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Entries in Best Actress (414)

Monday
Oct102016

NYFF: Sonia Braga in "Aquarius"

Manuel here reporting from the New York Film Festival and reminding you that Sonia Braga is a goddess of cinema 

Aquarius is the name of a building in Recife where Doña Clara (a resplendent Sonia Braga) has made her life. The apartment she lives in, which is littered with books and old LPs (she was once a famed music journalist), once belonged to her aunt. Indeed, Kleber Mendonça Filho first introduces us to the Aquarius and to the apartment back when Clara was a young woman who’d recently battled breast cancer, a key detail her aunt brings up in the midst of a birthday celebration. In this lively opening sequence, the camera pauses on an old furniture piece before giving us a glimpse of even livelier days of the older woman celebrating her birthday surrounded by family. We see a memory flash before us of a heated sexual encounter, her lingering gaze having triggered an old but cherished memory...

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Tuesday
Oct042016

NYFF: Everything Else

Manuel reporting from NYFF on an Adriana Barraza star vehicle.

Everything Else
Natalia Almada's Everything Else (Todo lo demás) is a portrait of a woman in the most literal sense. The movie, which runs 98 minutes, has very little plot and is focused instead on observing (keenly, empathetically, near-obsessively) the life of Doña Flor. A no nonsense government worker by day with very little life outside the desk she occupies daily and the apartment she shares with her cat, Doña Flor (played by Babel's Oscar nominated Adriana Barraza) is not lonely, per se. But she does seem disconnected from the life around her; in Barraza's face you can see the weariness of her life without the contempt stories about childless spinsters usually inspire. Almada gives Barraza no more than 50 lines in the entire film, plunging us for stretches at a time in a silence that rattles for the very comfort it depends on. She's interested in watching Doña Flor and, in doing so, sketches out a woman perhaps like many others and yet entirely herself.

That the quiet peeks at her life are punctuated by news reports (often out of frame and unintelligible) about violence against women and close ups of the women she encounters on the train, across her desk, and at the public pool she visits, make clear that Almada's near dialogue-free project wants to think about the state of Mexican women today without doing anything more than showing (there is so little telling).

The effect is hypnotizing though whether you follow along for the ride depends on your patience for such a small scale story with such a self-consciously deployed structure. And yet, every time Barraza is on screen, you're reminded why she remains such an underutilized actress; she doesn't carry the film as much as she inhabits it, losing herself in the mundane life depicted, another face in the crowd.

Monday
Oct032016

Still Blissing Out Over "La La Land"

Over the weekend I wrote up an Oscar preview for Towleroad - which you can consider a companion to our current Best Picture Chart and updated Oscar predictions. Here's what I wrote about La La Land, which I realize I didn't capsule review for you at TIFF: 

This musical from the young writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) won the coveted "Audience Award" at Toronto. That prize nearly always aligns with a Best Picture nomination in January. But the nomination will be the least of it - it has "winner" written all over it. La La Land is a total bliss-out, a colorful two hour romance with song and dance numbers about an aspiring actress and her jazz musician boyfriend. This is the third movie to co-star Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and their onscreen chemistry is even better this go around and it was tremendous to begin with in Crazy Stupid Love five years back.

Here's a shocking statistic for trivia buffs: If La La Land is nominated for Best Picture it will be the first original live-action musical to do so since All That Jazz (1979). The musical nominees inbetween them were either animated  (Beauty & The Beast), adaptations of pre-existing shows (Chicago) or used pre-existing music for their songs (Moulin Rouge!). If La La Land wins it will be the first original movie musical to win the Oscar since Gigi (1958).

In addition to these general notes here are a few slighter more specific ones...

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Sunday
Oct022016

Beauty Break: Maribel Verdú, Goya Darling

Happy 46th birthday to Spanish beauty Maribel Verdú of Y Tu Mama Tambien and Pan's Labyrinth fame. How many women can claim to have terrorized Snow White and been tag teamed by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, and knifed a dictator's officer right in the face? How many women have been nominated for a Goya ten times and won twice*. Just Maribel, that's who!

Those Goyas must be heavy!

More beauty after the jump...

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Tuesday
Sep272016

Beautiful Teasing: "Fences" and "20th Century Women"

The latest potentially rich films to tease are two of our most anticipated 2016 features. They aren't coming out until the last week of December. We worry for 20th Century Women that it will be lost in the shuffle (why oh why this release date?) but Fences at least will win attention due to the combined starpower at its center and the event prestige of the August Wilson award-winner making it to the big screen. The terrific teaser trailers are after the jump with a few notes on each.

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