Saturday, October 31, 2009

how to write good geography

Here I am, disguised as Mooninpapa, writing away all weekend trying to finish Finland by Monday.

At this point, I'm glueing statistics together, using the words and phrases below, so they resemble prose.
I put this list together a while ago, inspired by Michael O'Donoghue's list of "The Ten Magic Phrases of Journalism" from his funny article
How to Write Good. (Highly recommended.)

Mix and Match Terms to Fit Your Assigned Country

Chapter 1: The Land
use freely: third-largest, concerns, devastating, poisonous; snow-, forest-, sand-covered; seeks to protect
the equator
the North/South Pole
glaciers carved...
the movement of tectonic plates
the power of rushing water
home to...
vast/towering [fill in landform]
world's largest [rodent/stinky flower/salt flat]

Chapter 2: The Past
use freely: historians believe; settled, waves of, struggle, flared, sparked, raged, conflict, desperation, in response, met with, crushed, oversee, overcome, hope that in the future...
[never, ever say: murdering bastard]

stone tools
rock art
invasions (horseback, sail, foot)
superior (resources, technology, aim)
dictatorships (Latin America)
under foreign rule (everywhere but Britain)
long shadows
forced labor
civil war
worldwide depression
harsh rule

Chapter 3: The People
use freely: inadequate, concern, struggle to supply, seeks to improve, proud of, government budget, hope that in the future...
[avoid: "tragically, alas, unluckily, I want to puke"]

ethnic groups
mostly peaceful
malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, dysentery, schistosomiasis (don't look)--or---cancer, heart attacks, bad stress management, unhealthy lifestyles
before their fifth birthday
less available in rural areas
traditional healers
colorful folk dances
hearty dishes

Chapter 4: The Economy and the Future
use freely: plummeted, rose, increased, fell, predominant, declined, attracted, lost

farming (slash-and-burn, subsistence, cooperative, corporate)
factories (lungs, water, GDP)
tourism (eco-)
human trafficking
interest rates
women and children
hard work
bright future (United States & Co.)
brighter future (sub-Saharan Africa, et al.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Those Whacky Finnish Proverbs

Many of the countries I've worked on have easily recognizable proverbs and sayings that were great for filling my quota of side bar "fun facts." Finland does not. Yeah, they have proverbs, but ...WTF? Some of them even baffle The Finnish Friend.
I found these at Finland for Thought. The blogger is an American living in Finland.
I followed the link at the bottom to, but I couldn't quite figure out what that site is. I felt like a shopper in a knitted cap looking for a nice axe handle at a cooperative retail society. I think.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enough with the Finnish Design!

"Finnish Design" (2009),
by Finnish painter Kaj Stenvall

Finnish Design and My Old Sweaters

[When I say I'm not blogging this week as I finish Finland, it seems I merely mean I'm not spending five hours compiling a post.]

From my old List of Stuff to Do:
25. Turn my ratty old wool sweaters into felt and make mittens with it.

I did felt a couple of my old sweaters last winter--by washing them in soapy, hot water. Then I decided I'd rather turn them into stuffed monster toys, with button eyes (I have a small cigar box of old pearl and bone buttons); but I didn't do anything toward that end.

Well, now Finland has nudged me to do something.
A few month ago I compared Finnish designer Alvar Aalto's famous wavy-edged vase to a Star Trek entity, the Companion (here).
Yesterday as I was walking around the lake, with Finland on my mind, it came to me: I will make felt Companion dolls in the shape of the local lakes (left), like Aalto's vase.

Moomin was as inspiring as Aalto.
Here he is frolicing on a frozen postage stamp, with Little My.
I feel like a mix of the two of these characters---the sweet-hearted Moomin and the crab cake Little My.And... are those herring?

[more (but not all) Moomin postage stamps at Literary Stamps]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sneaky Carrot


You see, the carrot has stolen the salt shaker's top to wear as a cap.

(I am working. I am so. Just took a teensy weensy break to play with the veg.)

Monty Python's "Finland"

"A poor second to Belgium..."
No way! Finland is as funny as corgis! And Belgium is... not.

Thank you, thank you, Art Sparker! I had not seen this.

Colbert on Finland, Poised for World Domination

"The 1952 Helsinki Games - The Reindeer Roars"
(The Colbert Report, August 14, 2008)
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The 1952 Helsinki Games - The Reindeer Roars
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

My favorite is how American athletes practice to withstand Nordic depression by staring at a dead tree and thinking of childhood regrets.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More of Other People's Favorite Women on Film

Yep, I'm not blogging this week, while I finish Finland. But I got these two cool youTubes in my inbox this morning. So, for your pleasure...

