Friday, September 16, 2016

My Favourite Performances in a U-rated Film.

The much more sanitised, family-friendly younger sister list to this one. 

My motivation for doing this list is because, naturally, due to the Universal rating, an actor is constrained in terms of the amount of cursing they can do, as well as being limited by other elements of their acting repertoire. In an 18-rated film, for example, you can cuss, Coke and have a candle up your bum. (And that's just Leo in WoWS). 

In a U-rated film you're barely allowed to say 'bloody' and a kiss on the lips is about as saucy as it gets. 

So, which actors managed to impress me with their acting without resorting to the naughty stuff?

10. Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennett in Pride & Prejudice

Ms. Pike, who I admire on many levels: for her intellect (she did English at Wadham College, Oxford and speaks extremely eloquently in interviews), beauty (a 5 foot 8.5 genteel English rose) and flawless acting skills (here's hoping she picks up a second Oscar nomination for this year's upcoming A United Kingdom!), plays Keira Knightley's nice, docile sister Jane in the role that won her the heart of the director, Joe Wright, who later turned out to be a bit of a knob and played her. Men called Joe are untrustworthy knobs like that.

Her appearance on this list makes Rosamund the only actor/actress to feature in both my 'top 18-rated performances' and 'top U-rated performances' list. Get you an actress who can do both.

One final piece of awesome, there's a copy of the Pride & Prejudice audiobook that Rosamund Pike reads! Boom.

09. Henry Fonda as Juror #8 in 12 Angry Men 

08. Ziyi Zhang as Zhao Di in The Road Home

Ziyi's more appearance on this list, in a much more wholesome role, makes her the only actress to feature on my 'top U rated performances' list and 'sexiest femmes in film' list. Brilliant to see a Chinese sister consistently slaying!

07. Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve 

All ABout Eve, one of my favourite films is one of the greatest films about divas and features one of the cattiest performances of all-time by Bette Davis. How shady can she be in a U-rated film?, you might be wondering. Well the answer is very, and the genius of Ms Davis' performance is it's not so much the waspish comments she makes to the other actresses. It's the way that she says them.

06. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice 

Some critics didn't care for Keira's giggly portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, causing director Joe Wright to rant at the BAFTAs when he was picking up an Award about how dare they not nominate her. Awkward. (Told you Joe Wright was a dislikeable cnut).

And to be honest, the first time I saw this film, I agreed. Initially, I found Keira Knightley too slight in the role. But like any layered acting performance, and quite the opposite from Jennifer Lawrence's initially flashy but ultimately one-dimensional turn as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook which even Jlaw stans admit was one of the most undeserved Oscar wins in Academy Award history, it grows on you after repeat viewings, particularly if you think about the character more.

Knightley imbues Elizabeth with a light-heated outward demeanour, but behind the pretty face, still waters run deep. Like an onion, it's a performance of depth and complexity, and I'm more than happy to admit that when I first watched her at 15, I didn't quite appreciate the nuances of good acting. She's actually rather brilliant; I daresay even Jane Austen would approve.

05. Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca

04. Joan Fontaine as Lisa Berndle in Letter from an Unknown Woman 

Don't know if you can tell, but I'm somewhat of a sucker for Old Hollywood weepies!

03. Wei Minzhi as Wei Minzhi in Not One Less 

My brother hates this film, finding it cringey, but Not One Less means a lot to me and is my third favourite film of all time. It encapsulates the hardships that people in rural China have to endure on a daily basis, and the hell they have to put themselves through and dignity they have to sacrifice just to make ends meet. Tom wouldn't know how this feels because he was born in London with a silver spoon in his mouth, and unlike his sage older sibling who was born in China but came to England at a young age, hasn't ever experienced the destitution shown in this movie.

Back to the film and not making everything about myself as per, director Zhang Yimou (who also directed entry #8 on this list) plucked an unknown, Wei Minzhi, and cast her as the lead in Not One Less. She plays a young girl who has to take over teaching a disruptive class. The teacher who's leaving for a spell promises her bonus pay if there's 'not one less' student in the class when they come back as when they left.

Unfortunately, getting students to remain in class is easier said than done, given a) Minzhi isn't a particularly experienced teacher and doesn't deal with kids well and b) most of the children in the class are as poor or more so than she is, and so for them, education is a luxury their parents can't afford. As such, one boy quits school pretty early on to find work instead, and the film follows Minzhi as she travels across China to try and drag him back to class.

I'm probably not selling the film very well, but it was an extremely emotional experience because it bought back memories of parts of rundown China which I see every time I visit and the levels of poverty which people really do live in. The motivations of Wei Minzhi's character in the film are too real, and as such, it was a stroke of genius to cast an unknown everyday person in the lead role. Because she has had the life experience of having to sing for her supper on a daily basis, her performance is more authentic and affecting than any amount of years at Drama school could instill into someone.

02. Audrey Hepburn as Princess Anya in Roman Holiday 

Oblig shout-out to the prettiest, classiest lady in Hollywood history!

01. Alec Guinness as eight members of the D'Ascoyne family in Kind Hearts and Coronets 

One of the best comedic performances of all-time. The pinnacle of an actor playing multiple roles in a movie; Guinness really sells every character as disparate from the last.  BOSS!

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