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Entries in Supporting Actress (167)

Monday
Oct202014

The Year I Fell In Love with Kristen Stewart

Jose here. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the NYFF press screening of Clouds of Sils Maria. It was my second time seeing the film, and on that occasion I mostly showed up because I wanted to bask in the glory of its MVP ... Kristen Stewart.


As I sat there, observing the lithe actress, taking pictures of her and giggling and blushing at her responses - as if she was answering them just for me - I realized I had a crush. I swooned when Juliette Binoche called her "a genius". If you had told me I’d be feeling this way last month, I would have laughed in your face and explained I wasn’t a TwiFan. Or blind. After all, Stewart has made herself a reputation for being one of the worst young actresses, who does nothing but exploit her expression-less or annoyed looks that are meant to be interpreted as undying devotion to a glow-in-the-day vampire.


Then, in a little two-punch move, my entire perception of her changed forever. 

I went into Clouds of Sils Maria expecting Binoche to swallow K.Stew and Chloë Grace Moretz alive, Margo Channing-style. Instead, perhaps unsurprisingly, the great French actress turns in one of her most generous performances allowing the younger women to steal it.

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Saturday
Oct182014

Meet the Contenders: Emma Stone "Birdman"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, BIRDMAN which is marvelous as previously noted.

Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Best Supporting Actress

Born: Emily Jean Stone was born November 6, 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona

The Role: Known for his sprawling (and epically depressing) Oscar-nominated films (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful), writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu tries his hand at a more comedic film with Birdman. Don't worry, it may have laugh-out-loud humor, but it's still as satirical, dark, and complex as we would expect from the filmmaker. The film centers on a movie star, Riggan Thomson, most famous for playing a costumed superhero (played by Best Actor contender Michael Keaton) that attempts to revive his career by mounting a play on Broadway. Stone plays his resentful daughter, who was recently released from rehab and now works as her father's personal assistant. She also forms an unlikely bond with the play's egotistical leading man (Best Supporting Actor contender Edward Norton).

Previous Brushes with Oscar and more after the jump...

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Monday
Oct132014

75th: Absence of Melinda

Two time Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon turns 75 today. Since we don't like any major actresses to totally fade from public consciousness when they stop working, let's look back. Though her last working year was 2007 her most recent high profile gig goes back much further to a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of Magnolia (1999, pictured left) in which she played wife and mother to Phillip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. 

Though she'd been working for a decade before it in small parts (TV guest gigs and improvisational comedy) her first real claim-to-fame came as "Memphis Sue" Woody Guthrie's wife in the Best Picture nominated bio Bound for Glory (1976). She received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Acting Debut" (a now long defunct category) even though it wasn't her debut. Dillon's breakout led to bigger parts and two well-regarded Oscar nominations though curiously the Globes, who had first honored her, skipped her both times when her major hits rolled around. Her first Oscar nod made actually history: as the wide-eyed young mother in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976) she was and will forever remain the first actor to ever receive a nomination for a Steven Spielberg film (it wasn't until The Color Purple when anyone else followed). Later she was nominated as a particularly fragile soul and key character at the heart of a war in Absence of Malice (1981) between journalist Sally Field and businessman Paul Newman (also Oscar-nominated).

Melinda Dillon as "Teresa" in Absence of Malice (1981)

Though Dillon's heyday preceded the birth of my own film/actress obessions I remember getting the sense that she was a critical darling, the kind of actress with a devout if not populist following. By the time I was watching movies regularly and passionately though the roles were all mom roles sometimes with lots of screentime as in A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and sometimes on the peripheries as in those very blonde family flashbacks in Prince of Tides (1991) or "Merna" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995).

If you're familiar with her work what's your favorite of her performances? If she could be coaxed out of her retirement what would you have her do?

Thursday
Oct022014

Breaking: Streep & Blunt Trading Places

Top billed but so what?!

Meryl Streep has the first poster for Christmas release Into the Woods all to herself and the Witch is always the marquee role in Stephen Sondheim's musical on stage. But Meryl will be campaigned supporting. The news isn't technically "official" but it soon will be so we're playing a little game of switcheroo on the Lead Actress and Supporting Actress Oscar Prediction Charts.

Technically this reversal (at least from our expectations) is  probably fine as categorizations go: The Witch is a showy role but it's not a huge one and The Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt) is just as much of a major focal point of the show (winning the lead actress Tony for Joanna Gleason in the first production) and the wife has the clearest arc. So Blunt is our leading contender.

The takeaway, with far less competition (as of yet) in Supporting Actress, Meryl is probably looking at her 19th Oscar nomination. If Emily Blunt doesn't thoroughly own Into the Woods she'll be left out of the very competitive leading lineup which will make it the second time co-starring with Streep where she had a plum role but voters attentions were elsewhere.

And by 'elsewhere' I mean 'where the attention always is': on MERYL STREEP. 

