Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Queen of the Oscars

On the eve (actually at this time it is now considered day of) the announcement of the winners of the 82nd Academy Awards. The highest honor anyone can win in the world of film. I have been following the Oscars ever since my older sister Julie gave me as a Christmas Present the amazing book "Inside Oscar". My sister has excellent taste in book (if not in film--come on she owns Roller Boogie and A Night in Heaven) because she has given me two books on the Oscars and one of them "Inside Oscar" is considered to be some the bible on the Oscar and the other one she gave me was Tom O'Neils, wonderful "Movie Awards"

Usually in most years I'm good enough to get most of the categories right. My secrets are I always vote for any movie with the holocaust because that will win or an actor that has had the most press that year. I used to play an Oscar ballot game with friends until one year I withdrew because I didn't want to look pompous, Sadly I did it by telling everyone that I was dropping out because it was way too easy to win. They forced me back in the game and guess what. I won again.

Instead of thinking what's a good movie or a bad movie because in the long one that doesn't matter and it's always so subjective. I try to look at current buzz, past history, press, other awards, like ability (if you don't believe me just as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, and Burt Reynolds they all lost Oscars because no one liked them) and a few other things before making my picks.

This year however, I've decided to not post my predictions fir the awards, but well that can always change at the moment. However I'm going to highlight the Oscar career of my favorite film actress Meryl Streep.

Mary Louise Streep holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for Acting. Meryl has received the record of 13 Nominations for Lead Actress, and 3 Nominations for Supporting Actress, She won a Supporting Actress Oscar in 1979 for "Kramer vs. Kramer", and then only a few years later won her only lead Oscar for her unforgettable performance in "Sophie's Choice." She has been nominated for her performances in "Silkwood, Out of Africa, A Cry in the Dark, Postcards from the Edge, "The Bridges of Madison County," "Adaptation," "The Devil Wears Prada", and "Doubt" among others.

I can't think of a single actress currently or previously that was a box office draw at Streep's age. She's at a point where her film career starting with "The Hours," "Adaptation," "The Manchurian Candidate" "Angels in America," "Devil Wears Prada," "Prairie Home Companion," "Mamma Mia", "Doubt," "It's Complicated," and "Julia & Julia." I remember in the early days it used to be a joke that Streep was always doing the accents, transforming herself into the character and giving a Callas type of performance. It's funny we usually get mad at actors and actresses after a while because they're always good. Shouldn't we celebrate then for always keeping up a high level of film. At least with Streep I know when I walk into a movie I'm going to get an idea and an amazing performance. It seems like today Hollywood is so obsessed with money that when I see a new Jack Nicholson movie I assume its going to stuck because I'm sure it will be a copy of a copy of another story that Jack probably did 5 yeas ago and Jack Nicholson plays himself in every movie. He's only thinking about the paycheck and nothing else. Let's face it when someone asks you to name Nicholson's best moves they're usually located in the 70's ad 80's but with Street you will hear about recent performances.

I think why people are so vocal about Streep as an actress and as a talent is because her performances tend to bring out such great emotion from people and Streep generally tends to fall into the role so completely that it might bother people who still want to see a favorite playing a role. You look at her Julia Child and compare it to her Sophie, Lindy, Francesca, or even Miranda Priestly and they're completely different women but they have so much life and power in them they end up taking over the film they're in. She's the Callas of film at this point. She's a grand dame, giving grand dame performances that yet has that capability of seeming real as well. What I love about Streep is she can take a role like Miranda Priestly and underplay it so much and so well that she still seems like someone that you know yet she doesn't miss any of the humor that comes from the role. Another equally talented actress like Glen Close would have played that role so over the top it would have been Norma Desmond at Runway.

If I had to list my top ten performances and in no particular order and I apologize if this is too long.

