My current Top 5

My current Top 5

4/29/2010

Best Actress 2008: Angelina Jolie in "Changeling"

For a lot of actors and actresses, working with Clint Eastwood has proven to be a sure way to an Academy Award nomination. This was not different for Angelina Jolie who got her first Best Actress nomination for her performance as Christine Collins, a young mother searching for her lost son who gets caught up in a cover-up attempt by corrupt police forces, in Changeling.

The role of Christine is surely a dream for every actress – it gives her the opportunity to cry, to shout, to fight alone against a corrupt system, and on top of that, she even gets to go to an asylum. It’s a part that needs a carefully constructed performance that avoids too obvious over-the-top acting but that is also able to capture the over-the-top moments of this dark story. And Angelina Jolie only succeeds in part.

Angelina Jolie has proven before that she is able to lay down her movie-star personality and give honest and surprisingly effective performance. And she has even been to an asylum before – in her Oscar-winning role in Girl, Interrupted she has already shown that she can effectively scream, shout and lash about while five men are trying to remove her by force. But unlike her other work before, she was now able to insert a certain naivety and helplessness in her performance. Normally, Angelina Jolie seems like a woman who could kick every police officer in the city, but in this performance, she convincingly disappeared behind the unknowing and passive façade of a mother who lives in a time when it was impossible for a woman to fight against men.

Overall, Changeling is surely not among Eastwood’s greatest work – it’s mostly a manipulative and overdone story but Angelina Jolie’s performance is, to a certain level, able to both merge with this style but also fight against it at the same time. Her bleak appearance and desperate performance fits to the dark and gloomy atmosphere of the movie while she is also able to sometimes leave Eastwood’s manipulations behind her and show a true and honest characterization of a woman trapped in a nightmare.

It’s a performance of many extremes and a lot of Angelina Jolie’s scenes only work in the context of the whole film. Her big, dramatic outbursts of desperation are clearly over-the-top and leave a bade taste in the viewer’s mouth when they are taken out of context and shown as a short clip at an awards show, but in the world of Changeling, her performance makes sense and her exasperation and anger are believable. It’s a performance that can be incredibly phony and incredibly real and raw at the same time.

Right at the beginning, Angelina Jolie is able to completely let go of her off-screen personality and show a simple woman living a simple, quiet life. She only shares a few scenes with her son at the beginning of the movie but in these few moments, she already lays the foundation for the remaining two hours by showing a deep and loving connection with him with a few simple acting choices that neither draw attention to her motherhood nor seem over rehearsed but rather make it all look uncomplicated and true. Angelina Jolie is often able to play these quiet scenes much more believable than her big emotional scenes but unfortunately, Eastwood seemed to push her to bring her character over-the-edge too often.

Angelina Jolie both carries and harms the movie. It is her character’s tragic fate that is the emotional core of the story and it’s very easy to feel her frustration and anger when nobody is willing to believe or even listen to her, when she is cornered by the doctor in the asylum, when every word is turned against her – it’s very easy for the viewer to understand her and be on her side. But when her performance becomes too over-the-top and unbelievable, the whole movie comes close to collapsing under its own ridiculousness and its most memorable and disturbing moments come when she is not on-screen. It sometimes seems that Eastwood only sees her character as a necessary but unwanted plot device to tell his story of gruesome crimes and crazy killers. So Angelina Jolie has to play a passive and weak woman while fighting against an overblown script and an undecided director which more than once negatively effects her overall performance.

But even though Angelina Jolie still knows how to make Christine an impressive character and, most of all, make her believable. It’s easy to judge a performance when the viewer knows more than the main character – the corruption of the police force, the back story of the ‘chicken coop murders’, the simple fact that most women today would not allow themselves to be treated like this, all this could be easily hold against Christine and Angelina’s sometimes too withdrawn performance but she is able to realistically show a woman for whom it was not possible to see things in the same way as the audience. She shows Christine’s confusion, her desperation, her own doubts and her fear for her son in a believable way and she also demonstrates the change in Christine as she learns the realities of her case – the naivety and inexperience of her character are gone and replaced by bitterness and anger.

The most disappointing moment of her performance is her final scene when Christine, thinking her son may still be alive, says that she has new hope and gives a big smile before she turns and walks away. After all her horrifying experiences, this smile simply seems too out-of-place and it seems as if Eastwood decided to send the audience home with a good feeling despite the hopelessness of the story.

It’s a performance of incredibly mixed qualities as Angelina Jolie reaches heights and lows while she mixes honest emotions with fake over-the-top moments but she nonetheless creates a memorable character caught in a horrible situation and for this, she gets

4/26/2010

Best Actress 2008: Meryl Streep in "Doubt"

Right at the beginning of Doubt, Father Brendan Flynn asks during his mass: “What do you do when you’re not sure?” This will be the theme of the movie that follows this scene – a story about characters that aren’t sure of their own intentions and actions but who act nonetheless.

The main character of the story is also introduced during this mass. The viewer sees the back of a woman, a nun. She stands up during the mass and slowly walks along the aisle to silence some talking children. The way they all immediately stop talking and sit up straight the moment she appears show that this nun is not a woman to joke around with.

This strict, unforgiving and self-righteous nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, is played by Meryl Streep who received her fifteenth Oscar nominations for her performance. Sister Aloysius is a woman who actually has no doubt – she is certain about her instincts and believes in her own righteousness. The movie Doubt could actually also be called ‘Suspicion’ because it is the suspicion of Sister Aloysius that sets the action of the movie and provides the moral dilemma of the story – the suspicion, that Father Flynn might sexually abuse one of his altar boys.

Doubt never answers this question. The whole movie is based on suspicion, assumption and accusations and shows the battle between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn who both defend their own point-of-views (she is sure that he abused the boy and he vehement denies it). The movie leaves it up to the viewers to decide for themselves who is saying the truth. The only character who really has doubts is Sister James (played by Amy Adams) who finds herself in the middle between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius.

Meryl Streep is obviously having fun with this part that gives her the opportunity to chew the scenery and play a villain with all the well-known ingredients – an intimidating voice, a mouth that never smiles and slitted eyes that seem to see everything. But at the same time Meryl Streep realizes that Sister Aloysius isn’t a villain because it is never clear if her instincts are right and Father Flynn really committed a crime. Sister Aloysius is a very strong and self-confident character who, once she is convinced that she is right, sets out to do everything in her power to expose Father Flynn and remove him from his position.

