There is a lot of stuff I haven’t seen this year but the Oscar hype is already building for the brilliant Mr. Depp in “Sweeney Todd,” as well as the equally remarkable Daniel Day Lewis in “There Will Be Blood.”
But I will have seen enough to know that this is the year of the woman. Here are five of my favorites, (billing alphabetical, natch.)
1. Julie Christie in “Away From Her.”
Christie was a slow starter. I remember falling for her in “Billy Liar,” which she only shot 44 years ago, when she was all of 22. She didn’t become a world-famous Oscar winner till two years later, with “Darling.”
Her work in “Away From Her” is on par with Helen Mirren’s last year in “The Queen.” Christie is genuinely heartbreaking as the Alzheimer’s victim here, and her beauty is staggering. You look at that face as the disease knifes at her, as her eyes drain, and it is something you will remember for a very long time.
Don’t even think about missing this baby.
2. Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose.”
She speaks French, but don’t hold that against her, she can’t help it, she’s playing a French chanteuse (hate that word, never used it before, never will again, promise.) Edith Piaf is who she’s impersonating and I got C’s in high school French, so I can’t be sure on this — but I’m almost positive it’s amazing work.
3. Laura Linney, who for me is the actress of her generation.
She’s working double this year, “The Nanny Diaries,” in which she plays the kind of nutty Mrs. X, and “The Savages,” in which she plays the kind of psychotic Wendy Savage. Somehow she makes you care for them both. And they look and feel so different from each other it’s a shock each time you remember it’s the same lady inside both skins.
I think that’s why they call it acting.
4. Sarah Polley.
Yeah, she’s Canadian, has been an actress since she turned four, and in a year or two she’ll start pushing 30. Clearly we are not dealing with a bimbo here, since Polley adapted as well as directed the Alice Munro story on which “Away From Her” is based. (How do you have this kind of talent at this age? What was it like on the set, with all these wonderful middle-aged and more actors dealing with this kid?)
This movie took my head off. It will yours too. (Another promise.)
5. Adrienne Shelly.
The heartbreak of the decade, If you don’t know, the above makes zero sense, since Shelly wrote the original screenplay and directed and played one of the three leads in “Waitress,” a tender and funny comedy.
The heroine is a genius pie baker. Ho hum, another flick about them.
Shelly made all this up, directed the hell out of it, was heading for a wonderful career.
Till she was murdered.
In the world of movies, there is always a shortage of talent.
This lady was a talent.