Friday, February 29, 2008

Goodbye, Oscar. Hello, Ladies!

(NOTE: In a fit of democratic inspiration, I have added poll interfaces to all of the yearly profile pages. Let me know who, among Oscar's batch, should have won and who, among my favorites, you like the most.)

For those of you who have asked, I know that I still have my 2007 Honorees to complete, including some home skillets and mighty hearts coming up in that Best Ensemble announcement that's been languishing for some time now. I will complete this work. But today, as we say goodbye to Oscar month, while also making a rare Leap into the future, I figure it's about time to doff the dustcover and unveil the BEST ACTRESS SPECIAL SECTION that I've been engineering for the past couple of months on my main website, Nick's Flick Picks. Fans of this site tend to share its obsession (my obsession) with leading ladies in general, and with Best Actress in particular. Remember this post? One of my biggest comment-grabbers ever, and in a circuitous way, a semi-inspiration for StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdowns.

Now, you can read smackdowns with myself, in the cleanest sense, about all the Best Actress years, though of course I'm building them up as I go along:





As of now, you'll see profiles of the last ten years, as well as the 1931-32 year as a hint of what things sound like when we dig deeper into the past. Note, too, my anti-AMPAS preferential rankings of my own favorite leading-lady performances of each given year—plus, in all the recent years, quick ballots for my favorites in all the Picture, Director, and Acting races.

There's more! The Best Actress Special Section includes a Ranking Page of all of Oscar's winners, plus a listing by decade of my favorite losers, and a round-up of all the nominees I have yet to see (65 to go at this point, in this category). You'll also find a convenient table of Side by Side Comparisons of Oscar's champ, my favorite of his nominees, and my own championed performance from that year (using Oscar eligibility years). Dig around that page and you'll find a secret link with an extra column for all you Oscar the Grouches out there.


The part of the site that is still under the most construction is the Who's Who and FAQs Section, once and future home to brief personal profiles of all the nominees, grouped according to the scale of their success with Oscar and, in some cases, their level of overall fame. Currently, you'll only find full write-ups for Katharine Hepburn (a Pet, or someone with multiple wins and/or at least four Best Actress nominations) and for Cate Blanchett (a Slum Queen, or a Best Actress nominee whose only victories have arrived in the Supporting category). Crib your rental suggestions and take solace or offense at my feelings about these women and their performances.

And once you've done all that, e-mail me to ask new FAQs or stump for which years or actresses you hope to see profiled (I won't always get to it right away, but I'll remember the request) or tell me how beautifully all of this has been laid out and how you already can't live without this new section. Finally use the new "Women" link beside my profile picture on this blog as a quick way to check for updates in this quadrant of the website. Long live Best Actress, and now that Oscar has passed and the new year has officially begun, happy 2008! (And let me thank, in alphabetical order, Goatdog, John, Nathaniel, StinkyLulu, and Tim R. for their formatting and content suggestions while I was architecting this new space. To mix queer Bravo metaphors: my own Fab Five of Tim Gunns!)

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Blogger Catherine said...

You are some kind of superhuman. This is kind of awful for me, I really should have been in bed a few hours ago and this new feature just looks so tempting. I'll just have a quick browse...

It just occured to me; I'm probably the only teenage gal I know who can get really worked up about Best Actress. This new section is excellent!

9:02 PM, February 29, 2008  
Blogger goatdog said...

I second Catherine's "superhuman" statement. I knew, but I didn't realize, if you know what I mean. Like, I know the sun is bright, but it took Sunshine to understand how bright. Or some other, less lame comparison.

9:28 PM, February 29, 2008  
Blogger Dave said...

It still awes me just how many of these you've seen... there's a whole load I haven't even heard of, but then I'm still stuck trying to see all those films widely hailed as masterpieces before I move on to Oscar obsession. But I have years ahead of me in which to indulge that.

I'd love to see you write-up 1996, one of my favourite years (and a write-up of McDormand might shove me hard enough to actually rent the thing again instead of it always being the bridesmaid in my library perusals)- and can I just note something entirely random: I love you (there's a lot of love in this post) for picking Anna Karina as your best in 1963. Just saw the film this past week, but she was truly astonishing.

