Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oscar actress update

Maggie says:
In my rush to see all the remaining Oscar-related films before Sunday's ceremony, last night I watched Away from Her and Gone Baby Gone.

Away from Her is the story of an older couple struggling with the progression of Alzheimer's in Julie Christie's character Fiona. Their decision to move Fiona into a residential care facility is one is led by Fiona herself, not wanting to decline in her husband's presence any further. What unfolds between the two of them, and the secondary characters is this new chapter in their lives, is a very real story full of immense sadness, but also truth and beauty and humor. Kleenex required, trust me. Julie Christie was nominated for Best Actress for this film, and I'd love to see her win. We had a Julie Christie v. Marion Cotillard debate after watching this. Right now, I'm pulling for Christie because of the freshness and truth to that performance, but you know how blown away I was by Cotillard's performance in La Vie en Rose as well. Either would be a fine choice, but Christie is really tremendous here.

I have a soft spot for Boston films, and Gone Baby Gone is no exception. Ben Affleck's directorial debut is very good, touching on a variety of really compelling themes and asking some pertinent questions that keep sinking in for me. The cast is great, all of them. They've been given meaty stuff to chew on, and the touch here is right-on. Amy Ryan, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, is absolutely riveting in the role of Helen McCready, an unfit mother who cares more about her drug habit and friends than her daughter. Helen is thrust into the spotlight and a police investigation when her daughter is abducted, and Casey Affleck is the detective hired to tap into the seedy neighborhood element of the crime that the police can't access. This is the kind of role that Ryan - a stage actress who also has a Tony nomination under her belt - must have loved sinking into. Helen is the kind of terrifying woman you'd cross the street to avoid if you had the choice, and Ryan nails her. She's just scarily good here, and she's my new pick for Best Supporting Actress.