Poodletail sent me this wonderful "woman on film". Right. Doesn't have to appear on feature films to be interesting, thought provoking and awesome.
Why 1984 Won't Be Like "1984": The 1-minute ad introducing Apple Macs in 1984.

bink sent me the absolutely fabulous Dawn French doing a 3:44-min. send up of Catherine Zeta Jones, talking about how she gets her posh frocks, and other episodes of her fabulous life:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"You Fascinate Me": Interesting Women in Film, 4

[I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking, Oh! I forgot her! So here are a few more of my favorite women in film.
And now I am going to take this coming week off blogging *wipes away tear* as Finland is due to the editor at the end of the week.]

Catherine Zeta Jones and George Clooney, in Intolerable Cruelty (USA, 2003, the Coen Bros.)
This might go better in my "movie moments" round-up, as it's not CZJ alone I relish in the movie, but the delicious pairing of her with Clooney, and most particularly when he says, "You fascinate me." Still, I'll let her stand in here for a whole slew of sharp and gorgeous screwball comediennes. In fact, I found the line in 1933's I'm No Angel, written by and starring Mae West, who says it to Cary Grant, Mr. Clooney's forerunner.

Helen Mirren in The Queen (UK, 2006, directed by Stephen Frears)
Helen Mirren doesn't generally interest me much, and less the British royal family; but this is a fascinating portrait of someone who heeds the writing on the wall, Adapt or Die. And then, there are the dogs.
"I loved those corgis because they were funny," Sunday's Observer newspaper quoted Mirren as saying. "I can understand why the Queen has them. Forget winning an Oscar. I'd be more proud of an award for dog handling." --ABC News

Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell (left) as Grace and Rena Owen (right) as Beth in Once Were Warriors (New Zealand, 1994, directed by Lee Tamahori from the novel by Alan Duff)
This is a brutal movie about an urban Maori family--and about what people will do when they've been stripped of their dignity--but hang on for the redemptive ending.

Keshia Castle-Hughes as Paikea, in Whale Rider (NZ, 2002, directed by Niki Caro, based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera)
This girl has all the complexity I miss in River Tam, who I listed yesterday. Like Once Were Warriors, but much more gently, this film suggests it may be the women and girls who inherit the spiritual compass to guide their benighted culture. And like The Queen, the message is also Adapt or Die.
Huh, I didn't know this--Niki Caro went on to direct North Country (USA--Minnesota!--2005) with Charlize Theron. Now I need to see that too.

And while we're in New Zealand: Kerry Fox, as Janet Frame, in An Angel at My Table, (NZ, 1990, directed by Jane Campion originally for NZ television, from JF's autobiographies)
Another good movie about a writer, and the hard work of finding your authentic voice. Frame was mistakenly diagnosed as schizophrenic for many years, so hers was a bit harder than most.

Kelly MacDonald and Maggie Smith in Gosford Park (2001, directed by Robert Altman)
Almost every woman--and man--in this film is fascinating, and there are a whole lot of them. (The Wikipedia article takes 7,458 words to explain this movie's characters and plot.) Im choosing these two as I've never enjoyed the redoubtable Maggie Smith more, and MacDonald made me hope she'll grow up and do more than play charming Scottish girls.

Joan Cusack, with her brother John Cusack, in War, Inc. (USA, 2008, co-written and produced by John Cusack) [Interview with Joan Cusack by Rotten Tomatoes, about this film.]
I always feel as if the slot machine just rang up a row of cherries whenever Joan Cusack takes the screen, even though, so far as I've seen, she always plays the same kooky supporting role.

Whoopi Goldberg, with Carol Kane, in Jumpin' Jack Flash (USA, 1986, directed by Penny Marshall)
Yeah, yeah, this movie is a mess, and critics are right to trash it, but I come back to it every so often because I always laugh, at least when WG is trying to transcribe Mick Jagger's lyrics, and it's cool to see a computer-literate woman--in the '80s! Goldberg is like Lily Tomlin--a comedian who's not at her best in narrative on-screen roles, but there's just that glimpse that makes me watch anyway.

