Isabelle Huppert: Elle
Meryl Streep: Florence Foster Jenkins
Natalie Portman: Jackie
Emma Stone: La La Land (winner)
Ruth Negga: Loving
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m over feeling guilty putting Meryl Streep in last place in these nomination lists, and that’s exactly where Florence Foster Jenkins belongs. This is not entirely because I didn’t love the movie or because I don’t think that Jenkins was worth a biopic. The biggest reason for this is that the most interesting person on the screen at all times is Hugh Grant. Streep may be the title character, but this is Grant’s movie through and through. It’s evidently not Oscar without Meryl on the docket, though, and that’s a shame because she took the spot of someone more deserving in 2016.
4. My general dislike of La La Land is well-documented on this blog, so it’s probably not much of a shock that I’m putting eventual winner Emma Stone in fourth place. Stone is at least not embarrassing in this role, but I’ve said this before and it bears repeating here: If you’re going to make a musical, hire singers and dancers. It’s admirable that the cast worked on their singing and dancing skills to make this. I don’t care. Hire people who are already trained rather than shoehorning in star power for the movie. Likable as she is, that wasn’t Stone.
3. I’m torn on the nomination of Isabelle Huppert in Elle. This is a difficult movie to sit through, and Huppert, true to form, plays a character who is at best unpleasant and would be difficult to know in real life. Huppert excels in this kind of role, and I am always interested to watch her films…once. That might be the biggest issue I have against putting her higher than third place. The character she plays so well is just so unpleasant that spending time around her is difficult. That’s not a killer in all cases (see Charlize Theron in Monster, for instance), but it is a hurdle to overcome, and Huppert can’t in this year.
2. I’m putting Ruth Negga in second for her work in Loving for a very significant reason. On the surface, Negga’s Mildred appears to be compliant and passive. The truth is, though, that much of the strength of the film and of the central couple comes from the quiet power of Mildred Loving, and all of that comes from the performance of Ruth Negga. It is her strength that drives the film and drives the fight that happens within it. It’s difficult to portray well on film, and she does it so beautifully because she does it so transparently.
1. My choice of the nominees is the polarizing work of Natalie Portman in Jackie. Portman’s work earned her derision in some quarters, but I think it’s masterful and layered performance. She’s not doing Jackie Kennedy, but the role that Jackie Kennedy tried to play for the country in the days and months after her husband’s assassination. She is, in a sense, the grieving widow for the entire country, and Portman pulls this off nearly perfectly. Limited to the five nominations, she’s my choice, and she’s nominated (but not the winner) in an open field.
In that open field, I keep Portman and probably Ruth Negga. Amy Adams is the obvious choice for me, of course, since my love of Arrival is heavily documented on this blog. Strong cases can be made for Taraji P. Henson and Sasha Lane as well, and I’d absolutely want to see the strong performance of Florence Pugh in the mix. But for all of this, I think I would very likely go with the nuanced and strong performance of Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper. But, honestly, I could easily be swayed by anyone I’ve mentioned here.