Now that award season has kicked off with the announcement of the Independent Spirit Award nominations, the Movie Fanatic Oscar Watch takes a look at the women primed to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar nomination. 2011 proved to be an astounding year for stellar performances by lead actresses and they ran the gamut in terms of new to the Oscar buzz and veterans used to the spotlight of the Academy Awards. Despite her record 16 nominations, each year it seems that Meryl Streep is up for another award, yet she loses. Streep has been nominated 16 times, yet has only won twice. This year, her turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady has her, in many eyes, finally feeling the grasp of her third win at hand.
Movie Fanatic’s Oscar Watch takes our periodic look at the major Oscar categories and this week, we gaze firmly at the Best Actress category and offer our opinion on who could be, and should be, nominated.
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady: Streep earned the Best Actress trophy from the New York Critics recently and we believe that this indeed could be her year, except there is another who might slip past her to walk across the Kodak Theatre stage and accept Best Actress. More on her soon, but in The Iron Lady, Streep achieves the impossible -- again. Portraying a real life person is never easy, particularly one as well known as Thatcher. Yet, Streep is effortless in her ability to not only capture the nuances of the first female Prime Minister of the U.K., but to also deliver a performance that is astounding in its scope and breadth. She is a front-runner for sure, but Movie Fanatic believes she is in a tie for that position with…
Viola Davis for The Help: The entire cast of The Help could be looking at nominations, particularly Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer. But in terms of a Best Actress, a standout emerges: Viola Davis. Her turn as a maid in early 1960s Mississippi is the stuff of legend. She is equally powerful and vulnerable. Davis brings both humor and humility in a performance that should finally give the Oscar nominee for Doubt her first Oscar. In our eyes, Davis is the actress to beat.
Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene: There are breakout performances by an actress, and there is what Elizabeth Olsen achieved in Martha Marcy May Marlene. She exploded on the screen and commanded audiences’ attention in a film that riveted and could have been a solely powerful piece of filmmaking about one woman’s effort to leave an abusive cult behind. Instead, it was the Elizabeth Olsen show with the younger sister of the famous Olsen twins firmly stepping out into her own spotlight. Movie Fanatic thinks that Olsen is a lock for that third spot on the Best Actress nomination list.
Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn: Like Streep with The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams had the tough task of portraying an icon. In what could have been an imitation of Marilyn Monroe, Williams instead gave her layers upon layers of humanity that brought an approachable nature to a legend for legions of audience members who only knew Monroe from her tabloid life and screen history. Williams plays Monroe in My Week with Marilyn as a woman seeking affirmation, whether from men, her co-stars and the public at large. The actress is uncanny as Monroe and has set the standard for any actress seeking to slither into Monroe’s sexiness in the future.
Charlize Theron for Young Adult: There is a trick to portraying a character that is less than sympathetic. Theron achieves that in droves with her turn in Young Adult. The actress plays an alcoholic Young Adult author heading home for her high school reunion. She is on a mission: To steal away her high school sweetheart from his happy marriage. Not the stuff that makes audiences pull for your character. Yet, in Theron’s hands, her character possesses a power that is palpable and allows the viewer to be right with her every step of the way.
Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia: In Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst achieves an Elizabeth Olsen type of announcement of her arrival on the scene. Only for Dunst, it is not a new announcement, simply a reminder of the talent this young actress possesses. Her characterization of a bride on her wedding day while the world is collapsing around her -- literally -- is commanding, complicated and every bit worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Those are the leaders in terms of who we believe has a real shot at an Oscar nomination. But, there are some killer performances that could surprise and nab a nod from the Academy.
Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Simply seeing Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer and one can see the searing performance that Oscar voters adore. The film may be too gritty for the Academy, but will be hard to ignore. The David Fincher film’s success or failure hinges on his casting of Lisbeth and with Mara, not only does he have the perfect faulted heroine, but he may have cast an actress that will add Oscar nominee to her resume.
Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs: There is no question that Glenn Close deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance in Albert Nobbs. The only problem is the film doesn’t deliver as many expected, and whether enough voters will see the work before voting closes remains a mystery.
Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Tilda Swinton has already scored an Oscar, but could pick up another nomination for her role in We Need to Talk About Kevin. The problem for her is the same for Close, will enough people see the film to give it and her the attention they so richly deserve?
Now, be sure to check out our thoughts on who should earn Oscar nominations for Best Actor!