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Five Best Kate Winslet Performances   Leave a comment

Happy 40th, Kate!

Kate Winslet turns 40 today! And she’s welcoming this new decade with a career comeback. Her seventh Oscar nomination as a supporting actress for Danny Boyle’s new film Steve Jobs is almost assured at this stage, and it will be her first since winning the top plum for The Reader back in 2008. As such, it’s time to revisit Winslet’s career, as I list five of her best performances.

But first, here are three ones that almost made the list: Her Emmy nominated turn as a nun in Extras in 2006 which correctly hinted that her Oscar winning performance would be in a Nazi related movie, the third party mistress Tula in 2005’s Romance & Cigarettes playing third fiddle to James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon, and her Golden Globe nominated performance in Roman Polanski’s Carnage in 2011 that showcases her impeccable comedic timing. As for the actual list…

05. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008, director: Sam Mendes)

It’s rather unfortunate that her baitier performance that same year won her the Oscar, when Winslet was much more magnificent as the lonely suburban housewife in her then husband’s feature “Revolutionary Road.” As April Wheeler, one can consider this as the second of her unofficial “problematic bored housewives” series (starting with 2006’s “Little Children” and ending in 2013’s “Labor Day“. WInslet was full on theatrics in this one, which can be considered as a turn off, but was matched with equally loud Leonardo di Caprio. How Winslet portrayed the once hopeful, young housewife and her slow realization of hopelessness because of being with him was impeccably played to great heights in this film.

04. HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994, director: Peter Jackson)

Considered as Kate’s breakout performance, Winslet played beautiful music (literally and figuratively) with co-star Melanie Lynskey in this 1994 Peter Jackson film, long before he decided to do his Middle Earth trilogy. Based on a real life 50’s scandal, Winslet portrays the beautiful Juliet, fresh from England, with such vibrancy that you’d be hooked to whatever she’s hooked to — may it be literature or music or art. She crosses the line between innocent at one moment then switches to seductive the other, that you’d be lying if you weren’t seduced into the little world they’re building.

03. HOLY SMOKE (1999, director: Jane Campion)

There is something about the way Kate Winslet exudes and defines sexuality during her early heydays as proven by previous entry “Heavenly Creatures.” This was further heightened in her performance in 1999’s “Holy Smoke” where she plays the Australian Ruth, whose views of her own spiritual awakening has impacted the way she lives her life. Campion poses a lot of challenges to  Ruth here: her firm beliefs, her seducing ways, her views on relationship up to her controlling ways, but WInslet was very much up to the challenge.

02. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995, director: Ang Lee)

Receiving her first career Oscar nomination two decades ago for Ang Lee’s take on this Jane Austen novel (with a screenplay penned by co-star Emma Thompson), Winslet’s Marianne Dashwood was full of charm and charisma, one character you’d easily root for. It’s a performance full of life, and Kate was exuberant in it you’d think she literally came out of the novel to portray the character. While Mira Sorvino was underrated for her accomplishment in Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite“, I would have preferred if WInslet won her Oscar for this performance instead.

01. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004, director: Michel Gondry)

Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine.

Still what I consider as the peak of Kate Winslet’s career, it’s easy to label her Clementine Kruczynski as her best one uet.. And looking at her career standpoint now, I don’t think we’d be seeing a performance as captivating as what she did in this one. This is probably a character that’s against type for Kate — mostly stuck on period films (Jude, Quills, Titanic) or even playing younger version of other character such as her portrayal of the young Iris Murdoch in 2001’s Iris. Thus, not only is it refreshing to see Winslet in this type of role, probably even rarer by the fact that it was very much complexly written that watching her being discovered by Jim Carrey’s Joel directly affects us as well. Sure, one can credit that Clementine is the product of a greatly written character, but Kate’s performance certainly contributed to why she’s memorable. Like I said in the initial post, Winslet’s comedic timing is rarely seen (more so in her personal interviews rather than her on screen portrayals) that seeing her in this was as much delightful as it was melancholic.

What are your thoughts on Kate Winslet? What are your favorite performances of her? Tweet and talk to me about it: @nikowl

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Five Best Oscar Best Actress Lineup in History   13 comments

One thing I like about the Oscar Best Actress lineup this year is that it is inspired. We’re treated to a wide array of female performances that caters to different demographics. On one hand, it’s impossible (no pun intended) to ignore Naomi Watts’ performance in The Impossible as she embraces  into the physical requirements of the role of a suffering mother. Then, you also have the subtlety of Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Her role can be considered as too quiet and passive, but it is through this silence that you can feel the emotional commitment she puts in the role of Maya. Youngest Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis carries Beasts of the Southern Wild with so much charm and appeal that it’s hard not to root for her and see the potential that lies within her acting skills. Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence avoids the scenery chewing approach and was also solid in a way that it impresses you and makes you wonder where she tugs all these emotions in her portrayal of Tiffany. Lastly, Emmanuelle Riva of Amour just makes your heart break as she transcends her performance to the viewers, thanks to an effective combination of emotional and physical combination that the role required.

