82nd Oscars - Best Actress

The Original BJ
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Postby The Original BJ » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:11 pm

Sorry for the double post, but I did want to add one last bit...

Looking back over the past decade or so, it's amazing to compare the lists of Best Actor and Best Actress winners. I know not all of us may agree on each individual win, and some of us have wildly differing opinions on some of these performers, but looking over the recent batch of Best Actor winners, you see a list that, by and large, reads like a grouping of men who are generally held to be among the most respected current film actors: Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn twice, Daniel Day-Lewis, Forest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Jack Nicholson. Yes, you get an occasional Robert Benigni, and I don't love all of those winning performances...

...but then take a look at Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank twice, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Helen Hunt. Now I don't dislike all of these performances, and at least one I'd have voted for without question, but on the whole, I don't think you could really argue that this list is representative of the finest female thespians currently working. Yes, Helen Mirren is an exception, and certainly Kidman and Winslet qualify as more than just hot flavors of the month (even if their winning performances weren't your favorite.)

Now, I'm certainly NOT trying to argue that all the recent Best Actor choices are great, and all the Best Actress choices stink. But the Best Actor trophy does tend to gravitate toward different types of performers than the Best Actress trophy. But what if you flopped what seems to be the recent "criteria"?

Imagine a recent Best Actor slate with the following men: Matt Damon, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Heath Ledger, Brad Pitt. Sort of seems impossible, right?

Or a Best Actress slate with these ladies: Judi Dench, Ellen Burstyn, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, Julie Christie, Meryl Streep. Also seems impossible?

Kind of interesting.

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Postby The Original BJ » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:43 pm

Mister Tee wrote:To my ear, the level of tolerance for Bullock's win is astonishing, given how utterly undeserved I think it is.

One of the reasons I think this win has been surprisingly tolerated (I'm with you, Mister Tee -- it's an atrocious choice, far below what I normally think of as bad Oscar choices) is this theory that seems to be accepted by many: Oscars should be given based on how well someone performs at their own level.

For instance, there was an LA Times article on Sunday in which Kenneth Turan commented on how many people in the industry felt this would be Sandra Bullock's only shot at an Oscar, and that was reason to vote for her -- Blind Side represented HER finest dramatic acting achievement, and since she's likable and a big star, this was the best time to honor her. Turan wrote that many voters didn't actually prefer her performance to Streep's, but they saw Blind Side as a career accomplishment for Bullock, whereas Julie & Julia wasn't that for Streep. (Side note: I actually disagree strongly that Blind Side was even Bullock's peak; I've preferred her more in a lot of other things, though that doesn't seem to be the common view.) I think this factor also helped Halle Berry, as she was certainly performing at a much higher level than usual, even if it didn't approach what the best actresses do. (And count me among the camp that finds Berry's winning performance vastly superior to Bullock's.)

And, of course, this problem is one reason why Meryl Streep hasn't been able to win a third trophy -- stuff like Julie & Julia and Doubt don't approach her finest work. The fact that voters KNOW she'll be on the ballot again, likely very soon, hurts her. It's also why actresses like Julianne Moore (and some of those Nathaniel cited) have a hard time winning Oscars at all. Moore is so reliably great, anything less than career topping dramatic work doesn't make a splash. (Witness her snub this year for A Single Man.) But when a lightweight actress who's never done anything special has a change-of-pace role in a drama, it's big news, and easier to Bullock her way to a successful awards run.

Regarding certain "types" of actresses who merit Oscars and nominations, well, I'm sort of between the camps on that one. As I said above, I think it's pretty clear that mostly unimpressive actresses can often win awards attention simply for being better than usual, and I can't say I much like that. But, I also think a lot of these types of actresses can occasionally turn out strong work, as, for me, Cameron Diaz did in Being John Malkovich, or Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, or Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, and although I think luck and the right role were large factors in creating these performances, I can't deny that I was genuinely impressed by the actors. And as far as Bullock goes, I did like her in Infamous, so were she to give another performance at or exceeding that level, I wouldn't mind a nomination. But The Blind Side certainly wasn't that.

