Siding with Sidibe

Posted by · 9:41 am · March 1st, 2010

Gabourey Sidibe in PreciousAny discussion of this year’s Best Actress category can get so heated, so quickly, I almost hesitate to point you to this, but Nick Davis’s meticulous review of the five nominees is too good not to recommend. No critic I know analyzes performance with quite such consideration and generosity.

Here’s his case for why Gabourey Sidibe should (not will) take the gold on Sunday:

[T]he first sign that Sidibe was capable of more arrived in her bored but exasperated truth-telling to her school principal about how she got pregnant: “I had sex, Mrs. Lichtenstein,” she deadpans, illuminating Sidibe’s potential for combing out subtle gradations and conjuring real personality from within the character’s perma-gloom. The obstacle and the near-miracle of the performance from this point forward emerge from the fact that Sidibe has a fairly narrow emotional range in which to work (and she holds with conviction to that narrow range, refusing, for example, to be incongruously elated by the arrival of her child), and yet she nonetheless manages to broadcast when Precious is being mischievous, insolent, self-doubting, superior, distractable, suspicious, morbid, or unrelievedly depressed.

As for those of you who care only about the battle between Hollywood’s current two favorite leading ladies, he falls on the side of Streep. Wonderful stuff; read the rest here.

→ 35 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

35 responses so far

  • 1 3-01-2010 at 10:11 am

    Jake D said...

    I think he totally nails it. Sidibe is the leading actress of the year, even if no one feels like noticing it. I’m glad he has both good and bad to say about Mirren and Bullock- they deserve both.

    I love the incredible attention he pays to the performances. It’s easy to think of performances in terms of good/bad, but he really delves into the specifics of what makes the performance work (or not).

  • 2 3-01-2010 at 10:30 am

    Nikki said...

    He spends most of his criticism of Mulligan dissecting Lone’s directorial choices. That makes sense…not. Next.

  • 3 3-01-2010 at 10:43 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yes, admiring a performance while regretting perceived ways in which it is inhibited by the direction is quite a hard idea to get one’s head around.


  • 4 3-01-2010 at 10:45 am

    billybil said...

    I read all of his comments about all of the performances. For some reason, I was unable to comment on his site. However, my biggest question for him and everyone – how much should being perfect for the role and being lucky enough to be cast in the perfect role influence a decision regarding the excellence of a performance. Of course Sidibe should be acknowledged for having the courage to live in front of the camera BUT I am not convinced that indicates the best performance. Being an actor myself, I understand how wonderful it is to find a role that is just about perfect for you and how that can alleviate struggles one may usually face. But I also know what it’s like to take on a role that challenges you and demands you extend beyond the familiar and “comfortable”. I’m sorry, but I am more inclined to admire Daniels and the producers of PRECIOUS for searching and waiting and finding the PERFECT actress to star in PRECIOUS than I am to commend Sidibe on being the best actress of the year. If I had my way – I would not use the Academy Award for Best Actress as a way to acknowledge people lucky enough (or industrious enough) to find the part they were “born” to play. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but acknowledging actresses who reach beyond the ordinary and are able to add life and depth to unique roles outside their usual realms, impresses me more.

  • 5 3-01-2010 at 10:58 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    “No critic I know analyzes performance with quite such consideration and generosity.”

    I would say that there isn’t a critic out there who analyzes *anything* with as much consideration as Nick Davis.

  • 6 3-01-2010 at 11:00 am

    Nikki said...

    Yeah, it’s impossible to praise a performance with the direction isn’t the greatest. Ask all the great actresses who’ve won WITHOUT their director being nominated.

    Apparently, Carey winning multiple critic’s awards without her director isn’t going enough for this particular author.

  • 7 3-01-2010 at 11:00 am

    Nikki said...

    *good enough

  • 8 3-01-2010 at 11:05 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Billybil: I see your point in general, but you’re perilously close to implying that Sidibe — a well-raised, well-spoken psychology student, lest we forget — didn’t have to “reach” to play Precious as much as any actor taking on a character whose background and circumstances are foreign to them. So be careful.

    Robert: You know I agree.

    Nikki: It seems the concept of qualified praise is lost on you, so I’ll leave it be.

  • 9 3-01-2010 at 11:10 am

    Jim T said...