"Sophie's Choice" - First Best Actress Oscar and in my opinion first performance that stunned audiences with Streep's film talent. This is the performance that she will be remembered for in probably just about every frame during the movie. It's sad because 27 years later the film hasn't held up as well. Come one have you ever tried to watch it? I love Meryl but sometimes even I doze off. However, it wouldn't surprise me if we hear there's a college course on acting that teaches this performance one day in the far future. She runs the gamut of emotions, languages, pain, suffering, climaxing in a painful ending. Thank god that this isn't her only greatest performance but this will always no matter what rank up there as one of the best. (1982 Best Actress Academy Award, Gold Globe New York Film Critics, LA Film Critics, National Board of Review and many other awards)

"Silkwood" - Only Meryl could follow up "Sophie's Choice" with Karen Silkwood. My problem watching something like "Erin Brockovich" is that I always think of it as a poor mans Silkwood. Meryl was so real in this role regardless of how white trash Karen Silkwood was. I'm sure knocks on Merly go something like she's so prim and proper. In "Silkwood" she's nothing like that. She's neurotic, fun, bitchy, nosey, trashy, but at the end want's to do the right thing, even to the point where it will kill her. It's interesting that even with all the suspense going on, the performance of Cher, and the propaganda that the movie sparked it's still Karen Silkwood's story and that is entirely owed to Ms. Streep for making her such an interesting character. I still remember crying the first several times that I saw this movie especially in the scene where Streep brings out a delicate soprano and sings "Amazing Grace." The interesting thing about this version is that she doesn't sing it like she's hoping for a top 40 hit but sings it completely in character in the setting that the song appears. (1983 Best Actress Academy Nomination - Lost to Shirley MacLaine for "Terms of Endearment.")

"Marvin's Room" - Okay, as my favorite Streep performances go I know this is a complete surprise as I'm not sure anyone saw this movie. Though if you get a chance please go see it. It's a wonderful movie about love, live, and death and has a message that is powerful. The original play was done n Chicago at the Goodman and the movie has Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Hume Cronyn, and so many others. I always loved how Meryl's ad Diane's performances showed you a family with a lot of wounds and they were mending them but they both knew that it was only a mend for the time being. I watched the movie last week and I could see the passing back and forth the performance these two gave. The came across to me as a real family with all their junk and other drama instead of something you would see in the latest Hoffman/DeNiro movies. I love that Meryl is not playing for audience sympathy though the entire move but at the end of it though her performance you end up sympathizing with her. I know Diane Keaton has the showier role and handles it well but Meryl will leave you with the thoughts. (Golden Globe nomination for Lead Actress)

"A Cry in the Dark" - I watched this again last night. It was one of the first Meryl Streep movies that I saw when I was a kid and I fell in love with it ever since then. I still remember after seeing this on video thinking that I didn't know what nationality she was due to all the different accents I had heard. The other interesting thing is in this day and age you can understand this women's coldness to the press and everyone else a lot more then you would have back then. I think that's what possibly killed her Oscar chances back then because this is up there with performances that she deserved the Oscar for. She's incredible in this movie from the dingo scene, to the car interviews, the trial with the breakdown and the emotional end. This was the kind of performance that if it had been done currently by an unknown actress would have won the Oscar. There's a few scenes that Lindy Chamberlain is cold, distant, she doesn't strike e as heartless so much as protective. What I love about Meryl is that she shows us all these emotions and yet is able to break down realistically in the court room scenes and most importantly without going over the top. (1988 Golden Globe and Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress but lost to Jodi Foster for "The Accused". New York Film Critics and Cannes Film Festival Awards for Best Actress.)