The character of Sister Aloysius is another one of the movie’s unanswered questions. Neither the script nor Meryl Streep’s characterization show her true intentions. Is she really only acting on the behalf of the boy who might have been molested or is it her personal dislike for Father Flynn, who represents modernization while she is holding on to old traditions, that makes her want to destroy him? Sister Aloysius is unlikable in her dominance but does that make her wrong? The fact that Sister Aloysius is such an unpleasant woman seems to make it easy to point the finger at her and blame her as an evil woman who wants to destroy Father Flynn’s reputation – but this poses the question: Is she doing it for the right reason (thinking that he molested the boy) or is she doing it for the wrong reason (trying to get Father Flynn away for personal reasons)? Or is it a combination or something completely different? And does it even matter as long as she achieves the goal to remove an evil man from his position? But what if she is wrong with her accusations? As said before, the fact that Sister Aloysius is an unlikable woman makes it easy to side with Father Flynn – but how would the viewer see the situation if Sister Aloysius was a very nice and charming young nun (like Sister James)? Would the viewer see things differently then? In some ways, Doubt shows that it’s easy to judge people based on how they are and how they behave but in this case, it’s only the question ‘What do they do?’ that’s important. Father Flynn is nice and charming but he may have abused a little boy. Sister Aloysius seems evil and dangerous but she wants to stop him. Based on their actions, it should be easy to side with the Sister but their characters create the tension and ambiguity.

Meryl Streep perfectly understood this theme of the movie and the symbolic part of Sister Aloysius and as a consequence, does her best to show the hard, bitter and cynical side of her character. At the beginning, Meryl Streep unfortunately overdoes her characterization. When she shouts at a group of children, she seems rather like a military leader and her attempt to create a villain-like character is too exaggerated – at some point, one expects her to twirl her moustache or to get on her broom and command her army of flying monkeys. But still, these scenes show the power and intimidation that Sister Aloysius has over the pupils and that this is something that’s normal for her. Sister Aloysius is a product of a different time and Meryl Streep understands this.

What works so well in her characterization is the fact that she sometimes allows Sister Aloysius to be more than just a stereotype and shows more layers behind her stern façade. The script also provides various scenes for Meryl Streep to show that Sister Aloysius is not a monster which comes mostly across in her help for an older nun who is slowly going blind.

Meryl Streep is also confident enough in her own performance to mix her part with a sense of dry humor that might have appeared misplaced but she knows how to handle it without losing the atmosphere of the movie. In general, a lot of other actresses might have failed with the tasks of the screenplay and Stanley’s rather misplaced direction that confuses angular camera positions with artistry, but Meryl Streep is too much of a real pro to not know what she is doing and what works. Doubt is no masterpiece but an over-the-top camp fest but within this, the over-the-top performances by Streep and Hoffman surely work. When they finally face each other in her office and shout and scream at each other, the scene is as overdone as it could possibly get but both actors know how to impress nonetheless. Meryl Streep knows when to let go of the emotional reservations her character had so far and raise her voice and fight an open fight.

Overall, Doubt is a movie that could have been much better and is filled with performances that served their purpose but are often too over-the-top. Even though Meryl Streep gets to play the juicy part in Doubt, her character itself is sometimes rather one-dimensional because, as mentioned before, the viewer sees no doubt in her, only suspicion. Amy Adam’s inner conflict is often much more interesting to watch. And because Meryl Streep so fiercely showed Sister Aloysius’s conviction, her final scene in the movie is among the worst in her entire career since it comes too sudden and also because the quality of Meryl Streep’s acting suddenly drops dramatically.

Still, Meryl Streep was able to find a human core in her stereotypical character and went far beyond the expectations of the script. For this, she gets

4/25/2010

Best Actress 2008: Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married"

Anne Hathaway received the first Oscar nomination as her career for her performance as Kym in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married – a young and formerly drug addicted woman who leaves rehab for a few days to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel.

Rachel Getting Married is a very well-made family drama that is mostly advisable because of its strong performances. Apart from that, it follows the well-known formula of most family dramas: a feud between siblings, an emotionally unavailable mother and a kind father trying his best to keep the family together. But even though Rachel Getting Married still offers enough great moments to become a memorable experience.

The character of Kym is first introduced in rehab and she already shows that certain attitude that she will demonstrate for most of the time – with a cigarette in her hand, seemingly a little bored, but also a bit aggressive and superior. Kym’s face constantly seems to say that everything that has to do with her is more interesting and more worthy to talk about than anything related to somebody else.

With her performance, Anne Hathaway wisely uses all the qualities she usually lets shine in her comedies, like her charm, her loveable personality and her unique appearance and uses it against type to create a memorable character. Her big, expressive eyes, her usually beaming face this time show sorrow and a haunting sadness that Kym mostly tries to hide behind a fake smile and a hyperactive personality.

Kym is not a likeable character and Anne Hathaway never tries to turn her into one. Kym is selfish, irresponsible and constantly tries to push everyone away while desperate to hold onto them at the same time. She is a constant up and down of emotions, going from selfish to mean to nice to angry to depressed in a few moments and Anne Hathaway magnificently portrays all these emotions and Kym’s mood swings in the most natural way – she is able to make Kym an honest and real creation. Her performance never seems rehearsed or prepared in any way but instead very to-the-moment and natural.

Like Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway creates a rather mysterious character but while Kate Winslet combines this with the noticeable distance Hannah keeps to the viewer and her co-characters, Anne’s Kym bursts onto the screen right into the middle of all actions. Anne Hathaway is able to make Kym an introverted and extroverted character at the same time. She constantly carries her emotions on her face, she constantly talks about everything that’s on her mind (which has mostly to do with herself) but at the same time, Anne is able to hint that Kym carries much more feelings and emotions inside of her.

Anne Hathaway effectively shows that Kym is a woman who always needs to be the center of attention, no matter what. The unforgettable scene when Kym is proposing a toast at a dinner party and talks for what seems like hours only about herself until she catches herself and ends it as a toast to her sister is incredibly uncomfortable to watch thanks to Anne Hathaway who is so awkward, weird, unlikable but also fascinating at the same moment that Kym seems like a train wreck – she’s a disaster but one can’t help but look. But even though Anne is also able to demonstrate that Kym is not evil when she tries to steal spotlight or become the center of attention – it’s just something she does naturally. It seems that Kym knows that she can’t compare to her perfect sister and her perfect husband, that she sticks out like sore thumb at every family event so she has to constantly talk about her drug problems, her life in rehab and everything else because that’s all she has to offer.

At the same time, Anne Hathaway also knows when to step into the background and keep her performance down. It is her biggest success that she never lets the grand emotions and actions of Kym influence her performance to become larger-than-life – instead, she does it all very subtly and naturally and that way is able to combine the Kym who constantly acts and pretends with a more honest and real Kym who shows true emotions and feelings.

Later, the viewer learns more about Kym and her past. Years ago, when she was still using drugs, Kym had to take care of her little brother which ended in a tragedy. In a very impressive scene, Kym tells this backstory and Anne Hathaway never tries to make this her ‚big moment’ – instead, she subtly lets the horror of her memories overcome us while Kym remains rather calm. She has lived with these awful memories for years and she knows that she will never be able to forgive herself. These scenes suddenly show a news Kym. Her constant need for affection, her way of always trying to upstage everyone and get in the center of attention, her constant neediness are suddenly visible in a new light – it seems that she is also constantly fighting for a place in her family out of fear to be rejected for her ‚crime’ in her past.

