Friday, April 3, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 2015

The Contenders:

Charlotte Rampling: 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan: Brooklyn
Cate Blanchett: Carol
Jennifer Lawrence: Joy
Brie Larson: Room (winner)

What’s Missing

2015 was a fine year for Best Actress and I like the nominations well enough, but as usual, there’s room for improvement. Oscar has never really loved the Star Wars franchise, but I think we can talk about Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens. Horror is another almost-always ignored genre, which will leave out Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak, Imogen Poots in Green Room, Anya Taylor-Joy in The VVitch, and Abigail Breslin in Maggie. I could see Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl here, but she won in a supporting role. Rachel Weisz would be an interesting choice in The Lobster, and I can make a strong case for Laia Costa in Victoria. For me, though, the miss that I cannot understand is Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Let’s start by getting rid of Jennifer Lawrence in Joy right off the bat. I don’t have a lot of problems with Lawrence in general except for the fact that I’m just tired of her, or was by this point in 2015. I get that people become the flavor of the month and are suddenly in everything. It happens to a lot of people. I seem to get bored of them more quickly than everyone else. Lawrence is fine in Joy, but she’s been better (Winter’s Bone for a start), and she really didn’t need to be here.

4. I like, Cate Blanchett and I liked Carol well enough, but compared with the other nominations, I’m not sure she deserves to be here. Oh, I don’t hate the performance, but this was a very political nomination, it seems to me. Rooney Mara was nominated for a supporting role, and I think she could easily be argued for the lead as much as Blanchett. I find this sort of nomination extremely frustrating because of these shenanigans—Blanchett got the “better” nomination because she’s who she is, not specifically because she was better in the film.

3. Now things get a lot harder. There is a small twinge of guilt putting Brie Larson in third place for Room, especially because I think her performance is a very good one, and because I don’t really dislike the win. I think my problems might be more with the movie in general than with Larson herself, which is probably unfair to her. She gets a lot of assistance in this one, though, and while she is very good, I’m not sure she gives the dominant performance this Oscar really needs. I don’t hate her win, but she wouldn’t be my pick.

2. As has been mentioned several times on this blog in the past, I am a fan of Saoirse Ronan, and I think it’s a matter of time (and not much time) until she wins an Oscar she’s already deserved a couple of times. She comes damn close with Brooklyn. She’s absolutely the centerpiece of this film, and while it does slow down when the plot shifts to Ireland, that’s not at all her fault. As with Brie Larson, I wouldn’t have hated it if she had won, but while she was excellent in this, she’s not going to be my pick.

My Choice

1. I’m going with Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years. This is such an oddball film in so many ways, and while it could be argued that Rampling is matched in every scene by Tom Courtenay, the film is absolutely hers in every moment. This is a masterclass of acting, and in many cases acting entirely on her own without speaking. There are moments in this film when all we have to focus on is her face, and it’s more than enough to carry the story for us. In a very good field and year (in an open field, Charlize Theron is my #2), Rampling was head and shoulders above everyone else.

Final Analysis


  1. Charlotte Rampling! There is no other possible answer for the top spot...or at least there shouldn't have been! She's compelling every instant of the film and the final shot is devastating. No one comes close to her on this list or in an open field. It's almost beyond belief that this was her first, and so far, only nomination!! But then considering those who never received even one maybe it's not.

    I thought Brie Larson was very good in Room but when I think of the film it's the boy's performance and role that I remember not her. When I watched it she actually seemed more supporting to me. Had she won there I would have had no objections.

    I agree about Saoirse Ronan being a winner one day, and probably soon, and she does a great deal with her character in Brooklyn. My problem with her and the film is that I hated Eilis by the time the film ended. It's great to cheer for a villainess like Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity because you know their motives are evil but the audience is suppose to like and feel sympathy for Eilis and I never did. For me she was a duplicitious cheat who treated both men she was involved with terribly and nothing Ronan did won me over to her side.

    Carol didn't work for me and I don't get the love for it. Both the women did good work but both were leads and no amount of double talk can justify one going supporting.

    Joy was a decent watch but I don't understand the nomination either.

