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« Review: St. Vincent | Main | What I have linked, I have linked. »
Friday
Oct172014

Posterized: Naomi Watts

It's good to be Naomi Watts right now which is something of a surprise since last year it wasn't. But then the blonde Aussie's career has always been like that. Let's investigate.

Naomi Watts photographed by Mark Abrahams for More magazine

In the Posterized series, now beginning a new season so expect one each Friday, we look back at a star's career through their movie posters. Sometimes it's their giant sized faces and sometimes they don't appear on the poster at all. Such are the vagaries of stardom and advertisements.

In Naomi's film debut she didn't even get a name. The then 18 year old actress was billed as "Leo's Girlfriend" I couldn't find a movie poster of that one so we begin five years later when the actress, after a few TV stints debuted properly opposite her best friend Nicole Kidman in Flirting (1991) a terrific Australian coming of age movie you should seek out. A few random TV stints sprinkle her filmography but it's been mostly movies ever since. Out of kindness I'm not including Movie 43 (I'm assuming the hundreds of stars in that one want to forget it, right?) so let's look at the other 39 films. 

HOW MANY HAVE YOU SEEN? 

Phase 1. Up and Comer Trying To Find Her Place (1991-1995)
The first six movie offer a variety of genres and everything from teensy-tiny parts to leads. Had Tank Girl, in which she is adorable as a sidekick named "Jet Girl", been the kind of success comic book movies regularly are now, she might not have had to wait so long for stardom.

Phase 2. Flailing Around Until That Killer Audition (1996-2001)
The forgotten pictures (but for the last one). Frustrated that her career wasn't happening she turned her attention to TV movies and TV series inbetween these very random features. None of them went anywhere and one oddball pilot didn't even make it to series. Sad ending? Nope! David Lynch reconfigured that pilot for the movies as Mulholland Dr and the rest is history. Though she missed the Oscar nomination for her career-best work, the movie made her an instant star and critical sensation. 

Phase 3. Leading Lady (2002-2010)
After Mulholland Dr the scripts were plentiful and she followed it up with two gargantuan hits (The Ring & King Kong) both of which she carried though one could argue that her non-human co-stars were the bankable draws. There were numerous dramas and comedies, but apart from two critical successes (Eastern Promises and 21 Grams which brought her her first Oscar nomination) many of the films were ignored, misunderstood ("FUCKABEES!") or quickly faded and her career dwindled into a short-lived rough patch.

I'm still waiting for the happy ending to this phase in which people rediscover The Painted Veil (2006) which is one of her very best films/performances but which was instantly buried in that annual tradition of the December glut the satanic ritual in which dozens of delicate, quiet or nuanced dramas are crushed and sacrificed to the Oscar gods by the glitzy behemoths surrounding them. 

Phase Now. Crazy Peaks, Awful Valleys (2010-2014)
For the past five years, this two time Oscar nominee has been zig-zagging between critically lambasted box office flops (Diana, Adore, Dream House) weak prestige pics (J Edgar, Fair Game) and major artistic peaks, winning a second Oscar nomination for The Impossible and co-starring in current all-star releases St. Vincent and Birdman, the latter of which is surely Oscar bound.

Frankly, you could get whiplash following her career. In fashion movies one day you're in... and the next day you're out. And then you're back in again.

How many of her 39 have you seen and which are your favorites?

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Reader Comments (43)

6.5. Diana, The Impossible, Eastern Promises, Original Funny Games (.5 due to being a shot for shot remake), I Heart Hucakbees, King Kong, Mulholland Drive.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'd totally forgotten she was in Eastern Promises. Viggo totally owns that film.

Happy for Naomi's career getting back on track again (hopefully) though. Her talent is always underserved by her knack for terrible film choices (or a bad agent?)

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I think I've posted this before, but for Mulholland Dr., she'll have my eternal devotion. That doesn't mean I'll watch things like Diana or Adore, but I will ALWAYS root for Naomi Watts.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I've seen 14.

I have a soft spot for Naomi because I worked with her once on The Shaft (Down was the original title and I was stand in for one of the other leads and spent several days with her on set.). She was a total pro in the midst of madness. It's about an elevator that has human DNA and takes revenge on the people behind this dubious blending of man and machine. We shut down 6th ave for a full day to film rollerbladers being jettisoned off the top of a high rise in midtown. Believe it or not, this was a remake of a successful Dutch film with the same director/production company.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry: That description of The Shaft sounds awesomely cheesy.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

9, but it will soon be 11. This is the rare Posterized where I think I'd probably like a fair number of the ones I haven't seen (Eastern Promises, We Don't Live Here Anymore, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, etc.), so I'd say it seems like she's had an interesting and productive, if uneven, career.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I have seen 19 including every one (except Dream House) from the final segment. For better or for worse after MULHOLLAND DRIVE, I guess.

