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Entries in Isabelle Huppert (9)

Tuesday
Jan212014

Tuesday Top Ten: Working Actors In Need of an Oscar Nomination

[Editor's note: The last time I published a list of this sort Christian Bale was way up top and then The Fighter happened. Time for a new look at the Oscar Nomination-less. While I'm in Sundance, abstew steps in with his list. My list (and I'm sure yours) might not be exactly the same but... discuss! - Nathaniel]

This past Thursday, when the Oscar nominations were announced, only eight actors were hearing their names called for the first time (the Best Actress category was all previous nominees and 80% winners). Some were for film debuts (Lupita Nyong'o and Barkhad Abdi), but for the other 6 names (Ejiofor, McConaughey, Fassbender, Leto, Hawkins, and Squibb) it was their first recognition from the Academy after years of hard work and dedication to their craft. But not every great actor ever gets to hear their name called Oscar nomination morning. Despite powerful performances and decades of service to the film industry, sometimes a nomination (let alone a win) evades the greats. For some, the oversite will never be remedied (Marilyn Monore, Edward G. Robinson, Myrna Loy, Peter Lorre, Jean Harlow, and John Barrymore are just some of Hollywood's finest that went without the prefix Academy Award Nominee), but for many great actors still working today there is still time. In honor of those overlooked artists, I present 10 actors that continue to give us astounding performances year after year that deserve to have their work recognized with an Oscar nomination. 

Honorable Mention:

Not Now, But Soon: Benedict Cumberbatch, Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hardy, and Greta Gerwig We May Have Lost Them to Television: Steve Buscemi, Robin Wright, Kevin Bacon, Lili Taylor, and Kerry Washington Comedians That Get No Respect: Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Carol Burnett Still Great Despite Not Making the Top Ten: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hugh Grant, Hope Davis, John Cusack, and, of course, Mia Farrow (who rarely works now)

10. Gong Li
Should've Been a ContenderJu Dou (1990), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Farewell My Concubine (1993), To Live (1994), Breaking the Silence (2000), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

With a series of well-received films in the early 90s, Gong Li became the face of Chinese cinema. The actress and her frequent director Zhang Yimou are frequently credited for bringing Chinese cinema to the awareness of American and European audiences. Their collaboration, Ju Dou, was the first film from China to ever be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Despite groundbreaking work in such films as Raise the Red Lantern and Farewell My Concubine (which won her a New York Film Critics Circle award), the Academy has yet to nominate this influential actress. In 2005, she made her Hollywood film debut appearing in Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha (her first film in which she performed in English–she learned her lines phonetically) and winning a National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress. But a nomination still eluded her. After a few more turns in Hollywood (Miami Vice and Hannibal Rising), she seems to have slowed down and hasn't appeared on screen since 2011 (which is essentially why she's not higher on the list). She is currently filming the aptly named Return, which reunites her with Zhang Yimou. Hopefully the film is also a return to Oscar's attention or, at the very least, more work. The cinema needs Gong Li's face.

Nine more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep072013

TIFF Shocker: Isabelle Huppert is "Perverse" Again

I like to start my film festivals with an atypical choice just to get the globe-trotting adventures rolling. So my first screening at TIFF, which I drunkenly forgot the name of the night before --  "Undefebeatable?" "Indestructafeated" -- was a mixed martial arts 'ultimate fighting' movie. I don't only watch movies about actresses, people! Those are just the ones I like best is all. I chased the MMA fighters with some Romanian actressing and French perversity... although it was more like Romanian Actress Perversity (Lhuminita) AND French Actress Perversity (Huppert - who else?)

So basically this was me settling in with each movie on Day One.

Movies make me feel goooooooood.

UNBEATABLE
In many ways Dante Lam's mixed martial arts fighting movie is just one giant wheel of cheese. It's a wheel of cheese so big I was reminded fo the cheez-it commercial as it rolls through Hunnan, Beijing, Macau and into Hong Kong before it slams into its bone crunching finales.  The movie never met a plot advancing montage it didn't like and there's a lot of plot so cue the music again! (I may never be able to hear "The Sound of Silence" without shuddering at the ways its egregiously deployed here and the incongruous things it accompanies.)

