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Entries in Best Actress (311)


NYFF: 10 Best Things About "Carol" (First Impressions)

Todd Haynes' highly anticipated Carol screened a week ago for NYFF press and I immediately began marking time P.C. "POST CAROL". It was that impactful. For something that appears so delicate it breaks with immeasurable force. Carol recounts the relationship between a posh 40something society wife (Cate Blanchett), no stranger to lesbian affairs, and a curious 20something photographer/shopgirl (Rooney Mara) who has never been in love. Haynes's sixth feature is one of his best and thus both a marvel and a relief since he had gone AWOL from movie screens for eight years. The film which began the long drought, I'm Not There, is the only one that this longtime Haynes fanatic doesn't cherish.

Herewith 10 favorite things (in no particular order) about Carol right after meeting her. This infatuation is too potent to think clearly at this point for a traditional review. A word of caution: exciting first dates don't always lead to fullblown rewarding relationships but this one appears to be a (celluloid) romance for the long haul. 

1. Gifts & Gift-Wrapping
We like to think of final quarter movies as "gifts" since so much of awards season is centered around the holidays. This one is beautifully wrapped (the production values are breathtaking on literally every level) and even better once you start tearing the careful packaging apart to see what it's gifted you with. Carol also takes place during Christmas just like Tangerine so in one single cinematic year we've received the best Lesbian Christmas movie and the best Trans Christmas movie. How about that? More...

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6 Questions. Best Actress / Supporting Actress Races

With the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (or "Best Actress Pt 2" if the category fraud forces have their way!) charts updated, all Oscar charts are now up to date. Next update is...? Well, we'll see. But October tends to be instructive. Here are question prompts for the comments after you've checked out the charts.

1. Will it help to be the first FYC screeners out?
Blythe Danner (72) who carries I'll See You in My Dreams and Lily Tomlin (76) who drives Grandma already have screeners out. I can't wait to watch both again. I'd hold them in my hands to prove my eagerness for you but then how could I type? As previously expressed in "either/or" paranoia (The Martian vs. Mad Max or Truth vs. Spotlight situations) "either/or" is often a false lose-lose game. But it will be interesting to see how much room the Academy has for stellar older women nonetheless. Speaking of...

2. Older Titans or Fresh Excitements?
For the senior set, there's also Charlotte Rampling (69) in 45 Years but she's risking being the last person out of the gate, as Marion Cotillard tried (successfully) in a much thinner field last year.  Even if Oscar decides it wants all fresh young things this year -- and there are plenty of them with Saoirse Ronan and Alicia Vikander leading that particular pack -- and none of the enduring thespians end up nominated how refreshing is it that we have three senior women in the running this year whose names are not Mirren or Streep or Dench?  Answer: very! 

3. How can we ever stop Category Fraud?
Alicia Vikander is The Danish Girl (but, yes, so is Eddie Redmayne so it's a perfect title) UPDATE: But the studio has confimed to us that she's running in supporting. The same is true for Rooney Mara who is 100% definitively absolutely totally inarguably a lead in Carol (there should be no doubt as to how we feel) no matter what the campaign strategists claim. I firmly believe both Mara & Blanchett could be nominated if pushed as a box set in Carol, a la Thelma & Louise... if Thelma & Louise had been excited about bedding each other on their road trips instead of, say, Brad Pitt.  Romantic dramas, requited or unrequited, usually require two leads... it's the nature of the beast. Pretending Mara is supporting in Carol is like pretending that Kate Winslet supported Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine or Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (or vice versa) or like pretending Blanchett supported Dench in Notes on a--- oh ah. DAMNIT!

With Mara & Vikander both in high rising star demand and Oscar's history of LOVING to crown young beautiful actresses near the beginning of big careers, Supporting Actress could well be Best Actress 2 with these two leads battling it out for that win. IF Oscar is okay with the fraud that is... which they usually are, yes. (sigh)

4. Among the actual supporting players/characters this year who could win traction? 
Category Fraud tends to be a bigger problem in years when memorable actual supporting characters show up late in the year. And 2015 is definitely having that problem. Usually I have a full list by this point that I'm eager to hold on to but it's been a weak year for female parts in the ensemble. Case in point: It's exciting to think of Elisabeth Moss squaring off with Blanchett in Truth, but she only has a few lines here and there. And Sarah Paulson is as wonderful as everyone has come to expect in Carol but as with 12 Years a Slave, other much more famous or less famous actresses have much larger roles in her movies. When will a filmmaker give her THE key female role, supporting or otherwise, in a movie? She's earned it.

Jane Fonda has just one scene in Youth (and a flash cut from another scene) but boy is it a doozy. Half of the movie points right at this scene.

I'm currently predicting Jane Fonda in Youth, Julie Walters in Brooklyn, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Hateful Eight for the more traditional type of strong candidates, making big marks in well liked movies either by way of the script blazingly focusing on them or by way of scene stealing or by way of being the key woman in a man's movie. All three of these are risky bets for different reasons (Leigh mostly because people haven't yet seen the film ... and because she has historically proven easy for the Academy to ignore even when she had juicy big roles) but the supporting actress race is looking like the last of the four acting competitions that will come into proper focus.

