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Performance Art: The Best Acting of 2007 - Female

Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There

From the most sweetly nuanced performance of Jennifer Jason Leigh's career to Cate Blanchett's revelatory portrayal of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There, the women of 2007 were stellar.

Director: Noah Baumbach Film: Margot at the Wedding Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zane Pais, Jack Black, Ciarán Hinds, John Turturro Website: http://www.margotatthewedding.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/76/3876/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: Paramount US Release Date: 2007-11-16 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-02-08 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/margot-at-the-wedding-poster.jpg

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List number: 10

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Margot at the Wedding

Known for playing women-on-the-verge in dark art house pictures for years, and working with many modern masters (Robert Altman, The Coens, David Cronenberg, and Jane Campion among them) has earned Leigh the reputation for being able to handle playing rough, raw characters that other, less experimental actresses would shy away for fear of alienating their fans. In Margot, as the glowing Pauline, however, she does a 180 and turns in the most sweetly nuanced, gentle, and funny performance of her career. Credit director (and Leigh’s real-life husband) Noah Baumbach for being able to show viewers this candid, relaxed side of the always-edgy actress, but credit Leigh even more for stepping outside of her comfort zone and playing fearlessly against type as a soft, feminine, nurturer who is at odds with her harpy of a sister. Matt Mazur

Margot at the Wedding

Director: Jason Reitman Film: Juno Studio: Fox Searchlight Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons Website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/juno/ MPAA rating: PG-13 Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/34/5234/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: Fox US Release Date: 2007-12-05 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-02-01 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/j/juno-poster.jpg

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List number: 9

Ellen Page

Juno

Plenty have complained about Diablo Cody's too-smart-by-half screenplay for Juno, which channeled Heathers when it wasn't screaming "Behold my cleverness!" The reason that doesn’t matter? Ellen Page. Although not her breakthrough role (critics who missed her in 2005's table-turner of a stalker thriller, Hard Candy, should have their licenses revoked), it definitely announces her as a force to be reckoned with. Devastatingly cynical or meltingly vulnerable as the situation demands, she invests the role of the not-as-smart-as-she-thinks teenage mom with more gravitas and humanity than the slick script could even conceive of. Chris Barsanti

Juno

Director: Ben Affleck Film: Gone Baby Gone Studio: Miramax Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan, Edi Gathegi Website: http://www.gonebabygone-themovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-10-19 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/g/gone-baby-gone-poster.jpg

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List number: 8

Amy Ryan

Gone Baby Gone

At first, Amy Ryan's Helene McCready is better at playing the grieving mother than she is at actually being one. For all her tears and bile, she seems but a small piece in the puzzle of her daughter's disappearance. However, once Gone Baby Gone turns from procedural to morality play, Helene takes on new meaning. When revisited, she's cleaned up and trying to be a parent, but still self-involved. She artlessly flirts with Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), who agrees to watch her kid while she goes out with a guy who saw her on TV. Ultimately, she stands as an argument both for and against her right to her child. Ryan's ability to convey Helene's transformation without making her likable at any point gives Gone Bay Gone more depth than any of the film's more self-consciously profound moments. That she achieves this with so little screen time is even more remarkable. Shaun Huston

Gone Baby Gone

Director: Noah Baumbach Film: Margot at the Wedding Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zane Pais, Jack Black, Ciarán Hinds, John Turturro Website: http://www.margotatthewedding.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/76/3876/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: Paramount US Release Date: 2007-11-16 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-02-08 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/margot-at-the-wedding-poster.jpg

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List number: 7

Nicole Kidman

Margot at the Wedding

Calling an actor’s work career-best is risky. Calling Kidman’s work in Margot her best is not only accurate, but astounding, given her output since 1995 -- To Die For, Moulin Rouge, The Others, and her brave Dogville, could all reasonably be called “career-best”, too. The actress reinvents herself from the outside in for the prissy, self-absorbed writer who crashes her estranged sister’s wedding. Kidman is dark, funny, and inventive opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh, in an inspired, wild bit of casting. She isn’t afraid to upturn the dark corners of Margot’s damaged psyche, and she isn’t afraid of tarnishing her reputation by playing an almost unredeemable harridan. Kidman, more transformative than ever, gives the most misunderstood performance of the year. Matt Mazur

Margot at the Wedding

Director: Ang Lee Film: Lust, Caution (Se, jie) Studio: Focus Features Cast: Tang Wei, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Joan Chen, Wang Lee-Hom MPAA rating: NC-17 First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-09-28 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-01-04 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/l/lust-caution-poster.jpg

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List number: 6

Tang Wei

Lust, Caution

If you told an actress that, for one part, she would be required to summon both the buttoned-down, quietly agonizing sexual suppression of Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love and the frequently unbuttoned, not so quietly agonizing sexual uninhibitedness of Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris, she'd almost certainly take a pass. Somehow Ang Lee readied newcomer Tang Wei for that tremendous challenge and, somehow, she pulled it off with emotional precision to spare. I suppose it might've helped that co-star Tony Leung's character is something a cross between Brando's Paul in Last Tango and, uh, Leung's own Mr. Chow from the Wong Kar-wai picture. Either way, she's aces. Josh Timmermann

Lust, Caution (Se, jie)

Director: Tony Gilroy Film: Michael Clayton Studio: Warner Bros. Cast: George Clooney, Sean Cullen, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack Website: http://michaelclayton.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-10-05 (General release) UK Release Date: 2007-09-28 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/michael-clayton-poster.jpg

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List number: 5

Tilda Swinton

Michael Clayton

George Clooney's Michael Clayton and Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowder have at least one thing in common: they've both made careers out of doing errands for the wealthy, the powerful, and the corporate. However, where Michael has seemingly done so for his own purposes, and is now disenchanted with his life, Karen drank the Kool Aid. In two of Michael Clayton's best scenes, writer-director Tony Gilroy and editor John Gilroy cut between Karen practicing and preparing for important talks and the actual delivery of her remarks. In these sequences Swinton demonstrates the nature of her character's job. When she starts having people killed, we see how this performance has swallowed Karen whole, compromising her humanity. Swinton never plays Karen for pity, but she does show the tragedy of valuing institutions over people. She is simultaneously exercising and being crushed by forces larger than herself. She embodies the film's critique of corporate America, perhaps even better than the title character. Shaun Huston

Michael Clayton

Director: Neil Jordan Film: The Brave One Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Mary Steenburgen, Naveen Andrews Website: http://thebraveone.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-09-14 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/brave-one-poster.jpg

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List number: 4

Jodie Foster

The Brave One

Many misinterpreted Neil Jordan's vigilante drama as a feminized Death Wish riff, when the truth is far more disconcerting. Certainly, Foster uses past action heroism as a frame of reference, but then she adds unexpected moments of mistrust and tenderness to what is a true portrait of a woman on the verge of the biggest breakdown of her sheltered life. From finally seeing the city she loves as a source of terror to witnessing her own descent into murderous madness, it's the kind of tour de force work we've come to expect from this amazing two time Academy Award winner. Bill Gibron

The Brave One

Director: Sarah Polley Film: Away from Her Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Michael Murphy, Olympia Dukakis, Kristen Thomson, Wendy Crewson Website: http://lionsgate.com/awayfromher/ MPAA rating: PG-13 Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/10/4510/video.php First date: 2006 US Release Date: 2007-05-04 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-04-27 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/a/away-from-her-poster.jpg

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List number: 3

Julie Christie

Away from Her

In the '60s, her work in Darling, Dr. Zhivago, and Petulia catapulted her to the top of the era's A-list. Yet after more mid '70s triumphs, she seemed to quietly disappear from the limelight. In 1998, her work in Alan Rudolph's Afterglow earned her yet another Oscar nod. Now, almost a decade later, her heartbreaking performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Sarah Polley's poetic film has critics buzzing anew. Still stunning at 66, the aging actress proves that she's a rather quiet diva of the dramatics, making the potentially maudlin subject matter of the story into something quite magnificent. Bill Gibron

Away from Her

Director: William Friedkin Film: Bug Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick, Jr., Lynn Collins Website: http://lionsgate.com/bug/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2006 Distributor: Lionsgate US Release Date: 2007-05-25 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/bug-2007-poster1.jpg

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List number: 2

Ashley Judd

Bug

Private sex tapes aside, it's pretty darn rare in this day and age for a Hollywood star to put something out there that's legitimately shocking. Sure, Halle Berry and Charlize Theron won praise and awards for "de-glaming" to play people with real problems, but neither performance made me sit up right in my theatre seat, or widen my eyes as far as they go. Where Ashley Judd allows herself to go in the final act of Bug is someplace scary and nasty and raw and, yes, really shocking. It's a place that most hungry up-and-comers -- much less their handsomely compensated A-list heroes -- wouldn't dare venture near, at least without a parachute or a life jacket or the guarantee of an Oscar at the end of the tunnel. Judd nails it without so much as her panties. Josh Timmermann

Bug

Director: Todd Haynes Film: I'm Not There Studio: Weinstein Company Cast: Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood Website: http://www.ioncinema.com/movie.php?id=2334 MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/40/4740/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-11-21 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-12-21 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/i/im-not-there-poster.jpg

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List number: 1

Cate Blanchett

I'm Not There

It would be next to impossible for any actor to play Bob Dylan. The singer songwriter remains an enigma in a medium that easily tolerates such mysteries. Now add the notion of capturing him circa 1965, in the midst of his influential heyday. Finally, give the role to a woman. Yet that's exactly what director Todd Haynes did for his epic mock biopic on the famed protest pin-up, and the results were revelatory. Blanchett gets completely lost in the role, relying on her own interpretation of the underlying public persona to redefine Dylan's many facets. It's a stunning, ethereal experience. Bill Gibron

I'm Not There









Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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