Archive for September 2014
After taking a break for quite some time, one of the most prestigious OPM songwriting competitions is back with the Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs: 2014. Quite frankly, I wondered if we’ll be having one this year especially after the huge comeback they had last year because this usually happens every March. But worry no more because not only is it back for another year, it’s getting bigger than ever with 15(!) songs vying for this year. This, we here at Tit for Tat will be grading all the songs in contention so you can also vote for your favorites before the competition night this Sunday.
Song details format credited to: manillenials.com/himig-handog-p-pop-love-songs-2014-top-15-finalists/
“AKIN KA NA LANG”
Interpreter: Morissette Amon
Words & Music by: Francis “Kiko” Salazar
Arranged & Produced by: Francis Kiko Salazar
Music video: Colegio de San Juan de Letran
Reminiscent of the big belted diva songs singing of heartbreak and missed love, “Akin Ka Na Lang” definitely fits the bill. It is emotional, it has whispering parts, and by the end, there’s the vocal acrobatics painting the hurt of a woman who wishes she’d have the man she loves. It has a widespread appeal especially to the general public and will make this a mainstay at the “pangmasa” FM stations. The music video’s like a Sarah Geronimo redux circa Forever’s Not Enough though. Small skit? Check. Lady singer acting? Check. Girl crying in her very long train of a gown? Check. It wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t inspire anything new as well.
Song: 2/5 | Music Video: 1.5/5
“BUMABALIK ANG NAGDAAN”
Interpreter: Jessa Zaragoza
Words & Music by: Sarah Jane Gandia
Arranged & Produced by: Jimmy Antiporda
Music video: Meridian International College
You heard the first song above, right? This is the continuation of that girl’s story. But damn if I’ll deny that I miss Jessa Zaragoza’s voice. Her distinct delivery is a treat here. Reminiscing is probably the theme of this whole entry, as the woman (in this case, Jessa) misses her one great love. I slightly prefer this though since the breakdown of the song is clearer and gives space for the singer and the listener to breathe especially in the song’s climax part. The music video, while nothing original, was fun to watch since the first part is basically Rihanna’s “Stay” while the last one is Christina Aguilera’s “I Turn To You.” However, I am living for Jessa’s actressing skills in this one (the tears in the end!!!), so I guess I’d rank it higher.
Song: 2.5/5 | Music Video: 2/5
Interpreter: Jovit Baldivino
Words & Music by: Raizo Chabeldin & Biv De Vera
Music video: Far Eastern University
“Dito” dealt with a person being stuck with his feelings, harbored lonely memories back when he was young as Jovit Baldivino emphasizes the “Di-tooooooo” in “Dito sa puso ko.” Okay we get it, you’re really hurt. It’s a lovely song, though on par with the first two as songs about heartbreak and lost love. The music video did have some potential switching to black and white (to indicate that it was ancient perhaps? Lol), and some juxtaposition of the guy’s character back when he was young and now that he’s old, though I think the palette was overdid in some parts making it look like a bit amateurish when I’m certain they’re going for emotional.
Song: 2/5 | Music Video: 1.5/5
“EVERYTHING TAKES TIME”
Interpreter: Hazel Faith Dela Cruz
Words & Music by: Hazel Faith Dela Cruz
Music video: Adamson University
One thing I’ve always loved about these festivals is discovering new talent. Just last year alone, two of my favorite entries were from newbie singer/songwriters Marion Aunor (“If You Ever Change Your Mind“) and Wynn Andrada (“Tamang Panahon“). Such is the case for Hazel Faith dela Cruz who wrote, arranged, interpreted, and even starred in the music video of her entry “Everything Takes Time.” Certainly a bit more upbeat and probably the feel good song of the first four entries by far, “Everything…” is about waiting for that right moment and right time. The music video weaving four different stories of young girls being frustrated in life, with Hazel Faith serving as their indirect fairy god mother, is somewhat cute and fits the vibe of the song. Refreshing song of the bunch!
Song: 3.5/5 | Music Video: 3/5
“HALIK SA HANGIN”
Interpreters: Ebe Dancel, Abra
Words & Music by: David Dimaguila
Arranged & Produced by Jonathan Ong
Music video: University of the East
Okay so prior to giving this a spin, I have to say that it’s one of my most anticipated entries since I loooove both Ebe Dancel and Abra. But trying to keep my bias aside, this is really good. I like the slow build up of the whole song. Ebe Dancel sings the words as if they’re being whispered and it makes the whole haunting vibe more effective. Then comes Abra’s part which further specified the desolation and state of sadness the character felt even having “blood tears.” Props to all those who made the paper airplanes here (they’re a loooot), and I like the transitions in the scenes (zooming in at one place, zooming out at another). I hope they cleaned all the paper airplanes in the scene where the guy threw them in the road though.
Song: 4/5 | Music Video: 4/5
Interpreter: Angeline Quinto
Words & Music by: Joel Mendoza
Arranged & Produced by: Albert Tamayo
Music video: Ateneo de Manila University
Okay so I guess we’re back to the depressing love songs with this song interpreted by Angeline Quinto. However, I find this the better of the “sad” songs by far since it’s one where the interpreter is perfectly matched with the song. Quinto brings in so much honesty in her performance that it’s hard not to be carried away. It’s basically less is more with her as it brings the raw impact of the song. The music video was probably the cleanest one yet, and one that would certainly mistaken as a professional music video. It’s well done even if the treatment was already done many times.
Song: 2.5/5 | Music Video: 3.5/5
Words & Music by: Nica del Rosario
Arranged & Produced by: Gino Cruz
Music video: De La Salle-College of St. Benilde
Juris’ slow, bordering on reciting delivery, of the verses is either a blessing in disguise or a genius plan in the making because that totally worked with the nature of the song. The lyrics, containing deep hurt, effectively doubled with the interpreter’s emotional take on it. I like how she lets the words linger making the emotions translate more to its audience. The video’s pretty nice as well, especially on a technical standpoint, even leaving with a catch in the end. It’s one of those melodramatic songs that totally works on so many different levels.
