Anouk Aimée in A Man and a Woman (1966)

How much of chance did Anouk Aimée have in winning the Oscar back then? I was somewhat surprised to learn that she won a couple of awards, including the Golden Globe. That being said, I don’t think she had much of a chance in beating Elizabeth Taylor tour-de-force turn in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The reason why I was surprised at the number of awards picked up by this performance is simply because of how quiet the role is. First of all, A Man and a Woman is truly a beautiful film that deserved its foreign language picture win. I would even go ahead and say that it is my personal pick for best director that year. Claude Lelouch created a unique and original film that excels despite the simple premise. The editing is highly effective, especially in the flashback scenes and the score is beautiful – I will never forget that entire wordless boat sequence. That being said, I don’t think it is for everyone. If you cannot get into the really unique mood it is trying to create, chances are you will be bored out of your mind.

A Man and a Woman is really not so much of an actor’s movie. Its main focus is its portrayal of different stages of a relationship, and it does so in a captivating manner. As such, the characters end up a little thin, being nothing more than instruments to portray the various stages. We get a little backstory here and there – Anouk Aimée plays Anne Gauthier, a grieving widow who meets a widower Jean (played wonderfully by Jean-Louis Trintignant) and falls in love with him. You don’t really know much about Anne other than what you see – she’s a beautiful, reserved and elegant woman who doesn’t speak much and gradually opens up to Jean. Aimée does a lot of wonderful acting with the eyes here – you can see the longing, the hesitation, the sadness and the love in there despite how few lines she has.

It’s not that Anouk Aimée is giving a bad performance – on the contrary, she gives a well-done performance that fits the movie perfectly. She conveys the emotions naturally and has a mysterious presence that is captivating to watch. However, the thinness of the role just limits how much she can do as an actress. I felt like I was watching different states of a woman falling in love rather than a character per se. The movie finds its emotional substance in its overall style rather than its actors, who are merely pieces of a puzzle here. Still, it’s nice, fine work. 3.5/5.


Congratulations Emma!


I cannot describe how happy I was when I learned that Emma won the Oscar. Not that it was a big surprise or anything, but just watching her collect her award on stage and delivering that moving speech made me extremely happy from within.

Yes, people are shocked at how someone like Emma Stone can win over legends like Meryl Streep and Isabelle Huppert. Admittedly, I don’t think she is a great actress, though certainly a good one. I have had a crush on her since Zombieland, and I have been following her career closely since, always wondering if she’s going to get nominated for The Help, or Irrational Man, or some other movie. And I was just so damn happy when she was nominated for Birdman (which I thought she was great in), because there’s something inexplicably satisfying about watching your celeb crush slowly succeed and shine.

Look, I know it’s not the most popular win. Given the current state of the world, it’s understandable how the role of a “white actress chasing her dreams” may come across as frivolous and empty. The internet has already been quick to label it as one of the most “undeserving wins, along with Jennifer Lawrence” (Erm, Mary Pickford?). I also haven’t seen Portman, Negga and Streep to properly judge how deserving Stone is. But the fact that I have been singing “Audition (Fools who dream)”for the past few weeks since I watched La La Land says a lot about the impact Stone’s performance has on me. And it’s not as though I disagree with the critics: it is a cliche character that is paper thin and not even remotely original. But I strongly felt the love, passion and heart that Emma put into the performance, as if she was reflecting her own Hollywood journey into the film. And that down-to-earth charm that Stone is known for as a celebrity just works wonders here, making Mia a lovable character.

I also loved the humility in her speech, especially when she acknowledged that she still has a lot to learn and grow as an artist. And watching the standing ovation she received pretty much sums up what I feel about Emma: you cannot hate her, whether you agree with her win or not. And objectively speaking, I still stand by my decision that it’s a great performance and a worthy winner.

Anyway, I apologise for the somewhat incoherant rant but all in all, congrats Emma! May your career continue to grow after this.

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Caey Affleck won the Bafta, Golden Globe and a bunch of other awards for his performance as Lee Chandler, a grieving man in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. I honestly have no idea who’s winning best actor this coming Sunday, but if I were to make a guess, I would give Denzel Washington the edge over Affleck.

