Sunday, October 09, 2016

     My vote - Best Actress 1981

I ended up with this Best Actress year, because I had something else in mind. And then decided it would be way too ambitious. So here I got stuck with these 5 performances – not
that they are bad, just that I had already seen all 5 of them and I know I don’t share the general love on at least one actress from the group – and... Well, fuck it, it’s meant to be a subjective process anyway. :)

The bottom line is Katharine Hepburn won her historical 4th acting Oscar (all for Leading); and all the cool people on the internet think Diane should’ve won. And all of you dislike Meryl in this.

So  here’s my ranking:

1. Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond

The role: Miss Hepburn plays Ethel Thayer, a cheerful, optimistic woman, who spends the summer by the lake with her grumpy husband Norman.

The film: It feels dated to the bone, but at the same time like precious material for the archives of movie acting. Boring to many, but we’re taking notes.

The performance: When in doubt, go with the legend. The entire performance is handled like a pro: Kate is completely dedicated to her character and to the story and her joyful persona stops the film from falling into depressing territory. On top of that, she gets a couple of killer scenes and is mesmerizing in the one that deals most with mortality. While the film often feels like a vanity project for the Fonda’s, with Henry getting the juicy dialogue lines, Kate is vital for the film, in a discreet but heartfelt performance.

2. Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman

The role: Meryl plays Anna, a contemporary actress who is filming the role of Sarah, a 19th century mysterious woman, abandoned by her French lover.

The film: I like it more than I should because I had also read the book, I guess. The two leading actors elevate it and I admire the uncertainty of the story.

The performance: I was this close to hand the win to Meryl based on simply loving the character(s), her look and the air of mystery she brings to the film. I was mesmerized (!) every time she came on screen and I kept wanting more. Not demanding extra  from Meryl’s acting, who I think balances it well in the spirit of the film, but I loved Sarah and her presence. This isn’t the most demanding role for a leading actress, I know that,, but Meryl’s beauty and restraint take it to such a fascinating area that it’s an iconic role for me when I think of her career.

3. Marsha Mason in Only When I Laugh

The role: Marsha plays Georgia Hines, an actress who just got out of rehab and is now trying to get her life together.

The film: It’s just a series of one-liners, that don’t work as well as they used to do. The film has charm and the supporting actors rule, but it’s Neil Simon in cruise control.

The performance: I feel most guilty for downgrading this performance from the fabulous I found it to be a decade ago to the good performance it seems to be now. Yes, Marsha hits the right notes on so many occasions, but the performance is not exciting maybe because it’s so predictable. The smart-ass dialogue buries the significance of the emotional scenes and the character doesn’t quite feel fully developed: I admire what Marsha does so poignantly in isolated scenes, but it doesn’t gel together for me to buy into the character. The end result is that she is overshadowed by all 3 of her co-stars, who have smaller roles, but clearer and more interesting paths to follow.

4. Diane Keaton in Reds

The role: Diane plays real-life journalist and activist Louise Bryant, who along with her husband gets involved with the Communist revolution in Russia.

The film: Not as captivating as I remembered it to be. It succeeds from a technical perspective, but loses its way towards the end (or simply doesn’t land for me).

The performance: The major following that this performance has gained recently is consistently surprising to me. Beyond the seriousness of the role and Diane’s good intentions, there’s very little to root for, especially on the page. It’s a character I couldn’t get too excited about or even barely like. Diane cries and acts smart (or not so much) when the story requires it, but since I’ve decided I don’t care too much about Louise, most of it leaves me cold. It’s a good performance of a dull character.

5. Susan Sarandon in Atlantic City

The role: Susan plays Sally, a woman whose life gets complicated when her estranged husband comes back into her life, bringing all sorts of trouble.

The film: The most dated of them all; a lazy attempt in screenwriting and directing. Burt Lancaster tries, but he is the only one to do that.