Song: 3.5/5 | Music Video: 3.5/5
“IF YOU DON’T WANT TO FALL”
Interpreter: Jed Madela
Words & Music by: Jude Gitamondoc
Arranged by: Jad Bantug & 1032 Studio
Music video: University of Santo Tomas
For some reason, this song reminds me of South Border’s “Wherever You Are.”, and that’s not even a knock to it. I like how low key the song was. Save for some unnecessary runs, Jed Madela was restrained and heartfelt. It’s one of those songs that I think grows better with you after repeated listens because it’s surprisingly simple, direct, and effective. The music video’s okay too. Love that overflowing pouring of wine shot even if that “fight scene” was kinda out of place technical wise. I think this has the potential to be a sleeper hit?
Song: 4/5 | Music Video: 2.5/5
“MAHAL KITA PERO”
Interpreter: Janella Salvador
Words & Music by Melchora Mabilog
Arranged & Produced by Jack Rufo
Music video: San Beda College Alabang
There’s something odd about the song that I can’t quite put my finger on. No doubt it is catchy, but I still can’t figure out which. The beat’s a little bit odd, I think? Sure it’s a semi upbeat song, but I think it would have fared better in a faster tempo perhaps. Or maybe it was the oddly “Ayaw ni (insert relative here)…” part which sounded out of place and totally forced. It’s like the way the lines were divided was awkward to hear. The video’s cute though, and Janella Salvador was fitting interpreter to put some “youth” spin in it with her vocals. But I guess it’s one where the song lives up to the title. The song has the potential pero…
Song: 2.5/5 | Music Video: 3/5
“MAHAL KO O MAHAL AKO”
Interpreter: KZ Tandingan
Words & Music by: Edwin Marollano
Arranged & Produced by Edwin Marollano
Music video: San Sebastian College-Recoletos
After last year’s “Scared to Death“, which was definitely one of my favorites from prior year’s batch, KZ Tandingan offered a different one this year taking on a song about someone confused whether to choose the person of his dreams who doesn’t have the same affection for him or the other person who loves him even if that wasn’t his ideal one. The beat ‘s reminiscent of that OPM song “Kabit“, and since that one’s a videoke staple of mine, I actually like this one a lot. It’s catchy, it’s quite different, and it has that relate-ability factor. The music video had some good ideas (like that shadow thing), though the final output wasn’t as polished, but I’d still give them props.
Song: 4/5 | Music Video: 2.5/5
“PARE, MAHAL MO RAW AKO”
Interpreter: Michael Pangilinan
Words & Music by: Joven Tan
Arranged & Produced by: Paulo Zarate Recorded by: Jan Levi Sanchez
Music video: University of the Philippines
This one is quite interesting, as I think it caters to a special niche. Not to be confused with the hilarity of “This Guy’s in Love with You, Pare“, this is a serious take on a one way love between two guy friends. The song’s meant to be a love letter/reply answer of the straight man to his gay best friend who’s in love with him. I don’t know if I’m totally comfortable with the idea of singling out the guys in this particular song (when it could have been more universally appealing by leaving “Pare” behind), but I appreciate the earnest honesty of what the song wants to say. UP continues its trend of “equality” this year by being assigned to this song fitting a whole storyline in a four minute video with lavish background to boot.
Song: 3.5/5 | Music Video: 4/5
Interpreter: Marion Aunor feat. Rizza Cabrera & Seed Bunye
Words & Music by: Jungee Marcelo
Arranged & Produced by Jungee Marcelo
Music video: Mapua Institute of Technology
Nitpick all you want, but at this stage, Jungee Marcelo is already a league of his own. The song, too sweet at times, booming with innocence of what it feels like being in love is a breath of fresh air in this group of contenders. With soothing vocals from last year’s festival break out artist Marion Aunor, with the help of Rizza Cabrera and Seed Bunye, this almost bossa pop track is a delight to listen to. The music video certainly captured the sweet atmosphere that the song talks about which surely makes this one of the year’s highlights.
Song: 3.5/5 | Music Video: 3/5
“SIMPLENG TULAD MO”
Interpreter: Daniel Padilla
Words & Music by: MJ Magno
Arranged by: Teddy Katigbak
Music video: Polytechnic University of the Philippines
There’s something about Daniel Padilla and songs that lets him serenade and appreciate the girl of his dreams no? Probably it’s because he fits the bill of a manic pixie dream boy that this totally works well for him. Well, “Simpleng Tulad Mo” certainly is right up that alley. It’s cute, if not a bit low key, and simple. It might not be like “Nasa’yo Na Ang Lahat” of last year, but there’s a certain genuine sincerity that the song brings probably making teenagers kilig. Of course we get Kathryn Bernardo in the music video (and that’s not a bad thing, but it’s quite predictable), but despite that, I love the playfulness especially during the last part of it. It’s a song that is definitely in the middle of the pack — it did not reach the highs of the other songs but certainly did not dip the lows of the others as well.
Song: 3/5 | Music Video: 3.5/5
“UMIIYAK ANG PUSO”
Interpreter: Bugoy Drilon
Words & Music by: Rolando “Ronnie” Azor
Arranged by: Albert Tamayo
Music video: St. Paul University Manila
Uhm what’ can be said about this? The song and the video, portraying a love triangle where the woman chooses this guy but ends up realizing she wants the other guy, is alright. It’s quite forgettable and one that might get lost in the shuffle among all these other heartbreak songs and the unique ones in this line up. There’s nothing wrong with Bugoy Drilon’s interpretation (this is totally his wheelhouse), but I guess the song lacked that something for it to totally stand out in this group.
Song: 2/5 | Music Video: 2/5
“WALANG BASAGAN NG TRIP”
Interpreter: Jugs Jugueta and Teddy Corpuz
Words & Music by: Eric De Leon
Arranged & Produced by: Jonathan Ong
Music video: Miriam College
And lastly, we end this lineup with a bang! Being the obligatory novelty track, “Walang Basagan ng Trip” does not need any other introduction as its open about its playfulness and hilarity while sending the message of self-love. Getting the wacky duo of Jugs Jugueta and Teddy Corpuz in this colorful and bubbly music video, both the song and the video poked fun of the #YOLO attitude while also encouraging it to its audience. basing it on the history of this music festival, this is not the type of songs that they usually reward with even a top five/semifinal slot, but for what its worth, it relayed it message pretty much effectively.
