Wednesday, June 16, 2010

1985 Best Actress Rankings

5. Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God - 2 1/2 Stars

Agnes of God is a deeply flawed adaptation of the stage play. At a convent, a dead newborn is found, wrapped in bloody sheets, in the bedroom wastebasket of a young fragile, unearthly novice Sister Agnes (Meg Tilly). Anne Bancroft is solid in the role of the controlling Mother Superior who wants Agnes left alone when a psychiatrist played by Jane Fonda wants to get to the truth as to what happen.

4. Meryl Streep, Out of Africa - 3 Stars

Eh, another 80's Streep borefest. I can barely make it through a full viewing of Out of Africa. While it has a beautiful score and imagery, it's story is incredibly dull. Streep plays Baroness Karen Blixen who despairing that she would be single forever, married her lover's brother, moved out to Kenya in East Africa, ran a coffee plantation on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and later, when the plantation was bankrupt and the dream was finshed, wrote books about her experiences under the name Isak Dinesan. Sounds more exciting than it actually is. Streep is technically solid but again I feel nothing for her character.

3. Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams - 4 Stars

Like Angela Bassett as Tina Turner, Jessica Lange passes the lip synch test in Sweet Dreams. She captures the sassy, spunky, bawdy spirit of the great country singer Patsy Cline. Lange looks no more like Patsy Cline than I do, and her lip-scynchs to Cline's work is rather hit-and-miss, but she gives a truly memorable performance. As the film opens Patsy is bored and ready to leave a failed marriage. She meets up with lady-killer Charlie Dick (played by Ed Harris) and their torrid romance begins. As their love affair takes off, so does Patsy's career. Sweet Dreams is a slow-moving, but well made little film. Lange carries the story, sinking her acting chops into a loud, showy role, quite different from most of her other work.

2. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple - 5 Stars

Whoopi Goldberg gives one of the best film debut performances in the history of cinema as Celie in The Color Purple. Goldberg is fabulous as the tortured Celie, an unattractive woman given away by her incestuous father to an abusive Danny Glover, who she only knows as "Mister". She perfectly plays a human being, someone in need of love and someone who deserves it. The films' most poignant and heartbreaking moment comes when Goldberg and her sister, Nettie, are separated, maybe forever. Goldberg has a difficult job to do, enlisting our sympathy for a woman who is rarely allowed to speak, to dream, to interact with the lives around her. And she does it brilliantly.

1. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful - 5 Stars

After 7 previous nominations and losses, the 8th time was the charm for Geraldine Page when she won the Oscar for playing Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. Carrie Watts is living the twilight of her life trapped in an apartment in 1940's Houston, Texas with a controlling daughter-in-law and a hen-pecked son. Her fondest wish -- just once before she dies -- is to revisit Bountiful, the small Texas town of her youth which she still refers to as "home." The movie almost unfolds as a Broadway play. It may seem depressing at first, but that's the gift that Geraldine has in portraying the emotions of an aging Southern mother who yearns to return to the small town she left in Texas many many years before. For whatever reason, this film hits an emotional chord with me because Geraldine Page reminds me so much of my maternal grandmother. Her character could be our grandmother, our mother, and we come to love this eccentric character as though she were family. Page is so masterful and in every frame of this monumental film, that we tend to forget that she is even acting. Thank God this film was made when it was and that the voters saw fit to honor her at that time because she would pass away just a year and a half after winning the Oscar.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On Second Thought...

When reviewing the 1987 Best Actress nominees I was absolutely torn between Holly Hunter and Sally Kirkland. They were both brilliant and couldn't be more different. I ultimately went with Kirkland but it kept bothering me for several days. I think Hunter's Jane captured my heart and my conscience was telling me I should follow it. So I will be swapping Kirkland and Hunter in my rankings. Again they were both terrific. But I think Hunter's character simply won me over. That and Broadcast News was by far a better film than Anna.

Friday, June 11, 2010

1991 Best Actress Rankings

5. Bette Midler, For The Boys - 2 Stars

For the Boys gives us the story of Dixie Leonard (Midler), a rough and tough singer with a naughty sense of humor, and Eddie Sparks (James Caan), a secretly sexist comic. When the two meet on a World War II USO tour, it's loathing at first sight--but their audiences adore the combination. Trouble is, you can't imagine why. Both Midler and Caan are expert performers, but they have remarkably little on-screen chemistry, and although they score points individually they never quite seem to be working in tandem. To make matters worse, while the dialogue is often witty, the plot is leaden, and it promptly goes off into a host of predictable directions as it drags its characters from World War II to Vietnam in order to make a series of well-intended but extremely obvious and over-worked comments about changing times and the wastefulness of war.