Eddie Peng & Nick Cheung are trainee and coach in Unbeatable

Yet despite these deal breakers, the only thing broken is a few bones but no spoilers! The movie totally works and that's largely due to its character focus even though it clearly knows how to stage and film a fight scene, something that too few action movies can claim. Nick Cheung headlines as a one time shady boxing champ who has fallen so far in life that he can't shake the name "Scumbag" even though he's become a decent guy. Taiwanese Canadian actor Eddie Peng is his young fiercely committed protege and the film. Their chemistry is so great that they can even pull off a really funny winking scene about the latent homoeroticism of wrestling without making you hate them The acting from the supporting players is broad, sure, but vivid. The actress playing a young girl Scumbag befriends (I can't find her name) gets some of the best scenes and a really great final moment -- "Come stomp on me!" which makes playful make-believe violence into affection. And also accurately describes both the movies love of its genre and the masochistic impulses of the MMA set. Unbeatable isn't really unbeatable as movies go but it is not remotely unenjoyable. B

CHILD'S POSE
Romania's great actress Lhuminita Gheorghiu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu, 4 Months3 Weeks and 2 Days) has a doozy of a role in Child's Pose. Her character Cornelia, is a rich and smug society wife. Cornelia is rarely seen without a drink in one hand and a stubby cigarette in the other and she still has hands free for figuratively greasing palms around town, or literally greasing down her son's back in one provocative scene. Let's just say that she seems to be a spiritual film cousin to Angelica Huston's Lily in The Grifters. One might derisively and accurately refer to Cornelia as "a piece of work."

This fine Romanian picture (is there another kind?) won the Golden Bear in Berlin earlier this year and is now the country's Oscar submission for the upcoming Foreign Film race. The best thing about Child's Pose, aside from Lhuminita's intense gripping star turn, might be the way it so thoroughly isn't what it keeps seeming to be. Cornelia is the anti-hero of this fine Romanian picture (is there another kind?) a woman who will stop at nothing to keep her son from being held responsible for a car accident which killed a young boy. But to the movie's credit she doesn't appear to be at first (when your sympathies are with her, or at least warily near her - she's not exactly a warm presence) and doesn't quite remain so even after her often heinous behavior. It's a slippery thorny picture, forcing you to observe lots of ugly situations, and confront relatable if unpleasant emotions as it shapeshifts subtly from biting satire about the entitlement of wealth, to really uncomfortable family drama, to tense bureaucratic police procedural. It finally comes crashing head on into the ugly truth, the very thing Cornelia is most eager to swerve around. B+

Isabelle Huppert as Maud as Catherine Breillat in Abuse of Weakness

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS
I still have psychic scars from Catherine Breillat's breakthrough Romance (1999) though I tried not to hold that against her when viewing her latest. Abuse of Weakness is an indulgent autobiographical picture of sorts though Catherine is now going by "Maud". Contrary to what any synopsis and the film's first couple of reels suggest the picture is not really about the director's physical illness, but about a post-stroke relationship with a conman who fleeced her of all her money.

The film opens exceptionally well with credits over white sheets which begin to move oddly, trouble broiling under the pristine surface. The camera moves until we're looking at cinema's great chilly ginger Isabelle Huppert, as Maud, writhing about naked and then very disconcertingly dropping to the floor, her body betraying her. The first few scenes reenact  Breillat's debilitating stroke and her physical therapy but the picture doesn't really get started until Maud falls for a true "character" she sees on television, Vilko (Kool Shen) telling her assistant that they just don't make actors like that. She invites the criminal to be the star of her new picture and they begin a friendship wherein he drops in repeatedly and begins to "borrow" money from her. He also repeatedly calls her "perverse" which Isabelle/Maud/Catherine obviously enjoy hearing said about them. Vilko is coldly hesitant to help her in and out of chairs and up and down stairs when she's physically struggling but he's right there with a helpful hand to hold down the checkbook while she scribbles on it.

This goes on and on until the film's finale a long virtual monologue though lawyers and children occassional egg Maud on in her own confession. Huppert nails it by underplaying, glassily admitting her own stupidity, and rewitnessing from afar what she just lived from afar, never quite "present" in her foolish decisions. Huppert's face is a marvel, trouble always broiling under its glassy surface. Abuse of Weakness has a fine beginning and a killer ending --  too bad there's no movie in the middle. It's all just a series of check-signings and a very vaguely observed relationship that's never truly examined by the protagonist living it or the director filming an actress reliving it. It's as if Breillat is determined to make the same mistakes all over again, botching her own would be exorcism. C

Wednesday
Apr032013

Reader Spotlight: Tony T

In our ongoing 'get to know The Film Experience community' project, here's another Reader Spotlight. This time we're talking to Tony who grew up overseas and now lives in Texas. He sent me the nicest note once about the site that really cheered me up on a down day.

What's your first movie memory?