The performance: Susan’s first nomination is the only stinky one from her Oscar history. There’s almost no excuse for it; although not an A-lister at the time, she had done plenty of roles over the previous 10 years. But the experience doesn’t shine through here. There is a superficial approach to the character that’s visible in scenes where she could’ve offered much more. Of course, she gets very little from the director (which is why this isn’t a 1 star), but I constantly had the feeling she isn’t putting effort to justify the character’s actions, to navigate through the strange writing shifts or to create a relatable human being. It’s a surprisingly distracted performance.

Conclusion: I am confident about the ranking, except I kinda wish I had the balls to go with Meryl. This is a subjective game, but I’m keeping the ranking as it is, rewarding a bit more the substance over the style. I like the top two performances quite a lot.

How the Oscar voting went: Well, based on the fact that Meryl won the Golden Globe and the distinction from the Los Angeles critics, and this 1981 moment was prior to her 2nd win for Sophie, I’d say she was the clear favourite coming in. But those older voters just couldn’t resist Kate. So it must’ve been close. Fun fact: from 1955 to 1981 no actress over the age of 42 had won the Best Actress Oscar, except for Kate, who did so in ’67, ’68 and ’81. :)
I guess Diane was a long distance 3rd and Marsha  4th right behind her. One would think Marsha would be a dark horse given it was her 4th unsuccessful nomination, but I don’t think they cared too much about the film. Susan was for sure the last.

For previous Best Actress years/rankings, just look over on the right, for a column with various years.
Happy to be back.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

My vote - Best Actress 2015

Not sure if I am reviving the old Best Actress analysis tradition, but just had a bit of time on my hands and wanted to check again the Best Actress performances nominated for 2015 and make a final decision on my ranking, because it feels like an unusual year (all 5 are rich performances, but I don’t fully love one or the other in particular) and it’s hard to choose a winner.

So here are some quick thoughts on these performances:

1. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer, in 45 Years

Call me a sucker for European realness. A European actress in a low budget European drama, giving a subtle, realistic, unglamourized performance. I had to warm up to Charlotte’s acting here, but objectively speaking this is the performance to reward: it shows the most technique, the most experience, great ability of owning the camera in all those close-ups. It’s very subtle, too subtle for my taste, but that’s the price to pay in order to stay real to the mood of the film. The character’s arc is remarkable and skilfully played out – Charlotte manages to create a Kate that we recognize, that we care for and, ultimately, that we feel so damn sorry for.

2. Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird, in Carol

A great director like Todd Haynes helps a lot in making a great performance shine even stronger. The flawless style and classiness of the film benefit Cate’s performance – they create an aura around her: as a result of the way she is shot  and placed in the centre of Therese’s fantasy, this becomes a mysterious, sexy, glamorous performance. Cate brings intelligence and experience. It’s a performance accused of mannerisms and an unnatural feel, but to me those subtle diva-like accents fit the description of the character –a smart woman dealing with depression and loneliness by putting a façade, but also an expert at flirting who knows how to play the game.

3. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, in Brooklyn

This is the performance with the emotional punch. There’s the telephone conversation scene that might beat anyone’s acting moment of the entire group of nominees. Saoirse gives a performance that feels authentic, believable, mostly likeable, charming, and innocent, that brings drama and romance and naiveté at the key moments. So why isn’t this my #1 choice? So hard to say, I’m basing it on feeling, on my fading interest in the film, on me not understanding or believing the character’s actions in the second half. But even I must admit: the sane people have this on top of their rankings, because it clicks most boxes, and it is indeed an achievement.

4. Brie Larson as Ma/Joy, in Room

Brie carries the first half of the film, the Room section, with great ability, dedication and dramatic feel. It’s so good that it makes it believable and, when Jacob is not stealing the scene, she’s right there with him, as a balancing act, bringing to the story the tragedy of the character and situation – it can be seen on her face, in her very expressive eyes. Her realisation of what she has to do in order to save themselves feels heartbreakingly honest and what the film needs to nail the horror. But the second half brings a different focus on the character and, as the dramatic intensity of the story fades, so does the film’s interest in Joy. Overall, it’s a great performance, but uneven throughout the film.

