Friday, October 21, 2011

A Kid in King Arthur's Court

A Kid in King Arthur's Court
seen online via YouTube

LAMB Acting School 101 is a regular event in which LAMB bloggers discuss the work and career of a given actor. This month's subject is Kate Winslet. The complete list of posts for this month will go up October 30 at the LAMB site.

If you're an Oscar follower, you may remember in 2008 when Kate Winslet made the cover of Vanity Fair with a blurb that said, "Do I want an Oscar? You bet your @*&%#ing ass I do!" Crass? I suppose so. Honest? Absolutely! A lot was made about Winslet's open Oscar lust, and of course, she would go on to win one, for The Reader from that same year, but I think one could argue that Winslet's place in film history would still be secure if she never won an Oscar at all. Consider:

- She's one half of the Titanic duo. Our generation's Gone With the Wind, no matter what you may think of the film itself. (Personally, I think it's half of a great movie.)

- She's a world-class beauty. Hitchcock would've loved her. It's quite easy to see her in the same context as Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly, or Ingrid Bergman, those great Hitchcock leading ladies. For awhile she kinda went up and down weight-wise, but I always thought the extra pounds made her look more womanly and sensual.

- She's a world class beauty that has been NAKED a lot! The Titanic scene alone would be enough, but very few A-list actresses have bared all as often as Kate has, the key distinction here being "A-list." It's not like she's some bimbo that does direct-to-DVD horror movies.

- She's a legitimately amazing actress who has worked with great directors. James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Kenneth Branagh, Ang Lee, Michel Gondry, Marc Forster, Sam Mendes, Stephen Daldry, Todd Haynes, Steven Soderbergh, and Roman Polanski, all before the age of 40, all of them either critical or commercial successes, or both (well, we won't know how big the Polanski film will be until it opens later this year).

And then there was that Golden Globes acceptance speech. Angelina Jolie won't forget it, even if everyone else does.

I'd seen Winslet in Heavenly Creatures, Hamlet '96, Titanic, Hideous Kinky, Holy Smoke, Quills, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Children, and The Reader, but I wanted to remind myself of what she was like before she blew up, so I chose to watch what may be her worst film: A Kid in King Arthur's Court! And boy, is this one bad. She was coming off of Heavenly Creatures, which I think might still be my favorite movie of hers (not just for the lesbianism, either! It's a powerful and sympathetic role which she absolutely nails). Later in this same year, 1995, she'd appear in Sense and Sensibility, which would really put her on Hollywood's radar. 

In-between, however, she made this silly Disney kiddie trifle. Her role isn't as big as I had hoped - she's one half of the story's beta couple and doesn't have many scenes with star Thomas Ian Nicholas - but holy cow, she gets to lip-lock with James Bond! (And she's surprisingly good with a crossbow...) 

Winslet gives it her best, but the script does her absolutely no favors. I think she would've still broken through as a star if she hadn't moved from this to Sense - Creatures was simply too good for her to have been overlooked - but it might've taken a bit longer. As it is, she's made few real missteps in choosing roles, and she's one of the few A-listers left who has avoided making big-budget sci-fi/comic book extravaganzas (so far).

Anyway, she's got her Oscar now. It doesn't appear to have changed the quality of the roles she's taken. Hopefully that won't change.

Previously in LAMB Acting School:
Natalie Portman
Gary Oldman
Willem Dafoe
Meryl Streep

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