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Entries in Best Actress (283)

Saturday
Jul042015

Halfway: All Hail Alicia Vikander!

½way mark - part 4 of ?
Here's Lynn Lee on 2015's Most Ubiquitous Actress


In the act(ress)ing world, there are rising stars and then there are rockets – the ones whose careers lift off so high so fast it leaves us all blinking a little.  Think Jessica Chastain in 2011, or Jennifer Lawrence in 2012.  2015 looks to be a rocket year for young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who’s attracted favorable notice here at TFE and by critics and directors on both sides of the Atlantic, though she’s yet to achieve mainstream moviegoer recognition.  

If she keeps going as she’s begun, she may soon have that, too.

I first took note of Vikander in 2012, the year of her breakthrough role in the historical drama and Oscar best foreign film nominee A Royal Affair, as a young queen who helps bring the Enlightenment to 18th century Denmark, and a supporting turn in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina.  Nathaniel nominated her for a Film Bitch Award that year and she’s worth watching in both films, especially the former. But it wasn’t until I saw her back to back in this year’s Ex Machina and Testament to Youth that I really got what the fuss was about. 

And what is it about, exactly?...

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Thursday
Jul022015

Halfway: Best Leading Performances of 2015 Thus Far

½way mark - part 2 of ? You can't see everything but you should see as much as possible if you're in the awardage business, or business of watching awardage, or business of watching awardage watchers and... well you get the picture. SEE MORE MOVIES. I know I need to and I see plenty.

Let's take stock of what's come out in theaters thus far (Jan 1st - Jul 1st for our purposes here). Even if conversations suggest otherwise in November through January each year we always pray that Academy members are regular moviegoers and don't just wait until their screeners arrive.

10 best lead performances from the year's first half...

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Wednesday
Jul012015

Halfway: Oscar Chart Updates ~ Acting, Animation, Screenplay

½way mark - part 1 of ?
With the year half over (if not really the film year which is so backloaded) and the trailer to Grandma out -- good news, it doesn't remotely spoil the best jokes or character beats -- we are reminded that it's time to update the Oscar Prediction Charts. Consider this the start of a weeklong "½way mark year in review" 

BEST ACTRESS & SUPPORTING ACTRESS
More and more Carey Mulligan in Suffragette seems the one to watch. It was interesting to read at Deadline how well Far From the Madding Crowd has been performing in international markets, too. That's good news for her momentum for the future relaese. Build your case as a worthy star and not just for one movie since Oscars are almost never decided on performance alone; Career timing and momentum is nearly always at least as important. That's the chief reason I'm still waffling on whether or not Lily Tomlin traction can happen. If she gets an Emmy nod this month, we'll know that "Let's Celebrate Lily's career!" is in the air. She's so good in Grandma so if that's the industry mood, a nomination could well happen.

Meanwhile Carol's Cannes success affects both Actress charts and also dings my faith in Freeheld which will be competing directly with it, however unfair that is and however different the films are, given that they're both lesbian romances with co-leads in which big stars headline and the younger will probably pursue category fraud.

UPDATE 07/02 Serious shake-ups in both of these charts - Supporting Actress chart fix (lost tier)

BEST ACTOR & BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
After Cannes, Paolo Sorrentino's Youth is seemingly like a real possibility in multiple categories. Even its detractors are inadvertently making a case for it. The reasons they hate it seem like "Oscar-will-love-this!" potshots. Plus: there are far worse filmmakers to crib from then Federico Fellini if your aim is Oscar gold. So, this is a long way of saying that I've boosted Michael Caine into the top five. I am weirdly resistant to his particular star charisma (yes, even from his heyday) and take issue with the past Oscar wins but I realize that this isn't true of the vast majority of movie lovers and if the film gets a big Oscar push, he'll be an easy sell.

In the supporting category mea culpa. Readers suggested that I was crazy to leave out stage giant Mark Rylance (an actor I love who rarely makes movies)  for Bridge of Spies. Once the trailer hit, I started losing faith in the movie and gaining faith in him. Funny that. In my defense, these things are anyone's blind pin the tail on the donkey gamesmanship before any footage has been seen (and even to a lesser degree after since so many other factors come into play). But why does the movie look so bland? It's Spielberg/Hanks/Kaminsky and they have 7 Oscars between them. Where were the memorable shots or instant-resonating storytelling beats? And yes you can squeeze those into a trailer.

ANIMATED FEATURESCREENPLAY CATEGORIES
The big news in both of these categories is the stellar debut of Inside Out. While total Best Picture nominee confidence may be a a case of wishful thinking situation with fans (it's possible but the Academy goes through phases and they might have moved since the animated feature category is so firmly established now and Pixar might be deemed well-enough rewarded over the past decade plus). That said, at this halfway mark it seems insane to imagine it losing the Animated Feature Oscar it's already so successful and acclaimed. Which means we could well see it in its screenplay category too where animated films can sometimes compete if they're beloved and clever enough (see: The Incredibles, Toy Story, Up) and this one is on both counts.

