filmmixtape’s Best Actress of 2015

What a year for leading actress performances. The first longlist for my Best Actress picks yielded over thirty serious candidates and it was like pulling teeth to narrow down to a final five. Fan favorites and personal darlings had to be dropped with thoughtless abandon, so forgive the many exclusions. The lineup I’ve chosen was ultimately the ones that lingered hardest in my brain and wouldn’t leave my mind.

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Cate Blanchett – Carol

  • She’s physically indicative of Carol’s mental state and intentions, but never delivers a mannered or cheaply telling moment. Her every longing and regret is so present in her physicality that she creates an aura of unspoken emotion around herself. Once she finally speaks her mind, Blanchett becomes the source of the film’s catharsis and appropriately unfetters Mara’s Therese (and the audience) anew.

Emily Blunt – Sicario

  • Blunt plays Kate as a knotted muscle of blind morals and ambition, becoming the surrogate for the audience’s increasingly unbearable tension. The film wouldn’t click without the humanity she brings to the role and her economy in suggesting Kate’s unspoken depression. The threat of violence and potential for irreparable sacrifice is plain on her face from the word go.

Brie Larson – Room

  • Filled with specificity of Ma’s pain, but open enough to acknowledge that there are things about her experience that will remain unknowable to her loved ones and the audience. She makes Ma more than a savior, but a complex woman frozen by trauma into the immature mind of a teenager. Like the film itself, Larson modulates her anguish for the sake of Jack and the audience while remaining fiercely honest.

Rooney Mara – Carol

  • Her Therese is changed by love both in the moment and over the course of the film in clear ways, but Mara never cheapens them with obviousness. She may be flung out of space, but she’s also unexpectedly plain spoken, allowing Mara’s natural screen presence to take hold. From her sense of longing, to her anger, to her cold heartache, she is always the perfect compliment to Blanchett’s Carol.

Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

  • A performance that’s at its most transformative in the silences, with whole revolutions happening on Rampling’s face as her understanding of her marriage crumbles. Her consciously dissipating connection to Courtenay as she becomes more interior predicts the conclusion’s sharp turn without diminishing its impact. To put it cheaply, it’s as if she’s living on the screen rather than acting in it.

The Winner is after the jump!

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In Review!: “Carol”

As gay people, we’re acutely cognizant of nuances of perception and communication. When a portion (or entirety) of one’s life is spent forced to suppress self-expression, we become scientists of our own behavior and scrutinize how any minute tic will reveal our identity. Whether we have hidden because of social norms or for safety, the necessity to do so results in a social class of experts in subtle social interaction. The hyper-sensitivity electrifies when we meet one of our own and use these adaptive skills to acknowledge shared truths, to show compassion, to express romantic interest. The liberated YouTube generation knows nothing of the experience of not being able to speak plainly to your own camp.

Somehow, we find eachother.

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Such are the fascinations of Todd Haynes’s passionately observed Carol, a love story of stolen glances and charged embraces that is as interested in the queer longings of the central duo as it is with what remains unspoken between any of Haynes’s 50s era denizens. Rarely has every frame been so essential and packed with specific behavior in contemporary cinema, and the film is a staggering assemblage of craft that services the truth for which Haynes reaches and richly achieves. Haynes captures the breathlessness of flirtation and first touches, the cured infection of prior loves into the dynamic, the ease of feeling accepted fully. Yes, it’s relatable to anyone who’s been in love, but make no mistakes: this is a gay story, the stakes raised by the language unavailable to two women in a time where they have to hide in plain sight.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is an unimposing shopgirl whose life gets a kickstart by the intrigued Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), a soon-to-be divorcé shopping for a Christmas present for her prized daughter. Naturally, things are complicated by Therese’s boyfriend (Jake Lacy) pushing for next steps and Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler) open to reconciliation if Carol plays it straight. The vulnerability that Mara and Blanchett bring to the lovers as they discover each other in the moment is breathtaking as Therese and Carol are by turns awkward, turned on, patient, and enamored. These women aren’t stoic enigmas, but social outliers discovering how to communicate their mutual interest without words.

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A Peek of The Hollywood Reporter’s Annual Actress Roundtable

Every Oscar season, the major media outlets get the year’s most talked about artists in rooms for delicious conversations on their craft. The one I naturally anticipate the most: The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable. This year’s participants are Cate Blanchett (Carol & Truth), Jane Fonda (Youth), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Carey Mulligan (Suffragette), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs).

You can read the major points online now, along with some brief clips, but the full conversation should be online in the weeks to come (also to be available on Sundance TV beginning January 10). Be sure to also take a look at filmmixtape’s current Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress predictions!

If you haven’t seen the teases on Twitter, Variety’s always charming Actors on Actors series is coming soon as well.

Side note: kudos on the colors ladies! Brie’s sharp vermilion, Carey’s smooth mustard, Jennifer’s cozy sage! I’m starting to hate the phrase, but this is what YAS QWEENs are made of.

Trailer Drop: “Anomalisa”

I spent today recruiting guest voices for a coming post I hope you will all have fun with, but we were also finally given a look at one of filmmixtape’s most anticipated of the year: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s stop-motion Anomalisa.

After playing most of the fall festivals, including debuting at our beloved Telluride Film Festival, Anomalisa has only had a still or two floating around to tease the masses unable to seek out a festival screening. Anything Kaufman gets my butt in a theatre without a second thought, and you can guarantee hearing about his pasts efforts like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Synecdoche, New York in this space in due time.

If I could pick any fall-season release to watch immediately, this would be the immediate choice (perhaps jockeying against Son of Saul, and not only because they’ll likely be the longest wait at this point). And what else are we still chomping at the bit for?

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