All-Time Favorite Actresses, Vol. XIII

Patricia Arquette

Favorite Performance: Boyhood

Kristen Bell

Favorite Performance: You Again

Carrie Coon

Favorite Performance: The Leftovers

Dakota Fanning

Elle Fanning

Favorite Performance: 20th Century Women

Vera Farmiga

Favorite Performance: Bates Motel

Brenda Fricker

Favorite Performance: My Left Foot

Jennifer Garner

Favorite Performance: 13 Going On 30

Caroline Goodall

Favorite Performance: Hook

Katie Holmes

Favorite Performance: Dawson’s Creek

Monica Keena

Favorite Performance: Snow White: A Tale Of Terror

Vanessa Kirby

Favorite Performance: The Crown

Melissa Leo

Favorite Performance: Novitiate

Laura Linney

Favorite Performance: You Can Count On Me

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Favorite Performance: Belle

Leighton Meester

Favorite Performance: Gossip Girl

Emily Mortimer

Favorite Performance: Leonie

Thandie Newton

Favorite Performance: Beloved

Molly Ringwald

Favorite Performance: Sixteen Candles

Michelle Trachtenberg

Favorite Performance: Harriet The Spy

xx

J.V.

Auld lang syne: Ringing in the new year with bridget jones and reflections on 2018

One year ago today, I published my first post on this blog. A brief, bittersweet message, to myself more than anyone, imbued with longing and resolve, vowing, in the year to come, to change. A requiem for a dream I dreamed long ago, one that I accomplished, but that I was ready to let go of and move on from. A promise to begin anew in the new year, and a prayer for the strength and the patience to do that.  

Rereading that post now, I remember, so vividly, who I was and where I was when I wrote it, and what I was feeling: frustration, exhaustion, sadness, regret on one hand, but on the other, excitement, motivation, humility and hope. A kind of mindful, mature sense of gratitude and self-awareness. I felt, for the first time, maybe ever, really sure of what I wanted (and what I didn’t), and confident that it was the right thing. And I felt ready to start the journey to achieve it.

Now, 12 months later, I feel a genuine sense of pride and appreciation that I am able to return here and say that I accomplished precisely what I set out to in 2018.

I left a job that made me miserable beyond words and was leading nowhere I wanted to go but from which I saw no means of escape and found a new job, which is one thousand times less miserable, one thousand times more rewarding and has the potential to lead to any number of places I may decide I want to go. A job, I should note, for which I was not qualified, and yet for which I beat out dozens of qualified applicants because, as I must remember to remind myself, I am passionate, and intelligent and hardworking, and when I set my mind to something, I am capable, even against the worst odds, of achieving it.

I moved out of an apartment I hated, that felt stifling and repressive, and moved into a new apartment, which I absolutely love, and which feels, unlike any apartment I’ve lived in before, like an actual home I have created for myself, suitable both for the life I have made for myself thus far, and the life I hope to make for myself moving forward.  

I ended some toxic relationships and quit some toxic habits.

I traveled, to China and Peru and beyond, and stood in ancient places and holy places and beautiful places I’d always dreamed of seeing.

I saw 30+ Broadway shows and watched hundreds of television episodes and over 500 films.

I attended my first New York Film Festival and got to rub shoulders and interact with a lot of artists I admire and in whose footsteps I hope to follow. I learned a lot about the craft of making films that I hadn’t known before, and gained a lot of insight about just what, and how much, it takes to actually produce a motion picture.

I had some bad dating experiences, but also some good ones. Some nights I felt lonely, but a lot of nights I didn’t.

I grew apart from some friends, but closer to others. I felt distance from my family, both physical distance and other kinds, but also a lot of love.

I made some bad choices, but more good ones. I lost some things, but gained others. I lived and I laughed and I learned, not as much as I wish I could have, never that much, but enough. I loved and was loved. I felt passion and inspiration and empathy and contentment. I tried my best to be patient and kind and thankful. 2018 was good to me, and I tried to multiply that goodness and send it back into the world.  

