It’s time to get back on this horse called ranking Oscar’s Best Actress performances. It’s something I had done for years, but then took a break from. And it’s time to finish Best Actress 2012 (to read my thoughts on how the ladies got nominated, click here).
I am getting back to it, but at my own pace, and in a shorter version. No more individual posts for each of the performances, since they are quite time consuming. It’s the final conclusions that count (mind you: I am still counting the screentime – which basically ensures that I see each performance twice).
So here we are with 2012’s ranking. #1 and #2 are two very different performances, but both very close to my heart. I could vote for any of them. #3 is solid, #4 is overrated, but works great for the film. And #5 still has me puzzled.
Best acted scene of the 5 performances? I almost didn’t award it, since the top 2 performances are consistently excellent throughout. A scene that comes to mind from Amour is when Georges and Anne receive the visit of the young pianist – the shame Anne feels for her disability (repeated in the CD/letter scene) still strikes a chord, and I’ll never forget it. So subtle, played perfectly.
And here is how I decided to rank them:
The screentime: approximately 61 minutes and 53 seconds (52.2% of the film)
The film: My favourite film of 2012, an unforgettable drama with such a natural, realistic approach that still haunts me to this day. Technically precise, beautifully acted, directed by a master of his craft.
The role: Emmanuelle plays Anne, the intellectual, retired music teacher in her 80s, who has a stroke and has to live through the harrowing decline of her physical health.
The performance: It’s simply put an actress lover’s dream role and performance. Emmanuelle brings such grace, class, elegance to the screen that you know you are in the presence of greatness. The dignity she infuses into the performance increases the emotional experience of the viewer confronted with the character’s imminent decline. It’s exactly what the film needs: such a subtle performance, no vanity, just pure realism, heart-breaking because of the emotions it triggers in the viewer’s mind.
The highlight: The visit of the young pianist.
The screentime: approximately 40 minutes and 38 seconds (41.7% of the film)
The film: It has an average screenplay transformed into a good film by the excellent performances and some impressive visual scenes. Less Hollywood would’ve made it more heart-breaking, but the film is anyway relevant and easy to watch as it is.
The role: Naomi plays Maria, wife, mother of 3 young boys, on a family vacation in Thailand during the deadly tsunami of 2004. Badly injured, she and her oldest son try to reach safety in the aftermath.
The performance: It took me by surprise the first time I saw it, as I didn’t expect such emotional rawness from Naomi and boy does she deliver. I was cringing in fear as it was all unfolding because her acting is so natural that it almost felt like I was watching a documentary. Her ability of losing herself in the character is so masterfully achieved that it helped me lose myself in the story. Had the film been only about her journey, it would’ve been a winner. She’s so effective that as soon as she’s not on screen the film unavoidably loses steam. Excellent.
The highlight: The hospital scenes – the quiet pain when thinking her other children are dead.
The screentime: approximately 54 minutes and 16 seconds (36.3% of the film)
The film: The second best film of 2012; a fascinating war drama, always engaging, perfectly directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Those last 30 minutes are pure action, in the smartest way Hollywood could produce.
The role: Jessica plays Maya, a CIA operative on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, following the 9/11 attacks.
The performance: It’s an incredibly challenging role, given how restraint the screenplay is regarding its hero. It’s all about her professional life, almost no back-story, so Jessica has only one approach: the no-bullshit one. With a character that’s not even necessarily likeable and with tough dialogue to get through, the performance is a success. Against all odds, Jessica delivers a believable, smart performance, with emotions in all the right places, a great hold of the dialogue and a good understanding of the material.
The highlight: Getting on the plane, knowing her work is done here.
The screentime: approximately 49 minutes and 19 seconds (42.6% of the film)
The film: It’s a romantic drama that I really enjoyed, because it’s mostly well-written, it’s well directed and it has some fine performances. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s always easy to recommend.
The role: Jennifer plays Tiffany, a troubled young widow who falls for a man recently released from a mental institution and helps him heal.
The performance: One could make an argument that the casting is not perfect here, since Jennifer is a bit too young for the role – but I strongly believe she really does try her best with what she’s given. It’s a character that takes time getting used to, and it’s meant to be edgy – Jennifer stays true to the role, hitting some high notes, bringing some humour and ultimately delivering a good performance of a character I didn’t love; but it’s a performance I find little fault to. It doesn’t help that her co-star overshadows.
The highlight: Breaking down in front of the movie theatre and then regretting it.
The screentime: approximately 53 minutes and 15 seconds (61.3% of the film)
The film: It felt better the second time around. It’s an unusual film, but beautifully shot, with some nicely made directing choices. The original score is best in show.
The role: Quvenzhané plays Hushpuppy, a young girl raised by her father in a southern bayou community, almost cut off from the world. She has to deal with a flood, her father’s sickness and a prehistoric monster created by her imagination.
The performance: I “campaigned” so hard against this nomination... My point is that it shouldn’t exist. It’s a 7-8 year old child, who probably can’t even read, giving a fragmented performance in a project she doesn’t understand. Her performance is all about reacting, not building, and there’s nothing awards-worthy about that, sorry. It’s not conscious acting, since there are noticeable moments when the actress doesn’t know what the hell is going on, she’s just speaking the lines. That being said, there are highlights in the performance and it’s a good child performance. But if you compare it to acting in general, it’s not much. Well, my point is we shouldn’t even compare it. I didn’t give it 1 star because I have only done that once in the past, and to a truly terrible performance. This nomination is not Quvenzhané’s fault, it’s the silly voters writing her on the ballot.
The highlight: Her one achievement, crying on cue in the last scene with her father. [again: since I doubt Quvenzhané understood that scene, it’s hardly conscious acting; they probably told her they killed her dog or something].
How did the Academy vote: I think it was a clearer win for Jennifer than people give it credit. They really wanted to reward Silver Linings Playbook somewhere. It’s very likely that Emmanuelle came 2nd, while Jessica was a close 3rd. I assume Naomi was 4th, and Quvenzhané 5th.
And that’s about it.
What’s next: Continuing with the (even longer-) abandoned 1972. For the introduction of the year: click here. Hope to have it done by end of year. :)
To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right, where it says Best Actress Years. ;)
Do tell me how unfair I was with Quvenzhané!! :))