Friday, February 24, 2012

Academy Awards Week 2011: Best Actress (and the runner-up is Meryl)

This year marks Meryl Streep's 14th nominations in the Best Actress category, and 17th overall nomination.  The woman is widely regarded as the best living actress, and by some the best actress of all time.  Throughout the years this woman has given some amazing performances.  Her career as a perennial Oscar nominee began in 1978, with her nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the film The Deer Hunter.  One year later she earned her second nomination and her first win in the Supporting Actress category for her role in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.  Two years later in 1981 she received her first nomination in the Best Actress category for The French Lieutenant's Woman.  In 1982 she was honored with her second Best Actress nomination and first win in the category for Sophie's Choice.  At this point Meryl was 2 for for 4.  Since 1982 Meryl has received 13 more nominations and won no awards at the Oscars again giving her one of the biggest losing streaks in the shows history.

Meryl is the best actress working today and she does not need more Oscars to prove that fact; she is one of the most gracious losers I have ever seen.  This woman has had more great performances than most actresses could dream of.  Here is a list of her five performances.

5-Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

While I would like to think Adaptation changed Meryl's career (and I think it still did) this performance took her level of stardom to a different level.  This performance was a supporting performance that stole the film, and as she spews venom I get lost in her performance; she captures this character so well!

4-Joanna Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) 
Watching Joanna walk away from her son, only to come back and fight to take him away from his father is a whole different level of evil.  Yet there is a vulnerability to her character, and you can understand why the different layers.  This performance was incredible and deserved to be Meryl's first Oscar win.  Although I liked her Manhattan as well that year.

3-Karen Silkwood in Silkwood (1983)
There is something about how ballsy she was when she played this character, and yet how she was able to show this real life woman as vulnerable in the same breath.  This performance came from one of her best films, and feels real.  There is a scene where she is on the porch with Cher, and it just is beautiful.

2-Susan Orlean in Adaptation (2002)
Another great supporting turn from Meryl that made look at her in a completely different way.  As the 80s ended and the 90s began I looked at her as a great actress, but her film choices often resembled terrible lifetime movies.  Adaptation is my second favorite performance from Meryl of all time, and I would like to see more of this performance from her, where she plays it natural.

Image Detail1-Meryl Streep as Sophie Zowitophski in Sophie's Choice (1982)

There is not much to say, but that bar non this is her performance of all time.  I honestly have very few words, the film and her performance speak for themself.  Meryl's method acting of staying with the child she would have to give up and not surrounding herself with the other child was brilliant, it made her grief incredibly real.

These five performances span 27 years!  Only one other actress in Hollywood can claim having a similar career experience, and that is Katherine Hepburn.  Picking just five performances is almost an impossible  task because Streep has given so many phenomenal performances that span even longer from 1978 through the present day.  This year Streep earned her 17th nomination, and has come the closest to winning her third Academy Award.

After reading this many people may ask, why has she only won twice?  I could go year by year and explain how she lost each trophy she was nominated for, so I guess I might as well.

1981-Meryl Streep in the French Lieutenant's Wife  lost to Katherine Hepburn for her last nomination in On Golden Pond, this was Hepburn's swan song and there was no way the ingenue was going to get this over Hepburn (the only time the two were nominated in the same category).

1983-Meryl Streep in Silkwood lost to Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment.  Streep lost because she had won the year before and MacClaine haad never won an Oscar.

1985 Meryl Streep in Out of Africa lost to Geraldine Page in Trip to the bountiful.  Page was a 5 time nominee prior to this nomination and had never won, so the Academy honored her career performance.

1986 Meryl Streep in Ironweed lost to Cher in Moonstruck.  Cher was an unstoppable force in a Best Picture winner, while Streep's nomination came for a lesser film.

1987 Meryl Streep in Cry in the Dark lost to Jodie Foster in The Accused.  Foster had got her second nomination with this film proved that she was a talented young actress.  At this point my guess would be many academy members thought this was too soon for a third win.

1990 Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge lost to Kathy Bates in Misery-  Bates was a force to reckoned with and Meryl's role had no shot of giving her, her third Oscar.

1995 Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County lost to Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking.  Sarandon had a couple of nominations with no wins.  This film also had more nominations, and Sarandon won as a career achievement.

1998 Meryl Streep in One True Thing lost to Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love.  Everyone was talking about Cate Blanchett and Paltrow this year.  Streep's performance was good but was not a blip on the radar.

1999 Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart lost to Hillary Swank in Boy's Don't Cry.  This was the year of Swank vs. Bening (round one-both went to Swank).  This is one of Streep's weakest nominations.

2002 Meryl Streep in Adaptation lost to Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago.  Meryl was back in supporting (briefly) and she should have won this year, but Jones road the Chicago train.

2006 Meryl Streep in The Devil wears Prada lost to Helen Mirren in The Queen.  Mirren was unstoppable, and there was no dethroning her. 

2008 Meryl Streep in Doubt lost to Kate Winslet in The Reader.  Meryl had some strength in the front end of awards season but Winslet was on her fifth nomination had not won; she was honored for this underwhelming performance.

2009 Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia lost to Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.  I am still baffled at the support for The Blind Side, but people were on Bullocks side after her messy divorce, and people were getting to the point where they kept saying Meryl has an Oscar or she will get nominated again.

Now we are at the current ceremony where Meryl was honored with her 17th nomination.  Here are this year's nominees:

Glen Close-Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis:The Help
Rooney Mara-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
Meryl Streep-The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams-My Week with Marilyn

Will Meryl lose once again and be named the perennial runner-up?  There is a slight chance this brilliant actress will lose her 13th straight Oscar.  Mara was not a surprising nomination, but she has no shot at winning.  Close should have more of a chance because this is her sixth nomination, but no one is talking about her performance so she will join Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter as the queens of losing at the Academy Awards.  Each of those three women has 6 nominations with no wins.  I thought back early on Williams was going to sneak out a win, but there was enough support to get her further.  This race is between Viola Davis and Meryl Streep.

Davis and Streep each have two major precursor awards on their side.  Streep has the Globe and BAFTA, while Davis has the Broadcast Film Critics Award and the SAG.  At the moment Davis holds the trump card which is the SAG win.  SAG is voted on by the actors, and the acting branch is the largest branch of the Academy.  Many SAG voters are also Academy voters, but not all and there are differences.  At the moment many pundits are predicting Davis, and I understand why.  Davis gives a strong performance.  The Help is also a Best Picture nominee that is well liked, while Streep's film only received one other nomination in make-up.  The Help did not perform as well as thought on nomination day and only has 4 nominations (3 acting and Best Picture).  Picking the winner here is tough, logically I want to pick Davis.  Davis' win will also make history if she and Spencer win this will be the first time two Black women will win in the same year.  Yet my gut and heart keep telling me that after 13 losses this is finally Streep's year.  I love that there is still some mystery in this category.

Gutsy Prediction: Meryl Streep-The Iron Lady (Harvey will help)
Very Very Very close second: Viola Davis-The Help

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