Monday 27 January 2014

Best Supporting Actress 2013: Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

Once you see a great performance, you can't stop thinking about it. It's so much powerful and natural that you will never forget how flawless the performance was. It's only about capturing the character or being realistic. You have to enjoy the performance not just while you are waching the film, but also afterwards. Unfortunately, it is not Hawkins's case. 
She plays Ginger, the younger sister of the leading character Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett). They are not actual sisters, they were just raised by the same parents. The first problem I have, is that I just couldn't believe that these two ladies came from the same family. Jasmine is a snobbish lady that can't stop living in luxury, while Ginger is a simple-minded and very rational woman that only lives her life for a day. She doesn't live in delusions, but she still is a bit naive and she likes to enjoy herself. It is so improbable that these women would be raised by the same people that it's a hard thing to believe in. Therefore the actresses had twice as difficult thing to do, to persuade us that this is actually very random and ordinary situation.
They failed. Though the chemistry between the actresses is really good, I had a hard time believing that these two women spent their childhood together. They seem as if they had nothing to talk about. But they were raised together, they spent every single day together and now they just can't talk together? I just thought that Woody somehow overdrew their relationship.
All right, I have to admit that everything that is wrong with this film has something to do with the script or the directing. So we can't really blame the actors that the film doesn't work. I also have to admit that Hawkins is really trying to do her best to make her character at least endurable and she succeeded. I would never say she was bad. But her character is just so unwitting, that I doubt if Meryl Streep would do something with it. Sally is overacting sometimes and it seemed to me that her character was just a variation of her character in Happy-Go-Lucky, only less delusional and less happy.
At the end I must apologize to Sally. Maybe the problem is on my side, because I never liked her very much, so it might be just that her acting style doesn't fit me. But she somehow failed to fix the screenplay's script and though she is very much trying to, you will forget this performance a week after watching the film.
I'm so sad for this year's supporting actress lineup. There were so many perfect performances this year and they all were snubbed in favor of very unsatisfying performances given by Hawkins, or Nyong'o for example. The Academy is no longer what it used to be. Though the times of strong lineups (2000) aren't so long time ago, they seem to be gone forever...
The chances of winning an Oscar: There aren't any...

Thursday 23 January 2014

Best Supporting Actress 2013: Julia Roberts - August: Osage County

I really enjoyed August: Osage County. I definitely must be a masterpiece on the stage, because on the screen it loses a bit of its potential, but it still is very moving and touching film. The reason, why I don't think it should have never been done, is the ensemble. If the film hasn't ever been made, we would never have the chance to see Meryl Streep, Julianne Nicholson, or Julia Roberts playing such juicy roles.
Julia Roberts plays Barbara, who is actually a co-lead along with Meryl Streep's Violet. So I definitely think her placement in supporting category is another great example of a category fraud, but if she was considered lead by the Academy I don't think she'd get nominated for it. So I don't complain.
All right, I'm not going to beat around the bush. I thought Roberts is just a perfect choice for this role. I can't imagine any other working actress in her age that would be more suitable for this character. It is a self-aware woman, who acts very rationally and doesn't want to live in delusions. She has suffered a lot, she's divorced and has a problematic daughter (and a mother, as well) and sometimes these problems make her overreact the situation a bit, though she thinks she's doing the best and she's trying to do the best she can. She's trying to solve her troubles as soon, as possible and as reasonably, as possible.
What I really love about Roberts's performance is the way she could handle her character. It actually is a very good part for an actress to play. But it must be handled naturally. You have to believe the actress in what she's playing. Because if you don't, the whole conflict of her character disappears. I have witnessed many times that an actor was playing naturally and it became a boring performance. This didn't happen with Roberts's performance. She isn't boring even for a minute. It's a real pleasure to watch her acting. And surprisingly she isn't even overacting. She finds the way between being boring and being overacting and she still can be very realistic and enjoyable.
She is many times acting only with her eyes. There is a quite long and important scene of dinner in the film. In this scene it happens many times that an actor doesn't speak, but there is a cut to him and he has to react with his expression, with his eyes. There is almost the whole cast involved in the scene and it beautifully shows, which actors are really deep-seated in their characters and which are only 'playing' them. Roberts is simply flawless in this scene. You can absolutely see what is she thinking just through her eyes. It's not an easy thing to do and not many actors and actresses would do it with such perfection. You can see, how Barbara's cup of patience is getting fuller and fuller with every minute that she's forced to sit behind the table. And it's always realistic. This is how that woman - Barbara would actually react. I can't even describe it, it's simply a first-class performance.
There is also a rivality between her and her future ex-husband Ewan McGregor. They are trying to fight together for their daughter's attention. It is wonderfully expressed in on particular scene of fight between them, while they are going to get some chairs from a garage (or whatever it is). Both actors handled this scene greatly and though their lines are sometime too theatrical and I don't know if this is how the situation would look like in the real life, in their hands it seems as if they really were a future ex-couple. They actually fix the problems of the script.
I also loved how gently and subtly she portrayed the fact that though her marriage is really problematic, she still loves her husband. You know, love is not an outright feeling and she portrayed it so wonderfully, that I believed her everything. Though she reacts contradictably, it never seems unnaturally or made just by the script. It's there, because Barbara is a human being and she really feels this way.
Before the end of the film, Barbara finds out a secret about one of the family members. In the scene, in which she finds this out, she really is shocked. It won't surprise you that I loved her reaction. This is the way an actual person would react in such situation. And maybe even better is the way she reacts after this scene, now that she knows what other family members do not. It's hard to describe, you need to watch it. Immediately!
The chances of winning an Oscar: Unfortunately, they are not very high. Maybe Harvey could pull her forward in the race, but I still think she's the third at the best. It would be a shock, if she won. But a very pleasant shock in my case...