4. Laura Dern, Rambling Rose- 4 Stars

Gorgeous, touching film about a Southern family in the 1930s whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of Rose (Laura Dern), a so-called "loose" woman with a real heart of gold. Dern is perfectly cast in the delightful title role, and her real-life mother Diane Ladd is brilliant as the matriarch of the conservative clan who does everything in her power to make sure the ignorant and self-righteous men around her don't harm the charming and "rambling" girl. Dern makes the difficult title role her own by making her character's weakness and vulnerabilities also her strengths and virtues.

3. Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise- 5 Stars

Sarandon is at the top of her game and plays the crusty, worldly wise, vulnerable Louise with tenderness and understanding. Davis and Sarandon share a great bond on the film. Thelma and Louise are great friends, but completely different characters in their own right. With Sarandon, I got the feeling that she was the one that had the 'balls' out of the two, making her best friend realize that they should stand for no crap anymore. She also has a past to overcome, and the two of them are drawn together by the events that happen on the run. Sarandon and Davis create an on screen duo that is one of the best in film history.

2. Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise- 5 Stars

I have never seen Geena Davis better. Her unique style is melded very well into a naive woman who never had a chance to express herself, but goes hog wild and seems a natural at it when the time comes. Davis plays a ditsy sort of character, who is naive, but becomes an individual once again, after the men in her life have been nothing but tragedy after tragedy. I gave Davis the edge because I think her character showed more growth from beginning to end.

1. Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs- 5 Stars

Silence of the Lambs' is the story of a young FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) who is summoned to help find one serial killer called `Buffalo Bill.' by interviewing another. Foster's performance is absolutely brilliant. While Anthony Hopkins receives most of the (well-deserved) praise for his chilling portrayal of incarcerated serial killer `Hannibal ‘the Cannibal' Lector', it is Foster's performance that holds the movie together. The fear she shows just behind her eyes makes Clarice's outward courage all the more interesting and vulnerable. This is the perfect way to play the part because it explains Lector's interest in Clarice. Her only bargaining chip in getting Lector's help is to let him `feed' on her innermost secrets and fears in exchange for his brilliant insights into the psychotic mind. It's an intense commanding performance without any false notes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

1984 Best Actress rankings

5. Vanessa Redgrave, The Bostonians - 2 1/2 Stars

This is a Merchant/Ivory film. Even his best reviewed ones like The Remains of the Day and Howards End fell flat for me so certainly The Bostonians, not considered one of his better efforts, fell really really flat! Redgrave gives a decent performance, nothing remarkable at all, but acceptable.

4. Sally Field, Places in the Heart- 3 Stars

The Academy really really liked Sally Field this year. I didn't. Edna Spaulding (Field), who has led a relatively sheltered life until tragedy suddenly strikes and uproots her entire family life as she has known it. This is 1 of 3 movies about a woman trying to save her farm nominated in this year's category! I just thought Field was "acting" a lot. I don't think she became her character.

3. Sissy Spacek, The River - 3 stars

Tom and Mae Garvey (Mel Gibson, Sissy Spacek) are the owners of a small eastern Tennessee farm that has been in the Garvey family for generations. It is the early 1980s, when the staggering U.S. economy threatens the welfare of the American family farm. The Garveys' struggles are compounded by the fact that their property is in a flood plain, and by the enmity of Tom's rival Joe Wade (Scott Glenn), who is a wealthy and powerful foe. Spacek is a lot more subtle in this role than Field and I found her to be a lot more believable in the role of farmer's wife.

2. Jessica Lange, Country - 3 1/2 Stars

Of the 3 farm movies I liked Country the best. The film deals wit the trials and tribulations of a rural family as they struggle to hold onto their farm during the trying economic times experienced by family farms in 1980s. Gil Ivy (Sam Shepherd) and his wife Jewell (Lange) have worked Jewell's family farm for years, and her father Otis (Wilford Brimley)doesn't want to see his family farm lost to foreclosure. However, low crop prices, pending loans and a tornado all put pressure on the struggling family as they face hardship and the prospect of losing their home and livelihood. Lange is from Minnesota and I think she connected with the small life rural farmer role the best of the 3 ladies. It's a sensitive performance and one of her most underrated.