"Chihiro" in Spirited Away (Japan, 2001, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki).
This is a bit of cheat, as not only is Chihiro not a real human, but also I like the movie best for its wonderful side-kick creatures (one looks like a Moomin). But I decided to include it when I read what its creator, Hayao Miyazaki (a man), said in an interview:
"I felt this country [Japan] only offered such things as crushes and romance to 10-year-old girls, though, and looking at my young friends, I felt this was not what they held dear in their hearts, not what they wanted. And so I wondered if I could make a movie in which they could be heroines...
"I created a hero who is an ordinary girl... It's not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like that, and I think they, too, have such a wish."
— Hayao Miyazaki

Parker Posey, in Party Girl, (USA, 1995 , directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer)
Posey reminds me of a whippet--a dog so thin and nervous I worry I'm going to witness it shattering right in front of me. Not enjoyable. But when, in this movie, she wails, "I want to be a librarian!" during of one of the raves she throws instead of getting a job, she has my heart.
[note the date stamper--no doubt the catalog is on paper cards too]

Jaye Davidson (left, as Dil), with Stephen Rea (Fergus), in The Crying Game (Ireland/UK, 1992, directed by Neil Jordan)
Fergus: The thing is, Dil, you're not a girl.
Dil: Details, baby. Details.
Fresca (left) and bink, as the Anchorite and the Bounty Hunter, in The Disinherited (USA, 2009)
(Link on this blog's sidebar, top right, under "My Movies")
bink was a theater major (though mostly interested in the art side: making sets and costumes, etc. which she did beautifully for Orestes and the Fly too); but I am in no way an actor, so I was surprised how funny I was improvising the donut-loving Anchorite, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Someone Else's Favorite Women in Film

What pleasure!
Jen, at From Maine to Japan, has compiled her own lists of Awesome Women in Film. Her eight choices are especially interesting to me as she includes some of the same actresses, but in different movies, or she chooses the same movie, but a different actress in it.

The only one she chose that I was going to include was this one:Katherine Hepburn, with Humphery Bogart, in The African Queen (1951, directed by John Huston)
Often I am annoyed by KH's breathiness; but I watched this movie again when I was working on Uganda a few years ago--a smidge of it was filmed there--and she's nothing but great as Rose, the tight-laced missionary lady who relaxes into her hitherto undiscovered gifts for sex and sabotage.

Now I can take today off film. (Not that I don't enjoy compiling these lists, I do. Hugely. But they take ages.)

Oh, but just one more I've already written about but forgot to include yesterday's round up:
Summer Glau, as River Tam, in Serenity (2005 ).
Director Joss Whedon creates comic-book characters, so they're great fun but kind of flat.
I wonder if this is an inevitable problem when one person creates a whole world: they're good at a lot of it, but some areas necessarily are short-changed. Joss Whedon, Woody Allen, George Lucas--all would benefit from having less total control of their worlds, at least sometimes.

Still, River is a more interesting character in the movie than she is in Firefly, the TV show this movie comes out of, where she mostly stays trapped in her craziness. It's an undeniable pleasure to watch her emerge to kick cannibal butt at the end, even if it is not exactly a subtley shaded move.
And at the most elemental level, for those of us who grew up without it, it's a plain old pure pleasure to see a teenage girl get to be the crazy-ass hero.
So, that's 39 of my favorite interesting women in film, so far, plus one honorary mention. As I was browsing around the nets, I saw there was a "20 favorite actresses" meme going round. Some people commented it was hard to do, as men get most of the good roles. I agree it's much easier to come up with interesting roles for men; but I'm quite pleased to have fulfilled the meme almost twice over now, or entirely, if you shoehorn Jack Lemmon in.
It helps to change one's focus and look past the obvious Hollywood shine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Proof That I Am Working

Maybe it seems I am spending all my time thinking about film? But no! This afternoon I am reading the Constitution of Finland (in English, of course), which makes pretty OK reading, as these things go.

Like, here, I thought it was really cool that the constitution guarantees children's rights:

Children shall be treated equally and as individuals and they shall be allowed to influence matters pertaining to
themselves to a degree corresponding to their level of development.

That's lifted from
Chapter 2 - Basic rights and liberties
Section 6 - Equality

Everyone is equal before the law.
No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age,
origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.

----the kids go here---

Equality of the sexes is promoted in societal activity and working life, especially in the determination of pay and
the other terms of employment, as provided in more detail by an Act.

