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Entries in Elisabeth Moss (8)

Friday
Dec262014

Entertainers of the Year, An Alternate Take

Year in Review. Two yummy lists each day. Here's Matthew Eng on "Entertainers of the Year"

Let’s face it: Jimmy Fallon is an okay if utterly predictable choice for Entertainment Weekly’s annual “Entertainer of the Year” title, which can occasionally become more of an honor for being widely-known and well-liked than, you know, being consistently entertaining. (Have they made a truly interesting choice since that three-year, Oscar-certified run of Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Denzel Washington from 2000-02?)

Rather than continue to pat the backs of those like Ben Affleck, Taylor Swift, Robert Downey, Jr., and J.K. Rowling – i.e. prominent pop culture presences and former “Entertainers of the Year” whose dominance over their respective industries is already deep and durable – let’s take a moment to honor some of our favorite hard-working actors and actresses who zig-zagged across mediums this year, making crucial contributions to the entertainment landscape, but who likely won’t be collecting any golden statues for their unique and indispensable achievements in 2014.

 

Alan Cumming, who lent his impish, adventurous energy to two wildly disparate roles this year, reprising his bawdily iconic take as the Emcee in Roundabout’s Cabaretrevival, while continuing to play his most unusual role as the sardonic and perpetually stressed-out campaign manager Eli Gold on The Good Wife, which is still the best thing on television. It’s a testament to Cumming’s versatility that he seems equally at home warbling in an evening gown and defiling chorus boys, as he does striding around an office and barking into a cellphone. In between suiting-up on screen and dressing down on stage, Cumming also penned a moving and well-reviewed memoir about his troubled childhood in Scotland entitled Not My Father’s Son.


Viola Davis, who continues to be better than any of the material she’s given, but still acts the hell out of everything she appears in, all the same. I’ve already written about how gorgeously she improves the standard mother-son arc of Get On Up, but let’s also give Davis her due for surpassing such esteemed company as Jessica Chastain and Isabelle Huppert to present the only credible human being in that weirdly noncommittal triptych The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in which she plays Chastain’s professor and newfound confidante to weary, seen-it-all perfection. And finally, I still have my fingers crossed that How to Get Away with Murder will work some Scandal-like magic and pick up as it goes, but Davis is unqualifiedly great and effortlessly magnetic even amid mediocrity. We can never stop beating the drum for this gloriously gifted woman.

Lindsay Duncan, who, yes, played an indelible cobra as Birdman’s venomous voice of theatrical critique, but who also single-handedly dispels the lazy claims that 2014 was a weak year for lead actressing. I wish enough “pundits” would take it upon themselves to journey past their Wilds and Gone Girls and take a well-deserved look at Roger Michell’s marital dramedy Le Week-end, in which Duncan and a never-better Jim Broadbent work through the poignantly personal travails of ripened couplehood while celebrating their anniversary in Paris. Proudly reckless, boldly tetchy, and gleefully tongue-in-cheek, Week-end’s Meg is a marvel of deliciously detailed characterization and one of the acting achievements of the year, thanks to Duncan’s slyly sublime sorcery. (I mean, that voice alone!) Duncan’s also currently on the boards as Glenn Close’s acerbic, alcoholic sister in the revival of Albee’s A Delicate Balance and she’s still a staple on British television, having made appearances this year on SherlockBlack Mirror’s jaw-dropper of a first episode “The National Anthem” (only recently made available on Netflix), and The Honorable Woman, providing the latter with a quietly memorable take on the exasperated ex-wife, which leads us to…


Maggie Gyllenhaal, who never really reached the summits of critic-stamped screen stardom that surely seemed attainable during the Secretary and Sherrybaby days, but who has nonetheless continued to offer terrific and thoughtful work across a variety of mediums. New Yorkers have a little more than a week to catch her in the current revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (closing January 4th), in which Gyllenhaal pairs her usual flair for emphatic (if often unstable) eroticism with an intriguingly assured intelligence as an impassioned actress who throws herself heart-first into a relationship with a married playwright. She’s hilariously and cuttingly unhinged as the only reason worth watching Frank, playing the bitter, Bening-ish bandmate/protector of Michael Fassbender’s bobble-headed lead singer. Gyllenhaal’s great in both projects, but she’s downright fantastic in The Honorable Woman, the BBC miniseries that is equal parts timely political thriller and trenchant character study, and which has given Gyllenhaal her juiciest role in years as an unraveling Anglo-Israeli arms heiress urgently trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Gyllenhaal’s elegant and emotionally daring performance is just another compelling reason to keep this weirdly underappreciated actress in play.