1. Judy Davis, A Passage to India - 3 1/2 Stars

Woah a movie not about a farm! The plot of A Passage to India revolves around a young English woman, Adela Quested played by Davis, who travels to India to meet up with her fiancé. On the trip she is accompanied by her fiancé's mother, Mrs. Moore. After arriving in India, Miss Quested claims to have been raped during an outing to some caverns (a local tourist attraction) by a young native Indian doctor, Dr. Aziz Ahmed. The film continues on with the outraged colonial reaction, the racial tensions between Europeans and Indians, and Ahmed's trial, where the justice system seems to revolve around the concept of "guilty until proved innocent". The main theme of the movie is in fact racism and its consequent injustices. Dr. Ahmed is educated and behaves in quite a European manner, yet the colonial response is outrage that an Indian should have molested a British girl, and a "rush to judgment" ensues with the Europeans assuming guilt even before his trial begins.

Davis portrayal of Adela is extremely realistic and you feel her emotions with such power. It is a strangely curious yet confusing portrayal. And with all the farm ladies cancelling each other out Davis is my winner.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Overall Best Actress rankings (so far)

1. Jessica Lange, Frances
2. Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
3. Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
4. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
5. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
6. Sally Kirkland, Anna
7. Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise
8. Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise
9. Stockard Channing, Six Degrees of Separation
10. Holly Hunter, The Piano
11. Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
12. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
13. Shirley Maclaine, Terms of Endearment
14. Meryl Streep, Silkwood
15. Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
16. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
17.Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice
18. Angela Bassett, What's Love Got to Do With It?
19. Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
20. Diane Keaton, Reds
21. Jane Alexander, Testament
22. Cher, Moonstruck
23. Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman
24. Debra Winger, Shadowlands
25. Jodie Foster, The Accused
26. Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City
27. Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams
28. Laura Dern, Rambling Rose
29. Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
30. Judy Davis, A Passage to India
31. Jessica Lange, Country
32. Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
33. Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria
34. Katherine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
35. Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day
36. Julie Walters, Educating Rita
37. Sissy Spacek, Missing
38. Sissy Spacek, The River
39. Meryl Streep, Ironweed
40. Sally Field, Places in the Heart
41. Meryl Streep, Out of Africa
42. Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God
43. Vanessa Redgrave, The Bostonians
44. Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant's Woman
45. Bette Midler, For the Boys

Don't be too sad or mad if one of your favorites you feel is being slighted. I am actually starting out with some of the stronger categories first. Don't worry. I will be handing out plenty of 2 and even 1 stars once I get to the dreck they nominated in 2005, 1994, and 1984 and other years as well!

1993 Best Actress Rankings

5. Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Days - 3 stars

There are some critically acclaimed films that I disagree with here and there. But there's only about 3-5 I just can't sit through. They are Out of Africa, The English Patient, and The Remains of the Day. For whatever reason I could not get through either of these films on a first viewing and quite frankly even after multiple viewings. I just could not get into them. Are they boring? Well maybe to some. I won't go that far as I know many people like them. I did give The Remains of the Day another try and while I still found it painfully dry I could appreciate the performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. Thompson gives a subtle and thoughtful performance as Miss Kenton.

4. Debra Winger, Shadowlands- 4 stars

Man that Winger knows how to get me to cry! I teared up at different points in all 3 of her nominated performances. That to me is a sign of an actress who realizes how important it is to strike a bond with her audience. Where I was bored with The Remains of the Day I was incredibly moved by Shadowlands which also stars Anthony Hopkins. Winger projects a quiet empathy in creating Joy Gresham, a woman who has fallen in love with author C.S. Lewis through his writings. Like in Terms of Endearment, illness strikes Winger and it makes for some incredibly sad scenes at the end. Her scene with Hopkins in the rain where she tells him "the pain then is part of the happiness later" is incredibly well done and moving. Starting here with Winger, any of the above women in this category easily tops anyone in the 1992 and 1994 Best Actress fields.

