Saturday, 27 March 2010

Distinguished Ladies: A Look Ahead...

In the last decade we lost a number of esteemed movie stars, among them Katharine Hepburn. You probably know my feelings on Kate, and I always wished that she’d had a career resurgence before her death. Of course she was in her nineties. These few women aren’t exactly at death’s door (knock wood) but I’m getting a bit antsy for their prospects – cinematically speaking. It’s hard enough getting roles now, but before the next decade they’ll all be seventy. That’ll be even more difficult. Their counterparts (Dench, Streep, Mirren) continue to find success on films. I wish they’d be so lucky. Here are the nine  older gals I hope get a career resurrection this decade. The rule is they can’t have had a notable leading role recently, so even though I wish they’d both do better work Sissy Spaceck (In the Bedroom) Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give) and Julie Christie (Away From Her) don’t make the top ten, even though they’re on the sidelines, not far from this nine.

Marsha Mason (67)
Oscar Nominations: Cinderella Liberty (1973), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Chapter Two (1979) Only When I Laugh (1981)
Last Notable Role: Only When I Laugh (1981)

Back in the days she was a constant Oscar nominee, but I suppose few even remember who she is. She was a formidable screen presence, and I don't think that's something that one can lose. She is particularly gifted in comedy and with so many comedic roles for older women up for grabs it's a pity she can't even land one of those. It's a longshot, I suppose, hoping she'll ever get another good role...
Barbra Streisand (67)
Oscar Win: Funny Girl (1968), Oscar Nomination: The Way We Were (1972)
Last Notable Role: The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
You may scoff, but Barbra Streisand is actually a talented. She’s not done a real film role in some time and I wonder if she’s forgotten how to. More than being a talented actress, though, she’s an exceptional comedian and I would love to see her reawaken her comedic talents in a nice caustic role (a la Judi in Mrs. Henderson Presents). She has enough money to fund it for herself.
Sally Field (63)
Oscar Wins: Norma Rae 1979, Places in the Heart (1984
Last Notable Role: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The lady is obviously talented. She is currently doing good work on Brothers & Sisters; but I want her back on the big screen. Sally has a knack for heavy drama and she deserves to get a nice juicy dramatic role. The role of a grieving mother sounds like the perfect type of schmaltzy drama she can make work. I mean, Places in the Heart shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s Sally’s talent that makes it succeed.
Julie Andrews (74)
Oscar Win: Mary Poppins (1964); Oscar Nominations: The Sound of Music (1965), Victor/Victoria (1982)
Last Notable Role: Duet For One (1985)
I don’t mind when I see actors I love slumming it in pop fare, but I got no satisfaction from seeing her in The Princess Diaries. It’s become a “given” now that Julie can’t act, but I think that’s an obvious untruth. Sure, she thrives when she sings but The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins don’t work any less she uses her acting skills alone. The woman has a skill with mannered comedy, I’m not sure if she’s given up on acting or acting has given up on her….
Jessica Lange (60)
Oscar Wins: Tootsie (1982), Blue Sky (1994), Oscar Nominations: Frances, Country (1984) Sweet Dreams (1985) Music Box (1989)
Last Notable Role: Cousin Bette (1998)
I’m not sure why, but Jessica Lange doesn’t seem to have too many roles (or fans). For the life of me, I can’t see why. Plastic surgery or not she continues to be an excellent actress (see Grey Gardens, Big Fish) and when she spoke about the lack of roles she gets at the Emmy’s last year I felt a bit sad. The woman’s a double Oscar winner, beautiful and talented. Who doesn’t want to see her in a movie? She has a formidable range. I really want someone to give her the chance to use it.
Susan Sarandon (63)
Oscar Win: Dead Man Walking (1995), Oscar Nominations: Atlantic City (1981), Thelma & Louise (1991), Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), The Client (1994)
Last Notable Role: The Banger Sisters (2002)
In a way Susan is like Diane Keaton. She’s been doing work, but not deserving of her talent. She gave a valiant performance opposite Carey Mulligan in The Greatest this year, but the film is not worthy of either woman. She just needs to work with better talent; she’s obviously not lost her touch for turning stock roles into real people. I still recall how the stodgy Shall We Dance lighted up whenever she was on screen. I wonder if her separation from Tim will send her career up or down...
Vanessa Redgrave (73)
Oscar Win: Julia (1977), Oscar Nominations: Morgan 1966, Isadora (1968, Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)The Bostonians (1984)Howards End
Last Notable Role: Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
I suppose in some ways this is a bit of a cheat since Ms. Redgrave actually has two films slated for release this year. She has the Amanda Seyfried romance (Letters from Juliet) and the alleged Ralph Fiennes Shakespeare piece (Coriolanus). I’m not certain if they’ll reach fruition, and nonetheless, there’s nothing like too much Vanessa. She remains as one of the most resplendent actors on screen and has aged so gracefully. She was slated to play Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Robin Hood flick this year, but the death of her daughter Natasha Richardson prevented it.
Maggie Smith (75)
Oscar Wins: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), California Suite (1978); Oscar Nominations: Othello (1965), Travels With My Aunt (1972) A Room With A View (1986) Gosford Park (2001)
Last Notable Role: Tea With Mussolini (1999)
Maggie has brightened the last decade with supporting roles (some prime) on screen. Her most notable was he part in Gosford Park – which earned an Oscar nod. Still, even that’s been a while. I do enjoy seeing her breathe life into McGonagall in the Harry Potter series, but surely she deserves a greater role to go out on. Maggie is one of those rare thespians who is equally skilled in comedy as she is in drama, so there’s any number of great roles that could be offered to her.