Saturday 18 January 2014

Best Supporting Actress 2013: Lupita Nyong'o - Twelve Years a Slave

Twelve Years a Slave is a wonderful film about the problem of slavery showed in one particular case of Solomon Northup. It is excellently directed and has got some perfect performances from the entire ensemble cast.
Lupita Nyong'o has received a lots of praise for her performance in this film. She's won many critic's awards and after a snub of Oprah Winfrey she doesn't seem to have strong competition among the nominees, so we can expect her to win her first Oscar in March. The more sad I am to proclaim that she one of the few among the ensemble, who wasn't so perfect.
First time we get to see Patsey is when Michael Fassbender's character is talking about her. What I really found strange was the fact that Lupita keeps a poker-faced expression throughout the whole scene. As if she wasn't even present there. As if he wasn't even talking about her. I know that Patsey was supposed to be afraid of him, but she seemed as if she was thinking about the lines she has got the scene that was about to be shot after this one.
Patsey should be a very tragic character. It's not enough that she's a slave, her master is somehow keen on her and he keeps raping her. There is a particular scene in the film, in which she asks Solomon to end her life, because she is suffering in this life. I didn't believe Lupita for a second. She chose to portray Patsey in such a passive way that it's hard to believe she really suffers. It seemed to me, as if she didn't have any attitude towards what's happening around her.
Her Master Epps played by Michael Fassbender has got lots of female slavers. But Patsey is the favorite of him. He is really keen on her and he actually prefers her to his wife. I just never saw any reason, why would he adore her so much. What is so special about her. Nyong'o fails to show off some charm or something that would make her stand out of the other slavers.
To not be only critical I have to admit that there are some scenes she handles fine. For example the scene she's being vexed in. The whole scene, including the fight between her and her master is very well handled, but she's being a bit overshadowed by everyone, who's on the screen with her. And other scene that is good is the scene of raping. But I feel about it that it's somehow great. There's just nothing wrong about it.
Another fine thing about her performance is that when we finally (throughout Solomon's eyes) get to leave her at the end of the film, we realize that we have built a relation with her. We realize we are going to miss her. But I also give credit to Ejiofor for this, because it is a proof of good chemistry between them.
While I was watching the film I thought she is not an experienced actress, she is a random person chosen for this film (like Quvenzahné Wallis and Dwight Henry for Beasts of the Southern Wild). But then I found out she is a trained actress that actually has got some experience from theatre. That made me very surprise, because she couldn't handle this character as well, as I can imagine. I can think of so many better choices for a nomination in her category (even among her colleges in Twelve Years a Slave) that I can't believe she really got nominated.
The chances of winning an Oscar: Surprisingly, they are very high. I'd say she's the frontrunner right now. But her speech at the BFCA was great, so I won't be so disappointed...

Thursday 16 January 2014

Next Year: Best Supporting Actress 2013

The Nominees:
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
June Squibb - Nebraska
Lupita Nyong'o - Twelve Years a Slave (predicted winner)
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

And what are your opinions about this year's nominees? Who will win? Who was snubbed? What is your ranking of the nominees? Who should win? What are your predictions for my ranking? Comment! 

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 1998

5. Geoffrey Rush - Shakespeare in Love
Rush's performance works perfectly for the film's purposes, but it is a minor part. The thing is that it's a comedic role and Rush didn't choose in the depth of the character, but he is only trying to be funny. But the truth is that it's just enough for the film and his drunk scene gives him some credit more...

4. Robert Duvall - A Civil Action
I liked Duvall more than I expected. It is a very subtle portrayal of the only comic character that appears in the film. His lawyer is very calm and makes no big deal out of his case. This calmness is not only believable in Duvall's hands, but also work perfectly and they actually are funny. But the truth is that you want be thinking of this performance very long time after watching the film, because it's so subtle and calm. But it's also a great job! 

3. James Coburn - Affliction
Coburn is really great in portraying a truly cruel man, but also is very natural while doing it. Though the father of the leading character is evil, he is human in Coburn's hands. He mirrored this abusiveness so realisticly, that it's hard to believe that he wasn't that abusive in real life. On the hand, if he's character is not having one of his attacks, he really doesn't have a lot to play. But he's very good at portraying the egoism and carelessness his character needed to have... 