I do, however, agree with dws regarding the non-logic of lists such as "the Academy thinks Bullock is a greater actress than Moore/Pfeiffer/Close/etc.??" For instance, you could just as easily substitute Bullock with Mo'Nique and express astonishment that the Academy thinks Mo'Nique is a "better" actress than that group of more accomplished thespians...but no one would care to do that because most people felt Mo'Nique deserved her Oscar for such a hugely acclaimed performance. Ditto someone like Linda Hunt. And I see lots of people griping that Hilary Swank has two Best Actress Oscars to Streep's one...but how many of those people would like to hand over Swank's Boys Don't Cry trophy to Streep for Music of the Heart? Oh yeah, no one. As far as I'm concerned, you can criticize the Academy for awarding one performance over another, but it's AWFULLY tough for me to chide this group for "preferring" Bullock to Glenn Close when they were never in competition with one another.

And, lastly, Mister Tee, consider yourself lucky: you weren't surrounded by a throng of people who cheered in elation when Bullock was named the year's best actress.

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Postby ITALIANO » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:40 pm

Big Magilla wrote:None of them would have been remotely believable in The Blind Side. Bullock is

I honestly think that Bullock's performance - and more generally the character she plays - can only be "believed" by those who want to believe in fairy tales. She never for one moment resembles a human being - I mean, even Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz was a more realistic portrayal of a woman, and, compared with Bullock, much more selfish and less generous.

There are obvious - and, I'm sure, interesting - reasons why some Americans (and, unlike what I first thought, not necessarily conservative or uneducated Americans) have suddenly fallen in love with this movie and this actress. An American could write a penetrating essay about this collective "coup de foudre"; I'm not American so I can only guess - but I don't like what I guess, I don't like it at all.

The movie is, after all, American in ways I've never seen (The Hurt Locker is pro-Iraq propaganda by comparison). In subtle ways, too. The real-life images of the family at the end of the movie suggest a very normal environment, and the mother, like all mothers, adoptive or not, is always hugging, always physically very close to her "black" son. And rightly so, of course.
Yet in the movie itself, the Sandra Bullock character never for one moment gets in close physical contact with the boy - always at a safe distance, to the point that I often wondered why she was so cold towards him. And then I realized that the filmmakers were terrified at the prospect that a puritannical (and, I'd say, sick - but then puritans often are) viewer could misunderstand the woman's interest for the young black - it had to be so pure that even a simple hug had to be avoided.

Yes, an American should write an essay on this movie and its secret meanings.




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Postby dws1982 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:22 pm

Mister Tee wrote:To my ear, the level of tolerance for Bullock's win is astonishing, given how utterly undeserved I think it is.

Because you didn't like it, you're surprised that everyone else isn't upset about it? I know you didn't like it, but the movie and performance got better reviews than you're admitting. I think your distaste for the movie seems to be clouding your perception of how it was recieved. But if you want some Bullock beating down to make you happy, go over to the forums at thebackstage.org and you'll find some in the threads there. Any movie snob message board (Criterion Forums) with a section on movie awards will have some too.

I grant circumstance has something to do with all this, but I don't see why the list qualifies as idiotic.

Circumstance has everything to do with it. I'd characterize it as idiotic because it keeps the same childish non-logic out there: Swank won two Best Actress Oscars so that means the Academy thinks she's better than Meryl Streep? Sandra Bullock has a Best Actress Oscar so that means the Academy thinks she's a better actress than Close/Pfeiffer/Weaver/Moore/Allen?

It doesn't mean that at all. None of those actresses have even gotten a nomination in nearly a decade. That Sandra Bullock won the Oscar doesn't mean that the Academy thinks she's a better actress. It just means she got (at minimum) 20% + 1 of the votes cast in the Best Actress category this year. It means that more Academy members voted for her this year than Meryl Streep. Hilary Swank got (minimum) 20% + 1 of the votes cast in Best Actress two times.

It's silly and yes, idiotic, to act like this means that the Academy thinks that this actress is better than that one because she won two Best Actress Oscars to the other's one or to another's zero. It's like saying, "According to the Academy, Crash and Gandhi are better films than Citizen Kane." I think it's an idiotic statement.




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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:12 pm

Cameron Diaz and Meg Ryan have already gone the mother route to disastrous turns. Diaz in the abominable My Sister's Keeper in which she was so out of her league as to merit a Razzie and Ryan in a couple including the remake of The Women in which she looked totally inept in the trailer (I haven;t seen teh actual film, nor I intend to.)

Jennifer Aniston - puh-leeze.

None of them would have been remotely believable in The Blind Side. Bullock is, and she's as much of a reason for the success of the film as anything.

