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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 | deviantart 


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Entries in Film Bitch Awards (70)


There Are No Small Parts. Beauty from the Margins

One of my favorite activities each year is compiling a list of actors who really nailed their brief but not necessarily coveted roles. Oh sure sometimes a small part is a true get and key to the narrative. There's no way to watch 12 Years a Slave, for example, and miss the importance of "Mistress Shaw", so perfectly rendered by Alfre Woodard. And some tiny parts are designed as cameos for stars: think Jean DuJardin and Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street. But the bulk of small roles each year in any actor's medium, go unnoticed with the actors adding depth to the ensemble and colors to the director or writer or showrunner's palette. Me, I love looking at the peripheries and seeing which actors are hungry, which find ways to maximize their tertiary characters or simply inhabit them so well that you get everything you need in that one scene or, if they're lucky, two scenes.

There are few things more unexpectedly satisfying than feeling like you could follow a minor character off into their own movie just this side of the screen. It makes the movie you're watching that much richer. 

Consider David Dastmalchian who plays the key suspect "Bob Taylor" in Prisoners. The actor pops up from time to time in sinister roles (he recently played a serial killer on "Almost Human"). I suspect this is the result of lazy amateur physiognomy happening in casting offices: Angular Face = EVIL! But he was so weirdly sympathetic but "off" and damaged in this role that I kept wanting to recast the movie in my head, and give him Paul Dano's role instead. More please.

Sometimes the face is more familiar but as far from ubiquitous as its possible to be. There's a lot to be said for casting directors that don't rely on whichever character actors happens to be all the rage to plug in to any movie here or there.

Remember Polly Draper from thirtysomething? I was happy to see her pop up in Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects but I figured it would be a disposable part. In lesser hands, maybe. All aspiring actors should watch roles like this. Lead roles are very hard to come by but there are no small parts. If you get one, texture it. Serve the narrative but give it enough specificity that we could follow you right out of the scene.

It was difficult to narrow down my "Best Limited Role / Cameo" category this year. Eventually I settled on ten players ranging from little known talents like Hilary Baack (The East), to sitcom stars Kaitlyn Olson (I can't tell you how much I love that "Tatiana" scene in The Heat) and treasured characters actors like Robin Bartlett and F Murray Abraham (both from Inside Llewyn Davis) and yes, even movie stars. They're much less shy about doing "small parts" than they once were.

And, no, you're not even safe from the McConaissance here...

Begin your chest-thumping chants and read on...


Best of the Year: Introducing... Nathaniel's Top Thirteen

I've waited so long to share my top ten list that it's become a crushing psychic weight, a symbol of my failure to keep up in this strange Oscar season I've had.  I realized today that if I didn't share it on this very day, it wouldn't happen at all which is unthinkable. TRADITION. TRADITION...... TRADITION  

We're all eager to move on to 2014 but I personally can't make the calendar leap without the Film Bitch Awards (and the Oscars, duh). They're my own internal clock and how I clock the film years. If I could rewind said clock I'd watch all the movies again. They're all dusty now, like cherished objects I shoved into closets or drawers for reasons of clutter when people were coming over. Now I can't remember where I've left them or why it was I thought they were worth hoarding in the first place. 

You still with me? Oh god stay with me. This is my moment of neurotic need! 

If this were a top twenty I'd be writing about these films too, in random order: two animated charmers Frozen and Ernest & Celestine, Joe Swanberg & Jane Adams little seen but extremely worthwhile collaboration All the Light in the Sky, 2012's Spanish Oscar submission Blancanieves (released in the states this year), Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring... "I wanna rob", two gargantuan blockbusters I seemed to have liked more than most sentient life forms Iron Man 3 and World War Z and the dark, gripping and literally labyrinthine Prisoners. Does that make twenty-one pictures? I'm bad at maths.

Now, the hard part. Hierarchies of wonderment. To break free of the mental shackles that have been holding me back from writing and sharing this list, a self-imposed directive: I am putting each one of these in my DVD player (the joy of screeners) and shuffling to a random scene. Wherever it lands I watch one minute to jog my memory and write whatever comes to mind. Get it? Let's go.  

(Spike Jonze)
Warner Bros. December 18th.
126 minutes

... and Action [98:24] we enter mid montage during a Scarlett Johansson rendition of "Moon Song"...

Click to read more ...


Nathaniel's Ballot: Supporting Actress & Breakthroughs

Scrambling to finish my own Film Bitch Awards now, as Oscar night looms. Two new categories announced today: Best Supporting Actress completes the traditional Oscar parallel categories. It won't surprise you to see Oscar nominees Lupita Nyong'o and Sally Hawkins listed but otherwise I'm off-Oscar with three other acting triumphs I just couldn't shake. They deserve longer write-ups but the tradition requires these mini-capsules.

