Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Showdowns 13 and 14

A hearty thanks to all the persons who've been voting (and all the contributors) who've been making the Essential Performances Showdown a modest success, thus far. We're almost half way through the entire bracket and move on to two more match-ups.

Kindly go vote if you haven't as yet, all the open games are HERE.

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

These two polls will close on Friday morning.

GAME THIRTEEN: Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects VS Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient
Moderator: Ruth of FlixChatter

Seed 3: Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects (1995) as Roger "Verbal" Kint
Spacey won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role and his Keyser Söze role has deservedly become a cult favorite. In fact, it’s become something of a representation for deception “[so and so] pulled a goddamn Keyser Soze on me!” A villainous role is often a juicy one, but even more so is a dual role, and Spacey did his best scene-stealing turn as Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint that put his star on the map in Hollywood. His mannerism, nervous tick, limp walk, shifty eyes are so darn convincing that we have no choice but believe that he’s who he says he is, a down-on-his-luck petty crook who gets entangled with the more talented felons. Even in a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro and Chazz Palminteri, Spacey dominates the screen up until the very last scene when he pulls the rug right from under you with aplomb.

Seed 14: Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient (1996) as Katherine Clifton
Kristin Scott Thomas’ work as the unfaithful wife caught in a torrid affair is a heartbreaking one full subtle nuances. I have always liked her as an actress. She has this melancholic look about her and also something deeply enigmatic and impenetrable that I find intriguing. The second Katherine Clifton danced with the handsome Count Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes, looking as gorgeous as ever), she was done for. She was bashful at the way intense way he looked at her, but she too was embarrassed at her own attraction towards him. It’s the kind of unbridled desire that neither of them could avoid. Yet there is certain sadness in her eyes, that guilt she cannot shake for betraying her husband. The chemistry between these two British actors is so palpable that I can’t help but gasp as they consummate their passion, mere yards away from her husband chatting away with fellow party-goers. I’d think passion is hard to fake even for actors, but the way she looked at Fiennes’ character felt so real. Even her subtle protest ‘don’t’ when he calls her ‘Mrs. Clifton’ … there is nothing artificial about her performance. The same could be said about her other work I suppose, but her role in Anthony Minghella’s masterpiece is no doubt her shining hour.

GAME FOURTEEN: Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise VS Jude Lawe in The Talented Mr Ripley
Moderator: Paolo of Okinawa Assault, Paraphrased Kulchar

Seed 6: Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (1991) as Thelma Yvonne Dickinson

Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise should get credit for being the kind of person who we wish was our friend because she constantly surprises us. Thelma airs her grievances against her husband Darryl – she makes it sound a bit like contempt, eventually becoming aware of her anger and discontent. Yet in an earlier scene she also spins her grievances around as an invitation to her best friend Louise to have fun and…justify adultery. Unfortunately, bad things happen to her. Davis enduring these uncomfortable moments telegraphs Thelma’s fear of uncertainty while still being emotionally and spiritually connected to Louise. Despite of this trauma she has the same moments of lapsed judgment as she would have before the important parts of the movie have happened. She can even make a good impression of a puppy after all of that. And with this obliviousness, innocence come a sense of freedom. She’s ‘young at heart,’ dressing like Lolita during the movie’s first scenes without looking pathetic. Davis also fulfills that side of Thelma, someone who is used to being passive – even while under Louise’s influence - yet learns from the men in her life who haven’t treated her as kindly. She absorbs J.D.’s (Brad Pitt) cartoonish energy in one of the scenes while her deeper voice betraying, in a good way, a sense that it’s an older woman emulating a younger man’s dominance. She pulls it off, this quality of hers helping us within Thelma’s transformations, redefining what it is to be feminine and strong.

Seed 11: Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) as Dickie Greenleaf

Jude Law here has that same devilishness that he would exhibit in more obviously evil turns such as the one in Road to Perdition. He’s still a bad boy three years earlier, his character, Dickie Greenleaf, prodding the other characters around him without expecting them to do the same. He’s perfection, the manifestation of the homoerotic invitation fitting for the middle of the twentieth century, gazed upon by Matt Damon’s titular character in The Talented Mr. Ripley. He accomplishes that callousness of the 1%, as our introduction to Dickie is him opening his eyes slowly to Tom Ripley, every move slow and graceful. His privilege also means that he can surround himself with subversive culture. Law makes Dickie embrace it, fashion and Italy, his personality like a limited invitation to a jazz party. We eventually see a young man with big physical gestures, submitting to the volatility of his whims. But being American royalty is about pretending to be comfortable in his own skin as he does. It’s also about precariousness, and when his character is threatened, which is almost all the time, Law tries to keep Dickie’s composure yet he eventually knows to throw away his comfortable cloud. His petulant screams towards Tom and his reaction to what Tom does to him shows that Law can turn up the volume, those moments always more memorable as opposed to when he is at ease. He disappears before we reach the hour mark, haunting the movie without needing to earn our sympathy.

I'd love if all four of these performances could have made it to the next round, but only two can. Who are you supporting?


Fritz said...

Extremely hard races. I went with Kristin and Jude but all four of them are wonderful.

Squasher88 said...

Yeh, these were tough ones!