New section! As the post-Oscar months continue to be a fairly slow period for Meryl news, it's a good time for me to expand my entries to include a section I've had in mind since this blog's birth. In "Snubs" you'll find my opinions on films for which Meryl was not, but reasonably could have (or should have) been nominated for an Academy Award. As I've stated before, it's no secret that I favor Meryl's film work over other genres, which makes Oscar races that include her that much more thrilling. Lucky for me she holds the record for most nominations. Contrary to what some people believe, Meryl is not nominated every time she makes a movie, about one third of the time in fact.
The first role I will discuss for this section is Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw in a remake of The Manchurian Candidate, released in 2004. There are of course several factors that go into someone getting an Oscar nomination. Quality of performance is typically pretty high on the list, but that's a given for Meryl, which suggests that other factors are at play. I think we can pretty much resign ourselves to the fact that any role Meryl is in, unless the film absolutely sucks or the part is very small, is worthy or being ranked in the top five performances of the year. So, what stood in the way this year?
Let's break it down. One of the big things could've been the fact that the film was a remake of the the 1962 version that included Angela Lansbury as Senator Shaw. Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. I'm not aware of any two people being nominated for the same role in two different versions of a film. I haven't seen Lansbury's full performance, but clips I have seen of it were superb.
A second factor is the summer release. July 30th isn't the typical campaign slot for Oscar contenders. Of course it's certainly not a death sentence, but it shows that the production company may not have thought too highly of its chances for major awards. Keeping in mind that it was an election year, I wonder if they wanted it released prior to November while interest in political goings-on was still high. If that's the case, and it makes sense because film makers ultimately want their films to produce revenue, they may well have thought that political climate rather than awards buzz was a better shot of getting butts in the seats.
One certainly has to take into account the other performances that Meryl was up against in the supporting category. The list of eventual nominees at the Academy Awards that year was as follows:
Cate Blanchett (The Aviator)
Natalie Portman (Closer)
Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda)
Laura Linney (Kinsey)
Virginia Madsen (Sideways)
I've actually seen all five of these performances, and believe are all very well deserved. Blanchett, the winner, had the "due" factor on account of her own snubbed loss in 1999 for Elizabeth. Portman had won the Golden Globe, Okonedo was a newcomer in a very powerful film, and Madsen simply delivered a stellar performance in a fantastic movie. That leaves Laura Linney. I have to say that I'm a huge fan of Linney's work and hope that she wins an Oscar someday (Hyde Park on Hudson (2013(?)), but I'm choosing her as the odd woman out on this one. Yes, she was one of three actresses who was nominated in this category for Golden Globe, SAG and Oscar (Madsen and Blanchett the other two), but I feel if I had to choose, she's the most expendable. I loved Kinsey, and Linney was great in it. But compared with the other roles there just wasn't as much punch. Unlike this:
This clip is from youtube so don't sue me. Meryl was nominated for a Globe. Mick LaSalle, a critic for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote of her performance, "no one can talk about the acting in 'The Manchurian Candidate' without rhapsodizing about Streep. She has the Hillary hair and the Karen Hughes attack-dog energy, but the charm, the inspiration and the constant invention are her own. She gives us a senator who's a monomaniac, a mad mommy and master politician rolled into one, a woman firing on so many levels that no one can keep up — someone who loves being evil as much as Streep loves acting. She's a pleasure to watch — and to marvel at — every second she's onscreen." He was no doubt referencing this scene.
Interestingly Portman, after winning the Golden Globe wasn't even nominated for the SAG. I think up to that point, she had been the favorite for the Oscar. Obviously there was a lot of indecision that year among voters. I don't think the fact that Meryl had been nominated so many times in the past was a huge factor in not voting for her. Frankly, I think having lost two years prior in supporting for Adaptation to Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago would've been a bit of a boost, but to no avail. Meryl would have to wait another two years (four years total--her second longest span between nominations) to be nominated again for The Devil Wears Prada.