Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Each year the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Science nominate five women for their outstanding acting. Which can sometimes be difficult because quality roles for women are often scarce in Hollywood. This year five actresses have been nominated for their roles as the bored wife of a diplomat who learns to cook and changed the way we see food, the wife and muse of a famous author, an outspoken Texan who reaches out to a stranger and changed not only his life, but hers as well, an overweight, abused teenage mother who learns more than reading and writing from her teacher and a young girl who learns more about life by living it than she learns in the classroom.
Is it the role or the actress that makes an oscar winning performance? When we watch movies like Funny Girl, it is hard to imagine any other actress but Barbra Streisand. Who else could have played Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, but Hilary Swank? Was Reese Witherspoon the perfect June Carter in Walk the Line or Marion Cotillard the perfect Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose? Finding the perfect actress may be a question much like that of the chicken and the egg.
SANDRA BULLOCK for “The Blind Side”
It is often hard for comic actors to be taken seriously. But this year with Mo’Nique’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress and Sandra Bullock’s nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role perhaps that has changed. Sandra Bullock has been the reigning ‘Queen of Romantic Comedy’ and is loved by fans of chick flicks for her sweet smile and perky attitude. In movies like Miss Congeniality, Two Weeks Notice and more recently in The Proposal, she has shown her ability to be a great comic actress. Sandra has also demonstrated her ability to take on more serious and dramatic parts in movies like 28 Days and Crash.
In her role as tough as nails southern housewife, Leigh Anne Touhy, Sandra gives the most acclaimed performance of her career. The Blind Side gives Sandra Bullock a chance to show us another side of herself and has won her the Critic’s Choice (tied with Meryl Streep), Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in the process.
HELEN MIRREN “The Last Station”
Helen Mirren won an Academy Award three years ago for her portrayal of Elizabeth II on The Queen. This year she receives her second nomination for her role as Sofya, the wife and muse of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. Mirren is such a great actress that it seems as though anything she does is Oscar-worthy. So how hard is is for her to play this role as Tolstoy’s wife?
CAREY MULLIGAN for “An Education”
You may remember a young Carey Mulligan as the giggling Kitty Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (2005). Just a few years later the 24-year-old British actress is nominated for her first Oscar lead actress for An Education. Her portrayal of sixteen year old Jenny Mellor, a bright, hard working but also naturally gifted girl from a quiet suburb of London; whose life changes after she meets David Goldman, a man over twice her age. He shows her a very exciting lifestyle and their relationship teaches her things about life she could never learn in school. You see the transformation of a young innocent schoolgirl to a sophisticated woman.
GABOUREY SIDIBE for “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
An Oscar nomination for your first movie is a great way to start your acting career. Gabourey Sidibe, a psychology student at NY’s Mercy College brings to life the physically, emotionally and sexually abused Precious Jones. As with Jennifer Hudson, who won a Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls (2006) and many other first time actors, it is a combination of talent and luck for her to have been cast in the right movie to showcase her talents.
When you watch Precious, you see an overweight, African-American teenager who has no self-esteem and no sense of self-worth. And seeing Gabourey Sidibe, the rotund young woman who plays Precious, it would be easy to imagine that she didn’t have far to go to play that role. But their two lives couldn’t be further apart, which gives you a glimpse of her talent.
MERYL STREEP for “Julie & Julia”
Meryl’s impressive list of nominations and awards are well deserved. Since her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1978 for the Deer Hunter, her first Oscar for Best Actress in 1983 for Kramer vs. Kramer to her recent nominations for The Devil Wears Prada (2007) and Doubt (2009), Meryl has been a steady fixture on the Oscar scene. It wouldn’t seem like an Oscar show without a nomination for Meryl Streep. She is such a talented actress, that it is almost a given that anything she does will be wonderful. This year, she is nominated for her role as the famous and quirky Chef, Julia Child in Julie & Julia. This is her 13th Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
For those who you who have seen the real Julia Child’s PBS show, The French Chef, you will appreciate Meryl’s portrayal of Julia Child. Not only the distinctive voice, but she also captured many of Julia’s mannerism, all while making the character her own. Part of what made Julia Child a good chef was. as she said being fearless. That is what make Meryl an incredible actress. She is fearless. She is not afraid to take of the dramatic roles role or star in a romantic comedies like It’s Complicated. It was refreshing to see a 60-year old actress in a role that is often reserved for much younger actresses.
The veteran actresses and Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, both have multiple nominations. They are two of the most talented actresses of our time, so much so that it seems everything they do is Oscar-worthy. The two young actresses, Gabourey Sidibe and Carey Mulligan are both first time nominees very early in their careers. But the one to watch is Sandra Bullock, an actress who has surprised everyone (including herself) with her runaway hit, The Blind Side. Sandra, this is your year!
Who do you think will win?