Academy of One: Best Actress in a Leading Role 2015

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.

This post is going to go in a different direction from the ones you’ve seen so far because one of the things I want to do with these posts is to correct category fraud when I see it. In 2015 there were two blatant examples in the categories pertaining to actresses.

Here’s a brief explanation of what category fraud is as I understand it and will enforce it. Category fraud occurs when a studio submits an actor or actress for a category in which they didn’t meet the criteria for that category or exceed the criteria. For example, an actor with less screen time than many of their colleagues is pushed for in the lead actor category despite having a limited amount of screen time. Vice versa clear leads can be pushed into supporting categories as happened this year.

Often the reason is that the actor will have a “better chance” competing in a category with less competition or having the showiest role that year and already a “lock” for the award. There’s also an actor’s ego or a film spreading out its chances for more wins per nomination.

Category fraud can also come into play when an actor or actress takes on a cameo role, one with relatively low screen time, but is nominated for a supporting category. For more on this, wait until we get to the race for Actor in a Supporting Role 2005 or all the way to Actress in a Supporting Role 1998.

Deciding whether or not a certain nomination is category fraud, as it pertains to this post and future posts, will be up to my discretion. There are no hard and fast rules on screen time or how the character moves the plot along, but only my personal feelings and I think it really weeds out the questionable performances or at least the question mark performances that look like they just had to fill out the category with… someone because they shuffled someone else around.

O.K., so who were our nominated actresses for 2015?

  • Cate Blanchett - Carol

  • Brie Larson - Room

  • Jennifer Lawrence - Joy

  • Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years

  • Saorirse Ronan - Brooklyn

It’s interesting to call all these women veterans, but it’s true. Jennifer Lawrence broke out relatively recently, yet she boasts an Oscar nomination four out of the last six years and has led two major franchises. Then there’s Brie Larson and Saorirse Ronan who started acting in their pre-teen and early teen years, Saorirse Ronan having been nominated for an Oscar at 13. Then there are Cate Blanchett, the formidable leading lady who commands our attention and Charlotte Rampling, the chameleon who steals our hearts and chills our bones.

All five of these women are stunning, but I feel that there are other performances out there that could remove them from the running. Perhaps a couple of performances that were slipped into competition elsewhere.

For your consideration, may I present three other choices for this category:

  • Rooney Mara - Carol

  • Lily Tomlin - Grandma

  • Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

I know what you’re thinking, “Zach, Zach. You can’t nominate someone in two different categories for the same role,” and to you I say, “I’m not.”

There is no Carol without Therese. Rooney Mara carries half of the emotional weight of, the film, Carol and she does it beautifully. She lights up and she breaks down. There is such an economy of words in her performance, but an abundance of physical expression that enlivens the screen and the character.

We’ve seen Lily Tomlin play cantankerous and lioness, but in Grandma, she blends them into a powerful performance of a woman, who needs meaning after a loss and tries to find it by helping her granddaughter the only way she knows, by scraping and fighting her way through it.

The Danish Girl describes not only the rebirth of the titular character, but it also the woman who stood by her and put her own feelings aside. Alicia Vikander is masterful in her emotional arc. She carries her half of the story with frustration and a broken hear, but also tolerance, acceptance, and love.

So, can any of these women take the place of those already established? Let’s look at the list again.

  • Cate Blanchett - Carol

  • Brie Larson - Room

  • Jennifer Lawrence - Joy

  • Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years

  • Saorirse Ronan - Brooklyn

The first elimination is an easy one. You may call me heartless, but she will be nominated again and, I hope, for a much better movie. You guessed it, Jennifer Lawrence, is out of contention. She is a good actress and she’s good in the role, but the movie around her kind of disintegrates into something bizarre and boring. I like Jennifer Lawrence as much as the next film goer, but if the rest of her career is anything like the last six years, we’re in for an heir worthy of replacing Meryl Streep. This is just a question mark in a long string of nominations to come.

The second elimination was heart-breaking. Before I saw her performance, I wanted to eliminate Charlotte Rampling. It was mainly because I thought it was a long time, good actress being nominated in what felt like a weak field, but after I saw 45 Years, I knew there was no way to eliminate her. It’s just a smoldering, graceful performance, so I had to take out one of my favorites of the year because she has time and she can do better.

I chose to take out Saorirse Ronan for the mere fact that she still has such a long career ahead of her. I know that’s pretty antithetical to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but as I wrote, these are my opinions and my choices and I’m going to have to live with them.

Now that I’ve cleared two spots, who am I going to add in? I think if you read the introduction, you may have already guessed, but here’s the new additions in case you need a more bolded answer.

  • Rooney Mara - Carol

  • Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

Here’s what our field looks like with my additions.

  • Cate Blanchett - Carol

  • Brie Larson - Room

  • Rooney Mara - Carol

  • Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years

  • Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

With additions made to the field, is there a new queen to be crowned? Short answer, no.

Brie Larson took on a role that reflects a terrifyingly common headline from the last few years. A woman is taken captive, held against her will, and abused. It’s a horror story that only gets more horrific as we see what she has to go through and how she’s able to cope by normalizing the situation for her son, who was born in Hell, but doesn’t have to know it.

It’s a performance that plunges into the depths of despair and never quite reaches out of it even when Ma and her son are freed. Larson’s performance takes on staggering heights as she grapples with becoming so unnecessary to her son’s development when Jack is in her mother’s care after being so integral to his survival in Room.

Sincerely, watch this film even though it’s hard and even though it will make you cry because there is hope at the end and that catharsis is worth it and Brie Larson’s performance makes it worth it.

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 2015.

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