And so, on this New Year’s Day, as one chapter closes and another opens, I just want to put down in words that I hope that 2019 brings for me, and for anyone who might be reading this, the only things I think any of us can really ask for: peace, joy and fulfillment, however we each define them. More love. More passion. More knowledge. More creativity. More life.

As always, like Bridget Jones, I have a lot of plans for 2019, and a lot of goals and resolutions. Read more books, a lot more. Waste less time on the internet. Practice my French. Finally learn Spanish. Exercise more. Be more thoughtful and vulnerable and less judgmental and prone to envy. Watch more foreign films. Keep up with my scrapbooks. Pay off my credit cards. Finish one screenplay and begin another. Find nice, sensible boyfriend to go out with and not continue to form romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workoholics, commitment-phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts. Etc., etc.

Whether I accomplish any or all of these goals, and I hope that I will, or not, I hope more than anything that I am able to carry the same sense of purpose, determination and belief in myself that I began 2018 with into 2019, and that the coming year will be just as fruitful and rewarding as the last one was. More, even. I’m aiming high. Here’s hoping that in another 12 months I’ll be returning here to report back that I am feeling as grateful and as gratified with how 2019 turned out as I am feeling right now.

Cheers to 2019!

xx

J.V.

Best of 2018, Vol. II: Top 30 films of 2018

Though I’ve still got a couple of final films to watch (Ben Is Back, Vox Lux) before I should officially release this list, in honor of the last day of 2018, which was mostly a very good year for me and also a great year for film, here are my picks for the best films of the year (as well as a couple of bonus categories).

30. Museo

29. Support The Girls

28. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

27. Green Book

26. A Quiet Place

25. Annihilation

24. The Front Runner

23. First Man

22. Puzzle

21. Eighth Grade

20. Widows

19. Colette

18. Cold War

17. The Kindergarten Teacher

16. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

15. Ash Is Purest White

14. A Private War

13. Bad Times At The El Royale

12.  A Star Is Born

11. Chappaquiddick

10.  The Rider

9. Never Look Away

8. A Simple Favor

7. Shirkers

6. Burning

5. The Wife

4. The Favourite

3. Thoroughbreds

2. Sorry Angel

1. Shoplifters

Honorable mentions: Blindspotting, The Cakemaker, Damsel, Destroyer, Disobedience, El Angel, Finding Your Feet, Game Night, Her Smell, High Life, Jane Fonda In Five Acts, Juliet, Naked, Lean On Pete, Leave No Trace, The Leisure Seeker, Lizzie, McQueen, Mary Poppins Returns, Non-Fiction, On Chesil Beach, The Party (not to be confused with Life Of The Party, which I loathed), Private Life, RBG, The Seagull, The Sisters Brothers, The Tale, Tea With The Dames, Tully, The Untold Tales Of Armistead Maupin, Vice, We The Animals, Who We Are Now, Wildlife

Critical favorites I didn’t hate, but (to various degrees) didn’t love: The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, Beautiful Boy, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Bookshop, Boy Erased, Crazy Rich Asians, The Death Of Stalin, Happy As Lazzaro, Hereditary, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Queen Of Scots, Minding The Gap, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, The Old Man And The Gun, The Outlaw King, Roma, Suspiria, Zama

Critical favorites I hated: Bohemian Rhapsody, First Reformed, Isle Of Dogs, Love, Simon, Madeline’s Madeline, On The Basis Of Sex, Sorry To Bother You, Under The Silver Lake, You Were Never Really Here

Happy New Year!

xx

J.V.