Song: 3/5 | Music Video: 3/5
01. “Halik sa Hangin”
02. “If You Don’t Want to Fall”
03. “Mahal Ko O Mahal Ako”
05. “Everything Takes Time”
06. “Pare, Mahal Mo Raw Ako”
07. “Walang Basagan ng Trip”
08. “Hindi, Wala”
09. “Simpleng Tulad Mo”
10. “Mahal Kita Pero”
11. “Hanggang Kailan”
12. “Bumabalik ang Nagdaan”
13. “Akin Ka Na Lang”
14. “Umiiyak ang Puso”
The Himig Handog P-Pop Love Songs 2014 will be on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at the Araneta Coliseum hosted by Robi Domingo, Alex Gonzaga, Xian Lim, and Kim Chiu. It will likely be shown on a telecast the same night at Sunday’s Best.
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
After days of waiting, it’s the time of the year again when the country chooses its representative for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Let it be clear that of course, Oscar is not the be-all and end-all of anything great when it comes to filmmaking, but somehow among casual moviegoers, Oscar is synonymous to anything that represents great quality. And its prestige is still ever so present that one can’t help but be interested in the whole process. After all, having an “Oscar winning film” or “Oscar winning country” is a great bonus to a film’s achievement.
Just hours ago the Film Academy of the Philippines, represented by Leo Martinez, confirmed that the Philippines submitted Lav Diaz’ 250 minute film “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” for next year’s awards consideration. Norte, a take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, showed the contrast of a man (Sid Lucero) committing a crime but was spared from it and an innocent one (Archie Alemania) paying for the former’s sins. In line with that, life goes on for the latter’s wife (Angeli Bayani) as she deals with the aftermath of the incident.
In my annual analysis of possible contenders almost a month ago, I’ve specified that it boils down to two contenders: Jun Lana’s “Barber’s Tales” and Lav Diaz’ “Norte“. Both make sense as submissions, but I’m not holding my breath for any of the two considering how the panel assigned to submit has made more mediocre choices than not since its inception in 2007, so seeing them finally taking the right path slowly but surely the past few years is indeed commendable. Besides, what is there to lose if we experiment with a Lav Diaz submission this year? It’s not as if we’ve been nominated before. This can actually serve as a trial of some sort to see what kind of films that we offer can match Oscar’s taste. But anyway, enough about my personal feelings. Let’s go straight to the point. How will Norte fare in the competition this year? And can it *actually* be nominated in the end?
As for starters, this is a year when there is no solid frontrunner for the category Oscar-wise. Sure we have lot of solid contenders to battle out (Brazil’s “The Way He Looks”, Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night”, Canada’s “Mommy“, Mauritania’s “Timbuktu“, Poland’s “Ida“, Turkery’s “Winter Sleep“, and even unofficial but slightly obvious Argnetina’s “Wild Tales“), but none of those are as sure things as “A Separation” was three years ago or even “Amour” the year after. In an open year like this, there are bigger possibilities for an out of the field choice which definitely helps Norte‘s chances.
Second, distribution counts. Among 60+ announced contenders by far, only 17 have US distributors already. Yep, including Norte. Sure, The Cinema Guild might not be as big as Sony Picture Classics, Magnolia Pictures, Roadside Attractions, or even Sundance Selects as far as distribution companies are concerned, and that other likely contenders might even pick up theirs as the season progressed, but having the benefit of a distributor already is a big thing in the country’s history of submitting in this category.
“Norte” also boasts of having a wide festival coverage. Even before it participated as part of the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival last year, the film has participated as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Post-Cannes, with unanimous reviews to boot, the film traveled from Locarno to Toronto, New York to Busan, and Brisbane to Glasglow among a plethora of other festivals in different parts of the world. I mean how’s that for exposure right? And did I already mention its great reviews? Because if anything, at least there’s a universal consensus on the quality of the film both here and abroad.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, really. There’s a lot that the film still needs to overcome and it’s not a smoothly paved road en route to Oscar recognition. The film’s length is still running at 250 minutes. That might be too shallow of a reason to actually consider, but remember that the voting to end up in the shortlist is still by public vote from the foreign language film department. It’s not an easy pill to swallow for them to stay 250 minutes to watch a film and convince them to sit around and stay that long or even prioritize watching it (even if one can argue that it’s their job to do so). 200 minutes I’d say they can still tolerate, but anything longer than that might possibly turn them off leading to either not finishing the film or choosing not to even watch the film at all. That is a crucial factor to end up as part of the top six in the first stage of the voting which aims to be included in the shortlist of nine. That said, an executive committee is in charge to review the remaining films left off the top six and add three more films that they’ll base on merit. This is the part where I think Norte might benefit a lot. While it is not being publicly announced which among the shortlist of nine came from public vote and which were inserted the last minute, this change of ruling has led to inclusion of offbeat, quirky, or non-traditional/Academy friendly films such as Belgium’s “Bullhead” to the shortlist in 2011 or something like Greece’s “Dogtooth” to the final five a year before. This part of the voting can really be crucial in helping Norte (and other films that aren’t as buzzed as the early contenders I’ve mentioned in the fourth paragraph) to be a part of the shortlist.
Two years ago, I correctly predicted that a shortlist mention for Bwakaw is a long shot and that last year, Transit isn’t going anywhere. Now if you’re gonna force me to say an actual answer now, I’d say it’s better if we take things slowly. First step of getting the actual nomination is knowing the rules of the game by submitting a competitive film which we have already done. Honestly speaking, I guess a Top 9 shortlist mention isn’t really out of reach this time. After all, this is the best and most competitive submission we had since “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” in 2005. It seems like stars are aligning good enough for the Philippines this year, at least even for a shortlist mention. But I’m quite optimistic with this one. In the end though, Oscar nomination or not, this is already a win-win situation for the country. If you ask me a few years ago if we’ll ever see the day that a Lav Diaz film will be considered as an Oscar contender, I will without a doubt say that it’s impossible. But times are changing, and so far, they’re for the good. Nevertheless, I raise my imaginary glass of toast and say cheers to everyone involved in Norte and the FAP for actually getting this year right. We’ll surely be rooting for you all the way!