With all the great moments, small and grand, in her performance, Anne Hathaway still can’t hide the fact that sometimes she is a little out-of-her league. She is certainly on her way to become a top dramatic actress but it’s sometimes obvious that she is not there yet. Even though the script obviously puts Kym in the center of attention, it’s mostly Anne Hathaway’s co-stars who dominate the movie: Bill Irwin, Debra Winger and especially Rosemary DeWitt contribute enormously to the film’s success.

But still: from her wonderful confrontation scene with Debra Winger where Anne amazingly shows Kym’s inner pain and her search for a way out of it, her anger and her shock to her unforgettable “Daddy”, Anne Hathaway gives a remarkable and magnificent performance that gets

4/22/2010

Best Actress 2008: Kate Winslet in "The Reader"

After five unsuccessful nominations, Kate Winslet finally took home the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Hannah Schmitz – an uneducated woman with a secret past in post-war Germany .

The Reader is a very average movie that suffers from the fact that it takes itself far too seriously because it deals with the topic of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, as a movie, The Reader has nothing new to say or to show and seems only to exist to collect awards for dealing with such a serious subject.

But fortunately Kate Winslet was able to bring her complex character wonderfully to live and survive all the mediocrity around her with a memorable and layered performance. Even though she received several awards as Best Supporting Actress, Kate Winslet’s Hannah is clearly the central character of the film even if her screentime is limited compared to other nominees. Hanna always remains a kind of mysterious presence in this movie. Like Michael, the young boy who starts an affair with her, the viewer never really gets to know her. But despite the distance the character keeps to her surroundings, she is still an overpowering presence.

Hannah is a woman who carries two secrets with her. One is her illiteracy and the other one her past as a prison guard in a concentration camp. While she shows her first secret with small looks and gestures to the viewer very soon, her second secret is not revealed until later when she is brought to trial for her crimes. The difficult task for Kate Winslet is to make it believable that Hannah’s illiteracy is actually troubling her much more than her past. She can’t see any faults in her action herself since she only did what she thought was right – but her illiteracy, her weakness, is the one thing in her life that she wants to be kept unknown and that is shaming her more than anything else. It is thanks to Kate Winslet’s talent as an actress that Hannah’s actions and thoughts always appear believable, as hard as they may be to understand.

Kate Winslet’s accent is rather distracting at the beginning, but her powerful and strong line deliveries more than make up for that. She is perfectly able to show that Hannah’s character is a giant contrariness – she seems strong and knowing, but at the same time she appears insecure and untaught. She generally puts on a rather aggressive attitude which contributes to the distance she has to everyone around her. It is never revealed if she has any friends or social contacts – but from her way of behaving it seems that her affair with Michael is not her first kind of this encounter.

Hannah is also a woman who seems unable of any self-criticism and reflection about her own behaviour – she doesn’t seem to find any moral problems in her affair with Michael but she pretends to be appalled when he reads “Lady Chatterly’s lover” to her (even though she lets him continue with it). Kate’s Hannah also has a great chemistry with Michael – not loving, rather in a possessive, a destructive way, but still fascinating. During her fight scenes, Kate Winslet lets Hanna become a force of nature – primitive, strong, unforgiving. She is not willing to lose control over her life for even just one second because she needs this control to keep her secret.

Kate Winslet successfully turns Hannah into a three-dimensional and mysterious woman at the same time and gives a fascinating performance as this unmoral woman. But her greatest moments come in the second half of the movie. Her scenes in the court room, all her fear, her beliefs, her insecurity are portrayed perfectly. The scenes when Hanna is describing her past in Nazi Germany, with a kind of innocence because she believes that she did all the right things, are acted wonderfully. In these scenes, she has to become a symbol for what are considered to be German values – correctness, thoroughness and dutifulness. It is revealed that Hannah used to have a ‘normal’ job until she was to be promoted and decided to become a prison guard in a concentration camp instead because she was afraid that her illiteracy would be discovered at her old job. It is shown how the atmosphere of hate and terror in Nazi Germany enabled a woman like Hannah, uneducated but with a dominant and domineering personality, to come into a position where she could decide over life and death. She fought her feelings of inferiority with a forced and obsessed attitude of superiority and for her, showing her weaknesses is worse than being a prison guard in a concentration camp or going to prison. As this is the fact, Hannah is not a symbol for Nazi Germany and all its criminals – instead, The Reader only tells the story about one women and how her naiveté mixed with a tendency for violence and domination and her own weaknesses made her become the women who is seen on trial.

The fact that Hannah feels so ashamed about her illiteracy that she would become a prison guard and later take the single blame for her crimes to cover up her ignorance is very stretched but Kate’s expressive face and acting talent make it believable. The look on her face when she sees the pen lying next to her is a wonderful moment and Kate is able to make it a true moment when Hannah would rather go to prison than reveal the truth about herself.

In the part of Hannah, Kate Winslet never tries to ask for forgiveness and neither does the movie try to show her in a positive light. Hannah is a dangerous woman with a destructive personality who always acted on her own will and did what she thought would be the best for her. But at the same time, Kate shows that Hannah’s low level of education maybe prevented her from seeing a more overall truth than just her own. The scene when she is in prison and is told that she has a visitor is especially moving – the audience sees her happy, excited, waiting until she is told that no one is coming.

Only in the end, Kate Winslet’s performance as an old woman fails to reach the same level of excellence as before. Her awful make-up that makes her look like something out of Madame Tussaud’s instead of a real human being is certainly to blame, but Kate also never really turns into this old woman – rather she plays the young Hannah with make-up. It’s a difficult task to portray such advanced age in a character and Kate is not fully able to succeed.

Still, it’s a remarkable and fascinating performance of a very complex character. For this, Kate Winslet gets

4/18/2010

Best Actress 2008


The next year is 2008 and the nominees were

Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie in Changeling

Melissa Leo in Frozen River

Meryl Streep in Doubt

Kate Winslet in The Reader

4/17/2010

YOUR Best Actress of 2004!

Here are the results of the poll:

1. Imelda Staunton - Vera Drake (13 votes)

2. Catalina Sandino Moreno - Maria Full of Grace & Kate Winslet - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (12 votes)

3. Annette Bening - Being Julia (6 votes)

4. Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby (3 votes)


Thanks for voting!

4/15/2010

Best Actress 1950 - The resolution

After having watched and reviewed all five nominated performances, it's time to pick the winner!


5. Anne Baxter in All about Eve

Anne Baxter wants to do everything right but unfortunately does a lot wrong in her performance but is nonetheless still able to create an interesting character thanks to the brilliant writing. She shows the differences between the fake Eve, the evil Eve, the manipulating Eve, the scared Eve and the real Eve but her limited talent prevents her from combining her instincts with a truly great performance.



