2.23.2009

Monday Morning Meditation: Award Acceptance Speeches

click image to be routed to video
via Forward to Yesterday


And For Your Contemplation:
I babysat Marisa Tomei's Oscar escort once.
He was eleven at the time.

2.22.2009

And the 2008 Best Supporting Actress Is...PENÉLOPE CRUZ!

That presentation sequence just slayed me...
I'm a puddle...

Supporting Actress Smackdown - 2008




The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 81st Annual Academy Awards are...
ALEX of Alex in Movieland
BRAD of Criticlasm/Oh, Well, Just This Once...
DAVE of Victim of the Time

JAKEY of Adrift...
JAMES HENRY of Rants of a Diva
JOE R of Low Resolution
JS C of He Thinks He's A God
RJ of Rural Juror
with
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

And for your viewing pleasure, Smackdowner Alex has compiled
this extended homage honoring each of the nominated performances...

video


2008's Supporting Actresses are...
(Each Smackdowner's comments are arranged according to ascending levels of love. Click on the nominee's name/film to see StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

JOE There's a chance my lack of affection for this performance is due to the script (which gives her a lot of ill-fitting comic relief) or the fact that her co-stars are SO good in comparison, but at the end of the day, I think she allowed her character to remain too lightweight.
JS C
It is in the moments when she must hush up and defend herself with just a gaze that Adams manages to instill the required spine to her character. However these moments do not come often enough and the actress languishes when interacting with Hoffman and Streep. The more she fights to communicate on their level, the more ineffective she is. Pity.
DAVE
Adams struggles valiantly against the script’s characterization of Sister James as a naïve fool caught between two opposing forces, imbuing her scenes with the ambiguity of someone who knows what’s happening and refuses to accept that life can be so dark.
BRAD
A very hard role pulled off brilliantly. Giving us more than what's there, Adams gives us her passion and confusion for the situation she's aware she created on some level. I feel like the author's not as interested in her journey, but she makes what could have been a catalytic device into a conflicted, searching, intelligent woman.
JAMES HENRY
An amiable piece of character work that is occasionally incredibly nuanced- her face during the scene where she sees Father Flynn going through the kid’s locker is especially vivid- but a bit underwhelming both in the context of the film and Adams’ recent filmography.
JAKEY She convincingly plays a character that's both sweet and earnest, without resorting to mousiness. Her Sister James comes across as scared as she is brave. Bonus points for being a strong scene partner with not only Meryl Streep but the group of child actors as well.
RJ Sweet and often endearingly naïve, Adams almost blends into the background in some scenes, but rather than counting against her, this aspect of her performance is necessary to the character, an innocent young nun being used as a pawn in a war between two stubborn, virulent powers.
STINKYLULU
In a role that requires simplicity without stupidity, purity without pretense, Adams's gift for conveying sweetness melds with her knack for revealing her character's easily overlooked depths to accomplish a near perfect performance in Doubt's trickiest role.
ALEX
A wrong step and the performance could be a disaster. This magnitude of innocence is hard to pull, but fortunately enough Amy has both the face & the experience to create such a warm loving character, caught between a clash of titans.
TOTAL: 26s

