Academy of One: Best Actress in a Leading Role 2011

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.

If you’re counting down along with me, this year marks Oscar nomination 17 for Meryl Streep and her third win. I’m going to get right to it to let you know if that is still a positive in her corner or if there’s a more worthy actress and performance out there.

Here are the nominees as they stand.

  • Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs

  • Viola Davis - The Help

  • Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

  • Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

These five actresses are some of the best of all time, but for me it’s more about the role than it is about the actress herself, so I feel we can find daylight between the actresses on this ironclad list and maybe make room for a few others.

I have a few in mind. Here’s my list.

  • Adepero Oduye - Pariah

  • Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene

  • Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids

Adepero Oduye is astonishing in this role. She plays Alike like she knows her intimately even as Alike is finding herself. The posture shifts, the sparks of anger and agony, and the warmth of her happiness is all beautifully and skillfully portrayed.

Watching Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene is enthralling. She is so good at playing the nuances of this woman who has escaped from horrifying circumstances. It’s a difficult movie to watch, but so so worth it for this central performance.

Kristen Wiig’s brilliance is not only in her timing and great physicality, but in the way she’s able to ground Annie in reality rather than making her into a stock comedy heroine with unattainable feats of relationship juggling.

O.K., now that I’ve brought a few more actresses out into the light, are there any I can remove from the original list? Here’s that original list again.

  • Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs

  • Viola Davis - The Help

  • Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

  • Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

I have one actress I can remove from this list. That one is Glenn Close. The truth is it’s a good performance. Yet, all around it is a sub-par movie. I don’t blame Close for that, but it’s hard for me to look beyond that fact and pull out the performance when it is so central and drenched in the plot of the film.

All right, now that I’ve taken one actress off, here’s the actress I’m replacing her with.

  • Adepero Oduye - Pariah

Here’s what my list looks like with my addition.

  • Viola Davis - The Help

  • Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Adepero Oduye - Pariah

  • Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

  • Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

The real question now is, will I deny Streep her win? Short answer, no.

I was, when I first sat down to do this list, very ready to deny Meryl Streep’swin for this film, but her performance in The Iron Lady is undeniably good.

This is Streep at her best, tackling voice modulations, difficult accents, commanding scenes and embodying a character when she’s most vibrant as well as when she’s most vulnerable. I almost wish they’d let her play Margaret Thatcher in the scenes of her youth as well. There’s no doubt she would have blown those apart, too.

It’s hard to pick a single scene and for a biopic it’s a breezy hour and forty-five minutes runtime, so there is a lot covered. Yet, the most engrossing and uncomfortable scene by far is as Thatcher gives a tongue lashing to one of her subordinates over something so easily rectified as the language of a document he’s presenting.

It’s a gruesome display of power dynamics and Streep carries that scene into the darkness of the personality of a ruler who wields their power like a sword. It’s almost as if she’s disciplining her child in public and everyone around her is too scared to say anything.

That’s just a taste of the greatness on display by Meryl Streep.

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 nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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