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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Actress

While the Actor front may have been a bit lacking this year, there was an abundance of females fighting for a spot in the Top Ten this year.  Any one of my Top Five could've easily landed the top spot in another year and it's nice that there were so many layered performances that placed the female perspective front and center this year.  (This talk amongst the Hollywood community about a lack of female-centered films really needs to be debunked.  You just need to look for them particularly in a year like 2015 and you'll find some fantastic films.)

Best Actress of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix / SoA = Streaming on Amazon / SoH = Streaming on HBO)

In the running...
(in alphabetical order)
Cate Blanchett - Truth
Sandra Bullock - Our Brand Is Crisis (SoH)
Blythe Danner - I'll See You in My Dreams (SoA)
Julianne Moore - The Maps to the Stars (SoH)
Teyonah Parris - Chi-Raq (SoA)
Lily Tomlin - Grandma

Honorable Mentions
#11 - Jamie Chung - Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong 
A "meet-cute" in the vein of the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy, Chung has a great chemistry with her real-life actor beau that helps to make this an immensely enjoyable film.  (SoN)

And the Top Ten...

#10 - Emily VanCamp - The Girl in the Book
As a character with huge emotional baggage from her youth, Ms. VanCamp exceeded my expectations in this rather heavy role.  She has crafted a character that is believably realistic in her emotions, actions, and reactions in this film that you likely haven't heard of before, but is well worth your time.  (SoN)

#9 - Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
I think the biggest reason Charlotte Rampling (nominated for an Academy Award for this role) doesn't appear higher up on my list is that I had some issues with her character's plot-driven emotional reactions to the familial drama unfolding around her.  Her character's insecurity crafts a person that some viewers may latch onto, but distanced me a little bit.  That said, Rampling nicely crafts a quiet, insular character whose ever-building tension is seemingly waiting to bust free.

#8 - Amy Poehler (plus animators) - Inside Out
The most stunning thing about Inside Out was the collaboration between the voice actors and animators to create two of the most well thought-out characters in Joy and Sadness I've seen in an animated film in some time.  Amy Poehler voices Joy and the actress's charm and ebullience shines through from the moment we hear her character speak.  Couple that with the star-like quality of the way Joy looks -- she has no "fine lines" outlining her, but rather this sensation of "fuzzy light" creating a yellowish aura around her -- and you've got a tremendously memorable character.

#7 - Golshifteh Farahani - About Elly
Director Asghar Farhadi is one of the better filmmakers on the current scene as he's managed to get fantastic performances from his cast in each of his three films I've seen.  While About Elly is largely an ensemble piece, Golshifteh Farahani is certainly the female lead as her character Sepidah journeys from a fun-loving mom to a heartbroken woman after her children's teacher Elly goes missing while on a weekend beach excursion.  Farahani eloquently depicts the struggles of an Iranian woman forced to adhere to the more stringent aspects of her culture. (SoN)

#6 - Anna Kendrick - The Last Five Years
Anna Kendrick is certainly the go-to girl for movie musicals and while I think the actress is a good singer, her minor shortcomings in her voice are washed aside by the raw emotions she is able to pack into her vocals - for that, Kendrick truly is a talent.  Kendrick grips us in the film's opening scene - as Cathy, she is reacting to the dissolution of her marriage to Jamie and we in the audience are drawn in right away.  The film's conceit - Cathy's story moves backwards so at the end of the film we're seeing her pleasure in meeting her Jamie for the first time - can be a tad confusing at times, but we're always certain of Cathy's emotional state thanks to Kendrick's portrayal. (SoN)

#5 - Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
I hated The Danish Girl.  It landed (Dis)Honorable Mentions on my Worst Film of the Year and Most Overrated Lists, and Eddie Redmayne placed #2 on my Worst Performances of the Year List.  And yet amidst all of the horribleness that makes up the film, it contains a fantastic performance from Alicia Vikander - my Breakthrough Star of the Year who also landed a #3 spot on my Supporting Actress List.  Vikander is compelling as Gerda, a woman trying to come to grips with the fact that her husband truly desires to become a woman.  We totally grasp Gerda's sense of desperation, sadness, and understanding towards her husband's plight which, in turn, becomes her plight as well since her world will drastically change.  To me, Vikander is given just as much screen time as her counterpart Eddie Redmayne and the story is just as much hers.  Hence, I've placed her in the Lead Actress category as opposed to the Supporting Actress field which felt like category fraud at the Oscars where she won this past year. (SoH)

#4 - Laia Costa - Victoria
In a film that is one continuous 132-minute-long take, actress Laia Costa had no opportunities for do-overs or retakes.  That alone must be a daunting task for any actress, but to have to portray a character who goes on quite an emotional journey in a film that uses this unusual cinematic technique is even more of an admirable feat.  Costa's Victoria is a character in search of something new and at first, admittedly, I had a difficult time understanding why her seemingly put-together character would take a journey with people from an obviously tougher crowd.  However, as the film progressed, Ms. Costa really keyed me in to why her character does what she does.  By the time the film ended, her character's motivations and emotional baggage were clear to me and it made Victoria's journey all that more compelling. (SoN)

#3 - Carey Mulligan - Far from the Madding Crowd
In the few years Carey Mulligan has been on the cinematic scene, she has always proven to be a reliable actress, but I think she delivers her best role yet in Far from the Madding Crowd.  Not knowing the story at all, I was quite taken by Mulligan's character of Bathsheba, a strong-willed, confident woman, characteristics that Mulligan fully embraces without ever coming across as overly feminist or off-putting.  The intelligence that radiates from Mulligan's persona is key to the film's plot and the actress successfully conveys it in a role that should've received more recognition last year.

#2 - Brie Larson - Room
Room is really a tale of two stories for actress Brie Larson who really popped onto my radar with her role in the fantastic Short Term 12 (my #2 film from 2013).  In the first half, she exudes a strong will for survival coupled with a loving demeanor for her son for whom she is the only source of communication, compassion, and contact.  In the second half, however, her character runs a gamut of emotions some of which I wasn't expecting, but all of which feel legitimate and believable.  It's utterly fascinating to see Joy revert back to her seventeen year-old self upon leaving Room and facing the weightiness of the real world again.  As the choices that led to her being captured and the choices she made while being trapped begin to come into doubt, Larson captures Joy's resentment and pain beautifully and is certainly one of the reasons she walked away with the Oscar for Best Actress earlier this year.

#1 - Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn
In a film that has so many fantastic things going for it, Saoirse Ronan is perhaps the greatest reason for its success.  Upon initially reviewing this film, I looked back over some of my critiques of Ronan's other works and I wasn't exactly the biggest fan, calling some of her work "bland," "unemotional", and, perhaps most damning of all, "one of the most overrated actresses working today."  I am pleased to report that has all changed with Brooklyn.  Here, she's finally given the chance to play an adult facing grown-up issues and she proves to be utterly captivating.  Her character of Eilis is certainly scared of her move to America, and the sullenness and solemness about leaving behind her homeland, friends, and family in Ireland is fully conveyed by Ronan.  However, as the film progresses, we in the audience become mesmerized by Eilis's ever-growing happiness as her relationship with her new Italian beau begins to take shape.  Her eyes, her moments of silence, her ever-so-slight movements add depth and substance to her character whom the audience grows to root for and embrace.  I can only hope that my newly discovered interest in Ms. Ronan and the praise she received for this role in Brooklyn leads to more adult-oriented roles in her future.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009

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