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Entries in Best Actress (209)

Sunday
Sep142014

TIFF: "Still Alice," or Adjust Your Best Actress Charts

The final TIFF feature review. Whew, 25 films screened and written up. And all by closing night! Please give me a round of applause in the comments. I've never been this successful at managing a festival and comments are the only way I know you're appreciating it.

When we first meet Dr Alice Howland in this fine film adapated from the bestseller by Lisa Genova, she is celebrating her 50th birthday. She's happily married to Dr. John Howland (Alec Baldwin) with three grown children whom she adores though she isn't exactly a perfect mother or wife, at least as defined by your typical movie woman, in which case she'd be inordinately obsessed with her husband and children's particulars. In fact, she almost entirely defines herself by her own career and skills (imagine that!) as a respected linguistics professor.  She values articulate communication and higher education and maybe she isn't super imaginative about other forms of expression. In fact, she's downright dismissive about her youngest daughter Lydia's (Kristen Stewart) interest in acting. She gives her a continual hard time about her education and career and is frustratingly absent from all of Lydia's minor triumphs. 

More...

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Friday
Sep122014

TIFF: Wild, Or How Witherspoon Got Her Groove Back

Nathaniel's adventures in Toronto. Running on fumes... 

Color me surprised that my favorite among the consensus Best Picture hopeful Oscar launches from festival season (the others being Foxcatcher, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything... though I have yet to see Birdman which didn't play here) is Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild, an adaptation of the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. How could a months long solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail be so cinematic? The answer is in its smart mosaic, visual and aural, as Reese hikes through expansive physical and intimate mental terrain. The present and the past converse and overlap consistently in the sound design like fragments of song sung, hummed or played as if remembered - who is singing? and snippets of dialogue the same evocative way. 

There's not much to say about the plot, the film's most recent kin being Into the Wild though Wild is the stronger film. Reese Witherspoon reminds us why we were all so excited about her in the first place with effortless star magnetism. She doesn't turn on any megawatt charm or do anything strenuous at all with it other than trust that innate cinematic charisma to walk with her on the trail as film-elevating protective gear. That's gear Cheryl needs because those boots aren't made for walking and good god she's got a lot of baggage, both literal (her comically large backpack) and metaphoric, having let herself completely spiral towards a personal abyss with the death of her mother.

More...

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Wednesday
Sep102014

TIFF: Benedict vs. Redmayne, Round 1

Nathaniel's adventure in Toronto. Days 4 & 5 

Two bonafide contenders for the Best Actor Oscar screened on two consecutive days so I can't help but pair them here for you. We'll surely say more about these movies when they open, because they're both looking like awards heavyweights. But, for now, reviews and some Oscar betting. 

IMITATION GAME
In the opening voiceover, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) admonishes someone (us?) to "pay attention. I won't repeat myself" but the story is exciting enough that you're sure to pay attention without the lecture. I mean, it's not every day you get to see a movie about a closeted homosexual genius mathematician secret war hero. Imitation Game has three acts but they play concurrently so we're weaving through Alan's adolescence in boarding school, Alan's top-secret war assignment, and Alan in the 1950s under police investigation. Naturally these three acts are related, not just by having the same protagonist, but by the theme of secrecy. How it informs, shapes, and obscures or destroys the things that matter like character, consequence, and emotional health.

The middle story is the most thrilling as Alan races against the clock to break the Enigma Code during WW II. I think the charge from this section of the film comes from the editing, directing, and its beautifully judged ensemble performance. Turing's obsessive intellectual personality is thrown into vivid relief but also sours when its forced into interaction with others, sliding towards closed off, curt and superior. And Benedict maps all this out with great delicacy...

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Monday
Sep082014

Robert Wise Centenary: I Want to Live! (1958)

We're celebrating the centennial of director Robert Wise this week. Previously: Tim on "Curse of the Cat People" (1944) and Nathaniel on "Somebody Up There...". Now, David on Susan Hayward's Oscar vehicle, with an exclamation point!
 


Though the internet seems to increasingly denigrate the importance of punctuation, once upon a time it was vital to our sense of understanding language. Would I Want To Live! have any of the same feverish impact without that exclamation mark at the end of its title? Perhaps. But it signifies the bold stance of this cry for social justice in a millisecond. I mean, just look at this poster! Only Britain's notorious newspaper The Daily Mail has taglines that long these days.