Are the also-rans for each year actually ranked completely in order of your favourites? I'm obsessive about that kind of detail...

Oh, and Tang Wei? Can I just say: yay! (And you really should see Golden Door, because Gainsbourg is fab.)

5:18 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

I am duly impressed and more than a little jealous ;)

i also realize that I'm one of the people you're taking to task for unfairly lumping Cotillard in with biopic fever... and obviously I can live with that. Been livin' with it all year as the Cotillard army has advanced.

You always make a convincing case but I guess I'm still not sure why people want to give her so much credit for Piaf's awesome vocality... since she was lipsynching.

I remain baffled by the praise (partially for reasons that aren't Marion's fault I am the first to admit. Like Naomi Watts also loved and disliked by me performance in 21 Grams the director hass ensured that if there is any connective tissue in the performance I am not allowed to see it) since I think she goes too BIG in almost every scene, every scene a climax --like the worst impulses of my dear Baz Luhrmann only for two full hours... to borrow from Cotillard quotes herself. I found the performance all forceful "POW POW POW" (marion describing her feelings on winning the oscar) and almost no gently convincing "padam padam padam" (marion doing some cute small actual singing for the press)

and i know you'll appreciate that as an Oscar junkie.

oh and i'm not sure if i didn't notice or if it's new but I LOVE that you love Crawford in Grand Hotel --i don't think we've ever discussed that. Can't wait to read more of these.

6:52 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger John T said...

OMG-I am giddy from excitement over this-Nick, you are truly amazing, and I am particularly in love with the "Who's Who" section (and can't wait to see what's in store for Sally Kirkland). And I too, like Nat, love that you love Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel-I thought she was quite the superior to Helen Hayes (though I haven't seen Fontanne).

Congrats on this-now I'm going to go and peruse some more!!!

8:28 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger DL said...

Yeah, this is definitely the best thing I've ever seen in my entire life. I am going to be on here for hours and hours...

Also, I'm so glad to see Tang Wei win your Best Actress for this year (and to see Anamaria Marinca nominated.) Such beautiful performances.

10:14 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

I'm never going to be off the site now! It's great to see the best Oscar category get the NFP treatment. I'll have to have an in-depth look at it, but after having a quick scan through...

Joan Fontaine in Letter From An Unknown Woman! I love this performance and I'm so glad you do. Even though she's supposed to be 15 and is actually over 30. Lol. When she says "If only you had realised what was never lost..." I completely go to pieces.

11:23 AM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Thou enabler of actressexuals! How am I supposed to get any work done this weekend? I've already read every yearly profile at least four times, and you bet I'll be revisiting constantly, checking for updates... Can't wait for the rest of the '90s to be posted.

Question: why did you decide to rate performances out of five stars? Why not letter grades, or four stars?

12:18 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

I used to post under "Steve" - now I guess I have to post under my gmail account? Anyway, that's me.

Awesome new section. Love the profiles, and great picks for this year, even if I am disappointed that Adams, Blonsky, and Hands didn't make your list. But I'm with you 100% on Wei and Linney being on that list - truly a Sophie's choice deciding who's best between those two!

12:42 PM, March 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel like my life as an Oscar-obsessed actressexual has been leading up to this moment. This is phenomenal! By the way, it's interesting to see the way your shortlists have changed since they were up in the old format.

2:56 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Thanks, everyone, for all the positive feedback. Even though I totally compliment-fished. I still appreciate it!

@Catherine: Way to find the road to Best Actresses at such an age. And in response to your other request: yep, I also want to get back to the Favorites countdown. My hope is that with a few ongoing projects, I can hop around a bit and vary things up, and none of them require huge investments of time. (E.g., I wrote the Blanchett thing during my commute to work.)

@Goatdog: I wish I could pull a Being John Malkovich and hop inside your brain while you watch The Barker, or try to. Good luck!

