Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the day my music died.

  (1940 - 2009)

ellie greenwich, one of pop music's greatest songwriters, died today at 68. she was responsible for a catalogue of music that i never knew possible from one person, including:
  • "be my baby" / "baby, i love you" - the ronettes
  • "leader of the pack" - the shangri-las
  • "river deep, mountain high" - ike & tina turner
  • "da doo ron ron" - the crystals
  • "chapel of love" - the dixie cups
  • "doo wah diddy diddy" - manfred mann
  • "(today i met) the boy i'm gonna marry" - darlene love
  • "he's got the power" - the exciters 
....and countless other classics.
can you believe 1 woman wrote and / or co-wrote all that?

in 1991, ellie was was inducted into the songwriter's hall of fame.
a musical of her life, leader of the pack, debuted in 1984 and was nominated for a tony award for best musical.
below are some of ellie's masterpieces.
rest in peace, girl.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

summer reading.

go and read this book.
i just finished it.

it drags a bit at the end, but all in all a chillingly accurate portrayal of drug use in america as freelance writer david sheff chronicles his son's addiction to crystal meth.


so i have revealed the 90 greatest performances that never (yet should have) won an oscar. it is pretty exhausting, especially since anybody who reads this probably won't care what i think. i am going to put the top ten on hold until the commencement of the toronto international film festival (lame). in the meantime, take a look at this photo that i came across the other day whilst looking for things to complain about:

yeah. it is kim kardashian ("hooker/stripper/pole-dancer/amateur-porn star extraordinaire) working the robertson boulevard stroll in beverly hills, accosted by a bunch of screaming, crying, eternally appreciative 12-year old fans. 

immorality personified.
children are the future. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

#11. emily watson in breaking the waves

emily watson's role as bess mcneill ranks very high on this list. the highest ranking for an actor in a performance from the 1990's. and it more than deserves it place. bess mcneill is a character unlike any other: strange, simple, childlike -- as if she were an 8 year old barely living in a grown woman's body. lars von trier virtually plucked watson out of obscurity to tackle this role. it is near perfection, painfully beautiful. bess is completely dependent on her husband jan (stellan skarsgard), an oil rigger who is sent away to a platform in the middle of the sea. without jan, bess is incomprehensible and all she can do is pray for his return. when he is finally sent home, paralyzed in an onshore accident, bess blames herself. she is volatile, self destructive, catatonic. her reluctance to have sex with other men, an order given by jan who cannot have sex himself since his accident, results in a dizzying spiral into near-madness as she copes with her disintegrating marriage and the views of her calvinist community. arguably, one of the greatest performances in history, watson won just about every best actress award from critics and film festivals around the world. competing with brenda blethyn (for secrets and lies), who gave an equally powerful performance that year, the two stellar british actresses made 1996 a fantastic year for film.

*nominated for 1996 best actress oscar;
lost to frances mcdormand in fargo

greatest moment: see below

#12. david thewlis in naked

david thewlis is sensational as johnny, the streetwise philosopher who spends the majority of this film in a dizzying stupor, paranoid and drunk, assumedly suffering from undiagnosed medical afflictions, most likely schizophrenia. as we discover, johnny is equally a danger to others as he is to himself, even though his troubled soul comes off as endearing when he strikes up friendships with others miscreants he meets along his way (on the way to nowhere). a nihilist with a penchant for violence, johnny seeks refuge with an old girlfriend (the brilliant lesley sharp), seduces her roommate (the brilliant katrin cartlidge), and is forced in and out of the destitute streets of london. i don't know why i feel it worth mentioning, but brad pitt had said somewhere that this is his favorite performance of all time. don't let that discourage you. thewlis won the best actor award at the 1993 cannes film festival for his role. and should have absolutely been nominated for an oscar.