                     
Eleanor Parker shows Marie like a deer caught in the spotlight – frightened, unable to do anything. This way, she is wonderfully able to distance Marie’s character from the other, more experienced inmates and give an extremely moving performance that shows how innocence and goodness can be turned into hardness, bitterness and insubordination.



3. Bette Davis in All about Eve

Bette Davis is able to show all the weak and strong sides of Margo and mixes them with wonderful sarcastic humor and so creates one of the most fascinating characters in movie history. In a very private portrayal of a larger-than-life woman, Bette flawlessly demonstrates the self-assurance of Margo without ever overshadowing any of her co-stars.



2. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

Gloria Swanson gives a pitch-perfect performance as she completely understands both the character and the movie style: it’s a mix of satire and realism, a dark comedy and a shocking drama and Gloria Swanson fitted her performance to this – stylized to the maximum, over-the-top and larger-than-life but always real and Gloria Swanson never crosses the line to unconvincing.




Judy Holliday delivered a comedic tour-de-force in Born Yesterday that carries this movie and turns it into one of the great comedies while never forgetting to show also more serious sides of the character. It’s an incredibly multidimensional and deep characterization that is done in the most subtle way because Judy Holliday never draws any attention to her performance itself. Instead, she understands how to maximize the comedy aspect while slowly creating a character that is so much more than visible on the first look.



Best Actress 1950: Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"

After various actresses had rejected the part of silent film star Norma Desmond, director Billy Wilder turned to Gloria Swanson, an actress who, just like Norma Desmond herself, had been one of the great stars in silent films but whose fame faded after the transition to talkies. While Gloria Swanson was interested in playing the part, she felt insulted by the demand to make a screen test for her studio but finally swallowed her pride and gave one of the most iconic and unforgettable performances of all time and the signature work of her entire career.

Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder’s masterpiece and one of the greatest movies of all time, tells the story of Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful and cynical screenwriter, whose life takes an unexpected turn when he has to stop his car in the driveway of a big, apparently abandoned mansion. Very soon her realizes that this mansion is not left but inhabited by Norma Desmond, a great, but forgotten star of the silent era who dreams of a return to the silver screen.

Before Norma Desmond appears for the first time, the viewer hears her distinctive, bidding voice from the distance. Then the camera moves slowly towards her, but her face is mostly hidden behind some blinds in front of her windows. It’s a mysterious introduction to one of the most fascinating movie characters ever. Norma Desmond lives in a world of the past. She doesn’t realize that she is forgotten by today’s audience but still thinks of herself as the greatest of them all. She is not the same kind of diva as Margo Channing in All about Eve – Margo has trouble to face reality while Norma doesn’t even see reality and lives in her own fantasy world. And it’s also obvious from the beginning that the years of isolation, living in an empty house full of pictures of herself, watching movies with herself, has driven Norma close to the edge of insanity. As her butler says, she has already tried to kill herself and Norma’s constant behavior, her mood swings, her way of talking and behaving, show that this woman is slowly becoming crazy.

Gloria Swanson gives a performance that is pitch-perfect because she completely understands both the character and the movie style: it’s a mix of satire and realism, a dark comedy and a shocking drama and Gloria Swanson fitted her performance to this – her performance is stylized to the maximum, over-the-top and larger-than-life but always real and Gloria Swanson never crosses the line to unconvincing. It’s the only way this character could have been played successfully and Gloria Swanson is masterful. She also understands the humor and comedy of the film and that Norma Desmond is not supposed to be realistic but Gloria is able to give a real performance of this unreal character. She also perfectly brings all the supposed qualities of Norma to live – she is able to make it believable that this woman used to be a great star, there is something hypnotic about her personality that glues the viewer’s eye to the screen whenever she appears.

Norma Desmond is not a diva because she is a great star – she is only a diva because she thinks she is. Gloria Swanson is not afraid to show that Norma is mostly a pathetic character. Forgotten, laughed at, only remembered by people who actually experienced her fame. But Norma never becomes a laughable character thanks to Gloria Swanson’s dominating tour-de-force that always hints at something dangerous, unstable and uncontrollable behind Norma’s face that prevents from laughing at her. Instead, she is completely captivating from start to finish.

Even though the character of Norma Desmond sometimes seems of secondary importance compared to Joe Gillis, she never steps into the background and her presence is constantly felt. Gloria Swanson also developed a wonderful chemistry with William Holden who also plays his part with outstanding determination.

Gloria Swanson plays her role with full confidence in her own ability to combine her personal experiences as a silent movie star with Norma’s inability to leaves these days behind her. Especially in the scenes when Norma finally goes mad, Gloria Swanson’s own roots in the silent era become most effective because her widened eyes, filled with insanity, her way of moving could only be done by an actress who knew a time before there was ‘talk, talk, talk’. In these scenes, Gloria Swanson’s performances crosses the line from outstanding to perfection. Her line delivery, which has been wonderful already and turned so many of her lines into classics, becomes so deliciously mad without ever seeming exaggerated. Her final scene is an incredibly mix of insanity, paltriness and comedy. A performance like hers could not have been so successful in any other movie because it completely depends on Sunset Boulevard’s style and story but in this fictitious world, it’s true perfection.

In the role of Norma Desmond, Gloria Swanson knows exactly what she is doing and what she can achieve. It’s one of the great screen performances and for this she gets

4/13/2010

Best Actress 1950: Eleanor Parker in "Caged"

Eleanor Parker received the first of her three unsuccessful Best Actress nominations for her role as Marie Allen in the prison movie Caged.

Caged is certainly not a great movie, it’s mostly over-the-top and laughable but it’s still entertaining and camp enough make it an unforgettable example of its genre. And even though the movie itself may not be too great, it still offered some very gifted actress some very challenging parts, especially Eleanor Parker and (to a lesser extent) Hope Emerson.

Like Anne Baxter, Eleanor Parker was a rather theatrical and melodramatic actress whose acting style always differed from those of her co-stars but unlike Anne Baxter, she had enough talent to make it all work and also succeed outside of her own comfort zone. Eleanor Parker had a wonderful delicacy that worked especially well in the context of Caged because Marie Allen is such a delicate, helpless and lost character.

Right in the first scenes it is shown that Marie is different from all the other women that are brought to jail with her. She seems confused and scared, she has to be grabbed and thrown out of the car because she is unable to leave it herself. It seems that Marie Allen is hoping to experience a bad dream unlike the other arrivals that all seem to have been there before. It’s an outlook at what is about to become of Marie in a place like this.

Eleanor Parker has a wonderful face that was made for close-up and not many other actresses were able to portray fear, desperation and loneliness with such effectiveness without saying a single word. Eleanor Parker shows Marie like a deer caught in the spotlight – frightened, unable to do anything. This way, she is wonderfully able to distance Marie’s character from the other, more experienced inmates and give an extremely moving performance that shows how innocence and goodness can be turned into hardness, bitterness and insubordination. Eleanor Parker’s performance is so convincing that one even forgives the fact that she is obviously not 19 years anymore.

