Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Top 5 Movie Guide: Judi Dench

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take a look at the oldest filmmaker yet featured in one of these posts, Judi Dench. Currently 77 years-old, she continues provide strong performances. Though more acclaimed with British audiences, she has definitely made her mark on American cinema as well. Born in England, she was classically trained at the theatre. She has been a part of such notable theatre companies as The Royal Shakespeare Company, The National Theater, and The Old Vic Theater Group. Probably her most impressive feat in her theatre works is that she's won the Laurence Olivier Award twice, for two different roles - the only actor to ever do so. This is commonly known as the highest award that theatre actors can receive.


She made her transition into British film and television in the early-1960's, quickly gaining recognition for her roles. She's since been nominated for 24 acting awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), winning 11 times. In terms of American awards, she has been nominated for six Academy Awards, all since the age of 60-years-old (the most by anyone past the age of 60). Her one win came for her performance in 1998's "Shakespeare in Love", in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth. A fun fact about her win: with only eight minutes on screen, it's the second-least screen time ever for a winner of an Academy Award, with only Beatrice Straight's win for her six minutes in "Network" being shorter.

In American cinema (though still very strongly British-based), she might be most popularly known for her portrayal of "M" in the James Bond franchise. She first inherited the role in 1995's "GoldenEye", and is the first woman to ever play the character. And to bring this whole preface full-circle, we will next see Dench on screen in next weekend's "Skyfall", the seventh film from this franchise she'll be appearing in.

With most of her earlier work being in British theatre and television, there aren't as many film titles this week as we've seen in previous weeks, but nonetheless, after the break, we take a look at some of our favorites from her filmography!

Alex Schopp -
This is definitely my least complete list, and I honestly recommend looking to other sources for Judi Dench recommendations. These are more the only titles I've seen compared to my favorites of her filmography. I don't think this list offers much of what these lists are trying to accomplish. I really need to see more of her films (though I'm not too interested in many of them).

     1. Casino Royale (2006)

An easy #1 selection here.
     2. The Shipping News (2001)
A solid flick with a really good performances all around.
     3. My Week With Marilyn (2011)
I'm not sure I was loving her character much, but the overall quality of this film is pretty good. Michelle Williams does a great job in the title role, and this one is probably a bit more enjoyable than "J. Edgar", another title I debated throwing in here.
     4. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
I still can't believe this won Best Picture. I'm fine with the film, but it's not exactly the type of period piece that you expect to contend. The late-90's wasn't exactly the most powerful era of cinema though. If you like costume dramas and romance, this is a sure winner.
     5. GoldenEye (1995)
I think this is my favorite Pierce Brosnan James Bond film? Who can really be sure though. Slot in whichever is the best here though; regardless, none are anything too amazing.

Ben Foutch -

     1. Casino Royale (2006)

     2. The Shipping News (2001)

     3. Chocolat (2000)

     4. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

     5. GoldenEye (1995)



Derek Clem -
It's strange, I feel like she is so famous and in everything, yet when I look at her filmography, it's very limited and she mostly plays a supporting character.

     1. Notes On A Scandal (2006)

Girlllll, you are evil!
     2. Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Queen Elizabeth for the win!
     3. The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004)
"Pitch Black" is the better film in the franchise, but Judi Dench isn't in that.
     4. My Week With Marilyn (2011)
She is awfully creepy in this flick. I think it's intentional.
     5. Jane Eyre (2011)
This movie has an interesting tone. Honestly, I suggest it for that alone.

Nathan Hinds -
I figured I would've seen her in a lot more films than her James Bond films.

     1. Casino Royale (2006)

     2. GoldenEye (1995)

     3. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

     4. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

     5. Shakespeare In Love (1998)



So that's what we're looking at this week, folks. Even though this seemed like one of the weaker lists we've compiled in our time doing these posts, we actually ended up with eleven different titles featured, more than many of us expected going in. Three films appeared on three of the four lists: "Casino Royale", "Shakespeare in Love", and "GoldenEye". Of the popular titles she's appeared in, all three here make sense as the most featured. "Casino Royale" (barring the yet-to-release "Skyfall") is the best-reviewed James Bond film Dench has appeared in, also playing well with general audiences. It earned three of four top selections on our lists as well. "Shakespeare in Love" is the film in which Dench won her only Academy Award to-date, and the film itself took home seven. "GoldenEye" might not have reviewed as well as some of the other Bond films, but it was the first she appeared in, and also the first in which Pierce Brosnan took over the title role, re-introducing the franchise to our generation.

Outside of those three, three other titles appeared on two lists as the only other films with multiple selections. Those were "The Shipping News", "The Chronicles of Riddick", and "My Week With Marilyn". With the limited titles we had to work with, take what you will from these. All seem like decent options depending on your tastes, but with only two picks apiece, don't hold any of these in much more regard than any of the other titles featured above.

As always, we hope that each of these film selections helps you to expand your knowledge of Judi Dench's filmography, and leads to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!