I am indifferent towards Manchester by the Sea. I find the film pretty manipulative, despite its attempts to be a heavy, “realistic” drama. The tone shifts between realistic and quirky, especially Lucas Hedges’ scenes. I think the film’s atmosphere is pretty good, but I’m just not buying some parts, especially Lee’s backstory. Not that it’s totally unbelievable, I just felt as if Lonergan was trying to ramp up the tragic aspect so much that it becomes a bit contrived.

Affleck plays Lee Chandler, the depressed, grieving janitor who takes in his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) following his brother’s death. One thing that surprised me was how quiet Affleck’s performance is, which made me wonder what drew the awards’ attention to it. Other than a few bar fights and a particularly well-acted suicide scene, the performance is actually really non-flashy.

Like the movie, I really don’t know what to feel about this performance either. I love quiet performances, and I certainly appreciate the Academy for recognising it, but this felt a bit…I don’t know, one-note to me? I get that Lee is grieving, I get that Lee isn’t much of a talker, I get that he is haunted by his past…but that’s honestly all I got out of it. There’s also his relationship development with Patrick, which I find to be the strongest part of the performance as we get to see a development from his initial frustration at being Pat’s guardian.

I suppose it is a performance that needs to be appreciated over time, but there is another problem, which is that I didn’t feel really compelled to watch the movie again. And it was at this point where I realised how little I cared about Lee and his troubles. I will give Affleck the credit of having a strong presence and actually carrying the movie. I just didn’t think it was as powerful a portrayal of grief as people said. Yes, grief can be portrayed in a quiet and powerful manner but it just felt flat to me here (Refer to Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom) 3/5.

Nicole Kidman in The Hours (2002)

Nicole Kidman won her only Oscar to date for playing Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Watching this movie again reminded me of how much I love her as an actress – it has been a while since I’ve seen a film of hers, and I guess I should get about to watching Lion.

I will always defend The Hours, even though this time round its flaws are definitely more apparent. The dialogue can be rather stilted at times, especially in Meryl Streep’s portion,which is probably the weakest part of the entire film. Yet despite its problems, it has always been one of my favourite films because of how deeply I connect to its emotional core. The score is absolutely amazing, and the performances are incredible, especially Julianne Moore (I might write a separate post on her performance). As someone who has been through dark periods in my life, I am amazed at how much the movie actually calls out to me at times.

Some people consider Nicole Kidman’s Oscar win category fraud because of how limited her screentime is. However, I’ve always considered her the true lead of the film because of the strong presence she has. It could be a directing effect, but I believe that Kidman adds layers of mystery and complexity to Virginia Woolf, making her influence over the other 2 characters strongly felt.

I couldn’t disagree more about the comments about her being one-note, which is admittedly also an initial reaction I had to her performance. While Virginia Woolf is clearly depressed throughout the film, I find that Kidman makes her a strangely charismatic and compelling character. Listening to her narrate Mrs Dalloway, or just performing simple actions like rolling her own cigarette somehow makes me all the more fascinated in Woolf. I like that Kidman doesn’t choose the mimicry route in this performance, but instead creates an inner life force for Woolf. Although she can be seen as “stale” and “boring” on the surface, there is a very intense energy radiating from her.

Naturally, the depression aspect is the strongest component of her performance. I like how she builds it up gradually, starting with her nervousness and insecurities around her servants, to her breakdown at the train station. Navigating through some tricky and stilted dialogue, Kidman amazingly manages to convey Woolf’s confusion over her own depression, as well as her desperation to be free from something she isn’t even aware of. I know that scene is often regarded as her “Oscar moment”, however I thought her parting kiss to her sister was an equally amazing moment. I could feel the desperate cry for help through that one kiss, and while I’m not someone who’s crazy about crying scenes, those tears had a profoundly heartbreaking effect.

I know some people have said that Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton would have done a better job –  yes, I believe that there’s some truth to this on a technical front. I know it is not a perfect performance technically – the mumbling can grate on people’s nerves (not mine), and some actions may come off as calculated and unnatural. But having said all that, I strongly believe that Kidman brought something unique to the part herself, something that can’t be emulated by other actresses. A hated and in my opinion, unfairly maligned win, but you know what? I love it. I love how carefully and sensitively Kidman treated the subject matter. 5/5.