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
Now that I have shared with you my top choices in film (both local and foreign) and music videos for 2014, it’s time to close the trifecta and do one for the small screen as well. It has been a month since the Emmys have rewarded their picks, and while I don’t give a shiny balded angel trophy to my picks, these shows and performances will always be the caliber in their respective categories for the past television season. So let’s begin unveiling the cream of the crop in 29 different categories of the Titties TVs 2014!!!
WINNER: RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE
Season 6 might have been one of the breeziest competition in the show’s her-story (I mean duh Bianca del Rio obviously is winning since the premiere), but the fancy drag queens this season are as colorful and interesting as the tasks and the friendship that they have built. Oh and have we already mentioned Bianca del Rio?
WINNER: the ensemble of “AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN”
If there’s one thing Ryan Murphy excels at, it’s to make the dream of all actressing fans happen. This season alone, we have had the pleasure of witness the triumvirate of Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett happen. And on top of we that have Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts and Lily Rabe happen. Then Frances Conroy and Patti Lupone joins mid-season. I’m a certain believer that big cast is not necessarily the best cast, but every now and then, such as the case with this one, it holds truth.
WINNER: the ensemble of “ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK”
Like that of Horror Story, Orange is the new Black also boasts of having the biggest cast in this line-up. But then again, when you have respected veteran Kate Mulgrew (or Taylor Schilling a.k.a Zac Efron’s leading lady in one of his movies) as the biggest name in your cast, it somehow equates the whole thing perfectly balanced. In the show, we notice the credits highlight six to seven names, but watching the whole season proves that these names, no matter how they’re billed, accounts for nothing as it’s the whole group who contributes to the great chemistry that they all have.
WINNER: the ensemble of “BREAKING BAD”
The show started as merely Bryan Cranston’s departure as Malcolm’s father and his foray into drama. That is, until the world discovered the greatness that is Aaron Paul. And then Anna Gunn followed to break through. But in the show’s last season, there’s really no one stopping this particular group now as it’s definitely the whole ensemble who is responsible for bringing the drama week in and week out.
WINNER: Noah Hawley, Fargo (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma“)
When you have an Oscar winning material (one which won for Writing at that) in your hands and you have the task of adapting it to a different type of medium, the pressure that comes with the task is definitely terrifying. But that’s just the opening of it. Adapting it is one thing, making it distinct is another. And with Noah Hawley’s writing of the pilot Fargo, there is no doubt that he managed to achieve such.
WINNER: Louis C.K, Louie (“So Did the Fat Lady“)
In one of the rare moments when the Emmys actually awarded the rightful winner, there’s a lot one can make of Louis C.K’s handling of “So Did the Fat Lady.” On one hand, it’s a fresh perspective when it comes to human dating as it is seen from the perspective of the guy. What makes it even more special is that he’s just not the typical manic pixie dream guy that a lot of girls would instantly swoon for, as it’s Louie’s character we’re talking about it. It’s a refreshing take on a topic rarely tackled and not even would go dare reach, and how Louis C.K made it in 21 minutes tops (including a seven minute focus on the conversation alone) is definitely deserving of a win.
WINNER: Robert King, Michelle King, The Good Wife (“Hitting the Fan“)
By now, there is a somewhat connotation that broadcast drama is synonymous to basic drama, and for the most part, it can be seen as true. But then every once in a while, there comes a solid hour of broadcast drama which will just surprises everyone to hold on for their dear lives. That is what Robert and Michelle King have managed to achieve with their Hitting the Fan episode. It is rare nowadays for a broadcast TV to deliver, but it is even rarer to start off on fire just like what we’ve seen here. There isn’t any time to breathe or adjust as it just shock you out of nowhere and maintain the level of intensity all throughout.
WINNER: Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective (“Who Goes There“)
The buzz is all about the seven minute tracking shot at the end of the episode, and while others may found the reaction borderline overrated, I beg to disagree. Fukunaga, in this episode, manage to tie up great writing to great direction which made its viewers feel like they are part of the whole scene. A director’s vision in his mind will always be his best work, but if he managed to translate all of that into something that other people can see and appreciate is a far even, better version.
WINNER: Andrew Haigh, Looking (“Looking for the Future“)
To say that Looking, in its first few episodes, is a mess can be considered a legit argument. The characters are rarely memorable and annoying or that they remind you of someone who either tries too hard or doesn’t try at all. But all it took is one episode to change all that perspective. Andrew Haigh bringing his Weekend trademark in this one managed to catapult the show into going to places that we’ve never felt the show can even reach. Call it whatever you want, an homage, a tribute, a rip off or a copycat, but the moment the show managed to put its heart on its sleeve is when you finally see its greatest potential.
WINNER: Rian Johnson, Breaking Bad (“Ozymandias”)
Sorry Vince Gilligan, while we’re forever grateful to you for bringing Breaking Bad into our screens, yours is not the best episode we’ve seen from this season. Ozymandias is one thrilling ride from beginning to end, all thanks to director Rian Johnson’s riveting and masterful direction of the episode. And let me say that this isn’t only one of the show’s best episodes, but I’d even go as far as declaring it as the show’s best episode in history.
WINNER: SARAH BAKER (Louie)
Fearless is a term that is thrown around quickly nowadays when we judge performances. But I refuse to think that all those labeled such merits the compliment. However, if there’s one the past season that is complete deserving of such, it is Sarah Baker’s fearless portrayal as a woman who asked Louie out in the Comedy Writing winning episode of So Did the Fat Lady. Prior to being on Louie, Baker has made an appearance on a lot of shows but her only two film credits were Sweet Home Alabama in 2002 and The Campaign in 2012. Obviously, this talent needs to be featured more especially since she can effectively do heartfelt and funny, comedy and drama even at the same time.
WINNER: ALLISON JANNEY (Masters of Sex)
Ever since her performance of CJ BGregg in The West Wing ended eight years ago, Allison Janney has made a lot of interesting projects since then. There’s starring in Best Picture nominee films like Juno, or guest starring in other series such as Lost, Veep, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to name a few. But in 2013, she managed to shock us all with her one two knock out performances in her television comeback. One is in the CBS comedy Mom and the other is for her brave turn in Masters of Sex. Also winning one of her two Emmys this year for this performance, Janney’s raw and poignant take of a woman who never had an orgasm is definitely organic.