Favorite Women in Film, Part 3

Sophie Thompson (left, Mary, Anne's sister) and Amanda Root (Anne Elliot) in Persuasion (1995, BBC-TV, released as a film in U.S. theaters)
This is the only Jane Austen adaptation that fully gets across to me the claustrophobia (social and economic) of the heroine's life, partly because it captures more physical reality than the others (damp clothes, small rooms, crumbs on the table), but also because Sophie Thompson as the sister embodies the best argument for modernity: the freedom to move far away from one's relatives.

Someone asked why I hadn't listed my adoration of Simone Signoret, and it's because I'd already written about her. But I decided to gather some of the most interesting women's roles I've already written about here. (Their names are live-linked to the original post.)

Simone Signoret as the Contessa being sent into political exile for helping Latin American revolutionaries, in Ship of Fools. (Also gets my vote for Sexiest Kiss, with Oskar Werner.)

Scarlett O'Hara--a character so... interesting, people refer to her by her own name, not the actress's: Vivien Leigh, in Gone with the Wind.

Kim Darby (with John Wayne) as the young woman hunting down the man who murdered her father, in True Grit, 1969

Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen, who rescues the Gene Hackman character trapped underwater in Poseidon Adventure (1972, directed by Irwin Allen)

Lauren Bacall, lighting up Humphrey Bogart, in To Have and Have Not (1944 directed by Howard Hawks)
Zoe Saldana, who went on to play the new Uhura in 2009, here in 2004 as Officer Torres, a Trekkie, gives the Vulcan salute (to Diego Luna) in the otherwise disappointing The Terminal (2004, directed by Steven Spielberg)
(Here it is on youTube )
And now, to finish Finland! (Maybe...)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some More of My Favorite Women in Film

[I was only thinking of actors and characters who are women, interesting, and thought-provoking--and whom I like--but as I compiled these two posts, I started to notice how often women writers and/or directors were also behind creating their characters. Maybe I'll write more about them later.]

Emma Thompson, as writing-blocked writer Karen Eiffel, and Queen Latifah, as the publishing agent sent to make sure Eiffel finishes her book, in Stranger Than Fiction (USA, 2006)
This movie stars Will Ferrell, who I've never liked much, and Manic Pixie Dream Girl Maggie Gyllenhal; but the compelling pair who stays in my memory is Thompson and Latifah. I think Emma Thompson doesn't have the range for some of the heavier roles she's played (e.g. Carrington) but she's perfection in slighter roles, like here. QL is another actor I've not enjoyed in starring roles (maybe because they weren't great roles?), but is terrific here as a suit. Also, I'm a sucker for seeing writers on screen. (I like the bare room. All the work is in her head.) And how many examples are there? Well, there's Cathering Keener as Harper Lee, in yesterday's post, and there's...

Anne Bancroft as writer Helene Hanff (links to NYT obit), who wrote the book the movie was based on: 84 Charing Cross Road (UK/USA, 1987). As much as anything, this movie is a good portrait of the differences between Americans and Brits. It's also a perfect romance: they never meet.
I found the photo at The House Next Door, in a good write-up of AB by Dan Callahan.

I never saw this HBO production, but I couldn't pass up this photo of Anne Bancroft and her real-life husband, Mel Brooks (in "Opening Night", an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, 2004, photo by Barry Wetcher / HBO, from Those pink gloves! That happy long-lasting marriage between two artists! Bancroft died a year later in 2005, aged 73.

And another writer:
I'm surprised how much I like Amy Adams. She has a bit of the annoying manic pixie girl about her, yes, but she's too real to be a dream: when she throws a frustrated fit on the kitchen floor alongside the chicken she has failed to stuff properly, in Julie and Julia (USA, 2009), she was a real person, and I could relate. It's hard to show writing on-screen, since it's an interior activity. Using cooking as a stand-in works wonderfully here.

And another woman who plays close to the manic dream girl edge but is way too much her own woman to fall over it: Reese Witherspoon. Here in one of my favorite roles of hers: lawyer Elle Woods who "takes on Capitol Hill and never loses her sparkle and bounce." From Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" (USA, 2003).

Pamela Brown, in I Know Where I'm Going! (UK, 1945, written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
I couldn't find a photo of the scene I wanted: Pamela Brown striding into a room, tossing dead rabbits about, accompanied by her big, wet shaggy hounds, who jump onto the couch. A regular Athena, worth the whole movie, even if there were nothing else worthwhile. But there is.
Photo from movie review of IKWIG at The Criterion Contraption, whose blogger is in the process of watching and writing about all the movies put in the Criterion Collection.