I've also added The Breakthrough Category because it's not right to let the year go by without naming the five newish actors I'm most excited to see again. The list begins with 17 year olds Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12)  & Tye Sheridan (Mud) -- who'll soon be co-stars! --  and continues on through the oldest, The Great Gatsby's Elizabeth Debicki, 23, who is only 23 so it's a really young group this year. Debicki was so grabby a screen presence that she didn't get lost in Baz's gaudy party but somehow became the life of it. Too bad she's barely in it!

And, ICYMI, it Best Songs, Scores and Sound


Best Actress: Nathaniel's Ballot & Oscars

It's time to get back to our Film Bitch Awards. I've 18 days to finish everything. Give me strength! 

I was rooting for Brie Larson all season, but Oscar had bigger stars in mind

When it comes to Oscar's Best Actress field this year I'd rank the performances in this order without hesitation: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) > Adams (Hustle) ≥ Streep (August) > Dench (Philomena) > Bullock (Gravity). But as usual my own lineup differs quite a lot. I looked beyond the twelve titles that voters were considering nominating for Best Picture and then conveniently dropping onto their ballots in each and every other category. I also had to consider shoeless Emma (Mr Banks) who obviously just-missed Oscar's cut-off since they were all about their ol' standbys this year (this year's amalgam of all five contenders has been nominated 7.6 times which is probably a statistical "most" record in any acting category). So in addition to Oscar's conversation topics I took long hard looks at the Before... franchise's Julie Delpy again (she was nominated right here in 2004), Jane Adams and Paulina Garcia in the little seen arthouse gems All the Light in the Sky and Gloria respectively, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said), too. And then there were the fresh faces (well, fresh before the spaghetti sauce and sobbing) like Adele Exarchopoulus and familiar young stars like Brie Larson (Short Term 12) and Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha) who are just now coming into what feels like their true power as screen stars. I even considered Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, she of the perfect line readings, who was quite unjustly robbed of a Golden Globe comedy nomination this year. 

It was a tough call. I tore my imaginary hair out. In the end, as always, you want six or seven nominees but you conly get five. And here they are with my capsule comments... The Best Actresses of 2013.

P.S. If Oscar voters choose anyone other than Cate Blanchett, it's going to be so catastrophic for my mental health that you'll see me on a park bench somewhere in 2014 chattering away to no one in particular as I replay the events of 2013 endlessly on a loop, torturing myself as to how it all went so terribly wrong.

P.P.S. The Best Actress Oscar Page now has "how they were nominated?" theorizing and a reader poll

P.P.P.S. Like TFE on Facebook and follow Nathaniel on twitter. Why haven't you already? Lot of exciting plans for 2014 including more interactivity with you.


Film Bitch Awards: Actor & Supporting Actor

I haven't forgotten about The Film Bitch Awards, also known as "Nathaniel's Ballot" that once grand internet tradition (14 years now, Jesus!) that has been eroded by my time management problems. But no more. I'm turning over new leaves in 2014, you'll see, and so we begin now with the catch-ups.

And now 43 words it gives me great pleasure to type...

Elyes Aguis Kyle Chandler Bradley Cooper Chris Cooper Bruce Dern Leonardo DiCaprio Paul Eenhoorn Chiwetel Ejiofor Michael Fassbender James Franco James Gandolfini Jake Gyllenhaal Tom Hanks Sergio Hernandez Oscar Isaac Hugh Jackman Jared Leto Matthew McConaughey Mads Mikkelsen Tye Sheridan and Keith Stanfield 

And that's just the cream that rose to the top for yours truly when it came time to sort out my thoughts on the best performances by men this year at the cinema. Though supporting actor was lean, the leading men more than made up for it. It was such an unusually rich year that I, the internet's ringleader for actressexuality, am arguably or at least sometimes more excited about Best Actor than Best Actress. This has little precedence.

The whys and the whos on great work from 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, Spring Breakers, to Inside Llewyn Davis and beyond...
Three previously posted ballots: ANIMATED FEATURE, CASTING AND ENSEMBLE 


Year in Review: Best Ensembles & Best Casting

To the tune of Madonna's "Music" ♫

Hey Mr Director, get your ensemble on, all the guys & ladies
And once the movie starts
don't ever let them stop, they're gonna drive me crazy

People make the movie come together - yeah

As annoying as it was in 2003 when Mystic River was attempting to halt the inevitable Lord of the Rings coronation with a sort of 'people are the best special effects!' Oscar campaign, the sentiment was true and remains so. I've been going to all kind of movies my whole life and  I've yet to see anything that's as remarkable as the happily regular occurence of weird electricity and true magic sparking when fine actors collide, collude, combust or cooperate.