"Postcards from the Edge" - This is yet another performance that I thought if this had been made now with Streep at that age in the film would have gotten her the Oscar Award for Best Actress. I think if this movie had been made currently including the sarcastic humor and Hollywood setting that it would be more appreciated a lot more then it was when this was originally released. This movie has so many great one liners and humor that I think goes over way too many heads. After Susan finds out that the doctor who pumped her stomach with drugs just sent her flowers her response is "I'm tempted to marry him just so I can tell everyone where we met." That is a line I still use today. This has so many wonderful one lines and features Streep in her most contemporary, sarcastic, droll, and spaced out roles to date. Meryl hits every comedy zinger, look of pain, and is still able to belt out two songs that showcase why she is La Streep. She was also able to play this character in the lesser hands would have been seen as annoying in Streep's hand's she was fascinating and complex but at the center of the piece Streep played her with heart and love. (1991 American Comedy Award for Best Actress; Golden Globe & Academy Award Nominations.)

"Bridges of Madison County" - I still remember that the studio thought at 5 she was too old to play this role next to 65 year old Clint Eastwood. They wanted Isabella Rossellini or Cher to play this role. As much as I love either actress neither one of them could encompass the sense of duty and then boredom that Meryl did so well. I don't think any one does puffy red eye like Meryl, except quite possibly Susan Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking." Meryl's lonely yet sexually charged housewife in this film was to the level of Anna Magnani in "The Rose Tattoo" in this. I loved that Meryl couldn't sit still thought out most of the movie (until Clint showed up.) It seemed like this was the life that she choose yet she kept wanting to burst out of it and yet felt iron clad caged. There are so many wonderful scenes she gives us in this movie but I have to say that the scene in the rain with her seeing Eastwood standing there and her hand on the knob. I've been told by happily married woman if that was the case they still would have run of and joined Kincaid. (1996 Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Award Nomination.)

"Death Becomes Her" - Okay, I know how over the top this movie and her performance is, and it reminded me in the most affectionate way of two drag queens but any time you get Meryl starting a movie with a song from the musical version of "Sweet Bird of Youth" that also breaks into a disco dance number and she does it flawlessly just proves that there is nothing she can't do anywhere. I look at Death as Meryl trying to get into the box office success world at that time. She picked a movie where she could be funny, look great, dance, border on the drag queen level, and most importantly sing. This was cute campy movie that many years later morphed into gay camp. (1993 Golden Globe Nomination.) I still have one of my favorite lines and favorite acting expressions from Meryl because of this movie. "And now a warning!!"

"One True Thing" - The first time I saw this movie I thought to myself that this could have been your typical Lifetime movie of the week. It's took me after a few additional viewing's and also a few life lessons thrown in the mix I came to realize the impact and the truth that was this movie and the performances. had over me, I watched it recently and I watched how full of life Meryl seemed from the moment she entered the first frame to that romantic scene with her and William Hurt putting so much joy and sexual chemistry into that dance. In that one moment they showed some of the most romantic chemistry that I haven't seen since a movie in the 30's and 40'. Which couldn't have been easy since she was playing off the original ice cube William Hurt. In this role I think Meryl was the mother that all of us wanted but seeing the other side that chidren don't normally see from their parents none of us could handle getting. (1999 Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award for Best Actress.)

"The Hours" - I'm always surprised that this isn't in more peoples lists regarding LaStreeps best work but I know a lot of people don't like this movie or her performance in this. They see it as either was too depressing, or way too chick flick, or way too something that never really makes sense. As for my personal feelings regarding this movie I love almost everything about it. I think it is a haunting film that stays with me for days even after I've seen it a few times. If you looks past the star studded performances of Nicole and Julianne you can find one of the most naturally intense performances from Meryl. To this day and till this moment I still can't get over the sadness she has thought this movie. I love how she turns from totally in contra until she gets to the flower shop and talks about the novel. She loses it for a second but spins a tale to make protect Richard You get the sense that she is Richards keeper thought the entire movie desperately needing his love and surviving his painful assaults, There's a moment with Jeff Bridges that she loses control and starts to panic. Quite simply put Streep is unforgettable here in his scene. She plays it as a woman being drowned in all the despair of her life to the point she is begging for help with someone she doesn't care for. (2003 Golden Globe Nomination)

