Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fifties for 2011: Fellas and Dames

So we end with a category that I wish I loved a little bit more, and a category that I'm tempted to say I'm already satisfied with. I have total immunity against the possibility of Close being too recessive or Streep too garish or Swinton too severe or whatever, because I could go from here to December revisiting these five performances. The fellas here are quite good, and I don't want to sound unfairly begrudging when I admit that, as in both of the Supporting races, I still find myself gunning for two or three performances that I am really passionate about. Even when it disappoints in other areas, Fall is usually reliable for that, so eyes are wide open.

Best Actor
Rob Brydon for The Trip, whose improvisations and comic riffs are even more uproarious than Coogan's, yet who also evokes his home life in limpid though indirect detail;

Steve Carell for Crazy, Stupid, Love, who can do "schlub in need of sprucing" in his sleep but makes his adoration of his wife so real, his late-born resentment of Gosling so potent;

Grigoriy Dobrygin for How I Ended This Summer, who must scramble past a missing motive in the script but shows us a scared kid, a self-reliant stalwart, and a nervous over-reactor all in one;

Joel Edgerton for Warrior, who yearns to keep his suburban life even more than he wants to escape it, and offers round after round of character details in the MMA scenes; and

Ewan McGregor for Beginners, who is constipated with depression, whose happier moments also incline toward quiet introspection, but who comes alive at odd, revealing moments.

Honorable mentions, many of whom could have taken the fifth spot in this list, to Mimi Branescu for Tuesday, After Christmas, Youssouf Djaoro for A Screaming Man, Michael Fassbender for Jane Eyre, Paul Giamatti for Win Win, Mel Gibson for The Beaver, Ryan Gosling for Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Andreas Lust for The Robber.

Best Actress
Juliette Binoche for Certified Copy, whose lambent yet full-bodied emotional candor seems an odd fit for Kiarostami's eggheadism, but she dazzlingly layers concepts and feelings;

Viola Davis for The Help, who doesn't break faith with the mid-grade film she's in but uses mature understatement and ironbound directness to feed us the film we deserve;

Shinobu Terajima for Caterpillar, who finds herself amid one of the most upstaging styles imaginable but still crafts a careful dossier of the repulsed, dutiful, and bitter wife;

Mia Wasikowska for Jane Eyre, whose processes of moral and spiritual reflection are as tangible as her feelings, via a Moore-in-the-90s-style precision with her subtle face; and

Yun Jeong-hie for Poetry, who must exhibit to us a modest woman receding into her mind even as she's learning to create with it, all amidst new needs to strategize with it.

Honorable mentions, surely worth mentioning but appreciably behind these five, to Nikohl Boosheri for Circumstance, young Morgana Davies for The Tree, Monica del Carmen for Leap Year, Sarah Kazemy for Circumstance, Kristen Wiig for Bridesmaids, and Michelle Williams for Meek's Cutoff.

And that's the Fifties! Thanks for commenting so energetically, especially those of you who shared your own suggestions. Please stick around for Chicago Film Festival coverage over the next month.

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Blogger MD said...

Of your two actors, I've only seen Carell and McGregor. None of the others have opened here yet, as far as I know (although I'm looking forward to Jane Eyre when it opens tomorrow, after what you've said about it). McGregor would easily make my list, but it's been a fairly scarce category for me so far this year. McCracken in The Tree of Life, Shannon in Take Shelter, William Shimmell in Certified Copy and Carell would probably round out my list.

I've been a little more spoiled when it comes to actressing, thanks to the film festival. My line-up:

Binoche, for the reasons you've mentioned. I fell in love with her again after this.

Wiig, because she managed to sell the humour and the past disappointment. I thought the film was uneven, but she kept it steady.

Kirsten Dunst/Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia. I can't separate these two in my mind. The film seems more concerned by their relationship than the end of the world, and for me they created a sense of history. Dunst seems otherworldly and too close to home at the same time, and Gainsbourg manages to keep her character from sounding as "scripted" as she could have.

Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter. Shannon's great, but Chastain takes what is essentially a reactive/passive role and gives it real depth.

Emily Browning, Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes seems hollowed out, but that makes those cracks in the surface even more compelling. She's haunted me since. Makes up for Sucker Punch, too.

1:46 AM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

Love seeing Binoche in your lineup. I saw Certified Copy in the middle of last year, and her performance, as well as the fact that the film hit me emotionally while I was on the train home, have stuck with me.

From what I've seen this year, all of which is from the festival, my lineup would be:

Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
Emily Browning in Sleeping Beauty
Pilar de Lopez Ayala in Medianeras
Zoé Héran in Tomboy

With runners up being Charlotte Gainsbourg in Melancholia, Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids and Clara Augarde in Love Like Poison

Pilar de Lopez Ayala is my own pet favourite. She embodies this modern woman, and her dual relationship with technology and men and how she can't seem to reconcile them. Gorgeous film, gorgeous performance.

It's a strong year for actresses, and even at this stage of the year, without having seen The Help, Jane Eyre (hopefully seeing it tomorrow!) and The Whistleblower.

1:46 AM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger James T said...

I've seen like nothing this year. At least nothing you liked. No, actually, almost nothing at all!

Looking forward to Jane Eyre and Poetry but I'm afraid I'll skip Viola because the movie is just not something I want to see.

I've actually seen Certified Copy. Yeayy. Still not sure howI feel about the movie or Binoche in it. I guess "meh" is how I feel. I did appreciate Taste of Cherry more even if Copy is more watchable. And I did appreciate Binoche more in Three Colors: White (was that the right title) which I saw recently.

And I'm so annoyed I skipped Begginers! I really wanted to see it but something stopped me. I guess I didn't want to see a movie in part about a gay old man, alone with an audience. The shallow respenses would annoy the hell out of me.

Thanks, once again, for sharing your thoughts!

3:08 AM, September 21, 2011  
Anonymous goran said...

I don't think I've ever agreed with someone's award nominee choices to the extent that I've agreed with yours over the past couple of days (including Brydon, Dobrygin, Yun, the ever incandescent Binoche, Page Keller, Popistasu, Oprisor, O'Dowd, Malick, Mills, Kiarostami, the Tuesday, After Christmas script, Beginners, Certified Copy and Tree of Life for Picture etc etc.) Even the Honourable mentions... (Giamatti, del Carmen, Giamatti, Hawkins, Ryan - though I'd promote Branescu to the rank of nominee). Evidently, Sir, you have impeccable taste.

This is why I am confused at your praise for Wasikowska. I realise I am fighting against the world on this issue (on a related note, why does this keep happening to me?) but I felt like there was a void at the centre of Jane Eyre in the shape of Wasikowska's tightly bunched face. Watching even the cameo-length co-stars acting circles around her - including, predictably, Hawkins, as well as, far less predictably, Craig Roberts - I was tempted to shout at the screen. (Well, that's a lie - I wish something about that movie made me shout - it only made me sleepy.)

And I should point out, I've liked Wasikowska before. But this performance - at least, once the lights went on and I woke up - just drove me insane. It struck me as terminally unimaginative. The boyfriend hated it even more (which is jarring). And yet I keep reading impassioned 2000-word next-Meryl-Streep odes of Praise from articulate, perfectly intelligent people (who, for some reason, find that gesture of Karen Silkwood checking her watch at the start of her workday sharp and incisive rather than awkwardly pronounced and actressy - but that's a whole other matter).

I am very confused.

3:42 AM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

I'm surprised that there's no mention of Hunter McCracken, who I thought did a great job of portraying a young boy's yearning, sensitivity and sibling jealousy in a way that avoids feeling "symbolic" of American Childhood but nevertheless feels like an emotional journey that everyone can empathize with (if that makes any sense).

