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Entries in Best Actress (178)

Wednesday
Jul172013

Best Shot: Mary Poppins Makes Your Heart Feel Light

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Mary Poppins never explains anything! That's true of both the character and the film, actually. There's no back story (Hallelujah!) and no fussiness about the how and why of her "magic". (Sadly, this movie would never be made today when the mystery is drained from everything). More surprising for a family film there's very little overstating of its message (though Dick Van Dyke does a little bit of singing it directly to Mr. Banks just to make sure he's clear). If you don't believe me, really watch it again. Despite the imposing length (2 hours and 20 minutes) it's structurally smart and so light on its feet that it simply blows in on the East wind and then floats away when the super nanny's mission is accomplished. Like its heroine, the movie is practically perfect in every way.

"Cheeky" - my favorite shot of Julie Andrews in the film

I'll do my best to emulate her and keep my "best shot" explanation brief -- if only I could sing it! though it's a bittersweet task since, if I was choosing a different shot, I'd get to talk at length about how brilliant Julie Andrews is in the movie. Her Oscar win is one of the most unusual choices the Academy ever made for a Lead Acting trophy (no histrionics, no "clips", nothing one might define as Oscar-Bait) and one of their smartest, too. But I'll have to wax rhapsodic about Julie another time and jump right to my choice for Best Shot.

When I was a kid my favorite song in the movie was "Jolly Holiday". I'm not sure if it was because I wanted to dive into the chalk paintings or if I just found it catchy or if I just loved that incredibly funny moment when all the barnyard animals get solo lines and they each sound EXACTLY like a singing version of that animal should. As an adult I still love the song mostly because its such an accurate description of how one feels in Mary Poppins presence: light and grand... your heart starts beating like a big brass band.

Best Shot -- I wish I could see this on the big screen!

But, as anyone familiar with Mary Poppins know, there's a beautiful melancholy undercurrent to the plot and the feeling which is why I'm choosing this moment, right after the chalk painting adventure when Mary and the children have left Bert in the park. It's gray and stormy now but Bert's mood is unaltered. He keeps dancing in the rain, still enjoying the imagined holiday as the colors lose their shape but glow like memories.

This visual motif with a man in near silhouette with a telling splash of color is repeated again (only more empathically) in both the showstopping "Steppin' Time" number (blue) and when Mr Banks is fired from his job (red) but here is where it most beautifully summarizes the film's smart disposition (both firm and truthful but  loose and magical) and the color Mary brings to people's lives.

When the day is gray and ordinary
Mary makes the sun shine bright!

Mary Poppins warns us over and over again -- though not in hamfisted redundant ways -- that all things are temporary. One day childhood will end. Very soon the chalk paintings will wash away. As soon as the wind changes Mary herself will vanish. Mary Poppins would never say anything as mundane as "seize the day" but in her cheeky way she's making sure that we get that each day counts. She recommends feeding birds, flying kites, and a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Best Shot Steppin' Time
Antagony & Ecstasy - on Julie Andrews' brilliant star turn
Allison Tooey - the feeling it gives
Encore Entertainment - Mary Poppins needs you to get your act together
Entertainment Junkie - on magical realism
Film Actually - defying logic, physics, and gravity
The Film's The Thing - a familiar silhouette
Manuel Betancourt - Julie Andrews Steppin' Time
Stale Popcorn - actually hates the movie!
Serious Film - praises David Tomlinson's Mr Banks
Victim of the Time - the measure of a woman
We Recycle Movies -on childhood nostalgia

Wednesday
Jul172013

A Topic That Never Grows Old: Best Actress 1995

Elisabeth Shue had my vote among the Oscar nominees

With the time left -- you can have more money, you can drink all you want -- just stay. That's what I want. I want you to talk. Or listen. Just stay."

Alicia Silverstone, Clueless (MTV Winner, Globe Nominee)
Angela Bassett, Waiting to Exhale (Image Award Winner)
Annette Bening, The American President (Globe Nominee)
Gong Li, Shanghai Triad (None)
Joan Allen, Nixon (SAG Lead Nominee but Oscar Supporting Nominee)
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Georgia (NYFCC Winner, Spirit Nominee)
Jessica Lange, Rob Roy (None)
Julianne Moore, [safe] (Spirit Nominee)
Julie Delpy, Before Sunrise (None)
Kathy Bates, Delores Claiborne (Saturn Nominee)
Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Minds (MTV Nominee, #1 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Nicole Kidman, To Die For (Globe Winner)
Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping (Globe Nominee, #2 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Toni Collette, Muriel's Wedding (AFI Winner, Globe Nominee)

...and the Oscar nominees
Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas 
Emma Thompson, Sense & Sensibility (won for Screenplay!)
Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County (#3 Female Led Box Office Hit)
Sharon Stone, Casino (Globe Winner)
Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking (The Winner) 

*and I dedicate this list to Pocahontas in Pocahontas who I wish was a real actress

Such riches to choose from! Definitely in the running for Bestest Best Actress Year of All Time? Your ballots please.

