Saturday, January 31, 2015

2014 Denny Awards - Pt 3 - Most Compelling Performances (Female)

Part 3/3 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)


CHILD (female)
    Most Compelling:

              Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie in Annie [2014].  Okay, it's not the traditional Depression Era "Orphan Annie" or of the 70s-era musical (still set during the Great Depression).  However, by moving the story to the present day and turning the precocious vaguely Irish looking Orphan Annie into a precocious African American "Foster Kid" Annie the story IMHO did gain a greater bite / relevance.
    Honorable Mentions:
              Anastasija Marčenkaitė [IMDb] as 10-12 year old Stalin era Lithuanian deportee Mariya in The Excursionist (orig. Ekskursantė) [2013].  The film, primarily a Lithuanian production with some fairly famous Russian actors/actresses costarring, follows the story of the fictionalized 10-12 year old finding her way back to her village in Lithuania from Siberia after her mother died.
                Ana from Trip to Timbuktu (orig. Viaje a Tombuctú) [2013] first a child and then young adult growing-up in Lima, Peru during the Shining Path insurgency of the 1980s-90s.
               Valeria Conejo [IMDb] and Aura Dinarte [IMDb] in Red Princeses (orig. Princesas Rojas) [2013] as two sisters, Claudia and Antonia, 10 and 8 years old, daughters of increasingly disillusioned Sandinista "believers" from Costa Rica during the Contra Wars in Nicaragua during the 1980s. The film is about the family's return to Costa Rica and the two daughters' reintegration into (regular) Costa Rican society after having lived most of their early lives in pro-Communist Sandinista Nicaragua. 
                Maria (voiced by Zoe Saldana) in The Book of Life [2014] a children's animated film about the Mexican Day of the Dead (Nov 2).
                Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) in the children's animated film How to Train Your Dragon 2 [2014].
                Anfisa Vistingauzen [IMDb] []*[]* as the adorable 8-10 year old "Ksyusha" whose parents are contemplating divorce in the Russian disaster film Metro (orig. Метро) [2013].  This is something that the always Russians did really, really well (even in the Soviet Era).  The little kids in their films are almost always _adorable_.  

TEEN (female)
    Most Compelling:

                    Anoushka Medina as Crystal in the Romeo & Juliet based For Love in the Caserio (orig. Por Amor en el Caserío) [2013] set in the Caserio projects of San Juan, PR.
    Honorable Mentions: 
                    Shailene Woodley as Tris the principal heroine in the film Divergent [2014] (based on the post Apocalyptic teenage girl oriented book series by the same name).
                    Shailene Woodley as teenage cancer patient Haze Tarlan Parvaneh [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]*l in the weepy teenage/cancer patient romance The Fault in our Stars [2014].
                    Azul Zorrilla as Carla in Stand Clear of the Closing Doors [2013] the 15 year old older sister of her 12-year-old and moderately autistic brother, who since the family's poor, Hispanic and probably undocumented and both parents work, she's often primarily responsible for.
                   Farzana Dua Elahe as Mahira the happy-go-lucky 15 year old headscarf wearing daughter in the Pakistani/Indian Muslim immigrant family around which the film The Hundred Foot Journey [2014] is built.
                     Tarlan Parvaneh [IMDb] [Cin] [SC]* as Negin in The Wedlock (orig. Zendegi Moshtarak-e Aghaye Mahmoodi va Banoo) [2013] as the gum-chewing, pink iPod listening Tehran-born/living 14 year old having a blast watching her more conservative stay-at-home mom and her hipper, more liberal "career woman" home decorator cousin (both are educated) argue about "her future" ;-).
                   Haley Steinfeld as Violet in Begin Again [2014], the awkward teenage child of divorce who still loves both of her parents even though they had smashed their marriage.
                    Shiela Vand as "the Girl" a slight/demure/NOT AT ALL "attention-grabbing" Iranian vampire dressed generally in slacks, a smart if ever understated black-and-white thin-striped shirt, and generally covered with a chador in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night [2014].  NO ONE _ever_ seems "to see her coming" as she walks the streets of her dusty Iranian town, swooping down then to "deal out vengeance on the guilty."  She also has _a really cute cat_ ;-). 
                   Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the continuing post-Apocalyptic teenage girl oriented saga Hunger Games: Mocking Jay - Part 1 [2014].
                   Lorelei Linklater as Mason, Jr's a few years older sister Samantha in Boyhood [2014], the remarkable film of the current year that was filmed with the same cast over a span of 10 years to follow Mason, Jr and his sister growing up, again as "regular children" (of divorce).  

