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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 

 

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Entries in Best Actress (283)

Monday
Apr202015

Tribeca: A Second Look at "Grandma"

Lily Tomlin with writer/director Paul Weitz of "About a Boy" fameJoe Reid reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival

After months of feeling left out for not being at Sundance when this little gem debuted (Nathaniel reviewed it), I was at long last able to see Paul Weitz's Grandma, featuring as charming and exciting a central performance by Lily Tomlin as you've heard. Tomlin plays Elle Reid (no relation...though that's not what I'll be telling people), a thorny old lesbian who at times she describes herself both as a misanthrope and as a "terrible person," yet the good heart at her center never gets covered up all that effectively. She's just dumped her lover (Judy Greer) when she's visited by her teen granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), who needs money for an abortion. Elle doesn't have it, but she thinks she knows where she can get it, and pretty soon, we've got an old-fashioned road trip on our hands!

Road-trip movies have a natural episodic structure to them, and Grandma keeps some fun casting decisions around each corner. Here's Laverne Cox! Here's Sam Elliott! Here's Elizabeth Peña! (I let out a whimpered "aw" when the late Peña showed up; I found out after the film screened that a friend of mine did the same thing when she saw it.) Here's Marcia Gay Harden! The casting decisions are all quite sharp, which keeps it from feeling like a parade of familiar faces designed to cozy up to an indie audience. In particular, Elliott does some impressive work in his one scene. If Tomlin ends up folded into awards talk for her performance (she should), expect more than a few for-your-consideration pleas on Elliott's behalf.

While Grandma becomes as much of an abortion comedy as Obvious Child was, the focus never leaves Tomlin's Elle. It seems for a while that the movie is going to be a succession of dupes for Elle to mow down. Certainly that's how thing's go for Sage's boyfriend (Nat Wolff, making his requite festival rounds this year). But the film proves to be unexpectedly generous to most of its other characters, including an energetic third-act stomping-through by Marcia Gay Harden, who gets my vote for the movie's funniest line (it's about condoms).

Monday
Mar232015

Pretty Woman at 25: An Ode to Julia’s Laugh

Manuel here to share my love for Julia Roberts on the 25th anniversary of that 1990 blockbuster, the movie that netted the star her second consecutive Oscar nomination.

Roberts is the first movie star I ever obsessed over. She was my American sweetheart even though I was nowhere near America and didn’t quite understand what being a “sweetheart” meant. All I knew was that her laugh was infectious, her smile gargantuan and her charm inescapable. This was most (if not all) in part to Pretty Woman. I cannot recall where or how I got to watch the film that made her a megawatt star (I was barely 4 when it came out so I was obviously a late convert) but years of cable reruns made Julia a staple of what here at the TFE would dub my budding actressexuality.

She would later win me over completely with My Best Friend’s Wedding and Erin Brockovich (not to mention my probably unhealthy obsession with Mike Nichol’s Closer) but Julia’s Vivian Ward is a thing of beauty. Yes, it’s a movie star turn in that Roberts’s charm papers over the dark undertones of film and character alike, but she’s so damn watchable. And has been ever since.

More...

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Sunday
Mar222015

From the Vaults: The Etymology of "Actressexuality"

Yesterday a reader by the name of Noah Tsika (who just wrote a book on Nollywood) was asking about the coinage of the term "Actressexual" a word popularized at The Film Experience. The term grew beyond us obviously and people have since used it online who probably haven't even read this site or Nick's. Noah found the original post himself but I thought I'd share it for newer readers.

It was originally published on August 2nd in 2006 (hence the very mid Aughts examples) and went like so: 

Recently, during the umpteenth Oscar Best Actress discussion over at Nicks Flick Picks his partner Derek, continuously bewildered by our communal enthusiasm, quipped "Is Best Actress, like, its own sexual orientation?" After laughing out loud I had to face facts. This was a lightning bolt of truth.

I'm an Actressexual. 

It explains so much. It explains those nights lying in bed dreaming, not of glistening male hardbodies but of actresses swathed in Valentino, Saab, Armani, and vintage whomever. It explains the shared lust, not for their tuxedoed dates, but for that gold statue. It explains the dreams not of Ethan Hawke but of Uma Thurman. I'd like to think my love for Michelle Pfeiffer transcends any sexual orientation but it probably explains that, too.

Come to think of it, it even explains Warren Beatty. Actressexuality defies hetero and homo boundaries. Beatty may have screwed everything with a vagina back in his Hollywood heyday but notice: the only serious relationships --Julie Christie, Natalie Wood, and Annette Bening-- these were women who had just been nominated for an Oscar. Or were named Madonna. But, readers, she somehow counts.

