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Sunday, January 04, 2009

 

Supporting Actress Blogathon 2008

Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress of the Year blogathon is one of the few traditions in the cultural blogosphere that just can't be missed. And even though 2008 won't go down in history as a great year in cinema, there's still a number of actreses who deserve to be singled out for praise...and who might not get it otherwise. So yay Stinky...and thank you!

I'll leave it to others to praise Oscar frontrunners like Penelope Cruz (for Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler) and Amy Adams (for Doubt...but more on Adams later). After culling my list -- and yes, the ModFabulous Best Films of 2008 will appear tomorrow, don't fret -- I found ten women whose supporting work was worthy of attention. But who to choose for the Blogathon?

Let's narrow the list first. I loved Kristin Scott Thomas' understated poise in Tell No One, Evan Rachel Wood's histrionics in The Wrestler, Ari Graynor's inebriation in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Debra Winger's frostiness in Rachel Getting Married and Vera Farmiga's passion in Nothing But The Truth...but not as much as others.

That left me five. I'll forgo the trio of women who will probably make it to Oscar night, and get plenty of attention between now and then: Taraji P. Henson, who takes a trite part and spins gold from it in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Kate Winslet in The Reader (really a Lead performance, but included only because the Academy deems it Supporting); and Viola Davis, an actress of exceptional ability who blows Meryl Streep (briefly) off the screen in Doubt.

Which leaves two. My runner-up is Amy Adams, who like Ms. Davis is also getting attention for her supporting turn in Doubt. I, however, felt her charms much more palpably in the period comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day; Adams pulled off a comedic twist on the ditzy moll stereotype that benefited greatly from her genuine, unguarded perkiness.

But at the end of the day, there was one actress who fit the spirit of the Supporting Actress Blogathon, carrying a large chunk of her movie and making it better...and who needs some flowers thrown at her feet, and who has been largely ignored: Hiam Abbass.

And I hear many readers saying...who?



Hiam Abbass is an Arab-Israeli actress who is known globally for her work, but rarely noted in the United States. This year alone, she's won the Israeli version of the Oscar and been nominated for a European Film Award for Etz Limon (Lemon Tree). Americans might recognize her from 2005's excellent terrorist drama Paradise Now, or from her roles in Steven Spielberg's Munich and Catherine Hardwicke's The Nativity Story. This year, she underscored and elevated the tense drama of Thomas McCarthy's The Visitor as Mouna Khalil, the stoic, passionate mother of an illegal immigrant (Haaz Sleiman) who warms up to her son's friend and benefactor, an aging professor (Nathaniel Jenkins).

Stoic and passionate...that's an incredibly difficult contrast to pull off, and one Abbass does with sublime, elegant grace. The Visitor, one of the most underappreciated films of the year, thrives in its ability to find such grace, haphazardly throwing strangers together and discovering their common humanity. By the time Abbass appears, the film has become a stinging indictment of post-9/11 profiling and the U.S.'s deplorable immigration policies. A stranger in America, Mouna must navigate the laws, New York City, her son's girlfriend (Danai Gurira) and her own survival while waiting for the freedom of her son from a detention center. There's no tearfully dramatic tour de force scene to lean upon, no emotionally wrought monologue to support her. It's just Abbass, suffering the way women have suffered for their children since time began, struggling to make sense of an indefensible cruelty by the U.S. government.

Abbass may be destined for global stardom yet; she's one of the stars of Jim Jarmusch's upcoming film, The Limits of Control, alongside Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, John Hurt and Gael Garcia Bernal. Until then, however, I'll be content with being her biggest fan.
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5 Comments:

Blogger Vance said...

Oh, what a great pick! If there were a Best Supporting Actor Blogathon, I would add in Haaz Sleiman too.

1/4/09, 4:05 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I think she brings a certain dignity and emotional sincerity to "the visitor". She makes the first half much more compelling than the first

1/4/09, 2:46 PM  
Blogger Sally Belle said...

I too chose Hiam...but i much preferred your write up to my own! Excuse...I was in a hurry because I have a ton of work on my desk. That being said, I especially liked the remark about "suffering the way women have always suffered over their children." A truer word was never said!

1/4/09, 5:45 PM  
Blogger Popcorn and Cigarettes said...

That;s a great post, and I couldn't agree more about your choice. Her work in The Visitor was exceptional.

1/5/09, 2:18 AM  
Blogger RC said...

I was going to write about Hiam until I saw she was already getting blog-a-thon coverage...

wouldn't it be great if she snuck in and got an Oscar nod. I'm not holding my breath but she was incredible!

1/5/09, 9:56 PM  

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