30 Day Film Challenge: Day 10

A Film With Your Favorite Actress

Melissa Leo is probably my favorite actress of the moment. If given the opportunity, I would follow Leo blindly into a foxhole. I would probably skip too. That is how much I adore her. Not only is she a great character actress but she is also ridiculously off-the-cuff. This past Oscar season proved just how wonderfully over-the-top Leo can get. (Admittedly, I like my actors and actresses a little crazy as long as they don’t enter Charlie Sheen territory.)

My favorite performance from Leo is in Frozen River. Ray Eddy is a hard-edged unintentionally feminist anti-hero. Leo owns this character. I can’t think of any other actress who could portray Ray with the same level of grittiness and to the same degree of success.

(And please Courtney Hunt, make another movie!)

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My Month in Film: May 2011

Continue reading “My Month in Film: May 2011”

Preview: Mildred Pierce

“This book simply says perhaps a dream come true may be the worst possible thing that can happen.” James M. Cain discussing Mildred Pierce.

Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Mildred Pierce premieres this Sunday. The more I read about it – the reviews of Kate Winslet’s performance as the title character are overwhelmingly positive – the more excited I get to see this miniseries. (A more accurate description of myself right now is that I am salivating at the mouth from pure exuberance.)

Joan Crawford won her only Academy Award for her portrayal of the title character in the 1945 version of Mildred Pierce. Mildred Pierce is one of those characters who has become, in some ways, synonymous with an actor. For that reason it is impossible to avoid the comparisons between Crawford and Winslet. Even though I adore the original film, the miniseries (I hope) will give the James M. Cain book more, much-needed depth and shy away from some of the contrived elements (ahem, that pesky murder plotline).

HBO has released four clips from Parts 1 and 2 of the five-part miniseries (embedded below). They offer a nice sampling of what to expect from the miniseries. Are you as excited for Mildred Pierce as I am?

Melissa Leo and the Best Supporting Actress Race

Of the six main Oscar categories, the only race still up for grabs is the best supporting actress race. After winning the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe, The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo seemed the obvious front runner. But when the BAFTA nominations were announced yesterday, Leo was noticeably absent from the ballot. Leo may have the lead in American critics circles, but across the pond Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan), and Lesley Manville (Another Year) are who made the cut.

In a way, I am not surprised. Leo is one of the best actresses working in Hollywood. She is on par with Meryl Streep, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Her tendency to take on gritty and unflattering roles, most notably Ray Eddy in Frozen River, also makes her one of the most under-appreciated actresses.

Compared to her The Fighter co-star Amy Adams, whose performance is remarkably and wonderfully against type, Leo is her always hard-edged self. There are few actresses who could play Alice the way that Leo did and it is a character that works into her character actress strengths. This is why Leo’s performance can easily be lost in the shuffle.

I have read some rumblings that Leo’s award winning streak is in some ways making up for her not winning the Oscar for Frozen River. I could not disagree more. Leo’s performance in Frozen River did not receive 1/3 of the accolades that she has received for The Fighter. As far as independent films go, Frozen River did have the momentum going into the Oscars that Winter’s Bone has. Moreover, I do not believe that Frozen River has been seen by a large enough audience, even though it has been two years since its critical success.

The best supporting actress race is still a three-way race between Helena Bonham Carter, Amy Adams, and Leo. If Leo wins the SAG, the Oscar is likely hers. But I am still skeptical because Leo is always the consummate character actress. For some reason, I believe this works against Leo while Adams’ extreme likability factor works in her favor. (There are endless possibilities in this category that I am just wrapping my head around.)

I’ll leave you with this thought of mine from the Golden Globes that sums up my understanding of Melissa Leo’s acting career:

So what are your thoughts on Melissa Leo and the best supporting actress race? Sound off below.

Here I Go: Thesis Away

Months ago I posted that I was writing a senior honors thesis on film. At the time, I didn’t know what it would be on. But after months of deliberation I finally figured out, more or less, what I am researching: American Identity in post-9/11 American Independent Cinema. (Sometimes I wonder if this topic makes me sound way more intelligent than I really am, but I digress.)

I am focusing on three films: Frozen River (2008), In Between Days (2006), and Goodbye Solo (2008). On the surface, these three films seem completely unrelated but what I have found that they are linked by a foremost a common character and narrative: the immigrant. This films question how American identity and the American Creed are changing in the twenty first century as a result of immigration. Or at least, that is what I am trying to show.

Here are the trailers for Frozen River and Goodbye Solo:

And here is an interview with filmmakers So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray. The more I research their work, the more I admire their dedication to independent filmmaking as a way to produce quality and exceptional stories and works of art.