1997  
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO ...
____________________________________________________________________

Julie Chritie in AFTERGLOW

"She is easily the standout of the film, and adds a bit of glamour and a lot of mystery, but the character is very limited."

★★★

Judi Dench in Mrs BROWN

"She embodies the Queen larger than life in her posture and her speaking, and manages to give a very convincing performance."

★★

Kate Winslet in TITANIC

"In a very physically and challenging role, She manages to give a very captivating, overwhelming and poignant performance."

★★★

Helen Hunt in AS GOOD AS IT GETS

"Helen Hunt has empathy for her character and not only sympathy allowing her to give a brilliant performance."

★★★★

Helena Bonham Carter in THE WINGS OF THE DOVE

"[she] perfectly embodies the tragic heroine both romantic, impulsive and free-spirited."

★★★★


                                             THE CONCLUSION                                                

Before I started, I expected nothing special from this year because from the nominees, I had only seen Kate Winslet in "Titanic". 1997 turns out to be a very good year, with many great performances. Helena Bonham Carter is easily my pick, she has haunted me many days after I watched the film, which is a sign that her performance has something really special. I was very apprehensive about Helen Hunt's performance, her win is not very popular, but in fact it's a poignant and really moving performance. The 3rd and 4th place are more complex to attribute, but finally I place Winslet before Judi Dench. I think her performance is more complex and nuanced, and for me she's more effective than Judi Dench, even if she is also quite superb in "Mrs Brown". The last one is easily Julie Christie, she is the weakest from the field. She has clearly not a lot of things to do, and she is really not helped by the film or her partners.


                                   THE ACADEMY AWARDS and ME                                      



    NEXT YEAR: 2010
HELEN HUNT  
as Carole Connelly in AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997)
____________________________________________________________________

Melvin Udall is a misanthrope who works at home as a best-selling novelist in New York City. He suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder which, paired with his misanthropy, alienates nearly everyone with whom he interacts. He eats breakfast at the same table in the same restaurant every day using disposable plastic utensils he brings with him due to his pathological mysophobia. He takes an interest in his waitress, Carol Connelly, the only server at the restaurant who can tolerate his behavior. 


"When you first entered the restaurant, I thought you were handsome... and then, of course, you spoke."
                                         - Carol Connelly

Helen Hunt received her one and only Oscar for her performance as Carol Connelly, the only waitress who tolerates Melvin Udall, a cranky, bigoted, obsessive-compulsive writer but she has to leave work to care for her sick son, making it impossible for Melvin to eat breakfast. Helen Hunt makes the right choice and portrays beautifully a very down-to-earth character with no extravaganza or overacting. She stays 
simple and very realistic allowing her to give a performance we can all relate to. As a brave mother who does everything to take care of her child, Helen Hunt adds a lot of vulnerability and determination to her interpretation. She is very effective and we really feel that all her reactions are not false, her performance is a lot much deeper that it seems. She doesn't have to lie or pretend to manage to give an authentic but also very natural performance. She shows rightly the struggles and the difficulties to be a single mom. Helen Hunt has empathy for her character and not only sympathy allowing her to give a brilliant performance and not just an average one. On her side of course, she has a good screenplay with many witty, funny and sentimental scenes, and two outstanding and great partners. Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear work really well together, and their chemistry is really enjoyable and flawless. Jack Nicholson is outstanding playing Melvin Udall, he’s funny, moving, sarcastic. Greg Kinnear is also superb, as Melvin’s homosexual neighbor, he adds a lot of humanity and kindness to the movie. He is very effective. 


"Both funny and sad, the comedy was in the vein of Brooks' Terms of Endearment, except it was more eccentric and nuttier and in moments genuinely touching due to strong chemistry between Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt."
                                                                                               - Emmanuel Levy

Thanks to a well-written screenplay and two delicious and talented partners, Helen Hunt pushes the boundaries and reminds all what is the incredible power of the mother’s love. In As Good as It Gets she is honest, effective and above all very Natural. Everything seems so easy in her way to act, to move, to speak and to let her emotions appear. 

★★★★
JUDI DENCH 
as Queen Victoria in Mrs BROWN (1997)
____________________________________________________________________

Still in mourning over the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria meets Mr. Brown, a member of her household staff who thinks the time has come for her to start living a normal life. He soon gains the Queen's favor and friendship and his authority and status in the household are soon on the rise. This creates concerns among the Queen's many advisers who see their own influence diminishing and the Queen's reputation being tarnished. As a result, they move to ensure Mr. Brown's future influence in the household is kept in check. .  