    Nikki, Nick’s opinion is that Mulligan failed to correct her director’s errors.

    And Guy, you really haven’t forgiven him for not nailing Mirren to the cross, have you? :p (“generosity”)

  • 10 3-01-2010 at 11:13 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ha! Actually, what I mean is that he criticizes as generously as he praises — rarely does Nick write something (or someone) off with a simple jibe. Everything gets due consideration.

  • 11 3-01-2010 at 11:19 am

    Nikki said...

    Which still emphasizes my point. Carey has won multiple critic’s groups AND BAFTA despite Lone’s “errors”.

    Meanwhile, Sidibe hasn’t won a thing.

  • 12 3-01-2010 at 11:24 am

    Jim T said...

    Jesus Nikki, SO WHAT?? He’s writing about what HE thought of the performances.

    Plus, Streep won many critics awards and he liked the performance even less. Why don’t you complain about that? Oh, you’re a Mulligan fan, I got it.

    You’re going to kill me, aren’t you? :p

  • 13 3-01-2010 at 11:33 am

    Nikki said...

    Because Meryl Streep deserves those awards.

    I’m disagreeing with Nick Davis. That’s a crime?

  • 14 3-01-2010 at 11:34 am

    Joe said...

    I’m curious what this guy’s average sentence length is. I got exhausted just reading the first paragraph (which I think was about 2 pages)!

    As for his comments: they were fair and balanced. And since I’m also in the “Sidibe for the win” camp, I pretty much agreed with what he said.

  • 15 3-01-2010 at 11:35 am

    Nikki said...

    I like Carey, Sandra, and Meryl for the record. Thankfully, the guilds and critics agree with me so I’m a happy camper. :D

  • 16 3-01-2010 at 11:43 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    @ Nikki: It’s hard to take your “disagreements” seriously when they’re made up of smug dismissals and appeals to authority.

  • 17 3-01-2010 at 11:48 am

    Nikki said...

    Smug because I disagree with one film critic? I guess that makes us all smug for dismissing others and choosing favorites. I’ll be happy for three other actresses if they win this thing. I guess I’ll be smug with all three then.

  • 18 3-01-2010 at 12:00 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Smug because you use lame rhetorical devices that only Borat would find clever to brush away an entire point Nick was trying to make. That makes sense…not. Next.

  • 19 3-01-2010 at 12:09 pm

    Marble_Plum said...

    Like how you use lame labels for me because I disagree with him?

  • 20 3-01-2010 at 12:11 pm

    Marble_Plum said...

    Oh, I’m Nikki obviously. That’s my AD name.

  • 21 3-01-2010 at 12:36 pm

    Megan said...

    As much as I’d like to give some deal of credence to what this guy writes, if you go through his reviews, he basically shits on a ton of great, if not, solid movies. I once had a teacher who gave grades that depressing, and however unearned.

    Aren’t WE hard to please…

  • 22 3-01-2010 at 12:37 pm

    R.J. said...

    I agree with Guy in reference to BillyBil’s comment. Just because Sidibe may be a physical match for her character doesn’t automatically mean she was “perfect” for the role. As an actor I would expect you to know better. Precious and Gabourey Sidibe are not the same person, anyone who’s watched even a half a minute of any of her interviews can tell you that.

    As for the Best Actress race as a whole, I’m not as disappointed with it as Nick Davis seems to be, but I admired his analysis of the performances, I’ll have to check his site more regularly. I haven’t seen The Blind Side or The Last Station so maybe that has something to do with it.

  • 23 3-01-2010 at 12:57 pm

    med said...

    Kudos to Nick for picking Streep to win the Oscar by a narrow margin. Nick is quite adept at his predictions…

  • 24 3-01-2010 at 1:08 pm

    med said...

    I also agree with Nick (are you listening AMPAS) that an Oscar win by Bullock would create a backlash that would be long and unforgiving…

  • 25 3-01-2010 at 3:35 pm

    Glenn said...

    Nikki/Plum, using critics and guilds to back up an argument is really quite silly. Especially this year where so many people agree that they just missed the boat entirely on people like Tilda Swinton and a movie like “Bright Star” and so on. I like Sandra in “The Blind Side”, but no way is she “best of the year” just because some guild tells me so. No way, no how.

