Sunday, April 29, 2012

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 2011

To me this felt like a good Best Actress year, as most of the past years have been pretty solid. I don’t usually find it hard to choose a winner, but this one proved very difficult. Meryl brought the technical perfection of a performance and carried her film more that the material requested, while Viola gave us a couple of key scenes that are acted with brutal honesty and created such a likeable character to care for. It’s one of the most difficult choices since starting this Best Actress project, because the performances are so different. In the end, I went with the one I think film history will do justice in the next decades: a performance underrated by many critics that I am sure will stand the test of time & more.

My #3 and #4 were also extremely different, but each performance had its own qualities. None was a real threat for my win. #5 is also a good performance, but for me it’s the one I connected the least with, as it took a potentially likeable character and made it the least likeable of the group.

I had a similar dilemma with my recently created category, named Best Acted Scene, so I am making it a tie.

For me, the 2 different but equally best acted scenes from the 5 performances are: Margaret Thatcher’s phone conversation with her son and Aibileen’s confession about her dead son. Both have sons involved, I figure it now, which is interesting.

And here is how I appreciated and ranked the performances. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

It’s a performance that is technically flawless from an actress at the top of her game. The screenplay doesn’t bring depth, but it leaves an open door for Meryl to take charge and do what she does best: she brings vulnerability when needed, creates an emotional connection with the audience, she’s in control knowing how to play to the camera so that you don’t take your eyes off her. Some of the best aging acting I’ve ever seen.

the highlight: the sadness you can read on her face when her son calls.

There is not one false note in this performance, which is probably a supporting one, but so essential to the film that it takes the spotlight. With a couple of key scenes nicely arranged for her, Viola is in her comfort zone: she doesn’t need to take risks as long as she’s being true to the character, she only has to bring the tears and make it look natural. And that’s what we get: a touching, heartbreaking performance, very worthy of recognition.

the highlight: speaking out about her son’s death.

Given how popular her predecessor was playing Lisbeth Salander, this was quite a challenge for Rooney Mara. She has no problem fitting in with the physical aspects of the role and brings certain edginess to Lisbeth that can only serve the character. Her best acting choice is to play is subtly, not to overdo it, because the character is flashy enough.

the highlight: torturing the man that had raped her.

People who say she wasn’t believable as a man should put it in context: she/he was a servant, a mostly invisible person to others, and who would’ve even cared anything about the sad little person Albert Nobbs. Glenn does a very good job in playing a pathetic character; because she stays true to the character and underplays all emotions, some might find dull and unimaginative. To me, it was exactly what the film needed.

the highlight: confessing the traumatic episode from her childhood.

Even if I would try to get past the fact that a well-known actress shouldn’t play a Hollywood ICON, the performance is still flawed. Yes, Michelle does do a lot of ACTING and some scenes are quite delicious (for me, the ones on the film set), but the character is a constant victim and when you make Marilyn Monroe seem a rather dislikeable character, there must be something wrong with the performance. Oddly enough, you can’t tell the range.

the highlight: getting all intimidated when Vivien Leigh visits the set.

It’s not that difficult to guess how the voting went for this Best Actress ceremony. Meryl came 1st, but it wasn’t an obvious win; even so, I doubt it came down to only a couple of votes: she is Meryl Streep, she owns her film, she had British support and, considering most members are 60+ white males, it makes sense. Viola was the obvious 2nd, while Michelle was 3rd. Michelle had a lot of buzz in early January, but it slowly faded away. I think Glenn Close was 4th, just because of the main demographic (same generation as her) and I think voters who wanted to go for young went with Michelle and not so much with Rooney Mara, who I guess was 5th.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right.

What’s next: Very soon I’ll post my first predictions for next year’s Oscar ceremony. The AIM Awards for 2011 will follow in June (I think) where I’ll name my best from the past year. The next draw for a Best Actress year will take place next week, and it will be a year from the 1970s (1977 & 1978 already discussed, with Marsha Mason for The Goodbye Girl as a controversial choice of mine for 1977 and Ingrid Bergman for Autumn Sonata as my obvious pick for 1978). Stick around! 


dinasztie said...

We have the same ranking, after all! :D

However, I disagree on the voting. I felt that Meryl had the feminist and respect vote from the Academy (and the British vote as well). I feel that many 60+ white males gave the conscience vote to Viola to prove "they are not like that". :) Because The Help is quite a white guilt movie and I think they ate it up. It was very close and indeed a difficult choice between these two fantastic performances. I feel Great Glenn was third. Her movie was more popular than Michelle's plus she's more due and the Weinstein's campaign focused on Meryl. Rooney, of course, was fifth though I'm 100% sure that he had one vote: Tarantino's. :D

Anonymous said...

Do 1973 next!!! Please please please. Just a suggestion, of course. ;]

Alex in Movieland said...

come on, Michelle was 3rd. :) don't you remember when she was winning critics awards one after the other? :) Glenn won nothing, and I don't think they saw Albert Nobbs.

It will be an honest draw, I don't cheat. :) all 1970s years will be eligible in the draw.

dinasztie said...

Great Glenn did such a great campaign. Her movie got more nods than MWWM.

Michelle faded even before winning the Globe. She got almost no applause there. They were bored. She got the nod because she had to. I don't think many voted for her. When they wanted to go for a biopic, they voted for Meryl, when they wanted to vote for an overdue actress, they picked Meryl or Great Glenn, when they wanted a young one, they voted Rooney. Most of the rest was for Viola. Michelle only got votes from those IMO who really thought she gave the best performance and I think that's so few if you exclude all the above mentioned.

Calum Reed said...

As you will know I think that you've been generous with everybody but Michelle, who's my pick, and that 2011's Actress lineup was not great overall. As always, let's agree to disagree.

I was quite surprised you liked Mara more than Close.

Fritz said...

I'm really interested in all the nominees that year, mostly because so many people usually consider it a very weak line-up but you made it sound really interesting.

Alex in Movieland said...


"As always, let's agree to disagree." - of course. :D

I'm not saying it's the best line-up ever, but it's a strong one (in the end, I did give two 5s). :)
Yes, I liked Rooney Mara better the second time I saw the film. She's the best part of it.

Krenn Jolongbayan said...

My own ranking would be: Mara, Streep, Davis (huge gap) Williams, Close. I think this is such a great year for Lead Actresses, but there are better performances that were snubbed by the academy.

Anyway, I hope you'll do 1974. IMO the best best actress year of the 70s :D

Alex in Movieland said...


it's not 1974. the draw didn't go its way. :)