Saturday, January 16, 2010

Supporting Actress Blogathon: Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglourious Basterds

My second entry to StinkyLulu's 2009 Supporting Actress Blogathon is a performance that grabbed my attention from the moment it first appeared on screen.

Diane Kruger (who pleasantly surprised me here) plays Bridget von Hammersmark, a German actress and Allied double agent tasked with being the film's eponymous Basterds German liaison and helping them with
Operation Kino, a plan to end WWII in one fell swoop. She's stylish (even her leg cast is high-heeled), beautiful, glamorous and (key ingredient) snarky. In other words, she's a diva.

The problem with divas is that playing one cannot really be taught. You can make them snappy with the script and glamorous with the wardrobe and art direction. However, the true diva has something else; something intangible, a certain je ne sais quoi. A diva has to be larger-than-life; human, yet unattainable.

Which is exactly what Kruger brings to the role. Yes, her wardrobe is gorgeous, but it would not look half as good if she did not carry herself the way she does. Her poise in everything from the way she smokes her cigarettes to the way she charms an entire room full of Nazi soldiers is astounding. But a delicate flower she's not. When (after a particularly messy gunfight) she's shot in the leg and and forced to cope with a redesigned strategy for Operation Kino, she doesn't hide her frustration. Rather, she directs her anger and wit at the dumb Basterds she's forced to rely on. It's during this scene that Kruger truly won me over. The gusto with which she delivers her lines is what finally tipped her into film diva territory, at least for me.

All of this would be fine and good for a truly decent supporting actress performance, but a remarkable one? That would require a little plus, and Kruger, once again, delivers. As her schemes begin to unravel, she's forced to deal with Cristoph Waltz's Col. Hans Landa (my favorite male supporting actor performance of the year). As she begins to realize, with ever-growing panic, that he's figured it all out, her perfect mask of poise and charm falters once more. Except, whereas before we saw a fierce attitude that wouldn't back down, now we see fear. She shows terror in her eyes, in the quiver of her lips, in her gasping breath. And then, she pulls herself together and manages a halfhearted smile before calmly, defiantly asking her executioner "What now, Colonel?"

For all of these reasons, it is my pleasure to nominate Diane Kruger as one of 2009's best supporting actresses.

Au revoir,
M. Cinema

Supporting Actress Blogathon 2009: Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette in Public Enemies

This is the first time I ever participate in StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Blogathon. Actually, it's the first blogathon I ever participate in. With that in mind, I wanted this first contribution to be something I could be proud of. So, I racked my brain and thought of a supporting performance that had grabbed my attention. Sure enough, plenty sprung to mind; but I wanted to avoid the obvious choices (Mo'nique), at least for my first post. And so, I chose a performance that was one of the few things I enjoyed in Michael Mann's Public Enemies.

Academy-Award-winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)could have rested on her laurels in this movie. Plenty of her costars were doing just that. Instead, Cotillard delivers a remarkable turn as a supporting actress in a movie that was otherwise just not that interesting. Let's break it down.

Cotillard plays Billie Mary Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, a coat-check girl that meets notorious bank robber John Dillinger and becomes his lover. Her reasons? She was bored with her life and felt like she needed to be protected. Now, these simplistic reasons coupled with a stale script could have spelled disaster for most actresses, but Cotillard handles it expertly.

The way Cotillard avoids the double-whammy threat mentioned above is by sticking to what I think great "actressing at the edges" is all about: the details. Cotillard doesn't rely on a fantastic script or an engrossing story. She just gives the role little idiosyncratic touches that make it her own. And while maybe she does have an advantage over other potential contenders because she has an "Oscar scene" (the interrogation), that's not what kept me interested. Rather, it was scenes like her first date with Dillinger and the way her eyes twinkled with interest as he told her about his exploits that made me fall in love with her. Her interrogation scene wouldn't have been half as effective if we didn't care about her character, and we would've had no reason to do so if it wasn't for her wonderful performance. For all of this, I nominate Marion Cotillard as one of 2009's best supporting actresses.

Au revoir,
M. Cinema

P.S. For more fantastic "actressing at the edges", head over to StinkyLulu.