Silly Trivia Alert: If nominated this will not only be Meryl's Fourth nomination in the supporting category after The Deer Hunter (1978), Kramer Vs Kramer (1979), and Adaptation (2002) but her Fourth for a role with a singing solo. She sang "Amazing Grace" in Silkwood (1983), "He's Me Pal" in Ironweed (1987), and "You Don't Know Me" and "I'm Checking Out" from  Postcards from the Edge (1990). Her voice is so expressive. Can't wait to see how she interprets "Stay With Me" in particular.

Wednesday
Sep172014

157 days 'til Oscar

We're still five months and a few days away from Oscar night so is it possible that things are starting to lock up? Ehhhh yes but mostly no. Every year all over the web casual movie fans and awards nuts like to start shouting LOCK as early as May for various things (usually centered around something becoming a massive hit or winning something at Cannes). But that's not really how it works. So here we are in September. A lot can happen in the last three and a half months of the calendar year leading up to the nominations. We've still got a long way to go and, conceivably, brilliant or lazy campaigns and smart or clumsy moves and release date shifts can still change everything... even if things are looking terribly good or just dismal for whomever or whatever. While I don't technically like to call anything or anyone a lock before it's actually opened (and thus eligible) the closest thing we have within the four acting categories are two, both in lead races: Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). They have all the ingredients you could want in a lead push -- the right release dates, the right kinds of roles with the right kinds of hooks, the right level of quality in the actual acting, the right early critical response, the right time in their careers, and a release strategy already carefully mapped out by the right studio. 

There are other "likely!" contenders at the moment of course (Still Julianne, holla / Imitation of Benedict: The People's Choice) but I'd argue that Reese & Eddie are the closest to securing nominations.

And I'd argue that the Supporting Actress category is the most volatile where no one is particularly close It's easy to imagine my current predicted lineup being exactly right but it's almost as easy to imagine not one of the five of them making it if the films that still haven't screened or those that could yet gather more power or lose it, happen to shake up this category. Nobody is remotely safe yet. People like to claim that Patricia Arquette is a done deal for Boyhood and though I hope so I don't think so. We're still four months from nominations and pictures praised for being directorial visions are often where you end up with weird blindspots when it comes to the acting branch. 

MAJOR UPDATES, MOVEMENT, NEW PLAYERS ON ALL FOUR ACTING CHARTS

ALSO UPDATED

Who or what do you think locks up next?

Friday
Sep122014

TIFF: Wild, Or How Witherspoon Got Her Groove Back

Nathaniel's adventures in Toronto. Running on fumes... 

Color me surprised that my favorite among the consensus Best Picture hopeful Oscar launches from festival season (the others being Foxcatcher, Imitation Game and Theory of Everything... though I have yet to see Birdman which didn't play here) is Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild, an adaptation of the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. How could a months long solo hike across the Pacific Crest Trail be so cinematic? The answer is in its smart mosaic, visual and aural, as Reese hikes through expansive physical and intimate mental terrain. The present and the past converse and overlap consistently in the sound design like fragments of song sung, hummed or played as if remembered - who is singing? and snippets of dialogue the same evocative way. 

There's not much to say about the plot, the film's most recent kin being Into the Wild though Wild is the stronger film. Reese Witherspoon reminds us why we were all so excited about her in the first place with effortless star magnetism. She doesn't turn on any megawatt charm or do anything strenuous at all with it other than trust that innate cinematic charisma to walk with her on the trail as film-elevating protective gear. That's gear Cheryl needs because those boots aren't made for walking and good god she's got a lot of baggage, both literal (her comically large backpack) and metaphoric, having let herself completely spiral towards a personal abyss with the death of her mother.

More...

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Wednesday
Sep102014

TIFF: Benedict vs. Redmayne, Round 1

Nathaniel's adventure in Toronto. Days 4 & 5 

Two bonafide contenders for the Best Actor Oscar screened on two consecutive days so I can't help but pair them here for you. We'll surely say more about these movies when they open, because they're both looking like awards heavyweights. But, for now, reviews and some Oscar betting. 

IMITATION GAME
In the opening voiceover, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) admonishes someone (us?) to "pay attention. I won't repeat myself" but the story is exciting enough that you're sure to pay attention without the lecture. I mean, it's not every day you get to see a movie about a closeted homosexual genius mathematician secret war hero. Imitation Game has three acts but they play concurrently so we're weaving through Alan's adolescence in boarding school, Alan's top-secret war assignment, and Alan in the 1950s under police investigation. Naturally these three acts are related, not just by having the same protagonist, but by the theme of secrecy. How it informs, shapes, and obscures or destroys the things that matter like character, consequence, and emotional health.

The middle story is the most thrilling as Alan races against the clock to break the Enigma Code during WW II. I think the charge from this section of the film comes from the editing, directing, and its beautifully judged ensemble performance. Turing's obsessive intellectual personality is thrown into vivid relief but also sours when its forced into interaction with others, sliding towards closed off, curt and superior. And Benedict maps all this out with great delicacy...

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