Saturday, 18 August 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Showdowns 25 and 26

The bracket featuring the 64 initial performances of the 90s Showdown has been updated, we've already made it through half of the brackets (bracket HERE). Thanks for voting and playing along. Before I move on to our next two polls, a reminder: keep voting in the open polls if you haven't as yet (HERE) and help me get round two started next week by defending the performers who've advanced to round 2 on your own blog (information HERE).

If you're only now hearing about this tournament you can read about the rules and background HERE.
And, if you're interested in spreading the word the banner is HERE.

GAME TWENTY FIVE: Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights VS Vincent Cassel in La Haine
Moderator: Amir of Amiresque

Seed 1: Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights (1997) as Amber Waves

If the definition of an ensemble cast entails that the characters get roughly the same screen time and have equal importance in driving the narrative, then Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest film to date) is the epitome of an ensemble film. Its cast has no shortage of strong performances, memorable characters or silver screen stars. Yet, it is Julianne Moore’s Amber “the foxiest bitch in the world” Waves who still manages to steal the show, for her presence on the screen is so radiant, so lively, that I can only see the others as they relate to her; and in her absence she’s constantly lingering in my mind. Moore’s performance is an unimpeachable example of nuance in expressivity. Her character is the emotional anchor for everybody else in the film. She’s the mother that Wahlberg and Graham never had, the one and only woman for Reynolds, the ultimate object of desire for everyone who sees her on tape, the one everybody goes to when they want something done. Yet, inside her there’s something badly and irrevocably broken. Moore makes a fine line of this grave emotional chasm. The beauty of her performance is the subtlety she brings to the role even though she’s wearing her heart on her sleeve. Not that she is any less impressive in the extremes, like her deadpan delivery of “This is a giant cock” or her sobbing scene after the court rules against her in a custody battle. But it’s the more delicate moments that make this one of my favourite performances of all time.

Seed 16: Vincent Cassel in La Haine (1995) as Vinz
Upon watching the film for the first time, it’s easy to write off Cassel’s performance as one-note. Then, he effortlessly changes our perception of his character in the last five minutes of the film, until that shocker of an ending leaves us completely stumped. A second viewing of the film is almost necessary to get a good grasp of what Cassel is doing with his character and it is here, with no narrative surprises in store, that the texture of his performance becomes clear. Cassel draws direct inspiration from Robert DeNiro’s work in Taxi Driver in the way he channels his emotions. Vinz is from the lower rungs of the Parisian society and feels outcast and abused by the world. Cassel conveys Vinz’s frustrations through a steely glare and an impenetrable demeanour that he maintains throughout the film, but for occasional outbursts of violence. But his innate sympathy for Vinz is such that even at his most aggressive and illogical, the audience never feels a sense of disregard for Vinz’s behaviour. Instead, there’s an understanding, a sort of empathy. His layered performance convinces us that underneath the tough guy image, Vinz is actually gentle and somewhat terrified of violence.  If we feel at all sympathetic to Vinz despite his unlikeability, it is because of the depth of character that Cassel creates under his skin. Cassel’s performance does more than carry the film; it defines it.

GAME TWENTY SIX: Ed Harris in The Truman Show VS Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway
Moderator: Nick of Cinema Romantico

Seed 8: Ed Harris in The Truman Show (1998) as Christof
"We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented." This is what the black-clad Christof says of the man named Truman whose entire life he has overseen and coordinated from his birth to become a worldwide phenomenon in the form of the ultimate Reality TV show, but he may as well be talking about himself. The seasoned Harris plays the part so calmly. It's not just having done something so long that it's instinctive, but having done it for so long that he has accepted the reality which he has created for himself - and that reality is sitting in a manmade moon and playing God. Slyly, though, Harris never oversells his hubris in the manner of a preening televangelist, but rather subtly conveys the fact that he sees himself not merely as an unknowing Truman's father figure but his Father (if you catch my drift). Ed Harris can be such a force but in The Truman Show he manages a kind of perfect smooth and self-assured satire.

Seed 9: Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway (1994) as Helen Sinclair
Stacked with bawdy lines, big gestures and fantastic delusions of grandeur, the role of Helen Sinclair is the kind actresses dream of when they are stuck on location making mindless fluff to earn the money to cover their mortgage on the extra house in Key West. Of course, the role must be inhabited and lifted up off the page. It must be brought to life and given real thought and feeling even if that thought and feeling so often is hidden behind so many hilarious histrionics. Indeed when we see grand dame Sinclair strutting down a 1920's staircase we might confuse her with a Broadway bound Norma Desmond, but Dianne Weist, that old pro, makes her out to be less deranged, more cagey, convincingly romancing a younger man (John Cusack's playwright) through sheer force of personality in an effort to help keep her brand name alive. Her tagline is the memorably delivered "Don't speak" and it carries a hilariously telling subtext: Helen Sinclair will ALWAYS have the last word.

Porn stars, father figures, ACTRESSES and rioters. Which roles makes for the best performances? Who gets your vote?


Nick Prigge said...

Oh man, even if I totally wasn't going to vote for Julianne Moore anyway - because I L.O.V.E. that performance - that write-up would have swayed me. Great stuff.

"Her character is the emotional anchor for everybody else in the film." Truth.

Dan said...

Dianne Wiest - a bit underrated I think. I went with both the actresses in this one. Julianne Moore is an incredible actress - perhaps my favorite performance of hers was in Boogie Nights.

Amir said...

Nick Prigge- Cheers buddy. Glad you enjoyed it.

Amir said...

P.S. Nick, you need to get on twitter. Or if you are, I can't find you :(

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

nick yup, this is so my favourite write-up from amir. and why not? julianne moore is inspiration for anyone.

dan wiest IS a performance that's excellent but still rarely gets mentioned, surprised she's winning by such a wide margin at the moment.

amir told ya the write-up was great. also THANK you for asking nick about twitter because i've been trying to twist his arm into joining - alas, to no avail.

Paolo said...

I'm rooting for Cassel the Underdog just because it's bombastic and I haven't used that in a while. But yes, I admit that Amir's write-up for Julianne Moore is a temptation. Both actors do elevate their trashy surfaces so I hope it's a harder battle for everyone.

Nick Prigge said...

For the record, after a Chicago bloggers meet-up in which I was relentlessly hounded for not being on Twitter, well, I'm on the verge of breaking down soon. You will be advised.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

paolo well vincent did get a fair number of votes. i'm curious who his fans were, though.

nick i'd just like it to go on the record that i was the main precipitant. (or was i?)