Friday, February 15, 2013

Best Actress

Of the Big 8 Academy Awards, it's seems typical that the most contentious is Best Actress.  It makes no difference on the perception of whether it's been a good year or a bad one-- even though with the scarcity of roles that Big Hollywood provides for strong female characters those good years tend to bring out a magnetism and bitchiness like nothing else-- and yet it's not just the ugly word of sexism that rears its head, though that's a major part of it; why does Best Actress tend to egg on the most fights?  Mind you, this is something that carriers itself well after the arduous campaigning of Oscar-ing is far over, but the mantles that grace the Best Actress Oscars tend to carry over a wave of something else that permeates into a broader conversation well after memory of that certain year's whatsits have long ended.  It seems foolish to think that harsher words would be spoken about a male counterpart than, say, Halle Berry's post-Oscar resum√©, and while it's true that Catwoman would stink with anyone's insignia, her post awards doldrums aren't in way more or less offensive than, say, Adrien Brody's post-Oscar filmography, not that many seem overly fixated on that.  Furthermore, even if a stat held true for the men, there would be little mention of an alleged post-Oscar curse after the personal relationships dissolved for past winners like Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet.  Pure coincidence, or not, or really. who should particularly care?  Furthermore, the nastiness of the Mean Girls variety when pertaining to Best Actress is hardly a new thing whatsoever, for even in prior ages when the campaigning was less magnified and scrutinized, the bitch flag comes up over and over again from the fans and press eager to further flames-- the 1954 Oscar race between Grace Kelly (nominated in pure ingenue mode for deglaming in The Country Girl) was up against Judy Garland (for her massive comeback movie A Star is Born); Kelly won and the vitriol has never really stopped.

There's not much of an exception is this years race, one of many that's still in active play as we reach the homestretch.  This years frontrunner-- Jennifer Lawrence for her zesty turn as the manic Tiffany in David O. Russell's Silver Lining Playbook seems ripe for a can't win for losing or winning position because this category has always had an acidic aftertaste to it.  Lawrence has swept the precursors, winning the Golden Globe and SAG Award and is featured in the film nominated in all four acting categories (a coup that hasn't been achieved since 1981's Reds), and on paper looks like the victor.  It looked like a race between Lawrence and Zero Dark Thirty's Jessica Chastain (winner of the Golden Globe for Drama and the Critics Choice) up until that film became an ultimate problem child, seemingly taking her down with the sinking ship, however unruly that should seem.  Then, last week, a wrench was thrown when Emmanuelle Riva took home the BAFTA for her rich performance in Michael Haneke's Amour.  Riva, the oldest woman ever to be nominated for Best Actress (and whose birthday falls on the day of the ceremony) has been the dark horse that the critics and aficionados have been rooting for since she won the Best Actress prize at last years Cannes Film Festival.  A vote for Riva, in many circles, would be a vote for right, especially in sight of the 22-year-old Lawrence, massive movie star and hugely talented-- surely she will have another day to fight on.

Yet there's more to the narrative, as there always does seem to be, because in today's world of winning awards for the merits of talent; there's a perception of what our winner should be, and how they should behave.  While this stands true of the men in some respects as well, and is a part of the narrative on which will doom Joaquin Phoenix from potentially ever holding an Academy Awards, the ladies have always tended to be more doted upon, and Mo'Nique's impassioned grandstanding aside a few years back, that does seem to hold true this year as well.  Perhaps second only to Anne Hathaway, another Oscar frontrunner this year, Jennifer Lawrence's speeches and appearances have been scrutinized and publicized and examined in that rarefied Oscar fish bowl.  Upon winning the Golden Globe, she received snarky soundbites for her innocent, "What does it say...I beat Meryl," one-liner, and furthermore for her Saturday Night Live monologue/roast of her fellow nominees.  I'm not certain that any of this reduces her status in the race, but her age just might.  While its bullish to think that the Academy wouldn't reward a hot young thing versus someone like Riva, the critical darling, that's where the sexism charge comes once again into play, and it's kind of a bitter pill on both sides.  In truth, there's a nasty discharge of snide backlashes that provoke many Best Actress winners...even some of the more seasoned ones of recent memory like Kate Winslet and Nicole Kidman; it's further bullishness to think that will bypass Lawrence, who is incredibly talented and likely has a greater awards worthy performance in her in the near future.  Riva, by extension, would not just be the critical favorite, but the classier choice on terms both relevant and not to the Oscar race itself.

And so who will win?  Will, like many races this year, I'm a bit all over the place but I bet on gut so here we go:

WILL WIN: Emmannuelle Riva, Amour

Here's the Guru's of Gold and their say on Best Actress.  Courtesy of Movie City News.

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