Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Great (film) Debates vol. 12

Now I'm told actresses are important to films too these days. Who knew?! Since we did actors last week, let's see what people think about these so-called "actresses" this week.

Who is your favorite modern actress and what is their best role?

Panelist: T-Rav

She's not very well known, but Jenna Fischer. Probably she's more famous for NBC's The Office than for any film roles, which include Blades of Glory, Slither, and Walk Hard: movies which, in truth, were not very good. However, she does a good job of being sweet, funny, and clever all at the same time. I can't see her doing anything very dark or dramatic, but then you can stay in light comedic roles and still be a good, endearing actor or actress.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

There are several modern actresses whose presence ruins films for me (e.g. Julia Roberts), but I regret to say there are no modern actresses who make me more likely to see a film. That said, a few do stand out. Anna Farris has great comedic timing. Katherine Heigl has whatever it is that works well in romantic roles. Sandra Bullock is hard not to like. But when it comes to a favorite, I have to go with Natascha McElhone. She was great as an Irish terrorist in Ronin and did a super job in a very hard role as the reincarnated wife of George Clooney, who was destined to be suicidal, in Solaris. A close second comes from the 1980s with Bonnie Bedelia, who was great in Presumed Innocent and Salem's Lot.

Panelist: ScottDS

Originally, my answer was similar to my answer for favorite modern actor (I don't have one), but thanks to some peer pressure on the part of one of the panelists, I ended up answering the question anyway. I won't name names but his alias is "Memphis Ted." So I would say that my favorite modern actress is Kate Winslet. She can play the range of the emotional spectrum, she can do demure and overpowering with equal aplomb, and she's pretty easy on the eyes (and unlike so many other actresses, she doesn't see a need for plastic surgery). I certainly haven't seen every film she's done but I don't believe she's gotten to the point where it looks like she's "acting." She might be best remembered for Titanic but, even if I had never seen that film, I would've ended up falling in love with her in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. "Meet me... in Montauk."

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Naomi Watts - her "dual" role in Muholland Drive cemented her creds. with me for all time. However, I may have to add that for romantic roles or comedies, I’d go with Reese Witherspoon. As I’ve mentioned, I love what she does non-verbally with her facial features, much like Lucille Ball, but subtler. Despite what I’ve just said, her performance as June Carter Cash is her greatest.


Comments? Thoughts? Who would you choose and why?

62 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

T-Rav: in all honesty, I do not know the actress in question. That probably says more about our age disparity than your or my taste in actresses :) BTW, is it non pc and sexist to say "taste in actresses" on a family blog?

Love Ana Farris, but would like to see her in a dramatic role to see her chops. Natascha McElhone is an excellent actress. I enjoyed her in Blown Away and Californication in addition to those you mentioned.

Bonnie Bedalia is a class act. Although "Presumed" may be her best role, she was also good in "Heart Like a Wheel." Currently, I enjoy her in the network series Parenthood." The acting in that show is fantastic even if they tend to get a little icky California liberally in many of their stories. Still, it does that in a soft way, so it's tolerable.

Scott - All I can say to you is fine choice. Kate Winslet is a class act, actress wise.

Tennessee Jed said...

O.K. Rav - I looked her up on IMdb, and admit her resume is, how should I say, a tad thin. She did get an emmy nomination for "The Office," and did make someone's list for acresses I like for their personality rather than their acting ability. Quite frankly, the question was "who is your favorite," not "who has the best chops" so what the heck, you like who you kile, n'est pas?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think Presumed Innocent is definitely her best role, though she was excellent in Die Hard too. And I've liked her in everything I've seen her in.

Agreed about Farris, but for comedy I think she's great. She seems to be one of the few actresses who isn't afraid to make a fool of herself.

McElhone I think is really great, but she never gets noticed -- probably because she is so good at what she does. She can really deliver a complex set of roles and make you feel something for the character.

AndrewPrice said...

Once again, nice choices everyone! Though I am with Jed and I had to look up Jenna Fischer -- still don't know her.

Jed, I thought Watts was great in Mulholland!

Scott, I'm not surprised you choose Winslet because I believe you to argued with me originally to keep her off my list of actresses for looks alone! LOL!

DUQ said...

Rachel Weisz. She was great in "The Mummy."

LawHawkRFD said...

Well, you said favorite, not most glamorous. So I'm going with Judi Dench. I would put Sandra Bullock in second place, for entirely different reasons.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I liked her in The Mummy a lot! I also liked her in Constantine a lot too.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I go back and forth on Judi Dench. Sometimes she seems great, sometimes she just seems adequate to me. I particularly have not liked her in the James Bond films, where I feel she's playing a cliche. But she's been really good in other films.

