Friday, August 26, 2005

Best Actress 2005

Generally, this is my favorite category every year, because it nearly always includes the best performances of each year, regardless of gender (e.g. Being Julia's Annette Bening, who was robbed). So I'm discussing this before the other categories.

Who's bound to lead the category come awards season and Oscar nomination night? If Walk the Line ends up being as good as expected, and her performance is just as great, then America's sweetheart Reese Witherspoon can walk away with a first nomination. All the early buzz last year was on her potentially star-making performance in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair, but the film failed to deliver, and so she was mercilessly removed from contention. This film on Johnny Cash seems less precarious and more poised to reign on Oscar night than Vanity Fair ever was, so it has to stink to drive attention away from Witherspoon. The role (June Cash) is very, very significant in the story. If the powers that be won't be idiots enough to campaign for a supporting nod for her, then she has a very good chance of bagging this (at least a nom).

Oscar favorite Judi Dench, who got four nominations and one win (for her eight-minute role in Shakespeare In Love) in five years, is back in the running with Mrs. Henderson Presents, a British film getting all the buzz. I don't mean to simplify the plot, but it's about London theatre, and if Annette Bening got huge attention for a film of that genre, I don't see how Dench can't. Has she ever given a bad performance? This category is kind to smaller films (probably why it's my favorite). Let's just hope the film itself doesn't sink.

For much the same reason as with her film, confidence over a first nomination for Asian superstar Ziyi Zhang has waned. Can she pull off being a Japanese geisha? I personally think that she is a wonderful actress and can do just that. If you weren't impressed with her performance in House of Flying Daggers, watch 2046 and you'll see that she definitely has the acting chops. Thankfully, Memoirs of a Geisha is too big a film (and with too good a release date, Oscar-wise) to ignore. Charlize Theron may be back after winning for Monster two years ago for a Niki Caro (Whale Rider) project. If Caro got young Keisha Castle-Hughes (who was very good) a lead actress nomination, why not Theron? She's nowhere near being due for an Oscar, but unlike some recent winners (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow), at least her win isn't really being questioned. The role, that of the first woman to file a major sexual harassment lawsuit in the Unite States, is ripe with potential.

If this category looks with favor upon actresses in small films, so it does as well on those whose films appeared WAY before Oscar season. There are many, many possibilities, among them being Juliette Binoche for Bee Season and Uma Thurman for Prime, but for now I'm giving this fifth slot to Joan Allen, who seems to have mesmerized everyone in The Upside of Anger. If she gets a heavy enough push, she can get in despite the more Oscar-friendly releases of her competition.

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