At the Movies, Part 1

As the film awards season approaches, with some great performances by women actors,   I am trying to get to the movies–and have so far seen Pariah, Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs .

There are four outstanding performances: newcomer Adepero Oduye, who skillfully portrays a young black woman coming out to her family in Pariah; the formidable Meryl Streep, who gives us a remarkable, Oscar-worthy take on Margaret Thatcher;  Glenn Close, actor, producer/screenwriter–and songwriter in the small budget but moving film about a girl in 1800’s Ireland who successfully masks herself as a man (Albert Nobbs) to escape poverty, working as a waiter. And Janet McTeer of that same film is brilliant as another “undercover ” woman.

Well, small budget is a relative matter–$8 million for Close, who nurtured a small story for 30 years (ever since she played the part on Broadway) and tells the story of singing for a group of wealthy possible investors in Dallas–and coming away with a million dollars for her film.

Director Dee Rees, on the other hand, is being celebrated for this debut feature she made for under $500,000–a favorite at Sundance and on the festival circuit, Rees says Pariah is based on her personal story. Director Spike Lee was one of her Executive Producers, and Chicken & Egg Pictures, a funding source for women’s films run by Julie Parker Benello and Judith Helfand supported  the project.Rees has made a moving, sometimes funny, solid film.

Even Streep operated on a tight budget and shooting schedule  for the Thatcher film, a reported $13 million production budget–a little surprising given that the last time Streep and British director Phyllida Lloyd worked together they made a $600 million dollar movie: Mama Mia.

What do I think? I am impressed by the excellent work in Pariah–it’s delivered a new director and new leading actress to the industry.

I think Streep is  extraordinary,magical, deserves the Oscar and all of the other awards for this one (it has been 30 years, you might know, since she last won.) She is brilliant in an otherwise less than brilliant film. Not enough political analysis,a bit too much dementia (although I know that Meryl argues, “this is life.”)

But the best film of this group is Albert Nobbs: richly layered, well written, beautifully performed by the ensemble, with a terrifically moving Close and a  compelling McTeer. I am still thinking about this one.

Let me know what you think.

By the way, I saw both Pariah and Albert Nobbs at the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center–a pleasantly grown-up place with a nice cafe, wine. Great place to meet up.

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