Shortly after the movie started, the viewer learns that Marie Allen got 15 years for armed robbery. Step by step it is revealed that she actually helping her husband to commit the crime but he got killed in the process. Eleanor Parker wonderfully portrays Marie’s insecurity as she enters the prison and also her shame about what she did and how she disgraced her family. During the first scenes, Marie speaks very little but Eleanor Parker’s ability to combine all her different feelings and show them on her face helps her to give a very moving and compelling performance. Her way of communicating mostly with her face underlines her quietness and her difference from all the other open and open-mouthed women. Also her theatrical acting effectively demonstrates her isolation in her new life.

Caged shows that even though Marie helped to commit a crime, she is actually an innocent and good-hearted woman who followed her husband and for whom the punishment in prison is only damaging and not helping. The cruelty of prison life that demands of the inmates to either “eat or be eaten”, the constant supervision of the demonic prison guard and the feeling that there is no hope and no future for her, change Marie Allen’s character and make her become just the kind of woman that society actually wants to prevent.

Eleanor Parker movingly shows how everything in Marie’s life is taken away from her. When she learns that she is pregnant, there is hope in her life but later everything is destroyed when her own mother is unwilling to take care of the child. Eleanor Parker’s acting when she pleads to her mother, begs to her and breaks down crying is chilling.

Eleanor Parker successfully established Marie as an innocent and needy character and that way maximizes the moving effects of the scenes when she is slowly destroyed and then changed by everything around her. Even though her performance seems a bit monotonous at first, her expressive face that was made for suffering, still captivates the viewer.

Eleanor Parker also shows the development in Marie very effectively and never too sudden. Marie somehow always remains that young and innocent woman but life in prison changes her forever. She is still affected by her surroundings but she seems to care less and less with each day. She slowly learns how to survive and how to hold her own. Eleanor Parker’s Marie becomes a symbol for Caged’s message that punishment in prison can achieve the exact opposite result than intended.

Only in the end, the movie seems to rushed and that way makes her transformation seem too sudden but Eleanor Parker is still able to make this believable and chilling. She never loses the core of Marie’s character and shows that Marie did not change because she wanted to but because she had to and now this new personality has taken over her life.

Overall, Caged is not great but still effective in its portrayal of prison life. It also contains a mix of different acting styles as Eleanor Parker mixes theatricality with realism, Hope Emerson goes for pure camp (but in a good way) and the supporting cast is a wild mix of everything.

Overall, Eleanor Parker gives a very effective performance that wonderfully shows the change in her character. For this, she gets

4/12/2010

Best Actress 1950: Anne Baxter in "All about Eve"

After having won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar a couple of years earlier, Anne Baxter received her only Best Actress nomination for her performance as the title character in All about Eve – a young and shy aspiring actress who turns out to be a scheming manipulator.

Among movie fans, Anne Baxter is generally considered to be the reason why Bette Davis didn’t win the Best Actress Oscar for All about Eve – Anne Baxter’s decision to go lead instead of supporting reputedly resulted in vote splitting and cost Bette the award. But this simply overlooks the fact that Anne Baxter’s Eve is clearly a leading character in All about Eve.

Anne Baxter was a rather limited and artificial actress with a tendency for overacting and that melodramatic acting style from the 40s. This all worked in her Oscar winning role in The Razor’s Edge because this part gave her a lot of emotional and heartbreaking scenes where her acting style either fitted the situation or wasn’t so noticeable because of the character’s miseries. But in All about Eve, Anne Baxter didn’t have the luxury of obvious tragedy but only had herself and the dialogue to rely on. And while she was able to use that wonderful dialogue wisely, her shortcomings as an actress become too obvious in this part.

As mentioned before, there is always something artificial about Anne Baxter’s acting. This does not refer to the fact that Eve is a character who is always pretending and acting herself, but simply to Anne Baxter’s entire performance. All about Eve is filled with performances that are alive and real and Anne Baxter can never keep up with them. When Eve meets Karen Richards for the first time outside the theatre, Anne Baxter moves like a robot, positioning herself in front of Celeste in the right angle for the camera which results in completely unnatural movements and line deliveries.

The biggest problem of Anne Baxter’s performances lies in her early misinterpretation of the character. The viewer is supposed to believe that Eve is not only shy and quiet but also immediately likeable in a way that would make a woman like Margo Channing give her a room in her house and make her fool everyone around her (except for Birdie). This ability to make almost everybody like and trust her is the most important quality in Eve’s character and considering that Eve is supposed to be such a great actress, it should not be too hard for her. But Anne Baxter’s performance is never able to show these qualities. When she is questioning Karen about Margo, there should be some kind of excitement and admiration, but Anne Baxter delivers her lines mostly bored, sometimes even threatening but always very stiff. She does not succeed in showing the allegedly innocence in Eve. When she finally meets Margo, it’s also such a lifeless scene because Anne Baxter again seems almost bored to be there. Her biggest failure is the scene when Eve is telling about her own life and her past. It’s these scenes that should connect Eve to the other characters but again, Anne Baxter delivers her lines with so much lifelessness and a monotonous voice that is constantly gasping for air that it’s impossible to believe that anyone would care for this woman in any way. The only way to make this scene even slightly moving is by highlighting it with depressing music in the background. The normal reaction should have been that Margo’s and Eve’s ways part after that encounter because Anne Baxter fails to show why Margo and her friends accept her in their group.

Anne Baxter’s lifeless performance also makes another important aspect of Eve’s character unbelieving: the fact that she is supposed to be a great actress ‘full of fire and music’. It’s absolutely impossible to believe that a woman like Eve could seriously challenge Margo on the stage.

What does succeed in Anne Baxter’s performance is her ability to show Eve’s longing for that stage. In these scenes, she shows that this is not only a desire, but even an obsession. When she watches Margo’s curtain call or talks about how important the applause from the audience is, her performance and her character become much more interesting. It’s in these scenes that Anne’s acting style works well in the context of the move. Next to that, she is also able to show how inexperienced Eve seems to be compared to everyone around her. Thanks to her acting style that separates her from all the other performances, Anne Baxter is also able to separate Eve from all the other characters. Even when they are interacting, Eve seems to be distant.

Of course it’s obvious that Eve is a character who is supposed to be constantly acting but it’s Anne Baxter’s job to never let the other characters or the viewer realize this. But since Anne Baxter is not able to show this in Eve, the final outcome where Eve’s true character is revealed doesn’t work as well as it could have in the hands of a better actress.

But the astonishing thing about Anne Baxter’s performance is that, as misinterpreted as it may be, it still works in the context of the film. Anne Baxter’s performance does not harm the movie in any way but surprisingly works in its overall context. The reason is that Anne’s performance is low-key and quiet enough to never draw attention to itself but melt with the rest of the cast and movie.