ScottDS said...

I think I've only seen Bonnie Bedelia in the first two Die Hard films but she was great in those. She isn't featured in the Parenthood advertising as much as some of the other cast members.

I also like Anna Faris, especially in a stupid little movie she did with Ryan Reynolds titled Just Friends. And I LOVE the teaser poster for a movie she did that I haven't seen yet titled The House Bunny.

I like Jenna Fischer but I've only seen her in The Office and the aforementioned unfunny comedies she did: Walk Hard and Blades of Glory. She is quite adorable but I'm not sure how much range she has. Maybe she'll surprise us one day.

Great call on Natasha McElhone! She's been on my radar ever since I saw her in The Truman Show.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

She was great in "The House Bunny." It was a movie that was much better than it deserved to be because she was willing to play such a stupid character. I think others would have tried to play the characters either smarter or cuter and it wouldn't have worked. She played stupid but very sincere and it worked perfectly. She's also the real reason the Scary Movie films worked.

The Truman Show is where I saw McElhone first. Then I think it was either Ronin or Solaris, and in all three she was excellent -- she especially shows great acting in Solaris. I've liked her in everything I've seen.

Ed said...

Sigourney Weaver. :D

AndrewPrice said...

Good call Ed!

Tennessee Jed said...

If you want an Anna Faris l.o.l. sleeper, check out "Southern Belles." Natasha might just be a "disappear in the role actress, yes? DUQ - Rachel Witz is a very talented actor, but her politics are so venemous, she has finally made my "I won't see a movie with her in it" list. Is this small of me? Of course, but hey I don't want to have to sleep at night knowing I am making her wealthy so she can genrously donate to political causes that are ruining the world.

Hawk - Dame Judi is great, although casting her as "M" is a pc mistake. I actually would say I like Helen Mirren a bit more than Dame Judi for some reason.

As for Naomi Watts, check her out with Edward Norton in Somerset Maughm's "The Painted Veil." Also, if you watch her version of King Kong and concentrate specifically on how she acted her role, I think she did a terrific job in that as well.

Tennessee Jed said...

Sigourney is an "Ace" for certain. For some reason, a role she had in the movie "Copycats" jumped to mind rather than her more famous roles.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I wasn't aware of Weizs' political activities? But that is sad to hear because I liked her a lot in The Mummy. Oddly, that movie even made me like Brendan Fraser... briefly.

I need to check out Southern Belles because you've mentioned that before.

On McElhone, that's very possible that she disappears into roles because I've never doubted that she is the character she plays and she's used a variety of genuine accents. I even do know her character names. So maybe that's the case? In any event, she's been excellent whenever I've seen her.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I enjoyed Copycat a good deal. My favorite role of hers though is definitely the first Alien and then Ghostbusters. Though I thought she was great in Galaxy Quest as well!

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Natascha... mmmm... just re-watched Ronin the other day....

Julia Roberts -- not a favorite, but I did like her a lot in Notting Hill.

Kate Winslet is probably the most versatile... able to be sexy and earth mother -- those curves.

Cathrine Zeta Jones was fun in the first 1990s Zorro movie and was great in Chicago. I think she could do more than she has though.

Mila Kunis....

Modern Hollywood does not write good women characters at ALL.

Looking at the roles of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell ....

How in this age of empowered wimmins we get crude vulgar Bridesmaids but they can't write devastatingly strong and/or hilarious roles like they did for those ladies? Answer: for all of our talk of metrosexual man/boys the topic that is under-appreciated is -- there aren't that many real women in Hollywood either.

ScottDS said...

It might sound like damning with faint praise but I actually thought Bridesmaids was one of the better Apatow productions (I attribute this to director Paul Feig). And it wasn't nearly as vulgar as, say, The Hangover or some of Apatow's other films. I know the media made a big deal out of the bridal shop vomit scene but it's really small potatoes compared to other stuff I've seen. Incidentally, it was Apatow's idea, not Kristen Wiig's.

The thing that bugs me is all the attention lavished on Melissa McCarthy. For all the talk about how she was the big breakout star - the Zach Galifianakas of this film, so to speak - I didn't think she had as much of an impact on the film as the critics said. I was almost offended by it. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but, for me, the critical reaction all reeked of, "Hey, look at the fat lady!"