Refreshing isn’t it? Just like this year, these five years stand out as the best of the Best Actress lineup in the 85 years of the Academy.

1988

05. Best Actress 1988

The nominees were:
Glenn Close, “Dangerous Liaisons”
*Jodie Foster, “The Accused”
Melanie Griffith, “Working Girl”
Meryl Streep, “A Cry in the Dark”
Sigourney Weaver, “Gorillas in the Mists”

1988 is definitely a strong year for Best Actress. For once, this is the year where we had a triple tie at the Best Actress Drama category at the Golden Globes with even snubbed Shirlay Maclaine for Madame Sousatzka snubbed for a nomination. With that said, let’s start with probably the “weakest” of the bunch, Melanie Griffith. In Working Girl, Griffith displayed a charming approach to a woman who wanted to matter in a corporate world. In some ways, it is through Griffith’s appeal that carries Tess when the writing starts to get borderline cliche. Glenn Close just gave the performance of a lifetime a year earlier via Fatal Attraction, but that did not stop her in giving back to back tour de force performance when she followed it up with her turn in Dangerous Liaisons. It is quite similar to Watts and Riva this year wherein they were lying on a bed most of the time, but Close’s facial expressions gave justice to an otherwise pretty helpless character. Sigourney Weaver gives a one two punch performance that year both in lead ans supporting, but her more interesting performance is the one for which she was nominated here. As concerned monkey expert Diane Fossey, Weaver made us attached to an otherwise unknown woman and made us care for what she cares about. Cannes Best Actress winner that year was for A Cry in the Dark‘s Meryl Streep. It’s such a shame that she already has two Oscars by the time this movie was released, but it probably ranks as my favorite Meryl Streep performance ever. Beyond nailing the Australian accent perfectly, it is the emotional attachment that Streep carved that made Lindsay Chamberlain not only a sympathetic mother but a real human being. Plus points to anybody who can deliver the line “The dingo killed my baby” with a straight face. Eventually, the winner was Jodie Foster in The Accused. The movie was pretty much an acting vehicle, and Foster was game all the way. For that alone, I commend her. And that probably is what puts her over the edge that year.

If I was a voter, I would vote for: Meryl Streep hands down. That would have been a very deserving third Oscar win for her.

2006

04. Best Actress 2006

The nominees were:
Penelope Cruz, “Volver
Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal
*Helen Mirren, “The Queen
Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”
Kate Winslet, “Little Children”

2006 is probably known as the year where Helen Mirren steamrolled her way to the Oscars. It was one of the instances where in as early as September, it was already clear on who will win the Best Actress Oscar. While Mirren was every inch deserving, the whole category was such an embarrassment of riches in terms of the nominated performances. Kate Winslet was on her fifth nomination already for Little Children, and she was able to portray the complexities of a suburban housewife who was longing for something that will elicit interaction to her, even if it means having an affair to the one of her neighbors. If there’s one thing I commend about Winslet, it’s her willingness to use her body as a part of her total display of emotions, and it was highlighted here. Meryl Streep was such a hoot in The Devil Wears Prada. In this, she showed another facet to her as an actress, and she avoided Miranda Priestly to be a total caricature which was a total delight to watch. I wasn’t a fan of Penelope Cruz’s English language features, but she was totally in her element in Volver. Despite being a part of a strong huge female ensemble, it is still Cruz whose at the front and center and she totally was up to the challenge. Like Meryl Streep, Judi Dench was able to show another side of her, this time in an unlikable villainous role in Notes on a Scandal. It wasn’t an easy task, mind you, as Dame Dench probably has one of the most endearing performances that it’s hard for someone to not like her. But she did it with so much raw intensity that she totally disappears into the role of a stalking old woman. Lastly, I don’t think there’s any adjectives left that wasn’t use to describe Helen Mirren in The Queen, and she was able to convey the role of the Queen not as a public figure but as a human being, and that’s what makes the performance remarkable and stand the test of time.

If I was a voter, I would vote for: Helen Mirren. As much as I think it’s a three way race among her, Dench, and Cruz, she’s just a hair better as she carries the whole film stronger and in a more vital manner.

2010

03. Best Actress 2010

The nominees were:
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
*Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”

As 2009 ended with a Sandra Bullock win for The Blind Side, the current decade starts strong with these five performances that are arguably better for the other nominations that these actresses got in the past or after this year. Let’s begin with Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. Sure, she was more charming in Silver Linings Playbook, but the potential was already there way back in her first lead role status. Most of the time, we just follow her journey as Ree finds her father, but she encompasses it in a raw manner that it’s not hard to see the greatness that lies with her acting talents. Annette Bening’s fourth nomination comes from her role as lesbian Nic in The Kids Are All Right. In any other weaker year, I can totally see this performance dominating the awards circuit. In Kids, Bening was devoid of the easy way out with her performance as the “man” in a lesbian relationship. Her Nic was tough but sensitive, possessive but vulnerable, and Bening brings another layer to it effectively. The secret to Blue Valentine was probably the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Williams was totally as giving as Gosling was; shedding away not only her clothes, but also her emotions as she deal with a relationship that at first was ideal, but in the end was complicated. The same sadness was encompassed by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman, though, in her case, it was about a grieving mother who lost her only son. What I like about this performance was that Kidman didn’t make it as a pity party for Becca. She was unlikable,and you can see that, but it was her grieving process that tales center stage, and Nicole was more than aware of that. Lastly, Natalie Portman in Black Swan was probably the role of her lifetime. Her commitment to the role is already an accomplishment, but beyond that, she was more than willing to enter the role that Darren Aronofsky set up for Nina. Admittedly, my favorite part of her performance was the famous “phone call” scene where she told her mother that she passed auditions, but this is a totality body of work that one can be proud of, and Portman was deserving to win this year.