3. Angela Bassett, What's Love Got to Do with It?- 4 1/2 stars

I usually am turned off in biopics when an actor portrays a singer and lip synchs. But Bassett is so fiery and convincing as Tina Turner it's easy to overlook that one fact. Bassett's performances of the songs are so much in synch - not just lip-synch, but physically, and with personality and soul -- that it always seems as if we're watching Tina at work. Bassett has so many incredibly scenes especially the scene where she goes to a motel after being beaten by her husband and begs them to take her in. Compare this performance with similiar and rather pedestrian performances that WON Oscars like Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon and you realize how great it truly is.

2. Holly Hunter, The Piano- 5 stars

The Piano is as haunting a movie as your gonna see. The performances are as original as the characters. Hunter's Ada is pale and grim at first, although she is capable of warming. It is interesting to note that all of Hunter's piano playing in the film is actually Hunter herself performing in front of us. You can visually and aurally feel the mood of Hunter's character through the music she plays. She does more with her facial expressions than twenty actors can with a thousand words. Her stature, her presence, her determination are so intense. One could feel sorry for her in places. She has been ripped from her world for reasons we cannot fathom. She has been deemed expendable. When she arrives she expects to be treated properly. Holly Hunter's outstanding performance conveys impressively a woman's ability to express herself without words.

1. Stockard Channing, Six Degrees of Separation- 5 stars

This was a tough one. I really love Hunter, Winger, and Bassett. But I also felt Stockard Channing was phenomenal as Ouisa Kittredge. Ouisa discovers a new side to her own self in front of our eyes as she is charmed by a mysterious young man played by Will Smith who has entered their wealthy upper west side lifestyle. It is a performance of guts and beauty. Through Ouisa Kittridge it teaches us how mundane our everyday events are, that we all need something drastic to happen to bring us out of sleepy everyday into a fun, exciting, new being. What sealed the deal for me was Channing's ending dinner table scene where she says her piece to her husband and walks down the street a liberated women.

1982 Best Actress Rankings

5. Sissy Spacek, Missing - 3 Stars

Spacek gives an effective performance as a frustrated wife trying to cut through a bureaucratic mess and find her missing husband in Missing. Spacek is perfectly serviceable in this role but she is playing second fiddle to Jack Lemmon all the way here.

4. Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria - 3 Stars

Julie Andrews plays a woman playing a man playing a woman. This isn't your typical Julie Andrews movie that's for sure. It's a complicated challenge. And Andrews pulls it off quite effectively. The only skepticism I have about this movie is seeing her as a man. She's so feminine (in her mannerisms, voice, appearance, etc.) that it's almost impossible to think that she's a man. I also found the supporting performances by Robert Preston, James Garner, Lesley Ann Warren, and Alex Karras to have been more interesting and hilarous!

3. Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman - 4 Stars

Talk about taking a thankless role and earning a Best Actress nomination out of it. How many actresses do we see in the "girlfriend" role these days that leave no impression whatsoever? Certainly not a big enough impression to earn a Best Actress nomination out of it. But Winger did just that. She wasn't the main character like Richard Gere was. She didn't have the lines and intensity that Louis Gossett Jr had. Or the sympathetic doomed fate of David Keith. Yet we are attracted to Winger's Paula. She makes us care for her. She is the local factory girl who longs for a better life. She meets Zach Mayo and would like to marry him, but she refuses to do what the other local girls are willing to do -- get pregnant or fake pregnancy to trap a future officer. Winger and Gere have tremendous chemistry and you can't help but feel good at the cheesy ending.

2. Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice - 4 1/2 Stars

What more can we said about Meryl's performance here? It's been called by some the greatest performance by an actress ever on film. Perhaps. It's certainly great. It's not even my favorite this category but I can understand why it's so praised. It's technically perfect. Streep plays the Brooklyn scenes with an enchanting Polish-American accent and she plays the flashbacks in subtitled German and Polish. There is hardly an emotion that Streep doesn't touch in this movie, and yet we're never aware of her straining. And she has never looked more attractive on film. The climax of the movie is very devastating and wonderfully actred by Streep. The film itself I did not really enjoy. I thought Kevin Kline was just awful. The movie was pretty slow moving and certainly dragged at points.

1. Jessica Lange, Frances - 5 Stars

What? No Meryl at the top spot? Well much has been made of the Streep vs Lange 1982 race. It really is one of the best 1-2 performances in a Best Actress category. They also couldn't be more different. Jessica Lange plays Frances Farmer in an electrifying performance that is so driven and that contains so many different facets of a complex personality. She is just as good when she portrays Farmer as an uncertain teenager as she is when she plays her much later, snarling at a hairdresser and screaming at her mother. All of those contradictions were inside Farmer and to see Lange act it all out is quite something to behold. I could not take my eyes off her.