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I agree 100%. I think the real problem is that modern Hollywood simply doesn't write good parts for women. They write a few man-like roles (crude, violent) for them when they want something "strong", but other than that they are little more than props. In fact, I think it's the rare film these days where you couldn't swap out the actresses without changing the film at all.

And you're right, there are very few "women" in Hollywood these days, but there are a lot of "chicks."

The one big exception that comes to mind is Sandra Bullock. In particular in Blind Side she showed a tremendous amount of personality in a role that was nothing like other roles out there. Specifically, she played a character you would respect and she played it perfectly.

Ronin is a great film! It's one of my favorites.

On Julia Roberts, Notting Hill is one of the few films where I thought she did a good job. I generally think that her presence detracts from films.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The media pushes idea for reasons other than those ideas being right. In other words, they often push ideas that they want to be true rather than ideas that are true.

In any event, Aptow is not someone I like or respect. He's a fart joke guy, and not even a good one. So it's hard to say anything "great" has or could ever come out of his films.

BevfromNYC said...

Scott - Watch Melissa McCarthy on her hosting stint on SNL. I don't watch SNL anymore, but I watched clips and then on OnDemand. McCarthy is fearless as a performer in the Lucille Ball school.

I know no one likes her, but I love Cate Blanchette. She is an actress with a capital "A".

ScottDS said...

Bev -

I watched the episode of SNL she hosted. I thought it was awful but she did a good job. Not many actresses can still make falling down a staircase funny. :-)

I tune into every new SNL episode hoping to laugh at least once. My, how my standards have fallen!


Andrew -

Yeah, we've talked about Apatow before. The thing I hate is that he's done GREAT work on TV: The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, and Undeclared. But his movies leave something to be desired (especially the ones he writes/directs himself). But that's another story... and one day, I might blog about it. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, A lot of people like Cate Blanchett. I thought she was good in Lord of the Rings.

And I think she was the one most people mentioned when I wrote about actresses at BH.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think the problem with Aptow is not lack of ability, it's that he's decided for whatever reason that it's easier/more profitable to make fart joke films.

As for writing about Aptow... you do have the time! :)

On SNL, I honestly stopped watching SNL years ago. I stopped when I realized that even their funny moments weren't funny anymore. And even those were too far and few between.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

TV seems to have better women -- even those who act. I loved Jennifer Garner in Alias... not so much in movies though she seems to be an intelligent as well as beautiful (natch) woman.

The women on the Sopranos, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, etc. across the spectrum over the past decade or so.

I've actually been watching Pan Am the past few weeks... there are more solid female roles on that show than in Hollywood movies over the last 20 years (he said with hyperbole).

Movies... Tilda Swinton can also be quite good.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, TV is really where it's at these days. They have better stories, better characters and better writing. I can't stand sitcoms or cop shows anymore, but when it comes to dramas, there are some truly excellent actresses (and actors) doing some great work out there.

I'm really a fan of Boardwalk Empire right now and I think Kelly Macdonald does a great job at developing a truly interesting character.

LawHawkRFD said...

I actually like her scrunched-up face and bureaucratic manner in the Bond films, but I guess I really chose her since she's the best Elizabeth I since Bette Davis. LOL

T-Rav said...

Okay, so I was intending to really start off commenting early in the morning this week, since I foresaw being gone for a while, but then my Internet went on the fritz AGAIN. I'm going to go to my apartment manager and maybe froth at the mouth a bit if they don't fix this soon.

Anyway...yeah, I admit Fischer is a bit out of left field, but as Jed says, you like who you like. Rachel Weisz would probably come in second, then Kate Winslet, then Sandra Bullock, and they all blur together a bit for me after that. Although, since Jed mentioned "Parenthood," I will say that Lauren Graham has always struck me as a solid actress and a likable person.

Anna Faris--I don't know. I keep hearing she does good work, but every time I see her, I can't think of her as anything other than a ditz. Wait, can I say "ditz"? Okay, she has always struck me as a special person.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, how is "Boardwalk Empire"? The vibe I keep getting from people is that it's very good, but it's been over-hyped to seem like the greatest thing since "The Sopranos."

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think the problem with the James Bond stuff is that they write her part as a very cliche part. I never feel like she's actually a real person.

T-Rav said...

I thought Naomi Watts was pretty good in "King Kong" too. Actually, I think that remake is a little better all-around than it generally gets credit for being.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, "Boardwalk Empire" is excellent. However, there is a caveat -- it's slow and it has too many minor characters which it spends too much time on.

