Amy Adams: American Hustle
Meryl Streep: August: Osage County
Cate Blanchett: Blue Jasmine (winner)
Sandra Bullock: Gravity
Judi Dench: Philomena
I like some of the nominations for Best Actress 2013, but I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. It’s probably asking too much of the Academy to give us a nomination for Scarlett Johansson for Her, and this performance is just another reminder that a “Best Voiceover” category is sorely needed. Both Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive and Rinko Kikuchi in Pacific Rim were in movies that aren’t typical Oscar fodder. I’d have loved to have seen Brie Larson nominated for Short Term 12, a film that flew under too many radars. I’m a little surprised at the lack of nomination for Julie Delpy in Before Midnight. Allowed to add only a single nomination, though, the one I think is truly missing is the work of Adele Exarchopoulous in Blue is the Warmest Color. She should really be here.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again; Meryl Streep has earned a lot of nominations in her career. Her nomination for August: Osage County feels more and more like it was done because we needed our yearly dose of Meryl at the Oscars. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the performance, but I also didn’t find it that noteworthy. It’s fine, and the Oscars should be better than just fine. I don’t know that this would make my top-10 of the year, and I really don’t think she should be in the running.
4. I also tend to like the work of Amy Adams, and I think there’s an Oscar in her future. But I don’t know that her work in American Hustle deserved a nomination. American Hustle turned out to be one of those movies that garnered nominations in a ton of categories (10 total) and won nothing. In the case of Amy Adams, well, I wouldn’t have nominated her at all. Her work is fine in this. She almost certainly deserves an Oscar at some point. She had no business in the list of nominations for this year.
3. When Judi Dench is nominated for anything, she’s generally a contender. My problems with Philomena are entirely based on the way the film was marketed. Call this what you will, but when you call Philomena a comedy, you’re doing a disservice to the movie and the audience. Dench, however, is very good in the film. That’s not a shock; Dame Judi is pretty much always grand in everything she’s in. I’m putting her third only because I like the other two performances more, and when I’m talking about Judi Dench, that’s saying something, indeed.
2. I did not love Blue Jasmine as a movie because I think a lot of the characters are really hateful, and perhaps none are more hateful than Jasmine herself. But I understand why Cate Blanchett won this Oscar. This is a deep performance, one that goes for so much depth of a truly awful character and brings all of that out. It’s hard for me to want to see an actor playing a terrible person winning, but Blanchett is mesmerizing as Jasmine despite how awful Jasmine really is. I understand this nomination completely, and in a slightly weaker year, I might even give her the statue.
1. No, this is all about Sandra Bullock. While the special effects are perhaps the greatest star of Gravity, it is Bullock who is required to carry the entire film on her back. And she does. She really and truly does. I’ve never been a huge Sandra Bullock fan. In general, I can take her or leave her, and more often than not, I leave her. With Gravity, the focus is on her for the entire running time, and she is simply brilliant from the start to the conclusion. Sure, there’s a lot to look at here, but there are a lot of scenes that don’t involve technical wizardry, and everything still works because Bullock is so compelling on the screen here. She is the movie, and the movie is damn fine. This should have been her Oscar.