So as we're all celebrating the holidays with our own personal ensembles of friends and family, I thought it would be a good time to honor the most special collections of players in 2013.  I can never let the Screen Actors Guild have the last word on this matter because, though acting is their raison d'etre, they never get this category right, opting for popular Oscar bound films with big casts and not really thinking about the WHOLE cast, and how all those players are interacting and bouncing off or working together. This year, they chose August: Osage County, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and I think two of those are really poor choices (though I like all five films) when you're thinking about the acting collective as opposed to just one or two performances within it. SAG's past history suggests that they're only comfortable with "star" ensembles so they were never going to go for fine teams like Frances Ha and Short Term 12 but why not Prisoners which is a sharp example of stars NOT connecting with each other on purpose. Everyone in that cast is alone since all the characters are horrified by each other (and sometimes themselves), trapped in their own personal grief and grievances.

When you're talking about great ensemble work I think you're also talking about fine direction and smart casting, though there are exceptions. Two fascinating examples of how complicated this all gets in that you can have one without the other(s) are August: Osage County and 12 Years a Slave. A:OC has a lot of fine actors in it but the director John Wells can't figure out how to see all of them at once, opting too often for shot / reverse shot when he needs to widen the camera or choreograph them differently so we can watch them together. I've never understood why so many contemporary directors have trouble absorbing this concept since their peers who are skillful at shooting group scenes are hardly obscurities. Just watch a couple of movies by David O. Russell and Paul Thomas Anderson (or classic departed directors like Wyler or Altman) and you'll instantly be smarter about ensemble vision; They know exactly when to go to or stay with a two-shot or a three or four or even five shot... Hell, get everybody in there -- the more the merrier! As for 12 Years, I'm on record as complaining about the casting. Too many of its (white) supporting players are too familiar as  faces go which, in a lesser movie, would really derail the existential horror. But there's no denying that when this cast is acting together it's absolutely electric... I still get chills thinking about the way Michael Fassbender leans on his co-stars like they're his furniture and the way the various actors playing the slaves freeze up whenever they're being observed and the multiple nuances of when the actors are willing to look at each other and when they're too scared or smart to. It's all top notch work but if the director wasn't wise enough to let you see this -- and many directs aren't, just stiching 90 minutes of establishing shots and close-ups together and calling it a movie -- the ensemble probably wouldn't be winning as much praise.

Without further ado... My Nominations for Best Casting & Best Ensemble

And, in case you haven't seen THR's Casting Roundtable. I watched it only after making my lists since I didn't want to be unduly influenced but it's completely interesting. 

I only wish they could have found room for Rich Delia and Douglas Aibel, since I'm honoring both this year.


FYCs, Ours and Yours

I intended to write a couple of entries of my own "FYCs" this year for our team project but realized that's essentially what my annual FiLM BiTCH Awards double as. I'm almost ready to go ahead with those, which range from the traditional awards categories through to dozens of fun "extras". I'm fully aware that the last two years of TFE's own prizes have been a bit shaky in terms of speed and completion,  but this year I shan't drag my feet since my circumstances here have changed. I need your help, though, with the "extra categories"  and the music categories (I am always lost with Best Score) so don't let me forget any perfect gems. What should I consider in the fields of: Best Cameo, Line Reading, Action Sequence, Kiss, Sex Scene, Credit Sequence, Opening Scene, Ending, Musical Moment? 


In the meantime, in case you missed any our "Fringe" FYCs for traditional categories, which aimed to widen the conversation and give awards voters a bit more options to think through than the 15 films they keep hearing about, please click around: Cinematography Her | Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus |  Make-up Evil Dead (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Costume Design Blue Jasmine Score Ain't Them Bodies Saints Sound Editing The Conjuring | Actor Tye Sheridan | Film Editing Stories We Tell | Screenplay In a World... | Supporting Actor Keith Stanfield | Song The Great Gatsby | Score Nebraska (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Costume Design Lawrence Anyways | Foreign Film Neighboring Sounds | Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz | Picture The Spectacular Now | Make-Up Warm Bodies (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration) | Sound Mixing World War Z | Director Edgar Wright | Production Design The Conjuring 

And three earlier suggestions before we formally began... Best Young Performer (for BFCA voters... though they didn't listen) |  Supporting Actor Ulysses the Cat (probably technically not eligible for Oscar consideration) | Make-Up Warm Bodies (no longer eligible for Oscar consideration).

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