Trevor Howard and Mary Ure in Sons and Lovers (1960)


Trevor Howard received a best actor nod for playing Walter Moreal in Sons and Lovers…which I don’t get the placement of this nomination. While I am not particular about screentime, Walter is clearly a supporting character in this story. I’ll give Howard this though – he does have presence and leaves a fairly strong impression throughout the film.

Sons and Lovers is not bad, but if you have read the book, you will know that this is a highly condensed version of D. H. Lawrence’s story. I felt that the transitions between the key events of the story were a little jumpy, but I was engaged throughout the whole movie. I will say without hesitation that the cast is the film’s greatest asset. They really made the characters jump to life from the book, and I personally would have nominated Dean Stockwell for his terrific performance as the true lead of the film. Wendy Hiller is also great as always, and she too would have deserved to be nominated. The acting is just great all-around, with Heather Sears being the weak link (because I can’t stand Miriam as a character, not her acting, which is good).

Despite his fairly limited appearances in the film, Howard makes the most out of his role. It’s actually amazing how he manages to squeeze in the various facades of the character and make them gel together – a violent alcoholic, a bitter husband, a lonely man and a father who wants to reconnect with his son. It’s a true testament to Howard’s ability as an actor in making the characterisation work so well. My only qualm is that he was mainly overshadowed by the stories of the other characters, and his main role is to react to the events around him. Still, a strong performance that should have been nominated in supporting instead. 3.5/5.


Mary Ure was nominated for best supporting actress for her performance as Clara Dawes, losing out to Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry.

Mary Ure gives the kind of supporting performance I love – despite the fairly limited screentime, she also makes the most out of her character. Clara Dawes is a suffragette and an unhappy woman separated from her husband. Ure was known for being a strong dramatic stage actress, and it can be seen in this performance. She’s never theatrical, but she also has this strong presence that commands the screen whenever she is on. It also helps that she plays the most interesting character in the film – despite being a self-proclaimed free lover, we can sense Clara’s desire for stability and love. There’s a great deal of mystery, intelligence, vulnerability and complexity in this performance that’s never fully explained, but Ure’s performance draws you in like a magnet.

There’s a great deal that can be analysed here – from her stiff posture (not her performance) to her line readings that always suggest an underlying bitterness, I love how much Ure did with how little she had. In a way, the same can be said for Howard’s performance, except that Ure has the benefit of a more complex and mysterious character. I really admired and enjoyed this performance. 4.5/5.

Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945)

Ray Milland won the Oscar for playing Don Birnam, an alcoholic writer in the best picture winning film, The Lost Weekend.

The Lost Weekend can be considered an unusual winner for that decade, given its grittiness and subject matter. It is a good, but a bit dated film that has a mixture of great and strange directing choices. That scene where Don hallucinates the floating coats on stage is just bizarre, but I love how Billy Wilder plays with angles to make the bottles seem like some malevolent, omnipresent force that is always watching over Don. The screenplay is okay: I appreciate that it doesn’t sugarcoat the subject matter and try to sentimentalize it, but there are a couple of a bit too convenient solutions that I don’t exaclly buy, especially the ending. The performances are range from solid to good, but this movie is pretty much Ray Milland’s show.

The main strength of Milland’s performance is pretty much its rawness. Alcoholics can be pretty damn hard to get right, and they can lead to some pretty weird acting if handled wrongly. Milland manages to use the character’s troubles as the source of his problems, showing how the drinking is being driven by his inner demons. His shrieks and breakdowns are rightfully praised – the rawness and intensity is brilliant, and one cannot help but feel sorry for Don when he is reduced to a pathetic, paranoid and mentally unstable creature at the end of the film. However, I think what’s even more worthy of praise is the way he builds up the severity of Don’s alcoholism; I especially loved how he starts of with minor gestures like the way he holds the glasses and how he places the cigarette wrongly in his mouth. There’s a surprising attention to detail that makes the performance all the more believable and captivating.

