Sunday, July 02, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: Round 1 Concludes

64 women enter. One woman leaves.

A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).

Round 1 (continued)

Hope Davis vs. Chloe Sevigny
Quantity: For the longest time, I didn't think I cared for either of these actresses. Both are sour of face and unrelentingly serious onscreen. I came around to Davis earlier, by virtue of her playing opposite Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. I didn't end up coming around to Sevigny until this year, when she won me over so completely with her Emmy-worthy performance on HBO's Big Love. The weird thing is, once I got over that hump, I realized I kind of always liked her, even when she was decidedly unlikeable (Dogville; Shattered Glass; A Map of the World). I'm as surprised as anyone that Chloe takes this.
Quality: We've got Sevigny's Nicki Grant versus Davis's Joyce Brabner from American Splendor. Both eminently worthy of praise. Both prickly without begging for your approval. Ultimately...and this is a photo-finish here...ehhhhhh Chloe Sevigny. That was a tough call.
Fake Oscar Nods: Davis: 1 (American Splendor); Sevigny: 1 (Boys Don't Cry). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: They're both fairly laconic, but Davis is passive laconic, while Chloe is more of a drugged-out, secretly desperate laconic. I've always got my money on the junkie.
Winner: Chloe Sevigny 3-0.

Diane Keaton vs. Reese Witherspoon
Quantity: Keaton has given a lot of great performances in her career. She just hasn't concentrated enough of them in the last ten years to be able to overtake Reese, whose credits are even more impressive than you might think. From Election to Legally Blonde to Vanity Fair (she really ran the gamut on pluck and ambition, huh?) to Pleasantville to Walk the Line.
Quality: Keaton was pretty great in Something's Gotta Give. Reese was a billion times greater in Election.
Fake Oscar Nods: Witherspoon: 3 (Walk the Line; Election; Pleasantville); Keaton: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Keaton's got that old lady caginess that I've found so formidable in the elder ladies on this list. But Reese had a photographer who harassed her family at Disney's California Adventure murdered in his hotel room. Ice water in her veins. Daine won't ever see it coming.
Winner: Reese Witherspoon 4-0.

Virginia Madsen vs. Mary-Louise Parker
Quantity: You know, I honestly don't remember when I started loving Mary-Louise Parker, but the love is pure and true. The last ten years saw her being more impressive on the stage than on the screen, but a handful of stellar TV performances -- recurring on The West Wing; Emmy-licious in Angels in America -- put her on this list. Virginia Madsen's career only just rejuventated itself two years ago, so it's no shame that she's only got Sideways and Prairie Home Companion to work with here. Though I loved her in both, MLP has more credits.
Quality: Parker's Harper Pitt in Angels in America bests Madsen's Maya in Sideways.
Fake Oscar Nods: Madsen: 1 (Sideways); Parker: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Well, in Prairie Home Companion, Madsen plays an angel of death who brings on the demise of those she comes in contact with. On the other hand, MLP is awesome. Advantage: Parker.
Winner: Mary-Louise Parker 3-1

Maggie Gyllenhaal vs. Rachel McAdams
Quantity: Another close one. Both have emerged rather recently as among the best actresses of their generation. McAdams rode in on Mean Girls, then busted out with the '05 trio (Wedding Crashers, Red Eye, and The Family Stone), while Gyllenhaal has taken a more gradual approach on her road from Donnie Darko through Happy Endings. McAdams ekes out a slim victory.
Quality: Oh, Regina George in Mean Girls. So very fantastic. But I tend to admire the work Gyllenhaal put into her amoral Happy Endings character a liiittle bit more.
Fake Oscar Nods: Gyllenhaal: 0; McAdams: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Maggie certainly seems like a scrapper, or at least the scrapper of her family. But between Mean Girls, The Family Stone, and her pen-wielding antics in Red Eye, I'm a little afraid of Rachel McAdams.
Winner: Rachel McAdams 2-1

Uma Thurman vs. Rachel Weisz
Quantity: Weisz's recent Oscar win is something of a culmination of her steady improvement onscreen, The Mummy and its sequels notwithstanding. Thurman, however, has put in a very steady decade, even aside from her Tarantino-directed highlights.
Quality: Weisz has the all-too-rare distinction of winning the Oscar for her career-best performance, in last year's The Constant Gardener. But with The Bride, Uma (and Quentin) created something of an icon, and it's tough to compete with that.
Fake Oscar Nods: Thurman: 2 (Kill Bill, Vol. 1; Kill Bill, Vol. 2); Weisz: 1 (The Constant Gardener)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Um...The Bride? Remember? As wicked as Rachel was in The Shape of Things, Uma's still the one with the Hanzo sword.
Winner: Uma Thurman 4-0

Helena Bonham Carter vs. Charlize Theron
Quantity: Dead heat. Each has put in solid work in unspectacular fare -- Theron in The Devil's Advocate and Celebrity; Helena in Corpse Bride and TV's Merlin. Each has given their fare share of awardsy performances. At then end of the day, it's a push.
Quality: Ooh, check out this clash of the titans: Charlize in Monster versus Helena in Fight Club. Dammit. This one's gonna hurt. They're both SO good. How can I be expected to choose? I suppose, with a gun to my head, I'll give the edge to Theron by the slimmest of margins. She had to carry that movie on her own. Helena had more help.
Fake Oscar Nods: Bonham Carter: 2 (Fight Club; The Wings of the Dove); Theron: 1 (Monster)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: It's actually the same dilemma as criterion #2: Aileen Wournos versus Marla Singer. Yes, Marla's the junkie while Aileen's merely a drunk, and I always prefer the harder-drugged combatant, but a serial killer. Can't fuck with that. Charlize takes it.
Winner: Charlize Theron 2-1