    I might surprise you by saying I don't think Rachel Weisz not receiving a nomination for The Lobster was a miss. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hated the film but I neither liked it nor understood the point of it. The actors did the best with what they were handed but to what purpose?

    I should watch Fury Road again. It's been a long time and none of the performances stayed with me. I'm sure Charlize was good since she always is but I don't remember particulars.

    The big miss for me was Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris. An imperfect movie with a great performance at its core. Doris is a bit of a walking quirk but Sally never condescends to the character. She embraces Doris's oddities and makes them feel organic to who she is. She was leagues ahead of at least two of the nominated performances.

    1. The ending shot of 45 Years is devastating, but there's a moment in the film where she is looking at pictures. It's just her and she goes through a whole range of emotions on her face. It's absolutely gutting and one of the best silent performances I've ever seen. It was that that put her in first for me, and that should have been why she won.

      I'm mildly convinced that Brie Larson won for the role rather than the performance. She's good and I won't take that away from her, and while I don't hate the nomination, she shouldn't have won.

      Charlize Theron is as good as she's ever been in Fury Road. She's good enough that I considered her for the win pretty strongly.

      Also, for the record, I don't thing Weisz should have been nominated for The Lobster, but I'd entertain the argument.

    2. The entirety of Charlotte Rampling's work in 45 Years is astonishing but yes that scene looking through the pictures and her the slowly evolving realizations about her husband, marriage and the life she's lived therein is a marvel. It's painful to watch and yet you can't look away. The woman was robbed!

  2. I do love Charlotte Rampling as she would've been in my top 5 as would Brie Larson for Room. Yet, I have to agree with you on Charlize Theron as I think she should've been nominated for Best Actress. For me, it would've been...

    1. Charlize Theron-Mad Max: Fury Road
    2. Charlotte Rampling-45 Years
    3. Brie Larson-Room
    4. Saoirse Ronan-Brooklyn
    5. Emily Blunt-Sicario

    Honorable mentions: Anya Taylor-Joy-The VVitch, Mia Wasikowska-Crimson Peak, Rachel Weisz-The Lobster, Greta Gerwig-Mistress America, Sally Field-Hello, My Name is Doris (a total delight), Cate Blanchett-Carol, Abigail Breslin-Maggie, Bel Powley-Diary of a Teenage Girl, Alicia Vikander-Ex Machina (not for fucking The Danish Girl which was fucking shit), Melissa McCarthy-Spy, Tilda Swinton-A Bigger Splash, Emma Stone-Irrational Man, Margot Robbie-Z for Zachariah, Carey Mulligan-Suffragette, and Meryl Streep-Ricki & the Flash.

    I like J-Law in Joy but it wasn't Oscar-worthy as I got tired of her as well.

    1. I get so frustrated sometimes--I have Ex Machina listed as a 2014 movie, which is the only reason I didn't mention Alicia Vikander's performance. This is despite the fact that Ex Machina won its Oscar as a 2015 movie.

      Were I to create my own list of five nominations, Vikander would likely make the cut, or just miss it. It would depend on where I put Brie Larson.

  3. I'm going with Oscar on this one. Larson was my #1 that year. Ironically, the way your problems with the movie detract from her performance is exactly how I feel about both Ronan an Rampling. Bith films had issues, I actually didn't much care for Brooklyn, at all.

    Theron is a curious miss given how much love Fury Road was getting that awards season. She actually comes in 6th for me and I do include Blanchett. I counted Mara among the supporting I have no problem if you switch them, putting Mara here and Blanchett there.

    The big miss for me was Vikander in Ex Machina, but yeah, sci-fi. Another I would like to have seen nominated is Gunes Sensoy from Turkish film Mustang, but yeah, foreign film. Confession, I still haven't seen Joy.

    1. See my reply above regarding Vikander. She should be here, but Letterboxd let me down on what year it's listed as.

      For what it's worth, you're absolutely fine missing Joy. It's not bad, but it's also not worth going out of your way to see.

    2. I'm with Dell on this one concerning Larson and Vikander in "Ex Machina." 1, 2 in my book. However, Larson is pretty much awful in everything else I've seen her in, and Marvel could have done so much better with just about any other actress in her beyond dull, "Capatin Marvel."