Saturday
Jul062013

"I'm not going to be ignored, Dan"

I wish I had a close friend named Dan so I could quote Fatal Glenn all the time.

Friday
Jul052013

The Halfway Mark Pt 2. Actors & Actresses

I assume that the entire time you were reading the Halfway Mark Best Screenplays & Pictures you were thinking "get to the actors already!" because, damn you're predictable and also so am I and I love to pay homage to great performances. So, here they are in six categories for your perusal and debate and "I guess I'd better watch that" list-making pleasure.

Best Actor in a Limited or Cameo Role (THUS FAR): Lior Ashkenazi (of Late Marriage fame) temporarily energizes the unfortunately bland Yossi by temporarily attempting to to rub off on and up against Yossi himself with pushy sleaze; James Badge Dale, who also won a nomination in this category at 2012's Film Bitch Awards for Flight, is in every big movie now (World War Z, The Lone Ranger, Iron Man 3) and pretty much great in all of them though the roles are growing exponentially and he's already too large for this category!; Kyle Chandler memorably flips his 'clear eyes, full hearts' image on its head as an absent father in The Spectacular NowCheyenne Jackson is robbed of his signature voice entirely in Behind the Candelabra as a disgruntled employee/protege/lover but it turns out he doesnt need it absolutely nailing every tiny gesture and facial expression; and finally, I liked Jamie Sheridan's conflicted big business father in The East.

Best Actress in a Limited or Cameo Role: Hillary Baack, is moving in a key brief role as The East's hearing impaired member; Zoe Kazan wins best in show for a group acting exercize masquerading as a movie called Some Girl(s) with an agonizing backstory; Debbie Reynolds, is a real hoot and unrecognizable in the Liberace flick Behind the CandelabraOrly Silbersatz Banai adds wonderful depth and shading to her history of denial in Yossi; And in a fine cast in StokerJacki Weaver, makes the most of her tense few scenes as the deservedly worried unannounced visitor Aunt Ginny; and my apologies to Grace Gummer in Frances Ha who I didn't quite have room for but I liked her prickly Ivy League alumna

4 More Acting Category "Bests" after the jump

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jun012013

Will Smith Doesn't Know His Oscar History

Have you read this incredibly obnoxious interview with Big Willie & Son on working together and the family business "patterns, boom!" There are a lot of ridiculous pull quotes but this one, on the Oscars is naturally my favorite. To mock.

Do you think there is a single theory to everything?
Jaden:
 There’s definitely a theory to everything.
Will:
 When you find things that are tried and true for millennia, you can bet that it’s going to happen tomorrow.
Jaden:
 The sun coming up?
Will:
 The sun coming up, but even a little more. Like for Best Actor Oscars. Almost 90 percent of the time, it’s mental illness and historical figures, right? So, you can be pretty certain of that if you want to win—as a man; it’s very different for women. The patterns are all over the place, but for whatever reason, it’s really difficult to find the patterns in Best Actress.

It's not 90 percent unless you include physical disabilities in there!!! Will Smith is neither Oscar buff nor actressexual apparently, since he's obviously dreamt of winning Best Actor (but not hard enough to push himself out of his comfort zone - turning down Quentin Tarantino is a sign that you're getting in your own way in this regard) and never given much thought to its distaff counterpart. Which is, if you think of it, totally a no brainer given his filmography. Women in his movies are merely decorative and usually extraneous and apparently, from what I've heard of After Earth, that isn't changing any time soon.

So we should help him with the Best Actress patterns in the comments. I'll start...

• Haven't you ever heard of "de-glamming", Will? That's been a popular winning strategy since Grace Kelly beat Judy Garland in 1954.

• And speaking of...
Doesn't the Fresh Prince know anything about The Princess Factor? Hepburn over Kerr, Kelly over Garland, Matlin over Turner, Foster over Close, Paltrow over Everyone, Roberts over Burstyn, Cotillard over Christie, Portman over Bening, Lawrence over Riva -- the popular 20something to early30s fresh star beauties are always beating their legendary older rivals.

• Historical figures (nowadays this has morphed into "biopic mimicry") aren't just a winning strategy in Best Actor!