Although, I will stick up for STRANGE PLANET, which is a distinctly Aussie take on the rom-com genre with a very dated, but humorous end-of-the-millenium plot that, viewed now, feels almost nostalgic. And, of course, FLIRTING is amazing.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I love this series, especially because you can really see the big picture in the career trajectory.

Like this one with Naomi Watts. She made such weird choices, especially after gaining momentum. I mean...

After the Oscar nomination in 2003... "Assassination of Richard Nixon", "We Don't Live Here Anymore" and "I Heart Huckabees". I can see how those were thoughtful career-building choices (as in, I believe she thought it worked on paper) but uff two of them bombed hard and the third became a cult classic whose creator resents it nowadays.

After the success of King Kong... Girl went prestige-y ("The Painted Veil") and took a page from the Gospel of Kidman - new auteurs Cronenberg ("Eastern Promises") and Haneke ("Funny Games" remake). She has serious bad luck because neither one landed (well, EP sticked the landing but left her hanging, I believe most of us don't even remember she was in the movie).

I feel sorry for her, because she clearly has good eye for directors (her list so far includes Jackson, Cronenberg, Lynch, Innaritu x2, Allen, O. Russell, Sheridan, Haneke, Eastwood, Twyker, she even got a James Ivory (albeit the silliest movie he's done) - a lot of actors would be envious + Curran x2, Forster, Garcia, Bayona, Hirschspiegel) But she never gets the "right" project that filmmaker has or her projects never go far.

It's like Nick Davis said (?) in one of your podcasts last year (the Oscar one?), it's sad that she doesn't have a bigger career but she has a lot to blame for that path, too. She's in a weird zone. A "danger zone", if you allow my Sterling Archer reference :)

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

I didn't realize that her Children of the Corn movie was considered a TV movie, I was all confused not seeing it here. That's totally what I think of when I think of early Naomi.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

I've only seen 20. What a strange filmography. Even after Mulholland and 21 Grams she kept making some very terrible movies now and then. But I really like her as an actress.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I saw 21 Grams, We Don't Live Here Anymore, Huckabees, and King Kong all around the same time, and I remember thinking she got nominated for the worst of those four performances.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercash

Jorge: I think more people would associate "danger zone" with Kenny Loggins/Top Gun than Sterling Archer. "I'm on the highway to the/Danger Zone."

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've seen 20 (and actually own 5, back when people did such a thing). my love for her as made me sit through some truly bad films, but I do think she's one the best working today.

and just want to mention ELLIE PARKER, which my friend always brings up as his favorite film of hers. and when he told her once, she was so confused. saying that no one even saw it. and DANGEROUS BEAUTY was one of my favorite films in high school. not necessarily for Naomi (I always forget she was in it, playing the frigid wife), but I loved the story and Catherine McCormack's performance (what ever happened to her?). I saw it 3 times in the art house theatres of Dayton, OH

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

Mother and Child is her most underrated performance. Fantastic in that movie showing a fiery, passionate slightly pissed off side of her that she doesn't show more often. I'm fatigued by the gazillion movies she made in the last 3 years. She and Amy Adams should take a couple of years break so I can miss them a bit and look forward to their movies again. After all they gave us Mullholland Drive and Enchanted.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I've seen 10. I agree with murtada about her "Mother and Child" performance, yet I remain altogether unphased by her as an actress.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I've seen 15 of those. Flirting eluded me somehow, even though I was always curious about it…She is an actress I will always expect greatness from because I've seen her do it, but many of her parts/movies don't give her that chance.
My favorite of her performances:

Up there with Rowlands, Redgrave in The Devils, and others:
1. Mulholland Dr.

