Monday, February 1, 2016

A Fistful of Thoughts...about the twelve actresses who should have Meryl Streep's Oscar!

So, over the weekend I binge watched the first two seasons of Broadchurch (more on that on a later date) and it reminded me of something I am constantly going back to...Olivia Colman's tremendous performance in Tyrannosaur.  It was this reminder that inspired my Fistful of Thoughts today.  Now I've already posted my personal awards for 2011, but there is one category that I continually revisit in my mind and reshuffle and desire to completely revamp, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.  Of any year this decade so far, 2011 boasts the strongest array of Lead Actresses and presents me with the hardest time narrowing it all down.  That isn't to discredit other years, and I'm usually always resting on a #6 and #7 place contender that I wish I could also nominate, but 2011 leaves me with a top twelve that I completely, wholeheartedly, ADORE.

What is so weird is that, of those 12...only one of them is an Oscar nominee, and the other 4 Oscar nominated performances, only one of them is really all that wonderful, and she's arguably in the wrong category.  The winner is messy and undeserving to the hilt, but in that ballot it almost makes sense.

Oscar dropped the ball SO HARD this year.

So today, I want to pay much respect to all actresses/performances in my Top 12.

As a reminder, here is my current ballot:

I love all five of these performances for different reasons, and on most days I stand by this lineup, but on other days I'm conflicted.  I want to nominate Olivia Colman and Kirsten Dunst and Zoe Heran so badly, but who do I take out when there is no way I can snub these tremendous performances?

So here is my personal ranking of my dozen favorite female performances.  Read this with the full understanding that #1 - #12 are pretty much interchangeable.  Yes, on any given day I could justify any of these twelve actresses winning the Fisti.  Binoche is incredible here, but she's not so undeniable that she can't be dethroned.  In fact, mere seconds before I posted these way back when, I almost swapped out the win and gave it to Theron. 

If I had nominated Colman, I may have given it to her.

Adepero Oduye in Pariah

Oduye's performance in Pariah was one that went completely under the radar by most.  In fact, I didn't even see the film until last year because I couldn't find it anywhere.  Talk about the distribution of diverse issues being effed ("Oh, a gay black female protagonist?  No one wants to see that!").  When I finally did see it though, I was floored.  This is what a true 'star is born' moment looks like.  Full of life behind the eyes, a performance that embodies what it means to BE.  You feel the dismay, the pain, the complete confliction in who she is and who she feels the need to be, and it's 100% honest.

Jeong-hie Yun in Poetry

The juxtaposition between the 'discovery' and the 'loss' here is so magically delivered by Yun that I'm left speechless in the wake of her honesty here.  Both layers of her inner character are such polar opposites (she's losing her mind yet she's discovering something new) but the balancing act Yun engages in here is so subtly purposeful.  It is so sharp, so focused, so believable.   

Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids

Wiig is a comedic gem.  Her ability to shamelessly exploit herself on SNL made her one of my favorite cast members in any season.  What she does in Bridesmaids is something so different, so much fuller, so much more remarkable.  She's hilarious, true, but she's also entirely human and her delivery is so richly layered with the drama of real life that it makes her comedy almost...sad...but never in a way that feels manipulative.  You can see the crushing realism of her personal plight raging behind every joke.  You look at her and you see yourself.  It's a brutally honest dramatic turn that happens to be funny.

Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Back when I posted my personal awards, I got some flack for not nominating this performance (similar to the flack I got for not nominating Pike in 2014).  I understand the flack.  This is a killer role/performance by a rising star that, unfortunately, happened to come in a year where there was so much to chose from.  Mara tears this role apart, and the more I reflect the more I'm astounding with what she did.  The ONLY thing that holds me back from bumping her closer to the top of this pack is the fact that I still feel like Noomi Rapace did it better. 

Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst is one of the best actresses to not get enough credit for being the best.  Like, people look at her and they see Bring it On and they think, 'fun teen actress' and they forget that she's BRILLIANT and that she's delivered time and time again some of the most richly textured comedic and dramatic performances of any actress in her generation.  Her Cannes winning turn while in the hands of Lars von Trier is such a brutal look at depression and inner agony.  Her line deliveries alone are worthy of awards. 

Zoe Heran in Tomboy

We get child performances every year.  We get child performances like this once in a blue moon.  The way that Heran internalizes her every thought is so effortlessly captured here.  You can feel the comfort in who she knows she is...but you can also feel the fear of others not understanding, and when she's faced with her outing you can sense it all starting to unravel within her.  BUT, what makes this such a refreshing and unforgettable turn is the way she rebounds within the comfort of knowing who she is...and the way she handles her final moment is brilliant.  I can't wait to see more from this girl!

Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur

Everything that Colman does up until her tragic breakdown is extremely solid work.  But that breakdown, much like Hanks' final twenty moments in Captain Phillips, is the best bit of acting I saw by anyone this entire year.  It is in that moment that this woman BLEEDS onto the screen, unearthing such raw, raw, RAW honesty from the depths of this woman's soul.  Watching Broadchurch only further cemented the fact that Olivia Colman is a treasure. 

Anna Paquin in Margaret 

Anna Paquin is a mess in Margaret.  She delivers one of those performances that, out of context, feels like a joke.  In fact, while watching it I found myself teetering on being completely mesmerized and completely baffled at all the praise.  When it ended though, I felt this total understanding.  She plays this character to the core, delivering a performance that is full-stop ALL..THE...TIME, but it speaks volumes to the root of the film's themes, taking on everything that Margaret is saying as a character piece and making it feel entrenched in her.  She IS this movie.

Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene

Mary Kate and Ashley who?  Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister to the twin-royals who stole our hearts all those years ago, completely blew my mind.  The way she was able to play two lives, two separate entities in such a united fashion is remarkably collected here.  She allows the two halves of this whole to blend ever so intricately together in order to always remain at a slight distance, a mystery of sorts.  We lean into her performance, hoping to hear the whispers of who she really is, what she's really thinking...and we are rewarded deeply. 

Sibel Kekilli in When We Leave 

I was completely unfamiliar with Sibel Kekilli before seeing When We Leave.  I still haven't seen anything but this performance, but I hear she's pretty awful in other things (including Game of Thrones).  I don't care.  All I care about is that her internal breaking in this film leaves me with so many emotions.  This is a very quiet performance, but it is one that shatters me with the intense honesty of character.  The convictions she possesses, the inability to lay down, roll over and admit defeat even when she's broken by the ones she loves's all so beautifully rendered in a performance that defies what we think a performance like this should be.  She haunts.

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

This is where it gets really hard because, Charlize Theron gives the greatest performance of her career in Young Adult, and on many days she gives the greatest performance of this year.  But so does Binoche.  It's a toss up, but second place, in this year, in this category, is pretty much first place and so I can rest easy knowing that Theron's tremendous performance as a woman disguising her pain though a snark so biting and so real and so painful is well loved by me and everyone else I know.  This is life.  This is what it means to hit that moment when you only appear to be what you want to be.  Charlize taps into something so rarely seen on film. 

Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy

Every time I think about taking this win away from Binoche, I'm reminded of how incredible it really is.  The air of mystery within the film's story itself are woven so deeply into Binoche's performance, and she handles every single layer with such divine execution.  The way that Binoche bares her soul with such soft undertones is remarkable.  She says so much with the slightest glance, turn,'s flawless.  Her eyes constantly reflect her inner mood, and they change with such effortless insight into this woman's soul.  Natural.  She's a natural talent, and this performance isn't's living.

So that's all for me...

Let's talk about you!
Mariah & Wendell weigh in on the diversity issue
Connor reviews Sicario
Sati talks Batfleck
Chris reviews The Blair Witch Project (the book!)
Britt talks the SAG winners
Mario reviews The Boy
Matt talks the undervalued Ben Mendelsohn
Stephanie read The Silent Girls
Shane talks his Top 10 Films of 2015
SJHoneywell finally saw Star Wars
And finally, Josh posted his Top 100 Favorite Songs!!!  Here is part one and here is part two!


  1. Great post, Drew! I couldn't agree more about Colman's performance in Tyrannosaur. Very, very strong film, but not one I would EVER watch again.

    I loved Season One of Broadchurch but after reading the reviews for Season 2, I decided not to watch it.

    Thanks for the link!

    1. Forgot to mention how much I love Pariah. I've seen it twice and shared it with many of the teens in my life.

    2. Season Two is not as strong, but it's still very powerful, and that entire ensemble is remarkable.

    3. LOL, we were overlapping comments. Yes, Pariah is very good and one that many youths should see. These kinds of stories need to be told.

  2. *starts reading*
    *reads: for not nominating Pike in 2014*
    *clicks link*
    *sees Pike's not there*
    *checks how much alcohol does this fucking beer have*
    *not much*


    I do love Theron being so high up. I still think Monster is a better performance but Young Adult is such a remarkable movie and both her and the film are so underrated. It's such a rich profound film and most people don't even know what the movie was about in the first place. Mara is my win that year but Theron is a very close second

    1. I love her Monster performance, but there is something so carnal running behind her eyes in Young Adult...such a subtly plaid point that breathes so openly. Monster is transformative, for sure, but Young Adult feels deeper.