It's one of those shows that is just brilliant in most moments and it's been a fascinating show to watch unfold. But it also has stretches where you feel like they are just trying to waste 5-10 minutes and I wonder if they have a genuine story in mind or if this will just kind of roam for a while adding subplots.

The best way to describe it is that you're really glad you saw it after you've seen it, but I have no desire to rewatch it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Cate Blanchett is a terrific actress. A few of my favorites:Elizabeth, Paradise Road, The Gift, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and a terrific Kate Hepburn in The Aviator.

Tennessee Jed said...

For Floyd, I too am a fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones. She is a beautiful woman to be sure, but I believe she tends to be under-rated as an actress. I first noted her in a mini-series about the sinking of the Titanic that came out about a year before Cameron's film. She was perfect for her role in the Zorro re-makes, and I actually liked Entrapment quite a bit (never analyzed whether it was actually good or just a guilty pleasure of mine.) Of course, she deserves huge credit for her Chicago performance. I think she took her family seriously, sacrificing her career to a certain extent.

Tam said...

I really like Audrey Tautou, especially in Amelie and another French movie that probably no one saw, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not.

T-Rav said...

Jed, I remember being very surprised to learn that Zeta-Jones is Welsh, and not Spanish/Mexican as I had imagined after watching the Zorro movie. So yes, I would say she pulled off her role very well.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I've only seen her in the Da Vinci Code, and she was good in that.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I've run into that occasionally too where I didn't realize a particular actor/actress was faking an "American" accent. In general, those have always proven to be good actors.

Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Guy Pierce all fall into that category for me.

Tam said...

Andrew, She was better in those french movies. Both are really good and very different from each other, and from the Da Vinci Code. She's versatile and likeable. Amelie is one of my favorite movies. Very clever and quirky. She fit that role perfectly. If you've only seen her in the Da Vinci Code, you might not think of her as quirky!

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, True, the Da Vinci Code didn't really have a lot of room for quirky. I'll have to check her out -- I actually do watch a lot of foreign films. :)

T-Rav said...

Andrew, that's a good point. Of course, there are some actors and actresses whose American accents are so terrible they just shouldn't try. Marion Cotillard is a good example of this, I think. Although, I don't like her in general because apparently she's something of a 9/11 Truther, so maybe I'm being unfair in her case; but there are some out there who just can't do it.

Tennessee Jed said...

Tam - among French actresses, I currently very much like Marion Cotillard. I've think of her mainly for A Good Year with Russell Crowe and Public Enemies with Johnny Depp. She is signed for the next Dark Knight installment.

Tennessee Jed said...

I was typing while you were posting :) Didn't know about the 911 truther stuff. Thanks for bumming me out Rav (l.o.l.)

AndrewPrice said...

On French actresses, I like Juliette Binoche, particularly her role in Jet Lag, with Jeno Reno, who is one of my favorite actors.

tryanmax said...

When it comes to my favorite actress, it's almost a knee-jerk reaction for me to name Christina Ricci. At first it was just a crush. Why else would a fifteen year old boy go see Casper? But I think I can be honest when I say that she has quite respectable acting chops. (I am still a sucker for big-eyed brunettes, as you will see from my list below.)

I have to say "good call" on Sigourney Weaver. I know she is excellent because I find myself genuinely concerned about Ripley in (most of) the Alien films, even thought I don't personally find Ripley likable. And she is defiantly one of those actresses where you remember the character more than the actress.

Other actresses that jump immediately to mind are Andie MacDowell, Jennifer Connelly, Juliette Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, and Winona Ryder. Anne Hathaway also jumps to mind, but as Agent 99, I prefer Barbara Feldon. And I like Angelina Jolie in spite of myself.

tryanmax said...

RE: faking an American accent - Helena Bonham Carter is one who surprised me.

On the other hand, Ewan McGregor's hopeless attempts at American are downright endearing.

tryanmax said...

Audrey Tautou could certainly be on my brunettes list, but I have only seen her in Amelie.

tryanmax said...

RE: Apatow - I actually rather enjoy his films, but I am decidedly in the target. I'm not saying they are high-comedy in the slightest, and I do agree that they are pretty much fart-jokes.

But one thing I've noticed about that sort of comedy is that they appeal greatly to the generation they are made for and are absolutely repugnant to anyone coming before or after.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm not averse to fart joke films. There have been some really good ones. To me, the problem with Aptow's films is that his jokes just aren't that funny. He's picking low hanging fruit almost exclusively and even then he seems to pick the ones that aren't ripe.

I always feel like his set ups are too obvious, take too long to develop, and don't really pay off.

