Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lead Actress

Let's not use the Android app for blogger anymore. It evidently doesn't like me and deleted the beginnings of this post twice. It seems sad to me that for both the men and the women, there's so much overlap in the films that carry lead acting nominations with those that carry supporting acting. I'm more upset here because I saw some roles I definitely thought should be nominated over at least some in the current batch. So who was nominated?
  • Amy Adams in American Hustle
  • Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
  • Sandra Bullock in Gravity
  • Judi Dench in Philomena
  • Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Who deserved nods? Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks was charmingly unpleasant as P. L. Travers. One of my favorite things about the movie was that here was "a film about a 60-year-old woman which wasn’t about her being a wife or a mother. When does that happen? Never. Extraordinary."  Felicity Jones was continually touching in her role as The Invisible Woman. Maybe because I just saw it, but Veerle Baetens was painfully powerful in Broken Circle Breakdown. It was incredible, especially considering three of her last six cinematic roles were as unnamed nurses - one of which was uncredited. Also a tip of the cap to Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color and Ziyi Zhang in The Grandmaster. I'm sure there were other performances I've missed, but those women all deserve some recognition especially over some of these nominees.

Amy Adams never convinced me. It was a lot in her accent, perhaps the lilt, perhaps the never quite convincing shifts between the two. Regardless, her character never won me over in any sense. She never seemed particularly comfortable as either of her presentations, and not in an tortured character sort of way but an ineffective actress sort of way.

Blanchet's accent was less unnerving and her character more authentically self-created. Watching her fly through her moments of opulence and struggle with the doldrums of her sister's lifestyle was the real treat here. Her endless stream of monologue, her convincingly deeply cracked veneer, and her struggle to maintain her illusions was a joy to watch.

Bullock was the weakest of points in Gravity, a film I have love for a lot of reasons. She was serviceable here, but I have no doubt she got swept up in an awards orgy with an otherwise unremarkable performance.

Watching Judi Dench work is always a pleasure. Her turn as Philomena was a departure from her often very intelligent roles, and seeing her play a more simple-minded woman was a fun turn. Her flexibility is remarkable and watching the role play out on her face rather than her eloquence was a unique experience.

Lastly, there's the perpetually nominated Streep with one of the most intense performances of the year. She is continually repulsive and a bear to watch. She displays none of her normal affection as a malicious and spiteful matriarch. Her voice is commanding. Her withered, dying face almost compassion eliciting until she speaks. When people speak of powerhouse performances, this is what they mean. There was never a moment to catch a breath.

This is decision ultimately between Baetens and... Oh right they weren't nominated.

Blanchet and Streep were the real performers here. Streep seemed prone to overacting, but the script should bear the majority of fault for not giving her a come down. Blanchet had the emotional oscillations, but not the grand heights of Streep. I'm quite torn, but I think I go with Blanchet. Streep seemed like she was reaching just a little bit too much. I think Streep wins, but really what August: Osage County deserves instead is an ensemble award.

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