On the whole, Anne Baxter’s performance improves during the run of the movie because her scenes of anger or hidden evil are much better acted than those of silent obedience. Her smile when she tells Margo about her phone call to Bill is a great moment in her performance and suddenly the character of Eve appears from a different angle. Her most famous scene in the bathroom with Celeste Holm is very well done and Anne Baxter is able to nail the moment when Eve suddenly shows her true self. Whenever Anne Baxter can show the merciless and conniving side of Eve, her performance suddenly comes alive. But even then, there are still more over-the-top moments to come. Her big fight scene with Addison DeWitt is so over-the-top, overdone, melodramatic and unreal that it’s impossible not to laugh when Addison slaps her after her fake laugh or when one sees her over-the-top crying.

The final scene of Eve is clearly the best moment in Anne Baxter’s performance because here she shows how Eve really is – lazy, bossy and too arrogant to notice the obvious truth in front of her eyes.

It’s a performance of so much mixed feelings because Anne Baxter has the right instincts for the part. She shows the differences between the fake Eve, the evil Eve, the manipulating Eve, the scared Eve and the real Eve but her limited talent prevents her from combining her instincts with a truly great performance.

Anne Baxter wants to do everything right but unfortunately does a lot wrong in her performance but is nonetheless still able to create an interesting character thanks to the brilliant writing. For this, she gets

4/10/2010

Best Actress 1950: Bette Davis in "All about Eve"

After having appeared in All about Eve, Bette Davis told director Joseph L. Mankiewicz: “You resurrected me from the dead” which may have been exaggerated but still described the situation quite well. After having been the most acclaimed dramatic actress at the end of the 30s and the beginning of the 40s, the quality of Bette’s work began to diminish and she appeared in mostly mediocre movies – until Mankiewicz offered her the part of the aging theatre diva Margo Channing in All about Eve. Her performance turned out to be an artistic comeback on the highest level for which she received her 8th Oscar nomination.

All about Eve tells the story of two women: one is Margo Channing, a great star of the New York theatre stage and the other is Eve Harrington, a young and aspiring actress who pretends to be Margo’s biggest fan but turns out to be a scheming manipulator who tries to get Margo’s next part.

The movie begins with an awards ceremony where the greatest achievements of the stage are awarded with the Sarah Siddons award while the viewer hears the voice of the theatre critic Addison DeWitt who explains the situation and presents the main characters of the story. Considering that Margo’s is such a great star and diva, her entrance is rather unspectacular. The camera suddenly cuts to her while DeWitt is introducing her to the viewer but Bette Davis movie star personality is already visible in this short scene. The way she rejects water in her drink, lights a fire or looks around her fits perfectly to DeWitt’s description that Margo is ‘a great star’ and that she will never be anything else. It’s an incredibly subtle introduction of a very real diva. When Eve Harrington receives the award for the best acting, Margo does not applaud. Instead, she seems to be curious to see what happens – and there seems also to be something knowing behind her face. With a few looks, Bette Davis shows there is a whole history behind her and Eve – a story that hasn’t been told yet.

From the first moment Bette Davis appears in the flashback scenes, she creates a multidimensional, larger-than-life but always very real theatre diva. Just like her character is supposed to be, she dominates the screen but she is able to make it look completely natural. Bette Davis never overacts any emotion but instead is able to be larger-than-life in a very subtle way that results in a very honest and believable characterization. She flawlessly demonstrates the self-assurance of Margo and how she is automatically the center of attention but Bette Davis never overshadows any of her co-stars but instead creates wonderful relations with them all: her chemistry with Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Gary Merril and, of course, Anne Baxter, is fantastic and she never turns All about Eve into a Bette-Davis-movie but a wonderful ensemble piece instead.

But Bette Davis doesn’t stop at showing Margo’s self-confidence but very soon opens her characters up and demonstrates a certain vulnerability and uncertainty especially when it comes to her age. She is able to joke about that topic but it’s obvious that this is actually very serious and troubling for her because it’s concerning her professional and her private life. She is realizing that she is becoming too old for the parts she is playing and she is constantly worried that Bill, the love of her life who is younger than her, will someday leave her for a woman his own age.

As if all these worries wouldn’t be enough, she soon begins to doubt the intentions of Eve, the young girl whom she gave a room in her house and a job as her assistant. When she catches Eve with her own costume in front of a mirror, she seems rather amused but very soon she is not able to define Eve anymore. Bette plays this beginning suspicion very well.

She is especially impressive at the party scene because all of Margo’s worries and fears come together here and make her react in a sullen way. Bette convincingly shows that Margo hates herself for acting the way she does – being mean to everyone, unpleasant and suspicious but she simply can’t stop it. She feels hurt so she likes to hurt others. Bette is able to clearly show when Margo is her real self and when she is behaving in a fake, arrogant way when something is not going according to her wishes or she simply doesn’t know how to handle reality. And especially handling reality becomes more and more difficult for her as she realizes that she has come to a crucial point in her life where she can’t go on like this anymore.

Eve does not only threaten Margo with her youth but also with the simple fact that she is able to fool everyone else (except Margo’s friend Birdie). Suddenly, Margo is alone on her side. Eve seems to destroy the natural authority that a star like her has – her friends are on Eve’s side when Margo is behaving in the most temperamental way where she can’t hide her true feelings.

Bette Davis is able to show all the weak and strong sides of Margo and mixes them with wonderful sarcastic humor and so creates one of the most fascinating characters in movie history. It’s a very private portrayal of a larger-than-life woman. Bette shows that for this woman who is used to get everything she wants, the uncertainties of her life are becoming too much. Margo is in a phase in her life where she prevents herself from happiness because she doesn’t know how to react to all the changes.

But finally, Margo opens her thoughts and soul in a cold car on the side of the road. A fight with Bill seems to have provoked her to finally decide about her own life. She realizes that she turned herself into a stage character and that she must find herself again. It’s a great moment and Bette is able to deliver it without any self-pity but rather shows a thoughtful reflection on Margo’s character.

When she and Bill are finally getting engaged, Bette plays Margo with a wonderful openness and relaxedness that hasn’t been visible in her performance up to that point. She shows that Margo finally figured out what is good for her and how she wants her life to be.

Bette Davis delivers an astonishing and unforgettable portrayal of a great star at her personal crossroad and for this she gets

4/08/2010

Best Actress 1950: Judy Holliday in "Born Yesterday"

Judy Holliday received her Best Actress Oscar for reprising her stage role as dumb blond Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday.

A ‘dumb blond’ is certainly not the kind of character one expects to find among the list of Best Actress winners since this type of role is usually reserved for the Supporting category where one can find nominees and winners like Jean Hagen, Mira Sorvino or Jennifer Tilly. This kind of role is also always better suited for a supporting part because as hilarious as Jean Hagen may be in Singin’ in the Rain – who would want to see a whole movie with her annoying Lina as the main character?