"Without you I can't find the strength to be who I must to be."
                                         - Queen Victoria

Judi Dench received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as the Queen Victoria, deeply depressed after the death of her husband, she is brought back to life by the adoration and kindness of her servant Brown. The first time Judi Dench appears on screen, we already feel her sorrow. Her face can’t lie and delivers many emotions: sorrow, pain,
grief. The Queen is still mourning over the death of her beloved Prince Albert. She misses him dreadfully, allowing Judi Dench to give a poignant performance. Her loss turns her and she becomes a bit irritating and cold. A trusted servant of Victoria’s then deceased husband is called to help her because time has come for her to start living a normal life. Thanks to him, she is starting to enjoy life again. Judi Dench makes the transition from the mourning Queen to the new one who enjoys life so easily, and  in a very believable way. Mr Brown becomes her confident, and a strange and unconventional relationship is formed. This creates concerns among the Queen's many advisers who see their own influence diminishing and the Queen's reputation being tarnished. Judi Dench and Billy Connolly manage to create a very strong and convincing relationship. With him, the Queen Victoria is joyful, lovely and Judi Dench is really a great charmer. Her acting is very natural and subtle, she manages to humanize her character. The way they care about each other is very touching. Judi Dench adds some lightness and calm to her portrayal.  She’s never over the top. Her acting is very effective and honest, she doesn’t have to pretend because everything is so true. 


"Dench's Victoria has a full palette of pent-up emotions bubbling inside her like a pressure-cooker; one can feel the power of her anguish."
                                                                                               - Film Quips Online

Despite the limits of her character, Judi Dench does her best and gives a lot of humanity to her character. She embodies the Queen larger than life in her posture and her speaking, and manages to give a very convincing performance on a lesser known chapter of her life.  

★★★
JULIE CHRISTIE   
as Phillys Mann in AFTERGLOW (1997)
____________________________________________________________________

Phyllis Mann and her husband Lucky are a married couple whose marriage has slowly skidded to a halt. There's still a glimmer of affection left between the two, but very little love and no passion.  Phyllis is aware of Lucky's infidelity but isn't terribly concerned as long as he's not looking for anything more serious. The fragile link between Phyllis and Lucky begins to crack when Lucky is hired by Maxine Byron. Maxine desperately wants children, but her arrogant yuppie husband Jeffrey has no interest in starting a family.  


"My soul needs a overhaul."
                                         - Phyllis Mann

Julie Christie received her third Academy Award nomination for her performance as Phyllis Mann, a one-time horror film star, who spends her days alone, often lost in her memories as she watches her old films on television, while Lucky, her husband, works as a repairman and builder, often engaging in brief liaisons with the women he's working for. At first, we don’t understand Chritie’s character, and it takes a while to have so clues.
Thanks to Chritie’s aura, she has the ability to add to her character a lot of mystery and portrays someone very conflicted.  She’s haunted and ravaged by something which occurred in her past, and she’s now in a kind of vegetative position. She is struggling, and she wants to feel something … despair, happiness, whatever she JUST wants to FEEL something, but we still don’t know why. We see that Julie christie tries to convince us, but the writting is so bad, she fails to transcend it. If the character would be better well-written, Christie would have shone, but she has nothing to do. Then, we learn that one day Phyllis told her husband that he was not the father of her daughter, then few weeks later they received a letter of the daughter in which she wrote that they both were not fit to be her parents and she will never want to see them again. But the explication comes too late in the film. The scene in which Julie Chritie tells this episode of her life is really flawless. We finally understand why her marriage falls apart and why she is struggling . She is really fantastic in that scene she is really full of emotion, she tries to use the right words – she’s painful and wonderful, but it’s too late.


[Julie Christie is certainly not helped by the film which is not great, or her partners who are really attrocious. Nick Nolte is just fine, Johnny Lee Miller just average but Lara Flynn Boyle is really bad.]


