Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Two words of disbelief: Rooney Mara!? The only major nomination secured by David Fincher’s slick ’n creepy drama went to this novice actress who’s just sort of OK in a great role? Moving on. Close can be commended for 30 years of nurturing her dream movie, or vanity project, to fruition. And Williams, earning her third nomination at 31 (Streep only had two at that age), gets points for the delicacy of her Marilyn Monroe impression.
The race is seen as a two-horse thriller, with Davis a nose ahead of Streep. Three years ago, the two actresses appeared in Doubt: the parochial drama earned Davis her first Oscar nomination, Streep her 15th, and neither won. This year, one of them will. The one problem with Davis’s gritty, soulful achievement as the most dogged and dominant of the Jackson, Miss., maids in The Help is that you don’t know that it’s a leading performance, not a supporting one, until she gets the last big scene in the film. She’s just one of the Help, whereas Streep is the Iron Lady; the Margaret Thatcher bio-pic wouldn’t exist without her. Intentionally or unconsciously, Streep often parodies the characters she embodies; and that tension perfectly suits her playing of the controversial British Prime Minister. No knock on Davis, but Streep ought to win.
Instead, she is likely to remain seated on Oscar Night, gamely applauding her friend. Streep has been nominated a record-breaking 17 times, but hasn’t won in 29 years (since Sophie’s Choice). As she sits there, with a fixed smile, she may be wondering whether her next Oscar will be a Life Achievement Award.
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