An all female Ghostbusters? What’s next, Oscar categories meant only for women? Oh, wait.
This is the same drill as my previous column dedicated to all of this year’s best actor nominees (leading and supporting). This isn’t necessarily about each actresses best performance (though in some cases, it is), but rather ones that are an important part of their careers. It could be their breakthroughs, or an instance where they played against type. In some cases, it is a TV show rather than a movie. Without further adieu, here are some other great performances from this year’s Oscar nominated actresses, with apologies to Keira Knightley and Felicity Jones:
Marion Cotillard: Rust and Bone
This odd French drama made a huge splash at Cannes and then fizzled once it came to America. I guess it wasn’t freedom fries enough for us. Rust and Bone has its share of flaws, but it is most notable for Marion Cotillard’s incredible work as a whale trainer who finds a new line of work. In one scene, she dances to “Firework” and makes the song even more empowering than Katy Perry could ever have imagined. In another scene, she confronts the creatures who ruined her life with acceptance and love rather than angry. In both these instances, she uses her body, rather than words, to act. It is a performance that is warm and moving in so many ways.
Reese Witherspoon: Election
Through thick and thin, Reese Witherspoon has always been known as this sweet southern belle. A big part of me wishes that she kept getting more roles like Tracy Flick from Election. Tracy Flick is such an iconic character that the name has become an adjective to describe an obnoxiously perfect goody two shoes. Flick is the film’s villain, which is great, because usually this kind of character is somebody we root for. This is the girl who is supposed to become class president, because she is the only one who actually cares enough. Most underdogs are shown as being sweet when really they should be paranoid, because they function with a “the whole world is against me mentality.” She is a perfect mix of idealistic and insane. And her sweet attitude masks the darkness within, which comes out in the chilling monologue below. Now that Witherspoon has made a comeback with Wild, I hope this gives her more clout and thus the ability to give us another Tracy Flick.
Patricia Arquette: Flirting with Disaster
Patricia Arquette always seems to find herself playing the mother who is always a bit too swamped, yet somehow able to handle everything. In David O. Russell’s epic of dysfunction, Arquette’s Nancy is the only capable of maintaining a modicum of stability. She is the calm foil to Stiller’s nervous wreck. She goes through so many crazy ordeals (including getting her armpits caressed) and manages to keep a straight face throughout. This seems to describe her work ethic as well: just get through the work you’re supposed to do. Oh, and give an awesome performance while you’re at it.
Meryl Streep: Kramer vs. Kramer
Like Robert Duvall, Meryl Streep was most likely nominated because she is Meryl Streep. In fact, it is about time they just create an awards show called the Meryl Streep Awards. I will let it slide, because after all, she is Meryl F***ing Streep. Her first ever win was for Kramer vs. Kramer, a small scale divorce drama. This is the kind of film that will probably never win Best Picture again (unless Boyhood snags the big prize again). As Joanna Kramer, Streep plays the neglectful mother who walks out on the family, a character that isn’t seen in film too often. Given that she leaves her clueless husband (Dustin Hoffman) to watch after their only child, Joanna is the film’s de facto villain. But Streep plays her with the touch of humanity that allows you to sympathize with her. Joanna isn’t a horrible person; she is flawed, like the rest of us.
Laura Dern: Enlightened
I could have easily put Jurassic Park here. Easily. However, that film is more a showcase for dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum than it is for Laura Dern. Dern really got her moment in the sun from Enlightened, the short-lived but brilliant HBO series that she co-created and starred in. Dern’s Amy Jellicoe is one of the most beautifully realized anti-heroes ever put on any screen big or small. Her performance is incredibly bold and nuanced. It is more than you would expect from a character who is basically someone who just found out what change.org is. You are always second guessing everything that Jellicoe does. Dern plays into the show’s amazing, brilliant writing. Seriously, watch this show. Steal a dead person’s HBOGO password if you have to. If you haven’t watched Enlightened, then I hate you.
Julianne Moore: Boogie Nights
Riddle me this: who gave the best performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum pornographus Boogie Nights? Mark Wahlberg? William H. Macy? Roller Girl? The real answer, as is with many of life’s questions, is John C. Reilly. But for the purpose of this column, let’s say Julianne Moore. Moore plays the de facto mother figure of a messed up “family” of misfits, except she has sex and does coke with most of these “family” members. There is a scene where she basically has to guide Mark Wahlberg through a sex scene they film together. It is hilarious and one of the best examples of sexposition ever. Sorry, Game of Thrones.
Rosamund Pike: The World’s End
Rosamund Pike is so mesmerizing in Gone Girl that it makes me angry that anybody could be that talented. She seems like somebody who might have played of Jerry Seinfeld’s many girlfriends, until she stabbed him after a drawn out long con. Of the films I have seen of her, I will not talk about Die Another Day where she dies after being stabbed with a Bible (spoiler alert?). Instead, I will honor charming, deadpan work in The World’s End, in which she plays a small yet important role as the only reasonable person in a world being taken over by robots. She doubles as both action and comedy star, which is the perfect qualification for any Edgar Wright joint.
Emma Stone: Superbad
For good reason, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill tend to be the most memorable parts of Superbad. However, Emma Stone doesn’t get the credit she deserves as the super cool Jules. Superbad was a breakout for everybody involved, especially Stone. As Jules, Emma Stone is a cool chick but not in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl kind of way. She knows what she wants and has a great smartass attitude to boot. She is the polar opposite of the awkward guys who pursue her. It is this kind of confidence that has led her to some awesome performances. In any other year, I would say that the she would easily take home the statue for Birdman.
Alright, time to get a little unprofessional, but I feel like I have no choice here. I am not what you would call a fan of Keira Knightley. She fills me with unjustified, irrational anger. I am sure she is a nice person. She is fine in The Imitation Game. However, watching her act is about as exciting as watching a plain piece of toasted Wonder Bread dry. I am seriously convinced that she only gets nominations because she is British. And if that is the truth, then why doesn’t the same standard apply to Emily Blunt?
Okay, I am getting unprofessional again. I have not seen Felicity Jones in anything. I also have not seen The Theory of Everything yet. TBD