Gaby Hoffmann, who is a national treasure. Besides providing such selfless, straight-shooting support to Obvious Child, ensuring that the film remain a warm and witty sketch of a circle of intimates rather than a lopsided vanity project, and giving Girls’ third season a welcome dose of droll derangement as Adam Driver’s loopy sister, Hoffmann is fully deserving of the praise and prizes that Jeffrey Tambor has received for Jill Soloway’s miraculous series Transparent. The entire familial ensemble (to include Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and Judith Light) clicks like crazy, with each performer projecting a whole host of complex and authentically-layered affinities, histories, and antipathies around one another, but it’s Hoffmann’s work as impetuous, indecisive baby sister Ali that has somehow lingered the most in my mind. It’s one thing to take the role of the caustic, cash-strapped family fuck-up and make her funny, charming, and inappropriate. It’s another thing entirely to invest so much extra ruefulness, wistfulness, selfishness, self-righteousness, sexiness, continually shifting sensibleness, and totally committed weirdness into a single character that she becomes someone we not only know, but someone we are unable to remember not knowing.

John Lithgow, who has had quite an enviable hot streak this year, the crowning achievement of which is his beautifully loose and lived-in performance as one half of 2014’s most believable onscreen couple, gay or otherwise, in Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange. In addition to his affecting and attentive leading man work, Lithgow also made his mark in two other noteworthy releases, imbuing bit parts in both The Homesman and Interstellar with muted, offhanded conviction. And that’s just on screen! Lithgow also gave good Lear in the Public’s August Shakespeare in the Park production, nailing the punchy imperiousness while adding an ungainliness to the declining King that in its plaintive way was just as tragic as any of the Bard’s plot turns. He’s also currently co-starring with Duncan in that same production of A Delicate Balance, closing out a banner year with yet another reminder that our most abiding and admired talents have endless shades to show us.

Elisabeth Moss, who, on the basis of her sterling work on the Sundance circuit, proves once again that she will be just fine when Don Draper lights up for the last time. She earned raves this year as Jason Schwartzman’s straying, sympathetic girlfriend in Listen Up Philip and rejuvenated some run-of-the-mill themes about marital devotion inThe One I Love with such a persuasive mix of pep and precision that I hardly noticed their familiarity. I’m excited by the prospect of Moss becoming a full-time film presence, but I hope she gets handed at least half as dynamic a role as Peggy Olson, whose professional rise and personal stalling-out Moss continued to chart with instinctive emotionality and endless empathy on the first half of Mad Men’s final season, which began with Peggy collapsing in tears on her apartment floor and ended with her officially taking the reigns from her former boss-turned-humbled colleague. Even if Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe voters failed to appreciate the magnificence of Moss’ work this year, those of us still watching can take pride in seeing this superbly skillful actress finish off her work as one of TV’s most beloved heroines before heading off into the promising future that awaits her.

Monday
Apr282014

Tribeca: Bits and Pieces

Glenn wrapping up his Tribeca film coverage with five films including Elisabeth Moss, Roman Polanski, Emory Cohen, Melonie Diaz, and the memory of a fashion icon.

The One I Love

Catching up with this high-concept romance after having missed it at Sundance was a good idea. Taking a Twilight Zone-ish twist to the relationship dramedy we see so often at festivals and on the indie scene, Charlie McDowell’s feature debut is a visually playful metaphysical look at marriage and the memory of love that is ultimately rewarding and inventive. Elisabeth Moss continues to be on top form following Mad Men, Top of the Lake, and Listen Up Philip with her role here, while Mumblecore graduate Mark Duplass gives fine if less attention-grabbing work as her somewhat dull husband.

The story is too complex to get into here (and yet easy to follow so don’t worry about this just being a winsome Upstream Color), and it’s probably best audiences go in as blind as possible to the twists that it takes with the story of a crumbling marriage and the retreat they take to the country where, apparently, everybody comes back refreshed and more in love than ever. Filmed in warm, picturesque yellow tones and with refined, yet deliberately essential production design, The One I Love is a winner that will likely be wonderful to revisit. B+

Venus in Fur, Under the Harvest Sky, Dior and I and X/Y after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan302014

Sundance Wrap-Up / Review Index

Thanks to everyone who commented on or read our Sundance coverage! We braved Park City's confounding bus system for you, you know. (If you appreciated it why not like us on Facebook and follow Michael and Glenn and I on twitter?)  I had attended Sundance twice before. Once before I was a writer during college and once officially as press in 2010 when the highlight was dancing with Parker Posey at a party! But this felt like a first time again, mostly because I brought a team so we did it up right. Well, mostly right. 75% right. We definitely didn't attend enough parties but there's always next year if -- no, I can't even think about leaving NYC again any time soon. I've woken up in my own cozy bed the past few mornings for the first time in two weeks (a quick LA trip was before Sundance, remember) and it feels great.