Holly Hunter vs. Julianne Moore
Quantity: Here's where the last-minute decision to extend the cut-off from 2000 to 1996 really switched things up. All of a sudden, Julianne Moore's not only playing with her 2002 The Hours/Far From Heaven double dip; she's also got that stellar run from 1997-99 where she seemed to hit every single performance out of the park. Tough to see how Holly Hunter (Thirteen; The Incredibles) can be expected to compete.
Quality: It's actually harder to pick Moore's best performance (it's between Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven, FYI) than to decide whether it'll beat Hunter in Thirteen. It will. It does.
Fake Oscar Nods: Moore: 3 (Far From Heaven; Magnolia; Boogie Nights); Hunter: 1 (Thirteen)
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Now it's Holly's time to shine! Julianne's not much of a fighter, I don't think, whereas Ms. Hunter looks ready to bust open a can of Georgia whoop-ass on someone at all times.
Winner: Julianne Moore 3-1

Catherine O'Hara vs. Evan Rachel Wood
Quantity: On the wings of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, O'Hara flies past the teen angst -- both modern (The Upside of Anger) and period-based (The Missing) -- of young miss Wood.
Quality: Well, crap. Another hard one. Evan Rachel's breakthrough work on Thirteen versus the apex of O'Hara's Guest work in A Mighty Wind. Ultimately, O'Hara manages to kick in superior comedy and drama, which tilts the competition her way.
Fake Oscar Nods: Wood: 1 (Thirteen); O'Hara: 0
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: The unbridled ferocity of youth helps Evan Rachel get the duke in this matchup.
Winner: 2-2. HOLY CRAP IT'S ANOTHER TIE! Readers, it's all on your shoulders now. You know what to do. Vote wisely and once.



in a moment where i'm surprising myself i'ma go with O'Hara.

because of the unique talent she brings to the table. and the underappreciated factor

Anonymous said...

Catherine O'Hara. Nathaniel hit the nail on the head.

par3182 said...

this is the close one? you've gotta be kidding...

catherine o'hara - who deserved an oscar nomination (real and fake) for a mighty wind

Sticky Keys said...

O'Hara all the way. 15 Christopher Guest movies can't be wrong.

And 13 was only really good when it came out, after a while it wears on you, which can't be said of too many O'Hara performances. Except Six Feet Under, but I think that was the point.

mathan said...

You gotta go with O'Hara, her "Guest" starring roles are more than a match for anything Wood has to offer, and anything beyond that puts her over the top.

NYOne said...

While I loved ERW in Once and Again, AND she was in talks to play Veronica Mars in The Aaron Echolls Story, absolutely have to give this one to Catharine O'Hara.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Definitely O'Hara. Wood has only impressed me in 13 (she didn't register in Upside of Anger)

So, yeah, O'Hara.

wolfchick said...

Wheeee, I get to vote again. This one isn't even a contest, really. I don't care how long ago it was, I'm still in love with Catherine from Beetlejuice. So, yeah. I don't think ERW has a shot in hell here.

But your Mary-Louise Parker love (which I share, btw -- she IS awesome), brings up a far more interesting face off of the co-ed variety: MLP vs. Billy Crudup. Go.

adam k. said...

Well I'm gonna be the spoiler and throw a bone to Wood... I am shocked that she's been abandoned in her hour of need. LOVED her in Thirteen. Can't believe you thought O'Hara's Mickey was better than Wood's Tracy. I love O'Hara too, but... geez. I vote Wood. I am ashamed of you people.

adam k. said...

And can I just say that I LOVE this project, and that it's made me literally laugh out loud, really loud, more than once. I haven't laughed this much at anything on the internet since... maybe ever. And that's including all the Ellen Show interviews I watch on YouTube.

Love that you revisited the "Reese having the photographer killed" thing (Reese Witherspoon will cut you). In fact, all the girlfights have been brilliant.

"Sarandon's no pushover, but Swinton is downright scary." So true.

With everything from 1996 through right now in play, the ones I really think are unstoppable are Blanchett, Streep, Winslet, Moore, and of course Kidman (still). And apparently Linney too, cause you said so. Pity that none of them are really fighters. I guess maybe that's their collective weak point. The fiercest of those 6 is probably Winslet, so maybe that'll giver her an edge in later rounds.


hey wait a second. I just realized that Pfeiffer wasn't one of the 64 actresses. WHAT?!?

for those ten years she's got What Lies Beneath, White Oleander, One Fine Day, and OK a bunch of crap but still. those three! plus i'd love to know who she could take in a fight (what with those razor sharp cheekbones, that death glare, etc...)


Joe R. said...

I was wondering when you'd notice! Sad to say, I'm not as big a fan of One Fine Day and What Lies Beneath as...some of us. Feel free to file a written complaint with the internet police.

Judi said...

Catherine O'Hara is great, but I love Evan Rachel Wood so much (She was also incredible in "Pretty Persuasion") and she only got like one vote so I have to throw a vote her way!!!

adam k. said...

Thanks, Judi. Wood needs us.

Who got the most votes in Gwynnie vs Zooey? That one was looking pretty even.