Thursday, August 10, 2006

Beyond Actress-dome: The Quarterfinals begin!

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).


Quantity: Total mismatch here. Winslet's spare shooting schedule has made her easy prey in this category for far less prolific actresses. She can't really be expected to compete with Linney and her can't-do-much-wrong-in-Joe's-eyes list of credits.

Quality: Tough match. Linney's Sammy Prescott in You Can Count on Me and Winslet's Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind both endeared themselves to me because they felt very natural and lived-in. While not being anything approaching similar characters, they both felt like you could happen upon them in your local coffee shop or book store. They were both difficult, yet sympathetic women. They both received career-best performances from their male leads. And they both should have won the Oscar. Alas. In a rather close call, I give the edge to Laura Linney, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I just liked it a liiiiiittle bit more.

Fake Oscar Nods: Linney: 3 (You Can Count on Me; The Squid and the Whale; Primal Fear); Winslet: 3 (Eternal Sunshine...; Holy Smoke; Titanic). Push

Spotlights Stolen: They co-starred in The Life of David Gale. Truly, nobody wins in that situation. But I really should choose. Linney's deceased death row activist was a manipulation, but that was more in the script than in the characterization. Similarly, Winslet had nothing to work with, and the performance showed it. Linney was at least partially memorable and came the closest to almost sort of redeeming the movie, kinda. That she did so by, you know, dying doesn't diminish that. At least not enough. Edge: Linney.

Girlfight Factor: Kate knows she's probably been beaten by the time she gets in the ring with Linney. But that only gives fuel to her fire. Kate delivers a great ass-whomping to Linney and achieves something of a catharsis in the process.

Winner: Laura Linney 3-1

Quantity: Allen comes to play with six great performances in a decade. Solid output, but not exactly prolific. She's matched exactly by Witherspoon, who took a while to master the "one for the studio, one for me" method of role-choosing, but once she did, she scored a $100 million hit and an Oscar. Not bad. Anyway, with the numbers being equal, we've got a push.

Quality: Reese's turn as Tracey Flick in Election gets pitted against Allen's Terry Wolfmeyer in The Upside of Anger. Both were fantastic star turns. Both saw an almost pre-destined matching of actress to role -- nobody could have played these parts better. I give the edge to Witherspoon. It made a more indelible impression on the pop-cult landscape.

Fake Oscar Nods: Allen: 4 (The Upside of Anger; The Contender; Pleasantville; The Crucible); Witherspoon: 3 (Walk the Line; Election; Pleasantville)

Spotlights Stolen: Oh, man. This is so hard. Okay, so they were both in Pleasantville, and I have to decide who gave the better performance. This is tough. When I first saw it, Allen's performance was the one that stood out. But in recent viewings (what? TNT airs it a lot.), it's been Reese who has made a bigger mark. Mostly because she took a role that didn't really require a great performance in order for the film to work (the film really does turn on Tobey Maguire, Allen, and William H. Macy), but she gave one anyway. And she managed to be sexy and funny in a way that didn't diminish her character. That being said...most of what makes that movie work, and transforms it from a high-concept fluff picture into something worth remembering, is contained in Joan Allen's performance. Without her, the film is lost, and she played her part so perfectly. I can't not recognize that. Edge: Allen

Girlfight Factor: It's Reese's toughest test to date. Joan can match her icewater-for-icewater, and in fact I think she might even get Reese to flinch a couple times with that steely glare of hers. So for the first time, Reese's cold, calculating side will have to give way to the sprightly southern girl within and let her win this one on athleticism and a little hair-pulling. She may end up a little more battered, but still victorious. Edge: Reese

Winner: 2-2. A TIE! I tried every which way to make this not the case. I couldn't do it with a clear conscience. These two are neck and neck. I need the readers to make the call. Vote wisely and once.


adam k. said...

Oh man. This is BRUTAL. First, I had to watch Kate go down, and now I have to choose between Reese and Joan? You are evil.

Ummmmm.... Joan. She's a veteran and has stood the test of time, and still puts in great work in middle age. You gotta respect that. Plus, I just love her at little bit more.

Reese and Joan was the girlfight of the century, though. Ice queen on ice queen. You're right that Reese would have to get her hands dirty for this one, and maybe even break a nail... and also that her youth and strength would probably pull her through in the end.

btw, if Linney can kick Winslet's ass this hard, she's got the whole thing locked up, no? You've had her down for it since the beginning. I think your Buffalo self is in love with Linney's midwestern charms. I was just in Buffalo, btw, I have family there. twas hot as hell.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Damn, Winslet lost to Linney. Shame.

In the tie I have to pick my gal Joan Allen. The Upside of Anger and Pleasantville are just too hard too ignore.

Sticky Keys said...

Poor Kate Winslet, does the execution of a great accent count for nothing anymore? If anyone should beat her I guess it should be Laura, but I'd have liked to see her stick it out a bit.