Also, I find his characters to be too whiny. I always want to slap them and say "grow a pair." If he did a James Bond film, I get the sense Bond would spend half the film in therapy and the other half trying to understand why the hot chick doesn't like him. Then he'd stumble over a suitcase and accidentally shoot the bad guy.

AndrewPrice said...

On the actresses, I like Angelina Jolie too. I've come to like Christina Ricci too as I've seen her do more varied roles of late. I strangely liked her a lot in Speed Racer.

tryanmax said...

Yeah, but I was laughing out loud reading your description of Apatow meets Bond and would gladly pay $12 + concessions to see that.

I'm a nerd for indie films, which is where the most of Ricci's body of work resides. She has a knack for making odd and rough characters likable. (Go figure). My description of Ricci's handling of such characters is Molly Ringwald on an exceptionally bad day. Somehow, there is always a hint of the ingénue within the vamp.

I would have liked to have seen Ghost World get off the ground sooner so that Ricci could have played the lead role. The way Thora Birch handled it, Enid was a total bitch.

Cheryl said...

Dakota Fanning.

What a great little actress! She's been good in everything she's done!

I haven't seen her in the Twilight stuff. I assume she's doing a good job, but she's so much better than what I'm sure that role has to offer her.

T-Rav said...

Jed, sorry to disappoint. :-(

She might be talented, I can't really judge based on what I've seen of her (which would be "Inception" and nothing else). I just remember reading some comments she made to that effect, while she was still a complete no-name over here, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The more I see Ricci, the more impressed I am -- even in her junky films. I always thought of her as "Wednesday Addams" until I saw her in a Sci-Fi werewolf film called (I believe) The Curse. I was impressed with her performance, even if the movie itself wasn't great.

Aptow has an audience, there's no denying that. I just haven't been able to like his films.

$12 plus... isn't that obscene? And they wonder why people don't go to the theater much anymore. I can buy the movie for less than that!

AndrewPrice said...

Cheryl, I liked her in War of the Worlds. She was very mature beyond her years.

tryanmax said...

Yep, $12. That's what I paid the last time I went to a movie, but I might have been paying a premium for the 3-D experience. Sadly, I remember the price of my last movie ticket but not the actual film. What does that tell you.

Worse, I understand that tix are cheaper where I live than most of the rest of the country. On the flip-side, I satiated my craving for quality horror films over the weekend with a couple items from the $5 bin.

Close on the werewolf film title: Cursed. I agree, stinker of a film, but no slouch on Ricci's part. Another mark of a good actor/actress, they don't lay down on the job even if the job stinks.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Tickets can get around $20 here for 3-D. Ug! That's one reason I rarely go to the theater anymore. I would just as soon buy the film as pay that much to see it.

That's the one! The film wasn't great (wasn't horrible either), but she did a great job. That's the first time I recall her doing a "sexy" role that I really bought. Also, that was the first time I remember her being the lead in a movie. I was impressed and I've liked everything I've seen from her since.

tryanmax said...

Yeah, typical werewolf film.

rlaWTX said...

Sandra Bullock
Reese Witherspoon
Dolly Parton (I am adding her after my last note below about Steel Magnolias and realizing that I want to see that movie with her & Queen Latifah because of her)

(Katherine Hepburn; Audrey Hepburn; Deborah Kerr - just sayin')

TV has better stuff:
Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Pauley Perrette, Cote de Pablo, Melina Kanakaredes, Stana Katic, Kirsten Vangsness, A.J. Cook, Paget Brewster, Grace Park, Daniela Ruah, Anna Belknap, Emily Rose, Erica Cerra, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Beth Riesgraf; really liked Holly Hunter in "Saving Grace", loved Emily Proctor on West Wing & CSI Miami (HATE Caruso & won't watch the show)

but actresses are not why I watch a movie or show...

OH, Julia Roberts was better in her earlier stuff (Pretty Woman, etc) and I LOVE "Steel Magnolias"!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I agree that TV has better actresses these days than films. I think that's becoming true all around in fact -- television is doing much better stuff than films.

I like Dolly Parton a lot, by the way. I can't quite say why, but she's just impossible to dislike.

Outlaw13 said...

I enjoyed Rachel McAdams in "Wedding Crashers" and the Robert Downey "Sherlock Holmes" film. And while people gripe about her I thought Eva Mendez was smoking hot in "The Spirit".

A few years ago, I would enjoy seeing Liz Hurley in anything...not that she was a great actress, she was just great to see on the screen, to me anyway.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I like Eva Mendez as well. I agree about Hurley too.

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