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Entries in Dame Judi Dench (13)

Monday
May072012

Monday Monologue: Barbara's Revenge

Dame Judi Dench has been on my mind lately what with the eye condition, a new James Bond film coming and Marigold Hotel in theaters. So herewith an article from 2008. If you only started reading The Film Experience in the past few years, it's new to you! May is also Mental Health Awareness Month so let's appreciate some crazy bitches...

They always let you down in the end."

My contrarian opinion of Dame Judi Dench is that sometimes she phones it in. How many ways can one play the quippy unfazeable grande dame? But in Notes on a Scandal (2006), she's unimproveable. Faced with the atypical character of "Barbara Covett", Dench rises and soars. The film's politics are horrendous: boo hiss --an evil predatory spinster lesbian attempts to destroy a heteronormative marriage! But the actress is magnificent, giving the film a metronome precise drip drip of theatrical malice.

My favorite sequence in the film runs from Barbara's inconsolable grief for her lost feline, through the resulting perceived betrayal by Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), who doesn't have time to console her, to the exquisite sequence when she is confronted with another teacher with amorous feelings for Sheba. She boils with vengeance in mind.

You'd like me to ask Mrs Hart if she's inclined to commit adultery with you? I don't want you to suffer more than is necessary. No one should. I couldn't possibly speak for Mrs. Hart but instinct tells me you might not be her type. 

"She's got a type, then?" is her co-worker Brian's sad response. The film has a few exquisite and small supporting turns and Phil Davis (also terrific as the husband to Vera Drake) is aces in this scene, all befuddled crush turned to shell shock.

Kettle's boiled. Dench likes her tea with bile.

Oh it's no reflection on your attractiveness. My impression is that her preference is for the younger man...surprisingly young; Boys, I'm told. Naturally she doesn't discuss any of this with me but I've been hearing some rather alarming rumors about one in particular.

Playground gossip, staffroom whispers and so on. You might know the boy in question. Ummm... Stephen Connelly."

Brian indicates that her tea is ready.

I think the kettle's boiled.

[V.O.] You say the words and it's done. Easy. Judas had the grace to hang himself. But only according to Matthew, the most sentimental of the apostles. Is this the last night of her old life? I wonder how long my messenger will take?

People like Sheba think they know what it is to be lonely but of the drip drip of long haul no end in sight solitude, they know nothing. What it's like to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the laundrette or to be so chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor's hand sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin. Of this, Sheba and her like have no clue.

Dench's every line reading is carved out of the tough bark of decades of loneliness and cynicism; if you could cut through Barbara's hardened shell, you'd see disappointment and repression expanding like rings in an ancient tree. As the words escape her, she sharpens them to a lethal point with fermented emotions and curdled wit, wielding them like weapons. Earlier in the film, Barbara refers to herself as a battle axe. For a woman drowning in self-delusion, it's a surprising lucid self-assessment.

 

Sunday
Feb192012

Another Link

I Need My Fix Michael Fassbender to appear tonight... any moment now I guess given the time difference...on Top Gear (in the UK)
Movie|Line details all the messy pre-release problems surrounding John Carter. I hope to see it soon. I would so much rather see movies than hear about their production for months beforehand.
Rope of Silicon 'the ABCs of cinema'. How many of these 26 movies can you name. I had a tough time since it moves so fast (one minute) but it's a cool animation.
Coming Soon gets its hands on the diaries of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Associate Press Dame Judi Dench is fighting blindness via macular degeneration :(. Having scripts read to her now.
Guardian
interviews BAFTA's rising star winner Adam Deacon who is an unknown on these shores.
Serious Film our Michael C reveals his Best Actress ballot. We share three choices.
Animation Mag the theatrical run of the Oscar Shorts package has grown 80% in attendance over the past 7 years. Good to hear.
The Wrap shares the rumor that Jennifer Aniston nixed topless moment in the comedy Wanderlust out of consideration for new boyfriend Justin Theroux. I refuse to believe that Theroux is that touchy about nudity... especially since he's done it himself on my TV screen.

A Streaming Oscar Moment
If you understood Carrie Fisher as a kindred spirit when she famously said "Instant gratification takes too long." you should know that there are two Oscar nominees currently streaming here at Netflix. 

Oh damnit. I was going to list a Woody Allen documentary streaming on PBS but turns out it was only doing that for five days. This is the problem with "instant watch" anywhere and everywhere. SO inconsistent. It's always peek-a-boo. Clearly the distributing channels of entertainment have not quite caught up with audience's "gimmegimme" modern tendencies.

Finally...
Appropos of nothing, I'm kind of obsessed with this music video at the moment Henry Wolfe's "Someone Else". Sure it's almost a year old but I shall not be constricted by currency with my flash obsessions.

The Actress Brit Marling (Another Earth) stars -- you'll remember she just made the Vanity Fair rising stars cover -- and it's directed by Terri's writer/director Azazel Jacobs. I love music videos that treat themselves like short films and get how to take snapshots of larger stories and condense them. Henry Wolfe is, of course, Meryl Streep's son; you can totally see it in his profile. It probably drives the children of famous people crazy that people always mention the famous person they're related to but I really love his music and I might not have ever discovered him if I hadn't been chasing Streep info one day a few years ago and chanced upon one of his performances.

Monday
Oct102011

NYFF: "My Week With Marilyn" 

Poor Marilyn. The press hounded her. Fans would tear off pieces of her soul if they could. Co-stars and directors dissed her. Men wouldn't leave her alone (not that she wanted them to). And now Simon Curtis is holding yet another Monroe seance -- her soul will never rest in peace -- with his feature film debut My Week With Marilyn (2011),  a "true" story about the making of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).

