2015 Oscars: Best Actress

It’s Oscar season, and over the weeks leading up to the awards, I’ll be rolling out nine blog pieces breaking down (what I consider) the eight major races – Picture, Director, both writing and all four acting categories.

Like with most things on this blog, this will be a mix of fact, popular opinion and my opinion – the three of which don’t often intersect. Then I’ll post a full list of my Oscar picks right before the show as best I can.

On to today’s posting: Actress

 

The Nominees
Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Who Could Win: Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Who Should Win: Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Who Should Be Here: Keira Knightly in “Begin Again”

Okay, so let me start by saying that I had no expectations to see Keira Knightly get an Oscar nomination for Begin Again. However – I couldn’t slot anyone else into that spot. People talked a lot about Jennifer Aniston in Cake. I haven’t seen it yet – it came out late and didn’t get good reviews. A lot of people have talked about Amy Adams in Big Eyes. I haven’t seen it yet – as far as I know, it wasn’t released in the DC area (and if it did, it was blink and you’ll miss it). A lot of people talked about Hilary Swank in The Homesman. The movie bombed; I saw I think one trailer.

See a pattern here?

Screenwriters, producers, directors…take note: There are not enough leading roles for women in Hollywood. When you’re talking about three legitimate Best Actress nominated performances which can’t even make it into a major media market like Washington DC – there’s a problem. Despite the performances listed below, there needs to be more. It shouldn’t be tough to come up with 10 or more top performances by leading ladies.

Therefore – I chose my FAVORITE performance by a leading lady this year, and that’s Knightly in Begin Again. Her performance was nothing short of luminous – her energy (and singing!) made that film shine. If you haven’t seen it yet, go stream it. It’s the ultimate feel good experience.

From my favorite to (by far) the best performance – Julianne Moore. There’s no question that she will win, should win and that no one else even COULD win the Oscar. As Alice, she was intelligent and heartbreaking – there wasn’t even a second of that film that didn’t ring true. The script asked so much of her, and she delivered.

Up until I saw Alice, I thought this was Reese Witherspoon’s second Oscar year. Wild was a gut-check film, making strong demands of the actress, both physically and emotionally. Like with Alice, Wild ran completely on Witherspoon’s performance – if she was great, the film could be great. If not – not so much. Isolated on camera much of the time, she engaged us throughout and drove the story, even when she was just staring off into the (beautiful) distance.

Marion Cotillard drove her film as well, but her film was in French and had virtually no marketing play, and that makes it all the harder. (I’m well aware that she won the Oscar in similar circumstances in 2008, but it makes things all the more unlikely to do it again). Cotillard is terrific in everything she’s in (yes, even The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan-haters), and Two Days, One Night was no exception. Her character was subtlety complex; just someone trying to find a way to pay the bills in tough circumstances. Something a lot of us can relate to, for sure. The film was so simple, such a small scope, that for her to get nominated is a terrific achievement.

A lot of people talked about Rosamund Pike, and her performance in Gone Girl. Amazing Amy jumped off screen with her mix of beauty, creepiness and intelligence. Pike, who could well win in a weaker year, suffers in 2015 a bit because her film was more of the ensemble (Fincher/Affleck), and everything seemed to run out of steam before the Oscar nominations came out.

Eddie Redmayne had the splashy role in The Theory of Everything, but it was Felicity Jones’ rock that counter-balanced things and the relationship between the two made the film work. Jones played the role of Hawking’s long-suffering wife – someone who wanted to make the best of her circumstances but also longed for a way to break out of her husband’s ever-growing shadow. Jones hit her notes just perfectly – equal parts love and exasperation, toughness and frustration. Another who could well in a weaker year.