Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Denny Awards - Pt 3 - Most Compelling Performances (Female)

Part 3/4 of my Annual "Denny Awards" ;-)
(Other Years' Awards)

Part I - Best Films
Part II - Most Compelling Performances / Character Roles (Male)
Part III - Most Compelling Performances / Character Roles (Female)

Part IV - "The Pale Dennys" - Films about Hist Events Generally NOT taught in School

CHILD (female)
    Most Compelling:

             Idena Menzel and Kristen Bell voicing Elsa and Anna in Frozen [2013], just a lovely story about two sisters growing-up together and trying to look-out for, protect and understand one another.
    Honorable Mentions:
             Annie Rose Buckley as Ginty Hoff in Saving Mr. Banks [2013] growing-up at the turn of the 20th century in rural Australia in an alcoholic household.  She knows something is wrong, tries really hard to be good / helpful, and can not yet understand that the situation's really outside of her control and when it inevitably ends tragically it's simply not her fault (what a sad, sad story ...).
             Sophie Nélisse as Leisel in The Book Thief [2013] growing-up in an adoptive household in Nazi Germany.  When her adoptive parents choose to take-in and hide the 20-something son of a close Jewish friend of theirs, her adoptive parents tell her that she simply can not tell anyone that they are hiding him.  Imagine being a 10-12 year-old, in a still somewhat strange household, and given that kind of responsibility.

TEEN (female)
    Most Compelling:

           Jennifer Lawrence as Katnis Everdeen in Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2013], teenage heroine in the series, continually needing to "step-up" to defend her and her people's humanity in a world where life for most has been turned into a sick game.
    Honorable Mentions:
           Saoirse Ronan as Melanie in The Host [2013], teenager finding herself in a very interesting situation.  Her soul's been displaced by an alien lifeform that's taken over control of her body, but she's kinda made peace with the alien soul that's now within her.  On the other hand, when that alien soul kinda likes the same guy as she did, what then?  A very complicated teenage metaphysical story here ;-)
            Lorena Guadalupe Pantaleón Vázquez as Lore(na) in Aquí y Allá [2012], the teenage daughter of the humble Pedro and Tere(sa) growing up in rural Guerrero, Mexico and the one who is most challenging to her father when he periodically leaves for "Up North" to go to work in the States.  "What about us?"  What about us indeed ...
            Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Claire Julian and Taissa Farmiga along with Israel Brousssard (male) in The Bling Ring [2013] portraying "celebrity culture gone amuck."  Based on the all too true recent story, to get "close" to their favorite Hollywood celebrities, these Southern-California teens begin to break into the homes of their favorite celebrities to steal their stuff.  Of course they eventually get caught AND SERVE SIGNIFICANT TIME but how were they able to get away with this at all?  Didn't their parents "miss them" when night after night they (teens afterall) came home "late" from partying / said robberies...?

YOUNG ADULT (female)

     Most Compelling:
             Greta Gerwig as Frances in Frances Ha [2013], who despite all the (social and economic) disasters in her life keeps smiling hoping/believing that her day will come.
     Honorable Mentions:
              Lake Bell as Carol in In a World ... [2013] a Hollywood voice coach / voice-over specialist trying to make her way "in a world ..." dominated by males, including her own father, who don't see the need for female voices in their line of work.  But what happens when even SciFi (think of the Hunger Games...) starts targeting female audiences ...?  Well "in that world" she starts getting jobs ... and respect ;-)
              Keri Russell as Jane Hayes in Austenland [2013], an unabashed "I <3 Darcy" New York residing Jane Austen fanatic who shells out a good part of her still relatively meager life-savings to go on a 2 week Jane Austen immersion experience at a country estate somewhere in England, where she learns a bit about the realities of "Country Manor Life in the early 1800s" (shelling out a few grand for a vacation doesn't exactly make you "landed gentry" ;-) and has to confront what is real and what is imaginary in her own life.
              Gail Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell playing the 1960s-era Australian "girls group" named as the film The Saphires [2013]. Based on a true story, these girls, all from "Aboriginal families" from the "Outback" had the time of their lives singing Motown tunes to American service personel in Vietnam during the War there even as the Australian Constitution at the time didn't even recognize them as people.  A truly uplifting/poignant story (even amidst RPG and mortar fire) about the need to "make a Life" out of what one is given.  These young women could have been depressed and bitter about their circumstances.  Instead they sang even in the midst of a shower of bombs (which were falling around them for reasons that had _absolutely nothing to do with them_).  What a story!
              Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers [2013] playing college students all, who tell their parents/grandparents that they're going on Spring Break to "find themselves."  Well what do they find?  Absolutely nothing that is good ... but perhaps what is inevitable if Life is reduced to a hedonistic exercise of "use it or lose it" and "whoever dies with the most toys wins."  One scary, scary morally depraved movie.   