Her audition for Funny Games:
2. 21 Grams

Best Serkis acting match:
3. King Kong

A great discovery:
4. Mother and Child

This is range:
5. Funny Games
6. Huckabees

One of the best sick/hurt acting ever:
7. The Impossible

Better than the movie demands:
8. The Ring

Outacted by her male/female co-star, who had better roles
9. We don't live here anymore
10. Eastern Promises

I think I was the only one at the theater:
11. Ellie Parker

Worst of respective directors:
12. Le Divorce
13. You Will Meet a Tall Darn Stranger

Don't remember her in it:
14. Tank Girl
15. Stay

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

I've seen only 7 (including Matinee-I didn't know she was in that too!!! Great pleasure of a film).
I liked her the most in I Heart Huckabees and was shocked to see she didn't get nominated for Mullholland Drive.
She was good in Eastern Promises, but as someone has already stated it, Viggo owns the movie.
She was okay in King Kong. Some Scenes are really (unwillingly?) hilarious.

I was convinced for quite a time she would not even getting NOMINATED for an Oscar for Diana, but I've also thought she had a good chance to WIN.
*lol* Yes, I know..... But at least on paper Lady Di is 1000 times baitier than Margaret Thatcher. Oh well....

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

*lol*
not only nominated of course.

About her Oscar chances: as Julianne Moore is probably finally winning next year, with the right role and timing, than Watts can too.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I've seen 19, but I'm not sure I can *really* count Matinee, can I? My favorite performances are in Mulholland, Huckabees, Kong and The Impossible. I thought she should've been nominated and possibly won Oscars for all four roles, especially the first three. Really excited to see her in Birdman.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

11. "Matinee" was a cute, fun movie about movies. I've seen all of the major ones. "Funny Games", both versions, are 2 of the most disturbing films I've ever seen, and her SPOILER .... demise is one of the worst I've seen in cinema.

I don't know how she was nominated for "The Impossible" over the kid, Tom Holland. She's very beautiful, but I've never been that impressed with any of her work.

Henry: that story is awesome. I think I've seen that movie on SyFy or somewhere.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Re: The Shaft (Your next stop is Hell). Each morning as we got the sides for the days work, we three stand-ins would go find a (very) secluded spot and howl as we read what was supposed to happen to the next victim. The rollerbladers were messengers (I think, I've blocked a lot of this), who were somehow related to the evil scientists who devised the experiment, arrived at the building (when was the last time it took 3 delivery guys to make a delivery?), got on the elevator (blades on) only to be taken to the top of the building and somehow the elevator went from a vertical thrust to horizontal, flinging the boys out the front with enough force to push them over the ledge of the parapet, envelope included. There are only about a gazillion things wrong with that.

The director and his Dutch team were very nice and very respectful of the actors and it was a pleasant set. I just wish it had been a better project because nice people deserve success too.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

16!

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Henry: I was more talking about just the idea of "an elevator with human DNA", but thank you for the further detail.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

21. (including 5 films she made prior to Mulholland Dr.)

Will see Birdman next Friday when it's the closing film of the Tnternational Filmfestival Ghent.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

I think I've seen 6?

I will say right now: TANK GIRL is a movie I unashamedly love. Love Lorri Petty, love Naomi Watts, love Malcolm McDowell and the weird kangaroo mutant things. Any movie that stops for a Cole Porter musical number set at a futuristic strip club for absolutely no reason earns my lifelong devotion.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

I've seen 17. My favorite is The Painted Veil which was a quiet gem. I hated her character in the beginning but she, and the movie, grew on me. Cinematography and costumes were stunning, as well as her performance. I find her work in Mother and Child very strong.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJija

My favourite Naomi movies are The Painted Veil and Mullholland Drive but my all time favourite performance is in the 1991 Aussie mini series Brides of Christ. She played a student in a Catholic Girls school during the upheaval of Vatican 2. The marquee star was Brenda Fricker but Naomi was brilliant. Russell Crowe also had a small role. Flirting was made at the same time. Nicole came home to make that and really was only a special guest star. The real stars of Flirting were Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton with Naomi and Kym Wilson supporting. Don't blame them for highlighting Nicole on that poster though. I remember Flirting being strange to watch. All these actors were the same age as me and I was 23 just finished uni and married. Here they were playing school kids!! Not really that unusual though. Olivia was 30 when she made Grease.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

