Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oscars of the Aughts: Best Actress 2008

As a general note, I'm looking forward to finally seeing Winter's Bone tonight. Will Jennifer Lawrence join the ranks of these women at this year's Oscars? I'll put up a post either tonight or tomorrow about it.
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader
The winner: Kate Winslet
Remember in the supporting actress post for this year when I said that that category was the years worst? I take that back. 2008's Best Actress category is infuriating, namely because there are so many great performances that got overlooked in favor of mediocre performances. Where is Sally Hawkins? Or Kristen Scott Thomas? Even Winslet's performance in Revolutionary Road was better than the one she was nominated for, and that's not much better. And what a great starting point. I love Winslet, I really do, but I hate that this performance is the one that finally won her an Oscar. Her character, Hanna Schmitz, is hard to sympathize with, which is bad because the movie wants us to do just that. Winslet does her best with what she's given, but its probably the worst nominated performance I've seen her give. And for a while, I thought it would be the worst performance in this category. But then I saw Changeling, Clint Eastwood's lackluster, embarassing film about a woman whose child disappears. Jolie plays that woman, Christine Collins, with all the requisite tears needed to get an Oscar nomination. But Jolie's performance is messy and all over the place, as if she was trying to go through every conceivable emotion in or out of character. I've never been among Jolie's biggest fans, and this film didn't help me in thinking that Jolie deserves her place as one of our best working actresses, at least dramatically (I can totally understand her appeal as an action star and, even though she seems to play the same character over and over, I applaud her for being a big draw in such a male-dominated genre).
The rest of the category doesn't infuriate me as much. I quite liked Leo's performance in Frozen River, and she was a pleasant surprise, but she didn't really blow me away either. The real heavyweights of this year, for me at least, were Streep and Hathaway. Streep, an always-reliable actress, lends great dramatic weight to Doubt, being the source of all of the conservative vs. liberal animosity within the film. Its a very meaty role, and Streep gives it her in all in a performance that should have won, had it not been for Hathaway. Hathaway's come a long way since her Disney princess days, and she proves that she's a real thespian with her brilliant role as Kym in Rachel Getting Married. Her performance is natural and emotionally complex, making Kym someone who is immediately relateable and human. That night at the Oscars, she was robbed of a prize that was rightfully hers.
Here's how my ballot breaks down:
1. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
2. Meryl Streep, Doubt
3. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
4. Kate Winslet, The Reader
5. Angelina Jolie, Changeling

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