WINNER: PABLO SCHREIBER (Orange is the New Black)
In a female driven show where 90% of the characters are completely female, it takes a very daunting and difficult task in order to stand out from the rest of the pack. But all thanks to that porn star stache, Pablo Schrieber managed not only to steal scenes during his turn in the season but managed to make his character stand out as well. Pornstache is a disgusting character to say the least, but Schreiber managed to play with the over the top machismo of his character and capitalize on that to make all of his moments count.
WINNER: BEAU BRIDGES (Masters of Sex)
Being a veteran character for decades now, there’s probably no role that can limit Beau Bridges’ capabilities as an actor. And with his turn as closeted husband in Masters of Sex, the initial claim holds truth to it. On the outside, Barton Scully is responsible, dependable, and calm. But the tests are within himself. Bridges’ calm portrayal of such was every inch consistent, effective and in full on display for the whole season.
WINNER: ALLISON TOLMAN (Fargo)
When Frances McDormand won the Oscar in 1997 for Fargo, a lot of the credit goes to her ability to insert her own personal charisma into her performance which was the key why she ended up as the Best Actress of that year. Thus, it is very much surprising that when an unknown named Allison Tolman was tasked to play the role inspired of McDormand’s Marge, not only did she manage to inject her own personality in it too, but she avoided to copy the former’s performance and made it all her own. This is definitely one of the previous TV season’s breakthrough performances and one that introduced Alison Tolman to the rest of the TV world.
WINNER: LAVERNE COX (Orange is the New Black)
It is fitting that my favorite episode of Orange is the New Black‘s freshman season is the one whose flashback had transgendered Sophia as the core story. Sure a lot of the things I like about Cox reflects outside of her performance in the show and how she has become one of the representative of LGBT society in television, but one has to appreciate her in it as well. As the resident hairdresser of the inmate, her presence is not to be missed even if she’s just on the background or reacting to another character in the series.
WINNER: BELLAMY YOUNG (Scandal)
Scandal is a show that I love and hate at the same time. I love how ridiculous it is, but I hate it that I’m dedicating my time to watch how ridiculous it is. You have unlikable characters left and right, but if there’s one bitch that I am definitely behind for, it’s definitely Mellie Grant. Mellie is an over the top character meant to be a punching bag for all those Olivia-Fitz shippers, but Bellamy Young’s actressing over it is definitely a highlight every time I watch an episode. She clearly knows the strength of the material and the overall show, and she plays it up ham and fun and camp that instead of acting above it, she goes with the flow of the whole story. Very wise actress definitely.
WINNER: MATT BOMER (The Normal Heart)
The whole of Matt Bomer’s career can be summed into three parts: people gushing over his looks, people arguing over his sexuality preference, and people still in hopes that he’d star as Christian Grey. But Bomer is above all that, as what he has shown in The Normal Heart. I don’t know if this is a story that is close to his heart or anything else, but the intensity of the acting he has shown here not only matched his onscreen partner Mark Ruffalo’s, but he also held his own going on depths one never expected from him. This is a character that is made to win awards, but what do I know? He can’t even win the Emmy. But for me, Bomer is the rightful winner in this category.
WINNER: REID SCOTT (Veep)
One of the reasons why Veep is fun to watch is because of all these outlandish characters that there is. You have Tony Hale’s Gary who has this special connection with
Vice President Selina Meyer. Then you have Jonah who’s towering height symbolizes how a big dick he is. Then there’s Reid Scott’s Dan, probably the straight guy of the group, if ever there was one. Dan can be an asshole, but he delivers. And he can be fun, but he knows how to play the game. That is why when this season showed a bit of his vulnerable side such as him lashing out on everyone or having a nervous breakdown, it makes the riot more chaotic than usual.
WINNER: JOSH CHARLES (The Good Wife)
In one of TV history’s most shocking exit, we bid goodbye to Will Gardner in a very unfashionable way. And that’s when we realize how big of a character he is filling out and how Josh Charles has managed to inject his own brand in playing this lovable character. Will was the likable guy and an ideal man for most of the viewers. He was intelligent, patient, and giving. But it is through supporting actor Josh Charles that made Will live and breathe for five seasons, and we are still grieving right now.
WINNER: OLIVIA COLMAN (Broadchurch)
Every time we witness one of these “saving” shows or those that calls for inspections or detectives of “Who did it?”, there is a certain sense of distance that we feel towards the saviors or the leaders since it is predictably expected that they’ll be the key to such discoveries. However, what made Olivia Colman’s take on Broadchurch quite different and more distinct is that she gave us a sense of closeness to her. We see her vulnerable, we see her panic, and we see her imperfections. It is a very giving and sensible performance that makes her viewers feel more attached to the story even if they’re indirectly involved with it.
WINNER: JULIA LOUIS DREYFUS (Veep)
Just like wine, Julia Louis Dreyfus indeed gets better with age. And the same can be said for her career. Remember before when they keep on being plastered with the constant labeling of the Seinfeld curse? Look who’s laughing now. Julia’s consistent performance as
Vice President Selina Meyer is as hoot as it is a testament of her great comedic skills. It takes more than a role to shine like this, and a talent like that of Julia’s is the pushing boundary of this show. Not only is she consistently great, but she manages to make everyone around her feel as if they’re on the same level (and this isn’t a knock out to either her or her cast), but more of a recognition that a giving and talented actress like Julia Louis Dreyfus has already carved her name as one of the comedy legends of all time.
WINNER: ROBIN WRIGHT (House of Cards)
She started on the show as a borderline character playing support to her husband. But in the second season, we see Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood come out of her own shell and even eclipsing her husband which was a humongous task to do. Claire, at the beginning, was cold and distant, but she surely knows how to introduce herself. She’s probably still manipulative and bitchy when the situations called for it, but we’ve also seen her show vulnerability — a vulnerability that doesn’t make her weak, but rather shows the strength she can reach when push comes to the shove.