Marianne Sägebrecht, a German actor, as Jasmin, with CCH Pounder, a Guyanese-American actor, as Brenda, in Bagdad Cafe, (1987, West German director Percy Adlon's first US film). (Nice review at are the hills going to march off? blog.) Jasmin brings together a compelling group of oddballs in a movie that never quite came together for me. Still, interesting women, interesting relationship.

I was really looking for a photo of Sägebrecht in the director's better movie, Sugarbaby/Zuckerbaby (West Germany, 1985), but I couldn't find any. In it, MS plays a mortician who sets out to seduce a subway conductor many years younger and pounds lighter than she. As a one-time mortuary science student myself, my favorite part is when Marianne talks about how dead people need love too. Review by Janet Maslin, the NYT.
Oh, here--I simply hadn't searched hard and long enough. Here she is, from the director's site: Percy

Everyone lists this in their "best of's", and I'm going to too: Linda Hunt as male Chinese-Australian photographer Billy Kwan, who wrestles with the age-old question, "What then must we do?" about human suffering, in The Year of Living Dangerously (Australia, 1982, directed by Peter Wier).
Screencaps from the film blog Stinky LuLu.

Mia Farrow as Tina Vitale, with Woody Allen as Danny Rose, in Broadway Danny Rose (USA, 1984, directed by Woody Allen)
This is my favorite of Woody Allen's films and the only time I've really cared for Farrow onscreen. Tina Vitale is the opposite of the waifs Farrow often plays. She's an ex-mobster's moll whose life philosophy––do it to the other guy before he does it to you––wriggles up against the love and forgiveness philosophy of Danny Rose--a talent manager for hopeless losers.

So far as I know, the first-ever woman in film wearing panties, holding an axe, quaking in a small enclosed space, who isn't about to get chopped to bits: Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, in Alien (USA, 1979, directed by Ripley Scott)
I was tricked into seeing Alien when it came out by a "friend" who assured me it wasn't very scary. I cursed that friend from my movie seat where I'd assumed the fetal position, so far as possible. Though I never risked seeing the movie again, or any of the follow-ups, who could forget Ripley?

Marilou Berry as aspiring singer Lolita Cassard, with Agnès Jaoui as her music teacher in Look at Me/Comme une image (France, 2004, directed by Agnès Jaoui).
It's hard to talk about women and body-image without falling into Oprah mode, but in this movie the character Lolita's outwardly visible struggle––to be "seen" as acceptable by her narcissistic father and to make her way in a weight-obsessed world––is more about mirroring the invisible work of creation than in cultivating "healthy self-esteem". And that's why this movie is interesting: it's not about a message movie about a fat girl who learns to love herself (like director Patricia Cardoso's Real Women Have Curves, 2002, which was more like an after-school special, kinda lame, I thought, despite America Ferrera's sparkle and bounce). It's about an artist forging an authentic creative voice. And about one of the themes I keep coming back to: how being the hero of your own life may start with leaving the House of Fatherly Authority, even if that means you have to take the bus.

Giulietta Masina Le Notti di Cabiria/Nights of Cabiria, (Italy, 1957, directed by Masina's husband, Federico Fellini)
I can't stand to watch her heartbreaking roles more than once--I still haven't recovered from La Strada--but you can't make a list of amazing women in films and not include Giulietta Masina.

Angelica Huston as Maerose Prizzi in Prizzi's Honor (1985, directed by AH's father, John Huston)
This movie appears to be about the twisted romance between assassins Kathleen Turner and Jack Nicholson, but in classic Italian-family style (yeah, I recognize it), the person who pulls the strings is the woman behind the scenes who never lifts a gun. Maerose is a pro at manipulation--the photo above is her putting on her martyred daughter look--and my favorite scene is when her grandfather, the don, sees and admires her Machiavellian plotting, saying it's too bad she's a girl because she's just like him. A very funny, and very accurate insight into the way power flows.

Elaine May wrote, directed and starred (with Walter Matthau) in A New Leaf (1971). This quirky comedy is one of my all-time favorite movies, but it's little known. Elaine May plays an absent-minded, terminally clumsy botanist, and a rich one--perfect for impoverished playboy Matthau's plan to marry a rich woman and kill her off. Except it turns out, to his dismay, they're a perfect match.

Nobuko Miyamoto as the woman tax inspector Ryoko Itakura, digging in the rain for evidence among the bad guy's trash, in A Taxing Woman (Japan, 1987, director Juzo Itami, N.M.'s husband).
This is one of those battle-of-wits-between-the-sexes films, sort of a screwball comedy crime caper, but the woman never melts--in the rain or in his arms.
Nice review at Film Walrus, where I got the photo.