  3. I love do many of those performances. Oduye's is my favorite of the bunch. I can't imagine Kekilli being good in anything after seeing her in GoT, I'm going to have to watch that out of curiosity now. Thanks for the link!

    1. LOL, she's incredible in Where We good.

  4. Very interesting take. I'm planning on revisiting 2011 for my own awards. Right now, it's a tight four-way race between Olsen, Mara, Colman, and Yun. Haven't seen Certified Copy.

    Theron was excellent, but not quite up to those other three ladies. I also think this is nowhere near her best work, Monster.

    I am so guilty of not seeing enough of Dunst's work. She was outstanding in Melancholia, but outside of that I think I have only seen her in Bring It On and the Spider-Man flicks. Her name just never occurs to me when discussing great actresses.

    Not sure what it is, but Pacquin just doesn't do it for me. I've always thought she was rather meh. Haven't seen this particular performance.

    I like Wiig in Bridesmaids, but didn't think she was great. It doesn't help that her supporting cast blew her off the screen whenever they were on it, especially McCarthy.

    Any of your ladies that I didn't mention, I probably didn't see.

    1. Dell! You must catch up with Dunst's work.

      Interview with a Vampire
      The Virgin Suicides
      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
      Marie Antoinette
      All Good Things

      All of them are award worthy, and show so much range. She's so underrated!

      And Rose Byrne was queen of Bridesmaids, not McCarthy :-P

    2. I have seen Interview/Vampire and Eternal Sunshine. You're right she is excellent in those. I still need to see more, though.

      I'll still take MM, but Byrne is certainly a valid choice.

    3. The whole toasting scene between Byrne and Wiig is one of the funniest movie moments in YEARS.

  5. Theron is my winner, but I go back and forth between her and Olsen. After reading this list, I was going to do something similar and compile a list of actresses who should have Jennifer Lawrence's nomination this year. But with my list of the top 15 female lead performances of 2015, I pretty much already did.

    1. I'd love to see your list, although...I've already seen it (lol)


    2. Lol. But you know what other list you should do: 12 actresses that should have Octavia Spencer's Oscar.

    3. Dear GOD, that Oscar is so undeserved. Yeah, I should throw that up too. Supporting Actress is a GOLD MINE that year.

    4. I agree. I mean, Charlotte Rampling had only one scene in Melancholia and she would've been a better winner than Spencer.

  6. Kekilli played an unlikable character on GoT and there are a lot of people who can't separate character from performer. She's won multiple acting awards. Check out her film Head On where she first earned people's attention.

    1. I'll have to check that film out! Thanks for the heads up.

    2. I think that people can separate the character from performer just fine. She is just terrible on GoT and the bad script does her no favors either

    3. I've heard that from quite a few people, Sati.

  7. I have not seen most of these but I love Binoche and should mark this on my list to see. I still remember Rooney Mara in her great work in Dragon Tattoo and I enjoyed Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids. Obviously Streep won that year but for what?? I don't even recall who won but I know these performances that I mentioned above

    1. She won for The Iron Lady.


    2. e-gad! I forgot all about that movie! What a shame

  8. Theron is just BEYOND in Young Adult. I can't even with that performance (in the complete opposite way I canNOT. EVEN. with Rooney Mara's Lisbeth Salander. Like, really. Don't get me started.) it is so BRILLIANT. She's my winner in 2011, narrowly over Dunst. I also nominated Michelle Williams, Wiig, and Yun with Viola Davis and Cecile de France just outside.

    And now I feel like crap that I still haven't seen Certified Copy or Martha Marcy May Marlene despite OWNING both of them. And for not having seen Pariah or Margaret or Tomboy. Or Tyrannosaur especially, since I love Olivia Colman SO. MUCH.

    1. Honestly though, I would have nominated Meryl Streep in Supporting just for the elderly Thatcher scenes. I still think those scenes are what really won her that Oscar. The rest is piffle.

    2. Mara hater?

      Uh oh!

      Um, see Certified Copy and Martha Marcy May Marlene ASAP. Not only do they sport excellent performances, but they are great movies.

      And see the rest of them too, duh, especially Tomboy. That movie is just brilliant (and on my BP ballot that year).

