RE-POST – Originally Published September 2015.
Here you’ll find a couple of French, a couple of Greeks, not to mention a Dane, and a Norwegian. Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments section below.
Aggeliki Papoulia / Mary Tsoni for Dogtooth (2010) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Yorgos Lanthimos’s surreal Dogtooth is a bit like a scab you ought not to pick because of the resulting blood, but you just can’t help yourself. Bizarre, bonkers, bewildering, this is a dysfunctional family fable at it’s most head-scratching. Beautifully shot and thought-provoking though it is, there is no way any of he cast could expect to be considered for Oscar nominations. Not to say the performances are flimsy or uninspired, not at all. It is in fact hard to pick a stand-out contender in the acting stakes. The parents keeping their family locked away from the world in a huge house sweeps around notions of child cruelty for sure, but they are compelling authorities. It’s a strange parenting regime, to these poor kids a vagina is a keyboard and the salt is called phone. While the son expresses the more active, brutal tendencies, it is the two daughters, though still damaged souls, that provide what little genuine human emotion there is. The older sister (Aggeliki Papoulia) longs to escape not so much the physical confines of the house, but a way to see what is out there – inspired by a couple of actual VHS movies no less. The younger sister (Mary Tsoni) has a seemingly sullen face, but it somehow glows with innocence and enthusiasm. The younger sister leans on the older to some extent, signified through embraces, licks (yes), and a solid companionship. Both actresses rarely need the rather misguided dialogue (again not a flaw) to impress, gauging all manner of suppressed thoughts and intrigue through their faces and motions – not to mention their body language which speaks volumes in this discourse of film. They taint the weird a little bit, but nowhere near enough for the Academy to deem this worthy of votes in the acting categories. They have a long way to go with other social demographic issues first. There was an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, which given the material and execution is really something.
Liv Ullmann for Scenes from a Marriage (1973) – – – Asif Khan @KHAN2705
Liv Ullmann’s performance in Swedish master Ingmar Bergman’s 162 min film/281 min mini-series is one of the most hard-hitting portrayals of a woman (period!) ever captured on camera. She plays Marianne (a lawyer) while Erland Josephson plays Johan, her husband who is a professor. This tightly focused disintegration of marriage and brutally revealing account of two people sharing life and slowly finding that their love for each other cannot compensate for the anger they insight in one another, is one of the crowning achievements of Mr. Bergman. Same can be said for his supreme actress Liv Ullmann who gives her career best performance here. The theatrical version released in cinemas made her a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee but the Academy overlooked her for reasons I don’t know nor care about. Bergman’s penchant for close-ups to serve a better relationship between the audience and his characters work in a different way here. Each verbal stab, slow realization, doubt and confusion wonderfully performed by Ullmann specially. Her erratic behavior, changes in expressions, internal havoc, masterfully acted and captured. A tale so intimate, it is impossible not to look at it as the most realistic account of love, marriage and breakup. With minute details, focus on the most ordinary things that one day, grow into something extraordinary and thus, impossible to ignore. This film leaves you bruised and Liv Ullmann leaves you stunned with her vulnerable portrayal in a commanding performance.
Melanie Laurent for Inglourious Basterds (2009) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Christoph Waltz stole the majority of the limelight in Quentin Tarantino’s historical retelling Inglourious Basterds, winning at the Oscars and in Cannes. In a special, personal way though the heart and soul of the movie is Melanie Laurent as Shosanna, fleeing for her life only later to be floundered with her enemies. She is fearless and smart, though very aware of the dangers in her path, and eager to develop the means to banish them. Laurent is pitch-perfect here, portraying a young woman who must have the weight of the world at war on her small shoulders, but externalizes her cool and courageous attitude. Sure, Waltz was the showy masterclass, but Laurent had depth and feeling, a character you warm to instantly and root for right to her very end. She does somehow triumph with a great spirit and sense of freedom at the film’s close, in spite of what her writer-director had in store for her. Tarantino started to lose my fandom ever-so-slightly with the Kill Bill double-bill, but the fate he ultimately gives to Shosanna is unforgivable – I was heartbroken. The lack of an Oscar nomination for the marvelous Laurent doesn’t really tend to my wounds.
Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt (2011) – – – Tobi Ogunyemi @spaceliontobi @SpaceLioncs
Pusher. Casino Royale. After the Wedding. Valhalla Rising. A Royal Affair. Hannibal – Mads Mikkelsen has been pushing a fantastic case that he is one of the single best actors in the world in all of his performances (his Hannibal Lecter is a new contortion of the iconic character for a new generation). Then, he teams up with fellow Danish patriot Thomas Vinterberg in The Hunt and serves up his best performance in his already stellar character. Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a teacher at an elementary school who is beloved by the kids, the parents, the fellow teachers and everyone around it seems like. Regardless, he holds a lonely (but still capable and livable) existence in his community along with sharing custody of his brash and admiring son and starts a burgeoning relationship with an English speaking co-worker. Lucas lives a full life, but as is the case with an depth character study such as this one, an event happens that turns his life upside down and slowly, and painfully, ostracizes him from the community that once so cherished him and vice versa. Mikkelsen pulls off two incredible bits of acting in this performance that showcases why it was one of the best of its year; while he is accused of the crime of what is assumed that he did, his Lucas never denies because he cannot believe that he is being accused of it in the first place. The lonely man who is surrounded by his supposed loved ones separates himself from them as they are doing the same to him, it’s a arms race of loneliness and Lucas is in the middle of it trying to beat everyone else to the race first. Secondly, in conjunction with his loneliness, Lucas is framed and shown in such ways that emphasize his considerable condition – sleeping alone with his dog, in his backyard, in the grocery store, and most memorably, in the church – Lucas becomes more and more attacked in increasingly brutal physical attacks and finally, in wordless psychological directions. The pained glancing looks, the way he carries himself at first above the hate and then with a stiffness that subverts, defies and crafts that same hate for himself, the gamut of emotions that Lucas – and everyone else connected to him – goes through. Eventually, Lucas is welcomed wholeheartedly back into the fold and time heals all wounds, but time also never forgets. The final shot of Lucas’ face while hunting in the woods carries such a notion, such an exclamation point, that Mikkelsen was deservedly recognized for numerous of platitudes around the world for this performance.
Juliette Binoche for Three Colors: Blue (1993) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
The first of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s miraculous Three Colors trilogy is certainly the bleakest. So Blue is the appropriate color, and Juliette Binoche is the perfect face that fits. Her beauty and magnetism is matched by her natural ability to display utter turmoil and self-depletion. You would struggle to find examples where Binoche has not demonstrated these qualities and such acting brilliance to this great extent in anything else she has done. Though she is never anything short of exceptional. In Three Colors: Blue the central character of Julie (Binoche) loses her child and husband in an automobile accident, and consciously fades away from the social world choosing some form of isolation and distance from society. She tries to commit suicide, before attempting to abandon her past, including an affair and her husband’s music (which she very well may have written). The somber and luminous Binoche and composer Zbigniew Preisner work in unison as the music haunts Julie throughout, following her like memories you can’t forget. It’s a mesmerizing, memorable central performance from the enigmatic Binoche – painful, poignant, and beautiful.