greatest moment: see below

#13. glenn close in fatal attraction

as the diabolical alex forrest, glenn close is iconic as an unhinged woman scorned, in adrian lyne's fatal attraction. playing her part with such conviction, she is fearsome and brutal -- every philandering husband's worst nightmare. at first, you fall in love with her. after she is rejected, you feel nothing but pity. when she is ignored, and results to boiling rabbits, you hate her. never has there been a time spent watching a film where i have so vocally cheered the death of a villain as when beth (the brilliant anne archer) shoots alex during the intense bathtub scene. close does what every good actor is supposed to: she believably takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. close was nominated for five oscars during the 1980's; if ever she deserved one (and she definitely deserved at least one) , it was for playing alex.
*nominated for 1987 best actress oscar;
lost to cher in moonstruck

greatest moment: see below

#14. dennis hopper in blue velvet

as fucked up as david lynch gets, blue velvet is disturbing, confusing, magnificent -- all because of dennis hopper. as frank booth, the angry, foul-mouthed masochist who kidnaps a lounge singer's (isabella rossellini) husband  and holds him ransom in order to have his wife available for violent, sexual encounters. the performance that ultimately typecasted hopper as the ultimate crazy bad-guy, frank booth is probably the most interesting character in any of david lynch's films (except eraserhead), and was a huge surprise to many, considering the mediocre roles that hopper had in the 1970's. an all-round classic nowadays, blue velvet was nominated for an oscar for best director. even in a career-defining performance, hopper was not nominated.

greatest moment: see below

#15. deborah kerr in from here to eternity

as the neglected wife of captain holmes, deborah kerr is oscar-worthy -- and not just for the iconic beachside make-out session with sergeant warden (burt lancaster). karen is heartbreaking from her opening scene: a husband who is never around to give her the time and love she needs. when she finally finds it in milton, he can't become the man she needs him to be in order to receive a divorce from her husband, and she is left lonely once again. you wonder how a woman so beautiful never seems to get her way? this is clearly an exceptional portrayal of a real woman, not your typical hollywood fabrication. karen is supposed to be a detestable character, promiscuous and immoral, but i read her in a completely different way -- an excellent example of pitch-perfect acting. ms. kerr never won an academy award, despite six nominations throughout her immense career. she was given an honorary oscar in 1994. she died in 2007.

*nominated for 1953 best actress oscar;
lost to audrey hepburn in roman holiday 

greatest moment: it's lame, and she has many scenes of great dialogue, but this IS kerr's greatest moment

#16. angela lansbury in the manchurian candidate

one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema, angela lansbury as mrs. john iselin is spellbinding. you would never guess that she is only two years older than lawrence harvey, who plays her cowardly son raymond shaw, as lansbury still manages to draw intense emotions from her audience -- gripping, malicious and manipulative -- the quintessential and evil matriarch. always the bridesmaid, lansbury was nominated for three academy awards and has been nominated for nineteen emmy awards, no wins (she does have six golden globes and five tony awards). patty duke was excellent, but there is no plausible excuse for lansbury not winning an oscar for this film. 

*nominated for 1962 best supporting actress oscar;
lost to patty duke in the miracle worker

greatest moment: see below

#17. al pacino in the godfather part II

what bothered most people about al pacino not winning an oscar for his portrayal of don michael corleone was chiefly because of the actor who did win. art carney gave a very sweet and heartwarming performance in harry and tonto, and for the most part it was considered a sympathy vote. but i mean, come on. don michael fucking corleone. ironically, pacino would find himself, 18 years later, receiving the most obvious sympathy vote in oscar history, winning for the ridiculous scent of a woman in 1992. oscar rarely seems to get it right. anyway, i really don't need to tell you how great the godfather, part II was. or the godfather, part I for that matter (godfather, part III i will not watch. ever.) michael corleone is one of those rare characters that is brutal and evil and horrible, but you don't really hate him. the mark of an exceptional actor. and one of the greatest robberies in oscar history.

