Academy of One: Actress in a Leading Role 2013

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

And just like Leo’s 4th nomination a couple of posts ago, we now come to Meryl’s 18th nomination. Is this one that’s worthy of the highlight reels? Well you’ll just have to read on and find out. Here are the nominees as they stand.

  • Amy Adams - American Hustle

  • Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

  • Sandra Bullock - Gravity

  • Judy Dench - Philomena

  • Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

This is the most accomplished group of actresses we’ve seen so far. Between the five of them they have a combined total 40 nominations and 7 wins (seriously, give Amy Adams an Oscar already. She’s becoming the female Leonardo DiCaprio. I really don’t want to have to watch her eat a bison liver for them to award her what she already deserves).

Two of them have now won at least twice and I need to see if there are any upstarts that can subvert this category. I have two in mind. Here are my usurpers.

  • Adele Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color

  • Brie Larson - Short Term 12

Adele Exarchopoulos imbues her character, also named Adele, with such an innocence throughout her journey on the screen. Even as the character comes of age and we watch her blossom into maturity, Adele still retains the fantasies of an innocent whenever she sees her paramour, Emma, after they’ve grown apart. It’s an incredibly emotive and heart-breaking performance.

Speaking of heart-breaking, the funny, authoritative, and closed off nature of Brie Larson’s Grace in Short Term 12 is all in how Larson moves and speaks and presents herself. It’s an affecting performance and one that’s not a cliche of what a character like this could be. I can’t recommend this movie enough.

Now, I have one of these ladies in mind. I know I want her to take the place of an actress on the list of nominees. I’m going to take a look at that list again and see who I can remove.

  • Amy Adams - American Hustle

  • Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

  • Sandra Bullock - Gravity

  • Judy Dench - Philomena

  • Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

The easy weak link in this chain is Meryl Streep. I don’t say she’s easy because she’s got so many nominations, but because this is not one of her finer performances.

The performance is hammy and over the top. I some times like that in a movie, but a significant amount of the performances in August: Osage County are over the top and they just make me weary to watch.

It’s also that August: Osage County is an ensemble film. It has characters with more importance, for sure, but most of the movie has the entire cast in nearly every scene. Streep’s is not a lead performance it’s just the loudest voice of the chorus. I think I’ve mentioned before I prefer to praise Streep for her absolute best and this is not one of them.

So, now that I have broken my own heart by taking the greatest actress of all time down a peg, I have my answer for the actress who will take her place.

  • Brie Larson - Short Term 12

O.K., even though it barely changed, let’s take a look at the field of nominees as it stands now.

  • Amy Adams - American Hustle

  • Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

  • Sandra Bullock - Gravity

  • Judy Dench - Philomena

  • Brie Larson - Short Term 12

So now that the list is all squared away, do any of these actresses beat Cate Blanchett? Short answer, yes.

While I think Blanchett does a wonderful job, a really and truly great one that we always come to expect from her work, I couldn’t get over the striking similarities Blue Jasmine has to A Streetcar Named Desire. In other words, I can’t see the tree that is Jasmine because of the Blanche DuBois forest around her. It’s highly ironic because not too long before this, Blanchett did take on the role of Blanche DuBois for a production in Sydney, so the DNA is there in the script and the actress’ repertoire. When I watch it, it’s just a masquerade of that previous performance.

For me the winner of this group is clearly Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Everything I mentioned in the post with All Is Lost about there not being a need for unnecessary dialogue in a lone survivor story is really thrown out the window when a person has to keep speaking so they know they’re not going insane in the dead silence of outer space.

I loved how physical Bullock is with her incredibly convincing space moves. Of course, some of the credit goes to the special effects crew, but they don’t have the ultimate purpose of survival and Bullock relies on her instincts to move in the way she should.

It doesn’t come down to just one scene of course, but the scene that really puts it over the top for me is when Bullock finally reaches a working radio and she sends out one last transmission to Earth. She doesn’t have a conversation, as she has no idea what the other person is saying, but she has a profound connection with another human being. Another human being who is alive and it’s such an affirming, hopeful and heart-breaking scene that Bullock sells to us so well and so convincingly in her movements and her speech and desperation.

The whole of the performance is about the endurance of the human spirit, the unending quest for survival in a habitat that is not meant for life and Bullock is able to pull off that struggle effortlessly. A remarkable performance in a remarkable film.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit my website, www.zachyoungs.com for links to where you can buy my self-published works. Here on my blog you may also be interested to read a few serialized blog stories that I post every Wednesday and Sunday.

A new post of Academy of One will be available every Friday on this very site.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday with the Best Actress in a Supporting Role nominees of 2013.

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