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Entries in Best Actress (289)

Wednesday
May202015

Cannes Actress: Zhao Tao and Jane Fonda

The latest buzz from Cannes is that the Best Actress race is heating up. Or at least speculation is. Marion Cotillard's Lady MacBeth has yet to screen but those that have seen it early are typically wowed. But we know at this point not to expect Cannes juries to point and go "Her! Her!". If there is a Blanchett-Vanquisher out there it may well be Zhao Tao who stars in the "giddily ambitiousMountains May Depart.

That's the latest from the reknowned Jia Zhangke, a regular at the fest for whom Zhao Tao is a recurring player (Still Life, Platform, A Touch of Sin). Mountains is Zhangke's fourth try at the Palme and though he usually comes away empty-handed, his last attempt A Touch of Sin (2013) took Best Screenplay. Despite the jury completely changing each year Cannes somehow has an Oscar-like sense of momentum wherein you generally move up the ranks as to which prizes you take; longevity wins the Palme. (It's not as simple as that of course but there can be a weird cumulative coronation effect.)

So that makes the Palme race: Hungary's Son of Saul vs. USA's Carol vs China's Mountains May Depart? (Or am I forgetting something that's been similarly ecstatically received?) Typing them out that way it makes Cannes sound like the Olympics of the movies, only annual instead of bi-annual. And maybe it is?

In other Canne actressy news, our friend Kyle Buchanan says that Jane Fonda walks away with Paolo Sorrentino's Youth which stars Michael Caine as a retired film composer.  I'm hearing that Fonda's role is very showy (an old combative muse to Harvey Keitel's director character), but quite small. Nevertheless I couldn't help but immediately picture both Grace (Jane) and Frankie (Lily) as Oscar nominees this year in Supporting (for Youth) and Lead (for Grandma) and how much media fun would that be? Sorrentino had a major Cannes sensation and eventual Oscar winner with his last film The Great Beauty. This one is in English which naturally will give it a leg up with Oscar voters if it opens this year but it's already more divisive which can be a problem. Still love/hate divides are tough to predict with awards. All you sometimes need is the right people on the love side to turn the critical tide around. And anyway when this mixed review called it 'elegant fun' I just thought... doesn't that describe a lot of well received prestige films?

But just to remind us that she's already one of the immortals (with 2 Oscars, multiple classic films, and celebrity outside of acting as well, the legend is assured) here is Jane Fonda looking amazing on the cover of W --  their oldest cover girl ever.

Here's an interesting bit on self-awareness from the W interview

One day on the set of On Golden Pond, a film that she coproduced so that she could costar with her father, the legendary actor Henry Fonda, she was fixing her hair when Katharine Hepburn (who played her mother in the film) pinched her cheek and demanded, “What do you want this to mean?” “It was 1981, and I didn’t know what she was talking about,” Fonda recalled. “Back then, I didn’t give my looks a fare-thee-well, and that bothered Katharine. She said to me, ‘This is what you present to the world. What do you want it to say about you?’ Her question has been lodged in my psyche ever since. I now think what Katharine meant was awareness of a persona. She wanted me to consider how I wanted to be seen. Now I pay attention to how I present myself to the world. I realize that it matters.”

 

Sunday
May172015

Cannes Review: Carol

Our friend Diana Drumm is in Cannes and will be sending a few reviews our way. First up, Todd Haynes hotly anticipated Carol... (note: this review contains a couple of spoilers for those who haven't read the book)

Within a year of publication, Patricia Highsmith’s first novel “Strangers on a Train” became a seminal Hitchcock thriller. After half a century, her second novel “The Price of Salt” (published under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan) is now a Todd Haynes romantic drama (under the succinct title Carol). Whereas the former concerns two male strangers duplicitous in murder, the latter is about two women finding love in constrictive 1952 New York City. Turning the pulp novel into a palpable parable, Carol is a master stroke in Haynes’s 21st century oeuvre (Far from Heaven, Mildred Pierce, et al.), and harkens back to the pressurized strength of Safe and the sexual fluidity of Velvet Goldmine - both capturing and throwing off the starched restrictiveness of postwar America, and deftly upgrading the melodrama with social relevance.

Inspired by Highsmith’s own stint at Macy’s (and her affair with Philadelphia socialite Virginia Kent Catherwood), 20-something shopgirl Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) waits on and is struck by elegant “blondish woman in a fur coat” Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). A friendship builds between the two, to the jealousy of Therese’s huffy square boyfriend (Jake Lacy), who dismisses it as schoolgirl crush, and the consternation of Carol’s matinee-handsome, soon-to-be ex-husband (Kyle Chandler), who uses it as ammunition in their ongoing divorce negotiations. [More]

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Saturday
May162015

'Cate Blanchett Will Slay You'

Next Season on the WB This Season at Cannnes: Cate, the Cinephile Slayer

It's not really "news" per se to share the information that Cate Blanchett has won another round of extravagantly positive reviews for a performance; that's kind of her thing, and habitual happenings aren't news. But the early round of Carol reviews are in and everyone loves it. 