  • 26 3-01-2010 at 4:51 pm

    Nikki said...

    Never mind that critics and guilds have awarded Meryl Streep too. Is that silly?

  • 27 3-01-2010 at 5:46 pm

    Lev Lewis said...

    Wow, Nikki really can’t quite seem to grasp the point here. Yes, it’s silly to defend Streep only based on winning awards, be it guilds or critics’.

  • 28 3-01-2010 at 5:53 pm

    Nikki said...

    Yeah, I can’t grasp that Meryl is one of our best actors, and her peers see fit to reward her. I guess hundreds of people don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

  • 29 3-01-2010 at 5:55 pm

    Nikki said...

    Oh, apparently med gets it. Sorry. Streep: countless awards, including SAG/Golden Globe/BFCA.


  • 30 3-01-2010 at 6:26 pm

    Colin Low said...

    So she deserves the Oscar because she’s won countless other awards? Someone tell the Academy that, ’cause they don’t give a shit.

  • 31 3-01-2010 at 6:40 pm

    Nikki said...

    Did I say she deserves it? I obviously side with Mulligan, who won the BAFTA, who are some of the same voters who make up the Academy. Looks like they care.

    I think you’re just disappointed Nick Davis’ “best performance” has little traction. Who’s caring enough to reward Sidibe?

  • 32 3-01-2010 at 9:33 pm

    Colin Low said...

    You seem to think that we need our appraisals of these performances validated by all those critics’ and industry awards. We don’t. Call it egotism, if you will, but the point of movies isn’t in the awards they reap, and even if Sidibe doesn’t win the Oscar or other awards it doesn’t in any way affect how the critics who love her might respond to her performance (or how you might to Mulligan).

    Nick was pointing out how the direction of An Education affected his ultimate appraisal of Mulligan’s performance, because (believe it or not) the director and editor do play a large part in crafting how a performance ends up on screen. If he felt Scherfig imprisoned Mulligan in too many close-ups that kept her from reacting more freely to her co-stars, and you disagree, then explain why you think so. Don’t appeal to the critics’ awards for Mulligan as though it in any way disproves his point.

  • 33 3-01-2010 at 9:45 pm

    Nikki said...

    That was in my first post, which was dismissed. I don’t think Lone’s direction inhibits Mulligan. Rather, I think he lingers on her to create the mood and reactions during her character arc. To immediately see it as a love affair with Audrey Hepburn-type adulation undermines the performance. Do you feel the need to compare any of the other actresses to Audrey Hepburn? Why do you have to put her into a mold? She’s a fresh character all her own, strong-willed and passionate about what she’s not learning and what she is learning. She looked every ounce the lost child when she finally confronts Sally Hawkins’ character with the child. She looks like a jilted woman as she sits in the low lights of her living room. What’s great is that Nick Hornby has given her a tongue to match her newfound knowledge, a tongue that Mulligan wonderfully dices and slices her professors with yet can’t make sense of what David has done to her.

    For Mulligan to play a sixteen-year old in the 1960’s, when she’s contemplating what she’s gained and what she’s lost by that gain, shows her range. It’s not merely beautific. Stop looking at the close-ups and the mold you’ve nudged her into; embrace the very individual character Mulligan has created, and critics have responded favorably to. Like Julian Fellowes said, she’s Carey, not Audrey, and she’s given Jenny to us.

    Hope you’re reading, Mr. Davis.

  • 34 3-01-2010 at 9:48 pm

    Nikki said...

    I’m sorry I meant she. Lone, great female director.

  • 35 3-01-2010 at 9:57 pm

    Colin Low said...

    Thank you for your elaboration; it certainly wasn’t in your first post, which itself dismissed Nick’s “dissecting [of] Lone’s directorial choices” as irrelevant to Mulligan’s performance.

    See, I agree with most of what you’re saying about her performance now that you’ve taken the time to explain your reaction to it; I didn’t see Mulligan as trying to be a Audrey Hepburn-type, though I’m personally unfamiliar with Hepburn’s work. To be fair to Nick, he’s actually reacting to most of the critics who loved Mulligan, many of whom (unlike you) did try their best to tout Mulligan as “the new Audrey Hepburn”.