*nominated for 1974 best actor oscar; lost to art carney in harry and tonto

greatest moment: see below

#18. brenda blethyn in secrets and lies

the final and most profound example on this list of mike leigh's genius ability to extract a spellbinding performance from his female characters. brenda blethyn as cynthia purley, a lower-class factory worker who learns that the daughter she gave up for adoption as an infant is now a successful black woman, is one of the greatest performances in recent memory -- vulnerable, comedic, afflicted, and devastating. a primarily improvised role, blethyn uses her tremendous acting talents to write her own story for cynthia, in a manner that is both disarming and sympathetic to the audience. she is never over the top in her delivery; her use of humor to combat uneasy situations is so real and natural. an absolutely perfect performance. blethyn won a golden globe for best actress (drama) along with countless other critics awards. she also won the 1996 best actress award from the cannes film festival for her role. 
*nominated for 1996 best actress oscar;
lost to frances mcdormand in fargo

greatest moment: see below

#19. john goodman in the big lebowski

john goodman is a greatly unappreciated actor. he has made so many exceptional performances in his prolific career -- both comedic and dramatic, in leading and supporting roles. the big lebowski, the coen brothers' first film made after the oscar-winning fargo was not enjoyed by many critics at the time, however, goodman's portrayal of walter sobchak is as iconic as 'the dude' himself, and impossible to ignore. 

greatest line: 'this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass'
greatest moment: see below

#20. ellen burstyn in requiem for a dream

as sarah goldfarb, ellen burstyn reminds us of the epic range she possesses and why she is truly one of our greatest performers. with a body of work like the last picture show, the exorcist, alice doesn't live here anymore, resurrection & the people vs. jean harris, she still manages to surprise as a pill-popping game-show enthusiast who dreams of being a television star. coping with the addiction of her heroin addicted son (jared leto), coupled with her own hallucinations, sarah descends into a dizzying, nightmarish downfall that is heart-wrenching and affecting. burstyn won just about every critics award for best actress in 2001.  

*nominated for 2001 best actress oscar;
lost to julia roberts in erin brockovich

greatest moment: cut and paste.

#21. bjork in dancer in the dark

#22. chloe webb in sid and nancy

chloe webb had only made a couple of films before taking on the role of nancy spungen in alex cox's iconic sid and nancy. since, she has only made minor television appearances and had a recurring role on china beach. i will never understand this. webb is absolutely riveting as the drug-addicted groupie-turned-girlfriend of sex pistols' bassist sid vicious (gary oldman), whose tragic life ended at 20 in a sleazy apartment at the chelsea hotel, stabbed to death. assumedly a difficult role for a relative newcomer, playing nancy spungen required tapping into a dark, painful life -- webb is not only brutal in her connection, she does it beautifully. webb received best actress awards from the boston society of film critics and the national society of film critics in 1987 for her role.

greatest moment: her last fight with sid
great moment: see below

#23. liv ullmann in the emigrants

an exceptional actress of the 1970's, ullmann was twice nominated for an oscar in her prolific career, but it was her performance as kristina in jan troell's the emigrants that truly highlights her immense acting skills. as a woman who travels from her native sweden to a rural life in minnesota, the nilssons face abuse, discrimination and hardships faced by many that acquire a new life in the land of the free. 

*nominated for 1972 best actress oscar;
lost to liza minelli in cabaret

#24. john turturro in barton fink

just about every aspect of this film is bizarre: the characters, the hotel, the business of hollywood. and the fact that it is a coen borthers' film, wraps it all up nicely. as barton fink, john turturro is a demented writer, enlisted by hollywood to come up with a new film. more interesting however is his time spent with his neighbor (john goodman) and a famous writer w. p. mayhew, modeled after william faulkner (john mahoney) and his secretary (judy davis). his performance is crazed, but his dedication to the role is sensational. turturro won the 1991 best actor award at the cannes film festival for his role.

greatest moment: discovering that audrey (davis) wrote the majority of mayhew's books

