Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Standout Performances: January

Welcome to a semi-regular feature here at Movies with Abe, returning for the first time in three years. A lot of great performances from the first half of the year are forgotten by the time Oscar movies roll out and awards season comes around. This feature is designed to pay tribute to those actors and actresses who have demonstrated excellence in movies that likely will not be remembered at the end of the year. Maybe praise like this can help. Each edition of Sunday Standout Performances will look at a different month, referencing my reviews of the films mentioned. Since we’re playing catchup now, let’s start by taking a look at January. This one is all about the Spanish speakers.

Carmen Maura (Let My People Go)

“Spanish actress Carmen Maura, a frequent muse of Pedro Almodovar’s, is the standout member of the ensemble, playing his Jewish mother with just the right amount of obsessive and protective attention.” It’s fun to recognize Maura in this context and to see her enhance an admittedly entertaining but still strange story.

Gael Garcia Bernal (No)

“Bernal, whose international popularity continues to be strong, has just the right sensibility to play René. When asked about being a Mexican actor portraying a Chilean at a Q & A following a public screening at the Sundance Film Festival, Bernal responded that the film tackles far more important issues. Bernal answered a question about why the film is important today by emphasizing its subversive questioning of democracy, something he believes exists to be perfected every day.” His is such a natural performance that it blends seamlessly with the film, and having him play someone so initially detached from the emotion of his work is doubly worthwhile when it becomes clear how invested Bernal is in this story.

Sofia Oria and Maribel Verdu (Blancanieves)

“Actress Sofia Oria, who plays Carmencita, is a new face both to Spanish and American audiences, and she draws out the spirit of her character’s struggle ably and compellingly. Maribel Verdu, who had the opportunity to play the heroic rebel Mercedes in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is superb as Encarna, emoting strongly with her eyes and with her face and delivering a fiercely villainous turn.” These Spanish actresses, one completely new and the other familiar to American audiences from “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” in which she starred with Bernal, make this underrated black-and-white interpretation of Snow White a haunting success.

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