"Christie is a revelation, a lilting, charming schemer ... She alone is reason enough to see this flawed and haunting film."
                                                                                               - Philip Martin

Julie Christie does her best to bring some quality to this very bad written film. She is easily the standout of the film, and adds a bit of glamour and a lot of mystery, but the character is very limited, and doesn't allow her to show us all her charisma.  Poor Julie Christie why did you accept this film ? 

★★★
KATE WINSLET 
as Rose DeWitt Bukater in TITANIC (1997)
____________________________________________________________________

In 1996, Brock Lovett and his team explore the wreck of Titanic, searching for a diamond necklace called the Heart of the Ocean. They recover Caledon Hockley's safe, believing the necklace to be inside, but instead find a sketch of a nude woman wearing it, dated April 14, 1912. An elderly woman named Rose Dawson Calvert calls Lovett and claims that she is the woman depicted and she visits him and his team on his salvage ship. Asked if she knows about the necklace, Rose recalls her time aboard the Titanic...  

"And all the while I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one even looks up."
                                         - Rose DeWitt Bukater

Kate Winslet received her second Oscar nomination and first in the best actress category playing the iconic Rose DeWitt Bukater, a 17 year-old, forced into an engagement with a 30 year-old man, who embarks on the Titanic, as a first-class passenger, and falls in love with Jack Dawson, a third-class passenger. Kate Winslet brings a lot of authenticity to her character: she works hard on her posture, on her American accent, on her way to speak, her way to stand. We never doubt that she's from a rich aristocracy family. Her performance is a lot more substantial that what we might think. Kate Winslet manages to transcend the screenplay and adds a lot of complexity to her character. Rose is a character full of contradictions: vulnerable and brave, tamed and rebellious, lovely and cold. 
Kate makes us easily feel that her character is struggling, she wants to explore and adventure the world, but she feels that’s not going to happen. Through the movie, Rose completely transforms herself thanks to the talent of Kate Winslet. From the chained and lonely girl, she turns herself into this determined and independent young woman, who dreams of freedom, even if she has to leave her family behind, allowing Kate to use her emotions and her talent. She is torn apart between her sense, about what she owes to her family, and her feelings, her unconditional love for Jack. Thanks to Kate and her performance, we can definitely relate to her. In all the scenes when the ship is sinking, she’s great, full of emotions, torn between despair, pain, relief, fear. It’s very physical and Kate brings so much intensity and acting in these very difficult scenes to shoot. The physically and mentally chemistry between Rose and Jack, played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio (probably the best actor of his generation) is undeniable. The relation is strong and powerful.  The love and the attraction between them seem so real, vivid, pure but also very sensual. It’s very rare to see two actors having such a beautiful chemistry. The “I’m flying” scene is their best scene and certainly one of the most iconic in film’s history.
  

"A timeless epic that gets me every time, the power of the storytelling and the performances by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio grip throughout."
                                                                                               - Daily Express

It’s not easy to shine in a film in which the story itself is the massive and main actor, but Kate Winslet does her best (despite the writing which is far from perfect) and brings some intensity and authenticity to the epic-disaster-drama film Titanic. In a very demanding and challenging role, She manages to give a very captivating, overwhelming and poignant performance. 

★★★
HELENA BONHAM CARTER  
as Kate Croy in THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1997)
____________________________________________________________________

In early 1900s London, Kate Croy lives under the careful watch of her domineering Aunt Maude, who is determined that the woman does not follow in the path of her recently deceased mother, whose dissolute husband, squandered her wealth. Maude wants Kate to marry the well-off Lord Mark, who has a title and estates, despite the fact that Kate does not love him. Kate is dependent on her wealthy aunt's goodwill, but abandons her plans to defy her aunt when she is reminded that her father is at Maud's mercy as well.  


"I know that it must be difficult to write when you’re with her all the time, but please try; if only to reassure me. In my head I follow you around the streets and canals. Sometimes I even see you touch her, and I’m suddenly scared. Even if you don’t write back, read this letter again and again. And every time she looks at you, and every time she smiles… Don’t forget I love you more"
                                         - Kate Croy

Helena Bonham Carter received her first and only Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category for her performance as Kate Croy, an impoverished British woman, trapped by her wealthy aunt, the latter aware of Kate's clandestine affair with Merton Densher a young man with no money, and threatens her with expulsion unless she breaks off the relationship, adding that she will also stop giving handouts to her father, Kate has no choice but to obey, and Merton disappears from her life. Helena Bonham Carter perfectly embodies the tragic heroine both romantic, impulsive and free-spirited, and she manages to give a very deep and touching performance. 
She takes high risks and adds a very haunting and fragile side to her portrayal, allowing us to be affected by her torments and her love for Merton. When she meets Merton again at a party, her face is clear and tells us everything, she tries to hide her emotions, but she can’t and she suddenly becomes so vulnerable. It’s a very heartbreaking scene, because she knows that she loves him but she can’t be with him. Then Kate is introduced to Millie Theale, an American orphan and heiress. When Kate learns that Millie is fatally ill, the latter provides Kate with not only a trip to Venice, but an opportunity to break free of her aunt and her poverty. At this right moment, Kate Croy becomes a more complex and unusual character, and Helena Bonham Carter shows this paradox quite perfectly. Kate Croy appears kind and lovely, but also jealous, bitter and manipulative. The fictional character of Kate Croy is a very ambiguous one, and Helena Bonham Carter brings brilliantly all the complexity to her interpretation. Until the very end, we are still wondering: Does Kate really care about Millie? Or is this just a question of money? – We never really know her true intentions. This is the true testament of a great performance. The last scene between Merton and Kate is raw and brutal: full of despair and hardness. We easily understand that finally they are both trapped, and that their relation will never be the same.  


"Bonham Carter never allows the audience to lose the feeling that Kate truly does care about Milly--it's just that she cares about herself even more."
                                                                                               - The Movie Report

Helena Bonham Carter gives a first rate-performance, She manages to portray the human emotions that lead Kate to make her choices and never fails showing us all the impulsivity and the complexity of her character. 

★★★★
1997 
AND THE NOMINEES FOR THE BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE ARE ...

  • Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings of the Dove
  • Julie Christie in Afterglow
  • Judi Dench in Mrs Brown
  • Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets
  • Kate Winslet in Titanic


What do you think  ?  Your Prediction  ?  Your Ranking  ? 
1944 
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO ...
____________________________________________________________________

Bette Davis in Mr SKEFFINGTON

" Despite the terrible writing, the role itself is really meaty but Bette fails to create it on screen."

★★★
Ingrid Bergman in GASLIGHT

" Her performance is not effective, she doesn't make the right choices in her way to act."


 Greer Garson in Mrs PARKINGTON

"[Greer] manages to bring some soul and life to her character, and it was not an easy thing to do."

★★

Claudette Colbert in SINCE YOU WENT AWAY

"[Claudette] is the heart and soul of the movie. She is superb and is hands down the best performance of the movie."

★★★

Barbara Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY

"Barbara Stanwyck is the archetype of the femme fatal: seductive, manipulative, cold [and] plays wonderfully with all these sides."

★★★★


                                             THE CONCLUSION                                                

1944 is not the great year that I thought it would be. Barbara Stanwyck is hands down my winner, she gave the best performance, and she is in the best film. From good to bad, the other four are not really mesmerizing and they are not in memorable films.


                                   THE ACADEMY AWARDS and ME                                      



    NEXT YEAR: 1997
INGRID BERGMAN 
as Paula Alquist Anton in GASLIGHT (1944)
____________________________________________________________________

In London, Alice Alquist is strangled and her famous jewels miss. Her young niece Paula is sent to Italy. Ten years later, Paula decides to get married with the pianist Gregory Anton, who convinces her to move back to the old address in London. When they arrive, Paula finds a letter from a mysterious Sergis Bauer, making Gregory upset. He psychologically begins to torture Paula and she has a nervous breakdown and memory problems. When the policeman Brian Cameron sees Anton, he recognizes him and decides to investigate and find evidences to connect Gregory with the murder... 

"If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I'm mad, I'm rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of regret, watching you go with glory in my heart!"
                                         - Paula Alquist Anton

Ingrid Bergman received her first Academy Award, playing Paula, an orphaned whose opera-singer aunt is murdered. She moves to Italy to follow in her aunt's footsteps as a diva, but falls in love and returns to London with her new husband to live in her aunt's empty house. There, she becomes the victim of a carefully-orchestrated campaign to drive her
insane. The main issue in Ingrid Bergman’s performance is that she is always overacting: always doing big movements, looking in the emptiness with her eyes wide open, touching her face - there is nothing subtle in her performance, and sometimes it's grotesque. She never becomes suspicious or a bit rebellious. When her husband manipulates her, tells her she’s forgetful, that she loses things, that she is sick. I would have liked seeing that she is torn apart between her sense and what her husband tells her. She always takes what he says for granted. 
I would have preferred more nuances in her acting, she’s is supposed to be haunted and tormented. I would have preferred more contradictions, more challenges in her acting. When the truth is about to be revealed, she’s at first in denial, and this scene is really well-executed and overwhelming. She can’t imagine that the husband she loves is the one who tormented her. The final confrontation scene, between Paula and her husband is really terrific. It’s the highlight in Bergman’s performance.  All through the film, the relation Husband/wife is really interesting, showing how he abused her, how he lets her hopeless, and how he managed to drive her crazy.


"Ingrid Berman, who won the first of her three Oscars for this film, is terrific as the fragile bride terrorized by her husband's dirty tricks. The Oscar cemented Bergman's reputation as Hollywood's most popular actress."
                                                                                               - Emmanuel Levy

Her performance in « Gaslight » doesn’t allow Ingrid Bergman to show all her range of emotions. Her performance is not subtle enough, her acting is too much mannered, overall she's always overacting.  Her performance is not effective, she doesn't make the right choices in her way to act. 

★★
GREER GARSON 
as Susie Parkington in Mrs. PARKINGTON (1944)
____________________________________________________________________

In this family saga, Mrs. Parkington recounts the story of her life, beginning as a hotel maid in frontier Nevada where she is swept off her feet by mine owner and financier Augustus Parkington. He moves them to New York, tries to remake her into a society woman, and establishes their home among the wealthiest of New York's high society. Family and social life is not always peaceful, however, and she guides us, in flashbacks, through the rises and falls of the Parkington family fortune... 


"Gus will never give up what he owns, and he owns me"
                                         - Susie Parkington

Greer Garson received her fifth Oscar nomination, for her performance as Susie Parkington, a chambermaid who following her mother's death marries the wealthy Major Augustus Parkington. Susie (Greer Garson is not really believable as a young woman) is a strong minded girl with a lot of dreams. When her mother is killed in an explosion at Augustus's mine, she is overcome with grief. Feeling responsible for her, Augustus convinces her to marry him and takes her back to New York City. Susie discovers a new world with wealthy people. Greer Garson shows rightly the way Susie is overwhelmed by everything around her. She is attracted by the beautiful things and she really wants to fit in this new world. She has to be educated, she has to learn to wear beautiful dresses. Greer Garson manages to shine being vulnerable and a bit na├»ve – We really understand that she is bewitched by this new world. 
On their third wedding anniversary, Susie surprises Augustus by announcing she is pregnant. Thrilled by the news, Gus decides to host a ball but only a few guests show up. Susie suffers a miscarriage, and Gus blames the guests who stayed away from the ball for the loss and vows revenge. Later, Susie finally learns about Augustus's plot and moves out. Greer Garson here is perfect, from the tamed and understanding woman, she turns herself into this rebellious and angry Susie, and manages to add to her interpretation some intensity and gravity. The break up scene between Susie and Augustus is really well written and interpreted. Later, overwhelmed with grief over the accidental death of her only son, Susie has become a recluse. She’s not enough effective in this scene and when she learns her husband is courted by a woman suddenly she is better and wants to get him back. The screenplay is really bad here, but she manages to add a jealous and bitter side to her character, and the confrontation scene with “the other woman” is really enjoying and pleasurable. However, in all those scenes, she is supposed to have aged a bit, but we don’t see a difference in her acting: She doesn’t change her way to speak or move. I would have preferred more nuances. 


[The real highlight and the sweetest moments are the scenes between Mrs Parkington and the Baronesse Aspasia Conti, played by the talented Agnes Moorehead. It’s a very complex situation at first, but the friendship grows between them through the film. They take care of each other and the relationship became deeper and more touching.]


"Garson though holds the film together, convincing in her transformation to rich matriarch, right down to a pretty good make up job when she’s all old and wrinkly."
                                                                                               - MonsterHunter

Greer Garson doesn’t get a very challenging and demanding role, and surely not enough substantial to allow her to give a deep and interesting performance. It’s all script's fault. However, she manages to bring some soul and life to her character, and it was not an easy thing to do. 

★★