Sunday, June 20, 2010

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 2009

It took forever for these final conclusions, because of me not having The Last Station. In the meantime, Irene Dunne was crowned the 1937 champ. But here we are:

Quite an interesting year, with 2 obvious favorites for me and Meryl very close-by. It feels good to give a 5 star rating after quite some time. I must mention that I did edit Sandra’s performance profile and she went from 3 stars to 2, because that’s how I feel right now. I considered I was entitled to do the change considering I didn’t post the conclusions.

#1 is quite the obvious choice, #2 was easy to pick, so was #3. There was a bit of a competition for second-to-last, and I’ve now changed it twice before posting. :) All the performances gravitate in the drama area, because I’m not buying Julie & Julia as a comedy. Meryl gets her… 16th nom and maybe it’s better she didn’t win because it brings her this huge likeability factor, as we’re all on her team for a 3rd Oscar.

Here is how I’ve appreciated them (just my opinion, no universal truth). If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

A star is born! Yes, yes, yes! The performance or maybe just her pretty expressive face brought so much joy everytime I saw An Education. It’s not the looks; it’s the talent and this fresh innocent honest way of taking over a character. Can you doubt her casting?! When did I last see a performance that felt this natural, believable and sweet? This is how a winner should feel like!

The highlight: [how can one choose?] confronting the headmistress on the subject of education.

2. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

In this case, I don’t believe a star is born! But I believed in this one magnificent performance that an inexperienced actress was privileged to deliver. The role is a one in a lifetime chance and she didn’t back down. Gaby acted from the heart and, while to me she’s not the star of the film, she definitely feels like the right person at the right time delivering the right performance. Which happens to be a great performance.

The highlight: the “Nobody loves me!” scene.

3. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Portraying Julia Child is a tricky thing: you are one step away from creating a caricature, a mess, instead of a real, relatable character. Having Meryl in the equation, it obviously equals success. I liked her performance, even though I understand the haters. What I did see was the brilliant actress taking on another challenge and succeeding yet again. She had fun and created such an emotional, warm environment.

The highlight: touching her red paper heart while listening to her husband describe their romance.

4. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Sandra gets her Oscar for a performance with almost no Oscar moments. She would’ve deserved a big crying scene and much much better writing. But what she does do it to take a difficult character and create a believable, relatable person. I can understand this woman, I know her and that’s important. Sandra is 200% above the material.

The highlight: Big Mike never having a bed of his own.

5. Helen Mirren, The Last Station

She nails the quiet dramatic moments much more efficiently than the oh-too-often scenes of hysteria. But hard to blame her, as it’s mostly the screenplay’s fault. She fails in creating a full believable, relatable character, but still has bits of greatness, as she is the great dame after all.
The highlight: Staying by Tolstoy’s side till the very end.

We knew Sandra was gonna win from the moment The Blind Side was announced as a Best Picture nominee. Unfortunately this is, in my opinion – cause we don’t have the numbers, the 4th time in a row Meryl has to settle for the second place (after Adaptation., Devil Wears Prada, Doubt – though this one’s debatable considering Melissa Leo). Meryl deserves her 3rd Oscar, it’s an universally acknowledged statement. So, I guess Meryl was runner-up, Gaby was a close 3rd, Carey 4th and Helen with the least chance of winning.

Other Best Actress years discussed so far:

Up next: posting my favorites of 2009 next week and then finally getting to “lottery winner” 1978.


joe burns said...

Knew it!

Anonymous said...

I have not seen The Last Station, but that is how I would rank the other four. I was not that fond of An Education, but Mulligan was terrific.

Malcolm said...

Thank you so much!

After the long wait, it's so fun to read this! I'd be reading this again and again.

Why did you change your grade on Sandra? Because of Mirren (comparison) or because of her performance itself?

Nigel Maruva Chikukwa said...

I agree with you comment about Sandra being 200% above the material, but I will disagree with the crying portion.

Why does every female character need to show weakness? There is such a thing as strong woman who doesn't use tears and wailing to express emotions....

Danny King said...

I'm with James D regarding "An Education." I wasn't that blown away by the film, but I thought Mulligan and Sarsgaard were very, very good.

Alex in Movieland said...

Malcolm, yes there was a bit of Mirren comparison and actually a comparison with all previous ratings in any year. I just felt it was more of a 2 and that the fact that i like Sandy in real life shouldn't influence.

Nigel, yes I know how that crying scene comment looks and I wrote it just because i think it would've helped the performance, considering it's a mostly dramatic one. It's my subjective opinion that i would've liked a crying scene :) it's not something i necessarily demand in a comedy performance, but i generally like to see one in a drama.

there are obvious exceptions, like my favorite female performance ever, Bette Davis in All About Eve, and there's no crying there :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog but sometimes feel you verge on being a little like those lazy oscar voters when it comes to what makes a good screen performance. You seem to be won over by BIG acting and emotion, when unlike Stinkylulu or Nick Davis, I feel sometimes like you don't take into account the limitations & structure of the role and the Brecht-ian realization each actor does with each performance. For example, I feel your criticism of Gabourey is a bit too easy and dismissive saying it's just a one-off performance. Again, not trying to hurt your feelings. I read and get excited about your blog each time a new crop of actresses are profiled, I just sometimes think you can be easily dismissve and glib (Sandra had "no Oscar moments" and therefore it's not good? I wish at times you were more specific on why performances worked or not) Sorry for the long tirade. Please do not be offended. Can't wait for 1978 (Geraldine Page owns that field, sorry Bergman fans)

Alex in Movieland said...

that's ok, Anonymous! :) you've expressed your pov in a very respectful manner, so i couldn't be upset.

i understand what ur saying, it's just that i don't give ultimate verdicts, like: I didn't fully like Sandra JUST because she didn't have a big crying scene. I didn't enjoy the performance as much, because the screenplay sucked (as I often often said) and it didn't give her a full emotional scene to complete the character. for example :)

Malcolm said...

I'm just really curious.

How many stars would you give to Laurent if she was nominated in place of Mirren? And what would have been the ranking if she was the one who got nominated?

Alex in Movieland said...

Malcolm, good question.

However, I don't think it was that much of a good year for actresses, both leading and supporting, inside and outside the Oscar.

some brilliant ones (Mo'Nique for example), but I didn't really feel a 4 star class. Some 5, little 4, little 3, lots of 2.

I'd have to see Inglourious again to say for sure. She's probably get 3 stars or 3 and a half and be in front of Meryl or after.

Malcolm said...

Okay. Thanks so much, Alex!