The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Actress

by Rachel · January 28, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 8 Comments
Editor’s note: Welcome to the fourth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Candice of Reel Talk

Another year goes by and Oscar fails to recognize some of the more daring lead performances from women on the big screen.

In a year when we were honored to see a collection of bold performances from women in leading roles–from Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids and Charlize Theron in Young Adult, to Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Adepero Oduye in Pariah–it’s disappointing to learn they each were ignored by an academy so deeply rooted in tradition it’s frightening.

This year the Academy reverted back to its old school formula to salute performances of their go-to characters–you know, the downtrodden domestic worker (no doubt a homage to Gone with the Wind), a woman in drag (hello, Shakespeare in Love), and real-life iconic women (Lady Sings the Blues, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Queen, Frida, etc).

There is, however, the wild card nomination, the one that raises eyebrows, and offers a glimmer of hope that Oscar actually grew a pair and may step out of the dark ages–Rooney Mara’s innocently devious portrayal as hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Though Mara didn’t truly embody the character as much as her Swedish predecessor Noomi Rapace, she does get an A for effort for taking on such a challenge and giving a solid performance. And the academy gets a high five for at least recognizing a character that’s neither whimpering nor traditional, but rather commanding and progressive.

The other four slots, however? So steeped in Oscar status quo, you’d think it really was still 1994. No disrespect to any of the other four nominated actresses in the category, but we could have all called their nominations this year.

Sure, Viola Davis did the best she could with the measly screenplay she was given for The Help, so that deserves a nod in and of itself. Glenn Close has been putting in good work for years and simply disappears into the role of Albert Nobbs, as does Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. And Meryl Streep delivers an expectantly admirable performance in The Iron Lady, while not her best by any stretch of the imagination, and manages to bring to the role of an aging Margaret Thatcher what many good actresses could not.

But, still, none of these performances are nearly as brassy, as cheerless, or as unexpected as the wonderfully refreshing portrayals of a woman wrangling to come out of the closet (Oduye), a young girl grappling with her identity (Olsen), a loathsome woman on a desperate downward spiral (Theron), a woman trapped in her own hysteria (Knightley), and a hilarious and surprisingly nuanced portrayal of a lovable basket case (Wiig). Any of these performances could have replaced the esteemed yet snoozeworthy four slots on the ballot.

Can the Academy step back into the present and commend performances of women that don’t fit into its cookie-cutter mold? Clearly, not this year.

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8 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Actress

  1. Sati. says:

    Knigthley deserves Razzie for her laughable performance.

  2. TheVern says:

    Knightly’s performance was quite good and certainly the most interesting charcter in “A Dangerous Method” but not award worthy.

  3. I thought Kristen Wiig was average at best, and not nearly good enough for any sort of award. Viola, Michelle and Meryl were leagues above her. Another actress snubbed, I thought, was Felicity Jones in Like Crazy. She was so heartbreaking and really got into her role, and most of the script was improv. I do agree with all the nominations, they were all very talented, and great performances.

  4. Gregory Roy says:

    I agree with the talk to Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, it was a great performance and I think she deserved a nod

  5. JoelB says:

    Nice “rant” here Candice. =)

    I’ve only seen the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo out of these films but I got to say her performance felt a little cartoony but then I’m Swedish and I’m not used to seeing Swedish films be remade by Hollywood measures either.

  6. PG Cooper says:

    I thought Wig sucked, and Bridesmaids got way too much Oscar love as it is. I would have liked to see Knightley nominated though.

  7. I’m loving this Candice! It’s definitely true that The Academy has certain genres that they prefer, and edgy doesn’t tend to be one of them. Personally I would have preferred to see Oduye or Olsen take Mara’s spot, but that’s mostly because I tend to root for the more independent films over the bigger blockbusters. The good news is that most of the women on your wish list are still young enough to try again with some more films, but it is a shame because their careers could have really gotten a boost with a nomination at this stage.

  8. EFC says:

    Haha, Candice killed me with that 1994 line. Spot on and sooo true.

    Anyway, the Viola Davis award will go to Viola Davis, and the audience will stand up and give her a standing ovation, not so much for her, but because it feels good to give a Black woman an award or something. Having said that, her award is richly deserved — she really is the best thing in that film, so strong that she makes The Help better than it really is, IMHO.

    Oh, and Knightley definitely deserved a nod, if only for that awesome way she jutted out her lower jaw.

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