@Dave: You're a good soul to watch films that are actually great instead of ceding so much rental authority to Oscar, as I too often do. Granted, I get to see a lot of Greats as part of my job. But my partner still laments when he'd like to watch an established classic, and I'm like, "No, we have to watch Shadowlands!" 1996 is a great favorite of mine, as you'll probably see me mention more than once, so I'm looking forward to that countdown, too. As for Karina and Tang, I'm so glad you're sympathetic on those points. And yes, the five nominees in each Yearly Profile are listed in declining order of enthusiasm (though this can be arbitrary, since Linney and Page were about neck-and-neck for me, and Christie wasn't honestly too far behind.)

@Nathaniel: Hey, I'm as keen to your reservations as you are to my enthusiasms, which is why it's fun to disagree every once in a while. I did kind of try to stay out of the whole Christie/Cotillard bloody Antietam thing that played out over the blogosphere, which did seem to hit some kind of crazy fever pitch, but I do think her performance is ingenious. (And to clarify what I was saying, which I've now emended in the write-up, I was struck with what Cotillard did with her face and mouth and gestures during the lip-synched performances, and didn't mean to confuse admiration for Piaf's voice with Cotillard's own contributions. Thanks for asking for clarification.)

Also, as you'll divine if you look at what I've been renting lately (see the sidebar), I'm writing an essay about Julie Christie for a conference this week. So her profile will be coming soon. (And with four Best Actress nominations, she's officially a Pet.)

@John: Glad to see that Crawford's Flaemmchen has such a strong base of support around here! If I remember correctly, Danny Peary went with her in his Alternate Oscars book, too.

@DL: More Tang Wei fans! Can't have enough of those. I hope she'll return to the screen soon.

@Cal: Letter from an Unknown Woman is so ridiculously great, it probably would have swept a lot of the 1948 races for me. (Save The Red Shoes, I'm not too wild about any of the Best Picture nominees that year.) Fontaine has never been a favorite, but that performance is great, abetted by completely ideal casting, wouldn't you say?

@Ali: Grading the performances somehow seemed harsher than grading the movies already does, especially since my reactions to a given performance tend to shift a little more than my overall take on a film tends to do. And four stars wasn't enough: three stars became a huge, baggy category, and I wanted to splice things up a little more. I'm sure StinkyLulu went through something similar with his "Five Hearts" rankings in the Smackdowns, and though I wasn't intentionally copying him, the number "five" may just embody a certain sublime economy of scale for actress worship.

@Stephen: Even more Tang love, plus the applause for Linney in Jindabyne. Thanks for all the regular encouragement, and again, I'll be back to the Honorees soon.

3:08 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@David S.: Oops, we just crossed each other. So good to hear from you! And you're right, the shortlists I'm posting now are not always the same as what I declared back in the day(s). Actressexuality must not stagnate, etc.

3:10 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger John T said...

One of the amazing things about Christie is that she is nominated for Best Actress in four separate decades-how many performers can claim that? It's just amazing the longevity in that accomplished career.

Another amazing thing, of course, is McCabe and Mrs. Miller. (With apologies to Nathaniel), Jane Fonda owes Julie Christie one of her Oscars. :)

8:01 PM, March 01, 2008  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

Yeah. Great casting. Fontaine's becoming one of my favourites. I've loved her in everything except, bizarrely, her Oscar winning turn in Suspicion.

I wasn't fussed about The Red Shoes. Except the musical moments, which are magic. Actually really like The Snake Pit with De Havilland from that year.

6:29 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@John: Yeah, she's like Diane Keaton in that way. Maybe if you get involved with Warren Beatty, you acquire Oscar longevity? Maybe that's been his secret all these years? (The Bening will be pleased to hear this.)

@Cal: I agree that Fontaine has never been bad except in Suspicion (I do think she's actually bad in it), though I don't remember loving her Jane Eyre much, either, and there's a tremulous fragility to some of her work that I find a little precious on occasion. I'm eager to catch up with The Constant Nymph, though. And I should really watch The Snake Pit again; I'd say it's been 15 years since I saw it, which seems insane, like something a much older person would say, but mathematically, it's true.