5. Who do you think we're underestimating and which chart position do you think is spot on?
Sound off. 

6. Remember that New Best Actress Hierarchy we published in February?
Jane Fonda (#6), Cate Blanchett (#11), Maggie Smith (#12) and Kate Winslet (#18) could all move up a rung or two this year if Oscar voters embrace their latest roles.  


Link Catch-Up, Oscar Warm-Up

Some of these links are a smidge old since I've been away for two weeks in Toronto, others brand new.

Get Peanutized the Peanuts Movie is advertising like Straight Outta Somewhere... by going for an internet meme. You can make yourself into a character. The options are a bit limited so this the best i could do at approximating me. I really wanted to be holding a coffee cup or a laptop
Boy Culture Novelist Jackie Collins, sister of Joan, dies at 77. My favorite memory of her will always be Sandra Bernhard reading a passage from "Rock Star" on David Letterman and then tossing the book aside after "wanna pick a flower you lucky man?"
Dark Horizons Brie Larson to play tennis legend Billie Jean King. Good luck Brie because tennis movies never get good reviews!
The Daily Beast interviews Tom Hardy about Legend, The Revenant, dogs, and that sexuality question that keeps popping up
The Telegraph their excellent film critics rank all Woody Allen movies ranked. Good read/insights even if you quibble with order
NYT "Hooray for Hollywood... No Really" a must-read conversation between the smarty New York Times film critics 
i09 Johnny Depp's six most inexplicable career decisions
MNPP Quote of the Day Paul Bettany vs. Jason Statham. Meowwww

MNPP Do Dump or Marry: The X-Twinks - Ben Hardy, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Tye Sheridan
NYT Jack Larson, aka Jimmy Olsen from TV's original Superman, dies at 87 
Towleroad are these the top ten coming out scenes from TV history?
Empire Amanda Seyfried joining the cast of Twin Peaks Season 3 in a new role
/Film Pulp Fiction original cast wish list? This is so weird to consider 
Film Stage Charlie Kaufman discusses Anomalisa 

You Know Awards Season's Coming When...
The arguments get more heated. THR published a negative piece on Truth and Awards Daily thinks it's a hit job from the Right (with more to come from The Left). And Vulture's already declaring the winner which puts a big target on its back. My goodness. We're starting early this year, huh?! ICYMI I also pitted Truth and Spotlight against each other (for fun... I don't actually think they're after the same thing at all). And finally these two pieces framing this year's Oscar Best Actress race as "Under 30 Contest" and "Women of All Ages" just goes to show you how much framing by the media can count when it comes to narrative / awards shows. 

Yes yes. I'm going to start updating the Oscar charts to reflect Festival Madness. Probably tomorrow.

Today's Watch

Downton Wars Episode 1 Bates & Thomas draw lightsabers on each other... for a good cause. Rob James-Collier, tv's most delicious evil gay butler, filmed this for charity, in the downtime on set. Mashing up Star Wars and Downton is not quite as wonderful as it sounds but both episodes have a few good chuckles.
Downton Wars Episode 2 This one is better if way too slow. The asides to the Downton actors sending up their own characters are wonderful - particularly Daisy, Mrs Patmore, and Lady Mary. Bonus Points: Dowager Countess Jedi... Dame Maggie Smith 4evah ! 


The Alluring Patricia Neal in Hud

Continuing our celebration of 1963 here's Murtada on that year's Best Actress.

Patricia Neal is first introduced 8 minutes into Hud. She walks into the center of the frame and takes hold of it as she gazes at Paul Newman parking his car.

He parked right on my flower bed”.

The way she is framed ensures the audience knows she’s important to the story. The way Neal tosses off that line, we know Alma’s not to be messed with. [More...]

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TIFF Actress-To-Watch: Ine Marie Wilmann in "Homesick"

Great moments in production design: In the first shot of Homesick, our heroine -- and I use the term ironically since she’s no role model -- is seen with her head cupped in her hands and thrown back to stretch / express annoyance. Beside her, out of focus in the psychiatrists office is a statue in roughly the same pose. There are other little touches like this that suggest that Charlotte ( Ine Marie Wilmann) is something of a mimic... and that director Anne Sewitsky (of Happy Happy fame) are really feeling this project. 

When Charlotte returns to proper posture we see an actress that looks suspiciously like Kate Hudson... or is it Malin Akermann? No, wait early Drew Barrymore? In a very happy stroke of casting luck, these unsought comparisons add extra resonance to the very thing the movie is going for. Charlotte, you see, really wants to be someone else... or at leave have their lives. Her parents paid her little attention and she's never even met her half brother. She's terribly lonely and latches on to everyone around her. This is most obvious in a beautifully dramatized friendship with a co-worker, that verges on symbiotic in a playful and tactile dance between them in the dance studio where they work.

But the crux of the drama of the picture is that Charlotte and her half brother do meet and go almost straight to the taboo rutting. Emotional calamities multiply all around them, as one would expect. 

