Sunday, January 21, 2007

so nice that the 2006 movie season has some redemption

I'm not exactly surprised that Notes on a Scandal rocked my world. It's basically a story about a lonely old woman who tends to get obsessive with her younger and hotter female cohorts. But don't let that poor pitch stand in your way; this is a seething melodrama with teeth, and perhaps one of the best dual-actress showcases seen in recent movie history.

No, I haven't seen The Queen. Yes, Helen Mirren will win her Oscar for it. I've moved on. People tire of Judi Dench because they think she locks up nominations left and right simply for showing up to work.... but compare the stately Judi Dench with her roles in the recent James Bond flicks and something like last year's Mrs. Henderson Presents up against the monster of a character she's got in Notes on a Scandal. This woman so much deserves a nomination (and a win? Why not?) just in the nuance and ferocity of her performance.... she becomes someone else while still maintaining her Judi Dench-ness, and is all the more terrifying for it. She underplays her desperation until she can make it pounce like some kind of feral cat, and there are some tense scenes where you can see the balance of power tipping in her favor that make you feel creepy all over.

The object of Dench's affection in this film? Cate Blanchett. I've read many places that people feel she's miscast here.... I would tend to disagree. Blanchett plays a young-ish school teacher who just happens to fall in with a 15-year old student of hers.... and by "fall in" I mean have dirty sex on abandoned train tracks. But her character's life is so fully wrought and displayed in a such a cool and subtle manner that I never become totally unconvinced of her character's actions. She's got a happy marriage (I guess, I suppose this is up to debate) and two children she loves with all of her heart.... but she gets swept up and accidentally (or something like that) falls in love with the kid, silly to forget that he's just 15 and will easily toss her aside like kleenex. There comes an awesome and very-filmic and somewhat creepy/beautiful scene where we see Blanchett try to go back to her teenage youth by slapping on some harloty makeup. All throughout the movie, too, she's screaming hot.... very downplayed, very sexy, and it works. Certainly in the vein that Judi Dench's character gets a little bit (okay, a lot) attached, and likes to play a kinky arm-stroking game with her too.

Bottom line: Cate Blanchett, for all I care, can step up to the podium and claim her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this. I feel for her, felt sorry for her, and loved the explosive energy she eviscerates from herself toward the end when she gets to confront Judi Dench and then go ape-shit in front of the reporters waiting for her outside.... I bought it, and I can imagine this character losing it like that. This scene, particularly with Dench, is some tight and tense moviemaking.... well-written, well-acted, well-enjoyed by me.

What stands in Blanchett's way of swiping a second Oscar for herself? The unevenly reviewed musical and Beyoncé-wardrobe showcase that is Dreamgirls. I have not seen the movie, but likely will.... if only because my interest is piqued that Eddie Murphy can actually recover from the recent career lows of wasting away in unfunny family comedies. For some reason ex-"American Idol" alumnus Jennifer Hudson has all the Oscar buzz wrapped around every one of her digits for Best Supporting Actress. To my knowledge, this is all because she knocks it out of the park because of some solo she has in the middle of the movie. Okay.... but can she act? Don't immediately auction off an Oscar just because the chick can sing. Does her role have any more oomph than just some powerful solo? (Well.... keep in mind that rapper-turned-actress-turned-Pizza Hut spokeswoman Queen Latifah scored an Oscar nomination off a solo song in Chicago.... she must have just off the song, because her role was somewhat nonexistent otherwise.)

So, is Notes on a Scandal my favorite movie of 2006? Let's go with second favorite; I certainly look forward to adding it to my movie shelf. It's totally dark and twisted and hits you with the right amount of sub-campy force and intensity that's necessary for a quality rock-your-socks-off melodrama. The top of the list for the year deserves its own post upon rewatching in the near future. Just to keep you all in drooling suspense.


J.J. said...

I think this is both Dench's and Blanchett's best work ever (they will factor prominently in my "year"-end awards). And I agree the film is a ripping good yarn, though I was a tad pissed by the rather pat ending.

Josh Kellogg said...

Ugh, damn Hudson. Like you, I haven't seen Dreamgirls yet, but the performances from the two ladies in Babel, Adriana Barraza and especially Rinko Kikuchi were very good, imo. Rinko practically blew me away as the deaf-mute girl, her lonliness was palpable. Either one deserves it better than Hudson. But that's just me.

Greg said...

Good call on Dench. She was actually really good in the Bond movies.

I'll have to check out "Notes" one of these day. Cheers.

Dale said...

I can't wait to see this film and think Cate Blanchett should get an Oscar every day just because.

I've seen Dreamgirls and Jennifer Hudson is pretty good both on the acting and singing fronts but the movie really lost steam for me in the second half. Eddie Murphy believe it or not, is decent. He's going to be able to accidentally afford to pick up trannys again soon!

I saw a link for your site on Write Procrastinator's.

Writeprocrastinator said...

I knew that after "Elizabeth," I would watch Cate in almost anything. That movie with Bruce and Billy Bob withstanding.

Judy Dench is certainly in that premiere echelon. She knows nuance and can convey more with the raise of an eyebrown, than all of the actors in the twenty million dollar club put together, could with all of their hearts.

Writeprocrastinator said...

Nothing on the Emmys? No commentary on the Oscars??? That is wrong and you're killing me, man!

Dale said...

And as it turns out, I loved it!