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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in Best Actress (292)

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.”

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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.

Thursday
Jun112015

Q&A: May/December Romance? Actressy Titles? Streep Sans Sophie

This week's Ask Nathaniel session didn't get as many questions as usual -- you were intimidated by the request for donations surely which sucks because life ain't free and we work hard here -- but here are 9 questions anyway because I'm such a giver. Let's start with a trip back to 1995 and move on to smackdowns, actressexual directors, Nicole Kidman in Paddington, and Hollywood's love of pairing older men with younger woman... 

Golden Globe Comedy Wins Don't Always Lead to Oscar Noms

COCO: I'm in a very 1995 mood. Were you obsessing and predicting twenty years ago?

NATHANIEL: LOL. Yes, I was.  I've been obsessed since I first discovered the Oscars 82/83 (my family was mystified since none of them had interest) and started making list of "dream nominations" each year when I was a kid even though I didn't see most of the actual nominees since they were rated "R" (VERBOTEN!) so I was madly scribbling things like  "Best Actress: Daryl Hannah for Splash !!!" and such early on. But honestly I can't remember when I started "predicting" in the classic sense but it was definitely before The Film Experience.

We'll be discussing 1995 at length in the July Smackdown so I'll save most of my comments for then but my biggest nail-biter and raucous-cheering and breath-holding was for Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas (who was my personal choice for the Oscar that year) since there were basically seven women with what seemed like actual traction for five spots. The oddwomen out were, of course, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Georgia) and Golden Globe Actress in a Musical or Comedy winner Nicole Kidman (To Die For).  Nothing against Leigh and Kidman but I knew there was only room for 1 of them since Sarandon, Stone, Streep, Thompson were locked up for various reasons some valid some not. That year's Best Actress race was so overstuffed and incredible which is why it comes up so often in Oscar circles as a point of discussion. 

On some posters (not this one) the tag line is "Raises screen acting to a new level of sexual knowingness" (!!!)PEDINHRO: What are your favorite movies with a female name in the title? My all time favorite is The Marriage of Maria Braun!

Well, you took the best one! Wait do you mean Best Title or Best Movie that just happens to have a female name in the title? If you mean best movie obviously I have to have things like Carrie and Annie Hall. But if you mean "Best Title" that's more fun so let's make it a whole top ten after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun032015

YNMS: Suffragette 

Every day since Cannes wrapped it's become clear that the Oscar charts must be updated. We were already banking on Focus Feature's Suffragette for a Best Picture nomination but when we update we might get even more bullish after this new trailer and that prime October real estate (October has been very kind to Best Pictures of late - December is so passe). Anyway, let's not get distracted with Best Picture talk.

Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan as Maud, a working wife and mother who is recruited to join the growing movement and becomes a fierce activist. Mulligan, having a great year with Far From The Madding Crowd's success and a Tony nomination, will likely reap Oscar traction if people like the film but she's backed up by quite the ensemble of talented ladies. Meryl Streep is apt to get all the glory, as she does, for her small role as Emmeline Pankhurst, a catalyst for the story and an icon of Suffragette history, but I'll be interested to see which other members of the supporting cast can win any attention or praise (if any) for strong characterizations or memorable scenes once people start seeing the whole film. Suffragette will premiere at the London Film Festival. 

The trailer and our Yes No Maybe So breakdown -- which we'll do a little differently this time -- after the jump...

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Tuesday
Jun022015

Grace & Frankie. Final Thoughts & Emmy Wishes

We recapped the first half of Grace and Frankie and then abruptly quit talking about it, but since it's been renewed, we should tie this up in a neat bow. As with other Netflix shows in the past like OITNB and Daredevil it didn't quite engage people in the blogging model as weekly series coverage does despite the fact that it was clear that most readers were watching. The problem, as documented in ongoing media hand-wringing and cultural conversations about binge-watching, is that nobody's ever on the same page. 

But on the other hand people do seem to have ended up on (mostly) the same page with Grace & Frankie in terms of its overall quality. More...

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