#25. ray winstone in nil by mouth

very seldom does an actor manage to encompass a role so entirely, to the point where you think that the director must be capturing sheer madness on film. nil by mouth, directed by gary oldman, is a gritty and intense chronicling, semi-autobiography if you will, of his early life in seedy east london. he enlisted winstone to portray ray, a violent alcoholic who dabbles in drugs and petty crime, and brings forth a performance of epic proportion. ray as ray is a mean brute, famously beating his wife (kathy burke) to the point where she miscarries their child, and for the rest of the picture, desperately tries to pursue her after the fact -- in an attempt to further control her or seek reconciliation? we aren't exactly sure -- regardless, he goes a little mad, as highlighted in numerous scenes where ray delivers rambling, non-sensical monologues as his wife and daughter have packed up and left. what is most chilling about winstone's role is the similarity his character shares with many real men of the time. violent, drunk, angry family men -- this is not only another performance, it is the performance.

greatest moment: see below

#26. guy pearce in memento

guy pearce as leonard shelby, the amnesiac insurance fraud investigator who uses a series of notes, photos and tattoos to store information about the man he believes killed his wife. he can't trust anyone, not even those who help in his investigation (joe pantoliano and carrie ann moss), and his struggle with memory, and the desperation of his pursuit is effortless and moving. 

greatest moment: see below

#27. gena rowlands in a woman under the influence

john cassavetes and his wife, gena rowlands made many great films in the 1970's. this is arguably the greatest of both of their careers. as mabel longhetti, rowlands is sweet, good-natured and devoted to her husband nick (peter falk) -- she is also prone to some odd behavior. when these strange mannerisms become too severe, nick decides that it is time to do something about it, committing mabel to an institution, leaving him the sole caregiver to their children. a powerful film for the time, nick is incapable of being a father and a mother, a role that society expects him to serve. a great and important film for the earlier feminist movement, rowlands is a revelation and was greatly deserving of an oscar.

greatest moment: see below

#28. william h. macy in fargo

as that despicable weasel jerry lundegaard, the used-car salesman who has his wife kidnapped in order to secure a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law, macy is great at playing such a lovable prick. from the beginning, you hate jerry and want nothing but the worst possible outcome for him, however, as his barney fife-ish personality grows on you, when he is arrested fleeing from north dakota, you can't help but feel sorry for him. 

*nominated for 1996 best supporting actor oscar;
lost to cuba gooding, jr in jerry maguire (a joke)

greatest moment: see below

#29. judy garland in a star is born

in a role that mirrored her own tragic life, judy garland is an obvious sensation as vicki lester, a superstar who reaches the top, only to sink into depression following the death of her husband norman maine (james mason). after living for years as a recluse, lester finally agrees to  return to the stage in an attempt to honor norman, closing with those famous last lines. judy garland landed the lead in a star is born, her first film since being released from her mgm contract. this was touted as her triumphant comeback. fifteen years later, she would be dead at 47.

*nominated for 1954 best actress oscar;
lost to grace kelly in the country girl

greatest moment: see below

#30. william powell, carole lombard, mischa auer & alice brady in my man godfrey

this was a very difficult decision to make. my man godfrey is my all-time favorite movie. and every actor in it is hysterical. i chose all four of the principal actors in this film because they were all nominated for an oscar in 1937 for this film -- the first film to be nominated in all 4 acting categories. 

william powell as godfrey, the forgotten man who eventually becomes butler to the wealthy bullock family, is dry and witty, a sharp contrast to the other characters slapstick approach. he reluctantly falls in love with irene (carole lombard) after being enamored with her ditzy naivety. unheard of at the time, the idea alone of a butler marrying his employer's daughter makes for great comedy. powell, a greatly under-appreciated actor of the time, pulls it off superbly. 

*nominated for 1936 best actor oscar;
lost to paul muni in the story of louis pasteur

carole lombard as irene bullock, a dim-witted socialite is partaking in a scavenger hunt at her country club, wherein she requires a forgotten man (a hobo). she brings him in, offers him a job, and then spends the rest of the picture trying to get him to fall in love with her. her juvenile behavior and painfully obvious flirtation is hilarious. an original queen of physical comedy, her shower scene is iconic. 