OMG. How am I going to explain this to my parents?

 

Friday
Mar202015

10th Anniversary: Joan Allen, Family Struggles, and 'The Upside of Anger'

a special anniversary tribute from Adam Armstrong


Are you close with your father?”

This was asked of me recently at a social gathering for a graduate school program I may attend in the fall. Not knowing how to respond, or rather, unwilling to respond honestly, I answered by saying, “Yes, you could say so.”

This is the scenario people who come from a family in which the dynamic has been disrupted from a parent abandoning the unit loathe, yet know all too well its inevitability in conversation.

So does The Upside of Anger, which is celebrating its tenth year in release. The film chronicles the means by which a family copes and moves forward with their lives after the patriarch has left them, presumptuously thought to have run off with his younger secretary to live in Sweden. The family, one all too relatable in this modern familial climate of increasing divorce rates, is comprised of a bitter mother and her brood of children, all of whom in some way fail to meet her and each other’s expectations. [more...]

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Wednesday
Mar182015

Emmy History, "Empire" Heat, and the Super Competitive 'Best Drama Actress' Race

The two hour season finale of Empire, a show I like to call "The Taraji P Henson Variety Hour," hits tonight and though Emmy nominee balloting is literally three months away (June 15th-26th) so there's plenty of time to weigh the options and discuss them, the Empire team is already working hard to win votes. Taraji P Henson & Terence Howard feel like likely players in the Drama races. I doubt Emmy will ignore the leads in a new primetime soap network drama this buzzy and popular. The 1980s were unquestionably the heyday of this genre of television (with Dallas, Dynasty, The Colbys, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest all popular) though it's probably worth noting that the actors within this genre have had an easier time landing nominations then their series have. Dallas and Dynasty, the two most popular shows of this genre in the history of television, were only up for the top prize three times between them. Why, you ask?

Emmy history and the historic Best Actress after the jump...

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Monday
Mar162015

Q&A: TV Queens, Musical Divas, and Bad Work by Great Actors

Time for more Reader Questions. Thanks for asking them. Only six this time and they're nearly all actressy (next week something differentd) but the answers are lengthy.

TROY: A performance by an actress in television -- either episodic, movie, or miniseries -- that could stand alongside the best of the best work of Oscar-winning divas.

NATHANIEL: This is an unfair question since the reason people have such affection for television performances from the miraculously good ones to the just competents ones is that the actor in question has had literally hours and hours of time to develop that character and the viewer has had hours, months and sometimes even years in which to fall in love with the role itself (and sometimes the actor, too). Different mediums, agendas, ways of becoming iconic. Apples / Oranges. But of TV-centric actresses that repeatedly deliver A grade awards-quality work no matter the show or character they're working with (an important distinction) my vote for the best television actresses ever are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Edie Falco... Claire Danes for the bronze should she add a third performance as impressive as Angela Chase and Carrie Mathison to her series-ography (wait what do you call a television resume?).


Three final notes on this TV actress question. Movies no longer really have an equivalent to the kind of broad near slapstick comedy that TV often specializes in but literally no one makes me laugh harder than Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal / 30 Rock / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and I have a rage stroke every time I remember that she's Emmy-less. Three recent singular TV performances I think of all the time for hitting every possible pleasure spot in terms of delivering both great actressing and nuanced TV characterizations without ever starting to feel stale (the danger of long term work) are Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights, and Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.

Finally, though I know it's not a popular opinion critically speaking (even though the show is historically very popular) I absolutely proclaim Sarah Jessica Parker a true genius for her work on Sex & the City. Gee-nee-us. Like Meg Ryan / Julia Roberts / Sandra Bullock / Goldie Hawn at their peaks rom-com perfection but for the small screen.  'Your girl is lovely, Hubble Sarah.' 

BENJI: What is your favorite silent movie/star+performance?

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)

NATHANIEL: Maria Falconetti is unforgettable in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) which I'd also call the best of the silents. But... Best is different than Favorite. And that masterpiece has a kind of fetishized suffering, like a Von Trier without the childish pranking, that you really have to be in the right mood for. So the truer answer to your question is Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box (1929). That's my favorite silent ever (which is saying a lot because I love so many of the ones I've seen) and I also think she's great in Diary of a Lost Girl... though that movie isn't quite at her level the way her best known film is. I love all the usual stars (Gish, Garbo, Valentino) but it's Brooks that does it for me the most.

Laika: Hollywood is calling. They NEED YOUR ADVICE. They are making an Avengers -style superhero-teamup film about the divas of musical theatre, but they are having difficulty casting key roles: Liza Minnelli. Carol Channing. Elaine Stritch. Ethel Merman. BARBRA. Some people are pushing to cast Blake Lively as Bernadette Peters! Who could they cast as these inimitable women?!

