Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Best of the Best: Actresses

Movie Mania and Sage Slowdive give their favourite Best Actress Oscar winners…here are mine. These are my Ten Favourite Best Actress Performances. In ascending order...

Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
 For someone so young she really made you stand up and pay attention. Maria in The Sound of Music has become known as the quintessential Julie but nothing can touch Mary Poppins. Is there any nanny more iconic than her? I don't think so. And that "Feed the Birds" number really is beautifully sung [as per usual]. Don’t we all wish she was our governess? She really has a talent for comedy, and she dances, and sings and she flies. What’s not to love? How can anyone not love Mary Poppins?


Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
Diane Keaton is so lovable. And so is Annie Hall. True the movie is not really about Annie Hall…it’s about Alvy; but that doesn’t prevent Diane from being completely infection in this performance. Every time she says Grammy Hall I cringe, her lack of coordination and neuroses are part of her charm. Her unique style and that always frayed hairstyle. Her Annie Hall is a real person – and we believe the transformation from the beginning as a bumbling would be star to the end where she outgrows Alvy. It’s all good stuff.                                     

Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
What a dump! Famous lines. She seems to be showing up on everyone’s list…and with just reason I suppose. Ask the average movie goer what the know about Virginia Woolf and they’ll tell you Elizabeth Taylor. As far as actresses go Martha may just take the cake for most complex female character – and that’s putting it lightly.It's not really the fact that puts on makeup to make herself look older. It's the very antics that define Martha. She is a completely grotesque human being. And maniacal laugh. George puts it best. You have ugly talents!
Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking
Apparently Susan Sarandon was not always a great actress. I wouldn’t know, other than Atlantic City I have not seen her earlier work. But her performance as the Nun Helen Prejean is great. Most people see this as a makeup Oscar for her work in Thelma & Louise and The Client…but this is a deserved award. This could have become a real over bearing performance if she had gone for the showy I am good person shtick. But instead, she holds back, she empathises and not for one moment do we feel her judging those around her. It’s a tough job and it’s a great and underrated performance.
Jane Fonda in Klute
Yum. That’s what I’ll say about Jane Fonda in this movie. She is looking criminally sexy playing a smart prostitute. A paradox…? Not really. Jane Fonda really is a great actress. She was really on a roll in the 60s to the 80s and this is her favourite performance of mine. She uses her looks to male the performance even more interesting. She toes the line between comedy and drama, mystery and farce. She doesn’t overplay it. Pakula will always be remembered for directing that other tour-de-force female performance...but don't underestimate Bree just because she's not an immigrant. But she has the Oscar...so she probably doesn't care...             

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
This is my favourite Ingrid performance. She plays an Italian woman who fears that her husband may be trying to driver her insane. I’m pushed to say that Ingrid Bergman is the most beautiful woman in cinema. Period. George Cukor has a way of making his women look beautiful...but this is just insurmountable. It’s a baity performance in every sense of the word – but she doesn’t go for hammy acting. Her charm is incandescent and she is just so very, very, very beautiful. Is this a tad too gratuitous? Perhaps, but this is still a great performance. 
Nicole Kidman in The Hours
This is ironically one of the top 5 worst wins in Movie Mania’s opinion. Talk about the subjectivity of art. This is one of my favourite films and I think Nicole Kidman is pitch perfect in every scene she is in. I particularly love the chemistry she has with Miranda Richardson in those few short scenes. It’s more than the fake nose, and the clipped British accents. It’s just the simple mannerisms and afflictions of the character. Like when Leonard asks her if she’s eaten, how her head cocks to one side as she tells that small lie. How her sad eyes scrutinise the dead bird. How her fails falls as she sees her sister depart towards the end of the film. It’s just beautifully orchestrated. She had my vote.
Emma Thompson in Howards End
It’s so difficult to put my love of this performance into words. I love Emma Thompson – a great and underrated actress [Sense & Sensibility, Remains of the Day, Wit]. There are some key scenes in Act II where Helen [Helena Bonham Carter] believes that her sister has become sinister. We must see Emma’s fall from grace, but still love her. And she manages to do it wonderfully. Emma is Margaret in this movie…so sometimes she’s ignored when we think of the great performances. But this is really an excellent performance.
Liza Minelli in Cabaret
The spawn of Judy Garland. I don’t understand why Liza Minelli is thought of as undesirable to the typical straight man. I think she’s gorgeous. Sally is one of my favourite musical characters. Every turn, every move, every note it’s almost intoxicating. Those remarkably outlandish costumes and that iconic hair. It all just comes together wonderfully. Is she playing herself? I don’t know…but I don’t even care. And what’s great is that even when she doesn’t sing [and she only has three numbers] she’s still really good.  She manages to make both the comedy and drama believable. Now if only she was singing for me instead of Michael Crawford.                                                                    
 Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter
Don’t let this influence your vote in the awards, but I love this performance. Nothing any actress has done can parallel this. Every line she utters could go in a book of quotes…and it’s not just what she says. It’s how she says. Evert said it best. Who else could play this role? Eleanor is regal, duplicitous, beautiful, maternal, womanly, brazen, broken and much more. There is not a cast member she does not have good chemistry with but she thrives especially with O’Toole, Hopkins and Castle. The only way this could have been better was if she’d slapped Jane Merrow…and that’s asking for too much. 
So now, it's your turn. Who are the leading ladies that have your heart? I want to know!


Wayne B. said...

Keaton and Taylor will be on mine. :)

Anonymous said...

WTF! I just put Julie Andrews on my WORST list lol, and now you have her on your best :/

Jude said...

Wow great list! Big fan of the love for the less-talked about performances, like Susan Sarandon and Liza Minnelli. I might have to make a list like this!

anahita said...

love julie andrews :) keira knightley as lizzie bennet would make it somewhere on mine (although actually she didn't win...) plus julia as erin brockovich, and audrey in roman holiday

Rae Kasey said...

I loved, Loved, LOVED Liza in Cabaret! So full of life and enthusiasm. Joel Grey probably makes my list of favorite Best Supporting Actor winners too.

joe burns said...

VERY pleased to see that Susan Sarandon, Liza Minelli, and Diane Keaton on this list. All FANTASTIC and all in my top 5. Thanks for your comments on my last post by the way.