Best Actress in a Leading Role – 1997

01. Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy
With her character of Alyssa, Joey Lauren Adams is asked to prove to us what makes her special enough for near-slacker Ben Affleck to fall in love with her despite the fact that she is gay. But instead of just making that aspect work for the character, Adams goes far more deep into her character’s soul. This is one of those performances the term “lived-in” was created for, flesh and blood put-on screen by an actress fearless enough to perform the rom-com sweetheart with all the flaws of a real human being. I fell in love with Alyssa, and like Affleck’s character, I doubt I’ll ever forget her.

02. Pam Grier in Jackie Brown
There’s a scene towards the beginning of Jackie Brown where she is arrested for smuggling money and cocaine into the United States. “What the hell is that sh_t?” she says. How is it I’ve never managed to erase her delivery of that line from my mind? And for that matter, how about literally every other aspect of Grier’s witty characterization. What’s so damn fun about Grier is she is so alive here, invoking the humor in Tarantino’s dialogue while staying grounded (something that always bothered me about Travolta in… yeah, nevermind…) and real. She makes you believe she is capable of pulling off that sh_t she does, mainly because, well… Jackie Brown is so badass!

03. Joan Allen in The Ice Storm
There is a melancholic chord that is constantly plucked throughout The Ice Storm (one of my very favorite films of the 90s) in which we are unsure whether Joan Allen’s portrayal of Elena Hood is victimized or predatory. But it’s that very difficulty to decipher the emotions of her that lends hand in making Ang Lee’s film the calmly disturbing masterpiece it is. When Elena and her husband (played by Kevin Kline) participate in a key party, the looks in her eyes as key after key is drawn out from the glass bowl may, in fact, be the staple in what the entire moral of The Ice Storm is… Heroes and villains, well, aren’t they all just the same?

04. Lynn Whitfield in Eve’s Bayou
If there is one mother in the history of cinematic mothers that I truly feel is the perfect mom, it is Roz Batiste in Eve’s Bayou. This has much to do with the fact that Lynn Whitfield plays her with such a delicate and strong way without bursting into theatrics. Throughout Kasi Lemmons’ underrated drama, Whitfield constantly shows love and compassion for her family, especially her children, and does so without stabbing it into our brain like most of the badly played “good moms” do in some films. There is truth, loyalty, and strength in Whitfield’s performance that is unforgettably moving, and she just may be the heart that holds the entire picture together.

05. Martha Plimpton in Eye of God
There are good people in this world. Martha Plimpton’s simple and heartfelt performance in Eye of God reminds me that. Even if she has some naïve aspects to her personality, she’s still strong-willed and full of hope and I was with her every step of the way until the film’s haunting resolution. I’ve always been a fan of Plimpton’s work in the 80s, and I’m happy she got some recognition then. Sadly, this performance went unnoticed come awards time, which is a shame. This is a natural performance unlike any I can think of; even now, thirteen years later.


~ by jerkwoddjh on August 2, 2010.

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