Friday, 17 August 2012

Essential Performances of the 90s: Showdowns 23 and 24

Another pair of polls to vote in the Essential Performances of the 90s Showdown, where you help me find the best performance of the decade. If you're now catching up on the project information on the rules and preliminaries are HERE and when round 2 begins next week I'm hoping I'll be lucky enough to get some submissions from you (more information HERE). Keep checking the updated bracket HERE to see which of the round performances have advanced to round 2.

If you haven't voted as yet (and why not) all open games are HERE.
And, if you're interested in spreading the word the banner is HERE.

These 2 polls close on Monday night.

GAME 23: Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape VS Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas
Moderator: Andrew of The Film Emporium

Seed 7: Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) as Arnie Grape
Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for one of the finest portrayals of a mentally handicapped individual you will see. Arnie is an almost 18-year-old suffering from autism. With the mental capacity of a five-year old he needs continual, strict supervision, provided by his brother, Gilbert (Johnny Depp). Leo is so natural and so convincing – never going unrealistically over-the-top and capturing his character with great respect for people suffering from the same disability. He portrays a character who is sweet and loveable, but also sympathetic. The infamous sequence in the bath is one example. It is hard to see a young Leo in there. We just see this extraordinary character. I believe there are times when DiCaprio was so convincing that he even took his co-stars Depp and Juliette Lewis completely by surprise. Leo, following this role, The Basketball Diaries, Romeo & Juliet and Titanic, has been one of the most consistent Hollywood actors over the last decade. He has been Oscar nominated on a number of occasions, but many still credit Arnie Grape to be his most impressive work. His mannerisms and tics are startling. He is utterly convincing, and maintains his sharp, desperate portrayal from beginning to end without a misstep. A charming film, lifted further by a wonderful performance.

Seed 10: Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) as Sera
Sera is a hardened Las Vegas prostitute. She falls for a suicide alcoholic (Nicolas Cage, Oscar winning), who has recently come to Vegas to drink himself to death, setting in motion a brief but mutually beneficial relationship. Though she knows Ben doesn’t have long to live she continues to provide generous support, despite his drinking binges and abhorrent self-destructive behaviour. Shue, in an impressively subdued performance, and a role that should have secured her better roles, subtly conveys Sera’s complexity through her face, and in several scenes we witness the shifts to disappointment and devastation, or the warming appearance of genuine joy. Her face in two scenes in particular – pleading with Ben to visit a doctor, and reacting to Ben’s criticism of her decision to wear his gift (earrings) to work that evening – may bring tears to your eyes. It is evident that she is a lonely and tortured soul. We learn that she is a good person, and Shue ensures there is an evident difference to how she presents herself in her work. Director Mike Figgis knows that Shue’s stunning features are where the character is realised, and utilizes her expressions beautifully. Sera knows that in her line of work few people are worthy of her love and affection, and Ben – who had no desire to use Sera for sex, but for conversation and company - is one of them. She discovers that she needs him too. And, all this is telegraphed through a compelling, nuanced and completely natural performance that is effectively the heart and soul of the emotionally tumultuous film.

GAME 24: Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction VS Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love
Moderator: Jose of Movies Kick Ass

Seed 2: Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction (1994) as Mia Wallace
How does one say this without getting beat to death? Hmm, OK here we go, Uma Thurman is not pretty. Yes, she is beautiful in a completely unconventional way, which is exactly why we too fall for her disturbed Mia Wallace. To make the opening statement less harsh, let’s see it this way, her Mia is perhaps the closest we have to a modern equivalent of Phyllis Dietrichson from Double Indemnity. Like Barbara Stanwyck, Uma has strange facial qualities (asymmetrical almost, OK yes I know, but bear with me...) that make her more believable. Even under that ridiculous bob and dancing those silly dances we see her as the ultimate femme fatale, we too would want to kill just to be near her, we too would inject her heart to bring her back to life, heck we’d even sit through a whole season of Fox Force Five just to see more of her, if only to try and discover what is it that makes her so irresistible. In Pulp Fiction more than any other movie she's ever been in, Uma channels her inner Anjelica Huston; a hawk-eyed seductress whose powers lie precisely in her mystery.

Seed 15: Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love (1998) as Will Shakespeare
Comedy rarely gets a good name among “serious” actors, yet there are few things as difficult to pull off (and believe) as natural funniness. Joseph Fiennes pulls off the ultimate trick in Shakespeare in Love; he makes comedy believable, endearing and “real”, all while playing one of the most revered writers in history. It’s true, his turn as William Shakespeare in the film parts from the notion that all artists worthy of biopics should be played with extreme gravitas and again “seriousness”. Yet I would take a million Wills, than see Marion Cotillard scream and “Marcel! Marcel!” her way through La Vie en Rose’s with his sweet matter of factness and horniness that Fiennes becomes transcendent. Just watch the way his eyes light up after he first sees Gwynnie’s Viola de Lesseps. We recognize ourselves in him and yearn to look at someone the same way. That kind of romantic sincerity isn’t “clowning around”.

A teen against a hardened prostitute. A dancing wife against Shakespeare. Who wins?

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