Review: Oscars Wild

March 10, 1998|By Jason Myers

Jason MyersReview: Oscars Wild

More on Oscar hopefuls, this time Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress:

Best Supporting Actress

Kim Basinger : "L.A. Confidential" shrewdly subverted so many noir archetypes that it was not surprising that Lynn Bracken, the upscale prostitute whom Basinger portrays, should be an atypical femme fatale. What was surprising was the depth and range of Basinger's performance. Her blue eyes have a tentative beauty like chrysanthemums, and they help transcend the artificiality of the character - Bracken had plastic surgery to make her resemble Veronica Lake. It is Bracken who, ironic as it is, provides the film with its moral trajectory, and Basinger's nuanced performance exhibits both sexuality and salvation.

Minnie Driver : "Good Will Hunting" attains its dramatic weight through the performances of Robin Williams and Matt Damon; it would be easy to overlook the delicate comic work of Driver. Her exuberance becomes tempered with a muted sorrow as Skylar, her character, tries to deconstruct Will's emotional facade. Driver deserves great credit for making the most potentially cloying aspect of the movie compelling.


Gloria Stuart: Spry old ladies have become trite characters, but Stuart manages to provide "Titanic" with a certain freshness. In fact, her portrayal of Rose at age 102 is more energetic and intelligent than Kate Winslet's Rose at age 18. Where the love story, conventional claptrap, is the ship's albatross, Stuart connects with her past amidst the Titanic's remains. It is she who makes palpable the wistful longing for the past that over-ardent critics have equated with the film's rousing spectacle and old-fashioned storytelling.

Joan Cusack: Huh? Do not get me wrong. I love Joan Cusack. She has a daft comic verve and an off-kilter winsomeness that makes her a perfect foil for a more ravishing actress. But her performance in "In & Out" suggests nothing more than the script's trite, homogenized intentions. The character becomes caricature, in fact, after writer Paul Rudnick makes her the brunt of all the movie's jilted heterosexual lover jokes.

Julianne Moore: Almost every character in Paul Thomas Anderson's porn epic "Boogie Nights" is established to be ridiculed and mocked. While Anderson could not quite hit the correct rhythm between homage and parody, Moore perfectly portrays Amber Waves, a fictional den mother of '70s "adult movie" stars. In her performance is both the tawdry allure and the ersatz tragicomedy of pornography.

Will Win - Gloria Stuart, a chance for the Academy to be sentimental. Should "Titanic" be upset (unlikely), she is the most probable victor in a major category.

Should Win - Basinger, who, as Byron said, walks in beauty like the night. Her dynamic performance blends flawlessly into "L.A. Confidential"'s ambiguity.

Best Actress

Julie Christie: Christie glows and glowers in Alan Rudolph's twilit romantic farce/melodrama "Afterglow." What pretensions the film has as a romantic comedy Christie diffuses through the seductive slow burn of her performance. Portraying a B-movie actress past her prime, Christie eclipses her beauty to deliver an incisive take on the loss of physical and mental faculties.

Kate Winslet: The proper, pompous persona of British persons is a gross cultural stereotype, and, unfortunately, Winslet perpetuates it with her unbearably wan performance in "Titanic." I was not convinced for a moment by any facet of her character, neither the melancholic rebelliousness nor the moral traditionalism.

Helena Bonham Carter: Carter's performance in the film adaptation of Henry James' "The Wings of the Dove" is so mannered and internal - much like James' prose style - that her skill might seem hidden. But while the film itself might have been little more than a pleasantly perfumed costume drama, Carter makes the subtle passion of James' novel ripe for the touch and taste. The character's love reveals itself in the slight, graceful movement of her acting.

Helen Hunt: Since "As Good As It Gets" itself seems little more than an overextended sitcom, the viewer should not be disappointed to find Hunt's portrayal of a waitress of caustic wit, Carol, is only slightly varied from her work on her series, "Mad About You." Hunt is radiant and winning, but she does not make this character very distinctive, neither in the maternal nurturing of a sickly son, nor the distaff courtship between her and Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson).

Judi Dench: While "Mrs. Brown" would be regarded by most modern viewers as chaste and understated, the romance on which it is based was quite shocking for its time. After all, Queen Victoria, whom Dench regally inhabits, did lend her name to moral and emotional reserve. More of a friendship than a love affair, the relationship between the Queen and her Scottish servant John Brown is attended to by Dench with prudish dignity yielding to warmer feelings. Dench artfully dilutes Victorian strictures through her humorous royalty.

Will Win - Helen Hunt, all-American goddess. She's the native daughter, and the British actresses will cancel themselves out.

Should Win - Carter, not the most beautiful woman (though certainly attractive) - her "Dove" co-star Allison Elliot is more aesthetically pleasing - but Carter makes sexiness both heady and raw.

Jason is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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