5. Jennifer Lawrence as Joy, in Joy

Jennifer is the shining light in this mess of a film David O. Russell put together and I don’t even think her performance is that much to begin with. To her credit, she’s charismatic and pulls it off by somehow handling the problematic dialogue. No surprise that she stands out more in the couple of dramatic scenes, where the tone of the film doesn’t feel like an unintentional joke. While she gets plenty of screentime, the screenplay and the story work against her, generating random and/or absurd scenes to throw the actors in. It’s more a 2 1/2, but I’m feeling generous.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t be surprised if in 6 months from now Brie would be my #1 or #2 pick, because I love my actresses in dramatic scenes and because, while different, the top 4 performances rank very similarly to me.

How the voting will go: Brie will win the Oscar easily. Saoirse is probably the runner-up, but not close enough. Room overperformed in terms of nominations and that helps Brie a lot. Charlotte would be 3rd, I guess, and the other two actresses really have absolutely no chance of winning.

For previous Best Actress years/rankings, just look over on the right, for a column with various years.
Nice writing this. J

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Best Actress – Emmys edition

Disclaimer: I didn’t spellcheck and posted in a hurry. Sorry about that. :)


In a way, I am picking up where I left off last year, ranking the Emmy nominated performances for Actress in a Drama Series and Actress in a Comedy Series. As I do every year, I watch the submission tapes like any other voter does / should do. And I rank in order of preference, and after that: how I think the race will go down!
My ranking:



1. Taraji P. Henson, for Empire  -  4 stars

The episode & the show: I don’t watch the show, but I didn’t dislike what I saw in the pilot (Taraji’s submission). I hear it’s the best episode she could have chosen. Presenting the pilot to the voters tends to help.

The performance: It has the right amount of loud diva, strong female and also that touch of vulnerability, some tears and plenty of scenes where you empathize / feel sorry for the character / cheer her on. Although she doesn’t dominate through screentime, she’s the one to remember from the episode. The show loses strength when she’s not on screen. Feels like a winner.


Honestly, I am confused by the ranking from here on:

2. Robin Wright, for House of Cards – 3 stars

The episode & the show: The writing was too much on the nose. I am not a regular viewer of House of Cards, but it has a style that I like, visually that is. The secondary storyline in the episode was weak and confusing.

The performance: I feel like I need to explain this; she’s so up the rankings because I like Robin, I like the character, I still think she should’ve won for season 1... OK, that has nothing to do with it. Based on the episode: she gets enough screentime, she hits a couple of high notes in the last scene with Spacey, but only 3 stars because it needed just a touch more drama, a bit more emotion on her face. Everything is very (effectively) discreet.


3. Viola Davis, for How to Get Away with Murder – 3 stars

The episode & the show: My first time watching the show. It’s not as bad as Scandal, but definitely not something I’d care to watch in the future.

The performance: Here I feel the need to justify AGAIN – she is good, but I could see right through the performance, if that made sense. In a way, it’s the opposite of Robin’s performance – there’s little subtlety, it’s all either in the lines or on Viola’s face, who often overplays the emotions (and she gets an entire spectrum of them this episode). I preferred her last scene with her husband to all the courtroom / investigation noise.


4. Elisabeth Moss, for Mad Men – 3 stars

The episode & the show: I love Mad Men. I’ve seen every episode. I liked the finale A LOT and Peggy is one of my favourite characters from the show, if not from my entire TV watching life.

The performance: ... therefor anyone who knows me would be shocked she’s only 4th, in a gigantic 4-way tie. But truth is she had more impactful episodes this season. While she is good in the few scenes she gets in this episode, they feel somewhat unusual for her character, I was one who didn’t want the love story play out, because it didn’t feel believable. Elisabeth is good, but not impactful enough, it’s Jon’s episode.


5. Claire Danes, for Homeland – 3 stars

The episode & the show: I don’t watch the show. I hear she had better episodes this season.