Award Season Round-up: snubs and surprises from the golden globe, critics choice, and SAG awards

As the end of the year approaches and we find ourselves in the often thrilling, sometimes tedious thick of awards season, I wanted to take some time to tick through some of my most exciting surprises and most egregious snubs from the nominations by three of the most significant voting bodies: the HFPA (whose Golden Globe nominations were, as usual, a frustratingly mixed bag), BFCA/BTCA (whose Critics Choice nominations, save for a few outliers, I was generally quite happy with), and SAG (many of whose WTF nominations left me shaking my fists at the sky in rage). As always, there were many performances omitted from these nominations I would desperately like to have seen included, but I have tried to limit my “snub” choices here to those I think actually had a fighting chance but were ignored nonetheless. In addition, as a general matter, I should note that I take “snub” discourse pretty lightly. We are fortunate enough to be living in a time characterized by an abundance of riches in terms of the quantity and quality of films and television being produced. As a result, it is rare that I genuinely feel anyone nominated for major awards doesn’t deserve the recognition they receive (though it certainly happens, and has happened far more frequently this year than I would have preferred), even if I would have made different choices as a voter. That said, there are some performances I believe are just too good to be ignored, but are, and others I enjoy very much but assume will be ignored, and aren’t, and these are but a few of those from this year:

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce (SNUB, GG/SAG)maggie-gyllenhaalphoto-paul-schiraldi-hbo

Gyllenhaal is, in my opinion, of the very best actresses working today, and she is TERRIFIC in The Deuce, which is itself a very interesting and well-made show unlike anything else on TV. She deserves far more recognition than she gets.

Richard Madden, Bodyguard (SURPRISE, GG)Bodyguard

This is a pretty typical GG nominations so I can’t say I’m entirely shocked, but I definitely wasn’t anticipating Madden (whose performance in Bodyguard, as show I enjoyed, is quite good) getting in here.

Elizabeth Debicki / Jason Ritter, The Tale (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)image

One of the great tragedies of this awards season is how criminally under-rewarded The Tale is. While Laura Dern has deservedly been recognized just about everywhere for her work in the film, Debicki and Ritter give haunting, intricate performances that are just as crucial to its success, so it would have been great to see them singled out as well.

Emma Stone, Maniac (SNUB, GG/CC)emma-stone-maniac-hair

Maniac didn’t entirely work for me, but the one thing about that definitely did is Stone’s (who, despite being an Oscar-winning A-list star still feels somehow under-appreciated to me) performance, so was to surprised to see her miss out on both Globe and CC nominations.

Charlize Theron, Tully (SURPRISE, GG)tully-charlize-theron

Just a really great performance from such a versatile, gifted actress that I wasn’t sure would be noticed but am very glad was.

Steven Yeun, Burning (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)burning_still-2

One of the best supporting actor performances of the year in one of the very best movies that really deserves attention.

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (SURPRISE, GG/CC/SAG)c4fb62f5-c196-4efb-9fe5-b528f11ee154-screen-shot-2018-09-04-at-30456-pm

Another nomination I certainly wasn’t shocked by, but had look been afraid wouldn’t come to fruition. Weisz is a personal favorite of mine, and she’s been snubbed so many times since she won her Oscar that I didn’t want to get my hopes up, especially given the Emma Stone vote-splitting risk, but now that it’s happened, boy am I glad because there’s no one who deserves awards attention more.

Keri Russell & Matthew Rhys, The Americans (SNUB, SAG)_c0a0157d_hires2

The two best television performances of the last decade. There is no excuse for not nominating for any award for which they are eligible. None.

Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade (SNUB, GG)1_lb-MechsQf7GzBszK6gNPA

Such a smart, funny and delightful presence, and a real breakout talent, it would have been great to see Burnham land a screenplay or director nomination.

Lily James, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again (SNUB, GG)1_Lily-James

Just a luminous ray of sunshine (always, but especially in this film), I fully expected the Globes to go gaga for her and am bummed they didn’t.

Viola Davis & Elizabeth Debicki, Widows (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)1200px-Widows

Two powerful, devastating performances from two powerful devastating actresses who are being regrettably overlooked this season.

Rachel McAdams, Game Night (SURPRISE, CC)636547300536648179-GN-00886rCC

A deliciously, rewardingly exuberant performance so worthy of a comedy nomination.

Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal (SURPRISE, GG/CC)a-very-english-scandal-_final_14358862_14358852_rgb

Another quirky, note-perfect turn from the always wonderful Whishaw I was thrilled to see get recognized.

Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place (SURPRISE, SAG)A-Quiet-Place

A genuine (though the SAGs love Blunt so not entirely, I suppose), but a welcome one. Though certainly not typical awards-fare (times are a-changin’?), A Quiet Place really worked for me and I thought Blunt was extraordinary in it, so I’m glad she got this nod. She never doesn’t deserve it.

Ryan Gosling, First Man (SNUB, GG/SAG)1280x720_cmsv2_f5f40633-cea2-5e4b-a1fc-82952e799b12-3226828

One of the best screen performances by an actor this year, in my opinion, which is somehow inexplicably going unrecognized in favor of a number of clearly inferior ones.

Edgar Ramirez, American Crime Story: Versace (SNUB, CC/SAG)acs_302_0645-h_2017

Acted circles around the overdecorated Darren Criss in a fairly small but crucial role.

Noah Emmerich, The Americans (SURPRISE, CC)americans607stan

Long overdue and so deserved.

Betty Gilpin, Glow (SNUB, GG/SAG)Betty-Gilpin-Glow

Gilpin is so, so good on this show, I cannot believe her name was left out.

Carey Mulligan, Wildlife (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)Carey-Mulligan-in-Wildlife-2018

My favorite actress, criminally underrated, etc., etc.

Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians (SURPRISE, GG/CC)crazy_rich_asians_constance_wu_1524264444.1524519689

Crazy Rich Asians didn’t do for me what it did for a lot of people, but I am so grateful it exists if for no other reason to earn the incredible Constance Wu, a true star, the respect she deserves. Here’s hoping these nominations will lead to many more and a long and fruitful career.

Chloe Zhao, The Rider (SNUB, GG/CC)4therider-feature-1600x900-c-default

One of the best films of the year, with some of the strongest and most memorable direction, which I was hoping would get more attention than it has.

Rachel McAdams/Alessandro Nivola/Rachel Weisz, Disobedience (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)A048_C016_0113T4

Excellent performances all around in this very smart, emotional movie which deserved a lot more credit than it’s gotten.

Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (SNUB, GG/CC)cyefm_01874_crop_r2_rgb-h_2018

Heller has rapidly become one of my favorite directors working today, so I hoping against hope to see her slide into the race this year, and was disappointed she did not.

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade (SURPRISE, GG/CC)Eighth Grade - Still 1

Another remarkable break-out it’s very easy to root for, and who I definitely do.

Holly Taylor, The Americans (SURPRISE, CC)holly-taylor-americans-season-6-ht-jef-180515_hpMain_16x9_1600

Long overdue and SO deserved.

Julia Garner, Ozark (SURPRISE, CC/SAG)image

Garner’s SAG nomination was a genuine gag, but a welcome one–I think she is one of the most talented, interesting actresses working on television today, and certainly one of the most exciting of her generation working in any medium.

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (SNUB, GG/SAG)killingeve1409

A completely out of nowhere tour de force performance from a very gifted and versatile actress who is, unfortunately, being unfairly overshadowed by co-star Sandra Oh (who, like everyone, I love and wish the best for, but whose performance on this show is far inferior).

Margot Robbie, Mary Queen Of Scots (SURPRISE, SAG)margot-robbie-mary-queen-of-scots-4113_d001_00325_r_crop1513275057-publicity-h-2018.jpg_0

Definitely one of the more shocking nominations on this list, but I’m not mad about it. SAG is so wild.

Rosamund Pike, A Private War (SURPRISE, GG)mariecolvin

One of my absolute favorite performances of the year in a film that no one saw but I really, really liked. I had a feeling Pike might get in here, and I am so thrilled (and smug) she did.

Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)MV5BNDA2NjQzNjg4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDE2NDMyNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_

Without question one of the best supporting actor performances of the year. And yet no love. How come, Chief Willoughby?