If I was a voter, I would vote for: Nicole Kidman. Becca was such an interesting character study devoid of the over the top histrionics that one can expect, and Kidman was the effective means to connect Becca to the viewers.

1995

02. Best Actress 1995

The nominees were:
*Susan Sarandon, “Dead Man Walking”
Elisabeth Shue, “Leaving Las Vegas”
Sharon Stone, “Casino”
Meryl Streep, “The Bridges of Madison County”
Emma Thompson, “Sense and Sensibility”

1995 was considered as the greatest year for lead female performers during that decade. While this line up is strong, think of these non-nominated performances during that year: Nicole Kidman in To Die For, Kathy Bates in Dolores Clairborne, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding, Julianne Moore in Safe and son on and so forth. Anyway enough about the snubees, let’s begin. Emma Thompson’s safest niche is probably British period pieces. And just like her winning performance in Howards End, her performance in Sense and Sensibility connects easily to viewers not solely because of the familiarity of the novel, but because of how she makes her presence felt in it. With that said though, I like her screenwriting credits for this movie better than her acting in it. Sharon Stone can be considered as a borderline supporting in Casino, but her role as Ginger stands out in this film that’s dominated by the men. Stone wasn’t able to match her performance int his and has been a Hollywood joke for years now, but this is always a good reminder of the talents that she had. Meryl Streep. Can you ever get tired of her? I surely don’t. If she mastered the Aussie accent in A Cry in the Dark, here she went all Italian. And once again, she nailed it. Streep has this habit of rising over the material, and while most of the time, that’s not a good thing, in The Bridges of Madison County, it’s the opposite. This makes you fell more for her Francesca, and the breakdown at the near end of the deal sealed the deal for me. It’s quite sad when people connect Leaving Las Vegas as solely the Nicolas Cage show, because Elisabeth Shue was darn fantastic in it. On the outside, Shue can easily be summed up as a hooker with a heart, but her performance is a straight connection to the viewers that it’s just spectacular to watch her in it. I can even go as far as saying that she steals the show for me. Lastly, Susan Sarandon wins after four failed attempts for Dead Man Walking. In it, she gives a devoted performance as Sister Mary Prejean to Sean Penn’s character, and she does not rely to histrionics but focused to the bigger picture of a nun committed to help.

If I was a voter, I would vote for: Elisabeth Shue. It’s not really hard to vote for this one. She was simply magnificent.

1950

01. Best Actress 1950

The nominees were:
Anne Baxter, “All About Eve
Bette Davis, “All About Eve
*Judy Holliday, “Born Yesterday
Eleanor Parker, “Caged
Gloria Swanson, “Sunset Boulevard”

And we’ve finally reached the best line-up at the history of this category at the Oscars. This is probably one of the years where I change my personal winner every single time. There’s something to commend about all these performances that makes them not only iconic, but as a representation of acting masterclass. Let’s begin with the least familiar performance of the bunch. Eleanor Parker probably wasn’t as remembered as the other names or movies like her co-nominees, but Caged is an underrated gem that shows Parker’s versatility as an actress. Her ability to convey multiple emotions from her audience is a testament of how this performance should always be remembered. Then we have the All About Eve actresses. On the left corner, we have Anne Baxter in the role of an inspired up and coming actress Eve. Her role required her to do a lot, and while I see some flaws here and there with her approach of the character; nevertheless, she made her mark with it instead of the other way around. Then we have the fabulous Bette Davis in a comeback memorable performance as an aging actress that lives with the threat of her age being a detriment to her fame. Davis fires one liners like no other, one after the other, and it was just fantastic to watch her do that right in front of our eyes. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard was another “diva” that was such a joy to watch. It was commendable to see Swanson stretch herself to all the demands to her character, and she displays each of them with such panache that’s inevitable to ignore. But the Oscar that year went to none other than Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. Academy rarely rewards comedic performances that’s why it’s such fun when you see actors get rewarded for them. Holliday never relied on baity scenes, but instead focus on creating a whole picture that stands on its own rather than several clips to justify her performance.

If I was a voter, I would vote for: Gloria Swanson. One of the performances that I’d probably recommend to every aspiring actor/actress. How she effectively answers these different needs of the character is uh-mah-zing.

That’s it! What are some of your favorite Best Actress line-ups? Who would you have chosen as your personal winners in these set of nominees? Pipe them in below!

And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl