Friday, February 20, 2015

Lead Actress

I just realized I missed my last chance to see Song of the Sea before Sunday, which is really disappointing, though I don't expect it to change my mind on the animated feature category. Oh well, I suppose that's why they invented next week.

    Lead Actress
  • Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
  • Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore in Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon in Wild

I always love when the foreign language films get nominated for anything else as well. Marion Cotillard plays a woman who has one weekend to convince her coworkers to vote against a thousand Euro bonus for themselves in order for her to retain her job. She's quietly sincere and plays her character with an earnest truth. Beyond that, there's a beauty to her character that sets her apart as she's the only woman here who won't let her work quietly disappear and instead is centered on it - at least for two days and one night.

Felicity Jones gets the nod she deserved last year for The Invisible Woman, and I can't say it's ill-deserved. She's positively darling in this film. Her range of emotions is stellar, and she lends a lot to a character that the script-writers did their best to declaw. She's probably a little weak if this were more centered on the drama of Jane and Stephen's relationship, but she's perfect in the touching romance that develops on the screen.

I'm going to ruin this one up front and tell you that Julianne Moore is going to win. She's won pretty much every award she's up for, and she's going to win this one. Maybe I just can't relate to an upper middle class, middle-aged, Columbia linguistics professor, but I honestly don't think she was blow-everyone-out-of-the-water good. One of her most emotive moments came early in the film as her husband refused to listen to her, and I think she flubbed it. All told, she puts on a really great performance during her character's degeneration, though not quite to the level of Redmayne. She's touching, and her character is poignant. It's just a closer performance than you'll be led to believe.

The World's End is probably the worst movie I watched all year, and Rosamund Pike was no small part of my perpetual disinterest in it. For the first hour of Gone Girl we're shown flashbacks of Pike playing the dullest woman I've ever imagined. She's banal beyond description and even sounds bored with herself. She carries her role flatly and unengagingly. She's not even flat and creepy; she's just bland. Interrogating Media rightly says "Amy is not an interesting or compelling villain. She is the crystallization of a thousand misogynist myths and fears about female behavior. If we strapped a bunch of Men’s Rights Advocates to beds and downloaded their nightmares, I don’t think we’d come up with stuff half as ridiculous as this plot." Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl's author, has talked about how important it is in feminism to allow for vile, evil women, and while I'm not keen to disagree with that, it's flat-out dangerous to do so in this light. Women are falsely discredited as mostly lying about rape, domestic abuse, stalking, and other crimes perpetuated against them, and to give as high-profile platform as this to lending social credence to those lies is vile. I won't disparage an actor for their roles (not in this context anyway, I actually liked Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle), but I can't let my issues with Gone Girl go unmentioned. 

Wild might well be my favorite film in this category, and Reese Witherspoon is a huge part of that. It's neither as isolated a role or as good as a performance as, say, James Franco in 127 Hours, but she's wonderful here and gives a grittily honest performance. She emotes dynamically and phenomenally and really breathes life into this film. That said, I don't think this is a singular performance, and I could easily see a number of other actresses holding this film together.

Julianne Moore is going to win, so let's get that out of the way. I really want to side with Reese Witherspoon, but her performance just lacked a bit of nuance. On the other hand, Marion Cotillard was maybe a little too on the edge. Similarly, I loved Felicity Jones, but her role just didn't have the teeth she needed to carry the character over the edge. Moore's win is guaranteed and well-deserved. I just wanted more, but I suppose that isn't fair: this is a better crop than best actor.

Will win: Julianne Moore
Should win: Julianne Moore

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