In no particular order, let’s look at the ten nominated films for Best Picture and the performances that help achieve their nominations.
1. Saw AMERICAN HUSTLE for the second time this week. Great movie, great performances, I am really impressed. However, for me, one of the most riveting performance came from the uncredited Robert De Niro, in the small part of the infamous gangster Meyer Lansky or someone based on him. (I wasn’t clear on this.) Anyway it’s a mesmerising performance and young actors, and old, if you want an acting lesson watch this. Mr De Niro has been offered and played some fairly uninteresting roles of late, apart from SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and its great to see him at the top of his game in a part that dominates the screen. The leading actors in the film give terrific performances, which clearly challenged them as actors and they all rose to the challenge…from an actor’s point of view, it is a thrill to watch. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner all amazing.
2. Watched AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY for the second time this week and again was excited by the extraordinary performances from actors at the top of their game. Meryl Streep as the horrendous Violet just knocked me out, how can anyone be so mean and cruel, but I know there are people like that, heaven help us, their lives must be so ghastly that they can find no pleasure in anything, but belittleing and bullying everyone around them. There are a couple of English actors in the film. Think one has to be very careful casting English actors in parts which are so deeply ingrained American. However good their accents, their movement and mannerisms, some characteristics are so intrisically of a country, it’s almost impossible for an actor from another country to find that ingrained ‘soul’. Having said that there are some exceptions and one is performances in:
3. 12 YEARS A SLAVE full of British, American and African actors. At the period in which it was set, America was still a young country and many of the people living there had come from somewhere else, with the characteristics and manners of another country. I think this is one reason the film works so well. It is full of outstanding actors and performances…Chiwetel Ejiofor has a serious background in the theatre, I remember him as Trigorin at the National Theatre’s Production of THE SEAGULL. So we know he has an extraordinary range, OTHELLO at the National Theatre, the Drag Queen in KINKY BOOTS. And Michael Fassbender, talented and charismatic… so many talented men and women in this film…Sarah Paulson, gritty Mistress Ebbs, reminding us that it wasn’t just the men who were cruel to their slaves.
4. Sandra Bullock’s performance in GRAVITY is another outstanding performance. It’s hard enough to give a one woman performance on stage, I know I have done it, but you can at least judge your audience’s response to what you are doing and pick up the pace, if you sense it’s dragging, or slow it down a little, if you feel the audience is really with you. On film it is completely different, you have your lines, your actions, your character, your motivation and after that you are completely in your Director’s hands. You have no sense of the response of the audience, the feel of the timing. It is, I am sure quite frightening and you have to be very confident in yourself to let yourself go. It’s rather like falling backwards and hoping that the someone you trust is there. Sandra Bullock does it. She has no one to relate to, no one to spar with, nothing just her. What an Actress, what a film!
5. I loved CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, largely because I am a huge fan of Paul Greengrass’s documentary style of film making. Some dont like it so much, but I do, in the main because the immediacy of it gives you a real bond with the people in his film. I found this in all of his BOURNE films and in UNITED 93. On top of this we had a deeply moving performance from Tom Hanks. Not many actors make me cry, but he certainly did at the end, with his relief at being rescued, his confusion and vulnerability. Actors that dissolve in tears at the drop of a hat sort of leave me cold, because it’s a form of self pity and manipulation. However when an actor cries for a completely different reason, a person, relief, a cause…Paul Scofield in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, that will get me.
I’ll cover the othe five films and the acting next time, if you’re interested. Of course if you are interested, you could leave me a comment, I would love that.