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Je n'aime pas dans les vieux films américains quand les conducteurs ne regardent pas la route. Et de ratage en ratage, on s'habitue à ne jamais dépasser le stade du brouillon. La vie n'est que l'interminable répétition d'une représentation qui n'aura jamais lieu.

2013 Roguie Movie Awards! Best Female Performances: Lake Bell - In a World . . . !

Lake Bell – In a World . . .

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Lake Bell has been an actress for a while, mostly on television.  With In a World . . ., a story about voice-over artists and the cutthroat business of getting the job of narrating the biggest movie trailers, she bursts into movies in an amazing way.  In a World . . . is her debut lead feature film performance; it’s also her debut feature film writing debut; also her debut directorial debut.  That’s right, she wrote, directed and starred in this film and it was her debut in all three of those areas.  The film is frankly a wonderful comedy, probably the best comedy I saw in 2013 (the two Despicable Me movies are spoilers, so maybe I should say the best live-action comedy).  The supporting cast is a who’s who of indie comedy: Ken Marino, Demetri Martin, Nick Offerman, Tig Notaro, Rob Corddry, etc.  But the movie belongs to Lake Bell as a neurotic young woman trying to break into the trailer voice-over biz, despite the fact that it’s an overwhelmingly male dominated business (seriously, try to remember the last time you saw a trailer with a female voice-over).  Her performance is one of the most finely tuned comic performances I think I’ve seen in years; she plays her character as a neurotic, somewhat spastic nerd.  She’s decidedly uncool, decidedly clumsy and decidedly uncomfortable in her world.  She’s an incredibly gifted physical comedian, but at the same every laugh flows out of her character, not out of some cheap need to get a laugh.  She can get a laugh out of the awkward way she leans up against a wall or hunches over in the back seat of a car.  She’s a lean, lanky woman and she makes fantastic use of that.  About the only place, she’s at ease in in the studio, doing the job that she loves.  Interacting with her father or sister or step-mother (who is, hilariously, younger than she herself is) or co-workers or the guy that’s got a crush on her, she’s nerdy and ill at ease, prone to break into inappropriate laughter or tip over a drink or start stammering at a furious rate.  She brings the character wonderfully to life and for all the laughter elicited by her character, the movie never feels condescending and she seems completely real and human.  You’re not so much laughing at the character as empathizing with her, recalling your most awkward, nerdy moments and laughing at just how hilariously perfect she’s captured those moments.  In a World . . . should be a star making vehicle for Lake Bell; unfortunately, few people saw it and it was completely overlooked by the big year-end awards, even by the Golden Globes in their comedy categories, which was a complete shame.  Like I said, best comedy I saw in 2013 and definitely the best comedic performance I’ve probably seen in . . . well, a couple of years anyway.  It’s a performance that deserves to stand up next to the great screwball comedy performances of yesteryear.  In fifty years, this film will have been rediscovered, just like other films that flopped in their day: Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, etc.   And Bell’s wonderful performance will be mentioned in the same sentence as performances from Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell from those same films and films like them.  It’s a glorious, hilarious performance and the fact that Bell wrote and directed as well just impresses me more.  I guess she’s going to be in some Disney movie with Jon Hamm in 2014 about inspirational baseball players, which doesn’t inspire me with a lot of excitement.  But if she gets a paycheck that allows her to make another movie like this one, more power to her.  I know that I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting for her next writing, directing or starring job.  Lake Bell has firmly established herself as a triple-threat worth watching. 

Next time, it’s a performance that, in the way Lake Bell reminded me of Katharine Hepburn’s early screwball performances, put me in mind of Bette Davis. 

2013 Roguie Awards!

2013 Roguie Movie Awards! Best Female Performances, Runners Up!

Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty

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I loved Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s methodical drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Ladin (and, yes, I literally almost typed “Red October;” that’s not a joke, it actually happened).  Chastain’s performance is wonderful and compelling.  She’s steely, grim and completely locked down; it’s a minimal, hard-edged performance.  When she finally cracks and shows real vulnerable emotion, it’s the last shot of the film and because of the minimalism of most of the performance, it’s doubly devastating.  And, believe me, I’ll never forget that she’s the m*****f***** that found the place. 

Rinko Kikuchi – Babel

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Babel is, in the long view, an intriguing failure; the four stories are compelling, but the connections between them feel forced and uninteresting.  But Rinko Kikuchi’s performance in the Japanese section of the movie is stunning.  She plays her character with complete commitment; as a sexually confused, grief-stricken, constantly angry deaf athlete she’s chillingly good.  It’s a disturbing performance of a disturbed individual.  Her pain and brutal sorrow are completely devastating to watch.  It’s a star-making performance.  Kikuchi continues to be good (the recent Pacific Rim gave her a surprisingly deep character and she did a wonderful job), but she’s never really equaled this dark, grim performance.     

Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

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Lawrence already got an award from me as part of the American Hustle ensemble, which took home a Best Ensemble award.  But she’s worth pointing out on her own.  As Christian Bale’s abrasive, manipulative wife, she’s an absolute hoot.  The film has lots of big laughs, but she gets most of them.  Her introductory scene in which she overcomes Irving’s anger with pure sex appeal; her angry rant about the disastrous “science oven” gift; the unbelievable scene where she spins out an intricate explanation for a dangerous act and the viewer is genuinely unsure of whether or not she’s telling the truth or just trying to explain away her stupidity.  It’s a funny, beautiful, sexy, winning performance.  Goddess status continues to be confirmed. 

Rooney Mara – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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This one also got on my Best Ensemble list, but I’m once again going to single out a female performance.  Mara’s role as a young woman raising a child and trying to keep faith that her husband, having escaped from prison, will somehow make his way home to her and her child is brought to life with a minimal simplicity that’s deeply evocative.  Mara finds an almost zen spirit, a laconic, taciturn tone that perfectly encapsulates the rural simplicity of 1970s Texas.  She’s a woman that rarely shows overt emotion, but in her long still pauses and the quiet warmth in her eyes hits right to the core.  Mara made her name with a showy performance in Dragon Tattoo, but she’s just as good, if not better, underplaying. 

 Lea Seydoux – Blue is the Warmest Colour

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 I first saw Seydoux in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as an icy assassin.  I didn’t particularly think she was much good at all in that, but she’s won me over with her wonderful, intense performance in this lesbian love story.  She portrays her character over a period of years and she shows the passage of time with simplicity and perfection.  From the swaggering cool of her university days to the quiet, calm peace of her later years, she doesn’t so much as portray the behavior of the character as exude the emotions from the inside out.  Whether it’s deep, sorrowful longing, intense sexual passion or wounded, violent rage, she’s absolutely note perfect for every second of this three hour movie. 

Okay, those were some amazingly good performances there, right?  So, wait until you see the fantastic performances that actually made my top ten.  Next time, it’s the only purely comedic performance to make either my top ten female and male performances.  So that’ll be fun, right?  We like to laugh. 

2013 Roguie Awards!