11:45 AM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Yay, Terajima! She really does anchor Caterpillar in all the ways you mention, even though she feels to me like the most precarious of your five. Possibly in part because, unlike with the continually rewarding overhead f***, I'm so over the kind of objectifying medium-shot profile f*** into which Terajima (and Yun, too) are put. (Though, to be fair, Caterpillar goes further enough with that to keep it interesting.)

1:16 PM, September 21, 2011  
Anonymous Evanderholy said...

I always look forward to this time of year because of your "Fifties" awards and your overview of the fall movie season. The latter gets me looking ahead at what is yet to come and the former at what I've already missed. Sadly, this year I've missed a lot, but that only means there is a lot to look forward to.

I've been really happy to see your continued love for "Beginners". That movie has really stuck with me. It could so easily have been too quirky (like his debut) or too depressing and instead it found a perfect balance. A truly dynamite cast too!

All these posts lately have been so great that I feel selfish to ask for more, but I wanted to let you know that at least one reader is still dying to see you finish rolling out your new "Top 100 Films" list. I've even managed to find video copies of "Riddles of the Sphinx" and " The Joyless Street", the two films on your new list I have not yet seen, at Rutgers University right near me. They also have a copy of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" which has been so highly recommended by you that I wonder if it might not make the list. We'll see...

Looking forward to your coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival!

10:40 PM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger MD said...

Echoing the interest in the Top 100 list. I haven't been able to think of a way to express it that wouldn't sound churlish. I've been keeping myself going with your 2008 list. I must have bought 30 DVDs from it in the last few months.

11:50 PM, September 21, 2011  
Blogger Glenn said...

Loved seeing Morgana Davies' name in there, although higher would've been better. I loved that movie so, and she in it.

2:23 AM, September 22, 2011  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

Allow me to be lazy and let this comment stand for all the Fifties posts, which I found snugly waiting for me upon my return from Greece -- and who could ask for a more delicious post-vacation spirit-lifter?

So much to applaud and heartily second here -- I hardly need to tell you at this point how I feel about, say Certified Copy, or indeed Grigoriy Dobrygin -- but the selections I don't automatically agree with are no less exciting.

I'm so keen to revisit Beginners for example -- and that editing mention, which I might well agree with but wouldn't necessarily have recalled myself, is a major reason why. (I don't need to explain -- we're all geeks here.) Meanwhile, I'm increasingly convinced I saw Tuesday After Christmas on a bad/tired day at Cannes. And you could hardly make me and Tim feel more sheepish about walking out of Caterpillar all those months ago!

You're making me kick myself very hard for missing The Interrupters on its admittedly fleeting visit to our shores, and I'm even more excited to see Crazy, Stupid, Love and Warrior this weekend (blame Venice for missed press screenings, and I do) than I already was. Which was very.

Not going to supply my own equivalent list, since my festival routine, plus the separate US and UK release calendars I have to keep in my head, makes pea-soup of the entire process. I will, however, throw in random mentions for Senna, Cold Weather, Mysteries of Lisbon, Brendan Gleeson in The Guard, Chris Hemsworth in Thor, Marlon Morton in The Myth of the American Sleepover, Juno Temple in Kaboom, Dakota Fanning in Super 8 and the production/costume design in Potiche. (Much foreign-language stuff missing there, I think, but I have no idea what's even opened Stateside.)

5:01 AM, September 22, 2011  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

"dazzlingly layers concepts and feelings" I keep seeking out reviews of CERTIFIED COPY to see what they say about Binoche who is just superb here.

I sort of agree with your write-up on Carell and, yet I don't think he's that good. And I want to so much to "get" Mia Wasikowska in JANE EYRE...or just generally. Although it's entire possible that the problem is that I keep thinking she's something to "get".

(Yes, you're busy, but please can't we have even a paragraph on Certified Copy? Please?)

11:02 AM, September 24, 2011  
Anonymous BVR said...

Nick: I noticed in your twitter capsule for Meek's Cutoff you mentioned the performances were "a bit off." I just finished seeing the movie and I found the performances to be really good overall. Can you explain what didn't quite click for you.

12:04 AM, October 21, 2011  

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