Friday, December 23

Gay Critics Pick All-Time Best Actresses

It's that time of year that Hollywood and those who care about it start their lists.  Lists of what?  Oh, just about anything at all. The 10 best, the year's best, the best directors, the best black films, the best musicals, AFIs best, the best beat, the best from New York... really, it never ends.  It's a horse race.  Who made it?  Who finished?  Who didn't?  Oh my.  Well, the 160 members who make up The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association have foisted upon us the 10 best actresses ever.  Ever.  I don't know what special expertise my crowd has, but Honey, we have always loved our actresses.  See what you think.

Ingrid Bergman

She was renowned for an astonishing string of classics, many of them with single-word titles... Intermezzo, Notorious, Casablanca, Gaslight, Spellbound, Anastasia, Indiscreet... and an enormous talent.  For years she was heralded as a wholesome, Swedish beauty who radiated a purity that kept the public spellbound despite a notorious public scrutiny.  She slept with most of her leading men and no one knew or much minded if they did know, but when she left her husband and young daughter for Italian director Roberto Rossellini and had a child with him out of wedlock, U.S. politicians vilified her on the floor of congress.  She returned to America after several years in Italy and a divorce from Rossellini, received another Oscar for her return film and continued to engage us as she always had.  

Cate Blanchett

There are few actresses of modern times whose work I admire more than this Aussie. With apologies to the next actress we're discussing, no one that I can think of portrayed Elizabeth I better than Blanchett. How ballsy an actress must be to take on portraying Kate Hepburn but how talented one must be to do it this well.  For me there was Charlotte Gray, Notes on a Scandal and especially Blue Jasmine to keep me going and for many all her portrayals as Galadriel. She's already won two Oscars and there's likely to be more.  She's devoted to her family and her theater company, but how lucky we are to get her as often as we do. 

Bette Davis

This one, of course, comes as no surprise, since she has always been a gay icon, imitated by drag queens, screaming queens and probably real queens who needed to fluff up their dreary lives some.  Davis knew she had the gay community in her palms and always ran with it.  Despite the fact that I found her occasionally a little hammy, especially for an actress of her obvious good standing, she sure could turn on the megawatt talent if she needed to.  And decade by decade.  In the 30s there were Jezebel, Dark Victory and others. I did a prior posting on her astonishing 40s films.  All About Eve was the 50s, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane in the 60s.  She would simply have to be included in a 10-best list of American actresses.

Viola Davis

Gee, I hate to take exception to the only black actress on the list, particularly since I do think she is a very talented actress, but does her inclusion seem just a little premature at this point?  Let's do another one of these in seven-eight years and we could probably put her name at the top.  I thought she was fabulous in The Help, under-used in Prisoners and pretty much kept in supporting roles in most of her films so far.  I am looking forward to seeing Fences later this month and a Harriet Tubman project sounds promising. Her acting acumen is razor-sharp and she can disappear into a character with seeming ease but where's this great body of movie work in prominent roles to move her in with this elite group?

Jane Fonda

Oh hell yes and bless those critics for saying so.  For those of you who find her a not-so-good actress, I am willing to bet that you actually find her a not-so-good citizen and I think you're mistaken on both counts.  If I haven't agreed with her activism 100%, it's probably 95% so we won't go there.  As an actress, it took her two or three films to find her footing, but once she did, there was no stopping this woman. There is an honesty to her work that simply cannot be ignored.  The greatest compliment I could bestow upon her, the actor, is that she is better than her father... and that's saying a mouthful. She's the only one of her generation in this grouping.  

Katharine Hepburn

For many years she was certainly the grand dame of American actresses.  Of her 44 theatrical films very few were flops or poorly received, except for a few in the 1930s which resulted in her being labeled box office poison.  I don't believe anyone on this list ever had that to contend with (Bette?) but no one on this list ever won four Oscars either (yet). We won't go into her great films as I wrote about them suddenly last summer and we covered her again when writing of her relationship with Spencer Tracy.  Despite her legendary temperament, this was a woman who understood acting better than most and knew how to deliver.

Isabelle Huppert

Okay, maybe I should trust the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association on this one.  I confess to not knowing a lot about her and I'll guess that most of you don't either.  She works like a plough horse and always has, but in decidedly few American films so I have seen little of her work.  Three I did catch are Heaven's Gate (1980), the French film 8 femmes (1982) and I Heart Huckabees (2004).  Loved her in all of them but then I love French actresses.  Still, I am surprised to find her on such a list.  Perhaps she's in the minds of some these days because her performances in two 2016 releases, Elle and Things to Come, are getting a lot of press.

Julianne Moore

When the torch was passed, this was one of the women who was standing right there. One day I must do a posting on just her so I can drool on the keyboard as I look for the right adjectives on which to shower this gifted actress.  Is there any real point to telling you all I feel about her now?  Is it likely to be much different than how you feel? It's one thing to perhaps remind you of the artistry of a Stanwyck or a Bergman, but you know this woman's work.  It seems it's all she does.  I wonder if something has occurred to you that has to me.  Wouldn't you imagine she is quite a nice person? She doesn't seem like the typical Hollywood type.  What we can say and admire, from my viewpoint, is that this is a friend to gays. She has turned up in more gay-themed movies than any actor I can think of.  

Barbara Stanwyck

If I could pick my favorite actress of this group, here she is.  To me Stanwyck was one of the most exciting actresses to ever grace the screen.  She was a magical dramatic actress, a film noir icon, a gifted comedienne, a long-time major star of Hollywood's Golden Age and on top of it all, a cherished coworker who helped many along the way.  I have done a posting on her and mentioned her in a number of others. I've done postings on a film of hers from the 60s and we've done some from the 40s. When we get to the 50s, there will be more. Critics have always had a soft spot for this tough cookie and gays have loved her because she was one of us.

Meryl Streep

Well... please.  You knew this is alphabetical and that she had to be showing up here. Here is an actress who slips comfortably into any role, into any skin... never mind the accent, the country, the hair color, the temperament.  Her forte is certainly drama but she can lift her voice in song as easily as she can pull off comedy.  Frankly, I think of her as a person who thinks funny things and loves to laugh... really laugh.  There could be no doubt that she would make a list of the 10 best actresses but you may not know that when this committee was asked to name the very best of the 10, they picked her. 

Just for fun... here are some who came the closest to making the list but didn't:  Joan Crawford, Judi Dench, Sally Field, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Taylor and Kate Winslet.  Fear not ladies, there's always next year and a whole new gaggle of gay and lesbian critics.

Who knows my favorite actress of this latter group?  Remember?

Next posting:
An extra movie review

1 comment:

  1. I must add to this list GLORIA GRAHAME. She had that MAGICAL Quality of being somewhat indefinable;full of heart, yet living on the edge.Both onscreen & off.