Recently, my blog has been enjoying increased traffic thanks to a short, elderly post I made about Naomi Watts, who had been identified as the best value-for-money of all Hollywood actresses. It was just a brief mark of my appreciation, but garnered a lot of hits, probably in no small part due to the inclusion of large, glamourous publicity photographs. Now I feel that I should pay Naomi some proper attention, since I noticed that she enjoys very little critical analysis of her work, and because I’ve never really written about movie stars (or performers) very much around here, and it would be a good opportunity to try out something different, inspired at least in part by the recent Screen Studies conference in Glasgow, which focused on performance. So, here begins a series of occasional posts (and these may be very far apart) about performances by Naomi Watts, in no particular order, starting with Ellie Parker from 2005.
[See more of my posts about Naomi Watts here.]
Forbes magazine, who we are expected to presume know about these things (they can’t be worse at doing sums than me) have published a list of the top ten “actresses in Hollywood who offer studios the best return on investment”. You may or may not be surprised to see that the list stacks up as follows, beginning with the best value actress in town: Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connelly, Rachel McAdams, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Hilary Swank. No sign of Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz? Of course not – their asking prices are way too high. Now, I’ve never seen a film with Rachel McAdams in it, and I’m indifferent to many of the others, but I’m glad to see Naomi Watts, who has, without playing the tabloid publicity system, quietly gone about her business of providing remarkably nuanced, emotionally delicate performances in a wide range of films. She made the preposterous Ring remakes seem a bit frightening after all, and she singlehandedly stopped Peter Jackson’s King Kong from sliding into nostalgic boysy pastiche by anchoring a believable character at its core and refusing to sexualise a role that his traditionally been invested with crude innuendo.
Read more about the Forbes list here. The list seems a little arbitrary, with some entrants boosted by a single film (who knew that He’s Not that Into You had made enough impact to push Jennifer Connelly to second place?), or still hanging on despite few recent successes (when did Halle Berry last have a hit?), but it’s nice to see Naomi’s hard graft and low low prices getting recognition. There’s a bit of a fix going on, though. To qualify, the films considered have to have been seen on more than 500 screens, excluding performers who might be doing valuable work in much smaller films. Tilda Swinton and Samantha Morton must be offering good returns on their modest fees, I bet. Can anyone think of others who might make a list expanded to produce films without the widest releases?
The male stars’ list, published in August, is just as surprising, but I didn’t feel so warmly towards Shia LeBeouf today. Instead, I nobly took the rare opportunity to post some pictures of one of my favourite actresses. Hope you don’t mind.