Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vive la femme: The 10 (or 12) women I'll watch in just about anything

Actually, before we dive right into that, there's a bit of news out there that caught my eye today about what Lee Daniels' next movie will look like.

It would certainly be fun if he got to give a speech at Sunday's Oscars, but that doesn't seem too likely. In the meantime, he's been hard at work on the script for "Selma," which would of course be about the civil rights movement, and he let slip some casting to USA Today. Here's what he had to say:

"I had to do a lot of homework on the script, and I spent a lot of time writing. I feel like I'm caught up a little bit with that. I have to really start casting the movie because we're shooting it soon. The only person I've nailed in for sure is Hugh Jackman. It's all over the place."

Not exactly a natural choice for the lead for an epic about the American South, but we'll see. He's also reportedly at least eyeing Robert De Niro to play George Wallace, which would be rather amazing, when this starts shooting in May. And here's what he had to say earlier about the movie's storyline.

"It's a moment in time in Martin Luther King and LBJ's (life) around the signing of the Civil Rights. It's a snapshot of the march. It's really Lyndon Johnson's story. Martin Luther King is a part of it, but it's really the arc of a man that starts out as a racist who is forced to look at himself in the mirror and then ultimately side with King. It's really a journey of a white cat and how he sneers at tradition and against George Wallace, against everybody, says, 'Uh-uh.'"

Sounds great to me, but I can't see Hugh Jackman playing LBJ. Definitely stay tuned for more on this.

And after that today, it is indeed all about the 10 women whose name alone is probably enough to get me to buy a ticket to just about any movie they make. As is usually the case here, this list actually goes to 12, but I cut off the last two in an act of cruelty mostly due to my lack of time. Those two victims were Anna Kendrick and Audrey Tautou.

So, without any further ado, here goes, in only alphabetical order:

Connie Britton

Though she's done a lot of great TV work through the years, including roles on "Spin City" and "The West Wing," Connie Britton really didn't catch my eye until she stepped into the role of Tami Taylor on "Friday Night Lights," but her impact there was immediate. The show is at its best off the football field when it deals with little moments of everyday life, and the best of those are between Britton and Kyle Chandler's Coach Taylor. It will be a shame to lose her when the show, probably rightly, goes off the air after five seasons, but keep an eye out for her in, because I suppose everyone's gotta eat, the "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake. Yes, really.

Penelope Cruz

Though she can and does play all kinds of roles, I like my Penelope Cruz with two caveats: In Spanish and in a role where she's allowed to be funny. She just seems a lot more natural and at home in her native tongue, and as Woody Allen with "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and Pedro Almodovar with, well, many flicks, know, she's just an extremely gifted comedienne. Keep an eye out for her next in two movies that will certainly put my "see them in anything" statement to the test: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Sex in the City 2."

Lauren Graham

OK, anyone who's been here before knows I have a much-more-than-healthy obsession with "Gilmore Girls," and though the show itself had many charms, the attraction is due almost entirely to Lauren Graham. Judging from the almost shockingly good premiere of "Parenthood," no matter what happens to that show, we do know she'll attack the new, somewhat similar role (a single mother again, though divorced this time, and living back at home with her two teen youngins) with the same heart and humor she gave to Lorelai Gilmore. Graham, rather amazingly, has never really managed to find much of a career on the big screen, so here's hoping "Parenthood" gets a solid five-year run or so.

Carla Gugino

It took me a few minutes to remember where I first noticed Carla Gugino, and it was indeed in those extremely silly "Spy Kids" movies, the first of which, at least, is nothing but fun. And that's how I'd describe Gugino overall too, though she's certainly had her share of serious roles too. I really wish "Karen Sisco" had gotten more than the 10-episode or so run it did, because she was great as Elmore Leonard's best character (though J-Lo was also perfect in the same role in "Out of Sight.") For one really good Gugino movie that not many people at all have seen, try "The Lookout," a little heist movie of sorts also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels. As for future projects, she should be wild in Zach Snyder's "Sucker Punch," set to come out next year.