YOUNG ADULT (female)
     Most Compelling:
                     Anastasia Dumitrescu [IMDb] []* in the title role of Christina in Miss Christina (orig. Domnisoara Christina) [2013], possibly the classiest / most demure / sexiest female zombie/vampire EVER.  Set in Romania of the 1920s, think "Anna Karenina" / "a flapper" but ... dead ;-).  Yes, the Romanians show the world how vampire story-telling is done ;-)
     Honorable Mentions: 
                      Keira Knightly as the musician Greta in Begin Again [2014] who gets dumped in possibly the worst possible way by her (also musician) boyfriend as soon as he gets the slightest whiff of fame.  What now?
                     Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle in Belle [2013], the early 19-century mixed race daughter of a British sea captain and an African slave, whose country gentleman uncle who raised her ended up being instrumental (as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales) in bringing the end to the Slave Trade.
                     Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed a 20-something young woman who took the loss of her mother to cancer really, really hard and finally decides to "walk herself into becoming once again the woman her mother thought she was" in Wild [2014]
                    Marion Cotillard [IMDb] []* as Sandra, a young wife and mother, already struggling with depression in Two Days, One Night (orig. Deux Jours, Une Nuit) [2014] who's given the weekend by her boss to convince her coworkers to keep her on (at essentially their expense ...).  Seems hopeless, but her husband (out of concern for her) asks her to try anyway.
                     Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde-Hawking, the (ex)wife of world-renowned theoretical physicist but also ALS suffering Steven Hawking, in The Theory of Everything [2014].
                     Pantea Bahram [Cin] [SC]* as Rashan, a Tehran elementary school teacher, in the film The Bright Day (orig. Rooz-e Roshan) [2013] who takes it upon herself to try to prove the innocence of the father of one of her students in a murder that he probably didn't commit of the son of a fairly powerful/well connected family.
                     Dandara de Morais [IMDb] [] as Shirley an Afro-Brazilian 20-something in August Winds (orig. Ventos de Agosto) [2014] who's returned "from the city" (probably Salvador but it could be Sao Paulo) to take care of her grandmother in a small hamlet by the sea in NE Brazil where time seems to stand still (and doesn't seem to mind).
                     America Ferrera as Helen the still young (early-mid 30 something) wife of Hispanic Civil Rights legend Cesar Chavez in the biopic, Cesar Chaves [2014], yet the mother of their 6-7 children that they had together.   IMHO she absolutely NAILED the role of being a young Hispanic mother trying to "keep order" _with love_ over so many many kids even as her husband (_also_ a good guy) was "often away."
                     Ana from Trip to Timbuktu (orig. Viaje a Tombuctú) [2013] first a child and then young adult growing-up in Lima, Peru during the Shining Path insurgency of the 1980s-90s.
                     Agata Buzek [IMDb] []* as Kasia, a young Polish, educated, faithful, young adult in Foreign Body (Obce ciało) [2014] who's found a boyfriend, Mario, while in Italy but also feels that God may be calling her to be a nun.  A surprisingly intelligent film about discernment.
                     Zoe Kazan as amiable, ever smiling, (super) well organized, 20-something, professional, Chantry in What if... [2014], who finds that the heart has to play a role if one's gonna keep being amiable, and ever-smiling through life.  A great relationship flick.
                     Gugu Mbatha-Raw as 20-something hip-hop superstar Noni with a pushy mother in Beyond the Lights [2014] who has to figure out what's real.