*nominated for 1936 best actress oscar;
lost to luise rainer in the great ziegfeld
mischa auer as carlo, protegee to angelica bullock (alice brady) is an artiste who spends a lot of time eating and playing the piano, but it is his repartee with brady, and his run-ins with the anti-artiste patriarch (eugene palette) that make his character as necessary as any member of the family. 

*nominated for 1936 best supporting actor oscar;
lost to walter brennan in come and get it

alice brady as angelica bullock is the hilarious matriarch of a purely dysfunctional park-avenue family. often hungover and constantly nit-picking at her daughters, brady is comedic gold and easily steals many scenes with her dizzy statements and infectious laugh. brady is the only one of the three who eventually won an oscar. it was the following year: best supporting actress for in old chicago. brady wasn't present at the awards show and when her name was called, a man came on stage, accepted the award on her behalf, and was never seen from again. no word on whether or not brady received another award personally, she died only a few years later. 

*nominated for 1936 best supporting actress oscar;
lost to gale sondergaard in anthony adverse

william powell's greatest moment: see below (0:01 - 1:22)

carole lombard's greatest moment: see below (6:20 - 9:00)

alice brady's greatest moment: see below (1:58 - 3:32)

mischa auer's greatest moment: see below (2:30 - 4:00)

#31. rita tushingham in a taste of honey

josephine is one of those characters that just sticks with you, long after the movie is over. what makes her so spectacular is that there is really nothing that spectacular about her character: she just happens to have an odd, yet loving relationship with her promiscuous, deadbeat mother; she falls in love with a black sailor, who gets her pregnant and then goes off to sea; and she befriends a lonely, homosexual man -- she is a very realistic example of the fate that awaited young, lower-class girls in 1950's london. and she is absolutely brilliant. rita tushingham was immensely popular in the uk, an it-girl of swinging-sixties cinema, even winning a golden globe in 1963 for ...honey. no surprise. as jo, tushingham is sweet, independent, defiant and heart-breaking, often all at once. tushignham won the 1963 best actress award at the cannes film festival for her role.

greatest moment: see below (2:07 - 7:07)

#32. shelley duvall in 3 women

an incredible actress of immense depth and range, shelley duvall's performance as millie lammoreaux is a testament to the talents of the reclusive, one-time superstar. altman's surreal picture, based upon a dream he once had (but could not remember the ending of), stars duvall, sissy spacek and janice rule as the titular women. altman delves deep into the behavioral psyche of his characters, focusing very lightly on a a plot-driven story, women can be a difficult film to watch, but you cannot deny the intriguing qualities of millie. duvall won the 1977 best actress award from the cannes film festival for her role. she now lives a reclusive life in texas.

greatest moment: see below (4:50 - 5:33)
millie first meeting pinky

#33. julianne moore in far from heaven

cathy whitaker is an incredible character of modern cinema. who better to portray her complexities than the incredible julianne moore? cathy is a perfect 1950's housewife, with a successful, handsome husband (dennis quaid) and an equally perfect best friend (patricia clarkson). her husband, however, is a closeted homosexual, and the only other person with whom she can confide her secret is the (black) son of her former gardner (dennis haysbert). tensions run high, fear and anger mount, and all that cathy can do is smile. brilliant.

*nominated for 2002 best actress oscar;
lost to nicole kidman in the hours (overrated)

greatest moment: obviously, her reaction when walking in on her husband 

#34. kathy burke in nil by mouth

one of britain's funniest women, kathy burke managed to astound critics and audiences alike with her intense, gritty dramatic performance as valerie, a working class mother and wife, viciously abused by her violent, drug-addicted husband, ray (ray winstone). parlayed with such genuine emotion and, in fact, very little acting, based on a childhood similar to her character's, burke is sensational. very few actors possess comedic and dramatic capabilities -- this actor is exceptional. burke won the 1997 best actress award from the cannes film festival for her role.

