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.


Jennifer said...

Gahhh, I haven't seen most of these--and I even OWN "Whale Rider"!

On "Spirited Away"--Miyazaki is a master of the female bildungsroman, which is not a common genre. I believe Rudyinparis will second me in saying "Whisper of the Heart" is a nearly perfect story of a girl growing up and figuring out what she wants to do with her life, and I love the title character in "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds" a lot, although she's a lot more idealized than the heroines of "Whisper of the Heart" and "Spirited Away."

bink said...

Not costumes! Hated my costumes and lighting class! Can't sew! Hot glue is my thing--which I learned from doing props.

Fresca said...

JEN: I actually hadn't realized it was the same director behind all those films. (hangs head)
Here's a drawback: I really dislike watching animation dubbed, even though I suppose it shouldn't matter much. But it does. Somewhere I saw Spirited Away with subtitles, I swear.

BINK: Oh, so that's why our lighting is so ... not so great, eh? : )
Hot glue, staples, and safety pins, that's the secret of great costuming. Who'll ever know?!