WINNER: MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY (True Detective)
By now, you are probably sick of hearing the term McConaissance which partially refers to the career turnaround that Matthew McConaughey has did in his film career, And he was even validated with an Oscar for that. But that said, his best performance to date can’t be seen in the big screen but one in the four corners of our television in HBO’s True Detective. To say McConaughey is a revelation here is underselling it, and that even includes the fantastic performances he has shown in film the last two years. The last few minutes of the season alone has made me think that every time I get to feel that his performance in Dallas Buyers Club was overrated, it was his performance in this show that was definitely Oscar-worthy.
WINNER: LOUIS C.K. (Louie)
It is quite telling to give a Comedy Actor win for his show’s most dramatic season yet, but this isn’t even a level playing field anymore. In Louie, Louis C.K managed to show us everything he can literally and figuratively. There is an uncertainty that comes off as you watch the episodes of the last season and how you’ve seen C.K grew and mastered it over the years. Louis C.K. the actor is a very underrated one, and I agree that it is probably his “weakest” talent if you compare it to himself as a writer, director, or a stand up comic. But during the last season, he manages to up the scale this time and show that he is, indeed, a jack of all trades.
WINNER: MATTHEW RHYS (The Americans)
Yes let me be the first to say that dramatic performances in television by actors doesn’t begin and end with Bryan Cranston alone. As a matter of fact there is a whole lot of choices out there including my top pick for this past TV season, Matthew Rhys. Season 1 of The Americans is more of a transition period for me especially since the last I saw of him was playing the gay character in Brothers and Sisters, However, Season 2 showed him taking the stakes even higher and delivering a performance that is too irresistible to pass on. When he questions, you ask. When he stops, you try to figure it out. Rhys has managed to show the complications not only of his work but with his relationships as well and he does it in a more than satisfying manner.
WINNER: FARGO (FX)
All the talk the past season has been about HBO and True Detective, and while that indeed was a game changing show in more ways than one, here comes the little show that could rival and even exceed it. The challenge with FX’s Fargo is how to make it distinct but still be able to maintain the collected coldness that the original material has managed to showcase effortlessly. The end result was different from that, as not only did it deviate enough to avoid criticisms of copy cat or lack of originality, but it built a foundation strong enough that it can stand on its own. And that’s how the whole season rolled.
WINNER: VEEP (HBO)
While its first two seasons teases with what will happen to the Veep, the third one bravely manages to take a step forward in a direction that everyone probably knew was coming but they just don’t know how. And that’s where the greatness of Veep lies. How it still brings in the surprise is a field that they have successfully crossed over. In any other scenario, it is very hard to root or at least tolerate horrible people interacting with each other, but in here, you don’t only tolerate them, but you root for them to succeed. Veep has long passed that mark where it was simply “the Julia Louis Dreyfus” show, and while Julia is still the front and center, heart and soul of the show, it is a more collaborative effort now.
WINNER: THE AMERICANS (FX)
Rarely does a drama show these days manage to deliver consistent episodes week in and week out with rarely any filler in it. And that’s what the second season of The Americans has been about. Everything about it has been doubled: doubled the intensity, doubled the tension, doubled the greatness. It has reached that feat when you just can’t get enough of what the show has been dropping and that they just continue to do so is indeed significant. The upward trajectory that the show has reached in its sophomore year is definitely justified of the title Best Drama Series.
And there you have it. Another season of Television has been closed and the new one will start next week! Until next year! 😉
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
So I have decided to start another project here which obviously from the title of this post already gives you a clue on what it’s about. Inspired from a poll on a forum, I’ve decided to watch all the 90s Best Actress Oscar champs arranged from the earliest up to the last of the decade in order to revisit, rekindle, and look how these performances stood the test of time. The focus will be on the performances so little to no mentions of Anjelica Huston in The Grifters, Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, and Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown
and how they were all robbed here. Okay I take it back. Will mention them as well but in small doses. Okay let’s begin!
And we begin the decade with that surprise win of Kathy Bates for breathing life to the big fan turned obsessed creep Annie Wilkes in the adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Misery.” While the writing of Annie Wilkes can be a bit one note, Bates brings a certain humanity to the character thus encompassing emotions that show her character’s vulnerability. How Kathy Bates managed to show defeat and hurt of Annie when she spilled the wine on their dinner to bringing in the crazy when the officer visited her house and that composed demeanor she had after she tied Paul Sheldon is a testament of her range given the limitations of the role. And one has to appreciate the humor that Bates has brought to the role that makes the achievement more appreciated such as her rant against the coupon bond issue as for starters. Of course at this stage, no one knew that Bates would play another Stephen King character via Dolores Clairborne five years later, and while that one had the better performance, it does not take away the complexity that Kathy brought to the role of Annie Wilkes. It is difficult to laugh and be scared with the same character at the same time, and she does it so well that it’s hard to take this win from her. It’s also quite a special win considering how much the Academy rarely touches anything from the thriller/horror genre (unless one counts that win by Jessica Tandy just a year before) and that then unknown Bates, whose popularity only exists on the four walls of Broadway, managed to beat then it girl Julia Roberts, Hollywood royalty Anjelica Huston, Oscar favorite Meryl Streep, and legendary actress Joanne Woodward. Bittersweet indeed.
Just a year after I commented on how this category rarely touches performances from horror or thriller films, AMPAS then decides to reward them back to back. In 1991, The Silence of the Lambs defied all odds by being released exactly one whole year prior to its Oscar sweep the following year. Of course that includes the win for its lead actress Jodie Foster, who herself was already a recipient of this same exact trophy three years before for The Accused. However, this remains to be an iconic role and performance from Jodie, which is nothing to question about. As for starters, it is very refreshing for a woman to headline a thriller such as this one and gain much critical and commercial success. of course it would be unfair to dismiss the efforts of Anthony Hopkins who churned in an iconic performance himself, but Foster’s Clarice Sterling is basically the heart of the movie. And how it succeeds is definitely a gender bending milestone of how thrillers are associated with only male actors front and center. It also does not hurt that this performance is really great as well. In it, Foster rarely (or none at all) relied to histrionics and made Clarice driven but not totally ambitious, subtle but never forgettable, and complex without being one-sided. This is the same year when both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis were nominated for their team up in Thelma and Louise and part of me thinks that’s also another reason which helped Foster’s road to the podium at all. While one can argue that those two are better than Foster (I belong to that camp to be honest), it is easier to reward this performance than pulling a Sophie’s Choice between the two. But in the end, it must not limit the merits that Jodie has brought into this performance, as it’s probably one of the most respected wins in this category especially for non-Oscar aficionados.
