Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Fifties for 2012: Best Actress

My perennially favorite category, saved for second-to-last...

Best Actress
Greta Gerwig for Damsels in Distress, for gently suggesting that her archly chipper co-ed might be playing a role or just being herself, and making her deluded epiphanies matter;

Léa Seydoux for Farewell, My Queen, for maintaining the sly, neurotic reserve of a cat in a court painting, but coming to life when it counts, as in her last-act twists of fate;

Meryl Streep for Hope Springs, for refusing to flatter the wife as an exceptional diamond in the rough, playing a timid, unremarkable gal who deserves love, as do we all;

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, for passing so fluidly among precious, pugnacious, and contemplative, entering fully into the youthful but old-souled métier of this movie; and

Deanie Yip for A Simple Life, for giving such an understated, transparent performance despite the field-day elements of this role, from gradual dementia to beatific dying.

Honorable mentions skip past critical favorites Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea, from whom I just didn't get much, and Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz, who makes a dubiously written character actively more irritating before pulling things together in more interesting ways toward the end. My runners-up are Ann Dowd in Compliance, who's never better than in her first 15 minutes or her last five, and does what anyone could with a jerry-rigged script; and Ariane Labed in Attenberg, for taking the character and her situations so seriously and soberly despite (and without shying away from) the bizarre mannerisms of the writing and directing. I got a lot of joy from Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror and Jennifer Westfeldt in Friends with Kids and was impressed with what Linda Cardellini augurs for her potentials in Return, but none are quite Honorable Mentions.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous BVR said...

Great choices, though I'm baffled that with all the love for "Miss Bala" you couldn't find room for Stephanie Sigman, who just gravitates the whole movie with potent terror and holds our attention with a near muted role.

10:33 AM, October 10, 2012  
Blogger James T said...

The girls!!

Love the write-up for Meryl. If an actor thinks they should create a wonderfully adorable person to make the audience root for them then they've given up on humanity.

I see there is a debate whether Wallis or the director deserves credit for her performance but, really, can we ever know for sure?
And why didn't we ask that when Ronan was getting raves for Atonement?

10:33 AM, October 10, 2012  
Anonymous Liz said...

Love the Greta Gerwig mention. And I totally agree with you about Michelle Williams in "Take this Waltz." I adore her ordinarily, but I think that whole performance is completely off-key.

Actually, I didn't really get anything about that movie at all. Such a strange, undercooked follow-up to the assured "Away from Her."

10:39 AM, October 10, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@BVR: I thought Sigman did her job well as a mostly blank slate to whom Miss Bala's events happen, but I didn't think of her performance as an outsized strength of the film. Maybe my impression will change on second viewing?

@James: Wallis is substantially younger even than the Paquins and Ronans and Castle-Hugheses of the world. Her only real corollary I can think of is Victoire Thivisol in Ponette, a great performance that sparked the same "Yeah, but is it a performance?" debates.

@Liz: If I liked anything about Waltz, it was the messy strangeness, and even that I wasn't crazy about till the second hour, when I realized I had more invested than I thought I did. I really struggled through the first hour, and got really cranky with virtually everything about the movie. I thought Away from Her could use a little artful mussing, so I was glad to see Polley experiment in that direction. Maybe the third non-doc feature will be somewhere in between?

7:49 PM, October 10, 2012  
Anonymous goran said...

Yes yes yes re: Yip. Such detailed, lived-in, radiant yet unshowy work. I love how, with just about every gesture, she anticipates and bluntly dismisses the viewer's (as well as the script's) potential condescension. I know very few women from Hong Kong and still I feel like I've known this one my entire life.

I can't believe I'd never before seen Yip in a film. I feel so deprived. (Even though I wasn't completely in love with Simple Life itself.)

1:34 AM, October 11, 2012  
Anonymous goran said...

Also, I was much more impressed with Kruger than Seydoux in Farewell My Queen. Where Seydoux finally and properly blew me away was in Ursula Meier's Sister. I now completely get the whole sudden it-girl status.

1:36 AM, October 11, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Goran: If I gave winners, Yip would walk away with this. And I fully expect the LAFCA to anoint her their Best Actress this year, given their propensity for foreign-language performances and the towering stature of this one.

Also agree that Kruger is the cream of the Farewell crop, and I know people who flat-out dislike Seydoux in this, but I think her flatness in the role is part of what the piece requires, and I at least found her interesting even in those passages. Sister is playing the Chicago Film Festival near the end, and I'm aiming to catch it.

8:47 AM, October 11, 2012  
Anonymous BVR said...

Regarding Meryl, I totally wish "Hope Springs" had been released last year instead so she'd taken it for that. She's so much more compelling and blossoming in here than in "The Iron Lady."
So where does Meryl's "Hope Springs" performance rank for you? Do you think it's on par with her best work?

11:41 AM, October 12, 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home