Friday, June 4, 2010

1988 Best Actress Rankings

5. Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark - 3 Stars

I may be coming across as a Meryl hater but that's not the case. I would give her wins for Kramer VS Kramer and The Bridges of Madison County and greatly admire her work in Postcards From the Edge, The Devil Wears Prada, and Julie and Julia.

But many of her nominated performances in the 1980's just leave me feeling cold. Obviously her Lindy Chamberlain in this movie is supposed to be that way. Streep's accent and technique of course are flawless. She has some very strong scenes in the courtroom and she shows great restraint. But the film itself is so dated that I would never want to watch it again. It's a solid technical performance in a very flawed film which seems to be the norm for Streep this decade.

4. Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist - 3 1/2 Stars

Weaver gives a passionate performance as the doomed woman Diane Fossey who led a crusade to save the mountain gorillas of the Rwandan jungle. But like A Cry In the Dark, the quality of the film itself hampers the effect of Weaver's performance. That's not to say Weaver doesn't have some great moments. When her beloved ape Digit is killed by poachers she gets to ride the gauntlet of emotion. It's a moving performance and you can tell Weaver put her heart into it.

3. Jodie Foster, The Accused - 4 Stars

Foster did a lot more in this movie than get gang raped on a pin ball machine. To me her best scene is the scene where she tells off her DA Kelly McGillis while she's hosting dinner in her apartment. You can see the rage, anger, and betrayal in Foster's eyes during that scene. While The Accused is also pretty dated, I think it's a more interesting film mostly due to Foster's performance and the underated performance given by co star Kelly McGillis. The movie does a fantastic job of showing how victims very much turn into the accused even when the most violent crime is commited against them. You can't help but be moved at the end when justice is served for Sarah.

2. Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons - 4 1/2 Stars

Close follows up her terrorizing Alex Forrest with an equally icy cold villan
Marquise De Merteuil. It is played to perfection by Close and co star John Malkovich in the central roles; their arch dialogues together turn into exhausting conversational games, tennis matches of the soul. They manipulate and seduce others for their entertainment. Close has some amazing speeches in this movie. ""Dominate your sex and avenge my own" and her declaration of "war" on Malkovich nearly earned her my top spot!

1. Melanie Griffith, Working Girl - 4 1/2 Stars

I said when analyzing Cher's performance in Moonstruck that I feel a lot of performances that have been nominated for romantic comedies are not given their proper respect. I feel that is the case with Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. I see a lot of talk about the 1988 Oscar race and many feel Griffith didn't belong. They argue for Close, for Streep, for Weaver, for Foster. Obviously those 4 actresses have far better reputations than Griffith who never really was able to get another good role after Working Girl. But I feel that Griffith is not being given her due here.

But not only does Griffith belong here I feel she deserved the award. #1 I think Working Girl is the best movie out of these 5 nominees. I could watch it over and over again. Dangerous Liaisons would be the only one I can say that about. I saw Working Girl in the movie theater. It was one of the first movies I saw on the big screen (my mom dragged me!). I still remember the magical opening scene with Carly Simon's Let the River Run playing as the camera pans from the Statute of Liberty to the downtown New York City skyline. It put a smile on my face that didn't leave until the ending credits. I wish more movies these days did that.

#2 I feel Tess McGill is a character we all can relate to. You learn very early on when you enter the work force.
The problem with working your way up the ladder of life is that sometimes you can't get there from here. Griffith's background as a night school temp with a bad accent and a lot of hair pretty much meant she was always going to be climbing that ladder unless she took matters into her own hands which she did. She rode the ferry, had a sleazy boyfriend, and just when she thought she was making headway and found a mentor to trust in she gets stabbed in the back. Welcome to the real world.

#3 I just thought Griffith did an excellent job carrying this film on her back. She oozed charisma and sexuality on the screen. The script was tight and there were great supporting performances by Sigourney Weaver and Joan Cusack. But the film doesn't work unless we are deeply invested in Tess McGill. We root for her. We wish we had her fight. Griffith shines and creates a memorable screen heroine.