    3. And lol...if only nominating 'half' performances was a thing!

      But, nominating it for Makeup is kind of the same thing, right?


    4. BIG TIME Mara hater, at least in this case. I wasn't impressed with Fincher's version anyway, but it particularly irked me the way he handled Lisbeth, treating her as an iconic character as opposed to a person, and that carried over to Mara's playing of her. Conversely, Niels Arden Oplev and Noomi Rapace never once condescended to Lisbeth in that way.

    5. Rapace's performance, in my eyes, is the better...but she was also gifted three films to build a complete portrait.

      For what it's worth, though, Fincher's film is my opinion.

    6. It might indeed be the better film, but going in it had two big strikes against it (or, well, at least not for it) for me: I had already read the book AND seen the Swedish film not long before, and with that story there's no way the film will harness the energy and menace of that spectacular opening credits sequence for at least the first third, especially with someone as exacting as Fincher behind the camera. So the treatment of Lisbeth was just the third strike. Maybe I owe it another chance, especially since I still think Daniel Craig is PERFECT casting as Blomkvist, but there are only so minutes in a day.

    7. I had seen the original trilogy and read the book, too. I really liked the book, and loved Rapace, but I was not a fan of the original films as I felt they were too...blandly directed. Fincher gave it so much life.

      And AMEN to Craig's casting. Pitch perfect.

    8. ...yeah I didn't find any life in Fincher's version. Not that Swedish film was any great shakes, but I think by the time I got to the American I was just suffering with fatigue from the story? Maybe? And the film did nothing to re-engage me with it - it was slow and methodical and kind of mechanical.

    9. Gurl, please. The only tears around here right now should be Taylor Swift's, after seeing how Style, the greatest pop song of the previous five years (or so), was denied a Mouthi in favor of Ed Sheeran. ;-P

    10. Um, this is the wrong post to discuss Ed Sheeran's much deserved Mouthi sweep!

  9. Wow, 2011 was a killer year for performances. I think I would've gone with Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia as I feel it's the most realistic portrayal of depression from anyone in film.

  10. Makes a change Streep isn't nominated this year! Anna Paquin was good at being a mess in Margaret, glad you also appreciate the film. I've seen both edits, the shorter 150 min cut is the best for me, which trims away the fat.

    I actually spent WAY more time writing my book review of Macbeth, but thanks anyway for the other book link :)

    1. Margaret is such a messy yet wholly compelling film. Glad you liked it too!

      LOL, I hadn't seen your Macbeth review when I compiled my links. I'll swing by probably tomorrow to check it out!

  11. Okay, so I'm actually moderately qualified here, as I've seen the performances from Dunst, Theron, Mara, Wiig, and Olsen.

    Obviously, all these ladies were exceptional in their roles, but Olsen is the real stand out for me. Perhaps, going back to a previous post of yours, because (for me) it came out of nowhere.

    If I can catch ONE that I missed, what should I go with (you know me well enough...)?

    Great post. Mahalo for the link.

    1. Looking over the ones you haven't seen, my inclination is to suggest you see Margaret. Paquin's performance is so full tilt, so brazen and in your face and hyperbolic in the most fascinating of ways. She's almost a caricature, but within the fabric of the film she makes total sense.

  12. Some really strong choices but I am with you (for me it would be a hands-down choice). Juliette Binoche is hypnotic in Certified Copy. I was so enthralled in her performance and its amazing authenticity.

    1. Yes, Binoche is luminous in Certified Copy. It's a career best performance full of 'best' performances. My only sadness is that it comes the same year that Theron delivers her very best as well.

  13. Of the ones of these I've seen, the one I'd remove from your list is Kristen Wiig. I'm not a Bridesmaids fan--I think it's one note, and that note is overrated. But hey, that's just me.

    Thanks for the link. It wouldn't be me if I didn't come to the conversation when everyone else had had his or her say.

  14. Thanks for the links! :)

    LOVE your top 12. Apart from Binoche clearly at #1, this category is loaded with nomination-worthy performances, and it's such a heartbreaker. I could easily nominate so many of these, too, like Heran, Colman, Kekilli, Olsen, Mara... :( (I have Poetry in 2010, but it misses everywhere, unfortunately.)

    And did you ever see Sleeping Beauty? Like, Emily Browning is probably my runner-up (if not Dunst or Paquin)!

    1. UGH, I started Sleeping Beauty and then got sidetracked and couldn't finish it that day and wound up never getting back to it!


  15. Wow! I haven't seen any of these. (Clicks link to Amazon...)