At last, Oscar nomination #20!
These past five months, revisiting 100 (!!!) Oscar-nominated performances, have been such blast for me and I hope you've enjoyed this project too. Thank you to the many fellow Oscar/Streep aficionados who joined me on this journey and commented, both here and on Twitter, along the way.
While I ultimately awarded Streep the win on just two occasions - for The Bridges of Madison County and Adaptation - I still of course wholeheartedly adore this living legend and would be completely cool with her having half a dozen or more trophies under her belt. She is truly one of the all-time greats, able to work wonders with even the most middling of projects (of which, frankly, there have been more than a few).
Streep's reputation as the greatest actress of her generation really isn't hyperbole, even when other fabulous performers of the past half century - Close, Lange and Weaver, among others - are considered. And it's been such a treat reflecting on their recognized work too.
That said, I do of course have one final entry to complete 20 Years of Streep.
In 2015, more than a decade since their collaboration on The Manchurian Candidate, Streep and filmmaker Jonathan Demme reunited on what would prove the director's final motion picture. Ricki and the Flash, written by another Oscar-winner (Diablo Cody), cast Streep as a wannabe-rock star who abandoned her family to chase her dreams. She later returns home, hoping to reconcile, to a chilly reception.
While Ricki and the Flash has its passionate proponents, the film was greeted that August to a lukewarm critical reception and modest box office - Streep's lowest-grossing live action feature in nearly a decade. Even more unnoticed was a brief supporting role that fall in the not-so-successful Oscar contender Suffragette. There was, no surprise, no Streep on Oscar nominations morning.
The following year, however, Streep signed on for a project with a filmmaker known for delivering Best Lead Actress Oscar nominations.
Over the course of his career, Stephen Frears directed Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons), Anjelica Huston (The Grifters), Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents... and Philomena) to awards season glory. With a record like that, odds were strong he could do the same for Streep, on the hunt for an unprecedented 20th Oscar nomination.
The 2016 Oscar nominees in Best Lead Actress were...
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Huppert portrays Michèle Leblanc, a strong-willed and successful video game company executive who is raped by a masked man in her home. Wary of reporting the incident to law enforcement, she instead keeps a meticulous eye on the men in her life, determined to uncover the assailant's identity herself and draw him into a game of revenge. This performance, which won her honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle, plus a Golden Globe, marked Huppert's first Oscar nomination.
Ruth Negga, Loving
Negga portrays Mildred Loving, wife of bricklayer Richard (the brilliant Joel Edgerton). The interracial couple are harassed and arrested by local authorities for violating Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws. They ultimately move to Washington D.C. but, yearning to someday move back to their friends and family in the Commonwealth, team with the American Civil Liberties Union on a lawsuit against Virginia that will result in a landmark civil rights decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. This performance marked Negga's first Oscar nomination.
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Portman portrays First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy who, not long after the assassination of her husband, invites journalist Theodore White (Billy Crudup) to the family compound to discuss the legacy of the 35th U.S. president's. Kennedy reflects on the glory days of the presidency, the horrors of that fall day in Dallas, Texas and the whirlwind of arrangements that followed. This performance marked Portman's third Oscar nomination.
Emma Stone, La La Land
Stone portrays Mia, an aspiring actress who makes her living as a barista on a Hollywood studio lot. She meets jazz pianist Sebastian (Oscar-nominee Ryan Gosling), who makes his ends meet playing uninspiring Christmas jingles at a restaurant. Over time, the two become romantically involved but their relationship is sorely tested by their careers, in the city notorious for building dreamers up, only to tear them down. This performance, which won her a BAFTA Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award, marked Stone's second Oscar nomination and first win.
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
Streep portrays Florence Foster Jenkins, an ambitious socialite who frequents and invests in the New York arts scene in the 1940s and, despite having negligible musical talent, manages to buy an opera concert for herself at Carnegie Hall. This performance marked Streep's 20th Oscar nomination.
Overlooked: Amy Adams, Arrival; Annette Bening, 20th Century Women; Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train; Sally Field, Hello, My Name Is Doris; Rebecca Hall, Christine; Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures; Susan Sarandon, The Meddler; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane
Won: Emma Stone, La La Land
Should've won: Natalie Portman, Jackie
Good heavens, it legit feels like just yesterday that Oscar junkies were debating Huppert's odds of somehow, someway scoring the upset over Stone in this. I never quite bought into that, not with the former's lack of a SAG nomination, but it sure was a blast watching the Huppert supporters try to convince me otherwise.
Last year was chock-full of fabulous leading lady turns and I don't think the Academy's fivesome, even if there's not a rotten apple among the bunch, is quite representative of that strength. If only enough voters had seen Hall's heartbreaking work or remembered the fantastic early-year performances from Field and Sarandon. Likewise, it's a shame Henson, the best part of Hidden Figures, couldn't ride her film's momentum to a surprise nomination. And Bening? When on earth is she at last scoring that Oscar win?!
Gotta love that in the final entry of 20 Years of Streep, I am ranking the Great One last in this final chapter. Not that Streep is bad in Florence Foster Jenkins (has she ever been?) but, if not for her incredible speech at last year's Golden Globes, I'm awfully skeptical she would have garnered a nomination for such a light piece of cinematic fluff.
Streep, no doubt, had a ball taking on this role and her comic chops are very much on display when her Jenkins graces the stage and leaves her audience aghast at the vocal trainwreck before them. The film around her, however, is thinly drawn, never much exploring the exciting hustle and bustle of New York at that time. It all seems better-suited to a stage production.
Ultimately, Streep emerges the sole reason to check the picture out, even though it doesn't break a ton of new ground on Jenkins' life. Moviegoers who were won over by Frears' comparably slight Mrs. Henderson Presents... will probably be quite fond of this.
Negligibly more exciting than Streep is this category's winner, Stone.
Upon first hearing about La La Land, I was pretty ecstatic. After all, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash was my favorite film of 2014 and I'm quite fond of both Stone and Gosling (and, when done right, movie musicals). Oddly enough, I think the picture works far better as a love story than it does a musical.
While the proceedings look fabulous and its stars have heaps of chemistry, I can't say the film leaves me humming a whole lot upon its conclusion. Chazelle sure knows how to shoot a musical but the songs are largely forgettable and the choreography more haphazard than anything. I'm glad Moonlight scored the Best Picture upset.
As for Stone, like Streep, the joy she clearly felt in making this movie is palpable. She makes for an electric duo with Gosling and her rendition of "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" marks one of the few moments in the film that operates as a successful musical. That said, it's hardly an amazing piece of acting. Stone has no shortage of charisma but this isn't a sharp vehicle like Easy A that knows how to perfectly utilize that personality.
One of the all-time worst Best Lead Actress winners? No way. Still, she's much more toward the bottom than the top and shouldn't have even been nominated.
Gracing a much stronger film than Streep and Stone is Negga, whose Loving was one of my very favorite films of 2016. The film is so convincing, it often has more the look and feel of a documentary than a scripted feature film. Kudos to writer/director Jeff Nichols and his entire cast for delivering such a beautiful, understated picture.
As for Negga specifically, this is perhaps among the most quiet, unaffected performances to ever garner an Oscar nomination - there's really no obvious 'Oscar scene' to speak of. It's lovely work but it's often subdued to the point where Negga is prone to fading into the background a bit. I think Edgerton, who time and time again proves himself one of today's finest actors, gives the more impassioned and resonant performance of the two. Some of the more lively supporting players too also steal scenes away from Negga.
Still, much as I would've rather seen another contender land a surprise nod, I was pleased on Oscar nominations morning to see Loving at least surface somewhere.
Leaps and bounds superior to Streep, Stone and Negga are the remaining two nominees, both richly deserving of their recognition here.