The performance: Honestly, this could’ve been my #2 for all I know. Decided on the ranking on the spot. She gives her usual manic, yet solid performance, like she does every year, but it’s not as impactful as it was last year, and it feels a bit one-note: always in a rush. I think she should’ve won last year based on episode, this is more of a happy to be nominated tape.


6. Tatiana Maslany, for Orphan Black – 2 stars

The episode & the show: What the fuck was that? (aka: I never seen this before)

The performance: Because the episode was so damn confusing, the performance(s) got a bit muddy in my brain. I stopped caring, and then we got a really fine scene where a dead “clone” character (Beth?) comes back in a hallucination, and that was a scene of good, solid, dramatic work. But the material overall stopped me from enjoying whatever was happening.


That is my ranking.

Who will win? I see two front-runners: Taraji and Robin. Taraji has the submission and the buzz over Empire and the whole let’s make Emmys history buzz. Robin has the screentime and also the important episode, with social issues and big scenes for her character. Of course, Viola is 3rd, and she could very well win, but some won’t like the show. Elisabeth is 4th, Tatiana 5th, let’s say, because she might her some high rankings from die-hard fans, and Claire 6th, because by now I think they’re over rewarding her.

Reminder: the voters rank the performances, it’s not a pick a winner system.


And on the Comedy side...



1. Lisa Kudrow, for The Comeback4 ½ stars

The episode & the show: I am not a fan of the show, but I admire it. It’s uncomfortable for me to sit through something this emotionally painful. J I also hear she didn’t submit her best (the finale), which is always sad to hear. It’s a juicy episode nonetheless.

The performance: Lisa’s face is a national treasure: she is so expressive and needs no dialogue line to express exactly what we’re imagining her character feels (most of the times embarrassment, that is). The episode (and the series) is such a one-woman show and she delivers in every scene. I like her triumphant moment at the end, to show a bit of range and some optimism. It’s a performance that needs to be seen to be understood, and I sure hope the voters are paying attention.


2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for Veep – 4 stars

The episode & the show: Veep is a show I watch and really like. She definitely submitted the right tape, the season finale.

The performance: In a weird way, I wanted to like it less, because I want Lisa to win (I guess most of us do), but I was charmed by all the funny scenes she gets to play in this episode. It’s the kind of comedy that brings almost sitcom-ish reactions and she’s funny and on point throughout the episode. The sharp screenplay helps a lot, and she delivers excellent lines with that great JLD timing.


3. Amy Schumer, for Inside Amy Schumer – 3 stars

The episode & the show: I have only seen clips on Youtube (but plenty of them). I was very surprised by how weak her episode submission was, to be honest.

The performance: As I said, I expected much more. There was not one particular skit (is that what they’re called?) that knocked it out of the park, but the one where she plays the invisible police detective justified the 3 stars I am awarding her. Other than that, it’s all only partly funny, and it feels almost partly-acted. Too much real life Amy in the episode, I guess.


4. Edie Falco, for Nurse Jackie – 2 ½ stars

The episode & the show: I don’t watch the show. She submitted the series finale.

The performance: Usually, when an actor/actress submits the series finale, they’re considered a threat. But this episode was SO dramatic, it has nothing to do with this category. Those who have seen the final scene will understand what I mean. Seriously: how do you judge it when you know it’s Drama?! For a dramatic performance, Edie gives her usual strong performance; other than a couple of tears, there isn’t a whole lot of range though. Category fraud.


5. Lily Tomlin, for Grace & Frankie – 1 ½ stars

The episode & the show: My first experience with the show. She submitted the season finale. It wasn’t good.

The performance: Maybe I don’t get Lily Tomlin, even though I loved her performance in Nashville back in the day. Her performance here felt forced, fake, that talk on the phone at the start of the episode was so clumsily acted/directed, you could tell it was faked, she didn’t even try to make it real. Her big scenes are the emotional ones towards the end, but even then it’s either Waterston or Jane Fonda who does the heavy lifting. I don’t get the show, nor the nomination.


