Best Actress Birthday Party, Week 6
Born February 5February 11:
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Feb 5: Laura Linney (48)
New Review: The Laramie Project (2002)
Laura's Best Work: At the unambiguous center of a sprawling story and ensemble in Jindabyne, negotiating an entire cutlery set of conflicts, internal and external, tacit and confessed.
I've Also Seen: Cornering the market on Wholesome But Concerned in Lorenzo's Oil; still apple-cheeked as the president's mistress in Dave; the freshest-faced of all urban arrivées in Tales of the City; dressed down by Joe Mantegna as his son's schoolteacher in the unbeatable Searching for Bobby Fischer; in danger of seeming uninteresting in Primal Fear; still shaking some stiffness out of her limbs in The Truman Show (my review); a revelation, note-perfect in dramatic and comedic registers we hadn't seen yet, in the glorious You Can Count on Me (my review), though the Julliard polish comes back a bit in The House of Mirth; winning an Emmy for one of her few performances I just didn't buy, as a hard-to-love mother in Wild Iris; surely asking her agent to dream bigger after The Mothman Prophecies; swanning onto Frasier like a Platonic distillation of its demographic, and winning another Emmy; listing sharply the other way as a gal without mercy in Mystic River, without much time to pull that off; sweet and sad in Love, Actually; well cast but along for a very bumpy second-feature ride in P.S.; having hit a stride where she's interesting even in under-written roles, like the wife in Kinsey; better than that, even, in The Squid and the Whale, though perhaps assigned too many of these recovery missions; taking the check but not without showing us a character in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (my review); gutsy, funny, and functional in a smallish role in Breach; gloriously disheveled, tugged between impulses toward honesty and knee-jerk prevarication, in The Savages. Nothing since, but she's mostly been doing Broadway work and cable TV.
Where To Go Next: Among the features I haven't seen, I'm most compelled by the undisguised oddity of Mark Ruffalo's debut feature Sympathy for Delicious, though before I track that down, I'll want to put in the time on Linney's Emmy-winning performance in the TV miniseries John Adams and her subsequent awards-magnet role in Showtime's The Big C.
Feb 8: Edith Evans (124; died 1976)
New Review: The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Edith's Best Work: Her nomination for The Whisperers (performance review) is easily one of the category's high-water marks for its decade, and a haunting rendering of poverty, madness, and old-age loneliness.
I've Also Seen: Skeptical of Hepburn's resolve in The Nun's Story; fruity and rather generously nominated in Tom Jones; crusty and even more generously nominated in The Chalk Garden.
Where To Go Next: Almost certainly Look Back in Anger, which got boxed out this time by domestic you-said-you'd-wait-for-me issues that I was happy to honor. The Queen of Spades could also be a great, atmospheric divertissement, especially having just checked out Dickinson's and Walbrook's collaboration on Gaslight.
Feb 8: Lana Turner (91; died 1995)
New Review: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Lana's Best Work: The Hunter/Sirk remake of Imitation of Life makes equally good use of her gifts and her limitations as an actress. Being unforgettable can be just as rewarding as being brilliant, I should think.
I've Also Seen: Practically a distillation of whiteness as one of the three leads in Ziegfeld Girl, as a sympathetic girl who makes all the wrong choices; surprisingly appealing in the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with its thematically resonant switcheroo of making Turner the society lady and Ingrid Bergman the randy girl; doing her best but perhaps a bit over-awed by unworthy material and schematic revelations in Peyton Place.
Where To Go Next: Unquestionably Vincente Minnelli's Hollywood melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful. Whether Turner's good in it or not, and I hear she is, Gloria Grahame is lighting up the supporting cast, so at least one blinding-white blonde will be worth writing home about.
Feb 9: Janet Suzman (72)
New Review: ???
Janet's Best Work: She has an interesting, remote quality in Nicholas and Alexandra, but I'm not sure the performance fully pans out, mostly because the film doesn't.
I've Also Seen: Though she's been a leading figure in South African theater and an esteemed interpreter of Shakespeare for years, the only other effort I've seen is her off-camera coaxing of John Kani's moving performance as the director of Othello. Technically I saw her as Cusack's mother in Max, but few films have made less of a lasting impression on me.
Feb 10: Laura Dern (45)
New Review: ???
Laura's Best Work: As the shape-shifting imago at the wormhole center of David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, naïve and uncertain and scared and debased
I've Also Seen: Gobbling ice cream cones in the background of the climax of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, prompting famous advice from director Martin Scorsese; as Rocky's blind and beautifully sympathetic girlfriend in Mask (Favorite Films entry); an archetype of small-town innocence, but not uncurious, in Blue Velvet; screaming "SAILOR!!!" with a notable itch in her crotch in Wild at Heart (my review); taking her memorable spin on the confused, buoyant carnality of the titular figure in Rambling Rose; mouth agape and up to her elbows in dino-shit in Jurassic Park; knocking around the background of Eastwood's A Perfect World, not at all concerned that that interesting movie isn't about her; boldly sour, comically refusing of anyone's sympathy in Citizen Ruth; inspiring the coming-out heard 'round the airport terminal, and 'round the world, on Ellen; an absolute joy as the encouraging, perpetually tipsy aunt in Dr. T & the Women (my review); whisked on as a sop to "old" times in Jurassic Park III (my review); having a lot to say about "finding your bliss" in a barely-lit sequence of Searching for Debra Winger, possibly shot on Rosanna's phone; perfectly plausible as the U.S. poet laureate with ideas of her own on one episode of The West Wing; briefly giving a bored audience something to be happy about in I Am Sam and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio; blowing the roof off of spousal bitterness in We Don't Live Here Anymore; a compressed pleasure as half of a lesbian couple trying to have children in Don Roos' dishy Happy Endings; meeting current collaborator Mike White on his awkward directorial outing Year of the Dog; and really doing a favor to Friend Courteney Cox on the latter's short-film directorial debut, The Monday Before Thanksgiving.
Feb 11: Kim Stanley (87; died 2001)
New Review: ???
Kim's Best Work: Spindly, scary, and less overtly hysterical than I had expected in Séance on a Wet Afternoon and all the more unnerving for that, especially as the piece winds toward its discomfiting ending.
I've Also Seen: Irreducibly strange in her first film The Goddess, as though she's puzzled by the camera and it's intimidated by her; lending spare but effective voice-over to To Kill a Mockingbird; unforgettably proud of her non-conforming daughter but then instrumental in her destruction in Frances (my review); as odd and as powerful as ever with Jessica Lange (again), Tommy Lee Jones, and Rip Torn in a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that was made for Showtime, I think, but easily trumps the Taylor-Newman-Ives version, particularly in the acting department.