Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Fifties for 2010: Best Actress

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right, for surviving choppy exposition and finding comedy in a character who is resolute, threatened, and pained, and never entirely predictable;

Greta Gerwig for Greenberg, for making her character entirely ordinary but not confusing this with making her colorless or uncomplicated, or someone to condescend to;

Katie Jarvis for Fish Tank, whose own greenness may feed into Mia's rough edges, but she's thorny and sensitive in the right ways, and her dancing is poignantly average;

Kim Hye-ja for Mother, for finding a woman who'd make Mildred Pierce cry but also scare the shit out of her, keeping us on our toes without playing her too smart; and

Birgit Minichmayr for Everyone Else, for teasing out gradations of Gitti being a pill on purpose or just being her flamboyant self, inviting critique but also seeking to please.

One of these women (not telling which!) cycled on and off and back on this list, and could get replaced at a moment's notice by any of my extremely honorable mentions: to Patricia Clarkson for risking a cloudy lethargy in Cairo Time that we rarely associate with her, and gradually revealing the reasons why this is such a well- or an ill-timed trip for her character; to Sylvie Testud for adhering to a fairly narrow, understatedly sunny range of affects in Lourdes, preserving mystery but playing a woman rather than a question mark; Nina Meurisse, who is so plausible and poignant as an adolescent drawn into a relationship that she can't possibly see coming in Accomplices, and unsure of what she's enjoying about it and what she isn't; and Jennifer Lawrence, who is good at playing one tough cookie in Winter's Bone, but is even more assured playing a patient, resourceful big sister in her quieter scenes. That seems like the easier half of her assignment, but I actually don't think it is.

Honorable mentions to Tilda Swinton for I Am Love, Aggeliki Papoulia for Dogtooth, Chiara Caselli for The Father of My Children, and Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right, and let no one say I am helplessly in the grip of my biases, given that the first and last of those women will rank a lot higher on other people's lists. Annette Bening in Mother and Child and Kristen Stewart in The Runaways might have hit a few notes too hard or played too strongly at times to their established personas, but they were really special during other passages. Each woman's deft handling of her final run of scenes was crucial to helping her film end sturdily after a wobbly middle.

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Blogger Robert Hamer said...

I was very much looking forward to seeing this, primarily because I was wondering if you preferred Annette Bening or Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right. All of the "Oscar talk" surrounding that film inevitably falls on the fact that it stars two overdue actresses, which of course leads to a debate on which one gave the better performance (Guy is Team Moore and Nat is championing Bening, for example).

So I must ask; what vaulted The Bening to the top five, and what kept Moore out of even the Extremely Honorable Mentions?

12:27 AM, September 05, 2010  
Blogger Fritz said...

I really can't wait to seen Bening's performance. Somehow I think of this movie as some silly comedy (I don't know why) but it seems to be really good.

1:29 AM, September 05, 2010  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

My line-up is based on what I've seen this year, not official releases in my country (NZ) because that would be crazy:

Anne Dorval, I Killed My Mother
Juliette Binoche, Certified Copy
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Catherine Keener, Please Give

I've yet to see Greenberg, The Kids Are All Right, Mother and Child, Everyone Else or Cairo Time but I will endeavour to do so!

2:17 AM, September 05, 2010  
Blogger James T said...

Yes! Not that the journey wasn't fun, but the destination was even better!

I think I shold see Mother.
If I got it right, it's a thriller/character study with a strong leading female perf so I'll probably love it.

Thanks so much for all the categories.

If you'd like to say which is your favorite so far, it'd be great. If not, that's obviously respected.

1:46 PM, September 05, 2010  
Blogger MD said...

Not much has come to NZ yet this year, and I've managed to see even less. I'll be searching out Cairo Time soon, hopefully. At this point, though, I have three in the top tier:

Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Anne Dorval, I Killed My Mother
Juliette Binoche, Certified Copy

If pushed, I'd probably also mention Sarah Polley in Splice, but I feel like she nails some aspects of that character more than others.

Can't wait until your mentions come out here. I'll be trying to find as many of them as possible.

9:28 AM, September 06, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Robert: The short version is that I think Bening always looks like she knows who she's playing, and she improves the movie by showing more vulnerability than seems to have been written into the character. Moore is good, and very good in her best scenes (the reaction to the first kiss, the speech in front of the TV), but she sometimes seems a little at sea with who this woman is, rather than just playing a woman who herself is at sea. (Here I'm talking to you about being "at sea"! It's just a metaphor!)

@Fritz: "Silly comedy" dukes it out with "heartfelt family drama," and Kids doesn't always nail either of them, but it's a good movie nonetheless. Enjoy!

@James: I honestly don't know who my winner would be at the moment in many of these categories, including this one, where it would at least come down between Kim and Minichmayr. Even from last year, Swinton was my Best Actress in a cakewalk but I would have had trouble voting for a winner in the other three acting races.

@Sam and @MD: Are you guys okay? MD, I know you live in Christchurch specifically, and Sam, I don't know where in New Zealand you actually are, but I thought of you both over the weekend. Hugs and good wishes.

As for these actresses: I Killed My Mother (more than a year later!) and Certified Copy still haven't opened here, so we're kind of filling each other's gaps!

10:45 AM, September 06, 2010  
Blogger MD said...

Thanks, Nick. I appreciate the thought. I managed to have the good timing to be visiting my parents when it happened. From what I hear, my place isn't too damaged, but university'll be closed for another week. We're just lucky it wasn't a lot worse, I think.

2:40 PM, September 06, 2010  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

I am also okay! I live in Auckland, which is on the other island from Christchurch. I know people that have been affected and it's still scary and weird and the like. But I am okay!

4:29 AM, September 07, 2010  

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