Park City was not without its charms. I got to take a ski lift "to work" each day which was fun. 

those are not actually tears of joy but tears from the cold

(Those are not actually tears of joy I'm shedding but tears from the cold. I love that kind of bracing cold weather.  But I digress.)

Between the three of us we saw over 60 films and wrote up half of them up for you! We'll get around to some of the others eventually... but the constant barrage of Sundance coverage must now end since it's Oscar time.

THE AWARDS
The Official Sundance Prizes in case you missed them. I heard joking on twitter that if you screen at Sundance you win an award but this isn't actually true. Of the 42 pictures we wrote about (!!!) only 7 of them won something.

Elisabeth Moss had every reason to smile at SundanceMY PERSONAL JURY OF ONE PRIZES
PICTURE: Love is Strange or Boyhood
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
ACTRESS: All hail Elisabeth Moss. For many actors "Peggy" on Mad Men would be a crowning glory. But after Top of the Lake and now, for our Sundance purposes, Listen Up Philip (reviewed) and The One I Love, it seems clear that Moss is just warming up. Embarassingly talented. 
ACTOR: Alfred Molina & John Lithgow in tandem in Love is Strange
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Vera Vitali, Blind
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jonathan Pryce, Listen Up Philip
MOST BEAUTIFUL: Andrew Leung in Lilting
BEST CAMEO: Shirley Venard, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
FUNNIEST BABY: Jude Swanberg in Happy Christmas 

OUR COVERAGE in alpha order by film
52 Tuesdays (Glenn) - world cinema director winner
Appropriate Behavior (Nathaniel) 
Blind (Nathaniel) - world cinema screenplay winner
Blue Ruin (Michael)
Boyhood (Nathaniel)
Calvary (Michael)
Cooties (Glenn)
Dear White People (Michael) - breakthrough talent winner
Drunktown's Finest (Glenn)
Ernest & Celestine (Tim, screened before the festival)
The Girl From Nagasaki (Glenn)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Glenn)
God's Pocket (Michael)
Happy Christmas (Nathaniel)
Happy Valley (Glenn)
Hellion (Nathaniel)
Hits (Michael)
I Origins (Glenn) -walter p sloan winner
Infinitely Polar Bear (Nathaniel)
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter (Nathaniel) - original music winner
Laggies (Michael)
Land Ho! (Glenn)
Last Days of Vietnam (Glenn)
Life Itself (Michael)
Lilting (Nathaniel) -world cinema cinematography winner
Listen Up Philip (Glenn)
Love is Strange (Nathaniel)
Mitt (Michael)
My Prairie Home (Glenn)
Only Lovers Left Alive (Michael, screened before the festival)
Obvious Child (Michael)
Private Violence (Glenn)
The Raid 2 (Glenn)
Rich Hill (Glenn) - Grand Jury Documentary winner
Song One (Nathaniel)
Stranger By The Lake (Nathaniel, screened before the festival) 
The Trip To Italy (Michael)
The Voices (Nathaniel)
War Story (Nathaniel) 
Web Junkie (Nathaniel)
What We Do In the Shadows (Glenn)
White Shadow (Nathaniel) 

Saturday
Jan252014

Sundance: Sophomore Directors Soar in 'Listen Up Philip' & 'I Origins'

Watching Alex Ross Perry’s mumblecore comedy The Color Wheel or Mike Cahill’s ambitious, but disappointing Another Earth in 2011 can’t really prepare you for their sophomore efforts, both of which premiered in Park City. Both Listen Up Philip and I Origins demonstrate a near stratospheric development for the pair in virtually every conceivable way. Cahill, especially, appears to have finally found a compelling way to conclude his high-concepts, which was one of the most frustrating elements of his debut. Perry on the other hand, has taken all of the promise found within his Indie Spirit-nominated gem and spun it into a literary tapestry that unfolds delicately and yet at breakneck speed.

You’d be forgiven for being taken entirely by surprise with Listen Up Philip thanks to its vivid, golden colourful strokes of 16mm beauty appearing in stark contrast to the minimalist aesthetic of his debut. Even more surprising is the structure that delightfully plays with audience expectations regarding the direction of certain characters. Just when you think Perry’s astute screenplay is teetering on the verge of monotony, it veers ever so delicately so that you may barely even notice. It’s a wonderful little game of bait and switch that helps make the film feel more intricate and less like two straight hours of people talking.

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Tuesday
Jan142014

Red Carpet Globe Lineups

I'm frantically trying to prep my final Oscar predictions (so difficult this year. Wheeee) and realizing with great sadness that I don't have anymore time to talk about the Golden Globes. Oh, that they'd space things out a little. So herewith some hastily assembled photos and super brief gawking at Globe looks. 

Starting with a gallery I've dubbed "Trying Too Hard / Barely Trying" -- guess who's doing which? -- and moving on to best & worst after the jump...

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