My main qualm is the slightly straightforward characterization. Don is essentially a failed writer who is constantly haunted by his own failures and his alcoholism. There isn’t much beyond this, and I wished there could have been more complexity and layers in his relationships with Helen (Jane Wyman) and his brother Wick (Philip Terry). Still, I think very highly of this performance and it is actually one of the best portrayals of alcoholism I’ve seen (Just FYI, I kinda hate Jack Lemmon’s performance in Days of Wine and Roses). A strong and deserving winner. 4.5/5.


Amy Adams in Arrival (2016)


Update: Wtf she got snubbed. Especially pissed because the performance actually grew on me ALOT since I typed this post. Happy for Isabelle Huppert, but really?

As of the date of this post, Amy Adams has been nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG and Bafta for her performance as Dr. Louise Banks in the science-fiction drama, Arrival. At this rate, it is most likely that she is going to be receiving her 6th Oscar nomination as well.

What is it about Amy Adams that makes me so drawn to her? I have heard 2 entirely opposing views about her acting that I can totally understand. On one hand, there’s the camp that finds her passable but bland in most of her roles, while on the other hand, which I’m leaning more towards, there is the camp that thinks of her as a highly capable and versatile actress. Now, I love performers who are technically brilliant, like Meryl Streep, Geraldine Page, Cate Blanchett etc. However, I am also equally in awe of actresses who act from their hearts, even if they’re technically not the best – think Diane Keaton, Emma Stone, and of course, Amy Adams. The thing about Adams is that she lives her characters not through tics and mannerisms, but through grace and soul. When I think of an Amy Adams performance, I don’t think of a defining “Oscar” scene, but the performance as a whole and her entire process as that character. We get a glimpse of that with Sister James in Doubt, but in Arrival, she manages to shine through that in a leading role.

Arrival is a very good drama that I liked a lot, but did not love. I have to say that its score is incredible and plays a huge part in creating the emotions of the story. The supporting casts are all good, like the always reliable Jeremy Renner, although I did find his character a bit pointless. Personally, I love the messages and themes of Arrival more than its actual story. I have always been fascinated with the concepts of destiny and choice, and I think they are well-explored here. The slow pace didn’t bother me at all – in fact I actually thought it was necessary to build up the story and give its leading lady a good opportunity to shine. I am just a little bit iffy on the reason why the aliens came down, and I probably have to re-watch the film to finalise my thoughts on that.

When I first watched Arrival, I instantly gave Amy Adams a 3.5/5 for her performance. My thoughts were that she was good but nothing special here. However, as I got to mull over her performance, I realised how brilliantly tricky she is here (and in most of her performances). Adams’ role as Dr. Louise Banks is almost symbolic in nature: she symbolises motherhood, intelligence, peace and love. I would think that it is hard to find a particular Oscar clip for this performance as it really needs to be appreciated as a whole. A good comparison for me would be Frances Mcdormand’s brilliant turn in Fargo, where the brilliance isn’t in a breakdown scene or a crying scene, but in how the performer lived the characters through their souls.

There are so many sides to Dr. Louise Banks that Amy brilliantly embodies. I used the word “embody” instead of “portray”, because for me, I felt these sides of the character more than I saw them. It is hard for me to identify each side through a particular scene because Adams plays them so naturally, and yet I could easily describe Louise Banks as an intelligent, warm, strong and loving soul. Even through the brief opening sequence, she manages to capture the warmth and love of a mother brilliantly. Her delicate interactions with the aliens are also surprisingly captivating to watch, and it’s easy to see why they would trust her. The darkness faced by the character isn’t played in a gut-wrenching manner, but with a beautifully melancholic style that draws you in.

I am not going to spoil the twist behind the story, but Amy plays it in a way that makes it super believable despite my own issues with it. And I think that’s why her performance works wonders here – it’s so tricky, yet never manipulative.

All in all, wonderful would be the word to describe Amy Adams’ performance as Dr. Louise Banks. It is an uplifting, sorrowful, beautiful and moving process that needs to be appreciated in its entirety. 4.5/5

p.s. I was just reading about Amy Adams acting technique that she learned from her teacher, Warner Loughlin. Holy shit, I would love to take acting classes with Loughlin, her style sounds so much better than the other techniques out there.