1987 Best Actress Rankings

5. Meryl Streep, Ironweed - 3 stars

Streep gives another admirable but hard to love performance in a flawed forgettable movie. Streep gets to play a drunk and sing. She has a terrific scene in a church where she tells the Virgin Mary she is not a drunk. Like most films this decade outside of Silkwood, it hasn't aged well which always seems to hurt Streep more than others in these rankings.

4. Cher, Moonstruck - 4 stars

I feel guilty ranking Cher fourth because I am a passionate defender of Moonstruck. Why? Because it was a GREAT romantic comedy. And how many GREAT romantic comedies do you see Hollywood making these days? NONE! How many torturous romantic comedies are we forced to sit through these days? Compare Moonstruck with the Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Aniston dreck you see released these days before you use the word "overrated" to describe any 1980's acclaimed romantic comedy. Siskel and Ebert both gave Moonstruck 4 stars and named it one of the top films of 1987. What romantic comedy do you see these days made by a studio that could manage that? I'm waiting...

Cher is simply luminous and hilarous in the role of Loretta Castorini. Her opera scene, her scene with Nicholas Cage on the street, her take me to the bed scene, her SNAP OUT OF IT! scene, and the kitchen table scene at the end are all so memorable today. And isn't that the sign of an effective movie? But my favorite is the one of Cher walking down the street kicking the soda can in the morning when she comes home. Again if this category wasn't so strong I would rank Cher higher because I truly feel both her performance and film are severely under appreciated. Every performance in this film from Cher to Cage and especially Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia is spot on.

3. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction - 4 1/2 Stars

Back in 1987 when Fatal Attraction was being cast, the last person you'd expect to see cast in the lead role as the sexy scorned woman Alex Forrest was Glenn Close. In fact she was not even in the top 5 choices by the studio. Today we can imagine no one else in the iconic role.

Both the movie and Close's performance struck a nerve with audiences back in 1987. She was not your typical screen villian. She has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. She grows attached to him. He goes to her apartment behind his families back. They have a passionate affair. He gets bored and wants to move on before she gets too serious. She refuses to let him move on. Her "I'm not going to be ignored" scene is delicious.

What keeps me from giving her the full 5 stars? 2 things. The ridiculous roller coaster scene where she "kidnaps" Douglas's daughter and takes her for a ride on a roller coaster. It's cheesy not that this is Glenn's fault. But the film also lets her down with the Friday the 13th style ending. Siskel and Ebert also criticized it. But the flaws in the film itself don't change the fact that even more than 20 years later it's hard to ignore or forget Glenn's iconic performance that transformed her from character actress to one of the 1980's best leading ladies.

2. Sally Kirkland, Anna - 5 Stars

I hadn't seen Anna before coming into this category. I was prepared to be torn as to who to rank #1 between Holly Hunter and Glenn Close. After all, Sally Kirkland today is known as a washed up freak show who shows up on red carpets dressed in strange outfits exhibiting bizarre behavior. That's a shame because she was once a well respected actress. Like Charlize Theron in Monster, Kirkland's performance completely dominates this movie.
This film is a fascinating story, all too true for actresses in the US, especially today. Anna, an enormously talented middle-aged woman, is overlooked, while exceptional opportunities come along for a pretty young girl with little to offer but looks and a perky personality, who just happens to use Anna to get to the top. Kirkland puts her heart and soul into this performance.

I was struck by the relationship between the two woman. Youth and middle-age. The incredible losses of not only youth, but of possibility and love are touched on in a way very rarely seen in movies. Especially from a woman's point of view. The mentoring of the younger woman and then the incredible sense of loss when she is whisked away by public reaction to her beauty and then actually takes on the painful past of her mentor, in a way steals it is incredibly moving. You end up feeling for Kirkland's character because she seems to have greater depth than the younger woman, but at the same time is that just the result of age and circumstance?

Perhaps if Sally had taken home the Oscar in March of 1988 maybe she wouldn't have become the side show she is now?

1. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News - 5 Stars

Like with Moonstruck, where are the smart studio adult romantic comedies today? Can they not make them anymore? Do they not think people want to see them anymore? Broadcast News is quite simply brilliant. The script is clever and engaging. And the performances by it's 3 stars, William Hurt, Albert Brooks, and especially Holly Hunter are perfection. Hunter was not a big name when casted in this film. The role was intended for Debra Winger and the relatively unknown Hunter was given her break to stardom.

