Instead of chipping away at the enormous block of homework I have, all I've been able to do this weekend is work on my shortlist for Best Actress 2007, because it is DRIVING ME ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NUTS!
Here is my current crop of contenders:
- Amy Adams, Enchanted
- Nikki Blonsky, Hairspray
- Helena Bonham-Carter, Sweeney Todd
- Julie Christie, Away From Her
- Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
- Ashley Judd, Bug
- Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding
- Kiera Knightley, Atonement
- Tang Wei, Lust Caution
9 women vying for 5 slots; and this list is only a fraction of what the tally will be once I finally see the following performances:
- Kate Dickie, Red Road
- Jodie Foster, The Brave One (EW!)
- Marina Hands, Lady Chatterley
- Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
- Laura Linney, Jindabyne
- Laura Linney, The Savages
- Ellen Page, Juno
- Parker Posey, Broken English
- Christina Ricci, Black Snake Moan
- Molly Shannon, Year of the Dog
- Carice van Houten, Black Book
- Luisa Williams, Day Night Day Night
These two lists ignore, of course, the performances I've seen but that I've already ruled out, including Naomi Watts' perfectly fine work in a film (Eastern Promises) that is finally less interested in her than the eroticized machismo of its male leads, Keri Russell's well-intentioned work in a film (Waitress) that simply cannot understand her character, Katherine Heigl's well-developed but oddly personality-less work in a film (Knocked Up) that revels more in its supporting characters' eccentrities, and Cate Blanchett's all-over-the-place Killer Drag Queen Screamfest in a film (The Golden Age) that cannot choose one personality over another: circus act, Elizabethan soap opera, Braveheart With a Vagina?
At the moment, from my shortlist Ashley Judd (Bug) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) seem safest for nominations. The technical mastery of Cotillard's work cannot be praised enough, and the film simply would not work without her... she does not, however, ignite the kind of passion earlier winners have. Ashley Judd's performance is a difficult pill to swallow but I really have to commend her for what she's done; the whole piece is a highwire-act but Judd never slips up, giving a wonderfully lived-in and earnest characterization even while spewing lines like the infamous "I AM THE SUPER MOTHER BUG!"
Beyond these two, the race is much murkier: Amy Adams has remained VERY strong in my mind for her princess routine in Enchanted, but I have to wonder whether the part is ultimately too simple? Adams is certainly great but does the work really warrant a nomination in such a tight year? At the moment I'd probably include her in my 5 but that could change. I was impressed with both Bonham-Carter and Knightley while watching them but that probably had as much to do with the costuming as it did the performances; both performances feel flatter when I look back at their work (though both accomplishments are still certainly stellar). I saw Away From Her ages ago but Julie Christie still remains relatively fresh in my mind, but I really need to revisit the film before I make any final decisions, and don't get me started on Nicole Kidman, whose performance as Margot still baffles me. Kidman is a master and Margot is fascinating, but for all the power she infused into that performance I still don't buy the character; Margot's idiosyncracies feel like faults on the writer's part which should NOT happen when such a capable actress is in control.
This leaves Tang Wei and Nikki Blonsky, two young ladies who debuted in polar opposite films: Lust Caution is the harshest film of the year, Hairspray by far the most inviting. Both actresses, however, sold their characters on all fronts to me: Tang Wei nailed her character's many emotional shifts, donning mask after mask and incorporating an impressively wide age range, plus how can one ignore that listless, emotional plea to the director of the renegade operation? (If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about.) Nikki Blonsky's task was probably simpler but Jesus Christ talk about energy! Compare this to Beyonce in Dreamgirls or even Renee Zellweger in Chicago and you'll see what I mean: Blonsky is the life force of this movie, and there isn't a trace of self-doubt in her performance.
I'm still excited about the remaining prospects, though. I often go in for stuff like 'Lady Chatterley' and 'Day Night Day Night' so those unconventional picks might really wow me, while Parker Posey can do no wrong in my mind. Even higher in the pantheon of modern actresses is Laura Linney, who stands tall alongside Julianne Moore, Patricia Clarkson, Samantha Morton and Tilda Swinton as the absolute cream of the crop of Actresses of the '00s. Jindabyne is adapted from one of my absolute favorite Raymond Carver Stories ('So Much Water So Close to Home,' go read it NOW!) so I'm holding out a lot of hope in particular for that performance. And who knows where I'll stand with Juno MacGuff - I've been so apprehensive of this film and performance; it smells strongly of the kind of pseudo-'hip' bullshit I utterly loathe, but all my favorite critics (who remained impervious even to Judd Apatow!) are falling in love with her!
Honestly, anyone from that list of 12 unseen performances could wow me (and to be honest I haven't found THE performance if you know what I mean, the one I'd feel comfortable bestowing a "Winner" title to yet) but I'm glad to see such an astounding variety of work to choose from this year. Let's hope there are just as many gems in store for moviegoers in 2008 (and judging from the 'Savage Grace' clip I've watched approximately 30 times on Youtube, 2008 won't disappoint. Oh, Julianne...).