KENDRICK. MCDONALD. STREISAND. KRAKOWSKI. MACLAINE. CHENOWETH. MINNELLI. FOSTER. PETERS

Only the originals will do. So think Expendables instead but with the budget and the quality of a Marvel Studios film like The Avengers. I've mocked up a dream cast list but perhaps you have different ideas?

Half of the budget is for the lawyers because trying to decide who gets top billing would be A NIGHTMARE. Maybe you can try to decide who gets top billing in the comments, but I fear the wrath of all of them if I place them in order.

TD: Least favorite performances by favorite actors?

NATHANIEL: This topic probably deserves a whole big post but then we'd have to dwell in disappointment and who needs that? So let's just throw a quick list out there. Let's start with a few actors that are actressy according to Nathaniel (i.e. great / obsession worthy). I don't really get what Fassbender in Dangerous Method or Jude in Contagion were going for or I do but I don't like it. Jeff Bridges has been phoning it in since the Oscar win which is a shame. Okay enough men. The women.

Hathaway is bad in Eyesore in Wonderland (but, then, who isn't? I mean, besides HBC). Streep is terrible in The Manchurian Candidate, overplaying everything. Chastain in Miss Julie, same thing. Too much too much. Modulate girl, you're so good at that in other films. I didn't understand what the hell was going on with La Pfeiffer in Up Close and Personal, did you? In regards to my idol, I praised her at the time as an obsessed fan, but I must accept in retrospect that her double 1999 star turn in The Deep End of the Ocean and The Story of Us (which I always think of together) are, like Streep's in Doubt, a strange mix of irritatingly off key and really great. Whenever that happens I wonder if the star is distracted by something we'll never know about on set or at home or in their heads... or if it's director or production problems that have worked their way into the editing bay.

Julianne Moore? Hmmm. Well, actually take a look at this image.

I meant to share this chart a few months ago when I first looked at it. This is a table of the biggest box office hits of Julianne Moore's career. Looking at it I suddenly realized why non-fans have sometimes had bizarre notions about the level of her talent. If all someone had seen was a handful of these and that handful didn't include both The Hours & Boogie Nights the casual moviegoer may have regarded either as flukes and been reasonably been misled into thinking that she wasn't that special and not understood the fuss. Not that she's bad in these movies but Julianne is a Kidman in the way that her best work is almost always in the most complicated and weirdest movies. i.e. the ones people have to be convinced to see either by nominations for awards or critics never shutting up about them. I've only thought Julianne was actively bad a few times. Let us never speak of Freedomland or Evolution or that scene in Laws of Attraction where she eats junk food again. Don't Speak! 

BRIAN: How do you feel about the word pretentious when used by film critics?

NATHANIEL: I hate it. Charitably it only means 'I don't like this person's ambitions,' whatever they may be. Uncharitably it can mean "I didn't understand this movie." It's as useless as the word "unforgettable" in film reviews. Real talk, film critics: We know you JUST walked out of that movie and are writing this for publication deadline tonight or tomorrow. Half the movies in existence are unforgettable for at least a good half hour after watching them. Save that word for a few months later at least so that it means something.

DANIEL: Did the work of Hilary Swank in The Homesman make you appreciate her more as an actress, or is she still hand in hand with Renée Zelwegger in your nemesis path? In terms of career which do you prefer ? Love from Brazil...

NATHANIEL: Big love right back at Brazil. The site has always had a big following in Brazil -- not sure why that is apart from Brazilians being awesome.

I made kind of a big deal about these two as my nemeses (I know some people think it's childish but it's like an internal barometer corrector since I'm The Man Who Loved Actresses Too Much.) but I don't deny their gifts. There are actresses I think are far less talented than either Hilary or Renee that are famous but they don't annoy me as much, largely I think because they don't appear in the type of films I am otherwise drawn to. I was actually a huge fan of Renée's from Jerry Maguire (1996) through Bridget Jones (2001) but irreconciliable differences; we had a brutal divorce soon thereafter.

I've never been a "fan" of Swank but I think she's just great in Boys Don't Cry (I have eyes) and she really is very good in The Homesman (2014), which I'd easily call her second best. Even in scenes that don't directly address it, unlike that touching faux-piano scene which does, she just comes across as ineffably sad but determined to march on. I think she could have made a real run for a nomination if the reviews had been better and if it had been a more straightforward film about her character rather than the shapeshifter movie that it was. 

Please chime in on my responses or with your own in the comments. 

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