JS C Repetitive in English yet fierily poignant in Spanish; Cruz makes an effective barb of reality checks for her co-stars and herself, uplifting the two dimensional design of her character to leave behind the most memorable personality in this tale of meandering interests in love. Too bad the screenplay couldn't always catch up to her.
STINKYLULU
Cruz's Maria Elena arrives to the film at its midpoint, bringing the entire enterprise into a sharper emotional focus and injecting a clarifying jolt of instability to the film's routine experiments in sexual chemistry. Cruz is, by turns, hilarious and heartbreaking -- some might say, "Gee-nee-uuss."
DAVE
The zest, the life-force of the film; emerges with the only vivid characterization in a film mediated through a flat narration, but Cruz also makes her scene partners come alive. She’s an utter delight with her dialogue and physical expression, a magnetic focus-point.
JAKEY Maria Elena is many things, and Cruz pulls them all off: Terrifying, neurotic, sexy, sweet, steely, unpredictable. Her performance is the only thing on your mind after viewing this film, and it's astounding to read she only has 15 minutes of screen time.
RJ Once Cruz scratches and claws her way into the film’s narrative, she steals every scene she’s in, bringing much needed fire and energy to a film that suffers from a lack of color and narrative purpose before she is thrown like an Almodovar heroine into a Woody Allen comedy of manners.
ALEX
Si. Si. Con la mirada. :)) I almost never laugh throughout a movie, so when a performance gets both the ha ha and the ahhhh from me, I’m seduced. Gee-ni-us indeed.
JOE
For a performance that plays so passionately liberated, Cruz is also remarkably smart, declining to play Maria Elena as an overt seductress beyond the most subliminal levels. She plays the Woody Allen "crazed bohemian" archetype with welcome freshness.
JAMES HENRY
A volcanic, rollercoaster ride of a performance that is absolutely relentless in its execution. The film and characters, a complete bore before Cruz’s arrival, are never the same afterwards and have a hard time recovering during her absences.
BRAD
Sweeps in like a gale, and blows the movie off its hinges. I couldn't wait for her to come back on screen. Seriously unpredictable, terrifying, compelling, human, Cruz never comments on her character, but lets all the laughs come from her honesty. A lynchpin for the film, and what keeps the whole enterprise afloat.
TOTAL: 42s

JAMES HENRY If there was an award for Best Use of Snot in a Scene, Davis would, hands down, have it in the bag. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Vivid, memorable work for sure, but does Davis really need an Oscar for this glorified cameo?
JAKEY It's a strong, complex performance remarkably free of vanity -- you feel that she's acting with her snot. It's a one-scene wonder, but emphasis is on the word "wonder".
ALEX A well balanced and extremely calculated performance. She’s the good punch of reality that the story needs, the outsider with an influence over the plot. Although somehow I cared more about her words than about her character, it’s a flawless execution.
DAVE Davis can hardly avoid expectations; the film is basically built around her scene(s). Still, she delivers the only knockout punch here, grounding the film in a historical, social and cultural context it otherwise lacks with astounding speed and subtlety.
JS C Davis arrives looking like a thundercloud and rains down a flood to be the emotional crux of the piece. She is where Sister Aloysious wishes to be at the end: finding and living with a certain strength to no longer doubt. Such is the power that has been invested in this short appearance.
RJ In what is unquestionably Doubt’s most effective (and, perhaps, only fully effective) sequence, Davis stands her ground against Meryl Steep’s Sister Aloysius, conveying a lifetime of regret, confusion, love, and (yes) doubt about and for her son. It’s a pity the rest of the film isn’t ready to rise to her level.
JOE I feel like I owe Judi Dench a retroactive apology for thinking that roles so brief couldn't possibly hold up to Oscar scrutiny. They can and Viola does, as she stares down the dragon lady and begs in vain for moral amnesty.
BRAD She more than holds her own against Streep in a wallpaper-eating performance, which is no small task. In a very short amount of screen time she gives us the most level-headed character in the film, who is possibly the only one aware of the world that everyone is living in. She's riveting, nuanced, and heartbreaking.
STINKYLULU Viola Davis's brief but indelible turn as a devoted mother trying only to protect her son from harm both complicates and elevates Doubt. Hers is a breakthrough performance by a formidable acting talent.
TOTAL: 37s

