful, either. Mason's film wasn't that big and it's Razzie nod must have lowered down her chances. Keaton was considered great, but she had won recently. And according to the reviews Streep must have been the second. Who knows, if she had won for one of her best performances in Sophie's Choice, had had she won a year prior.