2. Ed Harris - The Truman Show
Throughout the most of his performance, Harris is very stoic and doesn't show off his emotions. He acts, as if he didn't care about Truman, at all. But when he finally does it at the end of the film, suddenly we understand all of his previous behavior. And that's what proves how good he was in that film. To act irrationally and then change his manners and stay convincing during it, requires a truly skilled actor to give a truly wonderful performance. And that's how Harris's performance actually was...

1. Billy Bob Thornton - A Simple Plan

Thornton wins this strong year for his performance of Jacob, a simple man that kind of complicates the situation of his brother, the leading character of the film. And though he is simple, he isn't stupid. He knows exactly what he wants and he is determined to achieve it. And he's also very sad and maybe a bit tragic character. And at the end of the film we realize that we actually feel sorry for him. Is there need to giving more reasons, why this performance was so great? I don't think so...

Best Supporting Actor 1998: James Coburn - Affliction

Affliction is a small, yet very interesting film about the circumstances that preceded the disappearance of Wade played by Nick Nolte, who happens to be the brother of Willem Dafoe's character, who is the narrator of the story. James Coburn play the father of these men.
Wade's father is a very abusive man. He's really the householder that tyrannizes the entire family. He is an alcoholic and he really only cares about himself. He's very mean to his sons and his wife. The first time we meet him is when he gives a work to his sons and he only stands besides and yells at them. Coburn is really great in showing the cruelty of his character. I mean, on the first side you can see that this man is kind of a satrap.
The following part contains spoilers! Then we see him a few years later. He is sitting in the living-room, alone and he says that his wife is upstairs. But we later find out that she is lying dead in her bedroom, because she froze. It happened because Coburn character didn't have it fixed. Then just before the funeral he swears to his family members. The end of spoilers. 
What I'm trying to say is that from this behavior it seems as if he was just a pure evil. But nothing is just black, or just white. In such character it must be very hard to find humanity. To find an apology for his behavior. But Coburn portrays his character in a very convincing way. There actually are people like his character that were raised in very old-fashioned opinions. They really believe that this is right and that men should rule their families and be really strict and harsh. And Coburn was really successful in showing this.
On the other he really spends a little time on the screen. His role is also not as juicy, as it might seem. Apart from two scenes (both of them I mentioned before), he doesn't have a lot to play. But his presence in the film is really great.
I have to say that this win is very similar to those traditional veteran wins (e.g. Alan Arkin, Michael Caine). The role that is not very juicy or showy, but the actor handles it very well. Though Coburn definitely had showier part than Arkin, or Caine it still wasn't the role an actor would kill for. But I still enjoyed his performance very much...

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Best Supporting Actor 1998: Billy Bob Thornton - A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan is very enjoyable film. That's a fact. And it's also not very well directed. That's another fact. I mean, Raimi is not a bad director, but he certainly isn't the most skilled one the present time. And he really isn't very suitable for this genre. The film tells a story of three men, who find the bag full of money in the middle of the crashed plane, that's in the middle of a forest. And they decide to keep it. If you were to choose the director for such story, whose is the first name that comes to your mind? I don't know, but to my mind it's the Coen brothers.
But that's another story and I should write about Billy Bob Thornton's Oscar-nominated performance. He plays Jacob, one of the three men. This is actually a very juicy role to play, especially in terms of getting the Academy's attention, because Jacob is slightly mentally disabled. He's not retarded, he's just very simple. In a very similar way Forrest Gump was simple.
And now put such character into the situation described at the beginning. The situation the entire plot is about. It might not be good idea to have a mentally disabled person involved in taking someone else's money. So it is quite obvious that Jacob will behave unpredictably. And that is very dangerous and suspensive.
If you had to play a character that behaves unpredictably, because of a mental illness, you really need to get into the character. You really need to feel it and actually be the character. Because if you do not, the unpredictable things you do might seem unnatural, as if they were there just because it is written so in the script. I was a bit surprised myself, but Thornton really succeeded in all of it. Jacob interacts insensibly, but somehow it seems completely natural.
What I really enjoyed about this performance was the absent-minded look in his eyes. We really don't know what Jacob is thinking about, unless he says something. Thornton achieves this so greatly, that it seems as if he did it with no effort, at all.
Under all of these things, Jacob has his feelings and dreams. There is also a depth in Thornton's portrayal. When sometimes he is supposed to show off the sadness, he does it. And it's not only believable, but also not boring to watch. This is actually that case of performance I would call a scene-stealer. But he isn't that kind of scene stealer that wants to have the viewer's attention just to himself. He is simply so great, that he steals the viewer's attention. He is the best in show. Jacob in his hands is extremely likable. There's just no way you won't like him...
The chances of winning an Oscar: I think he was the third. After Duvall and the actual winner, Coburn...