6. Amy Poehler, for Parks and Recreation – 1 ½ stars

The episode & the show: I don’t watch it. Just like Edie (and Elisabeth in Drama), Amy too submitted the series finale. Not good.

The performance: I’m gonna get a lot of hate for ranking this so low. To me, the episode was bad and the performance just a series of reactions from Amy, in various, absurd situations that the screenplay places her in. None of the humour from throughout the series. It was just unintentionally sad. No need to get into it.


Who will win? Probably Julia. From then on, it’s almost anyone’s guess. I think Amy Schumer 2nd, based on the incredible year she’s had. Lisa is 3rd, if they watch the episode. Some say Amy P might win, based on a sentimental vote, but I have her in 4th because her tape is so bad. Lily T is 5th, but I wouldn’t be shocked if she wins. And Edie officially has zero chances of winning.


And that’s it. Let’s see how it goes.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Best Actress – Emmys edition

I am following the now yearly tradition of watching the episodes that the ladies nominated for Actress in a Comedy Series and Actress in a Drama Series have submitted – and judging (more or less objectively) their episodes, just like the regular Emmy voter does.

The first part of the judging is just my ranking based on MY preference (not who I think will win). Here we go:


1. Claire Danes, for Homeland (episode “The Star”)
My connection to the show: I don’t follow the show, but I was familiar with the characters, from previous Emmy submissions. This episode was the Season 3 finale and a surprisingly good episode.
The performance: It took me by surprise, because we all know Claire loves A-C-T-I-N-G, especially with this particular role, but the performance here was pleasantly underacted most of the times. She stayed true to the character, but without overdoing it, like she tends to do. Her performance was very effective, with the help of some damn good writing; expressing her insecurities about the baby was the highlight scene.

2. Julianna Margulies, for The Good Wife (episode “The Last Call”)
My connection to the show: I have seen every episode. It’s not my favourite show on TV, but I still enjoy watching it.
The performance: It was probably the best tape she could’ve submitted and Julianna does a fine, if not great, job, as usual. My problem here – and why I didn’t choose it as my vote – is that the performance in this particular episode is quite one-note. There is little range, just a lot of grieving – which is done effectively, but I couldn’t help wanting some more. Too much of the same thing (writing’s fault).

3. Michelle Dockery, for Downton Abbey (episode 4.1, which in fact is 4.1 + 4.2)
My connection to the show: I have seen every episode and I generally love it. I find it relaxingly snobbish.
The performance: I must be one of the very few people who get Michelle’s acting and see the talent and the work put into making it seem effortless. Let’s face it: the dialogue is tough and she gets some impossible lines (in this episode including), but she manages to deliver them so gracefully that I must give extra points for it. She gets 2 hours, but the 2nd hour is rather useless; the good stuff is in the first half and she gets right a series of tricky scenes that lead towards a nicely done crying scene. I approve.

4. Robin Wright, for House of Cards (episode Chapter 26)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it. The only other episode I’ve seen was Robin’s submission tape from last year.
The performance: Last year she was my choice for the winner, but Claire won (as I predicted). Her tape this year, however, is underwhelming to say the least – she’s barely in it and her scenes make little sense for those who don’t follow the show. She gets almost nothing to do – I have her in 4th and not lower just because she’s stylish, sexy, tough and super-fierce, all which make me subjective. But really, there isn’t much to this submission.

5. Lizzy Caplan, for Masters of Sex (the pilot episode)
My connection to the show: I have discovered the show now, by watching the pilot. I have no desire to continue with the series.
The performance: Here is where I get even more subjective – this is a fine submission and she gets plenty of screentime. She’s talented, she acts well with what she gets, but there’s something (missing?) that makes me care too little about her performance and presence in this episode. It’s all nicely delivered, I just wasn’t too impressed.