 The adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel "Carol" (or "The Price of Salt" depending on when it was published) about a married woman (Cate Blanchett) carrying on with a younger shopgirl (Rooney Mara) has been our Most Awaited feature for two years running in our annual We Can't Wait series. It's been EIGHT YEARS since Todd Haynes had a movie out. To prevent overhyping, I'm not going to fully read any reviews but here are some blurb whore quotes that could sell tickets whenever they decide to release the movie.  My gut says December and I'm not happy about waiting that long:

And the acting slays you: Cate Blanchett, especially, somehow leaps over her own highest standards with a subtlety that’s little short of phenomenal.
-The Telegraph 

A superbly realised companion piece to his 50s Sirkian drama Far From Heaven... creamily sensuous, richly observed."
-The Guardian

The success of the material ultimately rests on the formidable strength of its actresses, both credibly buried in their roles."
-Indiewire 

Carol is both a beautiful miniature and a majestic romance"
-The Wrap 

Oscar Trivia For the Road...
The last time Cate indulged in the lesbian angst subgenre she was the younger woman and she and her co-star were both Oscar-nominated as were the Screenplay & Score. Coincidentally the last time Todd Haynes had a real Oscar hit, the film also received 4 nominations and also lost each of its categories. Will history repeat itself? Against my better judgment I skimmed several reviews and frequent mentions of the films "quiet" and "restraint" and "careful pacing" don't make it any kind of Oscar slam dunk, but then again Oscar is only icing. What's more important is this --  new Todd Haynes cake! 

Thursday
May142015

What's Up With Opera Pictures, Doc?

For the past year or so various Streep related announcements have revealed a curious trend: Meryl Streep is suddenly really into musically-themed pictures with four consecutive pictures of that ilk from 2014-2016 (with the exception of her cameos in other prestige dramas). First came Into the Woods, then Ricki & The Flash and next year it was supposed to be all about the Operas.  Opera? Yup. She signed on for a very promising sounding comic bio about a terrible singer Florence Foster Jenkins to be directed by Stephen Frears. The fate of the fourth picture, a filmed adaptation of the stage play Master Class, a fictionalized drama about Maria Callas's time as a voice teacher, is now up in the air. The HBO project aimed to reunite Streep with her most frequent collaborator Mike Nichols but five months after the project was announced, Nichols passed away.

Whether or not Master Class goes before cameras (with or without Streep) it will surely keep getting stage revivals since "La Divina" continues to fascinate actors and storytellers.  French diva Fanny Ardant already played the opera singer for the screen in Franco Zefirrelli's Callas Forever (2002) and word broke yesterday, complete with this gorgeous promotional poster, that Noomi Rapace is next. 

Noomi Rapace recreates a famous Callas photo

She'll star in the already fully funded Callas for director Niki Caro. Rapace broke out in a big way with the Swedish Dragon Tattoo movies but subsequent efforts as an international leading lady haven't attracted as much attention (sorry but Michael Fassbender stole all Prometheus thunder). Still, the writer/director Niki Caro isn't a slouch when it comes to winning her actresses attention. She's only made five movies including the very recent and very atypical McFarland USA, but two of them resulted in Best Actress nominations: Keisha Castle Hughes in Whale Rider and Charlize Theron in North Country. So chalk Rapace down as a threat for the shortlist in 2016 or 2017, depending on how quick they are about this. 

Tuesday
May122015

Q&A: Gene Kelly 1, Character X, and Best Actress 2: The Sequel

It's time to answer a dozen reader questions pulled from the last two "Ask Nathaniel" suggestion-box posts. Please to note that in the podcast this weekend, we answered a few already that were Ex Machina related and last night we teased you with an appetizer about the emotions of Inside Out and actors who best embody them.

Jumping right in...

BVR: Do you think audiences will ever flock to dramas again the way they used to years ago?

I hope so, all things being cyclical. It happens once in a while still. The Blind Side (2009) and American Sniper (2014) were both supersized hits in the way movie star dramas of the past have been when they've hit big. Unfortunately they both felt like anomalies and only that successful because they managed to get people who don't go to the movies into the movie theater. The problem today is obviously at least four-fold: TVs got larger, the amount of content exploded, theatrical windows shrunk, and the theaters, rather than stepping up their game to compete, actually made themselves less hospitable with smaller screens and tons of commercials.

Movie theater chains seem to be trying again but once you've lost a regular moviegoer, it's hard to restore their habit. What is next in terms of technological advances? Will we ever get fully three dimensional hologram-like movies you can walk around inside? And if we do, won't dramas be the favorite, rather than special effects pictures, for the 'choose your own proximity adventure' in terms of closeups of the actors? I imagine they'll be performed very much like straight plays for multiple cameras and since you're the one doing the editing, theater training will be important and superb acting could rise again to "favorite visual effect" dominance. 

Or did our recent sci-fi week warp my brain too much? This wasn't the answer you were looking for.

BROOKESBOY: Who will be the next winner of a second Best Actress prize?

More Questions and Answers -- a lot more -- after the jump

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Sunday
May102015

Mother's Day Special: "Now, Voyager" and Bette Davis

Happy Mother's Day, readers! Here's new contributor Angelica Jade Bastién returning to talk Bette Davis, tell all bios, and a 1940s classic. - Editor

When I introduce friends to Bette Davis for the first time I tend to show them Now, Voyager. Yes, the film gives us one of Davis' best performances but my love for it is deeply personal. Whenever I watch Now, Voyager I see my emotional landscape on the screen. As a teenager struggling with mental illness and a caring yet controlling mother who didn’t quite know how to handle it the film was a revelation. It gave me hope that I could become the woman I always dreamed of. Ultimately, my obsession with the film centers upon the multiple ways it explores motherhood. 

Now, Voyager is essentially about the transformation of Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) from spinster aunt figure to badass, emotionally realized womanhood. The film begins with Charlotte teetering at the edge of a nervous breakdown brought upon by the multitude of ways her mother, Mrs. Vale, controls her...

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