That boldness is a quality more of the film's frenzied marketing than of the film itself; director Robert Wise, whose centennial we're marking this week, excised the closing rhetoric that producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz was insisting upon, sure that if an audience wasn't convinced of the film's social statement by then, a few platitudes wouldn't make a difference. As our series of pieces has and will demonstrate, Wise was an extremely adaptable filmmaker who transcended genre, but he often pursued work that aligned with his anti-establishment politics.

Never more so than here [More...]

 

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Thursday
Aug282014

The 10 Most Terrifying Words You'll Read Today

[from a Telluride preview piece by Anne Thompson]

 

I don't remember one thing about this article (other than an underlying 'screw Toronto!' praise Telluride' tone) due to these ten words. TERRIFYING. I've already tweeted this out but for those of you without twitter, it was important that you share the nightmare. Forgive me for destroying your peaceful slumber tonight.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Gone With The Wind's Glorious Ensemble

Entr'acte After last week's screening of the first half of the gargantuan Gone With the Wind. I realized that three fourths of my memories of the movie come from its first half. What would this screening of Act 2 reveal? We return now to wind-swept Georgia and the tale of the most famous of southern belles, Scarlett O'Hara.

Scarlett summed up: Surrounded in Rhett's wealth and love (the future) but still focused on her self and past girlish ideals (Ashley Wilkes in her hand). Perpetually vain and unhappy.

Part 2 The first act of GWTW is, largely, a Civil War film albeit one that's told brilliantly off the battlefield. The second act shifts gears to Reconstruction. While the South is being rebuilt, Scarlett is doing her own life remodelling. It's now a romantic melodrama, but pleasantly also a rich ensemble film as each character comes into sharper focus (Hattie McDaniel's Mammy and Olivia de Havilland's Melanie in particular - both superb)

Ashley Wilkes, simpleton that he is, still doesn't get Scarlett, assessing her strength like so: 

You never have trouble facing reality."

Oh, Ashley! Our semi-delusional Southern Belle is still continually fantasizing about you, a man she can't have and wouldn't want if she had him, while denying her love for the one she has and does actually want... in her own way. All the way she's hoping to recapture or clinging to her obsession of former glories of the Old South: Tara with its lush lands and easy wealth, the cheap labor force (ahem), and even her girlish waistline which alarming grows to a (GASP!) 20" and she cannot figure why. 'Childbirth? Fiddle-dee-dee!'

If Ashley Wilkes, who idolizes Scarlett, were choosing Part 2's Best Shot, I know just what he'd choose.

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Tuesday
Aug262014

Best Shot Collection: Gone With the Wind (Pt. 2)

Previously on Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Gone With the Wind Pt 1

We return now to wind-swept Georgia and the tale of the most famous southern belle of all time, Scarlett O'Hara Wilkes Kennedy Butler. We've lost a few Best Shot participants this time around (people don't love Part 2 as much I guess - a group which includes me) or they're just running late (which includes me). I'm still debating between a few images and too tired to think any more. I'll decide tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day!

GONE WITH THE WIND PT 2
Click on any of the Best Shot choices to read the corresponding articles 

The marriage of Scarlett and Rhett is its own version of Sherman's march... a path of destruction in their wake.
-The Entertainment Junkie 

There is something you love better than me, though you may not know it.
-Ashley Wilkes for The Film Experience

a glimpse of reality; her funhouse mirror is cracking
-Cinemunch 

My favorite section of the film [is] the hardcore suffering part, where everyone is starving and filthy and Scarlett has to wear the same dress for 18 months... 
-Video Valhalla 


 Certainly a movie you love wouldn’t take you two weeks to watch... 
-Pop Culture Crazy


No use trying to sweet talk me. I knows you since I put the first diapers on you.
-Mammy for The Film Experience


 You're a heartless creature. But that's part of your charm.
-Captain Rhett Butler for The Film Experience


One of the great characters and performances in the annals of cinema... 
-Antagony & Ecstasy

Scarlett stands confidently and defiantly. Its the only way she knows how.
-The Film's The Thing 

Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion...
-Film Actually 

Here's Our Darling Scarlett."
-Melanie Wilkes for The Film Experience


Melanie as the calm moral centre of the film...
-Lam Chop Chop 


I love the fact that Scarlett’s bedroom has a portrait of Marie Antoinette in it...
- Allison Tooey


Gone with the Wind is my mom’s favorite movie...
-Coco Hits NY

-The Futurist

And that is... the end! Except for my choice. Unless a few stragglers show up. Hope you enjoyed.

Next Tuesday night, September 2nd, our Season Five Finale: THE MATRIX (1999) for Keanu Reeve's 50th Birthday. Why not pick a shot and join us?