I've also added in The Program, Stephen Frears helmed story of Lance Armstrong's scandal now that it has a title and a trailer. We never shared the trailer (oops) but it looks pretty intense and the cast, especially Ben Foster, looks strong.

PREDICTION INDEX
Picture, Director, Sound, Visuals, Foreign are not yet updated but they will be within next couple of days

Friday
Jun262015

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Continuing the theme of looking back at 1948 ahead of this weekend's Smackdown. Here's Angelica discussing one of Joan Fontaine's greatest roles...

A few years ago when working at the Chicago International Film Festival I got into a conversation with a coworker about classic Hollywood actresses who, for whatever reason, do not connect with modern women as much as they did in their own time. The conversation centered on Norma Shearer but I think it can also apply to Joan Fontaine. I’ve often had trouble introducing my friends to Fontaine. Sure, they may like Rebecca but the tenor of her infatuation and willingness to lose her identity in love always hits a sour note. At her best, Fontaine made martyrdom on the altar of love an art form. This was never clearer than in the 1948 Max Ophuls film, Letter from an Unknown Woman. If Now, Voyager represents the women’s picture at its most transformative, Letter from an Unknown Woman shows the genre at its most tragic and masochistic.

Based on the novella by Stefan Zweig, the film begins in Vienna 1900. We meet Stefan (Louis Jordan) a rakish pianist planning to run out of town before a scheduled duel. Before he can do so his mute servant (Art Smith) gives him the titular letter. It begins ominously, “By the time you read this letter I may be dead.”

More...

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Saturday
Jun202015

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Please welcome Kyle Stevens to The Film Experience team. You've previously heard him on the podcast, you can pre-order his book on Mike Nichols, and you should follow him on twitter as he is delightful. - Editor

Adapted from the hit radio play by Lucille Fletcher (who also wrote the screenplay), Sorry, Wrong Number follows Leona Stevenson, a headstrong young heiress who aims to one day be the sharpest battleaxe in the armory. She is also an invalid, relegated to her bed. We discover Leona telephoning inquiries into her husband’s whereabouts when the line fatefully clicks. She overhears a conversation between two men plotting a murder that night. For me, the whole movie hangs on the image of her listening to this narrative catalyst. It hovers over the entire film. Its power lets us never forget that this is Leona’s story, even when we get elaborate flashbacks from others. We recall it later when we see Leona disheveled and shining from tears and anxious sweat. Its tightness contrasts with the way the camera later wanders in and around people, tracing the distances between them that the telephone extinguishes. 

The magic here is all down to Barbara Stanwyck, giving one her best performances (and receiving the last of her four Best Actress nominations). We see Leona’s selfishness ebb as she intelligently listens to the heavies on the line. That is, Stanwyck doesn’t play an inner monologue. Her bright brown eyes and horseshoe furrows do not propose “Oh no!” and “What should I do now?”, as though telling us what Leona wants to say. Rather, Leona, in this moment, and for a change, is not about herself at all. She just listens. This remains a thing of beauty, reminding us how much intelligence just listening can demand. I don’t know of a better demonstration of the cliché that listening is one of those feats accomplished by only the best actors.

Written by a woman and showcasing a female character who fights for what she wants, Sorry, Wrong Number would probably be received as a feminist statement were it released today. But in the moment in which Leona hears unheard, I am reminded that it is not just the film’s gender politics that remain relevant. Over the complex lines of a switchboard (where, according to Hollywood, women controlled the flow of information), the epigraph warns:

In the tangled networks of a great city, the telephone is the unseen link between a million lives… It is the servant of our common needs—the confidante of our inmost secrets…life and happiness wait upon its ring… and horror…and loneliness… and death.”

The technology behind our phones may have changed, but in an age where we’d rather text than talk, we seem to still fear verbal connections. We worry about who’s listening, and we know, deep down, that the voice can give too much away.

Previously
Vintage 1948 - Best of the Year 
Supporting Actress Smackdown - The Schedule 

Saturday
Jun132015

FYC: Amy Schumer for Best Actress, Comedy

Members of Team Experience were asked to share personal dream picks for this year's impending Emmy nominations. Here's Jose...

Amy Schumer often gets credit for her ingenious writing, larger than life personality and her lack of fear when it comes to addressing controversial topics like the media’s obsession with youth, the importance of the female orgasm and Bill Cosby. However, like most stand up comedians, she rarely is commended for her acting on the assumption that she’s playing herself. And yet, in just a handful of episodes during the third season of "Inside Amy Schumer "she has played everything from clueless spouses, to child beauty queens and even a black & white heroine.

She was recently rewarded with the Critics Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy, and if the Emmys dare to break out of their rut of picking perennial faves, they would do much good including her in a lineup with more established actresses:  her timing is as flawless as Julia Louis Dreyfuss’ Selina Meyer, her lack of vanity is akin to Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish, and her idealism (while slightly more infused with cynicism) makes her as strong a role model as Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope. For someone who’s always playing self conscious characters, it’s astonishing to see how self aware and controlled Schumer can be as a performer. And unless she has multiple personality disorder, she's not just playing herself.