Thursday, February 05, 2009

Black Sheep @ The Oscars: BEST ACTRESS

This was a tough one. The nomination competition was fierce enough on its own without Kate Winslet contending for a spot for two standout performances. Sally Hawkins won the Golden Globe and a number of critics’ accolades for her performance in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY but missed her shot here. Kristen Scott Thomas hoped for a spot for her performance in I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG but that little seen film left little impression. Michelle Williams had hoped that her stark performance in WENDY AND LUCY would earn her a second nod but it was too bare to register. Even Cate Blanchett, an Oscar regular, couldn’t get swept up in the Benjamin Button bonanza. And so with one slot inevitably going to Winslet, who else managed to squeak past the stiff competition?


When you first meet Kym in Jonathan Demme’s "love it or hate it" family drama, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, she is a lot to take. She talks to fill the silence and she does so very defensively in order to close the doors before they are even opened. She doesn’t want anyone to see what lies behind those doors, not ever herself. Hathaway infuses Kym with a nervous likeability that makes her both compelling and repelling. It is certainly the kind of performance that gave everyone pause and had everyone wondering if there was more to this princess than anyone had ever imagined.

Hathaway was considered to be an early favorite in this category when the film debuted to rave reviews at the Venice and Toronto film fests. Still, the film has proven to be more of a critical darling than anything else and, quite sadly as this critic loved it, this is the film’s only nomination, indicating that overall support may be thin.

Angelina Jolie in CHANGELING

Christine Collins is always a lady. She is always properly made up and appropriately composed. This would prove to be her downfall as all assume that she will just sit quietly and take all that is thrown at her but they did not take into account what a mother would do for her missing son. Jolie delivers another understated performance here and is just as captivating for her fragility and endurance as for her beauty.

CHANGELING is also not a widely regarded film. Jolie missed the nomination in this category last year for her role in A MIGHTY HEART and so some might want to reward her for both as a means of making up for the past but she does already have an Oscar at home for her earlier performance in GIRL, INTERRUPTED. Jolie is not considered a threat in this category and I doubt that will change.

Melissa Leo in FROZEN RIVER

To be fair, I still have not seen this film. It only comes out next week on DVD and I can’t even remember it playing in theatres here in Montreal, which is odd considering the story takes place party in Quebec. I can tell you Leo plays Ray Eddy, a single mother drawn into the world of border smuggling. Aside from that, I got nothing.

Leo is certainly the dark horse in this category. The nomination alone has made people take notice of the film and, along with its nod for original screenplay, it could build some last minute momentum. Leo has been nominated for a number of awards already, including the National Board of Review, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild. There is certainly good reason to consider her the underdog contender but keep in mind, the SAG nominated her but she did not ultimately win. No, that honour went to …

Meryl Streep in DOUBT

You may never know a scarier screen nun after Streep’s Sister Aloysius Beauvier. The way that she leers at the children in the playground, just waiting for them to step out of line so that she can assume her duties as disciplinarian and well, discipline them. She almost seems to get some perverse joy out of it. She scours the world for all its evils and when she sets her eyes on her parish priest, you know he’s in big trouble because even God will be too scared to not side with the sister.

How many times does someone need to be nominated in their lifetime? Streep holds the records for most Oscar nods with 15 in total. She does have two wins but her last was for SOPHIE’S CHOICE in 1982. She is definitely due and many are saying that this will be her year. DOUBT did not play well outside of the acting categories, which denotes a certain apathy toward the film but Streep did take home the SAG award for this intense performance. The trouble is, so did …

Kate Winslet in THE READER

Hanna Schmitz is one of Winslet’s most complex characters. We meet her under the same circumstances as the young boy she ends up taking to bed. She seems nice enough, if not perhaps just a bit cold and guarded. Still, you would never imagine that she was personally responsible for countless deaths as an SS officer in the Second World War. Furthermore, it is unfathomable that she is actually able to rationalize her actions as entirely reasonable.

Winslet was expected to earn a nomination here for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. In fact, after her double win at the Golden Globes opened the possibility of an Oscar repeat. Her role in THE READER was touted as a supporting performance but as she has the most screen time of any character in the film, that was a hard sell that was eventually rejected by the academy. The SAG rewarded Winslet in the supporting category and now both SAG honoured actresses find themselves going head to head at the Oscars. It could get ugly.

I would say though that even though Winslet did not get the nod for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, no one will forget the force with which she delivered in both films. And so, Black Sheep predicts Kate Winslet for Best Actress in THE READER.

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