mayukh wrote:Moving on...bizarre, I'm really hoping you're right about Olsen. For some reason the buzz since Sundance so early in the year has been too strong for me to fully believe that she's fallen completely out of the consciousness of some voters. I also do think it's the kind of ingenue performance that inspires a lot of passion within people, meaning she may get a bunch of number 1 votes. Wishful thinking, I know – I can hear someone saying "Abbie Cornish" – but it could happen, and at this point I think she's as likely as Mara or Theron.
Yeah - Frozen River, An Education, Precious and Winter's Bone all built up too much passion to ignore, and Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, The Savages and Half Nelson all had late-year revivals of support. Martha Marcy May Marlene didn't win the top prize like Frozen River, Precious or Winter's Bone, but it is probably better-reviewed than most of those film's save '...Bone'. Olsen has a good story, being the sister of the (in)famous twins, and she has a huge precursor total even if neither of those precursors are Globe or SAG. Keisha Castle-Hughes is the only first-time nominee to have netted an Oscar nomination in Lead without SAG or Globe nominations (she didn't even have BFCA) and I think her situation is somewhat comparable to Olsen's, especially in a year similar to 2003 where some major contenders have limited critical (Albert Nobbs) or audience (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Young Adult) appeal.
This year the only Sundance films that are honestly in the mix are Like Crazy - and we know Jones is destined to be an also-ran - Martha Marcy May Marlene and Take Shelter, and even though Shannon's and Chastain's performances are popular his nomination is still a big 'if'. It would be odd for nobody from the festival to make it.
Regarding The Help, I just saw it - it is a surprisingly competent bit of technical filmmaking let down by an incompetent script and uncomfortable racial politics. This is a film where we can identify the heroine because she is the only white woman who says 'hi' to her gardener. This is as progressive as 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' and even that was politically outdated in 1967. It's sad, too - at the beginning of the film Stone's character asks Davis' "when you were a little girl, did you know you'd grow up to be a maid?". Perhaps a better question would be to ask Davis the actress "when you were a little girl, did you know you'd grow up to play a maid?"
However, the ensemble is fantastic - and not just in that crowd-pleasing, to-the-rafters Steel Magnolias way. What impressed me most is that how the entire cast (excepting maybe Bryce Dallas Howard, but she has the most limited role and she's never shown herself to be a particularly intuitive actress) eke character out of caricature. This is either very smart casting of very smart actors or excellent direction within a rigid Disneyfied framework - the script's politics are simplistic but every time Davis, Spencer, Stone, Janney or Ellis are on screen they complicate it. Spencer, especially, surprised me. I've always enjoyed her contributions in TV and bit parts but from the trailer and the reviews I was expecting a 'sassy' stock character transplanted to 1960s Mississippi. And yes, she bears the brunt of the script's problems - no joke, she is made to say at one point "I looooooooooove me some fried chicken", the subplot with her husband is grossly underdeveloped and resolved off-screen (in voiceover, no less), and she's given no history compared to, say, Davis' or even Chastain's characters. But she fills in the blanks, and she develops Minny's 'sass' as a natural defense mechanism, a tool to seize power where she can while inhabiting a powerless role. Her best moment comes when Chastain's character notices and nurses her black eye and tells her to hit her husband back the next time he beats her. For the first time on screen Minny is the one taken care of. Her reaction is wordless and for a moment, she looks completely lost. And I think this look gives more insight into the experience of being a black woman at this point in time than any of the film's made-up testimonials.
I'd fully support nominations or wins for Davis or Spencer even though, at this point, only Spencer would my ballot - strong year for performances even if the pool of possibility for the Oscars is generally weak. I'd throw my support behind Janney as well although she obviously has no precursor support (strange, she has an important, varied and showcased role). Chastain's performance has perhaps the biggest online 'cult' out of the film's cast, but I gotta say I didn't like her. She was fun but... "click, click, click".