While I'm not quite as enamored with Huppert as some on social media, I do think it's quite fantastic she managed to garner an Oscar nomination for, of all things, a Paul Verhoeven film. Her work in Elle is truly fearless, an audacious, vivid portrayal that serves as the anchor of the entire picture - without her killing it, the film wouldn't work. Verhoeven's efforts here are striking but never before has he directed a film so dependent on a single performance.
Prior to Elle, I admittedly wasn't all that familiar with the Huppert filmography. I've seen Heaven's Gate on several occasions but, much as I admire so much about it, that's hardly a prime actors showcase. Beyond that, I believe the sleepy Madame Bovary is the only other Huppert picture I've caught over the years. Elle has for sure inspired me to check out more of her work in the future, even if I can't quite support her for the win here (though it sure would've been phenomenal if she somehow did pull that upset).
Impressive as Huppert is, Portman still wins this in a cake walk for me.
I still cannot comprehend how Jackie, my favorite film of 2016, was so egregiously shortchanged during the last awards season. Pablo Larrian's Kubrick-like direction is some of the most visually striking, haunting filmmaking I've seen in ages, the Noah Oppenheim screenplay is downright brilliant and the entire cast, even if it is largely a one-woman show, rings true.
Madeline Fontaine's costumes? Exquisite. Stephane Fontaine's cinematography? Breathtaking. Jean Rabasse's production design? Sublime. Mica Levi's music? Dazzling, almost overwhelming in its beauty.
Of course, however, Portman is the heart and soul of the picture. She runs a roller coaster of emotions, from the glory days of the Kennedy presidency, when the White House was filled with joy and grand entertainment, to the horrors of that autumn day in Dallas, Texas and the whirlwind of events that followed. Portman has wonderful, intimate scenes opposite John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig but is often at her most riveting when she has the screen all to herself. This is one of the very best Oscar-nominated performances from recent years.
At last, all 100 Oscar-nominated performances ranked!
- Jessica Lange, Frances
- Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
- Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
- Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice
- Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment
- Meryl Streep, Silkwood
- Jane Alexander, Testament
- Sally Kirkland, Anna
- Maureen Stapleton, Interiors
- Natalie Portman, Jackie
- Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
- Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan
- Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
- Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
- Cher, Moonstruck
- Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
- Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
- Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
- Kathy Bates, Misery
- Anjelica Huston, The Grifters
- Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair
- Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
- Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
- Emily Watson, Hilary and Jackie
- Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry
- Sharon Stone, Casino
- Melissa Leo, Frozen River
- Viola Davis, The Help
- Diane Keaton, Reds
- Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer
- Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter
- Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria
- Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
- Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
- Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
- Meryl Streep, Postcards from the Edge
- Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams
- Helen Mirren, The Queen
- Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
- Sissy Spacek, Missing
- Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
- Joanne Woodward, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
- Isabelle Huppert, Elle
- Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
- Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
- Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
- Judi Dench, Philomena
- Jane Alexander, Kramer vs. Kramer
- Meryl Streep, Adaptation
- Penelope Cruz, Volver
- Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
- Meryl Streep, Doubt
- Sandra Bullock, Gravity
- Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
- Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
- Meryl Streep, One True Thing
- Jodie Foster, The Accused
- Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City
- Helen Mirren, The Last Station
- Annette Bening, American Beauty
- Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
- Meryl Streep, Out of Africa
- Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
- Julie Walters, Educating Rita
- Candice Bergen, Starting Over
- Maggie Smith, California Suite
- Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
- Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
- Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
- Julianne Moore, The Hours
- Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
- Ruth Negga, Loving
- Laura Dern, Wild
- Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
- Emma Stone, La La Land
- Angelina Jolie, Changeling
- Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
- Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
- Kate Winslet, Little Children
- Meryl Streep, Ironweed
- Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God
- Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman
- Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart
- Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility
- Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant's Woman
- Dyan Cannon, Heaven Can Wait
- Carey Mulligan, An Education
- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
- Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
- Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
- Kate Winslet, The Reader
- Penelope Milford, Coming Home
- Queen Latifah, Chicago
- Barbara Barrie, Breaking Away
- Emma Stone, Birdman
- Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman
- Amy Adams, American Hustle
- Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
- Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love