greatest moment: 
see below (1:50 - 4:30)
warning! disturbing scene of domestic abuse

#35. miranda richardson in damage

one of my favorite actresses -- ever, gives a perfect performance as ingrid fleming, a jilted wife, whose husband stephen (jeremy irons) is committing numerous, sexual affairs with their son's girlfriend anna (juliette binoche) behind everyone's back. when the truth is finally revealed, in a climactic scene where stephen and anna are caught in bed together, a son's fatal reaction and a husband's self-denial are too much for  ingrid, and she descends into a subtle madness. as a woman who once had it all, richardson's portrayal is sublime and heart-wrenching. 

*nominated for 1992 best supporting actress oscar;
lost to marisa tomei in my cousin vinny

greatest moment: see below (2:46 - 5:49)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

#36. melina mercouri in never on sunday

another 'hooker with a heart of gold' cliche, mercouri's performance as ilya, the prostitute that seems almost beyond redemption, is one of the greatest in all of greek cinema. when we first lay eyes on her, ilya is charming, carefree and utterly independent; by the time she meets homer (writer, director jules dassin), who is smitten, awestruck and in love with her, so are we. mercouri won the 1960 best actress award at the cannes film festival for her role.

*nominated for 1960 best actress oscar;
lost to elizabeth taylor in butterfield 8

greatest moment: see below

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#37. montgomery clift in from here to eternity

the ruggedly handsome and, unlike most heartthrobs, genuinely talented actor, montgomery clift was nominated for 4 oscars and never won once. if that isn't sad enough, his life changing car accident was to blame for his decline in hollywood popularity. nobody wanted to hire the former pretty-boy, with his new scars and sallow appearance due to his dependency on pain killers (to give you an idea of how bad the accident was, i read that elizabeth taylor rushed to the scene and pulled loose teeth out of his throat to keep him from choking to death -- he was drunk, behind the wheel at the time). it really was a long, drawn out suicide that ended his promising career as a leading man. in from here to eternity, clift plays robert prewitt, a military private / boxer who (most notably) avenges the death of his best friend angelo maggio (frank sinatra) at the hands of his bigoted staff sergeant fatso judson (ernest borgnine). there is a lot going on in this film, particularly the famous shoreside make-out session between burt lancaster and deborah kerr, but clift's performance is harrowing and heroic. the perfect leading man.

*nominated for 1953 best actor oscar;
lost to william holden in stalag 17

greatest moment: when prewitt avenges maggio's death, killing fatso in a knife-fight

#38. bob hoskins in mona lisa

neil jordan is such an amazing director -- particularly his works from the 1980's and early 1990's when films really relied on a great plot to bolster an even greater performance. this is precisely the case with bob hoskins, in a role you have to see to believe. as george, the recently release convict, hired to chauffeur simone (brilliantly played by cathy tyson), a black prostitute, by his old boss. at first an awkward positon, the two develop a common bond and attempt to help one another with their respective lives, until something goes terribly wrong. hoskins won the 1986 best actor award from the cannes film festival for his role.

*nominated for 1986 best actor oscar;
lost to paul newman for the color of money (sympathy vote)

greatest moment: throughout (see below)

#39. giulietta masina in nights of cabiria

an exemplary performance by one of italian cinema's best actress, masina brought heart and passion to many of her roles, but in fellini's classic, she sears into the memory as cabiria ceccarelli, the sweet, misguided, yet endearing prostitute, who naively falls in love with a man who promises her the world. it is such a heart-wrenching performance, it is no wonder that masina won the 1957 best actress award from the cannes festival for her role.

greatest moment: see below

Monday, August 10, 2009

#40. marianne jean-baptiste in secrets and lies

easily one of my favorite films, jean-baptiste is spectacular as hortense cumberbatch, a successful, black optometrist who decides to seek out her birth mother following the death of her adoptive one. through records, she learns that her mother is a lower-class white woman, cynthia (brenda blethyn), who is immediately hostile, denying the truth when hortense calls her. after meeting, the two go on to develop a genuine friendship, one however, that leads to the exposure of their secret to cynthia's family. mike leigh's favorite method of improvisation creates for some fantastic scenes with jean-baptiste and blethyn, playing off of each other's sadness so beautifully. this will always be one of my favorite performances. 