ADULT (female)
    Most Compelling:

              Mavis Fan as Lan Feng in Will you still love me tomorrow? (orig. Ming tian ji de ai shang wo) [2013].  An early/mid 30-something administrative professional in Taiwan, until the beginning of the story basically happy, married with a son, discovers that her loving, basically "nice guy" husband is actually / would prefer to be gay.  What to do?  The poignant question asked in the title of the famous 60s-era Motown song which she sings at one point with her friends at a Kareoke bar becomes the central question of the film.
    Honorable Mentions:        
             Octavia Spencer as Wanda, the mother of Oscar Grant a random African-American 20-something male who was killed by BART police in the hours after New Years 2009 at Fruitvale Station [2013].  She was no nonsense tough with him when he was alive and, of course, wept for him when he so tragically died.  
             Jessica Chastain as Anabel in Mama [2013], raven-haired, tattoo sleaved "rocker" in a "punk girls' band," nevertheless "steps-up" to take care of two little nieces of her boyfriend when really have no one else to turn to. 
              Teresa Ramírez Aguirre as Tere(sa) in Aquí y Allá [2012], the wife who "keeps house" with the kids in rural mountainous Guerrero, Mexico even when her husband Pedro goes up North to the U.S. sometimes for years at a time to work to (ostensibly) support them.  Quiet, kind, but she's also not dumb ...
              Kirsten Dunst as Carolyn Cassady in On the Road [2013] and Kate Bosworth as Billie in Big Sur [2013], the responsible characters in the two Jack Kerouac's novels that were put on the big screen this year.
              Ivana Chýlková as Erika in Perfect Days - I ženy mají své dny [2011].  A lot of readers here would probably not like this character much (I'm not sure I do ...) BUT most would understand her.  At 40-something, she's made choices in her life, and made her share of mistakes.  Now, not in any relationship, with few particularly good prospects on the horizon, she decides that what she'd really want is a baby.  AND HAVING THE POWER TO DO SO (thanks to modern technology and a requisite donation of sperm ...) she gets herself pregnant.  But even this choice is not free of consequences and doesn't go all according to plan ...
              Cate Blanchett as Jasmine in Blue Jasmine [2013] the "Blanche of 'Streetcar Named Desire'" character in this film.  What if poor, suffering Blanche (and her husband) had ripped-off her poorer relations in a Bernie Madoff like scheme prior to her landing, helpless and penniless, on their porch? 
              Sandra Bullock as NASA Mission Specialist Ryan Stone in the epic survival tale Gravity [2013].  Yes, it's never too late to learn to pray, and there is a place for God even in the midst of all kinds of high-flying human built technological wonders.
ELDER (female)
    Most Compelling:

            Judy Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena [2013], simple woman, who had been terribly treated by both her family and later "the Nuns" when she became pregnant as a teenager in Ireland of the 1950s-early 60s.  Wanting simply to know what happened to her son who she was forced to put-up for adoption, she nevertheless proved capable of forgiving what a lot of people would find very, very difficult to forgive.  Yet, what else was she to do ... carrying around hate / resentment is a terrible burden.  Honestly a great if painful example to folks on both simply "seeking the truth" and "letting go."
    Honorable Mentions:
            Emma Thompson as P.L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books in Saving Mr. Banks [2013].  Yes, she was a very difficult person to work with BUT as is often the case with "very difficult people," there was a story there as to why she became who she became.            
            June Squibb as the Matriarch in the dysfunctional family in Nebraska [2013], never outright mean, nevertheless by the end of the movie, one's left wondering if she had a single nice thing to say about anyone in the entire film ;-).
            Anne Gee Byrd as the no nonsense grandmother in Zero Charisma [2013].  Yes, her middle-aged daughter had left her to raise her grandson, yes he himself wasn't going to amount to much as a result, but in the midst of not particularly great choices, she held her own and offered both of them a good example of how to how to live a good, honest and dignified life.

HERO / VILLAIN (female)
    Most Compelling:

              Greta Gerwig as Frances in Frances Ha [2013] in a year that celebrated _a lot_ of "bad girls" Frances' smiling persona in fact of all kinds of social and economic disasters in her life is such a more positive example.
             Judy Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena [2013], no one could possibly have blamed her if she had grown to be bitter in life, but she chose not to be.
             Mavis Fan as Lan Feng in Will you still love me tomorrow? (orig. Ming tian ji de ai shang wo) [2013].  Faced with a very hard (and seemingly "out of the blue") situation at home in her marriage, she deals with the situation quite well and with a great deal of grace.
    Honorable Mentions:
             Jessica Chastain as Anabel in Mama [2013] the punk rocker who "steps-up" to take care of her boyfriend's nieces when they have no one else to turn to.
             Jennifer Lawrence as Katnis Everdeen in Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2013] and Saoirse Ronan as Melanie in The Host [2013], the teenage heroines of the these two pulp-dramas put on the screen this year. 
             Cameron Diaz as Malkina in The Counselor [2013], one "tough as nails," scary-scary consort in the world of drug-lords/kingpins. 
             The teens / young women of The Bling Ring [2013] and Spring Breakers [2013].  No, not all choices are "equal," and even if one can "get away with it" one's choice can still be a bad/Evil one ...

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