ADULT (female)
    Most Compelling:

                      Julianne Moore as Alice in Still Alice [2014], whose first 50 years of life have been more-or-less wonderful -- great husband, three grown children, one already married, a great career -- and then she finds that she has early onset Alzheimers...
    Honorable Mentions:
                       Paulina Garcia [IMDb] []* in the title role of Gloria [2013], a long divorced (over 10 years) late 40s-early-50 something woman from Santiago, Chile whose kids have grown, long-since moved out, and kinda think of her as a fossil (when they think of her at all).  But she's "not dead yet" ;-).  Her role is positively inspirational for those who fear that they may be already dead. 
                       Luminiţa Gheorghiu [IMDb] []* as Emilia and Agata Kulesza [IMDb] []* []* as "Red Wanda" in I'm an Old Communist Hag (orig. Sunt o babă comunistă) [2013] and Ida [2013] respectively, two strong women who don't necessarily remember Communism to have been completely bad.
                        Petra Špalková [IMDb] [CSFD]* as Karla in Like Never Before (orig. Jako Nikdy) [2013], the 40-something once "muse", since "long-time companion" (though never getting around to getting married) of "a famous artist" named Vladimir, 25 years her senior.  Vlad's now dying of lung cancer and she's realizing that when he dies, she's going to be "out on the street." 

ELDER (female)
    Most Compelling:

                        Oprah Winfrey as Rosa Parks-like character Annie Lee Cooper in Selma [2014] who just got tired of living her entire life in and around Selma, Alabama without ever being allowed to vote for/against the public officials that would greatly effect the destiny of her life.
    Honorable Mentions:
                        Bharati Achrekar as "Auntie" who, living in the apartment above her (lead character) niece in The Lunchbox (orig. Dabba) [2013], we never see but always has a lot of pretty good, gentle advice.
                        Stanisława Celińska [IMDb] []* as the Mother Superior in the film Foreign Body (Obce ciało) [2014] who quite serenely helps the young adult Kasia discern her vocation.  When Kasia expresses her fear that she'd disappoint the Mother Superior if she chose to leave the Convent the Mother Superior responds to her very nicely: "Kasia, my dear, the heavens and the earth will not come to an end if you decide not to become a nun."  
                        Raisa Ryazanova* [IMDb] []* as Baba Nadya a lovely Russian Orthodox woman living in Siberia who initially saves the 12 year old Lithuanian girl Mariya from certain death by the elements in The Excursionist (orig. Ekskursantė) [2013] and then helps set her on her way back home to Lithuania.

HERO / VILLAIN (female)
    Most Compelling:

                    Shailene Woodley as Tris the principal heroine in the film Divergent [2014] and probably the nicest / gentlest (even though she becomes a warrior) of the teenage heroines in the current wave of combative "post-Apocalyptic" teen oriented tales that are so popular in the U.S.A. these days.   
    Honorable Mentions:
                    Shiela Vand as the seemingly "inconsequential" / almost invisible "young Iranian vampire in a chador" in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night [2014] who nonethless quitely deals out vengeance on the guilty as she walks the streets of her dusty Iranian town at night.
                    Anastasia Dumitrescu [IMDb] []* as the truly "hot" (seductive) Romanian Vampire Christina in Miss Christina (orig. Domnisoara Christina) [2013].  She'd bring the downfall of many, many young men, AND YET THERE'S ALSO A "BACKSTORY" WITH HER AS WELL.
                     Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss continuing in The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay - Part 1 [2014] the original (re)incarnation of the "Joan of Arc" archetype in the current wave of "post-Apocalyptic" teen oriented tales that are so popular here these days.  Still hers remains a compelling (and positive) character.
                     Jennifer Lawrence as the shape-shifting Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past [2014].  It's an interesting (and very evocative) survival strategy.
                     Agnieszka Grochowska [IMDb] []* as Kris the principal villainness / seductress in Foreign Body (Obce ciało) [2014].  Raised in Poland by a Communist, aunt she becomes a confused Darwinistic Capitalist / radical Feminist after the edifice of the Communist ideology fell.  But her basic problem appeared to be "how to make a mark" in a world that she's going to participate in for only 20-30-40 years (of a 60-80 year lifespan) and then "disappear", that is, eventually die (like her aunt did). It's a rather frustrating proposition to be an ambitious materialist ...

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