Friday, February 28, 2014

If I Had a Ballot: Best Actress

What a wonderful year of female performances!  This lineup is pretty darn good, if you ask me.  I mean, we are missing one of my favorite performances from 2013, and that, of course, would be Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks.  Let's shamelessly gaze upon Emma Thompson one last time this season.

Overkill?  Probably.  Do I care?  Nope.

Back to business.

I don't understand how Cate Blanchett could lose this Oscar.  It's hers to lose, but she won't because her performance as Jasmine in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine is quite possibly one the best examples of accctinggg I've ever seen.  Yes, the women in this category are so fantastic, but Blanchett deserves to win. 

Sandra Bullock has a very natural ability to to evoke emotion from her audiences, and she does this with a powerful precision in Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity.  As Dr. Ryan Stone we are as hopeless as she is in her quest to make it back to Earth.  I've heard people complain that Cuaron makes Stone a helpless woman who needs guidance from a man to help her, but I don't see that whatsoever.  Stone isn't an astronaut, and this is her first job out in space.  

What I noticed about Bullock in this role is the somber tone to it.  We are used to seeing Bullock charm her way through a standard romantic comedy or make herself known as a force to be reckoned with.  Her eyes carry a sadness that have never seen before, and it's deeply troubling.  The scene where she almost gives up is so upsetting, and we feel, just for a moment, that maybe Stone dying in the black abyss is her fate.  Her choice to live again is so triumphant.  It's my favorite performance that Bullock has delivered.  She was obviously out of her comfort zone--both physically and emotionally--and it paid off on all counts.  

I really wish American Hustle was more succinctly about Amy Adams.  The ensemble works very well together, but I was most intrigued by her characterization of Sydney Prosser, a con woman with a wardrobe almost entirely made up of plunging necklines.  

Sydney wants to be loved.  Genuinely loved and taken seriously.  She uses her body to distract men with what is going on.  Adams has worked with David O. Russell before (in The Fighter) and the result was a performance unlike anything Adams had delivered before.  Even if I don't like the movie, Russell allows her to do things we've never really seen her do before.  Adams has a sexiness as Sydney that I never expected from her.  

I don't like American Hustle, but we get to see her scream, snarl and slink.  I love Amy Adams, and I want her to have an Oscar.  I just don't want it to be for this performance.  

To be honest, I didn't think Meryl Streep was going to get in for her role as Violet Weston in the screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County.  I predicted Adams and Thompson but left out Streep.  

It's a huge role.  As the boozy, pill-popping matriarch, Streep doesn't hold back.  Bile spills from her mouth to every single family member who comes to pay their respects when her husband dies, and Streep seems to be having the time of her life doing it.  This is quite the angry woman on display here, and Streep delivers a graaaaand performance.  She's over the top, she's loud, she's cruel, she's the mother from hell.  

August: Osage County, the play by Tracy Letts, is sitting pretty on my bookshelf at home.  I never got a change to read it before I saw the film, but I want to visit it once I distance myself from the adaptation.  The relationship between Streep and Julia Roberts, who plays her daughter, is my favorite aspect of the film.  Mama Streep is one of the only actresses who can deliver this huge of a character.  Eat the fish, bitch.  

Is it bad that I just want to hug Philomena Lee?  I mean, I could just find her at one of the many award shows or presentations where she randomly pops up.  

Judi Dench's performance as Lee is so Sweet a that one may think they might suffer a toothache after walking out of Philomena.  I don't mean that as a slight.  Dench somehow manages to remind every person of someone they have met in their lives.  Dench's Philomena has a thirst for life that is so infectious and warm, and every emotion Steve Coogan's script puts her through rings so honestly.  

In a less competitive year, she might grab my vote.  

Blanchett's Jasmine is mysterious and desperate.  One of the most unlikable and unsympathetic characters of the year makes you feel for her by the very end.  I never knew that Jasmine was thinking or what her next move was.  It's the one of the best performances of the year.  

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