But Judy Holliday is the exception to the rule. The reason is that she was not only a comedic genius – she was also able to always make her characters incredibly deep and layered. She had the gift of a true comedian that she was able to bring a certain pathos to her parts and was able to switch between hilarious comedy and saddening moments in one second.

Actually, it is incorrect to say that Judy Holliday won for playing a dumb blond – because that’s not what Billie is. Billie is uneducated and ignorant – but she doesn’t mind it. In fact, she likes it because she knows that she doesn’t need to be smart for her role as the mistress of a rich tycoon. Her life is very simple and she knows how to handle it (“If he don’t act friendly…I don’t act friendly.”) Only when Paul opens her eyes for a different world, she realizes her own faults and tries to become a better person.

So, Billie is not a typical dumb blond and unlike a lot of other dumb blondes, she is also not a mean or unpleasant character. Instead, she is totally charming and loveable. One has no problem to have Billie as the central character because she is able to immediately captivate the audience and constantly show new sides of Billie. She shows that there is always a sadness behind her face. It’s obvious that she isn’t really satisfied with her life but she doesn’t realize that herself. She needs help to discover her own inner feelings.

Judy Holliday is able to show how Billie’s character, her thoughts and ideals begin to change but she also stays faithful to the character. Billie doesn’t become a genius but instead, she simply starts to think on her own and begins to see the world differently.

It’s an incredibly multidimensional and deep characterization that is done in the most subtle way because Judy Holliday never draws any attention to her performance itself. Instead, she understands how to maximize the comedy aspect while slowly creating a character that is so much more than visible on the first look.

Judy Holliday is able to make Billie very real, insecure, sad but also incredibly hilarious. She uses her voice to deliver even the most banal lines in the most unforgettable way – even things like “Yes, you.”, “Wait a minute.” or simply “Harry.” are so funny because Judy delivers them in the greatest way. She offers an expertly crafted performance that emphasizes the comedy in every possible situation but never comes across as over-rehearsed, mistimed or forced upon the audience. In this part, Judy Holliday had to walk a very thin line between being hilariously amazing or a complete disaster and she constantly succeeded.

Who can forget the scene when she is playing the radio and starts to sing-along while they are having guests or the scene when she is playing cards with Harry. In this one, Judy shows that Billie is an excellent player and underlines the fact that Billie can be good at something once she is taught about it.

Judy has such a natural talent for comedy that is always visible and makes her such a charming and joyful presence. Her best line delivery may be
Billie: "Could you do me a favor, Harry?"
Harry: "What?"
Billie: "Drop dead."

But not only does she do an amazing job concerning the comedy, she also handles the more serious aspects in the greatest way. When she talks about her father and her distance to him, she shows the viewer a very troubled side of Billie that would never have been expected.

The screenplay actually shows that Billie is a very suggestible character – she doesn’t become smarter herself but instead is formed by William Holden’s character who teaches her his own beliefs and thoughts. But Judy Holliday is still able to show that Billie always keeps control over everything that happens to her and that she is much more aware of the happenings around her than people may think. She may not know a lot of things, but she understands.

Judy Holliday delivered a comedic tour-de-force in Born Yesterday that carries this movie and turns it into one of the great comedies while never forgetting to show also more serious sides of the character. For this, she gets

4/07/2010

Best Actress 1950


The next year is 1950 and the nominees were

Anne Baxter in All about Eve

Bette Davis in All about Eve

Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

Eleanor Parker in Caged

Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

4/06/2010

Best Actress 2004 - the resolution!

After having watched and reviewed all five nominated performances, it's time to pick the winner!


5. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind itself, Kate Winslet’s performance sprinkles with creativity and originality. She meets all the challenges of this unusual script and creates a character who is a firework of emotions, sometimes impossible to bear, sometimes selfish and mean but strangely fascinating and loveable at the same time.



                     
Catalina’s prim charm is wonderfully suited for her part as the headstrong but also insecure Maria. She hits all the right notes and makes Maria an unforgettable character by giving a very subtle, relaxed and natural performance that dominates the movie and helps to tell this very moving and gripping story.




Annette Bening almost bursts of confidence in her performance and her eccentric, larger-than-life diva who is full of self-assurance but also very insecure is an unforgettable portrayal that is able to entertain and astonish the audience with its humor, wit and originality.



2. Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

Hilary Swank is able to make Maggie both a dreamer and a worn-out woman at the same time. She combines her hopes and dreams, her fears and disappointments in the greatest way and gives an unforgettable performance of a strong-willed, determinant, but also insecure and uncertain character.

                


In the performance of Imelda Staunton, the always cheerful Vera who constantly hums sunny melodies becomes a very real and everyday character but she is also able to challenge the audience when she shows that Vera is involved in a matter that couldn’t be more controversial. By capturing all these aspects, Imelda Staunton gives one of the most heartbreaking and complex performances to ever grace the screen. 



Best Actress 2004: Imelda Staunton in "Vera Drake"

British actress Imelda Staunton received her first Oscar nomination and critical praise around the world for her performance as the title character in Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake – the story about a working class woman in London during the 1950s.

Vera Drake is a symbol of efficiency and charity. She works as a house cleaner, takes care of her old mother and a sick neighbor and is also devoted to her husband and her children. They form a strong and loving family, full of loyal support and kindness and Vera uses all the time she has to be with them – except a few times a month when she secretly works as an abortionist.

Imelda Staunton is incredibly effective in developing Vera’s character and displaying her kindness in the early scenes of Vera Drake. She successfully achieves that no part of Vera’s kindness and goodness seems overdone or unbelievable but instead Imelda Staunton leaves little doubt that Vera is a woman who was born to help and be gentle and loving. In these early scenes, Imelda Staunton builds the foundation for everything that would later happen to Vera and already helps to make these coming scenes believable, too.

Thanks to Miss Staunton, the always cheerful Vera who constantly hums sunny melodies becomes a very real and everyday character but she is also able to challenge the audience when she shows that Vera is involved in a matter that couldn’t be more controversial. From time to time, a friend of Vera visits her and tells her about a young girl or a woman who got pregnant and wants to get rid of the child. So Vera packs up her things and with the same cheerful face she goes to work she also visits these scared women in their homes and with the help of a few simple things she performs an abortion – or as Vera calls it, she helps these women to get their bleeding back. Imelda Staunton gives a performance that is both simple and complex at the same time. She shows that moral dilemmas don’t exist for Vera – she is convinced of what she is doing and she sees no problem with it. Like a grandmother, she comes to these women and with kind words she prepares them for the abortion. After a few more encouraging words, she leaves just as quickly as she had gotten there. Not because she is afraid but simply because her work is done. Even though Vera is a kind and loving woman, she does not try to comfort these women in any way. Some of them are scared, others cry desperately – in these moments, Vera simple stands besides them and waits. Imelda Staunton is wonderful in these scenes as she constantly challenges the viewers and their own beliefs with her performance. She does what she thinks is right but at the same time she never seems to really think about the women themselves. Vera’s niceness would probably make her give her last coat to a freezing person but it also shows that Vera is an uneducated woman who does not think about consequences or the mental state of her ‘patients’. Imelda Staunton never tries to turn Vera Drake into a saint or a devil and leaves it open for every viewer himself to decide about her character and her actions.

