20 Years of Streep: 2016 ("Florence Foster Jenkins")

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!

  1. Jessica Lange, Frances
  2. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
  3. Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County
  4. Meryl Streep, Sophie's Choice
  5. Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment
  6. Meryl Streep, Silkwood
  7. Jane Alexander, Testament
  8. Sally Kirkland, Anna
  9. Maureen Stapleton, Interiors
  10. Natalie Portman, Jackie
  11. Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons
  12. Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan
  13. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction
  14. Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist
  15. Cher, Moonstruck
  16. Marsha Mason, Only When I Laugh
  17. Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
  18. Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
  19. Kathy Bates, Misery
  20. Anjelica Huston, The Grifters
  21. Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair
  22. Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
  23. Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking
  24. Emily Watson, Hilary and Jackie
  25. Hilary Swank, Boys Don't Cry
  26. Sharon Stone, Casino
  27. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
  28. Viola Davis, The Help
  29. Diane Keaton, Reds
  30. Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer
  31. Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter
  32. Julie Andrews, Victor/Victoria
  33. Meryl Streep, A Cry in the Dark
  34. Melanie Griffith, Working Girl
  35. Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  36. Meryl Streep, Postcards from the Edge
  37. Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams
  38. Helen Mirren, The Queen
  39. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  40. Sissy Spacek, Missing
  41. Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
  42. Joanne Woodward, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
  43. Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  44. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
  45. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  46. Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  47. Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful
  48. Judi Dench, Philomena
  49. Jane Alexander, Kramer vs. Kramer
  50. Meryl Streep, Adaptation
  51. Penelope Cruz, Volver
  52. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  53. Meryl Streep, Doubt
  54. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  55. Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
  56. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
  57. Meryl Streep, One True Thing
  58. Jodie Foster, The Accused
  59. Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City
  60. Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  61. Annette Bening, American Beauty
  62. Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
  63. Meryl Streep, Out of Africa
  64. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News
  65. Julie Walters, Educating Rita
  66. Candice Bergen, Starting Over
  67. Maggie Smith, California Suite
  68. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
  69. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  70. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
  71. Julianne Moore, The Hours
  72. Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond
  73. Ruth Negga, Loving
  74. Laura Dern, Wild
  75. Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
  76. Emma Stone, La La Land
  77. Angelina Jolie, Changeling
  78. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
  79. Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  80. Kate Winslet, Little Children
  81. Meryl Streep, Ironweed
  82. Anne Bancroft, Agnes of God
  83. Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman
  84. Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart
  85. Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility
  86. Meryl Streep, The French Lieutenant's Woman
  87. Dyan Cannon, Heaven Can Wait
  88. Carey Mulligan, An Education
  89. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
  90. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  91. Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
  92. Kate Winslet, The Reader
  93. Penelope Milford, Coming Home
  94. Queen Latifah, Chicago
  95. Barbara Barrie, Breaking Away
  96. Emma Stone, Birdman
  97. Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman
  98. Amy Adams, American Hustle
  99. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  100. Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love