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Entries in Judi Dench (14)

Monday
Jan272014

Interview: Joanna Scanlan on 'The Invisible Woman' and Working with Icons

Photo via Beige PlusThere's a wonderful little moment in Notes on a Scandal (2006) in which a well meaning but unwelcome teacher by the name of Sue Hodge advises her fellow schoolteachers (played by Dami Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett), who are struggling with their students to "concern yourself with the gems". I'm shamelessly borrowing that line right now to talk about the British actress who utters it, because she is one.

Joanna Scanlan co-wrote and starred in the BBC series Getting On (now enjoying an American remake) and has played witches, nurses, schoolteachers, and more yet she's largely unknown to American audiences. She's got her best cinematic showcase yet in The Invisible Woman as Catherine Dickens, the neglected depressed wife of the famous writer Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes). Her husband may neglect her and the Oscar conversation did, too (despite its ostensible purpose being to, well, concern itself with the gems) so we're picking up their slack.

She's remarkable in the movie and though the title does not literally refer to her character, we like to think it has a double meaning. The movie business is not a meritocracy but it there's any justice Joanna Scanlan won't be an 'invisible woman' much longer but will be popping up in more roles worthy of her. I eagerly telephoned her to discuss her role in this Oscar nominated picture (Best Costume Design) and her nifty habit of acting opposite true icons like Dench, Fiennes, Pfeiffer, and Blanchett. 

Our conversation is after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec102013

Top Ten: The Oldest Best Actress Line-Ups

Statistics show us time and again that Oscar likes his ladies young. In fact 29 is the most common age that leading ladies win Oscars (for comparison's sake only one man under 30 has ever won Best Actor). And yet, as we speed towards the Oscar nominations, barring an extreme long-shot fresh-faced spoiler like an Adèle (20) or a Brie (26), this year's Best Actress Lineup will likely skew incredibly 'vintage'. If the expected five make an historic "all winners lineup" it's going to be the oldest lineup ever. Now, there is some degree of unusual feeling (I share it) that Meryl Streep (64) is vulnerable to a shut-out for her work in August: Osage County -- something that seemed unthinkable even a few months ago -- but even if she doesn't make the shortlist, there's no guarantee it'll be someone at the beginning of their career. Amy Adams (39) and Julia Louis Dreyfus (52) might still triumph over Brie or Adèle for that hotly contested fifth slot.

So let's look at...

The Top Ten Most Mature Best Actress Shortlists

This top ten is actually only nine years long. I'm reserving a spot for 2013. Barring a major upheaval, the 2013 lineup will be our oldest on average ever. Unless Adèle makes it... and even then it'll come close to being the very oldest. A funny thing occurred while researching this: the years I thought of as elderly weren't. I immediately thought of 1950, for example, with those grande dame performances by All About Eve's Bette Davis and Sunset Boulevard's Gloria Swanson (two of the best performances to lose the Oscar) but both of those women were barely 50 (Grande Dame used to start young!) and the rest of the category was young, younger and youngest. I was also wrong about these years which average a touch or a lot younger than I remembered or was expecting: 1960, 1962, 1974, 1990 and 1992.

Runners Up [3-way Tie] With an Average Age of 41.2 years
1997 As Good as It Get's Helen Hunt, the winner, was the median age of 34.
1996 Fargo's Frances McDormand, another median age winner, was 37.
1952 Come Back Little Sheba's Shirley Booth, pictured left and recently discussed, was the oldest at 52 and the winner. (She's still the only woman to win Best Actress during her fifties. Isn't that insane?) Can you guess which years made the list before you click to proceed? Try it silently for fun...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec082013

Podcast: Philomena Catching Fire

This week NickNathaniel, Katey, and Joe discuss the blockbuster Philomena and that little arthouse indie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Spoilers you might want to avoid for Philomena are here (32:00-32:20 / 35:00-35:30).

Some questions that need your answers in the comments:  Is Jennifer Lawrence better as Katniss than in her Oscar roles? Would The Hunger Games be better as a TV series? What is going on in the Hemsworth family gene pool? Is Philomena at 98 minutes too padded or too short or, paradoxically, both? And how many nominations can it hope for having conquered the auntie demographic?

You can listen here or download the conversation on iTunes

Philomena: Catching Fire

Friday
Nov222013

Posterized: Judi Dench, Leading Lady

Good things come to those who wait. For Judi Dench that good thing would be movie stardom. She's been acting on stage since 1957 (as Ophelia in Hamlet at the age of 23), on tv since 1959 (the title role in Hilda Lessways), and on the silver screen since 1964 (The Third Secret)...  but it wasn't until 1997/1998 when Dench hit her sixties that true movie stardom happened, prompted by the double whammy of her first Oscar bid (Mrs Brown) and its follow up "oops sorry about last year" Oscar win for Shakespeare in Love (recently discussed). Isn't her career trajectory unheard of? Who doesn't even start being a movie star until their sixties? Dame Judi thats who.

Though she may soon retire (she's turning 80 a year from now) she's still in her movie prime. Her latest starring role is as Philomena, the story of a woman seeking the grown son she gave up for adoption, and it opens today in limited release. Will it bring her her 7th career Oscar nomination (her 5th in lead)? Only seven women in the history of movies have ever accomplished it before (Streep, Hepburn, Davis, Page, Berman, Fonda and Garson are the current top seven in Oscar's Actress Hierarchy each with seven or more nominations). And, finally, why is Philomena rumored to be categorized as a Drama at the Globes when the poster is screaming "COMEDY!" at the top of its marketing lungs. 

JUDI DENCH'S BIG ROLES
How many have you seen? 
To pad out her leading lady resume from these peak stardom years, I've included TV films


Mrs Brown (1997) - Oscar nomination, Bafta win
The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2001) - Globe win, Bafta win, Emmy nomination
Iris (2001) - Oscar nomination, Bafta win

Ladies in Lavender (2004)
Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) - Oscar nomination
Notes on a Scandal (2006) - Oscar nomination, and my vote for her all time best performance

Cranford (2007) Golden Globe, Emmy, Bafta Nominee
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) - Globe nominee
Skyfall (2011) - some may say this isn't a leading role but the plot of this film suggests otherwise 

Which of these posters brings back your fondest Dame Dench memories? 

Friday
Nov082013

M Battles the MPAA 

Look, we're all well aware of Harvey Weinstein's history with Oscar campaigning. It's known, it's out there, they've even written books about it. So let's not pretend we're all delicate petals who are shocked by the man's efforts at drumming up heat for his annual roster of year-end awards contenders. Every studio does, most just don't do it on quite the same scale. And let's face it, sometimes his schemes are for the greater good to allow films to be discovered by more audiences. Having said that, however, I think we can all agree that he has well and truly outdone himself this time.

The story is still developing - we'll be sure to share the entire video when it surfaces on Funny or Die - but Harvey Weinstein appeared on CBS This Morning  yesterday to launch a campaign against Philomena's R rating from the MPAA due its use of "two f words". He uses words like "gentle", "humour" and "joy" to describe  Philomena  whilst comparing it to The King's Speech, which also went through a very public ratings controversy. None of this is news. Who he recruited to do battle with the Motion Picture Association of America, on the other hand, is news. Oh boy, is it news. Strange news. Odd news. Just watch for yourself.



That's right, M! Back from the grave of Skyfall's manor, Judi Dench in character as James Bond's boss has come out swinging. To quote Harvey himself on the TV, there's a "Kafka-esque absurdity" to it, don't you think? The MPAA may be able to resist Harvey, but can they resist Dench? Goodness gracious. Oscar season just entered a whole new level. We're through the looking glass, people. This is almost as good as the time David Lynch took to the streets of LA with a cow to campaign for Laura Dern and Inland Empire! As mentioned before, there's more to come, but this is the teaser that Harvey premiered yesterday. I think we can all agree that we're looking forward to seeing how this story develops.

And because I know y'all love you some Julie Andrews...