TONY: I spent my entire childhood watching Disney movies. It was literally everything I did when I wasn't in school. They were mostly dubbed in French so it was a little bit of a revelation to rediscover them in English when I grew up. But my very first movie memory that I can recall semi-vividly is watching The Beauty and the Beast with my cousins. I was so captivated that I had to move to a different row in the movie theatre to sit away from my cousins because they were distracting me so much. 

I love it. A well behaved moviegoer from the start! When did you start reading The Film Experience?

TONY: When Nathaniel was drunk on Moulin Rouge! I must have found the site by trying to read everything related to the movie. That movie was and still is a dizzying experience. I was hooked on "Film Bitch" at the time. Checked the website every day. I was in Lebanon at the time. No one around me knew what I was talking about which made it all the better!

Three favorite actresses?


I have a very open mind about actresses. Almost any actress can win my heart with the right role. Nicole Kidman is my absolute favorite, though. Ironically my first memory of her is Batman Forever. I thought she was the perfect woman! Moulin Rouge! came and sealed the deal. I can't think of anyone else who combines the same amount of talent, style and courage. The choices she makes are quite admirable even when they don't pay off and auteurs are lucky to have her. Isabelle Huppert is another favorite of mine. Such a powerful presence. Her words always manage to cut through the screen. Third is probably Cate Blanchett. I miss her! 

Take one Oscar away. Regift it.

I think the oscars are like a time capsule. It's always fun to go back and contemplate what the Academy chose to reward in a given year and for what reason. And for that I usually don't talk about stolen oscars. But if forced to choose I would take away The King's Speech's oscar and give it to The Social Network. I thought that was a bit embarassing. I mean the latter was clearly clearly the superior movie by any standard.

If you were in charge of Hollywood for a year...

I would greenlight all the cold political thrillers. Think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Cerebral well acted well designed movies with great stories are my favorites. Also international movies. Like Babel but better. 

Have you ever broken up with someone because of their taste in movies?

I don't know if I've broken up with someone because of their taste of movies yet but I definitely can see that happening! It's okay not to be a huge movie fan but it's not okay to be a huge fan of the wrong movies! I kid I kid BUT I can't promise that I won't secretly judge someone who declares The Life of David Gale one of their favorite movies (true story). 

previous spotlights

Tuesday
Jan292013

Luca's Body

JA from MNPP here. You know it's an excellent bit of movie news when you can fill in the BLANK in the sentence "I'd been desperately waiting to hear what BLANK was going to do next" with at least five different names involved in said bit of movie news. So... this is an excellent piece of movie news. Variety is reporting that the director of the Tilda-fetish-object I Am Love Luca Guadagnino (first name) is turning Don Delillo's book (second name) The Body Artist into a movie that will star Isabelle Huppert (third name), Denis Lavant (fourth name) and... David Cronenberg (numero cinco). The book was adapted by Guadagnino, and the movie will be called Body Art.

A couple of weird cinephile overlaps to appreciate here - Cronenberg just adapted a Delillo book (and quite well if you ask me) last year with Cosmopolis, which was about a man riding around in a white limosuine and encountering lots of people over the course of a single day, which was also the plot of Holy Motors (though to much different effect), which of course starred... Denis Lavant. And Isabelle Huppert... is Isabelle Huppert. Nuff said. If this will top my favorite David Cronenberg performance (that would be as the doctor who gets impaled upon a giant steel rod in Jason X) we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday
Sep112012

With Six You Get Link Roll

Movies.com has all the distribution deals from TIFF so you can see which films are coming your way in 2013
Deadline Kate Winslet's Titanic screen test!
Culture Monster Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert to team for Jean Genet's The Maids. Alas, not for the screen.

Pajiba 20 Lessons Hollywood can learn from this summer
Flickr Truly amazing photoset of California billboards from 1974/1975 including billboards of Oscar interest

Today's Must Read
"Extraordinary Machines" by Steven Hyden which looks back at the celebrity coupledom of Paul Thomas Anderson and Fiona Apple, the way they were, and the way they are now divergent.

It had been his intention to write a conventional 90-minute comedy for Adam Sandler, whom he met while tagging along with Apple when she performed on Saturday Night Live in 2000. What he actually made was more like a Fiona Apple song — a disorienting mishmash of bright melody and percussive dissonance, with a main character who was odd and oddly compelling and prone to oddly explosive, out-of-nowhere outbursts. Unfortunately for Punch-Drunk Love, Fiona Apple songs were still a few years away from returning to fashion, and the film died at the box office.

It's a really insightful piece about two of showbusiness's most fascinating artists. So go read it.