Hunter is a smart driven TV producer named Jane Craig. She puts forward an incredibly strong front but we also see her vulnerability. She cherishes certain beliefs about network news. One being that the news should be covered by those best qualified to cover it. Well her own values are challenged when she falls for the new hunky anchor played by William Hurt. Like all women she is only human. She may not like his ethics or how he rose to get his job but she like shis body! All women can relate to that.

As someone who has worked in the TV industry, Hunter nails it. I have worked with women just like her.
BROADCAST NEWS marks the first time I saw Holly Hunter and I was mesmerized at her focus, quickness, passion, and finally her eccentric prettiness and sex appeal.

One thing you clearly notice reviewing some of the 1980's categories is the rise of very distinct, strong, and commanding women on the screen. Winger, Kathleen Turner, Holly Hunter, Streep, Lange, Close, Spacek, Weaver, Cher. Today's leading ladies really pale in comparison.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

1981 Best Actress Rankings

5. Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant's Woman - 2 Stars

Accent smackscent. Just wasn't feeling this one at all Meryl. Kudos to anyone who can last through a full viewing.

4. Katherine Hepburn, On Golden Pond - 3 Stars

Hepburn is easy to belove and bemoan. I find her wins in 1967 and 1981 to be incredibly undeserved considering the competition. She is perfectly fine in On Golden Pond. And she has some very moving moments in it. But the film has aged pretty badly and it's impact has as well.

3. Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City - 4 Stars

Sarandon gave one of her sexiest and most underrated performances in the very underrated Atlantic City. She was campaigned as supporting actress but was placed in lead where she belongs.

2. Diane Keaton, Reds - 4 1/2 Stars

Keaton gives her career best performance in the overlong Reds. Her scene with Beatty at the train station and at the end are incredibly well done.

1. Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh - 5 Stars

Is anyone more underappreciated than Marsha Mason? Made about 10 films between 1973-1983 and earned Best Actress noms for 4 of them. And yet many film goers do not remember her today.

The former Mrs. Neil Simon was never better than here as the recovering alcoholic actress Georgia Hines. Some have accused Mason of being "one note". Well I'll take her "one note" any day. She always commands attention when she is on the screen and perfectly mixes strength, vulnerability, and humor in her performances. She did that to perfection here and should have taken home that Oscar as a result.

1983 Best Actress rankings

. Julie Walters, Educating Rita - 3 Stars

Walters is her charming sassy self in Educating Rita. A charming rom com that catapulted Walters career.

4. Jane Alexander, Testament - 4 Stars

Alexander is heartbreaking in a flawed yet moving film. Her scenes as her life is destroyed by a nuclear bomb are incredibly moving. It's a tough film to watch but its worth it just for Alexander's performance.

3. Meryl Streep, Silkwood - 4 1/2 Stars

Streep finally drops the accent and connects with the audience. I think its her most accessible performance and her best. It was a brave moving performance that allowed Streep to let us feel her and care deeply for the character of Karen Silkwood something I failed to do with some of Streep's most praised accent laden work.

2. Shirley Maclaine, Terms of Endearment - 4 1/2 Stars

Maclaine and Winger make for one of the best 1-2 female combos in cinema history. Terms of Endearment may not be The Godfather but I for one cannot understand the criticism I read of it. It's an engaging film filled with memorable performances. It makes you laugh. It make your cry. And when you are dishing out 20 bucks to go the movies these days I would certainly love for a film to atleast make me to do one of those let alone both.

Maclaine is wonderful as Aurora. She has some fantastic comedic and dramatic moments. Her "Give My Daughter" the shot scene is the most talked about but her best scene is the one with her smacking Winger's oldest son. It was an incredibly powerful scene.

1. Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment - 5 Stars

I cannot say enough about Winger's work in this movie. It floors me when I see other lists rank her mid tier. To me its easily one of the top female performance of the 1980's. She literally inhabited this character. She became it. There was not one false baity note to it. I still to this day believe that Emma Horton Greenway was a real person. Where are the Debra Winger's of today? Where is the natural beauty and talent of today? You just don't see them. Her death bed scenes with her sons are incredibly moving and easily earns her my vote as the Best Actress winner of 1983.

