Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

The Early Gems: Notable Performances From The 2013 Best Actress Oscar Nominees

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 20, 2013 at 1:04PM

With the Oscars now only four days away, it's time for our Early Gems series to come to a close. Over the last week, we've been highlighting performances and films from those nominated in the acting and directing categories, from Amy Adams in "Junebug" to Benh Zeitlin's short film "Glory At Sea." But all good things must come to an end, and so our final entry will focus on the last major category we haven't yet covered: Best Actress.
1


Emmanuelle Riva Hiroshima Mon Amour
Emmanuelle Riva - "Hiroshima Mon Amour"
For a film made over 50 years ago, the cast and crew of 1959's "Hiroshima Mon Amour" are doing remarkably well these days. Director Alain Resnais premiered his very good "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" at Cannes last year, and the film's star, Emmanuelle Riva, earned her first-ever Oscar nomination at the age of 85 for Michael Haneke's "Amour." Riva's given many fine performances in her career, but it seems fitting that the two most iconic seem to bookend her career, with 'Hiroshima' being her first major big-screen role. Like "Amour," it's essentially a two-hander, one haunted, as the title might suggest, by World War II. Riva plays a French actress, making a film in Japan, who's had an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). The pair are about to separate, and hold a series of long conversations, about both the end of their affair, and war, and the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in particular. It's a desperately sad, modernist masterpiece, one of the most important films of its era (and one of Resnais' finest), and Riva, then in her early 30s, is the deeply human fixed point, positively bursting with feeling and shame (mostly over her affair with a Nazi soldier during the war, for which her head was shaved in punishment). Impossibly profound, bold and unlike anything else, it's one of the greatest films ever made, and an Oscar for Riva on Sunday night would be a wonderful way to cap off her career.


Naomi Watts Mulholland Drive
Naomi Watts - "Mulholland Drive"
Speaking of some of cinema's greatest achievements: hey, "Mullholland Drive." Australian actress Naomi Watts might have been vaguely familiar to some thanks to roles in "Flirting" and comic-book disaster "Tank Girl," but her career wasn't exactly on fire. As the '90s closed out, she was appearing in things with titles like "Children of the Corn: The Gathering" and "The Hunt For The Unicorn Killer," and toplining a short-lived NBC series called "Sleepwalkers." But everything changed when she was cast in a new pilot by David Lynch, one that, when it failed to get picked up, morphed into a new film that stands as a highlight of the filmmaker's career, and features, from Watts, one of the greatest goddamn performances we've ever seen. The Australian actress (who Lynch cast from a photo alone, having never seen her previous work) plays (at least at first) Betty, an aspiring actress, who arrives in L.A. for the first time, only to encounter an amnesiac woman (Laura Elena Harring), who she promises to help, falling for her in the process. There's more to it than that, as you might imagine, but Watts is phenomenal, going from wide-eyed ingenue to manipulative, murderous, guilt-ridden killer. One doesn't have to read too much into the film to believe that Watts' own frustrations with her career informed her performance, not least in the instantly-legendary audition scene you can see below. It's a spectacularly textured and complex turn, and one that still remains one of the peaks of Watts' filmography. Somehow, Watts failed to get an Oscar nomination for the film (clearly, it was more important for the Academy to honor Renee Zellwegger in "Bridget Jones' Diary"), but she did pick up her first two years later for "21 Grams," with another following this year for "The Impossible."

Beasts Of The Southern Wild Dwight Henry Quvenzhane Wallis
Quvenzhane Wallis - "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
We were somewhat lacking when it came to options for young Quvenzhane Wallis. She is, after all, nine years old, and was only five when she was cast as Hushpuppy in Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild." There are other parts on the way (Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years A Slave," possibly the lead in the remake of "Annie"), but her IMDB page was bare before 'Beasts.' Fortunately, her Oscar-nominated debut performance is a match for anything else on this list; despite another great performance from Dwight Henry as her screen papa, you can't take your eyes off Wallis as the resourcesful, ferociously brave young Hushpuppy, who can stand down a charge of Aurochs, yet become the tiny girl she is when lost in the brothel looking for the woman who may, or may not be, her mother. There were questions in some quarters about whether a performance from one so young could ever really be called "a performance." But as un-self-conscious and unguarded as Wallis is, it seems from the film that there's no question she's an enormously gifted actress, one who's created a very detailed and three-dimensional performance, able to pull off everything from the acts of heroism to powerful emotional points. It's a truly miraculous turn, one that finds her channeling both wordly wisdom and naive innocence with ease.
 

This article is related to: The Early Gems, Features, Oscars, Academy Awards, Awards, Quvenzhané Wallis, Naomi Watts, Jessica Chastain, Emmanuelle Riva, Jennifer Lawrence


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates