Thursday, April 21, 2011

Best Actress 1984: Jessica Lange in Country

Jessica Lange received her third Oscar nomination for playing Jewell Ivy, a a woman who is struggling to keep her farm from foreclosure and to hold her family together (Yes, the third one in this category) in Country.

Country is actually surprisingly good. It might be something you've seen before, but it's well made and well-written for the most part and the acting is pretty good. I'd say it's worth seeing. But it's Jessica Lange we're talking about here and she does do a good job in the part. Country and the role of Jewell Ivy is very similar to The River and Sissy Spacek's role, but Jessica Lange's acting skills and the fact that Country is a much better movie help Jessica elevate the roles into something pretty good. In the beginning, the character of Jewell is pretty two-dimensional, simply a woman who seems to live for her husband, her kids, and her family, but Lange plays it so well she seems to override the fact that her part is underwritten. She has a certain radiance to her that sparks up the movie, and it's really her that's doing the lifting here, which leads me to a problem. Sam Shepard is very mediocre, and neither actors have much presence or chemistry on screen together, but I don't blame Jessica to much, because at least she put in an effort to make they're scenes work. Another problem is that her big scenes are played a little melodramatic and fake.

But during the 2nd half of the film, Jewell's character gets some development and here's where Lange really succeeds, making us feel her struggles and carrying her scenes with strength and dignity. If only the film story had been a little more exciting or interesting the performance would have been great all the way through. But still, Jessica Lange delivers a strong, competent performance that could have been flat and boring and is able to standout in a flawed, but very good film. She gets

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Best Actress 1984: Judy Davis in A Passage To India

Judy Davis received her first Oscar nomination for playing Adela Questad, an engaged woman traveling with her future mother-in law Ms. Moore (Peggy Ashcroft) in A Passage To India.

A Passage To India is a movie that is mixed for me, on the one hand, it's beautifully made and the acting is overall great. My father is a huge fan of the novel, and he says that it's a good story, but it's really how it's written that makes the book so good. I myself haven't read the book, but I can see how that could be true. The story often lacks that special spark that can really make an engaging, absorbing movie. But it's still worth seeing. Anyway, Judy Davis plays Adela Questad, a young woman who is engaged to the city magistrate of a city in India, and is rather bored by all the stuffy, english people who are making a living/taking over the country, and is slowly starting to see how appalling the British, her own people, are to to the Indians, and is starting to realize she doesn't really love her future-husband at all. in these scenes, Davis does a terrific job of subtly developing this character. She doesn't say much, but Davis does do very well in showing a change in her character, and her scenes with the doctor Aziaz are excellent, as are her scenes with her fiancee, and with doctor Aziaz.. Her scenes with Ms. Moore though are often stealed by Ashcroft, though Davis still is able to do a good job,maybe it's because Adela is not a very showy character.

During the 2nd half though, her performance changes. She accuses the doctor of raping her in they're expedition in the caves, and she disappears from the movie for a little while, until the trial. Her scenes here are fantastic, she really gives her all to these scenes, powerfully showing her guilt and fear, and eventual shame. Her testimony in the courtroom is brilliantly executed by her. And her performance continues to be overall strong throughout the rest of the film.

But my issue here is that the role of Adela Questad is underwhelming, we've seen this character before, and although Davis is up to the part, she's never amazing except during the court scenes. And also I found Adela' character arc somewhat frustrating: Why does she disappear from the 2nd half for like 20 minutes or so? Why doesn't the movie clearly address why she accused the doctor (Spoiler Alert!)if he wasn't guilty? I think the whole 2nd half could have been much better executed. Still, Judy Davis excels with her part, and is able to give an excellent performance in the end. I give her a solid