It’s Oscar Time!

2014 Best Actress Oscar – who will win?

DominikaDominika Ferenz

Well, it’s that time of the year again – Oscar time – and whether you are interested in who wins or not, it is hard to ignore the hype surrounding the Academy Awards. It has been a long time since I have taken these awards seriously, and let’s just say this coincided with Gwyneth Paltrow winning the Best Actress Award for Shakespeare in Love in 1998 (beating other much worthier nominees such as Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Emily Watson). It dawned on me that year that there are many considerations for the Academy when deciding on a winner and that the most obvious ones do not always take the little guy home.

This year, there have been some good roles and some strong contenders for the Best Actress award, with Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, and Meryl Streep all nominated. The characters they play are varied and interesting, and include: a mother looking to find her son who she adopted out when she was a teenager, a woman on the verge of a mental collapse, a super smart con artist, an engineer lost in space, and a head of a dysfunctional family.

Let’s have a quick review of the nominees: –

Amy Adams in American Hustle

Amy Adams gives a spunky and sexy performance in David O. Russell’s film, American Hustle. Slick, funny and very entertaining, American Hustle is energetic and well made with a cast of good actors including Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Amy Adams plays a sassy con artist who partners up with another crook, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) but before long, is caught up in a scheme orchestrated by FBI agent DiMaso (Cooper) to bust some shady New Jersey politicians and mafia types. The script is good and well paced, and Amy Adams’ performance is very good, but the stand out performance belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Bale’s wonderfully manipulative and over the top wife. My tip is that Lawrence will win the Best Supporting Actress award.

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

Written and directed by the very talented Alfonso Cuarón (who also directed the fantastic film Children of Men), Gravity made a huge impact when it was released, many people calling it the best space movie since Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Stone, an engineer on her first space mission, accompanied by astronaut Matt Kowalsky, played by George Clooney. On a routine spacewalk, things go terribly wrong and the shuttle is destroyed. Bullock and Clooney are thrown into space, untethered and alone, where they are forced to face their fears and their humanity.

The clear stars of the film are the immersive cinematography, the sound design and the spectacular visual effects, which make the viewer feel like they are floating in space alongside Bullock and Clooney. But what lets this film down is the cheesy dialogue and Bullock’s performance, which in my opinion, is wooden and one-dimensional. She propels the narrative forward but lacks the emotional depth and range to make her character’s journey emotionally meaningful. It is a tough call for one actor to carry most of the film and even Tom Hanks found it difficult in Castaway.

Judi Dench in Philomena and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

It really is hard to critique masters of the screen such as Judi Dench and Meryl Streep. Both are clearly outstanding at their art and are almost incapable of poor performances. Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Oscar 18 times (and has won three) and Judi Dench has been nominated for seven (and has won one).

In Stephen Frears’ Philomena, which is based on a true story, Dench plays a woman who gave up her baby as an unwed mother in Ireland in the 1950s to be adopted out without any further contact. Journalist Martin Sixsmith, (played by co-writer/producer Steve Coogan), in search for a successful ‘human interest’ article, picks up her story and offers to help her find her son. Together they end up travelling to America and the result is a very funny, but also moving film, with superb performances from both lead actors. This performance could see Dench being awarded another Oscar.

In a film based on a play by Tracy Letts, Meryl Streep plays the character of Violet in August: Osage County. Streep is a tough and opinionated woman, suffering from throat cancer, yet still refusing to give up her cigarettes. When her husband disappears one day, she calls her family to return to the family home. Supported by a stellar cast which includes: Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Juliette Lewis, Streep gives a great performance as the head of a dysfunctional family.

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine 

Cate Blanchett gives an unforgettable performance as a woman on the verge of a collapse, in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. We watch Blanchett almost play two different characters as Allen weaves the narrative between Blanchett’s past as a rich and spoilt New York socialite and her present life. After her husband is convicted of fraud and goes to prison, she loses her extravagant lifestyle along with him, and is forced to move in with her working class sister (Sally Hawkins). It is a mesmerising performance, we see Blanchett desperately try to cope in her new life and rebuild herself, and also observe the mechanics of a woman’s mental breakdown. Even at her most neurotic and hysterical, Blanchett is completely believable. This is a wonderful, funny and insightful film, made great by Blanchett.

I think it will be a tough call with three outstanding actresses (Streep, Blanchett and Dench) nominated this year, but I do believe Cate Blanchett most deserves the Oscar (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy chooses to give it to Adams).

Who do you think should win?

Dominika Ferenz – Moving Pictures
Dominika is a filmmaker, photographer and mother of two girls. She studied film and photography at UTS, completing a Bachelor of Communications (Honours). She now spends her time chasing the perfect shot or her girls and often both at the same time. You can see her photographs and films on her blog dominikaferenz.com or check out her company, ikonfilm at ikonfilm.com.au
Life Balance = Laughter. Yoga. Solitude.

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