Best Picture Nominees (2009-2016), RANKED

Since the Academy Awards reinstated the expanded Best Picture field in the 82nd Academy Awards (2009 in film), a system implemented during from 1930s to mid-1940s, the Academy has nominated 72 films for the awards’ highest honor.

Now in its eighth year, this new system has produced some of the most out-there choices, films that would not have gone anywhere near the Best Picture race had it stayed the traditional five nominees, as well as some stinkers that benefitted from the increased number of slots in the category.

Here is my ranking of the 72 Best Picture nominees from 2009 to 2016:

Gravity (2013) and Spotlight (2015) – the best nominee and the best winner of this category since the expanded category began in 2009.

BEST OF THE BEST
1. Gravity (2013)
2. Spotlight (2015) – WINNER
3. La La Land (2016)
4. Arrival (2016)
5. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) – WINNER
6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)
8. Amour (2012)
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
10. The Tree of Life (2011)
11. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
12. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
13. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
14. Inception (2010)
15. Black Swan (2010)
16. Whiplash (2014)
17. The Artist (2011) – WINNER
18. The Hurt Locker (2009) – WINNER
19. Up (2009)
20. Hell or High Water (2016)
21. 12 Years a Slave (2013) – WINNER
22. Les Miserables (2012)
23. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
24. The Revenant (2015)
25. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
26. Selma (2014)
27. Up in the Air (2009)

Relatively young production/distribution company A24 scored back-to-back nominations with Room (2015) and Moonlight (2016), with the latter becoming a landmark Best Picture winner.

GREAT CHOICES
28. The King’s Speech (2010) – WINNER
29. Room (2015)
30. Moonlight (2016) – WINNER
31. The Martian (2015)
32. The Fighter (2010)
33. Her (2013)
34. The Social Network (2010)
35. Toy Story 3 (2010)
36. Brooklyn (2015)
37. Hugo (2011)
38. Midnight in Paris (2011)
39. Nebraska (2013)
40. District 9 (2009)
41. Captain Phillips (2013)
42. Lincoln (2012)
43. Lion (2015)
44. An Education (2009)
45. True Grit (2010)

EARNED THOSE BEST PICTURE NOMINATIONS
46. Life of Pi (2012)
47. Boyhood (2014)
48. Hidden Figures (2016)
49. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
50. A Serious Man (2009)
51. Winter’s Bone (2010)
52. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
53. Fences (2016)
54. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
55. Philomena (2013)
56. The Imitation Game (2014)
57. Moneyball (2011)
58. The Kids are All Right (2010)
59. The Help (2011)
60. 127 Hours (2010)
61. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
62. American Hustle (2013)

STRIKING MERITS DESPITE MY INDIFFERENCE (ON VARYING LEVELS)
63. Argo (2012) – WINNER
64. The Big Short (2015)
65. American Sniper (2014)
66. Django Unchained (2012)
67. Avatar (2009)
68. War Horse (2011)

I WON’T CHOOSE THEM, BUT I UNDERSTAND THE MENTION
69. The Theory of Everything (2014)
70. The Descendants (2011)

THOSE BAD APPLES FROM THE BUNCH – WHY?
71. Bridge of Spies (2015)
72. The Blind Side (2009)

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RANKED: Academy Award-Nominated Performances (2010-2015)

As you may have noticed, the blog has been in an indefinite hiatus (are you still there?). Now having some free time, I’ve decided to take things slowly and start writing a bit more. I haven’t stopped watching films, but I’ve ventured on a project that went way out of control (specifically, the Annual TFO Awards).

Meanwhile…

Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience have posted his personal ranking of all the 120 Academy Award-nominated performances from 2010 to 2015. For your enjoyment, here is the (very well-edited) video ranking of Ali Benzekri posted on Vimeo accompanying his post:

After reading their fascinating rankings, I was like “why not?” I have seen all 120 performances, and here is my ranking as of August 22, 2016; I’m quite sure this ranking would change any other day.

Here is my personal ranking of the nominated performances:

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BEST OF THE BEST

  1. Cate Blanchett as Jeanette “Jasmine” French in Blue JasmineWINNER
  2. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron LadyWINNER
  3. Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne in Gone Girl
  4. Marion Cotillard as Sandra Bya in Two Days, One Night
  5. Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird in Carol
  6. Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The ArtistWINNER
  7. Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in Black SwanWINNER
  8. Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master
  9. Emmanuelle Riva as Anne Laurent in Amour
  10. Michelle Williams as Cindy Heller in Blue Valentine
  11. Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol
  12. Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark in The Help
  13. Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman
  14. J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher in WhiplashWINNER
  15. Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in Gravity
  16. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
  17. Naomi Watts as Maria Bennett in The Impossible
  18. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  19. Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome in RoomWINNER
  20. Jacki Weaver as Janine “Cody” Smurf in Animal Kingdom
  21. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn
  22. Bradley Cooper as Patrizio “Pat Solitano, Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  23. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years
  24. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd in The Master
  25. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The RevenantWINNER
  26. Nicole Kidman as Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole
  27. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave
  28. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network
  29. Javier Bardem as Uxbal in Biutiful
  30. Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans in BoyhoodWINNER
  31. Edward Norton as Mike Shiner in Birdman
  32. Sally Hawkins as Ginger in Blue Jasmine
  33. Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener in The Danish GirlWINNER
  34. Meryl Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County
  35. Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les MiserablesWINNER
  36. Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote in The Help
  37. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed
  38. Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund-Ward in The FighterWINNER

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ROCK SOLID

  1. Julianne Moore as Alice Daly-Howland in Still AliceWINNER
  2. Demian Bichir as Carlos Galindo in A Better Life
  3. Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald in The Revenant
  4. Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy
  5. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  6. Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech
  7. Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings PlaybookWINNER
  8. Bradley Cooper as Richard “Richie” DiMaso in American Hustle
  9. Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave
  10. Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston-Fordham in August: Osage County
  11. Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
  12. Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman
  13. Max von Sydow as The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  14. Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild
  15. Helen Hunt as Cheryl Cohen-Greene in The Sessions
  16. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s SpeechWINNER
  17. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables
  18. Christoph Waltz as King Schultz in Django UnchainedWINNER
  19. Mark Ruffalo as Michael “Mike” Rezendes in Spotlight
  20. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs
  21. Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  22. Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian
  23. Melissa McCarthy as Megan Price in Bridesmaids
  24. Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser/Edith Greensly in American Hustle
  25. John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
  26. Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in LincolnWINNER
  27. Annette Bening as Nicole “Nic” Allgood in The Kids are All Right
  28. Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey in 12 Years a SlaveWINNER
  29. Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  30. Bruce Dern as Woodrow “Woody” Grant in Nebraska
  31. Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs
  32. Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming in The Fighter
  33. Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The FighterWINNER
  34. Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson in The HelpWINNER
  35. