Meryl Streep: The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet: Little Children
Judi Dench: Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren: The Queen (winner)
Penelope Cruz: Volver
2006 was a surprisingly decent year for horror movies, not that Oscar tends to take notice. While Slither was never on anyone’s Oscar radar, I like Elizabeth Banks in it quite a bit. That said, the best horror performance of the year for an actress was Ashley Judd in Bug, a movie that still evokes the creeps in me when I think about it. Foreign language films from this year include Pan’s Labyrinth and the odd-but-endearing I’m a Cyborg, but That’s Okay. Since Oscar doesn’t always love promoting non-English performances, this leaves out both Ivana Baquero and Im Soo-jung. Someone is going to bring up The Fountain and Rachel Weisz, so I’ll bring it up and say I don’t love the film. That’s also true of Venus, but Jodie Whittaker is awfully good in it. The big miss? Julie Christie in Away from Her, but she was nominated the following year.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. It’s perhaps not fair of me to judge the performance by the movie, but I really disliked just about everything about Little Children. I like Kate Winslet a great deal and I think most of her nominations are warranted, but I’m not sure this one was. It’s a decent performance because it’s Kate Winslet, but beyond that it’s not that special. She’s been a lot better and she’s been in a lot better movies. I said in my review I probably wouldn’t nominate her in this and that opinion hasn’t changed.
4. Everything I said about Kate Winslet above I could pretty much say about Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. I disliked every character in this movie to an insane degree. More than that, I think the ideas and values put forth in this film are downright dangerous. Meryl is great because of course she is; she’s Meryl Streep and she’s pretty much great in everything she touches. That said, this does feel like one of those moments where it’s not a set of Oscar nominations unless she’s a part of it. She’s here because she’s expected, not because the role or performance specifically merited it.
3. Her participation in Cats notwithstanding, I like Judi Dench a great deal. She seems like someone it would be fun to hang around with, to go grab some dinner and do a few tequila shots with and listen to her talk about things she’s done. I like her because she doesn’t shy away from fun roles and being badass, but she also doesn’t shy away from difficult films like Notes on a Scandal. I like this performance a lot, and both she and Cate Blanchett are great in the film. So, I like this nomination, but not for the win.
2. The biggest problems I had with Volver come from the screenplay. They certainly don’t come from the performance of Penelope Cruz, an actress I would happily watch fold laundry. Cruz is one of the things that makes Volver work at all, and while she is given a great deal of support from Blanca Portillo, it is Cruz who makes the movie work. I think she could be argued for the win, and I’d be willing to hear arguments for her. I’d put her in a virtual tie, but on this blog, ties go to the Academy.
1. That means this is a case where I’m saying Oscar got it right. I didn’t expect a great deal of The Queen going in, but Helen Mirren plays it exactly as it needs to be played. That’s not as easy as it sounds when dealing with someone who is still alive and known around the world. Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II as someone human and real, with a tough exterior because it needs to be tough but who is hurt underneath that public persona. It’s a brilliant performance, and one that will stand for some time as one of Oscar’s better choices. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong below.