JS C Endearingly conscious in how she displays care to Benjamin, Henson riots a bit too much when her character is required to be defensive rather than indignant, tweaking her choices in vocal mannerism to be a tad contrived. A shame given how she believably appears to be Benjamin's real mother.
RJ Exhibit A of what happens when you give a wonderful actress a sub par script and very little to do. Henson manages to inject some humor and humanity into her early scenes, but not even Cate Blanchett can rise above Fincher’s over reliance on cheap and overdone prosthetic makeup.
JAKEY She comes off as ethereal despite the rather stereotypical character, and her Queenie ages realistically free of caricature. Still, Cate Blanchett has the meatier role and Tilda Swinton has the more interesting one. An adequate performance, but the nomination is the reward.
JAMES HENRY Right actress, wrong role. Henson certainly gives the closest thing to a performance in this dead shell of a movie, but the confines of the role limit her ability to do anything besides inject warmness and bits of motherly wisdom.
STINKYLULU With wit, warmth and dramatic clarity, Taraji P. Henson amplifies the humanity of a well-worn stock character and, in so doing, provides proof of her many gifts as a screen performer. Unfortunately, the limits of the role limit the impact of her performance as well.
JOE She's a likeable presence, if not a terribly believable one. The fact that the movie ultimately doesn't know what it wants to say about her (not an uncommon problem here) certainly doesn't help.
DAVE Queenie is a nothing part and there’s not much Henson can really do with it, but her natural warmth and humour somehow manage to escape Fincher‘s stultifying touch. You do miss her when she’s gone, but she only looks good in context.
ALEX A sentimental rating. I admire the life she breathes into the film and her close attention to details, especially the ones underlining the passage of time. Sweet & adorable, I just wanted to see her more.
BRAD She is just wonderful taking a stock role and imbuing it with specificity and humanity that takes it beyond what's written. Her tenderness for the child was the only emotion I felt in the film, and her character was one I waited for to come back on. Wonderful, warm-hearted, and way beyond what the material called for.
TOTAL: 20s

ALEX To me it’s a badly written character, filled with clichés, meant only to spice things up and fill some pages in this Rourke vehicle. But then Marisa steps in, with charisma, talent and manages a good performance, although the story itself is pulling her down.
BRAD I think I like her more than any other actor in the film. To have us see the moment when Cassidy realizes she's actually naked on stage, and for us to feel it a well is just great film acting. It's an intelligent performance of a character whose journey became more interesting for me than the lead. Great work.
RJ Tomei takes what is essentially a thematic element created by the script to both mirror and play off of Randy’s psychological, identity-based turmoil and transforms Cassidy into a fully realized, emotionally compelling woman. And she does it with surprisingly few scenes and a number of textually rich and weary glances.
JOE As necessary a complement to the lead performance as there is in this category. She does about a dozen things in that shopping-for-his-daughter scene that tell you everything you need to know about Pam.
STINKYLULU With unflinching empathy and precision, Marisa Tomei brings both sides of her character – Cassidy the world-weary stripper and Pam the lonely single mom – to vivid life. Tomei is naked, emotionally and physically, in the role and The Wrestler's the better for the clarifying reality of her presence.
DAVE Tomei is a generous performer, knowing when to take a back seat to Rourke’s Randy, but never at the expense of her own character; Cassidy/Pam is a woman letting go of her old life and the boundaries that accompany it, and Tomei subtly paints her transition as both a relief and an anxious difficulty.
JAKEY The film is as its best when drawing parallels between her Pam and Mickey Rourke's Randy, and Tomei takes the ball and runs with it; the scene of her failing to get a dance just after Randy's lackluster fan signing is especially harrowing. Nudity aside, it's a performance that's surprisingly subtle, and manages to be devastating without any flashiness.
JS C She doesn't appear to be doing anything special but it is in her subtle and slow layering of backstory that Tomei builds the world-weary yet thoughtful character. She's The Ram's counterpart and confidante. Downing that single bottle of beer proves it and then some.
JAMES HENRY
In the beginning, Tomei’s whore with a heart of gold feels a little “been there, done that.” Eventually, though, her subtle glimpses of humanity and desperation, stemming from the revelatory scene where she realizes she may be just as past her prime as The Ram, completely knock you out.
TOTAL: 37s

The choice of the SMACKDOWNERS is clear:
Penélope Cruz
IS
the SMACKDOWN's choice
as 2008's BEST Supporting Actress!


And now we must be content to wait
until this evening to learn Oscar's choice...

UPDATED TO ADD:
And lo - behold - OSCAR agrees!
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is
The Best Supporting Actress of 2008!


IN THE MEANTIME,
lovely reader,
what do YOU think?

Share your thoughts, opinions and predictions
below in comments.