*nominated for 1996 best supporting actress oscar;
lost to juliette binoche in the english patient 

greatest moment: see below

#41. steve buscemi in ghost world

buscemi brought creepy to a whole new level when audiences first laid eyes on seymour -- the loser who answers enid and rebecca's fake personal ad. it isn't until enid (thora birch), like us, begin to fall for him and all of his hang-ups, proving that oddballs have just as much right to inhabit the earth as the rest of us. buscemi escapes from his psychopathic typecast (fargo, reservoir dogs) to give soft-spoken and sweet a try -- and it pays off brilliantly.

greatest line: jesus! 
greatest moment: see below

#42. sissy spacek in badlands

attempting to select a favorite sissy spacek performance for this list was like sophie's choice: missing, three women, carrie, in the bedroom, the river, crimes of the heart -- all but women were oscar nominated performances (coal miner's daughter was obviously not an option) -- it seemed damn near impossible. though i haven't seen it in years, what i do remember about badlands was that it encouraged me to seek out spacek's other performances -- and i have been a devoted fan ever since. as holly, the wide-eyed, all-american dreamer who falls for the blood-thirsty kit (martin sheen), spacek is spellbinding, yet detestable, completely unlike the pathetic misfit she played in carrie, the first of her films that i ever saw. by watching these two pictures, i was able to witness the range and versatility that she possesses: she can sing, she can do comedy, she can frighten you, she can make you cry; she can break your heart, she can do accents -- flawlessly. i truly believe that she is one of the everlasting greats, who fortunate for us, is still doing excellent work today.

greatest moment: (3:40 - 5:50) below

#43. bill murray in lost in translation

i don't find bill murray funny. i don't even find him funny in this role. that is why it should have been a prefect contender for a best actor oscar in 2004, and not, as lazy journalists put it, lost (to sean penn) because it was a comedic role. it would be like calling charlize theron "funny" in monster because she told a lot of jokes. this movie had heart, it had vulnerability, it was even a little depressing: a perfect drama. believe it or not, i haven't seen rushmore (because i hate jason schwartzman -- in fact, i find most of the coppolas to be overrated), so this is the breakthrough role for murray (for me), and it was parlayed excellently without the traditionally "funny" man relying too heavily on schtick or cheap laughs. subtle and meaningful -- absolutely nothing like groundhog day

*nominated for 2004 best actor oscar;
lost to sean penn in mystic river

greatest line: whatever he whispered in charlotte's ear
greatest moment: lip my stocking. the exchange between bob and the japanese hooker. and btw, in this scene the hooker was funny -- not murray.

#44. imelda staunton in vera drake

once again, mike leigh pulls a painfully gripping and brutally honest performance from another lesser-known actress, sensing obvious potential for the center spotlight. as a middle-aged mother who illegally performs back-alley abortions for young women, you can imagine the trouble she is in once she is caught, given the 1950's setting. her portrayal, like all of leigh's works, rely heavily on character improvisation to extract as genuine a translation as possible; for instance, staunton was the only actor to know ahead of time that the subject of the film was abortion -- none of the actors portraying vera drake's family knew that she would be arrested -- the reactions of fear and confusion are completely genuine. staunton spends a lot of this movie crying, and yet it never feels hammy or over-the-top, instead a flawless depiction of a woman whose lower-class lifestyle, and the desire to care for her loving family, left her with a financial dilemma.

*nominated for 2005 best actress oscar;
lost to hilary swank in million dollar baby

greatest line: i help young girls out
greatest moment: (2:35 - 4:20) see below -- her compulsion to help others is heartbreaking