It’s a story about morality and legality. The movie and Imelda Staunton don’t insist that Vera Drake is morally on the right side and does good in helping these women, instead, it shows that for the women from the working class who have no money and who would be punished for performing an abortion (which is illegal at the time) there is no other option than Vera Drake. The movie shows that it is a repressing society that creates women like Vera Drake who mean good but are surely not the best solution.

She also keeps showing the many sides of Vera Drake and wonderfully underlines the simplicity of the character in both the scenes of the abortions and with her family. The moment that Vera Drake leaves these women in their homes, they are forgotten for her and her own family becomes her main focus again. Imelda Staunton’s ability to portray the simple world of Vera Drake, her happiness, her simplicity, her joy in little things, her satisfaction with her husband and her family, is so fascinating because it creates such a strong contrast to her secret life. Imelda Staunton puzzles the viewer with Vera’s carefree attitude about her illegal activities since it is never apparent if she is really understanding the possible consequences.

All this is finally answered during one of the greatest close-up in movie history. When suddenly the police enters Vera’s living room during a family celebration. While the camera stays on her face, Imelda Staunton shows in a scene that is a master-class in acting how the joy and cheerfulness disappear forever from Vera’s face and her personality. As her face changes from surprised to disbelieve to shock and to fear mixed with a kind of acceptance it becomes clear that Vera has always been aware that this day might come but she never really expected it. When she is alone with the police she says without hesitation “I know why you’re here.” There is no doubt in her why the police came for her.

With that single close-up, Imelda Staunton changed her entire character and also the atmosphere of the whole movie. Her joyful smile and loving kindness has gone and is replaced by a broken woman who can’t control her tears. Like an animal caught in a cage, Vera is unable to act in this situation. In the second half of the movie Imelda Staunton delivers a heartbreaking tour-de-force as a woman who knows that she has lost everything and is not able to deal with this. When she has to take off her wedding ring at the police or her complete inability to tell her husband the truth are moments of incredible emotional devastation.

Vera’s naivety and her goodness that Imelda Staunton established earlier also make it believable that Vera never did any abortions for money and instead simply performed them to help these girl – when she learns that her friend who has sent her to these girls secretly took money from them for Vera’s work, it is another blow for Vera.

Vera may have believed that she has done the right thing but once the police found out about this, she knows that there is no way out for her. It’s clear that she knew about the illegality of her activities but it seems that never really thought about it because for her it was more important to do what she felt is right.

Vera Drake is a woman who doesn’t make it easy for the viewers to either hate or love her. The movie shows that what Vera is constantly doing is clearly dangerous – one of the young girls almost died after the abortion and it is unclear what other damage Vera might have done in the many years before. Just like the society makes it too difficult for women who can’t have a child, it also makes it too easy for women like Vera Drake who mean well but simply don’t understand the full reach of their doings. Imelda Staunton is able to capture all these aspects and gives one of the most heartbreaking and complex performances to ever grace the screen for which she gets

YOUR Best Actress of 1978

Here are the results of the poll:

1. Ingrid Bergman - Höstsonaten (23 votes)

2. Jill Clayburgh - An Unmarried Woman (10 votes)

3. Geraldine Page - Interiors (4 votes)

4. Jane Fonda - Coming Home (3 votes)

5. Ellen Burstyn - Same Time, Next Year (1 vote)


Thanks to everyone for voting!

Best Actress 2004: Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

It is unlikely that Kate Winslet will ever be forgotten by movie audiences thanks to the overwhelming success and popularity of Titanic but it seems that it is her performance in the quirky, original and already legendary cult movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that will secure her reputation as one of the finest actresses of her generation.

The Academy-Award-winning screenplay tells the story of Joel Barish who learns that his ex-girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski had her memory of their relationship erased. Hurt and angry, Joel wants to do the same but during the process, his mind realizes that even though the relationship ended, he doesn’t want to lose the memory of Clementine and he desperately tries to save it while Dr. Mierzwiak, played by Tom Wilkinson, keeps erasing all traces of her in Joel’s memory.

It’s a crazy, fascinating and completely original story executed in the most perfect way which makes the whole movie one of the most thrilling experiences ever. And Kate Winslet’s performance as the quirky, strong and insecure Clementine who wants independence but is also looking for love and support fits perfectly into this. She meets all the challenges of this unusual script and creates a character who is a firework of emotions, sometimes impossible to bear, sometimes selfish and mean but strangely fascinating and loveable at the same time.

In the role of Clementine, Kate Winslet wisely avoids to focus solely on the eccentricities and quirkiness of the character and also develops a real character underneath the colorful hair. She wonderfully mixes scenes of Clementine as an unpredictable, happy-go-lucky character with scenes of moving depth. Kate Winslet never lets the exterior of Clementine influence her performance but instead believably creates a woman who is all the things the scripts asks her to be. Clementine is mostly an escaping memory but Kate Winslet uses every moment of her performance to show that she is a woman who, as different as she may be from him, Joel wouldn’t want to lose. Every moment of her performance is filled with humor, originality and a certain sadness that creates an unforgettable heroine and perfectly add to the style of the movie itself.

Kate also works wonderfully with Jim Carrey. Both create characters that seem like outsiders, both seem rather lost and alone in the world but they cope differently with their feelings. Joel is rather shy and silent while Clementine tries to hide her personality behind constant layers of eccentricities and openness and shows that Clemintine is very nonstandard.

Even though Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an extraordinary story, Kate Winslet never tries to make Clementine an extraordinary character. Yes, she adds a lot of humor and unusualness that evoke memories of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (but Kate Winslet’s performance never feels like a rip-off and instead is able to stand on its own two feet) but at the same time, Clementine is a rather average character: a young woman looking for love and wanting it in her own way. She can also be unreasonable and unpleasent, she is in no way the perfect heroine of a romantic comedy but instead a very real and believable character. It’s probably the greatest achievement of Kate Winslet that she was able to carry the fairytale aspects of the story just as easily as the more realistic ones and that she found the perfect balance in her character for these two complements.

Kate Winslet wonderfully handles the comedy and the drama of her part and is able to turn Clementine into a fascinating, captivating and most of all believable character. When she talks to Joel about being ugly, Kate Winslet allows the viewer to look right into Clementine's most inner feelings and emotions.

Even though her character is mostly seen through the eyes of Joel, Kate Winslet never lets Clementine become an object of affection who is defined by others and instead constantly surprises with her fresh and exciting characterization. While Jim Carrey works as the protagonist and carries the story, it is Kate Winslet who adds the allure and enchantment to the movie.

Just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind itself, Kate Winslet’s performance sprinkles with creativity and originality. For this, she gets