Academy of One: Best Actress in a Leading Role 2016

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.

May I just start by saying I will be fixing an egregious error on the part of the marketing team for Fences? I hope that gives you enough of a tease to keep reading on, so let’s get into it. Here are the nominees as they stand.

  • Isabelle Huppert - Elle

  • Ruth Negga - Loving

  • Natalie Portman - Jackie

  • Emma Stone - La La Land

  • Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins

This is a really fabulous list of great actresses, but there are weak links where I can propose stronger candidates. I have five actresses in mind.

  • Amy Adams - Arrival

  • Annette Bening - 20th Century Women

  • Viola Davis - Fences

  • Taraji P. Henson - Hidden Figures

  • Tika Sumpter - Southside with You

Amy Adams is such a good actress and when she’s given an emotionally meaty role like in Arrival, she’s able to make a superb meal of it. She carries the film through its twisting and turning timeline with such incredible talent.

It’s so very wonderful to watch Annette Bening work. She is just superb as a single mother attempting to raise a teenage son in 20th Century Women. I’ve never enjoyed watching a person chain smoke, but she makes it so real in that moment it’s almost elegant.

Yes, the marketers, and voters, perpetrated fraud before, but there has never been a one so egregious as this one. Viola Davis is without a doubt the co-lead of Fences. She carries her half of the film with such energy and power as cannot in anyway be put into any supporting category.

Taraji P. Henson is a fabulous anchor for the story in Hidden Figures. She’s able to imbue the film with so much quiet restraint, that when she finally lets it go, it’s very earned and welcome.

It’s tough to imagine embodying such a beloved figure as Michelle Obama, but Tika Sumpter is able to pull off a performance that raises the bar and makes us nod in approval of her fantastic take on the first lady before Obama became one.

Now that I’ve shown my cards. It’s time to make room for the three I’ve decided to include. Here’s that original list of nominees.

  • Isabelle Huppert - Elle

  • Ruth Negga - Loving

  • Natalie Portman - Jackie

  • Emma Stone - La La Land

  • Meryl Streep - Florence Foster Jenkins

The first removal is very easy. Elle is a bad movie. It’s star, Isabelle Huppert, while a good actress, does not deserve any praise for this shit pile of burning garbage. Now, I’ll go back to attempting to purge this film’s existence from my memory.

Next is an extremely difficult choice. I waffled back and forth over whether I can change the rules and include six nominees in the category, but I thought if I chose not to do it for Saoirse Ronan, I can’t do it for Natalie Portman.

Jackie is an intelligent, well crafted drama with a very strong lead performance, but I think Natalie Portman is too focused on the affectation of the voice, the poise and the speech, which doesn’t carry me through the film.There, the band aid’s been ripped off, now I can go back to my easy choices… so to speak.

I call Meryl Streep’s removal an easy choice because I think in the pantheon of her performances, this one’s lacking quite a bit. It may have been the rest of the movie around her, which I consider a tepid vehicle for such a talent.

O.K., now that there are three open spots, who am I adding in, besides Viola Davis? Here are all three.

  • Amy Adams - Arrival

  • Annette Bening - 20th Century Women

  • Viola Davis - Fences

Now, here’s what the field looks like with my additions.

  • Amy Adams - Arrival

  • Annette Bening - 20th Century Women

  • Viola Davis - Fences

  • Ruth Negga - Loving

  • Emma Stone - La La Land

All right, is there really any question who I’m going to pick? If you’ve been paying attention, the short answer is no.

Viola Davis is simply incredible in Fences. She’s the absolute perfect foil to Denzel Washington going toe to toe with every line and emotion. It’s stunning to watch.

My favorite scene, and no it’s not the one you’re thinking of, is very quiet, very measured and oh so powerful.

It’s when Troy brings home his illegitimate child to try and coax Rose, played by Davis. Troy is a smooth talker and he knows it and he uses the baby as leverage to get under Rose’s skin.

She stays quiet and listens to him, but all the while behind those downward eyes, Rose is thinking. She lets Troy finish and takes the baby as its handed to her, but in a surprising turn, she says she’ll raise the baby, but she will have no more of Troy, leaving him out in the cold.

Davis plays this scene and this turn so very well. It’s calculated and never telegraphed. It’s the kind of subtle acting that makes you sit up in your seat.

Davis has a lot of powerful moments in the film, but this scene shows her prowess and supreme talent for the subtleties of a role.

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.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday with the nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for 2016.

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