People mention 1950, 1962, 1974 and even 1988 a lot when they talk of the strongest Best Actress lineups. 1983 deserves to be in that discussion as well. Every lady in this category gives their career best performance, and yes I include Streep in that as well.

5 Stars= Excellent 4 Stars= Very Good 3 Stars= Good 2 Stars= Fair 1 Star= Poor

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Great Losers: A list of Oscar nominees who are better than most Winners

2009: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
2009: Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
2008: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
2007: Julie Christie, Away From Her
2006: Penelope Cruz, Volver
2006: Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
2006: Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

2004: Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2002: Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
2002: Diane Lane, Unaithful
2000: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
1999: Janet Mcteer, Tumbleweeds
1998: Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
1997: Judi Dench, Mrs. Brown

1995: Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
1995: Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
1994: Winona Ryder, Little Women
1993: Stockard Channing, Six Degrees of Seperation
1993: Angela Bassett, What's Love Got to do With It
1992: Mary McDonnell, Passion Fish
1991: Susan Sarandon, Thelma and Louise
1991: Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise

1990: Meryl Streep, Postcards From the Edge
1988: Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
1987: Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
1987: Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
1987: Sally Kirkland, Anna
1986: Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married
1986: Sigourney Weaver, Aliens

1985: Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
1983: Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
1983: Meryl Streep, Silkwood
1983: Jane Alexander, Testament
1982: Jessica Lange, Frances
1982: Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman
1981: Diane Keaton, Reds

1981: Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
1980: Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary People
1980: Gena Rowlands, Gloria
1978: Ingrid Bergman, Autumn Sonata
1977: Marsha Mason, The Goodbye Girl
1976: Sissy Spacek, Carrie
1976: Liv Ullman, Face to Face

1974: Faye Dunaway, Chinatown
1973: Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist

More to be Continued...

Ranking the Best Actress Academy Award Winners

It's a very difficult job ranking the actual winners. Why? Because in the vast majority of cases, they were not my first choice in their categories of that year. It's almost more fun to rank the losers because they are usually stronger than most of the winners!

But here goes nothing. I will write more in detail about them later.

1. Vivien Leigh, Gone With the Wind
2. Charlize Theron, Monster
3. Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner's Daughter
4. Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire
5. Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry
6. Faye Dunaway, Network
7. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
8. Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs
9. Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff?
10. Holly Hunter, The Piano

11. Kathernine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter
12. Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment
13. Liza Minelli, Cabaret
14. Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice
15. Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy
16. Maggie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
17. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce
18. Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
19. Kathy Bates, Misery
20. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest

21. Julie Christie, Darling
22. Anne Bancroft, The Miracle Worker
23. Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday
24. Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight
25. Sally Field, Norma Rae
26. Cher, Moonstruck
27. Barbara Streisand, Funny Girl
28. Diane Keaton, Annie Hall
29. Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night
30. Jodie Foster, The Accused

31. Glenda Jackson, Women In Love
32. Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God
33. Emma Thompson, Howards End
34. Marion Cotillard, La Vien Rose
35. Patrica Neal, Hud
36. Olivia de Havilland, The Heiress
37. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins
38. Julia Roberts, Erin Brokovich
39. Anna Magnani, The Rose Tatoo
40. Sophia Loren, Two Women

41. Jane Fonda, Klute
42. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette
43. Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda
44. Janet Gaynor, Sunrise/Street Angel/7th Heaven
45. Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle
46. Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver
47. Helen Mirren, The Queen
48. Jessica Lange, Blue Sky
49. Simone Signoret, Room at the Top
50. Norma Shearer, The Divorcee

51. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday
52. Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!
53. Bette Davis, Jezebel
54. Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
55. Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
56. Kate Winslet, The Reader
57. Frances McDormand, Fargo
58. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
59. Sally Field, Places in the Heart
60. Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette

61. Shirley Booth, Come Back Little Sheba
62. Grace Kelly, The Country Girl
63. Joan Fontaine, Suspicion
64. Glenda Jackson, A Touch of Class
65. Nicole Kidman, The Hours
66. Ingrid Bergman, Anastasia
67. Katherine Hepburn, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
68. Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare In Love
69. Jane Fonda, Coming Home
70. Halle Berry, Monster's Ball

71. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
72. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
73. Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8

Marie Dressler, Min and Bill
Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own
Mary Pickford, Coquette
Bette Davis, Dangerous
Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet
Luise Rainer, The Great Ziegfeld
Katherine Hepburn, Morning Glory