Thursday, February 20, 2014

Non-Oscars: Best Actress

I have only seen three nominated performances, still need to see Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep in their respective films.  Sandra Bullock was perfectly cast in Gravity and helped to really ground that movie in emotion and she worked along side special effects to tell a story.  My vote would go to Amy Adams' electrifying performance in American Hustle.  I did not think that Hustle was a perfect film, but Adams kept me going the whole way through.  Wish her character had received more screen time and focus.

Lake Bell, In a World
It must be mentioned that Lake Bell not only starred in this movie, but also wrote and directed it.  It is worth mentioning, because Bell's three roles provide the movie with a distinct comedic point of view that is lacking in so many movies.  As a writer-director-actress she is able to create a complete film that is her voice in so many ways.  As an actress in particular Bell is the perfect lead for an indie comedy.  She is not a conventional leading lady, she has a certain edge and is very comfortable making herself look stupid.  There is a vulnerability to this character who seems to struggle just like any person.  Bell also gets to use her comedic and vocal chops which sell the film's unique premise.  Cannot wait to see how she follows this up.

Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In last year's Non-Oscars I named Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen as one of the best female performances  not nominated for an Oscar.  Well that is true even more so this year as Katniss has grown in leaps and bounds from last year.  This movie delves into the dark implications of a world based around deadly breads and circuses and Lawrence finds every dark corner implicated.  Lawrence certainly has the advantage of this being a vastly stronger film from the original, but it hinges on the foundation she built and the intensity she continues to bring to this role.  She is indeed the star of this exciting franchise and she keeps moving it forward.  The final shot of this movie has me on the edge of my seat until November and I know that Lawrence will continue to grow with this character.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Enough Said is very much like a sitcom so casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the lead was a brilliant decision.  The experience and familiarity that Dreyfus has grown throughout impressive runs on four TV comedies really benefits this movie.  She is of course likable as always, but her character is not the most admirable.  She makes several decisions that most audience members would not agree with so it is to Dreyfus' credit that she is also intriguing and sympathetic.  This is not a character that is out to hurt anyone, even though she clearly will hurt several people.  Dreyfus is such a great fit for Holefcener's writing and direction and she really perfects the balance of comedy and drama in this movie.

Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
The most baffling Oscar omission has to be that of Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers.  It is interesting to watch how perfectly Thompson complements the constant flashbacks in the movie.  Although Thompson was never in the scenes of young "Ginty"her character constantly reacts to those flashbacks.  Thompson has a very deep understanding of her character's motivation, even when the audience doesn't.  In fact at the start of the movie you don't really like P.L. Travers.  Thompson plays her as extremely difficult, but Thompson is so powerful that you are drawn to her.  This is a relatable portrayal of an outspoken and intelligent character that is so broken.  There is so much going on at all times and Emma Thompson just really makes this movie work.

Olivia Wilde, Drinking Buddies
Yeah, I am calling Olivia Wilde one of the best actresses of the year.  She has certainly struggled in blockbusters that require her to be the "it-girl", but she excels here as a normal person.  Of course she still looks incredibly beautiful, but she never relies on her appearance and in fact it fits this character.  Wilde is definitely the stand-out of this strong ensemble, but she never distracts from the rest of the four.  This movie is about relationships and day-to-day interactions and she works alongside the other actors perfectly.  This is a fascinating character without any gimmicks.  It is just a person who is struggling with relationships.  Olivia Wilde really captures those everyday feelings that may not seem cinematic, but in her hands they feel so worthwhile and meaningful.

Other Great Leading Performances:
Jennifer Aniston (We're the Millers), Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim), Kristen Wiig (Girl Most Likely)

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