Though I doubt many thought about it consciously, part of the mystique in giving Bullock the award this year may have been to balance Mo'Nique's bad example mother with Bullock's good example one.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:46 pm

dws, we're apparently patronizing different boards (or else just retaining what annoys us the most). To my ear, the level of tolerance for Bullock's win is astonishing, given how utterly undeserved I think it is. I'd even cite Ed Gonzalez as a case in point. Ed, who I know and like from here, is tougher than I on, conservatively, 90% of films...yet here, in what I think is one of the greatest cases of swill ever to invade the Oscars, he plays it gentle. It almost feels contrarian -- reminding me of when Madonna did Speed the Plow here in NY. Every theatre person I know thought she was dreadful, but the critics for the most part resisted the obvious shot and were kind (one even said she was "fine, and probably will be even better with more time" Can you imagine any non-celebrity being given such leeway?

As for there being kinds of actresses who don't rate Oscars -- I'm afraid I have to say I buy into that. I don't ever care to see Meg Ryan, Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Aniston promoted as Oscar fodder, unless they do something that completely takes me beyond their standard personae...something Bullock doesn't remotely do.

Apart from the fact that Nathaniel is one of those who inexplicably believe Hillary Swank "robbed" Annette Bening of two Oscars (when Swank was incomparably better in the first instance and I'd doubt Bening ran better than third in the second), I don't have too much problem with his formulation. Swank has two best actress Oscars, one more than Streep, who now has precisely the same number as Bullock, while a long list of quite deserving women have yet to have the good fortune to win. I grant circumstance has something to do with all this, but I don't see why the list qualifies as idiotic.

Magilla, I'm way in disagreement with your contentions that all those actresses are worse than Bullock -- not that a single one represents a favorite of mine (though I think Rainer's first win has jumped from over-rated to under-rated -- it's solid if small-ranged), but I think Bullock is far less distinguished than Theron, Berry and Hunt. As I said a few weeks ago, I could understand why all of those were singled out; without the $250 million, I can think of no reason why Bullock would have been.

And I'm with Italiano, that those who go to see Blind Side now, expecting a decent movie with some kind of breakthrough performance, will be shocked, and think, as Damien did, that they had no idea it would be that bad.

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Postby ITALIANO » Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:10 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:Sorry, Mister Tee, but two years from now no one is going to remember who she was up against.

No, I tend to agree with Mister Tee on this. And, at least on this side of the ocean, much sooner than two years. The Blind Side hasn't opened here yet (I saw it at a private screening) and because of the Best Actress Oscar, it will open very soon and many (including the critics) are anxiously waiting for it, expecting - I tell you - a "serious" movie about racism and, of course, a surprisingly effective dramatic turn from its awarded star. They will be, needless to say, bitterly disappointed - and not only by the movie.

I have seen all the Best Actress winners except four: Pickford, Shearer, Dressler and Hayes. And - though there have been some bad choices, even recently - for me Sandra Bullock is really the worst. I can understand what dws says about Winslet (by the way, Big Magilla: that is OBJECTIVELY a leading role) - but the problem is that Bullock's performance is ALSO wrong on "far more dangerous levels", for what implies even more than for what it shows. The movie is at least as politically ambiguous as The Reader, and Winslet, even not at her best, is still a better actress than Bullock, so in the end yes, Bullock IS worse.

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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:57 am

I think Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader was one of her best and a deserved Oscar winner, but had it been in support instead of Penelope Cruz's annoying yelling and screaming in two languages in that over-praised Woody Allen mishmash, in which case Streep would likely have had her third Oscar for her superior performance in Doubt, there wouldn't be this Bullock vs. Streep argument which has already become extremely tiresome.

We've been struggling to come up with a previous Oscar race to compare this one to. How about 1957?

Just suppose Debbie Reynolds had been nominated for her breakthrough box office hit, Tammy and the Bachelor instead of her then good friend Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County and then went on to win over Deborah Kerr, Anna Magnani, Lana Turner and Joanne Woodward. We'd still be wondering what they were smoking back then.

Let's wait until the dust settles to put Bullock's win in perspective. I have a feeling it may not even rank in the bottom ten and certainly not the bottom five. It's a better performance than those of Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Elizabeth Taylor (the first time), Luise Rainer (the first time), Glenda Jackson (the second time), Ginger Rogers, Norma Shearer and Mary Pickford just off the top of my head.