6. Kerry Washington, for Scandal (episode “The Fluffer”)
My connection to the show: Another terrible episode from a really terrible show. Who watches this?! Awful.
The performance: Not much to say expect it was bad. Not only is the writing terribly weak, and she is surrounded by actors giving their worst, Kerry herself does a poor job this time. She delivers those pathetic lines by mostly overdoing it – too grandiose or giving them too much meaning. There’s no subtlety, just the same facial tricks and big words that fall flat.

Who do I think WILL win: It’s a tough-tough call between Claire and Julianna Margulies. I think Julianna might win, because everybody seems to dislike Homeland lately and The Good Wife is quite hot right now. If she doesn’t win, than Claire is definitely a close 2nd. I’m going to say Robin is 3rd, not based on the episode, but on her recent increase in popularity – I suspect people from show business like her. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lizzy wins, because her show has the novelty factor. Kerry is probably 5th and Michelle last (just because people underestimate her effort).


1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for Veep (episode “Crate”)
My connection to the show: I’ve seen every episode and I do enjoy it.
The performance: This is a good submission for her, maybe even better than last year’s. She’s funny and, more importantly, she shows a lot of range, going from bitchy to sad, from reacting to disastrous situations to enjoying her victory moment. It’s all in here and she does an excellent job. That bathroom scene is now a classic.

2. Lena Dunham, for Girls (episode “Beach House”)
My connection to the show: You know how much I hated her submission last year. Needless to say, I don’t follow. Not a fan of hers.
The performance: No, hell hasn’t frozen yet. The fact that I am ranking her 2nd is proof of how weak this category is, at least judging from the submissions. But I can look objectively enough to say she’s good in it: not particularly funny, but less annoying that usual. She gets two big confrontation scenes and she does a great job delivering the character’s intentions and feelings. It was good.

3. Melissa McCarthy, for Mike & Molly (episode “Mind over Molly”)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it, it seems a bit light on the writing front.
The performance: One of those cases where it really is hard to judge, since the highlights of the performance come from more dramatic scenes rather than funny. She opens with something of an SNL kind of moment that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but the 2 scenes about her father really ARE touching and well-acted. I still can’t buy the two leading characters as a couple, nor do I understand Molly’s breakdown, but that’s less relevant here.

4. Taylor Schilling, for Orange Is the New Black (episode “The Chickening”)
My connection to the show: I have seen this first season and I liked it.
The performance: I initially thought she might be a threat to win my vote, but then she submitted this. I think the pilot would’ve been a wiser choice, at least screentime-wise. Because it feels like Taylor is barely in this episode, with the other characters doing their own thing, often more interesting. She is eclipsed by Red every time they share a scene and overall she ends up looking just a bit whinny. Taylor does comedy well and I still like her, but this tape is not a winner.

5. Amy Poehler, for Parks and Recreation (episode “Recall Vote”)
My connection to the show: I don’t follow it. I’ve seen an episode here and there.
The performance: Maybe her worst tape for this role. The other storyline that doesn’t involve her (with the chair) is way funnier and more interesting; Amy gets some boring writing that’s never truly funny. She gets to play drunk, but it doesn’t really succeed and overall I felt like she didn’t put too much effort into it. Was there no better episode?!

6. Edie Falco, for Nurse Jackie (episode “Super Greens”)
My connection to the show: I don’t watch it. An episode here and there.
The performance: Talk about not funny. Edie is a great actress, but there’s no comedy in here and the dramatic scenes feel a bit like been-there-done-that. It ends up feeling boring and lacking any special element.

Who do I think WILL win: The only way Julia is losing this race is if they are really really really tired of giving her yet another Emmy (which I doubt). Her tape is the funniest, and also the overall best of the group. If they’re tired of Julia, I think they’ll go with Melissa, based on her popularity and the emotional factor of her episode. But this means they’ll have to actually watch the tapes. I would say Taylor is 3rd, based on the popularity of the show. Amy is probably 4th just because she’s Amy Poehler. Lena is 5th, since her show is not that hot anymore and Edie doesn’t stand a chance of winning.