(Considering both films – Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady – are unfinished at the moment, obviously I can’t comment on the actual performances or the films’ overall quality. I’m just trying to put into perspective a potential Meryl Streep-Glenn Close race.)
Although it is unusally early, I think it might be worth taking a quick look at the Best Actress race, because if my early hunch rings true, it will be MUCH more fascinating than the usual “hot ingenue vs. respected veteran” battle.
Meryl Streep is considered the BEST actress of all time – definitely the best one still around – therefore it might be confusing to ‘oscarwatching-virgins’, how the hell hasn’t she won since 1982. It isn’t like she took a break – she didn’t – or suffered some kind of career suicide – neither personal (or as I like to call it ‘the Mel Gibson’) nor professional (or as I like to call it “the Catwoman”). No, none of those. She is consistently, quite simply FANTASTIC. And that could very well be the problem: she makes it look too easy. She isn’t constantly talking about her role-related struggles on every existing talk show out there, she doesn’t lose weight dramatically or learn how to box or dance or skin a squirrel… she just plays the part. She doesn’t need to remind people how fantastic she is, she doesn’t need to prove anything anymore and after three decades, she can still steal our hearts, scare us shitless (that is, IF we were aspiring fashion assistants), make us cry and laugh. Her brilliance lies in the purity of her acting… and it is acting at its very best.
Now after 12 consecutive losses, she is – as always – in the discussion with probably the most Oscary role she has had since her Best Actress winning Sophie’s Choice. She is playing one of the most (in)famous female icons of modern history, a person who isn’t exactly popular with the public – especially in retrospect. Therefore it will be that much tougher to make her relatable and it will be up to Meryl the Great to make us understand this complex, completely fascinating yet completely unpopular woman whom a lot of people love to hate. If there is one actress out there who can pull it off, that actress is Meryl Streep. It will be her ‘Queen’ and she WILL nail it, there is no doubt about that. My only concern is the director, Phyllida Lloyd who is not exactly ‘Stephen Frears-caliber’…not even close. Hopefully she will surprise us all and direct a film that will be at least good enough NOT to hurt its lead’s Awards-prospects. Whatever happens, one thing is for certain : The Iron Lady is Meryl Streep’s best shot at the Oscar since Sophie’s Choice. Yes, I know: you heard that one before…
Glenn Close is arguably THE most overdue actress today, she lost 5 times and hasn’t been in the Oscar-race since Dangerous Liaisons (1988). At first glance it might seem that she gave up her Oscar-dreams because she – successfully – turned to TV (her Golden Globe/SAG winning remake of The Lion in Winter and her critically acclaimed, two-time Emmy winning role in Damages) BUT considering how many brilliant performances of hers had been ignored since her last nomination (Reversal of Fortune, Hamlet, The House of the Spirits, Paradise Road, Cookie’s Fortune, Evening), I think it is safe to say she IS still very much in the game. Granted, several of her overlooked turns were in bad-to-mediocre films BUT her individual work was still fantastic......even if the film in question was not.
After a long Oscar-hiatus, she is back and hopefully she is back with a bang. In the eighties, she was the hottest thing out there, especially Oscar-wise : she had 3 nominations in the best supporting actress category in 3 consecutive years and then a few years later she had 2 nominations in the best lead actress category in 2 consecutive years. Yet no victory. The Academy opted to award Jodie Foster (I’m not a fan of her ‘Accused’ Oscar, though I do agree with her second win), and even Cher instead of the consistently great Glenn Close.
BUT it seems to be different this time around. There are SO many things going for her in 2011: Albert Nobbs is a VERY baity role that seems to hit all the right notes Oscar-wise: it is a period piece about a woman pretending to be a man (hey, if it worked for Hilary Swank and Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m sure as hell it could/should work for Glenn “Acting Giant” Close, too), the film features an impressive cast and the man behind the camera is the same who directed arguably THE best Annette Bening-performance to date. Glenn Close’s remarkable efforts to make this film happen are also worth mentioning and it is definitely a story the Academy could appreciate : she played the part almost 30 years ago on stage and had tried to turn it into a film ever since. In order to succeed, she pulled an ‘Emma Thompson’ and wrote the screenplay herself, then a ‘Nicole Kidman’ and produced the passion project, as well. And taking all that into account, Albert Nobbs qualifies as THE most important and ambitious project of her whole career. If Glenn Close will ever win an Oscar, there simply cannot be a more fitting victory than one for a role, she had been so fiercely devoted to for almost 30 years.
So, the question is: Streep or Close? Whatever happens, at least we can be sure that there won’t be any vicious smear-campaigns or aggressive lobbying : Glenn Close and Meryl Streep are friends and they have been for a long time, Streep even mentioned it in her hilarious Emmy acceptance speech a few years ago and they also did a movie together. Although The House of the Spirits didn’t exactly live up to the expectations, at least it provides us this picture that features 2011’s Albert Nobbs and Margaret Thatcher.
If these two performances will indeed get the kind of acclaim, I’m expecting at the moment, the title of this article will be suddenly extremely relevant: Sophie’s Choice? Is it a “Sophie’s Choice” between these two or is it a no-brainer ? And if it IS a no-brainer, who deserves the Oscar MORE ? Meryl Streep who lost 14 times BUT did win twice OR Glenn Close who lost 5 times AND she has never won before ?
For me, it is indeed...... ’a Sophie’s Choice’…
P.S. Just for fun, here is my ridiculously early, completely hunch-based prediction for next year’s Best Actress race :
- Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
- Helen Mirren (The Door)
- Kaya Scodelario (Wuthering Heights)
- Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
- Michelle Williams (My Week with Marylin)
Granted, Scodelario is the only out-of-the-box pick. I think – as usually – there will be a ‘newbie’ nominee in the Best Actress category (a slot previously taken by Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Page, Keira Knightley etc.) and I gave the edge to Scodelario because her film will have a late-autumn/early winter US-release date meanwhile the films of the other young contenders are released in less Academy-friendly months (Mia Wasikowska’s Jane Eyre in March, Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna in April, Emma Stone’s The Help in August) AND because I still didn’t forget the kind of performance the director’s previous young female lead delivered (Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank under Andrea Arnold’s direction). Taking that AND the fact that she is playing an iconic role into account, I think she will be the dark horse to look out for next year – and considering how great Fish Tank was, Wuthering Heights could actually emerge as the ’British-Oscar film of 2011’. We’ll see.
We do have promising early word on Rachel Weisz (The Whistleblower), Maria Bello (Beautiful Boy) and Robin Wright (The Conspirator), but I think these films will be too little to gain traction for the leads and the actresses will lose steam ‘Mother and Child-style’ – too late entries in the year of their festival premiere, but way too early entries to succeed in next year’s race.
I also think several contenders who are considered in the Lead Race at the moment, will be campaigned in the supporting category in the end : Viola Davis (The Help), Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life), Jodie Foster (Carnage).