Monday, November 23, 2009

oscar rehash: best actress 2005

Judi Dench as Mrs. Laura Henderson in Mrs. Henderson Presents
Dench plays a recent widow who's looking for a steady paycheck and finds it in the form of a nude burlesque house in Mrs. Henderson Presents. Sort of unconventional as Dench roles go, but the film is at the very least relatively humorous and entertaining. The star has great chemistry with Bob Hoskins, who plays her business partner and the manager of the house. Quite frankly, this is no Shakespeare in Love. It's no Chocolat either. In fact, it's probably not even on par with her performances as M in the Bond movies. But it's endearing enough, if probably not deserving of making the top 5 of the year. Dench has seen better roles, and this one is merely an amusing garnish. Grade: B-

Felicity Huffman as Bree in Transamerica
Now this one came with a LOT of buzz by the time I got to it, but it turns out that Huffman's performance in Transamerica is mostly for shock value. She plays a pre-op transsexual who goes on a little road trip with her newly discovered estranged son (Kevin Zegers of Air Bud fame) who happens to be a street hustler. Huffman is wooden and awkward, which sort of fits her character. The problem lies in the strange screenplay that plays as a sort of comedy with weirdly dark subtexts. Huffman is a talented actress (see her work in the first season of Desperate Housewives or Sports Night for proof), but this is hardly the tour-de-force role to remember her by. Grade: C-

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice
Knightley had an awful lot to live up to in this one; in fact, she had dozens of adaptations of this literary character from Pride and Prejudice to be compared to (namely Jennifer Ehle's in 1996 and Greer Garson's in 1940). And though she doesn't quite live up to the ultimate adaptation (Ehle, in my opinion), she's able to take what could be a five-hour miniseries role and make it her own in an under-two-hour film version. Though Knightley has had some growth to do as an actress, this is easily her first well-crafted role. Her waifish, dowdy air could've easily served her poorly in this period piece, but she shines as the headstrong heroine of Jane Austen's classic story. Grade: B+

Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes in North Country
I'm not yet convinced of the fortitude of Ms. Theron and her work. So confession - I haven't seen Monster, but what I've seen of Charlize in her lighter work and in North Country, there's hardly anything too astounding and revolutionary to be found. She plays a sexually harassed factory worker who files a landmark class action suit against her company. But unlike Sally Field in Norma Rae and Meryl Streep in Silkwood, Theron doesn't bring anything exciting and new to the table. She's simply a typical "rah-rah" hero of which we're meant to get swept up in the drama. This just seemed all too much like a hasty second nomination to prove that giving her the Oscar in 2003 was no fluke. Grade: C-

Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line
Witherspoon, the eventual winner, brought a little extra to the often dull affair of biopics. Though movies about real-life singers have become tiresome of late, in Walk the Line she took the not-so-familiar story of Carter and molded her into a multi-dimensional character (and it didn't hurt that she has a nice set of pipes on her). I would definitely say she'd proven herself a talent moreso in earlier work (see Election, Pleasantville) this was nonetheless a fine performance that begs for a follow-up fine performance that, sadly enough, has not yet come (chalk it up Catherine Zeta-Jones syndrome). Grade: B+

The Verdict: I, boringly enough, would probably still opt for Witherspoon on this one (she was also my own personal choice for winner that year), but I'd've liked to see she and Knightley joined by the likes of Naomi Watts in King Kong, Radha Mitchell in Melinda and Melinda, and Lisa Kudrow in Happy Endings.


Unknown said...

This was definitely the weakest Best Actress lineup of the decade (followed closely by 2003) and I probably would've given it to Reese as well.
Theron was awful in this and I'm still not convinced "Monster" was that good except she tricked them with the makeup and accent(Keisha would've gotten my vote that year, only because Scarlett Johansson wasn't nominated for "Lost in Translation" and Uma Thurman for "Kill Bill Vol. 1").
And I LOVE that you brought up Watts in "King Kong", she gave the year's best female performance. Ugh that scene when they "ice skate" gets me every time. AMPAS has been terrible with Naomi! She should've been nominated at least four times by now!
And yay Kudrow, she was absolutely brilliant in "Happy Endings".

Luke said...

Thank GOODNESS someone else realized the brilliance of Whale Rider. Best child performance of the decade, I think.

joe burns said...

I agree that 2005 was a pretty weak year. None of them were bad in my opinion, but none of them really were FANTASTIC (Except for Huffman,in my opinion)