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These two polls close Saturday night.
GAME SEVENTEEN: Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs VS Michelle Pfeiffer in The Age of Innocence
Moderator: Ruth of FlixChatter
Seed 1: Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) as Hannibal Lecter
I happened to see Silence of the Lambs in the cinema and I tell you, for a while I was so terrified of Anthony Hopkins and even the mere mention of ‘chianti’ and ‘liver’ makes me shudder. It’s no wonder his personification of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the charismatic canibal who never blinks when he speak, was ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's Villains in its compilation of the 100 Years of The Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains.. Much of the iconic mannerisms: the nasty slurping sound and the creepy way he speaks Clarice’s name to taunt the young FBI officer are all improvised by the seasoned actor. Yet it takes a special skill not to overdo the creepy-ness, it takes skill to avoid becoming caricature. Such a character could easily have the opposite effect of being comical instead of sinister but Hopkins avoid the potential dilemma. He manages to forge that delicate balance of portraying a charismatic figure that effortlessly pulls you whilst at the same time scares the living heck out of you.
Seed 16: Michelle Pfeffier in The Age of Innocence (1993) as Ellen Olenska
I believe Scorsese’s period drama showcases Pfeiffer’s best work and in a way proves that she is a serious actress who somehow, unfortunately, is not regarded as such by her peers. So perhaps that’s why the beautiful actress identify so well with Ellen Olenska, an outcast in a 19th century New York high society when she is separated from her husband. Raised by a single mother in a society where divorce was still a taboo, I immediately identify with her predicament. This is my favorite Scorsese film and though it’s not violent in the physical term, it’s definitely a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. The conversations between Newland Archer (the sublime Daniel Day-Lewis) and Olenska are heart-wrenching, their yearning and frustration that they cannot be with each other just makes my heart bleed. Yet Olenska is not just some lovesick puppy. She is a strong woman who defies society and refuses to conceal her independence, even at the risk of being scorned by people around her. That defiance spirit is magnetic and I credit Pfeiffer’s astute performance in getting that across without being overbearring. A magnum opus from a celebrated director, and I’m glad to say the film’s stunning cinematography and costume design match the equally beautiful performances. It’s rare to see a flawed heroine depicted in such a bewitching way, but Countess Olenska is surely one of them.
GAME EIGHTEEN: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990) VS Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1998)
Moderator: Andrew (me)
Seed 8: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990) as Vivian Ward
It’s incredibly simple to scoff at Pretty Woman and the performance of Julia Roberts in it. For all the ostensibly real issues at work, the crux of the film is essentially dependant on the fanciful. Robert is not an expressly comedic performer, but she tricks the audience into thinking she is giving Vivian an irresistibly bouncy lilt which manages to tread the line between feisty and dreamer. The all-too popular necklace scene – and that laugh – works so well because even though it’s all Julia it’s all Julia while concurrently being all Vivian. It’s an especially straight-forward performance, which is precisely what the film requires. There’s a propensity to disparage performances exuding with simplicity but Julia’s winsomeness becomes the key to ensuring that the entire set-up of the film (which is truly, hardly, romantic and could make for a more harrowing film) doesn’t quake under its aspirations for being feel-good. Because the film hopes to avoid contention by downplaying its more unsavoury details it depends on its performances for nuance and Roberts provides it: tender in that “shopping” scene, moving in that scene with Alexander and believable naïve yet sweet at the opera. It’s easy to imagine another performer playing “down” to the film’s conceit but Roberts gamely meets its naiveté, thereby elevating it.
Seed 9: Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1998) as James Whale
Cast your votes. Who goes on to round 2?