And from one Anthony Hopkins leading lady to another, queen of British period pieces Emma Thompson won the following year for her performance as Margaret Schlugel in Howard’s End. It was one of those easy Oscar calls as she has been the frontrunner all season long, and it’s not difficult to figure out why. Thompson brought a warm touch to a likable human being that isn’t a scene stealing, attention grabbing character. She was the voice of sense and reason, and Emma was quick to figure that her character balances the story in between her hands. Margaret was a sympathetic character but not one who you’d feel pity for, and there’s a certain glow that Thompson just radiates while playing this character. Whether it’s her tea sessions with Vanessa Redgrave or finding out about Anthony Hopkins’ romantic past, she inhabits Margaret’s confidence effortlessly reflecting Emma’s class act performance. 1990 winner Kathy Bates, Emma Thompson would go on and play another period character in another James Ivory film, The Remains of the Day, for which she nabbed another Oscar nomination, but whether it is arguable if she did well better in the former or the latter, the heart of Howard’s End will always belong to Emma Thompson and with that, she is certainly deserving of this Oscar recognition.
1993 was all about talking (or lack thereof). With Whoopi Goldberg hosting the Oscars — being the first black woman (and up to now still remains the only one) to do so, this was also the last previous bid for a black actress to win the coveted Best Actress Oscar prior to Halle Berry’s historic win in 2001. The person in talks was Angela Bassett for portraying iconic performer Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It? And the talks are loud, perhaps really loud, that this is still the subject of some debates years after. But the woman who ended up with the Oscar needs no talking in her film, at least. The Piano‘s Holly Hunter became the seventh person in Academy history to win an Oscar for not uttering a word on screen (except the narration at the beginning and the end). In hindsight, why people argue Holly Hunter’s win years after is beyond me. In a really strong field that includes Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation and last year’s winner Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day, Hunter towered above the rest of the field with her performance. The mute aspect isn’t gimmicky nor calculated for me, as she was able to translate a performance that started as a mail ordered bride who was cold but willing to open up, just given the opportunity to do so. Hunter has always been praised for her delivery and the energy she inserts into the role she plays, but she managed to overcome all that and give an equally impressive one stripped off her usual assets. The stares, the body language, and the actions are far from a stunt performance and on top of that, the emotions that she just poured in it. I doubt performances like this could win an Oscar in this period now where showy OMG acting in this category seemed to be the key to be considered an “actress.” It’s a performance that stood well the test of the time, and it’s one of the times when Oscar go against the norm and ultimately get it right.
There is such a stigma being labeled to the 1994 Best Actress line up to be one of the weakest in this category’s history. After all, this was the year when Linda Fiorentino should have swept all the awards if only The Last Seduction wasn’t shown briefly on HBO, thus making her ineligible for the rest of the season. But while there’s a hint of truthfulness with that, you can all spare Jessica Lange’s winning performance in it. Say what you want about her weak ass nominees, but Lange is nowhere a weak winner this year. Playing a mentally unstable wife of a military man and causing troubles to his career, Jessica was able to amp up the physical, emotional, and mental requirements of the role effectively that it’s definitely one of the underrated wins in this category’s history. Much of the talks about this performance and film was how it was dumped in the shelf three years after its completion, when in fact we should be talking about Jessica Lange slaying the hell out of this role. It’s a very complex performance which suited a woman of her age as she oozes her sexuality and shifts to calm to showy in a snap. While some performances get carried along the strength of their overall films, the opposite can be said about here as Blue Sky ended up as inferior to what Jessica brought to the role. Besides, her only Oscar until this year was a thank you for a great year supporting win in 1982, and if someone fits the narrative of a multiple Oscar winning actress, her name would definitely be up on that list. So this one albeit a weak year is an inspired win and one who should overcome, if anything else, the weak field she’s been grouped with.
After a weak 1994 line up, we’re bound to have a strong one no? But to say the 1995 Best Actress line up is a strong one is even an understatement if we are to look past the performances that were left off that year (Nicole Kidman in To Die For, Julianne Moore in Safe, Kathy Bates in Dolores Clairborne among others). Now if we are to look at those actual nominated performances, then it makes the case even stronger with Elisabeth Shue acting opposite the eventual Best Actor winner and Meryl Streep in the second best performance of her career are unrewarded with Oscars. But then, it’s all about Susan Sarandon. Sure, her overdue status would have pushed her the win that year especially since she was nominated four times the last five years, but to consider that as a demerit to her performance is reaching it. Playing real life nuin Helen Prejean, Sarandon would always be on the odd side of the film. On the outer, you have to act opposite Sean Penn’s more interesting and showy character as Susan is relegated to facial reactions to what his character is saying. To act with such a very complex character and not be overshadowed is a feat itself, but Sarandon perfectly crosses the line of being receptive but not totally eaten and distinct without overshadowing her co-star. If anything, it was a perfectly arranged harmony that she has showed here. And beyond that, she plays the character of a nun. It’s hard to play a character who is morally good and be believable in it, but Sarandon’s Prejean’s cling in her “faith” does not only resonate to Matthew Poncelet but to humanity is an acting accomplishment that is deserving to be honored with an Oscar.