Daniel Brühl, The Alienist (SURPRISE, GG)MV5BZGQzNzk0MTMtODNlMi00Y2FkLTk3YmMtNjA2YzhkMTU5NGQ3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODExNTExMTM@._V1_

I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the Alienist, and always happy to see Brühl (of whom I’ve long been a fan) show in any conversation.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters (SURPRISE, GG/CC)Shoplifters-1600x900-c-default

Also not really a surprise, but since this film is (spoiler) my favorite of the year, the idea that it might miss out any nominations was deeply traumatic for me, so I’m tremendously relieved it didn’t.

Thandie Newton, Westworld (SNUB, SAG)thandi2

Always the best and most interesting part of an often frustratingly convoluted show.

Full Cast, Schitt’s Creek (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)ZW1746A_5bbc3ff1a06df

This show is pure, unadulterated joy, and its incredible cast deserves far more awards love than they get.

Elizabeth Olsen, Sorry For Your Loss (SURPRISE, CC)sorry_for_your_loss_elizabeth_olsen

I have to admit I haven’t seen this show yet, but I am such a fan of Olsen and have heard nothing but good things about it, so was pleased to her her pop.

Ben Foster,  (SNUB, GG/CC/SAG)download

A shamefully underrated character actor, who gave one of the best performances by an actor this year.

xx

J.V.

#61serieschallenge

Felt so inspired by my #61movies post that I decided to follow it up with this one, which wasn’t much easier to narrow down (could easily have gone to 100). But nonetheless: 61 television series (loosely defined) that have impacted me in some way or other. No explanations.

xx

J.V.

#61Movieschallenge

In the spirit of the #10daymoviechallenge going around Instagram and the #20moviechallenge on Twitter, I’m going long with 61 films that mean something to me. 61 films (in honor of 1961, the year Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released), from some of the very first films I loved to the some of the most recent. No explanations.  Here goes.

xx

J.V.

Best of 2018, Vol. I: Theater

As we near the end of 2018, I’ll be posting my personal “best of” lists, starting now with my picks for the best Broadway/Off-Broadway performances of 2018. I’m very fortunate to live in New York and have access to some of the very best theater in the world, and 2018 blessed us with another year of incredibly rich, dynamic performances on stage from some of the best actors working today. Of everything I saw this year, these were my favorites.

  1. Full Cast, The Play That Goes Wrong

A hysterical comedic romp, performed with admirable exuberance by a terrific cast of (mostly) unknown actors.

  1. Alex Newell / Hailey Kilgore, Once On This Island

The two most memorable performances from a colorful, spirited production, Newell’s powerhouse vocals and Kilgore’s winsome earnestness made this lively, buoyant production well worth the price of admission.

  1. Jessica Keenan Wynn, Beautiful

The surprise standout of a (mostly) well-made jukebox musical, Wynn outshone Melissa Benoist (also quite good) in just about every scene as under-sung songwriter Cynthia Weil.

  1. Lindsay Mendez, Carousel

The best part of a good production of a very problematic play.

  1. Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady

The best part of a good production of a very problematic play.

  1. Michael Urie / Mercedes Ruehl, Torch Song

The only worthy performances in a just-okay revival of a genius play (the supporting cast was extremely weak), though Urie’s performance is mostly just an extremely committed Harvey Fierstein impersonation (albeit a good one), and Ruehl played a quite exaggerated role with a surprising degree of restraint.

  1. Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit

One of three performers on this list who were also included in my “best of 2017” theater list, Lenk is the heart and soul of this small, wonderful show, which earned her a well-deserved Tony.

  1. Lauren Ridloff, Children Of A Lesser God

Ridloff played what is probably the best role for a deaf woman in the history of American theater (other than Helen Keller) beautifully in a not-great but not terrible production.

  1. Full Cast, The Boys In The Band

We were so lucky this year to get revivals of several of the best LGBT-themed plays ever written, and this production, starring an all openly-gay cast, was one of my absolute favorites. Giving credit to the full cast because they were genuinely all so good that choosing a single stand-out would be near impossible.