I've seen 7. Man, she has not lived up to her promise from Mulholland Drive. Granted, I still haven't seen 21 Grams, but I don't think she deserved the nom for The Impossible, her role in J. Edgar was a total throwaway, Adore was just bizarre and not in a fun way, etc. You'd think a conventionally beautiful, talented, thin, blonde woman would have her pick of roles, so yes, it's admirable that she's lined up with a good list of directors, but it's strange that it so rarely works out.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I don't care much about what Nathaneil has to say about Naomi since she is far from her favorite actress ( at times he has been unduly unkind). Anyway, as far as Naomi and her choices go, one has to remember that in Male-centric Hollywood you would hardly find an actress with a perfect career. It's quite clear that Naomi went by directors name, which by the way is not a bad choice at all. Her resume boasts of the biggest directorial names ( Better than most, if not, all current working actresses). the fact that Naomi is still the most in-demand actress (yes, more than her friend Kidman, who picks up what Naomi leaves) with Chastain. The next three films she's workng on are all BlackList scripts. I think irrespective of what mass media and bloggers think of her, she is one of the most respected actress in Hollywood, especially among directors and fellow actors. Her career is arguably at peak, while most of the actresses who started with her or befor her are on decline. So, by the time she ends, I am pretty sure she will be remembered as one of the greatest ever.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGautam

8. Of these, I like her in Huckabee's, Eastern Promises and Painted Veil the best. I agree with the comments that this shabby filmography belies her skill, but she's still not one who would persuade me to watch a film. There would have to be other factors to get me interested. She's talented, just not very charismatic. At least not for me. But I'm glad she survived last year. That was really ugly.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I've seen eight did not realized she was in so many horror movies " The Painted Veil" is a great modern example of classic Hollywood filmmaking- and I always have to watch " Le Divorce".

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I've seen 14. She had a couple of great scenes in Mullholland Dr., but my favorites are The Painted Veil and Mother & Child.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Only 5 - The Ring, The Impossible, Adore, Diana and Birdman.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I endorse what Glenn said about STRANGE PLANET. It was part of the ever-so-short time-in-the-sun of writer director Emma-Kate Croghan, who had made the wonderful LOVE AND OTHER CATASTROPHES and then followed it up with essentially more of the same (love and dating for 20-somethings in suburban Australia, something that went straight to what I was doing) with SP. (Whatever happened to her?)

For completions sake, here's a poster for her debut (link below). I hadn't heard of it (it appeared when I was only just starting to become a cinephile) but with Helen Buday, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill, I'm certainly keen to.

http://www.moviemem.com/products/movie-posters-general-listings/for-love-alone-86-sam-neill-hugo-weaving-rare-one-2

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

So far, 20 of those films including Person Unknown which I think is one of the most underrated films of the 1990s.

October 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Just saw Birdman. Wow. The real deal. Filmmaking at its absolute best. Naomi was great in it (as was every single actor). One of her top 5 performances.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

It's kind of shocking that she'll turn 50 in 4 years. She's aged amazingly well.

And looking at all these movies together, she really has had a much more interesting career than I (and others) give her credit for. I think it too will age very well.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLee

Throwing it out there, Naomi is great in Movie 43. It's a godawful movie of course, but she's genuinely hilarious. "Dropped your books, fuckface!" is probably my most quoted line of 2013.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I've seen 37 of these 39 and other 14 and except M43.
* Her early work*
She appears only one scene and says "Hello" in "For Love Alone", and she looks like Meg Ryan.
I prefer "Gross Misconduct" and "Under the Lighthouse Dancing",
she is very beautiful & sexy.
"Brides of Christ" ,"Timepiece" are quite good and "Sleep Walkers(TV series)" is interesting.
In these early work, she often wore glasses and dyed her hair dark color or is on wheelchair.
Therefore, she isn't conspicuous.
*My best 10 since 2001*
Mulholland Dr.
The Ring
21 Grams
King Kong (It becomes a best film if remaking a CG by the modern technology.)
The Painted Veil
Eastern Promises
Mother and Child
Fair Game
The Impossible
Diana

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Surprised to see this!

For Love Alone
http://oi60.tinypic.com/2q8zoes.jpg

Believe it or not, seen all, including the 1986 30-min short "A House Divided".

Her next "While We're Young" with Ben Stiller should be her best performance for 2014.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersteandric

One of my BFFs and former roommates has a small role in GROSS MISCONDUCT. She plays Jimmy Smits' daughter.

October 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I collected almost all of these DVDs since I became Naomi's fan.
Sorry to say I don't get "Bermuda Triangle" and "A House Divided" yet.
"For Love Alone", and "Sleepwalkers 6, 8, 9" are VHS only.
By the way, she plays a stripper in St. Vincent. This is the second time.
She played a fascinating stripper in "The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer", but the story is too sad!

October 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I've only seen 5! How is that possible LOL? Her two Oscar nods, "WDLHAM," "Eastern Promises" (forgot she was even in that), and "J. Edgar" (haha).

I really need to get on "Mulholland Drive," at least. I know, I know.

October 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

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