One's a calendar girl. The other a Bond girl. And they're both smokin' hot actresses that went all Monster and downplayed their 60/70-something sexiness on their way to Oscar nominations for excellent turns in excellent 2006 dramas now on DVD.
Not to boast or anything, but I was about 110 percent sure Dame Helen Mirren was going to win the Oscar about a third of the way though Stephen Frears' regal slice of historical fiction about the aftermath of Princess Di's death and how Queen Elizabeth was being a royal pain in the ass in her refusal to mourn with England. An increasingly engaging story, it's a juicy behind-closed-doors look at events that makes us feel entitled and only slightly voyeuristic. Mirren gives one of the most complete and proficient performances of the past decade, the usually sexy actress (is GILF the right word?) rendering herself nearly unrecognizable under the queen's powdered facade. Not as celebrated but almost as deserving is Michael Sheen, who makes such a convincing Tony Blair I later wondered what the hell the prime minister was doing in Blood Diamond.
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Notes on a Scandal (released last week)
It's gotta be fun playing a loon onscreen, be it Travis Bickle or Milton Waddams, and it's clear Dame Judi Dench reveled in every second of embodying Barbara Covett, the conservative high school teacher who develops a somewhat Single White Female-fascination with her younger, free-spirited new colleague Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett). That is until she spies Sheba getting...it...on with a student, and a marathon of mind games ensues. Voiceover can be a beautiful thing (no matter what Adaptation's screenwriting guru Robert McKee will have you believe) and Barbara's scathing narration (in the form of journal entries) is pure poetry. Dench, looking decidedly haggard as a woman who seems motivated solely by her disgust with others, gives one of her greatest performances yet, and that, obviously, says a lot. The film feels much like an Adrian Lyne morality tale in which everyone involved is at least a little bit guilty. Watching people wallow in such misery really shouldn't be this fun.
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