Sunday, February 20, 2011

You Know How to Whistle, Don't You, Steve?

"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that." 
Lauren Bacall

I saw this picture in Vanity Fair magazine yesterday and thought I would share it with you.  Lauren Bacall was one in a million - her looks, her poise, her beautiful deep voice, and her flawless acting all made her an icon.  If you have never seen her on screen, please take a look at "To Have and Have Not" (also starring Humphrey Bogart who married her at the age of 19 - he was 45), "The Big Sleep" or "Key Largo." She went on to star on stage and won two Tony Awards for "Applause" in 1970 and "Woman of the Year" in 1981.  Her style is one that has never been repeated and her beauty lives on.

Aren't we lucky.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Best Actress Nominations

Let's go through these nominees one by one:

Nicole Kidman for "Rabbit Hole" - I have not seen this movie yet and I'm not sure I will.  The subject matter of the film (parents dealing with the death of their only son) has stopped me.  Nicole Kidman is almost always spot on with her performances so I am not surprised that she would be nominated, especially in a year that did not provide all that many starring roles for women.

Michelle Williams for "Blue Valentine" - I saw this movie right after it came out and was quite undone by it.  Michelle plays a woman struggling with losing her marriage and the film is told in flashback form where we are thrown back and forth throughout her relationship with Ryan Gosling (who should have been nominated as well) in an almost manic form.  Michelle is wonderful in the part, although I felt her pain at the end more than I felt her joy in the beginning.  She is an actress who's face shows so much emotion that it's hard not to get caught up in her.  I liked her very much in this part and I am very excited to see what else she does in the future. 

Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone" -  I also saw this film in the theatre right after it was released and was blown away.  It is not a happy story but I was mesmerized by Jennifer Lawrence, never having seen her or heard about her before I saw this.  Her gripping portrayal of a young teenage girl trying to save her family in the Ozark backwoods is so touching and heartbreaking that I came out of the theatre afraid that I would still be in the woods.  She brought a fierce determination to the role that is not to be forgotten. 

Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" - I have seen this film twice and liked it and Natalie much better the second time.  It is a very odd role, especially for someone as beautiful as Natalie, however, she brings a kind of tenderness and fragility to the role that is much needed.  She gave a wonderful performance as a ballet dancer crumbling before our eyes but it was not my favorite performance of the year. 

Annette Bening for "The Kid's Are All Right" - I have seen this movie twice and both times I was struck by the honesty of Annette's performance as "Nick."  She brings this character alive and provides the glue that holds the film together.  Nick is a hard-working woman who loves her family and when she is faced with it's demise, she lays her heart out for all to see (something that is obviously hard for her to do) and Annette plays the role with such aplomb and guts, that as I watched her, I felt as if I was truly watching a real woman fight to keep her family together.  My vote for Best Actress this year would go to Annette. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Best Actor Nominations

The list of nominees is quite impressive this year.  Let's go through them one by one:

Javier Bardem for "Biutiful" - I have not seen this film yet but have read glowing reviews for both the film and for Javier's performance.  Javier has already won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in "No Country For Old Men" in 2008 and is considered one of the finest actors of our time.  I will review "Biutiful" and Javier once I see it.

James Franco for "127 Hours" - I have seen this film.  Four times to be exact.  It is my favorite movie of the year.   James' performance, which carries the entire film, is nothing short of stunning.  His transformation from a carefree young man out for a day of hiking to a man facing his own demise to a man who does the unthinkable to survive is truly a study in courage.  He makes you laugh, cry, cringe, and ultimately cheer for Aaron Ralston and his ordeal and survival.  James completely owns the role and so deserves this nomination. 

Jesse Eisenberg for "The Social Network" - I want to see this film again.  Jesse Eisenberg does something amazing here - he takes what could be one of the most boring characters to ever be in a film and makes him come alive.  You may hate him or envy him but you feel something.  He is supported by a wonderful young cast who make this story of ingenuity, genius, and betrayal well worth watching.  Jesse also completely owns the role and is probably mistaken for Mark Zuckerberg all the time.

Colin Firth for "The King's Speech" - I have seen this film as well.  Three times to be exact.  Colin Firth takes another character who could have been dull on film and makes him three dimensional and so appealing that the audience I first saw it with cheered at the end.  His portrayal of the stutter that afflicted King George VI never feels put on or gimmicky.  It truly seems as if Colin Firth has always spoken like that.  Colin is George VI and has my vote this year for Best Actor of 2010.

Jeff Bridges for "True Grit" - Now, I have loved Jeff Bridges my entire life so this is very hard for me to write.  I did not love this movie and I did not love his performance.  It felt forced and too much like a caricature for me.  The best performance in this film was done by the youngest member of the cast, Haliee Steinfeld, and Jeff did a good job supporting her but as a leading actor role, I feel he fell short.  His win last year was so deserved - I hope he does more roles like that one. 

"Saturday Night Fever" 34 Years Later

Last night my film class at Stanford University viewed a film that I hadn't thought about in quite a number of years: 

This 1977 iconic film, that most people remember only for the dancing and the white suit pictured here, is actually quite a dark study of a very specific time period in American culture.  That period would be the disco era in New York City that lasted only about 5 years from around 1975 to 1980.  It stars the beautiful and very young John Travolta, who astounded me last night with his acting.  His portrayal of Tony Manero, a 19 year old living with his very catholic parents, working at the local paint store and dancing at the 2001 Disco club on weekends, is touching, funny, honest, and at times brutally mean-spirited.  I first saw this film as a 20 year old girl living in conservative Orange County, California, and it had quite an impact on me.  The blatant sexism and misogyny overshadowed the rest of the film almost completely.  For me at the time, it was actually kind of a scary film due to the graphic nature of the mistreatment of women.  Seeing it again last night from an older perspective, was quite enlightening.  I was better able to appreciate the beauty of the film and to see it for the period study that it is.  It is filmed in a gritty style that moves from the streets of New York, to the family house where Tony lives, to the disco and finally to the rehearsal hall where his partner, Stephanie, is filmed with a gauze-like quality that makes her look almost angelic.  This grittiness gives the film a raw feeling that helps emphasize the debauchery of the era and the baseness of the characters.  This is a film that is worth taking another look at - it captures a time in American history with honesty and style, and the disenchantment of Travolta's Tony at the end of the film leaves you feeling hopeful that he can rise above his roots and environment to a more enlightened life.  Thank goodness our culture seems to have done the same thing.  Oh, and I still love the Bee Gees.