True must come with quotes. The film is based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, the third assistant director on the "lightest of comedies" directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Can we trust the awestruck account of a young movie dreamer's version of his friendship and quasi-romance with the world's most famous actress? My Week With Marilyn emphatically does despite the amusingly placcid (if repetitive) moonyness with which the talented Eddie Redmayne portrays him, as if he's just as doped up as Marilyn, but much smarter about his cocktails of choice.

"Surprise!" Marilyn escapes with Colin Clark, lowly third assistant directorClark was 23 going on 24 when he met the immortal bombshell while hustling into the movies, landing his first job on a set through the help of his father's connections, despite the fact that the father did not approve of him 'running off to the circus'. The details of Clark's adventure in the movies are both acted out and explained to us in voiceover in the film's inelegant screenplay, which prefers for the characters to state the obvious or speak their psychologies aloud. Sometimes they even speak Marilyn's aloud; in the great transitive powers of true celebrity, everyone on earth is her psycho-therapist. Sometimes this obviousness of speech has comic payoffs (the film works best as a comedic clash between proper British theatrical training and idiot-savant American stardom) and once it even pays off both dramatically and comedically in a sadly funny scene where Colin Clark tells it like it is, succinctly, to Marilyn. He understands Marilyn and Olivier's mirrored goals and prophesies the failure of the movie.

Thought Balloons as dialogue and Michelle's performance after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep202011

Yes, No, Maybe So: "J. Edgar"

That vibration you're feeling on the ground, that telltale rippling disturbance in your glass, is the clomping arrival of one of 2011's (presumed) Oscar behemoths, Clint Eastwood's biopic of FBI man J Edgar Hoover called J Edgar [official site].

Don't wilt like a little flower. Be strong."

Which means we have to get down to our yes, no, maybe so breakdown of things that make us want to buy a ticket, run away screaming, or mull it over before committing. As a founding member of the oft reviled and totally misunderstood* 'Clint Eastwood is Overrated Club' I realize my breakdown will already be broken for some. But I do approach each trailer with as open a mind as I can muster given my general leanings. In this case everyone knows (and I'd never deny) that I vew cradle-to-grave biopics as the mustiest of all film genres; they aren't inherently cinematic with their staccato 'greatest hits' survey of life since movies are always strongest when they capture something seismic in miniature about a character, story, time, or theme that suggests rather than illustrates a major life beyond two hours.

YES

Is that legal?"

 

  • Ummm... welll... oh, okay. Got one. The font of the logo is excellent with those flamboyant J and G curls in the otherwise Serious Man signature.
  • Like everyone else I'm curious to see how well the actors handle the "alleged gays" material.
  • Maybe Armie Hammer has a lightness of tone that will help it. Though he looks vaguely brainless when he puppy smiles directly at Mr. Hoover, the "is that legal?" line has hints of mischief and love of life.
  • The shot of the John Dillinger death mask reminds us that plot point, already cinematized on its own, has plenty of juice should they squeeze.

The trailer in question and more commentary after the jump

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr072011

Supporting Actress Predix & Jessica Chastain

I don't have the patience or the time to research this but what do you suppose was the tipping point moment when Hollywood decided that they MUST have Jessica Chastain in every single movie in production? She's like Michael Fassbender's twin sister in terms of output. This happens fairly regularly with actors that Hollywood suspects you'll go crazy for. The most recent examples: Mia Wasikowska and Chloe Moretz. Sometimes the audience complies fawning all over the actor, other times they get all excited about the person as a celebrity but not as an actor (Colin Farrell's weird initial trajectory some years back), and other times they barely notice and don't care and Hollywood starts scrambling for another next big thing. [Editors note: Actually they're always scrambling for that even if you do embrace the one before.]

What will happen in 2011 with Jessica Ubiquity Chastain? Hollywood has gifted her with a potentially huge year. Will her work return that investment? Here's what her year is like...

Jessica Chastain in THE TREE OF LIFE

  • JAN - She co-starred with Michael Shannon in Sundance hit "TAKE SHELTER"
  • FEB - She started filming "THE WETTEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD" with an all star ensemble that includes Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman.
  • MAR - She turned the big 3-0.
  • MAY - She stars as Brad Pitt's wife in Terrence Malick's long awaited drama "THE TREE OF LIFE"
  • JUL - She co-stars with Chloe Moretz and Sam Worthington in the thriller "THE FIELDS"
  • AUG - She plays the young version of Helen Mirren in 'THE DEBT" and is part of the Southern ensemble in "THE HELP" with Emma Stone.
  • NOV - She co-stars with acclaimed thesps Ralph Fiennes & Vanessa Redgrave in the Shakespearean adaptation "CORIOLANUS"
  • TBA -- She's supposedly completed work on Terrence Malick's Tree of Life follow up picture which stars Rachel McAdams. She's also Salome in "WILDE SALOME" which is Al Pacino's documentary about Oscar Wilde's play. It might come out this year.  If you've ever seen his Looking for Richard, we imagine it'll be like that - totally worth seeing if you're into the theater, the playwright in question and don't mind listening to actors indulgently talk about their craft (I don't just not mind this. I love this) but otherwise you probably won't care.

My god. Does she ever sleep?

I realize that Terrence Malick's films have never resulted in an acting Oscar nomination but there's a first time for everything and one has to assume she'll be in the 2011 conversation in some way even if it's just "oh my god there she is again!" I've included her in the predicted five because honestly, this is the hardest time I've ever had predicting Best Supporting Actress a Year in Advance. None of the roles/film/star matchups are screaming ME!

I am totally anxious to hear your thoughts on this entirely foggy category. This category requires psychic powers and perhaps mine are on the fritz.