Taraji P. Henson

Since it's Oscars week, let's start with one of the most egregious snubs of all time: Though I was happy Taraji P. Henson was nominated for her work in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (pretty much a crap film, though), it was overdue, because she was much, much better as Shug in "Hustle & Flow," in which the sheer desperation in her eyes was burned into just about every frame she stepped into. She was also the only funny person in Joe Carnahan's "Smokin' Aces," no small feat given just how bad that flick was. As seems to be a rite of passage for every great black actress, she's gotten a leading role in a Tyler Perry movie, the mostly satisfying "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," but here's hoping she doesn't now get pigeonholed into these high-drama kinda roles. Unfortunately, among her future roles will be as Jaden Smith's mother in quite possibly the most unnecessary remake of all time, the upcoming "Karate Kid."

Catherine Keener

Actually, if I had done this in order of preference, I think Catherine Keener would have topped the list. For proof of just how quickly she can take over a scene, look no further than Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" (out on DVD this week, I believe). The best part of that rather amazing flick is probably the opening 20 minutes, and what really makes it is the look of love on Keener's face as young Max Records tells her that story about vampires who eat buildings. My two favorite Keener flicks so far are "Walking and Talking" and "Lovely and Amazing," both directed by Nicole Holofcener, still one of the very few directors smart enough to put Keener in a lead role, as she did again last year with "Please Give," which is going in my Netflix queue right now if it's available.

Melissa Leo

OK, I do have a big bias toward anything about and made in Baltimore, but I assure you Melissa Leo and the "The Wire" star soon to appear on this list earned their spots properly. Leo indeed came to everyone's attention as wise-cracking detective Kay Howard on "Homicide," and will thankfully be reunited with David Simon when his New Orleans series, "Treme," hits HBO in April (when I'll have to bite the bullet and reup too.) She had the role of a lifetime with "Frozen River," and I don't think I'll ever forget the fierce but wounded pride she brought to that role. Also keep an eye out for her fairly soon in David O. Russell's "The Fighter."

Laura Linney

If you put a gun to my head and demanded I name my 10 favorite flicks (though I'm really not sure why anyone would do that), I can guarantee you that "You Can Count on Me" would make the cut every time. No movie better captures the dynamic of a truly fractured family, while at the same time capturing perfectly the appeal of Laura Linney. If I had to pick one word that binds together her work here and in great flicks like "The Savages" and "The Squid and the Whale," I think it would be empathy, because she just has a natural gift for making you care instantly about all the characters she plays. If you get Showtime (which I don't), keep an eye out for her soon with Precious herself, Gabby Sidibe, in the series "The Big C," and she'll also appear in "You Can Count on Me" co-star Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut, "Sympathy for Delicious."

Helen Mirren

Just how good was Helen Mirren on "Prime Suspect"? Well, when, among its many just fabulously bad ideas, NBC was actually eyeing a remake of the sublime British police procedural, they were foiled by only one fact: It was impossible to find an actress capable of filling the role of Jane Tennyson. And indeed it is. The journey that Mirren took through all seven incarnations (I believe) of "Prime Suspect" was nothing anything short of riveting, and rather amazingly, the best of all was the finale, "The Final Act." Picking just one or two great Mirren roles is the definition of a fool's errand, but two I keep going back to again and again are "The Madness of King George," in which she was just the perfect foil for the late, great Nigel Hawthorne, and "Some Mother's Son," still the best of all the '90s IRA movies, which is somehow still not available on DVD (a genuine crime, that.)

Amy Ryan

Like Melissa Leo, Amy Ryan first caught my eye walking the beat in Baltimore, playing the key role of "Beadie" Russell on season two of "The Wire." Since then, she's delivered a truly harrowing performance in "Gone Baby Gone" and was just perfectly cast as the new HR director on "The Office" and the only character as goofy as Michael Scott. She'll be on the big screen very soon (perhaps as soon as next week) with Matt Damon in "The Green Zone," but I'm much more excited that she's been cast along with Paul Giamatti in director (and fellow "The Wire" star) Thomas McCarthy's "Win Win," which will be about a homeless teenager who gets welcomed into a family's home and joins the high school wrestling team. I'm probably not doing that plot summary justice, but trust me, it's gonna be great.

And this has certainly gone on long enough, but I'll leave you with a clip from tonight's long-anticipated episode of "The Office," which will at least be the beginning of the birth of Pam and Jim's baby (it's a two-part episode, so I'd imagine we might have to wait until next week to see the little rugrat.) Keep your ears tuned for the words "Burning Man portapotty," and please feel free to add the names of any actresses who you too will watch in just about anything. Peace out.

1 comment:

Nell Minow said...

A great list! Every one of these women is on my list, too.