Thursday, January 03, 2008

Vive la femme: The best female performances of 2007

Though there is some truly wicked cool movie news out there today, the best being that Sacha Baron Cohen will be playing Abbie Hoffman if Steven Spielberg ever gets around to making "The Trial of the Chicago Seven" with Aaron Sorkin and that Tyler Perry - yes, Tyler Perry - will be the commander of the Starfleet Academy in JJ Abrams' take on "Star Trek."

But here today, it's all about my favorite female performances of 2007, with the provisos that I have yet to see Keira Knightley in "Atonement" or Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose," and that I care little to make distinctions between supporting and lead roles.

This starts the trio (at least) of best of 2007 posts, women today, men tomorrow and my favorite movies of 2007 on Monday (with perhaps something thrown in for the weekend, but with nothing but crap opening this week, that looks kinda doubtful right now.) So, with only the further warning that this list is only in alphabetical order rather in any order of preference, here goes:

Markéta Irglová, "Once"
How cool would it be if this Czech actress got an Academy Award nomination for playing the character simply named "Girl" in John Carney's utterly charming little movie? Along with Glen Hansard, she's the key to making us believe that the moment they shared was truly magical, and I at least certainly did.

Catherine Keener, "Into the Wild"
What gives the tale of lost soul Christopher McCandless most of its poignancy is the performances of the people who tried the hardest to save him from his fate, most notably Ms. Keener and the great Hal Holbrook. Her portrayal of a slab city hippie with a tortured past is one that just stuck in my mind for a long time after watching Sean Penn's great movie.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot at the Wedding"
From talking to people who have seen Noah Baumbach's 2007 movie, most recently my brother, I'm getting the distinct impression that I'm just about the only person who loved it almost unconditionally. I just thoroughly enjoyed watching Nicole Kidman and, even more so, Jennifer Jason Leigh (a k a Mrs. Baumbach) lay out all their neuroses and use them to do battle.

Laura Linney, "The Savages"
I just love Laura Linney in movies about estranged families, probably because she made such a lasting impression in one of my favorite movies of all time, "You Can Count on Me." She's just as good in this funny and very moving little movie by Tamara Jenkins, which will hopefully be getting a wide roll out sometime soon.

Kelly Macdonald, "No Country for Old Men"
The main reason it took me so long to remember where I had seen her before is that, after hearing the twang she takes on as Carla Jean Moss in the Coen brothers' best movie in many years, I would never have guess that Ms. Macdonald is Scottish. You may remember her as Diane in "Trainspotting" or more recently as Gina in "The Girl in the Cafe," and hopefully she'll get the acclaim she deserves with a Supporting Actress statue on Oscar night (if we even have one this year.)

Chiara Mastroianni, "Persepolis" (voice)
I'm not sure you could possibly have a better pedigree than being the daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. Ms. Mastroianni, who I learned from her IMDB trivia was once the longtime paramour of Benicio Del Toro, gives this delightful animated tale much of its spirit in her voice work as the teen and adult Marjane Satrapi, the Iranian woman at its center.

Ellen Page
Yes, there is room for the "It" girl of 2007 on my list, and given that there's nothing else worth a crap opening wide this week, I just might go see "Juno" again this weekend. Her portrayal of Juno MacGuffin stands out in a movie full of strong performances, particularly by Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno's parents, and announces the arrival of a real star (for those who missed her actual arrival in "Hard Candy.")

Keri Russell, "Waitress"
It normally just annoys me to no end when movies supposedly set in the South refuse to cast Southerners anywhere near the lead roles, but valley girl Russell is good enough as the late Adrienne Shelly's titular "Waitress" to transcend all my bias baggage. If you've somehow missed this one so far, it's surely out on DVD by now, so treat yourself to a lighter-than-air romance sure to leave a smile on your face.

Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Long before she walked away with most of the acclaim (and deservedly so) in Ben Affleck's directing debut, Amy Ryan had a recurring (and still going) role as port officer Beatrice Russell on "The Wire," which I mention mainly to remind those who are only casual HBO subscribers that you'll want to renew your subscription before the greatest TV show of all time returns for its fifth and final season Sunday night.

Jill Scott, "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?"
The R&B diva took on a somewhat thankless task in one of Tyler Perry's two 2007 movies, playing the perpetual doormat who, of course, gets to shine by movie's end. It was a real breakout performance in a year not exactly crammed full of great roles for black women.

Honorable mention: Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd"; Jenna Fischer, "Walk Hard"; Katherine Heigl, "Knocked Up"; and Anna Kendrick, "Rocket Science"

So, there you have it. Please feel free to sound off with any great ladies of 2007 that I have snubbed, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.


Ashok said...

(1) Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (2) Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (3) Marcia Ray Garden in "The Mist" ....pause (for the frown and scoldings of many) :-) (4) Meryl Streep for "Lions for Lambs" (Ok Ok, I just extended my luck...Sorry) (5) Angelina Jolie for "A Mighty Heart" (6) Wei Tang for "Lust, Caution"

Chris said...

The remarkable thing about Irglova's performance was that she had not one whit of acting experience. I thought she was just another well-trained European stage actress we had never heard of.

This was one of the best years for women, ever. 2007 was just plain good anyway. It's actually going to be one of those years where a deserving actress may be left off the Oscar ballot this year, and they won't have to put in filler.

Reel Fanatic said...

The only one I really can't take from that list, Ashok, is Meryl Streep ... Granted, she tried her best to make it work, but that movie was just so bad from the outset that there was nothing she could do to save it

Ashok said...

Hahahah ! :-). I believe I was the only one who liked "Lions for Lambs" at all. Surprising :-). Yeah, putting Meryl Streep over that list is out of stretch from my side. So you going to put down the best films of 2007 Monday. I still need to see "The Savages", "There will be Blood", "Atonement", "Margot at the Wedding", "The Kite Runner", "Romance & Cigarettes" and some more. Hope to see it before the Academy Awards (if they have one at all, since Writers Strike is ongoing).

Reel Fanatic said...

I have a feeling they will somehow come up with a waiver or something that will allow the Oscars to go on, Ashok, even if the strike hasn't been settled yet ... It certainly looks, though, like if the Golden Globes aren't cancelled or delayed that will just be one big disaster

Linda said...

I was quite taken with Janeane Garofalo in Ratatoille. That voice carried an attitude that fit Colette so well. Good list!

Nell Minow said...

A brilliant list! I'd add Imelda Stanton in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and Tabu in "The Namesake." Amy Adams also deserves some plaudits for "Enchanted."

Reel Fanatic said...

I'll take any good notice for Ratatouille, Linda, and I certainly agree with you about Janeane's (I can't spell her last name, so I won't try) work as Collette ... And I'm ashamed to say, Nell, that as much as I love Amy Adams I still have somehow missed seeing "Enchanted" thus far, though of course it's been out for about three months now

kat said...

I can't quibble too much with this list, though have to agree that Amy Adams in "Enchanted" deserves big props. Without her pitch perfect performance, that movie just falls on it's face. Samantha Morton in "Control" was excellent and Julie Christie in "Away From Her" blew me away. I also really liked Signourney Weaver in "The TV Set" but pretty much no one saw that movie.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah .. TV Set is on the top of my DVD queue at the moment for as soon as I get through with Season four of The Wire, so I may have to make an addition, and I just love Samantha Morton too, though I haven't seen Control yet

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