Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

Oscars 2012: Best Actress

Note: This is my personal ranking, listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite. Prediction for the actual winner is in orange.

BEST ACTRESS


1. MERYL STREEP
The Iron Lady

2. VIOLA DAVIS
The Help

3. MICHELLE WILLIAMS
My Week with Marilyn

4. GLENN CLOSE
Albert Nobbs

 5. ROONEY MARA
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Let’s cut right to the chase: it’s Streep vs Davis, and Davis currently has the edge. Now,  I don’t know why two of our best actresses are in two of the worst movies of the year, but the fact that each of these women knocks it out of the park in these ridiculous films… Well, there’s just something to be said for that (They did the same thing, together no less, in the horrible Doubt, for which they were both nominated).

Viola Davis deserves better. This woman is fierce in every single movie she’s in — and they’re nearly uniformly bad (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Eat Pray Love, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (yep, she sure was in that), etc). But her body of work is relatively small,  so the declarations from some that it’s “her time” are just plain silly (Ask Christopher Plummer or Gary Oldman about their “time,” but don’t try to apply it here). All you need to do is watch a scene like this, and you can see why folks are clamoring for her to get that Oscar: that delicate balance of emotion as she describes her son’s death demonstrates her brilliant control and understanding of how to transform an emotionally manipulative scene into one of honest heartbreak. A masterful talent, she received the SAG Award, which is a very good indicator of an Oscar win. I just wish it was for a worthier film.

Why Meryl Streep tops my list — I know, I know, so predictable — is because yes, The Iron Lady is terrible (though not as terrible as The Help), but her talent is so transcendent that she actually makes one forget, for a short while, how mediocre-to-bad the material is (even Viola couldn’t manage this). No one needs me to say that her performance as Margaret Thatcher is impeccable, but it bears repeating that the she is the most nominated actor in history with 16 nominations and only two wins, the last of which was in 1983 (!) for Sophie’s Choice. It’s so easy to pass on Meryl because she’ll surely be nominated again, but what’s the point in that if she really is the best every year? Give her that third Oscar already!

Michelle Williams is divine as always, in what is now her characteristic lonely-heart role. Last year it was Blue Valentine, and before that, Brokeback Mountain, and now, My Week with Marilyn. The only difference this time is that she’s portraying an icon, to intoxicating perfection, and to her immense credit, essentially no one has voiced issue with her beautifully-layered performance (which, truth be told, was much more interesting than the film itself). The girl from the Creek is destined for an Oscar, but just not now.

Five-time nominee Glenn Close is certainly “due” an Oscar, but when the competition is stiff and her passion project, underwhelming, she’ll have to wait for another year and more good will. While Close is perfectly fine playing a man who looks like Glenn Close (am I the only one who found her a bit creepy?), her performance in Albert Nobbs is much too Gary Oldman-subtle for anyone to really take notice. It certainly doesn’t help that co-star Janet McTeer outshines her in her own film.

Ah, Rooney Mara, how much do you think Tilda Swinton is cursing you out for just showing up, all pierced and stoic-like in your goth gear? Not that I’m hating, mind you. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Fincher-style sleek and sexy, and Mara is terrific in it, simultaneously bubbling with fury and vulnerably open. Her chances are so minuscule here, however, that the Academy might as well have done away with pretensions and left it at four nominees.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2012 by in Award Predictions, Film Reviews, Oscar-Nominated and tagged .

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