Joan Allen all the way. Reese may become her someday, and even surpass her, but she's not her.

Edward G. said...


NYOne said...

Gotta put my vote in for Reese. There's something same-y about Joan Allen's performances to me, whereas I think Reese has more range to play actually different people.
It was really heartbreaking to see Kate lose. I'm having it erased from my memory.

Joe R. said...

Adam: I plead guilty on the Linney love. Though there are a couple pitfalls ahead of her in the field if she's not careful. Also, whereabouts in Buffalo?

Everyone: I'm sorry about Kate! You know I love her.

Also: Wedding this weekend, so the other two quarterfinals will be early next week.

adam k. said...

I was in many different areas around Buffalo. My grandparents live in East Aurora, one aunt lives in West Seneca, and my lesbian aunt and her lesbian wife used to live in Buffalo proper, but just moved to Clarence, where I stayed with them for a night. Where in Buffalo do you live?

Nice to see the "spotlights stolen" category finally being utilized, btw. And it will continue to be... ONE of the next two matchups will have a couple of Hours costars duking it out... though they won't have shared scenes.

Deirdre said...

Haven't, er, actually posted here before, but if I may: I'm going to have to vote for Reese. Not because she's so much better than Joan Allen, but because the prospect of a Tracey Flick vs. Bertha Dorset from House of Mirth girl-fight is ten kinds of scary-awesome. Bertha's not a big role for Linney, but talk about ice in the veins! That'll be a matchup for the ages.

JA said...

I want to say Allen all the way, but then that sneaky Tracy Flick creeps into my brain and clobbers me but good.

But still it's Allen for me, she wows me every time and there've been more than a few times when Witherspoon has just plain irritated me.

adam k. said...

Oh, and to Glenn: Upside of Anger and Pleasantville too hard to ignore, you say? Well, the globe, SAG, and oscar voters would beg to differ.

Another reason I felt I had to vote for Allen in this particular contest was cause of last year's oscar screwover. Both she and Reese were worthy of awards, and Reese of course steals them all. Well, not this one. Take that, Reese! Go, Joan!

par3182 said...

yay for the lovely laura linney (who i love)

your brilliant recap of pleasantville makes me want to see that fab film again right now. joan was so robbed of an oscar nom

gotta give my vote to reese though; in a girlfight she'd not only snap poor skinny joan in half, she'd also dismember the body and make ryan phillippe take the fall

Joe R. said...

Deirdre: welcome! I love Linney's House of Mirth performance so much. I should keep that better in mind when considering her girlfight potential.

Judi said...

Tough one, but I'm going with Reese, because I agree with the poster above who thinks she gives a bigger variety of performances.

adam k. said...

Oh sh*t, this is getting close.

Nathaniel, where are you!!?? VOTE!!! I know who you love more.

adam k. said...

OK, another comment:

Joe, I really love the pics you used for Laura and Kate here. Do you pay attention to the ones you choose, cause they're often awesome.

Here, it's as if Laura is looking up at the scoreboard right before the girlfight (3-0) and thinking "mmHMM, perfect" with that cold WASPy sweetness of hers, and Kate is giving her a steely "bloody hell, you have GOT to be kidding me - that bitch won't get away with this" glare. It's amazing.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Can I give Nathaniel's vote by proxy?


patty m. said...

Gotta go with Reese, again for range of performances. I don't think it's Joan's fault -- certain parts seem to seek her out. And I agree that both are utterly perfect in Pleasantville. AARGH! Joe, why do you do this to us?! And why don't you do it more often?!

adam k. said...

Holy crap, it's a TIE! ...not counting Nathaniel's vote by proxy. Come on, Nathaniel. Does this vacation entail you not even checking LoRes once all week!??

Joe R, can we see the second half of the quarterfinals??? I want to know Linney's competition. The Reese/Joan tie will sort itself out in time.

DL said...

Is anyone allowed to vote? If so, my vote goes to Joan Allen!

Anonymous said...

Gotta go with Joan. Her Terri Wolfmeyer was a revelation.

RC said...

ughh...this is so hard...

it's got to be allen though, and for the crucible alone.

--RC of

Jenny said...

If indeed anyone can vote, than tally my vote for Joan Allen. She is a godess.

(So's Kate Winslet, but whatever. I'm not bitter.)

Joe R. said...

Yes, anyone is allowed to vote. And thanks for doing so!

Anonymous said...


You killed me trying to make this decision... but, yeah. Reese.

Deirdre said...

Thanks for the welcome, Joe! Great blog. Yeah, Linney's so freezingly fantastic in House of Mirth, I almost wanted Gillian Anderson to break character and become all ass-kicking-Scully for a minute.

daniel said...

Come on... Joan Allen by a landslide.
great blog by the way