Glenn Close (63)
Oscar Nominations: The World According to Garp (1982); The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984); Fatal Attraction (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Last Notable Role: Hamlet (1990)
Sometimes I forget that my darling Glenn is over sixty. She always seems so full of life. She’s experiencing a rebirth of sorts on TV impressing audiences with her audacious work on Damages, but I’m not satisfied. It’s not that I don’t like TV – I do. But the screen is where I'll always prefer to see her, and she is worthy of it. I’d love to see her bring that musical version of Sunset Boulevard to fruition - although I know the chances of that are slim at best. The thing is, she can play more than the caustic roles we've come to recognise (and love) her for. Why isn't anyone using her talents?
Which of these women deserves a plum role the most? Or is there someone I've missed?


Jude said...

I've probably made it clear that I want Susan Sarandon to get that career resurgence. She's an incredible actress, pushed to the side in films soooo unworthy of her talents.

If I had to rank these women based on their acting ability it would go something like...
1. Susan Sarandon
2. Glenn Close
3. Vanessa Redgrave
4. Maggie Smith
5. Sally Field
6. Marsha Mason
7. Jessica Lange
8. Barbra Streisand
9. Julie Andrews

(And note to Barbra Streisand: Seeing you at the Oscars is more than enough! Sorry)

simoncolumb said...

Maggie Smith is always playing ridiculously old women - and yet, maybe she is not that old. Its crazy.

best role in ... sister act. Or my personally most memorable one anyway.

Simon said...

Well, some would argue that Sarandon is still getting good roles...I wouldn't, but, you I would say Jessica Lange, because the last movie I saw her in was Masked and Anonymous.

anahita said...

lord, I still can't believe how old some of these women have got - esp. susan sarandon, I still somehow think of her as the susan from thelma and louise. Tbh, I think they ALL deserve to keep getting new roles - it's a sad fact that usually in hollywood, good roles for women stop at around their 40s. xx

RC said...

Interesting list. I agree with many - I certainly think it's interesting that some of these women (Sally & Glen) have gone to TV.

I think Vanessa Redgrave will certainly have another strong role - I don't know why, but I certainly get that sense...some of these others are more "decade actors" that were large in the 70s or 80s and now make a movie seem out-of-date. Which is probably too bad.

Nigel said...

Woo hoo! Nigel over here.

I'd like to make an argument that Vanessa Redgrave's last "notable" role was her turn as Briony Tallas in "Atonement." Those last 7 minutes of hers bring us one of the most detailed performance (expression wise) ever. I really love the fact that she starts off the monologue evoking empathy and then she loses your support as she reverts back to the stubbornness that defined her early years---"I'd like to think I gave them their happy ending," she says. Wow, so self-absorbed. You can never tone down a stubborn bitch eh.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jude why the hate for babs? don't you like her anything?

simoncolumb she is deliciously funny in sister act, speaking of which why doesn't whoopi get better (any) roles?

simon true, but there's the difference between any role and "good" role.

anahita except for meryl and judi to an extent. there are so many talented older gals. aargh.

rc i suppose babs and marsha have that feel to them.

nigel that is sort of a twisted reading on older briony. but funny...

Nigel said...

Well, andrew its true.

Absolute atonement also requires "absolute," instead of partial humility. I'd like to argue that Redgrave's rendition of Briony involves partial humility/atonement.

She still wants to be in control with her pen, instead of using it to completely diffuse her jealousy and ego.

I mean even the apology scene she imagines, she takes a moment to lust at the forbidden fruit that was Robbie. (aka she momentarily stares at his butt. God Bless euphemisms).

I just see a cold, but emotionally fragile stubborn bitch in that line "I, gave them their happy ending."

Culinary Corner Cafe said...

If I ranked them according to talent, they'd be:

1. Maggie Smith
2. Vanessa Redgrave
3. Glenn Close
4. Susan Sarandon
5. Marsha Mason
6. Barbra Streisand
7. Jessica Lange
8. Julie Andrews
9. Sally Field

For me, it would be nice to see any by Andrews and Field in a movie again.

StewNWT said...

I'm surprised you don't have Dame Judi Dench on this list.

Vanessa Redgrave has since passed away.

Maggie Smith is easily my favorite on the list - have never seen her do a bad movie. I'm watching her in The Secret Garden (1990) and she looks exactly the same as she does nowadays as McGonnagle in the Potter films.

Also noteworthy would be Faye Dunaway - still gorgeous.