Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shearing the Oscars: Best Actress

I'd best start by sharing some love on this, the day devoted to the subject. It would be necessary to do so simply because I will need the reminder after I get done with this piece.

This year's Best Actress Oscar race is not so much a puzzle to me as it an infuriating farce that exposes the emptiness of the Academy Awards. Sandra Bullock is the front runner for her work in THE BLIND SIDE. I don't mean to be hurtful. I saw the movie; I thought she was good in it but Oscar good? Please. Of course not, but she has had a really good year and has done so many great things for the box office over the years. Her top competition is Meryl Streep for her work in JULIE & JULIA. Streep has scored a record breaking 16 nominations with this last one but hasn't won since 1983. Naturally, we have to throw her something as some point. At least Streep's performance is Oscar worthy but what I don't understand is why the headlines don't read, "It's Down to Sidibe and Mulligan!"

Here are the nominees for Best Actress ...


I am not going to just denounce Bullock's nomination here. I didn't mind John Lee Hancock's THE BLIND SIDE. It was certainly designed to be satisfying but it accomplished its goals. Bullock carries the weight of the film on her shoulders and does it with strength and attitude to spare. She is also written in such a saintly manner that her character comes off as too perfect to be actually human. The fact is that Bullock has the nomination and the edge to win because she is well liked in Hollywood and Hollywood enjoys rewarding contribution over performance from time to time. Remember Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH?


At 64 years of age, this is Helen Mirren's fourth Oscar nomination. She won in this exact category in 2006 for her work in THE QUEEN. She returns now by portraying another famous historical figure, Countess Sofya, wife of Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, in Michael Hoffman's THE LAST STATION. Whereas her work in THE QUEEN had to be spot on given people's familiarity with the subject but, with little existing footage of Countess Sofya, Mirren had to create a character rather than recreate. This role is just not loud enough in a year like this one and I'm pretty sure Mirren knows it.


I am convinced that Carey Mulligan is going to be around for a long time and seen as one of the next generation's greatest actresses. In Lone Scherfig's brilliant, AN EDUCATION, she plays Jenny, a teenage girl of excessive intelligence and discipline who longs to let her passion run free. The range of Jenny's journey requires Mulligan to balance the many faces of this teenage girl - the good student, the perfect daughter, the virgin girlfriend to a man ten years her senior and of course the woman she so hurriedly wants to be. The National Board of Review and the Toronto Film Critics Association threw their support behind Mulligan but the film just never caught on like it should have.

GABOUREY SIDIBE as Clareece "Precious" Jones in PRECIOUS

I'm sure I've said this before but it bears repeating; I was completely floored when I met Gabourey Sidibe in person this past fall at a roundtable with her and PRECIOUS director, Lee Daniels. Ignorantly, I expected her to be much like the damaged, frightened, introvert she played in the film but she is the complete opposite. Beforehand, I did not think her performance was much of a stretch from who she had to be in reality. How could it be? Yet somehow, this bubbly, outspoken young lady found a pain so dark that everything she actually is is swallowed up by Precious. Sidibe was honoured by the National Board of Review but most of the film's award focus goes to co-star, Mo'Nique. Sidibe deserves this but will have to hope Streep and Bullock cancel each other out.


When I mentioned that Streep broke a record this year with her 16th nomination for JULIE & JULIA, I neglected to mention that it was her own record of most career nods she broke. There is no question that Streep gives everything every time she goes out there (almost, anyway) and not having been rewarded by the Academy since 1983 seems unacceptable but why can't we remember that we should be honouring individual performances and not bodies of work. That said, I would much rather watch Streep take this than see Bullock get it for just putting in the time. Unfortunately, with the Screen Actors Guild in Bullock's camp, it might be tricky.

WHO WILL WIN? Sandra Bullock


Next up in Black Sheep's Oscar coverage, we give you a guide to what nominated films are still playing in theatres out there and what you need to make sure you need covered before Oscar night.

Again, before I go, much love to all the Black Sheep readers!


Andrew K. said...

I have to disagree with you vehemently. Julia Roberts gave a good performance in Erin Brockovich, it was more than just residual love for her "star" persona.

Black Sheep said...

Hey Andrew. You disagree with me vehemently because I made a broad statement when clearly there is a lot more too it. I too enjoyed Roberts in Brockovich. I actually delighted in her winning. But to say that she deserved to win over Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream or Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me strictly because of her acting performance is a stretch. Even though I do think rewarding what her star did for Hollywood is part of why she won, I also think she gave a strong performance nonetheless.

Bullock winning though is really no more than a pat on the head and a slap on the ass.

Andrew K. said...

I know it's an unpopular choice (heck most would call me crazy) but I would defintiely give it to her over Burstyn, and Linney. The former was quite good, but it's Linney who comes close for me.

But then, I'm the person who would also give the Oscar to Judy Holliday over Bette Davis, and Gloria I'm probably no authority.

Didn't mean to sound snippy though, I was just reading a blogger's archives where he called Roberts' win one of the five worst in the category.

Black Sheep said...

Five worst ever? Well, I've never done the math but I highly doubt that!

You didn't sound snippy, by the way.