  1. Stockard Channing, Apologia

Channing is an all-time favorite actress for me, and she was, predictably, far and away the best part of this very interesting, incisive new play (should note that the rest of the cast, including Hugh Dancy and especially Megalyn Echikunwoke, were also extremely good, but this play also featured the absolute worst performance I saw on stage this  year from an actress whose name I won’t mention).

  1. Glenda Jackson / Laurie Metcalf/ Alison Pill, Three Tall Women

Three acting giants (and personal favorites) absolutely killed it as the three tall women in one of Albee’s very best plays. Pill’s failure to merit a Tony nomination was one of my biggest snubs of the year.

  1. Lesley Manville, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Manville gave a powerhouse turn as Mary Tyrone, one of the most difficult yet most iconic roles for an actress in American theater, delivering a performance that could go toe to toe with the ones given by Hepburn, Lange, Metcalf or any of the other greats who have tackled it previously.

  1. Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Another of the greats, as far as I’m concerned, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit, McTeer devoured this juicy role with a ferocious wit and whimsy that left me wanting more.

  1. Tatianna Maslany, Mary Page Marlowe / Network

Maslany, long a favorite of mine, elevated each of these productions into something far more than they would have been with a lesser actress playing her respective roles. Her scenes in Mary Page Marlowe were among the very best work I’ve seen an actress under 40 ever do on stage, and she made the most of what she was given in Network (which frankly did not work for me at all). She acts with such insight, such poise, and intelligence, it’s nearly impossible to look away.

  1. Bernadette Peters, Hello, Dolly!

I’ve legitimately never had a better time in a Broadway theater than I did watching my personal favorite musical theater actress of all time dive into one of the very best roles in one of the very best shows in the canon. I saw the show on the night of Bernadette’s first preview, which was completely electric, and three more times after, and only felt more warmth and love and joy each time. Pure magic.

  1. Full Cast, Angels In America

The greatest play ever written in my opinion. A bold, behemoth, religious experience in which, again, every single cast member rose to the considerable challenge and delivered not only some of the finest work on Broadway this year, but perhaps the very finest work in each of their respective, very accomplished, careers. The fact that Michael Cera was nominated for a Tony for featured actor in a play over the incredible James McArdle is criminal.

  1. Glenn Close / Grace Van Patten, Mother Of The Maid

2018 is the year of Glenn Close, as far as I’m, concerned, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Her sizzling, powerful performance as Isabelle Arc in this sparkling new play from Jane Anderson is just another feather in her cap, and the immensely talented Grace Van Patten held her own against Close in every single scene, a feat for which she deserves a tremendous amount of credit. Featured actress Kelley Curran was also quite impressive.

  1. Tyne Daly, Downstairs

One of the best living theater actresses (and another personal favorite of mine), Daly gave an incredibly skilled, empathic performance in this very strong new play, in which she acted her brother Tim (also quite good) off the stage and out of the building onto the street. She is a center of power, in all things she does, that’s only grown finer with age.

  1. Carey Mulligan, Girls & Boys

Mulligan, who is tied with Amy Adams for the title of my personal favorite actress working today, knocked the breath out of my lungs with this stunning monologue, from which I still have not fully recovered.

  1. Denzel Washington, The Iceman Cometh

I saw this performance on the first night of previews. The production was a mess, I don’t care for Iceman generally, and Denzel forgot his lines at least 5 times. It was still maybe the single greatest performance I’ve ever seen on stage, from our greatest living actor. A true privilege to observe.

Honorable Mentions: Daniel Radcliffe / Cherry Jones, The Lifespan Of A Fact; Josh Charles, Straight White Men, Full Cast, Twelfth Night; Andy Karl, Pretty Woman; Ashley Park, Mean Girls; Bryan Cranston, Network; Kirstin Maldonado, Kinky Boots

Didn’t see: A lot probably, but notably The Waverly Galley (have to assume Joan Allen would have been in contention for a spot on this list if I had), Carmen Jones, The Ferryman, Girl From The North Country, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

Here’s hoping 2019 brings as many riches to the Broadway stage as 2018 did. Until next year!

xx

J.V.