Monday, 13 August 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Showdowns 9 and 10

Day 3 of the Essential Performances of the 90s Tournament is here and sees us moving on to the next sixteen performances. Have you made your votes for the previous 8 showdowns? Voting is still open for all.

Jodie Foster vs Dustin Hoffman
Anthony Hopkins vs Reese Witherspoon  HERE (polls close tomorrow morning)

Julianne Moore vs Woody Harrelson
Nicolas Cage vs Irene Jacob HERE (polls close tomorrow evening)

Annette Bening vs Sean Penn
Jeff Bridges vs Helena Bonham Carter HERE (polls close on Wednesday morning)

Kate Winslet vs Homayon Ershadi
Joe Pesci vs Joan Allen HERE (polls close on Wednesday night)

Go vote for them all, if you haven't yet.

The complete bracket is HERE.
Information on the rules is HERE.
If you're interested in spreading the word, the banner is HERE.

Now, for the next two games. Both polls close on Thursday morning.

GAME NINE: Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction VS Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station
Moderator: Andrew (me)

Seed 1: Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction (1994) as Jules Winnfield
“Bitch, be cool!” As far as character edicts go, that’s a particularly succinct one. The thing is with his Jheri-curled and his (maybe) biblical speechifying Jules Winnfield doesn’t seem like someone who should be cool. Of course, the crux of Jules – and Jackson’s characterisation of him – is hinged on the incongruous parts of him which coalesce to form this very unique man. It’s a not unjust argument to credit Jackson as being the performer in the film most in touch with the wordy nature of the film. His very screen persona is based on his ability to deliver dialogue in momentous ways and Jackson’s gift for elocution becomes a significant part of making the performance work so excellently on the screen. It’s not just the speechifying which earns him consideration, though. The film itself is such a relentless, gaudy, sensational thing subtle might just be the incorrect word to use in relation but Jackson’s ability to organically evoke a rhythm in the performance which is terrifying, funny, fun, disgusting and wise even before he goes into his long monologues. So that when things like “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee” – we’re moved to believe.

Seed 16: Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station (1998) as Dora
It is perhaps with no surprise we realise that by the time Central Station has ended the formerly bitter Dora has grown more sensitive to the plight of those around her. The surprise – both in the film and the performance – is that ultimate, essential change happens in such delicate gradations that we’re unable to pinpoint when it really does emerge. Even without the shades of this transformation Montenegro impresses with how vivid a portrait of Dora she paints. A character of such irascibility demands that the performer not fall to prey to archetypal characterisations, and Montenegro gamely rewards us by continuously surprising us – and the film – with the specifics of how she decides to telegraph emotion in key scenes. There is the caveat which comes with all performances I see in a foreign language where I worry about how much I might be missing in voice cadences and intonation by my lack of understanding for the language. I’d imagine, were I able to understand Portuguese I’d have more decisive things to say about her line-readings. As it is, though, the barrier of understanding a performance in a foreign language is eviscerated simply by Montenegro’s insistence to sentimentalise the character or her journey. And with a single glare she holds our attention.

GAME TEN: Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr. Ripley VS Daniel Day Lewis in In the Name of the Father
Moderator: Jose of Movies Kick Ass

Seed 8: Cate Blanchett in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) as Meredith Logue
There is always something about watching a Cate Blanchett performance that prevents you from fully embracing her character’s humanity. It might be the fact that Cate, though one of the most gifted actors in the world in terms of technique, she can pretty much play anyone (thing?) rarely allows these characters to take control of her whole being. Watching her in The Talented Mr. Ripley shows us quite the opposite, her lustful, hopelessly enamored Meredith Logue, might’ve been played by Ava Gardner or Anne Baxter if it had been made during the Golden Era. Her willingness to be a fool for a man she barely knows is such that we root for her to succeed. It is during her scenes that we are able to see into what might very well be Tom Ripley’s soul, Blanchett may not always become possessed by her characters but she has never been as soulful and well, human, as she is here.

Seed 9: Daniel Day Lewis in In the Name of the Father (1993) as Gerard Conlon

Daniel Day Lewis could’ve easily turned Gerry Conlon into a saint; however the extraordinary actor is able to remind us something biopics almost always get wrong: humans are flawed by nature, even if Hollywood deems their lives to be movie worthy. Watching In the Name of the Father in contrast to Hunger (a more contemporary piece that treads similar territory) we come to see how movies have given a turn towards the cynical. Where Father is harsh but full of hope, Hunger is cruel, cold even. What they both share is a leading man that goes the extra mile and it would be impossible to say that Michael Fassbender wasn’t influenced by Daniel Day Lewis. The way in which they both create sanctuaries out of their bodies make for an admirable physical feat, the way in which they find the souls of these men however enters the realm of the miraculous. However where Fassbender sometimes lets his thespian pride overcome the “realness” of character, Lewis vanishes into Conlon so much that we stop seeing the actor and can only think of the man.

Who gets your vote in this round? How has the tournament been going for you thus far?


Lasso The Movies said...

I just found you today through Cinema Romantico but I already love this. Will be back to continue voting! Day Lewis gives one of the greatest performances of his career in In The Name Of The Father. It seems like a no brainer to me.

Paolo said...

I heard that DDL's performance was so good that it almost made Ewan McGregor throw his union card away. But yeah, rooting for Blanchett here. She opens up so well here, as Jose says.

Anonymous said...

Loved Daniel Day Lewis in In the Name of the Father! I loved how he portrayed a basically innocent but very flawed character as you said. I also loved his evolving understanding of and respect for his father, whom he'd always seen as too passive.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

lasso thanks much for visiting. it's not quite a no-brainer for me, but YUP this is one of daniel's best. a devastating turn.

paolo she does open up beautifully, even if i think she's been as "open" elsewhere before (oscar and lucinda and after (bandits) - the warmth of her logue here is stunning.

stephanie thanks for visiting. YUP. the strongest arc of the film is that of gerard and his father. the emotion rings true and works so well.