On one hand, it would be a waste to hate on Frances McDormand’s win here especially since she’s a very talented actress whose charisma really transcends through her works. On the other, this was the year when the revelation that is named Emily Watson brought one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on screen via Breaking the Waves, that even if I know Oscar won’t touch it, I still feel like my hopes were dashed. But since I’ve let that one out of the way, let’s go back to our 96 champ Frances McDormand. Playing police officer Marge Gunderson, McDormand certainly made the most of all of her scenes in Joel Coen’s Fargo. It is very hard to root for a character as lovable and likable as Marge, and like Thompson’s Margaret, there’s a certain amount of rooting for that you feel with the character. Much of Marge’s magic — if I may call it that — can be attributed to Frances McDormand’s own wit and charisma. Her confident personality seems to play a factor with the end result of Marge’s character and that it will make you want to see more of her (granted she’s only in the film half of the time). There is a reason why Marge, despite limited screentime and borderline supporting appearance, is an iconic character and Frances is the main reason why. On a totally unrelated note, I would just like to share that I am amazed with Alison Tollman’s portrayal of such role in the FX adaptation series of Fargo because even if she wisely did not copy the same approach that McDormand did in her character, you can see the influences and nuances that McDormand indelibly left in her portrayal 18 years before.
Before we start the 1997 discussion, let’s get this one out of the way: Nope, Helen Hunt did not win just because she’s battling against four British actresses in here. If anything, Helena Bonham Carter and Dame Judi Dench are in British period pieces, Julie Christie has been rewarded an Oscar already, and Kate Winslet is
the reason why Leonardo di Caprio died serviceable but in no way awards worthy in Titanic. There’s a certain level of vitriol spawn on Helen Hunt’s Oscar win and that’s probably because her post-Oscar career sizzled or that like any others, she was perceived as the darling of that year’s awards season. In As Good As It Gets, Helen plays the longer version of what makes her a prominent American that time: a big TV star sweeping off Emmys for her show Mad About You. But that is not to say that Hunt wasn’t good in what she did in the film. As waitress Caroline who found love in the most unusual way, Hunt was pleasantly and delightfully sweet that it charms the Oscar voters to give her that trophy. It’s a performance where she’s acting off one of Hollywood’s finest Jack Nicholson, and how he did not swallow her in their scenes together must be credited to the both of them. I still don’t think Helen Hunt had any business winning an Oscar that year, but she was convincing for the most part, albeit sitcom-ish as well, in her performance in the film.
Now think of the vitriol that Helen Hunt received in 1997 and double it to come up with the reception that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar win had earned over the years especially from fans of the performances of co-nominees Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Fernanda Montenegro in The Central Station. But then I think it is unfair to simply attach Paltrow’s competition to the performance that she has given in Shakespeare in Love. This is not the same case as that of the previous year’s winner since Shakespeare in Love is mighty ahead in terms of being the better film. As a matter of fact, Paltrow and the film itself carried the same burden with regards to their Oscar legacy — she and the film are perceived to tackle lighter subjects; thus they are easier to dispose. This is not to say that both her and the movie are rightfully and every inch deserving of their wins but more of an underestimation with the accomplishments that they have achieved. Focusing back on Gwyneth, her gender bending role as Viola de Lesseps provides the perfect heroine accessory to the film. Given that great screenplay and lavish production of the movie, it does not need an actress that will overshadow all of that but instead one that will understand the circumstances and just go with it, which she did in the movie. It is not easy to be charming and delightful as your film’s heroine and she possesses both of that in her performance. So while I understand that this leans on the lighter fare of stuff as compared to playing a queen, it does not warrant the notorious image that it has since then received.
Now after three comedic performances in a row, the decade closed with one of its closest and most infamous Oscar rivals. In 1999, Annette Bening, one half of the power couple with Hollywood legend Warren Beatty, is up for her performance as part of eventual Best Picture winner American Beauty. Prior to the Oscars, she has won the SAG and there’s a really great chance that the film will join the elite few of winning the four major awards (Picture, Director, Actor and Actress). Then there’s up and coming actress Hilary Swank, whose probably known for her remake of Karate Kid sometime in the mid 90s, playing the role of real life transgender Teena Brandon in the small indie film Boys Don’t Cry. And in a Cinderella moment, David beats G0liath as Hilary Swank became the last winner of the decade. That is probably one of the boldest moves made by the Academy and one of the best upsets if I may say. In one of the best breakthrough performances by an actress here, she was raw, heartbreaking, and every inch convincing in this performance. Swank never made the movie about her tics or her adjustments, but she assured that it will be about Brandon’s journey, and it is within this fearlessness that she made this character and performance remarkable. If anything, I think it’s even braver that she denied the easily to use sentimentality nor trademarks that in the hands of a lesser actress would rely to, and instead let it breathe and parade it with so much clarity and confidence. Whatever Hilary Swank did for the remaining of her career after this is hers to celebrate or to blame, but in this one particular performance, she made it clear that she would be remembered.
The 90s Best Actress winners line up in general have been less receptive to biopics (with only two out of the ten winners were for playing real persons) and more to poetic costume pieces films. There’s also a stage where humor works best (even three in a row from 96-98) and if you’d even include, Kathy Bates in Misery. Ranking this is difficult since there’s a lot of performance here that I admire and the ones I appreciate and respect aren’t even totally deserving of a low ranking. That said, I guess I’m gonna go with…
01. 1993 (Holly Hunter, The Piano)
02. 1999 (Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry)
03. 1995 (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking)
04. 1992 (Emma Thompson, Howard’s End)
05. 1991 (Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs)
06. 1996 (Frances McDormand, Fargo)
07. 1994 (Jessica Lange, Blue Sky)
08. 1990 (Kathy Bates, Misery)
09. 1998 (Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love)
10. 1997 (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets)
So who is your favorite 1990s Best Actress winner? Who would you consider as the best of the decade? And how many of those performances have stood the test of the time? Chime in the Comments section below and let’s converse! 🙂
You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
After skipping last month to pave the way for the Emmys, the monthly Oscar predictions are back (and with a new look to boot!). Now that festivals are coming one after the other (Telluride and Toronto have already started) and New York and AFI will soon come ahead of us, it’s time to clear the air on a lot of these contenders! I’ve also started to predict the rest of the categories (except Song, Foreign Language Film, and Documentary because duh, we need a shortlist for those). Anyway, here we go with the September batch of predictions!
*You can click the photos to read the write-ups in full (especially in the Best Picture category)
Current tally of nominations:
9 – Birdman, Gone Girl, Interstellar
7 – Selma
6 – Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Unbroken, The Imitation Game
5 – Into the Woods
2 – Wild, Big Eyes, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Turner, Godzilla, The Hobbit, Fury
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl