Academy Award for Best Actress: Class of 2018

If there’s any reason to be excited about the 91st Academy Awards, it is definitely not the cringe-inducing introduction of the “Best Popular Film” nor the blatant disrespect to film craftspeople by relegating the less popular categories to pre-edited clips during commercial breaks. Seriously, shame on ABC for putting these profit-driven pressures to the Oscars and shame on the Academy for giving in and not becoming steadfast in its supposed commitment to film awareness and appreciation.

As a queer film school alumnus, these are the categories that always interest me:

  • Best Picture, for becoming a reflection of the strength of the field of contenders vis-à-vis the over-all pulse of the Academy’s current membership;
  • Best Directing, for rewarding the visionaries of cinema;
  • Best Original/Adapted Screenplay, for shedding a light on this writer’s craft;
  • Best Foreign Language Film, for celebrating the diversity of cinematic voices around Europe the world (they’re making strides these past years);
  • Best Documentary Feature, for putting a spotlight on these courageous artists who does an almost-journalistic method of filmmaking.

And of course, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

Yes, Supporting Actress also gets some of my love, but Leading Actress category most likely reflects the state of the mostly male-driven film industry in its efforts to represent stories of different kinds of women. We should be past the time when we only see women as whores, wives, or witches. History has suppressed stories about women, and now more than ever, it is very urgent to tell female-driven stories in all platforms.

That is perhaps the reason why I was drawn to television. Remember when I started my own project here called Beyond the Ballot: Women in Film and the Academy Awards?

It was supposed to be my exploration of the female lead roles in the past years, but then I gradually leaned towards witnessing complex roles for women in television. Needless to say, I am emotionally invested in the Best Actress Race at the Emmys.

Going back, I have read some comments saying that this year for female leads in film is thin compared to last year. Truth be told, there has been an embarrassment of riches for female leads in contention since 2015 (and I would even dare say 2014).

After watching my first film of 2018: Björn Runge’s The Wife starring six-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close, I knew I had to go back to my first love which is Best Actress in film.

Sony Pictures Classics did the right thing of holding back the film from its 2017 premiere at TIFF to its release this weekend (the film was screened a week earlier in the Philippines, giving me the chance to see it). And it must be said: Glenn Close is glorious in this film. Though the film struggles to catch up with her greatness, she owns this film, and it would be a satisfying win given the performance and the overdue narrative. She is rightfully the early frontrunner of this race.

However, the race is far from over. There are a lot of possible contenders, from expected Best Picture players to potential longshots, this year should prove to be an exciting year for Best Actress. Therefore, precursor awards should not feel lazy preordaining a selected few just because they feel the need to predict the ultimate winner at the Academy Awards.

As of August 17, 2018, here are my predictions for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:

PREDICTED NOMINEES (a combination of educated and wildcard guesses):

01. Glenn Close – The Wife
02. Lady Gaga – A Star is Born
03. Viola Davis – Widows
04. Kiki Layne – If Beale Street Could Talk
05. Toni Collette – Hereditary

SOLID CONTENDERS (if all of these fare well, look at here for the alternate choices):

06. Saoirse Ronan – Mary, Queen of Scots
07. Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
08. Nicole Kidman – Destroyer
09. Olivia Colman – The Favourite
10. Carey Mulligan – Wildlife
11. Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns
12. Felicity Jones – On the Basis of Sex
13. Emma Thompson – The Children Act
14. Judi Dench – Red Joan
15. Keira Knightley – Colette

IN THE MIX (definitely in the hunt for the nomination):

16. Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell
17. Margot Robbie – Mary, Queen of Scors
18. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Kindergarten Teacher
19. Taraji P. Henson – The Best of Enemies
20. Sandra Bullock – Bird Box
21. Michelle Pfeiffer – Where is Kyra?
22. Rachel Weisz – Disobedience
23. Emma Stone – The Favourite
24. Emily Blunt – A Quiet Place
25. Renee Zellweger – Judy

POTENTIAL LONGSHOTS (never count them out; I once had Natalie Portman in Jackie as a longshot, and look where she ended up):

26. Kristen Stewart – JT Leroy
27. Mary Elizabeth Winstead – All About Nina
28. Keira Knightley – The Aftermath
29. Charlize Theron – Tully
30. Thomasin McKenzie – Leave No Trace

31. Julianne Moore – Bel Canto
32. Hilary Swank – What They Had
33. Claire Foy – The Girl in the Spider’s Web
34. Penelope Cruz – Everybody Knows
35. Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
36. Rachel McAdams – Disobedience
37. Julia Roberts – Ben is Back
38. Rosamund Pike – A Private War
39. Dakota Johnson – Suspiria
40. Constance Wu – Crazy Rich Asians

41. Elizabeth Debicki – Vita and Virginia
42. Kathryn Hahn – Private Life
43. Chloe Grace Moretz – The Miseducation of Cameron Post
44. Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Fast Color
45. Amanda Seyfried – First Reformed
46. Jessica Chastain – Woman Walks Ahead
47. Andie McDowell – Love After Love
48. Chloe Sevigny – Lizzie
49. Anne Hathaway – Serenity
50. Natalie Portman – Annihilation / Rooney Mara – Mary Magdalene

Did I miss any other possible Best Actress contenders?

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BEYOND THE BALLOT: 1994 and Women in Film

As you may know, the purpose of this Beyond the Ballot series is to study the female leading performances in film in relation to the representation in film as well as its reflection to the Academy Awards.

Here is a quote from an older post:

And I would want to see: are those “weak years” a result of lack of good performances of women in film? Or perhaps good roles for women? Or perhaps it’s the laziness of the Academy to look for outside-the-box choices to fill the final five? Or perhaps the laziness of Hollywood to even make films with women at the center? Or maybe the critical reception at time affected it (remember: majority of film critics are white male) Part of me thinks there is a smidge of sexism in these claims, but we’ll see.

I’ve decided that I want to discuss a particularly interesting year in women in film: 1994. Commonly tagged as one of the weakest years of Best Actress as the Academy Awards, it is safe to say that it interests me endlessly how that year got the tag weakest.

As a matter of fact, I have always been interested in this Best Actress year. Perhaps a post from The Film Experience triggered it again.

It must be immediately said that Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding is not included in this discussion due to her film being eligible the following year.

However, we must talk about Linda Fiorentino’s performance in The Last Seduction. Only ineligible due to a technicality, this performance is still talked about today as one of the contenders disappointingly ruled out due to a (fair) eligibility rule.

To see the complete Reminder List of Eligible Productions released by the Academy on 1994, click HERE.

First, we must take a look at the performances recognized by the Academy:

Jodie Foster – Nell

Jessica Lange – Blue Sky (WINNER)

Miranda Richardson – Tom & Viv

Winona Ryder – Little Women

Susan Sarandon – The Client

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Now, here are the performances who got key nominations (though this doesn’t necessarily mean they had closer chances of getting nominated than the rest):

Meryl Streep – The River Wild (Globe Drama nom, SAG nom)
Jamie Lee Curtis – True Lies (Globe Comedy win, SAG Supporting nom)
Robin Wright – Forrest Gump (Globe Supporting nom, SAG Supporting nom)
Meg Ryan – When a Man Loves a Woman (SAG nom)
Jennifer Jason Leigh – Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (Globe Drama nom)
Geena Davis – Speechless (Globe Comedy nom)
Andie MacDowell – Four Weddings and a Funeral (Globe Comedy nom)
Shirley Maclaine – Guarding Tess (Globe Comedy nom)
Emma Thompson – Junior (Globe Comedy nom)

The next batch of performance were not cited in other major awards, but whose films have been nominated for an Academy Award in other categories, implying that the film was indeed seen by Academy members:

Helen Mirren – The Madness of King George (nominated for Supporting Actress)
Irène Jacob – Three Colors: Red (Best Director + 2 other noms)
Jessica Tandy – Nobody’s Fool (Best Actor nom)
Melanie Lynskey – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Sandra Bullock – Speed (Best Sound Effects Editing win + 1 other nom)
Julia Ormond – Legends of the Fall (Best Cinematography win + 2 other noms)
Isabelle Adjani – Queen Margot (Best Costume Design nom)
Jodie Foster – Maverick (Best Costume Design nom)
Chien-Lien Wu (Best Foreign Language Film nom)
Glenn Close – The Paper (Best Original Song nom)
Cameron Diaz – The Mask (Best Visual Effects nom)

These are the performances from past winners and nominees that may have been in the conversation:

Alfre Woodard – Crooklyn
Annette Bening – Love Affair
Geena Davis – Angie
Jessica Tandy – Camilla
Judy Davis – The New Age
Judy Davis – The Ref
Julie Walters – Just Like a Woman
Juliette Lewis – Natural Born Killers
Kathleen Turner – Serial Mom
Lena Olin – Romeo is Bleeding
Marisa Tomei – Only You
Meg Tilly – Sleep with Me
Meryl Streep – The House of the Spirits
Michelle Pfeiffer – Wolf
Sigourney Weaver – Death and the Maiden
Susan Sarandon – Safe Passage
Whoopi Goldberg – Corrina, Corrina
Winona Ryder – Reality Bites

Here are the rest of the performances eligible that year. I’m sure this is incomplete because I haven’t gone through all the films eligible that year:

Alberta Watson – Spanking the Monkey
Bridget Fonda – Camilla
Bridget Fonda – It Could Happen to You
Bridget Fonda – The Road to Welville
Crissy Rock – Ladybird, Ladybird
Debra Eisenstadt – Oleanna
Demi Moore – Disclosure
Emmanuelle Seigner – Bitter Moon
Gong Li – To Live
Guinevere Turner – Go Fish
Jada Pinkett – Jason’s Lyric
Jean Yanne – A La Mode
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hudsucker Proxy
Julianne Moore – Vanya on 42nd Street
Julie Delpy – Three Colors: White
Karen Sillas – What Happened Was…
Lara Flyn Boyle – Threesome
Lauren Velez – I Like It Like That
Madeleine Stowe – Blink
Madeleine Stowe – China Moon
Mary Stuart Masterson – Radioland Murders
Mia Farrow – Widows’ Peak
Natalie Portman – Leon: The Professional

Have I forgotten any other performances that must be included?

Is 1994 really a weak year for women in film? Or was it overhyped by critics as such? Or was eventual nominees a result of lazy voting that does not reflect the actual quality of performances that year?

I am seriously thinking of taking a look at a lot of these performances, the Oscar nominees included. We will see.

BEYOND THE BALLOT: Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Marvin’s Room (1996)

I wasn’t intending to do this as my first post for Beyond the Ballot, but being able to watch this film twice mad me realize it would be a nice start.

Marvin’s Room is a very 90s comedy-drama that is all about watching two acting legends act together, and it delivers. The film embodies its dramedy sensibility to extremes, and it is not always rewarding. Gwen Verdon’s character is mostly used for laughs, and I find her character to be the weakest link of the group. Here’s what I said about the film in my tweet/Letterboxd account:

Thank heavens for delicious sororal dynamics, meticulously crafted by Keaton/Streep, for pre-Titanic beauty of DiCaprio. Contains both broad heart-tugging & gritty specifics. These overcome the recurring (if unapologetic) sentimentality. Very 90s.

I am going to review Keaton and Streep individually.

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DIANE KEATON

ROLE: Bessie Wakefield, a caring daughter with leukemia
AWARDS: Academy Award (nom), SAG (nom), BFCA (nom)

Diane Keaton plays the daughter of his bedridden father (played by Hume Cronyn) and his fragile aunt (played by Gwen Verdon). As she does her best to take care of both, she comes to terms with her own disease that will force her to reconnect with her estranged sister.

On paper, Keaton gets the baitier role: the cancer-inflicted sister. However, she also has the burden of maneuvering her character through the screenplay’s broader dramedy strokes.

Take her first scene with her father and aunt. It hastily jumps between heartwarming drama and unsubtle humor. The tonal shifts are erratic and sloppy, to say the least. From her aunt’s self-admitted uselessness to the father’s malfunctioning bed, the scene roughly succeeds in fully nailing both.

But here’s an interesting thing about that scene, and this applies to most of her performance: Keaton lays out the humanity of her character so well, avoiding scenes from becoming an embarrassing tonal mess. It is her earnest character work that grounds each of her scenes with sincerity despite the film’s persistent preoccupation to push the dramedy hard (perhaps too hard on occasion).

Keaton also excels in keeping her character from being overly precious. Bessie is written as a selfless and caring martyr who has given up her life to her father and her aunt. There is even a scene where she opens up to Lee about her former lover, further demonstrating she lost her chance of romance. In these moments where the film turns the energy a bit down (the film tries to pump up emotions constantly) where Keaton lets her subtle emotional journey work.

Keaton knows the planned tearjerking moments of the film would not work if she has not laid out the completeness of her character. Her dynamic register of emotions, especially with Streep, make for the film’s more exciting character moments. She gets to portray the different shades of Bessie. Her character is no saint just because she is in an awful condition; her flaws as a sister and an aunt to Lee’s sons become more evident, causing her to be defensive.

In these moments, Keaton humanizes Bessie. She is as flawed and messy as her sister Lee, even if she maintains a composed and dignified facade. In her struggle with leukemia, her abrupt confrontations with mortality bring out her worst fears, and it is palpable. Keaton realizes the beating heart of her character and it shows her skillfulness in bringing out the best of the character who is clearly the emotional centerpiece of this film.

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MERYL STREEP

ROLE: Lee Wakefield Lacker, a strong-willed single mother
AWARDS: Golden Globe Drama (nom)

Meryl Streep plays the abrasive single mother who balances reconnecting to her estranged sister Bessie and his problematic son Hank (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).

In a way, Streep’s lack of the Oscar nomination: throughout most of the film, her character steps back from emotionality (which perhaps made Keaton a more obvious pick). Instead, her character’s maternal edginess brings the more abrasive moments in this soft-hearted film. It also just shows the embarrassment of riches of leading actresses in 1996 (more on that in the future).

Her first scene shows how her no-bullshit attitude. Lecturing another woman in the salon about how one should have a positive outlook. Streep owns the bluntness of her first scene and spins it to make it part of her character. She is an experienced woman, perhaps hardened by mistakes and heartbreak. Little she realizes that this is the springboard for her bigger problems: her son burns down the house and she must go back to help her sister with cancer.

Her trip back to her family would force Bessie to confront several issues. Streep maintains the edgy nature of her character. However, she expertly pulls back the layers to her character, the reasons why she maintains a tough exterior. She compensates her insecurities with a resilient face so as not to show others how injured her character is. This is where Streep’s deftness comes in: she smoothly shows the transition of her character vis-à-vis her relationship with her family.

I am still decoding Streep’s depiction of Lee’s affection for Bessie. They come to terms that they were never close, and the pretense is slowly peeled away and what is left is their honesty. We see Streep through her scenes with Keaton her own emotional journey as Lee reconnects with Bessie: the moments of discomfort, joy, and pain are all wonderfully crafted by Streep. What is also striking is the required restraint when she is with Keaton. Streep understands Lee’s place in relation to Bessie, and the drama is grounded in clear-eyed honesty.

And inasmuch as Streep does wonders with Keaton, she also does the same with DiCaprio. She plots the trajectory of Lee’s relationship with Hank with clarity. From cluelessness of Hank’s actions to a tough love meant to discipline him, Streep manages to clearly illustrate this emotional beat of the film, always making it clear that Lee’s love for Hank, though flawed, is sincere if not easily visible.

It is quite ironic that in two years’ time, Streep will also play a cancer patient (and get an Academy Award nomination) in 1998’s One True Thing. However, Streep cleverly manages to hand the spotlight most of the time to Keaton in service of the film. This move makes sense, and Streep manages to create emotionally honest moments without attempting to steal the attention from Keaton. It is a tough act to maintain one’s place in a story without demanding attention, and Streep achieves this balance.

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In both performances, Keaton and Streep give each other so much to create an engaging relationship dynamic that maximizes each other’s strengths as an actress. Both turn in lived-in performances which delightfully surprised me given how casting both suited and challenged each of them. It is a remarkable actress-actress work that feels emotionally resonant and honest.

For their respective performances, Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep both get:

69 Years of Meryl Streep

It’s Queen Meryl’s birthday!

If you know me, you know how much she means to me. One of the biggest inspirations in my life. An artist that has continually raised the standards of her craft.

I couldn’t articulate enough how much she means to me, as much as she does to millions of filmgoers around the world.

I am happy to be living in a time when she is still continues give her life to film.

I would love to meet her someday.

Meanwhile, to celebrate her birthday, here is a rundown of her 21 Academy Award nominations. (She has the most nominations for an actor, by the way).

##Ha

The Deer Hunter (1978) as LindaKramer vs. Kramer (1979) as Joanna Kramer

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) as Sarah/Anna

Sophie’s Choice (1982) as Sophie Zawitowski

Silkwood (1983) as Karen Silkwood

Out of Africa (1985) as Karen Blixen

Ironweed (1987) as Helen Archer

A Cry in the Dark (1988) as Lindy Chamberlain

Postcards from the Edge (1990) as Suzanne Vale

The Bridges of Madison County (1995) as Francesca Johnson

One True Thing (1998) as Kate Gulden

Music of the Heart (1999) as Roberta Guaspari

Adaptation. (2002) as Susan Orlean

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) as Miranda Priestly

Doubt (2008) as Sister Aloysius Beauvier

Julie & Julia (2009) as Julia Child

The Iron Lady (2011) as Margaret Thatcher

August: Osage County (2013) as Violet Weston

Into the Woods (2014) as The Witch

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) as Florence Foster Jenkins

The Post (2017) as Katherine Graham

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Which Meryl Streep performance is your favorite?

Open Thread

Hello!

I’ve got some thoughts on who to review for Beyond the Ballot. But I’d want to read your suggestions?

What Best Actress Oscar year/s would you want me to cover? Or perhaps a non-nominated female leading performance that deserves to be reviewed?

ADD: Or perhaps, a female performance campaigned as leading despite being supporting? Or vice versa? Or a performance that really defines category confusion?

Let me see your comments below!

Nine Years of Blogging

Yep, that’s me now, nine years after I first started this blog.

Back then, I was a sophomore in high school, watching films almost every day after school. With all the films I’ve been watching, I found it necessary to look online for other cinephiles as I was not contented with writing on my own journals about the films I’ve watched.

In this search, some of the first blogs I discovered were The Film Experience (whose comprehensive discussion of the Oscar race that time really interested me), Nick’s Flick Picks (whose coverage of film and actresses is something to aspire), and Alex in Movieland (whose discussion of different Best Actress years tapped into my love for acting and actresses).

Also, something happened around that time: Meryl Streep delivered her two-punch performances that forever changed things. Her work in Doubt and Julie & Julia made me realize that wow, I think this actress is fantastic. Playing characters distinctively different from each other – one a guarded depiction of traditionalist paradigm, one a joyous celebration of life and love – Queen Meryl has opened a wide array of possibilities of what film and film acting can do. She has set the standards of excellence for me, and she still continues to do so.

Feeling the need to join the discussion, I decided to put up my own blog. With no clear vision on what to do, I just started writing random posts (reviews, predictions, etc). And with the sea of bloggers discussing Best Actress around that time period (there were a lot), I felt I wasn’t alone in my love for film.

I hosted two Smackdowns (with the idea originating from Stinkylulu), pitting Best Picture nominees per year and having different bloggers vote, and then coming up with a consensus on what was the eventual winner. I did two of those: 2008 and 1995. I was so happy being able to host two, but school caught up, and I had to do less hassle things for my blog.

Then came the Best Picture Project: a seemingly deranged attempt to watch the Best Picture nominees per year and then ranking them, in the style of Alex in Movieland‘s discussion of Best Actress. I admit originality was not by strongest suit, and since I didn’t know how to do things, I just emulated what other bloggers were doing. But while almost all did Best Actress, I was doing Best Picture. It lasted for a long time: I was able to do twelve Best Picture years (you can find the link at the sidebar).

While this is all happening in my blog, I’ve started making short films in high school, and then perhaps the biggest step in my love for film happened: I applied (and eventually got in) to a film school. I got to meet so many people, became a part of a student film organization, and was able to make ‘serious’ short films, including my thesis film that I’m still very proud of.

As the rest of this are all happening, the Best Picture project waned. I’ve become more interested in doing the TFO Awards, honoring excellence in film for a specific year. This one was the most interesting for me since it forced me to watch films that I wouldn’t have normally seen. Driven by my strong opinions of shoulda been nominated, I challenged myself saying go ahead, watch more films and then you make your own awards. I’ve been doing this now for seven years, with the recently concluded 7th TFO Awards honoring 2015 in film.

Imagine that: awarding 2015 films in 2018.

The backlog was insane. Truthfully, it’s an insane task to even try watch all the best of a specific year. There is not enough time to even watch the best of a year, let alone all the best films of all time. And look at what I said:

This one was the most interesting for me since
it forced me to watch films that I wouldn’t have normally seen.

Yes, there were moments when I do feel I’m just forced to watch films since it’s for the blog. And there aren’t even a lot of readers here. But I was doing it as personal closure for years in film. Now, I’m on to hopefully finishing 2016 in film by December. But just imagine the daunting task.

Truth be told, it’s taxing to do it anymore. I mean I love film and I always will, but I miss those younger years when I was watching films because I want to and not because I have to. And no one’s even forcing me: it’s all self-inflicted responsibilities for this blog.

Add to that the fact that I’ve fallen out of my love for filmmaking and film in general due to burnout after making my thesis film. Basically, the latter half of 2016 was confusing times for my relationship with film.

Something happened in January 2017 that reignited my love for film(making): watching La La Land on the big screen.

So for the big part of 2017, I felt recharged. I got a full-time job for the first time, and it has afforded me to watch films on the big screen when I want to. I started writing scripts again, I’ve met with my friends from film school semi-regularly. Basically, just to bring the spark back to my dream while keeping it all grounded in reality.

My thesis film got minimal film festival exposure, which was nice (and it still does). But at that point, filmmaking wasn’t the biggest dream anymore. How ironic for someone who cannot dream of anything to do except making films when I was still in high school.

However, after more than a year, something happened again. In February of 2018, I:

  • watched I, Tonya on the big screen and discovered this thing called figure skating and it just thrilled me;
  • watched the 2018 Canadian Nationals free skate of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge!, and;
  • watched the 2018 US Nationals short program of Adam Rippon. You know, just owning the ice and being out and proud.

You do get to watch a lot of things when you are unemployed. I discovered something that I really love now: figure skating.

I even enrolled in figure skating lessons, and I intend to pursue doing the higher levels. It’s taking most of my time now, and I’d rather do off-ice exercises than watch a film.

I’ve even done this just for fun.

And we go back to the 7th TFO Awards: just like its previous edition, it was supposed to have video presentations, just like the Academy Awards. However, I grew tired of it. Was my love of film starting to dissipate?

I don’t think so, but now I’m starting to prioritize more.

Obviously, I think I’m over the phase of doing the Best Picture Project. Watching the pantheon of Best Picture nominees at the Oscars doesn’t interest me that much anymore (even if I memorized all the nominees just for fun).

Do I still want to watch films per year to determine my personal choices, hence the TFO Awards? Yes, although I won’t be as crazy as watching 200+ films, I hope.

I found myself asking this question: what’s something in film that still has my passion and interest?

There are two categories at the Academy Awards that has interested me the most: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

The former because there is so much cinema has to offer rather than just sticking yourself to Hollywood. Representation matters, and in this world we live in right now where there is so much divisiveness and othering, it’s important to know and discover how multi-faceted the human experience is.

Human experience is not just the white American experience.

There is the European experience, the Latino experience, the Asian experience, the African experience, the Australian experience, the indigenous peoples’ experience. And cinema has the capability to do that. And while the Best Foreign Language Film category is not without its flaws, it’s a great starting point to explore what is going on around the world in relation to world cinema. Special mention also to the Best Documentary Feature category.

Now, the latter. Best Actress.

Again, representation matters. With the colossal shift caused by the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, we are having conversations about women now more than ever. Lack of (leading) roles for women, gender pay gap, sexual harassment allegations – issues of women, LGBTQ+, and minorities have been put to the center of spotlight for the first time in Hollywood, and let’s do our best to keep the conversation going and the change coming.

That leads me to what I’m about to do in this blog.

I’m tracking the Best Actress contenders per year, starting back from 2009 (the first year I blogged) all the way to 1927/28, the first year of the Academy Awards. Yes, from the supposed snubs, runners-up, long shots, up to the longer shots with eligible films.

And no, I’m not attempting to watch them all. Of course, I cannot. However, I want to take a look at how the roles of women in film have evolved. And I’m talking about the quality, quantity, and diversity of roles eligible for the Academy Awards.

From the years called the strongest (1950, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1987, 1995, 2006) to the weakest (1953, 1970, 1975, 1984, 1994, 2003, 2005), I would like to see how far we have come in terms of representation of women in film vis-à-vis the Academy Awards.

And I would want to see: are those “weak years” a result of lack of good performances of women in film? Or perhaps good roles for women? Or perhaps it’s the laziness of the Academy to look for outside-the-box choices to fill the final five? Or perhaps the laziness of Hollywood to even make films with women at the center? Or maybe the critical reception at time affected it (remember: majority of film critics are white male)?

Part of me thinks there is a smidge of sexism in these claims, but we’ll see. With that, I’ll try doing something

I’m calling this non-committal project (of sorts):

Best Actress nominees as well as contenders will be reviewed and given performance profiles. I’m still thinking whether it would be a written blog post (normal, easier) or a video essay (time and effort consuming; I haven’t tried it).

Performances will then be rated, with increments of 0.5 (if only necessary), but here’s the general grading system (with some random rambling about the rating):

5
FOR THE AGES/FANTASTIC
achieves high level of excellence in film acting
with skill and over-all emotional impact

4
GREAT
my enthusiasm isn’t as sky high as the ones above,
but distinctive and remarkable in its own right

3
VERY GOOD
there is so much to respect and even like with
the work despite noticeable flaws and/or limitations

2
OKAY
major problems exist, but okay to good OR
lacking but with shining moments

1
BAD
either squandered potential with objectionable acting choices
or not even trying to elevate awful material; despicable

I’m not really hard to please, so you may notice if I would get too generous, but I’ll do my best to keep things in perspective. (Objectivity in film criticism is almost a myth).

I’d want to watch films because I want to, not because I need to. And that is how I would roll with this endeavor. I’ve seen myself getting exhausted of the rigid per year thing (and I’ve seen other blogs struggle with that as well), and I’d just want to do something that I would like to do.

Props to the wonderful blog Oscargasms who does diligent Oscar coverage, starting from the 1920s as he works his way to the present years. I have come across his blog during my blogging drought and has truly inspired me to write again (I hope).

So I’m hoping to revive this blog. Yikes, I wouldn’t even be able to regularly post here (I’ve tried to do that several times since this blog went dormant).

And just to quote the legendary film critic Roger Ebert, another inspiring figure of film criticism:

I’ll see you at the movies.

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Juan Carlos Ojano

The Final Oscar

7th TFO Awards: Live Online Awards Marathon

Here are the list of winners for the 7th TFO Awards, honoring excellence in film for the year 2015.

The winners per category are listed in bold.

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Emory Cohen – Brooklyn
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Michael Keaton – Spotlight
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed

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Best Achievement in Costume Design – Period

  • Carol – Sandy Powell
  • Cinderella – Sandy Powell
  • Far from the Madding Crowd – Janet Patterson
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Joanna Johnston

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Best Achievement in Costume Design – Contemporary

  • Chi-Raq – Ruth E. Carter
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service – Arianne Phillips
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Louise Stjernsward
  • What We Do in the Shadows – Amanda Neale
  • Youth – Carlo Poggioli

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Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

  • The Danish Girl – Jan Sewell
  • In the Heart of the Sea – Fae Hammond
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Damian Martin, Lesley Vanderwalt, and Elka Wardega
  • Holmes – Dave Elsey
  • The Revenant – Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, and Robert Pandini

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Best Achievement in Sound Editing

  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Mark A. Mangini and David White
  • The Revenant – Martin Hernández and Lon Bender
  • Sicario – Alan Robert Murray
  • Son of Saul – Tamás Székely and Tamás Zányi
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Matthew Wood and David Acord

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Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

  • Ex Machina – Mitch Low, Ian Tapp, and Niv Adiri
  • Love & Mercy – Edward Tide, Chris Jenkins, and Eugene Gearty
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, and Ben Osmo
  • The Revenant – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, and Chris Duesterdiek
  • Son of Saul – Tamás Dévényi and András Kálmán

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Best Achievement in Visual Effects

  • Ex Machina – Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett, Paul Norris, and Andrew Whitehurst
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Andrew Jackson, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams, and Tom Wood
  • The Revenant – Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, and Cameron Waldbauer
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Chris Corbould, Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, and Neal Scanlan
  • The Walk – Kevin Baillie, Jim Gibbs, Viktor Muller, and Sébastien Moreau

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Jessica Chastain – Crimson Peak
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Cynthia Nixon – James White
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Rachel Weisz – Youth

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Best Achievement in Production Design – Contemporary

  • Beasts of No Nation
    Production Design by Inbal Weinberg; Set Decoration by Katie Hickman
  • Ex Machina
    Production Design by Mark Digby; Set Decoration by Michelle Day
  • The Martian
    Production Design by Arthur Max; Set Decoration by Celia Bobak and Zoltán Horváth
  • Spotlight
    Production Design by Stephen H. Carter; Set Decoration by Shane Vieau
  • Youth
    Production Design by Ludovica Ferrario; Set Decoration by Noel Godfrey

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Best Achievement in Production Design – Period

  • The Assassin
    Production Design by Huang Wen-Ying
  • Carol
    Production Design by Judy Becker; Set Decoration by Heather Loeffler
  • Cinderella
    Production Design by Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration by Francesca Loschiavo-Ferretti
  • Crimson Peak
    Production Design by Tom Sanders; Set Decoration by Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shave Vieau
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
    Production Design by Colin Gibson; Set Decoration by Lisa Thomspon

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Best Achievement in Stunt Coordination

  • Creed – Clayton J. Barber
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service – Brad Allan and Adam Kirley
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Guy Norris
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Wade Eastwood
  • The Revenant – Scott Ateah, Doug Coleman, Brian Machleit, and Mark Vanselow

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Best Animated Feature

  • Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
  • The Boy and the Beast – Mamoru Hosoda
  • Boy and the World – Alê Abreu
  • Inside Out – Pete Docter
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie – Mark Burton and Richard Starzak

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Best Achievement in Casting

  • Beasts of No Nation – Harrison Nesbit
  • Brooklyn – Fiona Weir
  • Carol – Laura Rosenthal
  • Spotlight – Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee
  • Straight Outta Compton – Cindy Tolan and Victoria Thomas

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Best Achievement in Music – Original Song

  • “Fighting Stronger” – Creed
    Music and Lyric by Ludwig Göransson and Ryan Coogler
  • “I’ll See You in My Dreams” – I’ll See You in My Dreams
    Music and Lyric by Keegan DeWitt
  • “Pray 4 the City” – Chi-Raq
    Music and Lyric by Rico Cox, Robert Amparan, Leroy Griffin, Jr., and Nick Cannon
  • “Simple Song # 3” – Youth
    Music and Lyric by David Lang
  • “Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
    Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren

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Best Performance by an Acting Ensemble

  • The Big Short – Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Karen Gillan, Ryan Gosling, Max Greenfield, Melissa Leo, Tracy Letts, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Billy Magnussen, Byron Mann, Adepero Oduye, Brad Pitt, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock
  • The Club – Marcelo Alonso, Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Alejandro Goic, Francisco Reyes, Alejandro Sieveking, José Soza, Jaime Vadell, Antonia Zegers
  • The Farewell Party – Josef Carmon, Ilan Dar, Levana Finkelshtein, Ze’ev Revach, Aliza Rosen, Hilla Surjon, Rafi Tabor
  • Spotlight – Len Cariou, Michael Countryman, Billy Crudup, Michael Cyril Greighton, Paul Guilfoyle, Neal Huff, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, James LeBlanc, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Jamey Sheridan, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci
  • The Stanford Prison Experiment – Michael Angarano, Moises Arias, Matt Bennett, Nicholas Braun, Jesse Carere, Gaius Charles, Billy Crudup, Brett Davern, Nelsan Ellis, James Frecheville, Keir Gilchrist, Miles Heizer, Jack Kilmer, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Mann, Callan McAuliffe, Ezra Miller, Logan Miller, Benedict Samuel, Chris Sheffield, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Harrison Thomas, James Wolk

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Best Achievement in Music – Adapted or Song Score

  • Dope – Mimi Valdes and Germaine Franco
  • Joy – Susan Jacobs, David Campbell, and West Dylan Thordson
  • The Last Five Years – Lawrence Manchester and Jason Robert Brown
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Randall Poster, Brian Eno, and Nico Muhly
  • Youth – David Lang

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Best Achievement in Music – Original Score

  • Carol – Carter Burwell
  • The Danish Girl – Alexandre Desplat
  • Inside Out – Michael Giacchino
  • Sicario – Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • Spotlight – Howard Shore

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Best Documentary Feature

  • 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets – Marc Silver
  • The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer
  • An Open Secret – Amy Berg
  • The Russian Woodpecker – Chad Gracia
  • Winter of Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – Evgeny Afineevsky

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Best Achievement in Cinematography

  • Carol – Ed Lachman
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
  • The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Sicario – Roger Deakins
  • Son of Saul – Mátyás Erdély

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Best Achievement in Film Editing

  • Carol – Affonso Gonçalves
  • Creed – Claudia S. Castello and Michael P. Shawver
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
  • Sicario – Joe Walker
  • Spotlight – Tom McArdle

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Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga
    Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala
  • Brooklyn – Nick Hornby
    Based on the novel by Colm Tóibín
  • Carol – Phyllis Nagy
    Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  • Room – Emma Donaghue
    Based on her novel Room
  • What We Do in the Shadows – Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
    Based on their short film What We Do in the Shadows: Interviews with Some Vampires

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Best Original Screenplay

  • 10,000 KM – Carlos Marques-Marcet and Clara Roquet
  • Appropriate Behavior – Desiree Akhavan
  • Ex Machina – Alex Garland
  • Inside Out – Story by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen
    Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley
  • Spotlight – Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

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Best Achievement in Directing

  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • László Nemes – Son of Saul
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy – The Tribe

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Tom Hardy – Legend
  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Michael B. Jordan – Creed
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

  • Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Cate Blanchett – Truth
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn

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Best Motion Picture

  • Carol – Elizabeth Karlsen, Christine Vachon, and Stephen Woolley
  • Creed – Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Kevin King-Templeton, Sylvester Stallone, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler
  • Inside Out – Jonas Rivera
  • The Look of Silence – Signe Byrge Sørensen
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller, Doug Mitchell, and PJ Voeten
  • An Open Secret – Amy Berg and Katelyn Howes
  • Sicario – Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward L. McDonnell, and Molly Smith
  • Son of Saul – Gábor Rajna and Gábor Sipos
  • Spotlight – Byle Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, and Michael Sugar
  • The Tribe – Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy and Valentyn Vasyanovych

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Thanks for reading. See you at the next TFO Awards!