10:43 AM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Another question for you, Nick: On each yearly profile, when you list the other four nominees following your pick ("From There"), are they ranked in order of preference?

For example, in '01, Kidman, Berry and Zelwegger each got three stars; does this mean they're all about equal in your eyes and therefore that the ranking is random, or do you slightly prefer the one over the other? (ex: 1. Dench; 2. Kidman; 3. Berry; 4. Zelwegger; and 5. Spacek)

If the answer is yes, it seems to me that you prefer Berry to Zellweger's adorable Bridget Jones. Which is fine (I agree that Berry has some lovely moments in the Forster film); just wanted clarification.

3:57 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Ali: Yep, and I think this was Dave's question, too, so you're letting me know by asking again that I should make this even more clear on the site: the "Ranking Oscar's Ballot" section for each year always moves from my favorite to my least favorite performance, although the gradations are often very slim. 2001 is a perfect instance of that, since Kidman, Berry, and Zellweger are all nearly even for me. Then again, I can't imagine the order reversed. And, as you'll have noticed, I can't imagine how they all got on the ballot with Cheung, Rampling, Swinton, and Watts sitting off to the side.

(Incidentally, since I've "known" you for so long as Ali, but I've seen in the past few months that your handle has changed, should I be addressing you as Yaseen, or Yaseen Ali? Sorry to be ignorant, but I'd rather ask foolishly than call you by the wrong name!)

4:06 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Ack, sorry for making you repeat your answer. I read everyone's comments, including Dave's, but apparently not closely enough! Thank you for clarifying.

As for the name, please feel free to use either one. My first name in its entirety is "Yaseen Ali"; I used "Ali" throughout high school, but have started to use "Yaseen" just because I like it more. I've also been thinking of dropping my last name altogether and using Yaseen as my first name, Ali as my last. But again, whatever is easier - I have friends who call me one or the other, while family calls me both. (Whew!)

An even longer explanation can be found in the opening of my Namesake review.

4:28 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

:S Don't know why that link doesn't work, but I'll try again.

4:30 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Yaseen Ali (I'm into it!): No, no - no worries about repeating. It's a new feature, and I want it to be intuitive. I wasn't just being polite when I said it helps to see that more than one person harbored this question. (I did watch The Namesake, by the way, on your strong recommendations, and did so before the Supporting announcements: Irffan Khan barely missed, and I thought Tabu was also very good, though I'd call her the lead of the movie. In fact, she should be on the Honor Roll for the '07 page. Anyway, I think I'm just never going to be won over by Mira Nair's storytelling strategies, so I liked the film without getting excited by it... but I appreciate that you made such a strong case for the film.)

5:18 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

This is so addictive it's insane. You need a permanent comments board. And I'll start a petition for the no-star performances if you don't watch out.

So many things I didn't know, like that you liked Tang Wei even more than Marion this year (which must mean, a LOT) and that you love Shelley in The Shining despite no particular regard for my second favourite film.

I agree with everyone about Crawford in Grand Hotel -- she steals it right from under Garbo.

My guess is that Dietrich's pretty vulnerable to Garbo though in 1929/30. Smashing and iconic though she is in The Blue Angel, isn't the movie just tarting her out really, getting her to strut her stuff? I'd even say she's better in Morocco myself, opening up more to the camera, and in charge of the story.

5:59 PM, March 02, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

What Tim said: a permanent comments board sounds like a great idea (new questions will undoubtedly arise in the coming days and weeks), and I'm also relieved to see that Tang Wei received five stars.

Oh, here's a query already - would you ever give a performance zero stars?

Re: The Namesake - I'm glad you liked Irrfan and Tabu (agreed on the latter being Lead), if not the film all that much. I wrote that review almost two years ago after its North American premiere at TIFF, so it's full of gushy praise and Mira adoration. After several viewings theatrically and on video, the flaws are much more visible.

So I totally understand why someone would not gel with it, but considering the parallels with my own life, it hit home at just the right time in my life (working out identity politics, yada yada yada.) ;)

9:04 PM, March 02, 2008  

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