1997's best performances on screen and stage
Musicians and actors turned in amazing performances this year. Check out our favorites!
The WOMEN of LILITH
Sorry, guys, but women rockers have learned all too well how to practice exclusionary tactics. And so the wildly popular Lilith Fair tour left boys on the side with its all-female lineup — and in the process left machismo-heavy competing tours like Lollapalooza in the festival dust. Lilith’s revolving-door bill may have been short on truly edgy female acts, but this Estropalooza had a surfeit of softer riches. Tracy Chapman had ’em talkin’ about a revolution within formerly gynephobic radio formats. Fiona Apple showed that even teenage sisters are doin’ it for themselves. And Sheryl Crow and Joan Osborne added color with their raunch & roll blues base. Best of all was organizer Sarah McLachlan’s ethereal closing set — less a headlining star turn than a sweet benediction.
At the end of HBO’s knock-out biopic Don King: Only in America, Ving Rhames, wearing a salt-and-pepper fright wig, declares, ”If you didn’t have Don King, you’d have to invent him.” Rhames practically reinvents the infamous boxing promoter with his eerily dead-on portrayal, then goes one better. The actor nearly rehabilitates King with a performance infused not only with malapropisms and jive bluster but with surprising doses of humanity as well.
Russell Crowe’S Bud White is a foot soldier in the 1950s Los Angeles Police Department — thuggish and combustible, a Mark Fuhrman in the making. But as L.A. Confidential uncoils its Byzantine web of deceit, he rises above the muck, revealing himself to be a wounded knight with an unquenchable thirst for justice, proving that even Sin City’s roads can be paved with redemption.
The most shocking part of HBO’s prison drama Oz wasn’t the graphic violence or the full frontal nudity. It was the gradual dissolution of Lee Tergesen’s Tobias Beecher, a yuppie doing hard time for killing a girl while driving drunk. Repeatedly degraded by a neo-Nazi (JK Simmons), Beecher learned the only way to survive was to become as savage as his cellmates. Tergesen’s hauntingly tragic turn was, in a word, captivating.
Sarah POLLEY and Ian HOLM
Portraying grief without the obvious trick of crocodile tears can elude even the finest actors, but The Sweet Hereafter‘s Ian Holm and Sarah Polley captured all of its harrowing shadows — the confusing clash of regret, resignation, and anger that overcomes anyone in the grip of tragedy. In Atom Egoyan’s critically acclaimed drama about the crash of a school bus in a small Canadian town, they were the foils — Polley a paralyzed survivor, Holm a slick city lawyer crushed by his daughter’s drug addiction — and together they conveyed the film’s stunning sense of loss.
Helena BONHAM CARTER and Jennifer Jason LEIGH
The dramatic styles of British blue blood Helena Bonham Carter and American chameleon Jennifer Jason Leigh couldn’t be more different. And yet, their respective portrayals of Henry James heroines were each absolutely fabulous. The classic complexities of a James girl took shape both in Bonham Carter’s voluptuous, modern interpretation of a poor realist who knows she needs to marry a rich man in The Wings of the Dove and in Leigh’s demure evocation of a rich idealist prepared to marry a poor man in Washington Square. And they found their form as vividly as if the wily old bachelor had written his masterpieces just yesterday.