"The Devil Wears Prada/Doubt/Julie and Julia" - I apologize if this looks like cheating but truthfully can you name any other actress who has completely submerge herself into so many roles that you have a hard time telling her apart. Meryl started out giving us an understated villain in Prada!!! Instead of chewing the scenery and going over the top like so many of her contemporaries would have done (yes I'm speaking to you Glenn) she played the role bored. Almost to the point where it took so much energy from her to crush someone. In "Doubt" she turned it around and played the role as a cat looking for the mouse. There are some who claim she was over the top but I think of I as someone who spent her entire live with these kids, teachers, etc. and even though her concepts of truth and justice might have skewered. Her desire to go back to the old ways was as clear as day. Streep finished up an incredible journey for an actress with the iconic role of Julia Child. Even Meryl must have known enough people would be interested in the back story stuff from the past more then anything else. The pleasure of "Julie & Julia" it let us watch the Greatest Film Legend give us a performance that was so memorable, so full of life, that she never slipped into Julia Child. She WAS Julia Child just as Meryl has been every character she has ever breathed life into. (2007 & 2010 Golden Globe Awards for Leading Actress, 2009 Golden Globe Nomination for "Doubt", and 2007, 2009, 2010 Academy Award Nominations for Best Actress)

I'm sorry if the last three looked like I'm cheating but these to me are the start of the grand dame role period that she seems to be moving into. This excites me and yet scares me. I see her getting a lot of amazing roles that mostly fall into the supporting category where Hollywood being Hollywood will cast young marginally talented actresses in the lead and Meryl in a supporting role. Which makes me nervous because I would much rather see someone as capable as Streep in a leading role in a movie then any number of actress working today. I felt recently and even WAY before that, that she has turned in over and over again the performance for that year. I'm hoping that she finally wins another Academy Award for her work in "Julie & Julia." I'm thinking since arguably the Greatest Actress in English Speaking Film has not won an Oscar since 1993 and her competition is basically two unknowns, one winner, and one golden girl who is praised more for her box office success and her environmental causes then her actual talent. I guess we will find out tonight.

For a quick Honorable mention regarding Meryl's roles, I would have to mention "Angels in America" if for no other reason (and trust me there are SO many reasons to mention it.) her versatility in the film. It's an epic miniseries where she's able to play a Mormon Mother, Ethel Rosenberg, and a male Rabbi, She does all this without a trace of vanity and the typical look how talented I am that you normally get from actors who use this trick.

There are of course so many other roles I could have chosen from (and I'm sure that will be post number 2) but for the most part I wanted to give a descriptive list of roles that show why she's a legend and more importantly on a personal level the roles that have meant more to me then anything else she ha ever done. These are the roles that I think will keep her legacy alive.

Meryl Streep is and always will be a legend in film (if not considered the greatest actress in the history of film) because she gives often the equivalent of an operatic performance of Maria Callas in every film worth in a disturbing story.

Here's hoping that tonight Meryl joins an elite group of Oscar Winners composed of Walter Brennan, Ingrid Berman, Katherine Hepburn, and Jack Nicholson. These four are the lucky recipients of 3 Oscars each except for Katharine who happens to have 4 Oscars for leading actress.

I think everyone should raise their hands and cross their fingers in hope that la Streep should win her third Oscar. She deserves it and she gives the best speeches.



Bob said...

So did you throw things when Sandy B won? I thought she gave a lovely speech -- didn't you?

StevenD said...

I was okay. I had known for a while that Sandy was going to win it. Even though she can't act and she's in mostly B comedies she's very likeable and that beats everything. All the Oscar sites talked about her not her performance. Also I think there's a lot of jealously from the other older actresses because Streep is always working and they're not. I did love Bullocks speech and thought it was classy.

Jules said...

Thanks for giving me a shout out. Love Ya, Stevie. Sandra Killed it sorry. Stop crying and get over it. No I'm just kidding. You had some great things to say.