I asked my father who he thought was an interesting woman in film, and he said Dolores del Río. I scoffed, thinking she was just a matinee idol he'd loved as a boy, and she was, but she also is an interesting woman: a Mexican actor who, during the silent era, was considered the female equivalent of Rudolph Valentino (according to Wikipedia). Now I have to watch some of her movies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Women in Film

Here's what you have to do if you ever hope to get written up in the Economist's "lively, literary and irreverent" obituary page: live "an interesting and thought-provoking life." The editor states that it doesn't matter if a person is good or bad or even a major player, just so long as their life is worth reading about.

That came to mind as I started to compile a list of my favorite women actors. There are zillions of gorgeous women in film, of course, but far fewer interesting and thought-provoking ones because, of course, there are so relatively few roles that fit that description. So I don't know if what I've come up with here--and it's just a start--is a tribute to the actors or to the roles. Both, I think, for a poor actor would have a hard time holding her seat on a spirited role.

In no particular order.

Judy Davis as Cassandra, with Marcia Gay Harden, in Gaudi Afternoon (2003, directed by Susan Seidelman)
This movie is flawed and muddy, but the character of Cassandra is a gem, and one of my favorite Judy Davis roles--she's a variation on the frazzled yet oddly classy, super smart, sexually baffling women Davis plays so well ("Sally" in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives). Here she is a book translator, living alone in Barcelona.
In this scene, Harden's transgendered character is exclaiming over how wonderful Barcelona is. They pass some teenagers with cigarettes and she says with approval, "Even the children smoke!"

Dame May Whitty as Miss Froy ("rhymes with joy") in The Lady Vanishes (UK, 1938, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
Miss Froy seems like a sweet old helpless dear, and I suppose she is; but it turns out, very extremely satisfyingly, that she's also a keen British spy.

Marie-Christine Barrault, with Victor Lanoux, in Cousin, Cousine (France, 1975, directed by Jean Charles Tacchella)
Barrault (niece of Jean-Louis Barrault of Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise) has not been in many movies, but I could never forget her role here as a woman who decides to conduct a love affair openly, in the midst of a society built on lies, silences, and secrets. For years I've debated with people who say her character was cruel in her honesty. Maybe so, but only because other people impaled themselves on the sharp end of it.

Lili Taylor as Teresa Carmela Santangelo, with Michael Imperioli, in Household Saints, (USA, 1993, directed by Nancy Savoca, from the novel by Francine Prose)
Taylor is brilliantly complex in everything she does. Here, Teresa, who may or may not be a saint, is saying she understands why a lot of girls, including herself, want to be like Saint Teresa of the Little Flower: because she didn't do anything.

Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson in Fargo (USA, 1996, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen)
I don't see much humanity in the Coen brother's films, but Marge is a glowing exception. My favorite scene is when she, in the midst of a brutal crime investigation, calmly reassures her husband that people will use the 3-cent postage stamps his bird painting is going to be on. It's an act of perfect compassion.

Ten-year-old Mary Badham (Scout) and author Harper Lee on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962
Badham gave up acting at age 13, saying it wasn't for her; but this one role alone gave heart to girls like me, who just weren't the Hayley Mills type.
[Image from article on MB here.]

Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, in Capote (2005)
I had thought of Keener as only the beautiful, flighty type until I saw her stand firmly on the bare ground in this role.

Carmen Maura & Penélope Cruz in Volver (Spain, 2006, directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
Almodóvar, what can I say? Maybe it takes someone who knows that being authentic may have nothing to do with biology to create such good roles for women.

Judi Dench as "M" in Quantum of Solace (2008, directed by Marc Forster)
A no-brainer. Everyone sings Dench's praise for her obvious acting abilities and the extraordinary way she grows sexier as she grows older. I have a different reason to love her: she looks uncannily like my mother.

Jack Lemmon as Jerry/Daphne, with Tony Curtis as Joe in Some Like It Hot (USA, 1959, directed by Billy Wilder) [Image from Screencap Heaven]
Joe tries to snap Jerry/Daphne out of the illusion that s/he can marry Osgood (Joe E. Brown).
Jerry/Daphne: Look, I know there's a problem, Joe.
Joe: I'll say there is.
Jerry: His mother - we need her approval [and she doesn't approve of her son marrying girls who smoke]... but I'm not worried because I don't smoke!