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25 Movies to See Before the Oscars: 5. Blue Jasmine

Nominations: Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

Cate Blanchett in 'Blue Jasmine'

If anyone were to admire writer/director Woody Allen for only one thing, it would be that his movies are the definition of witty filmmaking, it wouldn’t be his ability to explore a range of emotional landscapes while always staying true to his own aesthetic, and it wouldn’t be the personableness and intelligence that causes every great actor in the world to flock to him: it is his refusal to make movies on anyone’s terms but his own. Allen has made over forty movies in so many years, and yet other than clear and calculated changes to hone his craft, he makes no effort to appeal to any certain age group or demographic or sociopolitical topic of the moment – he makes the movies he would want to see. This is one of the reasons why his latest Blue Jasmine, another brilliant addition to his portfolio, it is so exciting to see him drawing on more contemporary themes; it feels like spotting a rare bird, something so surprising that its more likely to be illusory than not.

Jasmine French, played by the always pitch perfect Cate Blanchett, is a former New York socialite living in denial of newfound pennilessness – her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is in jail from massive fraudulent business dealings – who decides to move to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger, played by the bright Sally Hawkins. What ensues is the swift and pathetic crumbling of Jasmine’s life, a so-sad-its-disturbingly-funny story of a woman who chooses to cling to, of all possible things, her fragile ego. Watching this woman go back and forth between coping with an average person’s life to lying to find her way back into luxury is both staggering and hilarious. Not since Match Point has Allen written a protagonist so incapable of garnering anything from an audience other than pity (though Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ Chris Wilton is a sociopath, whereas Blanchett’s Jasmine is just self-absorbed), and brilliantly so.

It would be rather nice for Blanchett to win the Actress Oscar this year, not only because this performance is far more deserving than her previous winning role in The Aviator, but also because of her fearlessness. What I loved most about this movie is her eponymous anti-heroine; one must commend the bravery it takes to play someone so unglued in such a mocking and almost disdainful light – there are a fair few of actresses in Hollywood willing to go sans-maquillage for a role, but I dare you to find one so game as to openly display her pit-stains. In light of the recent Dylan Farrow scandal, it is an unfortunate admission that this film might have suffered because of those allegation. Whether true or not (though you have to admit that such long harbored allegations were released with perfect timing during a comfortable moment in Allen’s career not mention the middle of awards season), it would be criminal to overlook this movie for at least heavy consideration. Blanchett has some steep competition in this category – one of the most unpredictable races of the whole year. If I were a member of AMPAS, my (totally objective) vote would belong to her.

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