Homesick feels a bit slight and sketchy despite its provocations, but Wilmann is terrific in the leading role. Her face is fluid with emotion, but more importantly it's as if she's continually scrolling and searching for the right one to express. She lets other people decide for her all too often. Hence her terrible decision making. B

Delicious Related News:

Wilmann won the Norwegian Best Actress Oscar (The Amanda) for her role in Homesick. And though the film itself was passed over as Norway's official Oscar submission this year, Wilmann has an even better reward coming: she'll reunite with her current director to play the legendary Norwegian gold medalist figure skater turned Hollywood novelty actress Sonja Henje who became one of the richest women in the world by the 1940s. Wilmann has already logged a lot of time at the ice rink in preparation. Naturally the movie will include other Old Hollywood characters and an international cast. It sounds like a superb idea for a motion picture so best of luck to all. 


Best Actress Happenings at TIFF

To quiet my nerves that you've all vanished -- you know how Tinkerbell dies if you don't clap for her and believe in fairies. That ! only with comments -- a topic that always gets you talking: BEST ACTRESS. I'll say more about these movies soon but for now, an Oscar checklist.

Cate Blanchett is a wonder in Truth. Again. As I said on twitter I used to think she was all technique with no soul but lately she's on fire with both. In the film's first scene she chatters away about downing a xanax which immediately brings Blue Jasmine to mind but Mary Mapes's righteous fury, smug pride, and sense of humor quickly register her as an entirely different character, love of booze and xanax notwithstanding. 

I feel as warmly toward Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn as the sun does in that first beautiful teaser poster for the movie. There are some who feel the movie is too "soft" for Oscar play or too romantic and old fashioned but I am keeping the faith because it has cumulative power and the end credits are out of focus... what's that? No? Well they appeared that way through my wet eyeballs!

They're called the "Amandas" and this year the top prize went to Ine Marie Wilmann who stars in an incest drama called Homesick. (More on that one soon including a film she's got lined up that sounds very promising.)

It's true I passed on seeing Emily Blunt in Sicario,  Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis and Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld here in Toronto but there are hundreds of movies playing here that one might never see again and those three movies all have release dates coming up very soon! I only allow myself a few of those each festival and those were not the few.

The Danish Girl(s). Emphasis on the plural.

I'll be sharing more thoughts on The Danish Girl  soon but it hasn't yet fully settled. For now this tidbit: For the first 15 minutes or so Alicia Vikander appears to be playing her character Gerte as far too modern and manic. Yet as the story develops you begin to see her more clearly as a woman ahead of her time and, in turn, she becomes our surrogate window to Lili, too (Eddie Redmayne) since her trans husband can't see herself so clearly at first. Vikander is marvelous at upping the emotional ante and registering Gerte's arc while also dovetailing it with her unchangeable steel as a life partner. The Supporting Campaign, if it comes to pass, is entirely obnoxious and unfortunate. She has as much and possibly more screentime than Eddie and the film is just as much the portrait of their unconventional marriage as it is about transitioning. Since there is, as of yet, no clear frontrunner for Best Actress she could actually be a threat to win. Whichever category she ends up campaigning in late this year, she will be be nominated given a) the year she's having, b) her youth and beauty (remember how they cherish crowning the new girls), c) the juiciness of this role, and d) being in a film that will undoubtedly rack up the nominations.  

"About to" being relative to when you're actually dropping by the site to read this: Brie Larson in Room

I'll end with a personal favorite. It's early still and we should all weigh these things until the last moments before declaring our definitive top fives on any ballot but this much is obvious: 45 Years gets a tremendous amount of its weirdly chill power from Charlotte Rampling's complex work. She plays a woman who begins to question the foundation of her nearly half-century marriage when a bizarre message arrives from Switzerland. Two time Oscar nominee Tom Courtenay (Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser) as the husband is also terrific but it's really Rampling's film. She hasn't had this fine a showcase since Under the Sand (for which she should have been nominated). The British legend is still waiting on her first Oscar nomination but she's had the kind of enduring expansive international career (80+ films for multiple countries, including France, Italy, the UK, and the US) and consistently high quality work that really ought to make her an attractive proposition on ballots.

Will AMPAS make it happen or is the race just too thick with contestants


On Kate Winslet's Oscar Win 

As The Dressmaker makes its premiere at TIFF here's Murtada on its leading lady's controversial Oscar win.

Kate Winslet is back! That seems to be one of the many “comeback” stories this fall season. Reviews for her supporting part in Steve Jobs have been stellar. And The Dressmaker is playing TIFF tonight! Has she ever been away though? Since her much maligned Oscar win for 2008’s The Reader, she starred in a much admired mini series (Mildred Pierce) for which she received multiple awards, worked with Steven Soderbergh (Contagion), Roman Polanski (Carnage) Jason Reitman (Labor Day) and her old Sense & Sensibility friend Alan Rickman (A Little Chaos). Some of these have been better received than others but none, with the possible exception of Pierce, have ignited the passion of even her most ardent fans.

Winslet’s a great actress who deservedly won the highest acting accolade in her profession. Yet there is a cloud above that win amongst Oscar obsessives. It is a somewhat unpopular win that still inflames a lot of passionate discourse even years later. Let’s examine why after the jump.

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