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Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Mar 09, 2010 11:10 am

It's the final indignity, isn't it? Not only does the Oscar go to the supposedly least deserving nominee, but the newly annointed winner then gives a speech that's destined to go down in history as a classic Academy Award moment, played and replayed in perpetuity... validation of the Academy's decision.

Sorry, Mister Tee, but two years from now no one is going to remember who she was up against.




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Postby dws1982 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:57 am

Mister Tee wrote:Nathaniel at The Film Experience made the point today that Kate Winslet -- whose (insert your preferred actress physical token) Sandra Bullock couldn't carry -- last year took infinitely more crap from the online community simply for not having won for one of her better performances, while Bullock for this crud is given an "oh, she's so nice, it's her only chance, wasn't the speech lovely" pass from far too many.

I'd like to ask Nathaniel Rogers what Internet he's been reading. People online have been very vicious in their attacks towards Bullock. Not just attacks on the performance, but attacks on her because she's not the "type" of actress who's supposed to win an Oscar, as if there are set types of actresses who should and shouldn't win.

His other problem is that he automatically assumes in his piece that everyone who reads him will agree with his key point: That The Reader is not one of Winslet's best performance, but that it's still better than Bullock's. And that's something that I would reject. Bullock's performance may be bad (I don't think so; like I've said before, I tend towards Ed Gonzalez comments on it at Slant), but I think Winslet's is not just bad acting, but bad, and wrong on several other, far more dangerous levels. Winslet's the better actress, no question, but I don't know that I'll ever rank her performance anywhere other than at the bottom of Best Actress winning performances.

Plus, Nathaniel includes this in his blog entry:
So the Oscar Math goes like so when it comes to the Best Actress category:

Swank is > than Streep who is = to Bullock who is > than the following combined:
Pfeiffer, Close, Weaver, Turner, Moore, Allen, Deneuve and Linney.

Oscar Actress Math never computes.

The fact that he writes something so childish and frankly, idiotic, tells me that he's not to be taken seriously.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:22 am

ITALIANO wrote:Also, to me the problem isn't that Meryl Streep lost. It's that Sandra Bullock won, and she didn't deserve to. So I don't understand all the support she gets on this board. Wrong is wrong, even if the person is nice.

Nathaniel at The Film Experience made the point today that Kate Winslet -- whose (insert your preferred actress physical token) Sandra Bullock couldn't carry -- last year took infinitely more crap from the online community simply for not having won for one of her better performances, while Bullock for this crud is given an "oh, she's so nice, it's her only chance, wasn't the speech lovely" pass from far too many.

It was a dismal choice. Two years from now no one will admit to voting for her.

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Postby Hustler » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:18 am

I dont´care if Sandra´s speech was nice. It doesn´t revert the fact that she didn´t deserve to win.

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Postby ITALIANO » Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:08 am

There's also the possibility, Big Magilla, that Meryl Streep is a better actress than all those you mentioned - including Katharine Hepburn.

Also, to me the problem isn't that Meryl Streep lost. It's that Sandra Bullock won, and she didn't deserve to. So I don't understand all the support she gets on this board. Wrong is wrong, even if the person is nice.

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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:45 am

It took Katharine Hepburn 34 years to win her second Oscar and Bette Davis never won one after 1938. Had Streep's performances been up against any of Hepburn's or Davis', chances are she wouldn't have half the nominations she does.

It's all subjective. Neither Bullock nor Streep gave the year's best performance by a an actress IMO. That was Tilda Swinton and she wasn't even nominated. Helen Mirren, who only has one Oscar despite a career that goes back almost a decade prior to Streep's, gave the best nominated performance and nobody is shedding a tear for her or her co-star, Christopher Plummer who might also be considered "due".

Let Sandy have her moment. Even she knows it's not likely to come again.

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Postby bettestreep2008 » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:25 am

Watched The View today and Joy Behar was the only one disappointed with the Bullock win.

She referred to Streep as a "magician" - conjuring up such brilliant performances and not being honoured for them.

If Meryl gets nominated again next year - her 17th - she will most likely lose again because both Julian Moore and Annette Benning will be nominated for the well received Kids are alright - and both actors will have the "It's time" campaign going for them.

Or will Hilary Swank make it 3 out of 3 for the single mother fighting for justice role in Betty Anne Waters???

Just a reminder - the only Best Actress oscar Merryl has received was 27 YEARS AGO!

And it will 28 YEARS if she loses next year as well!!!


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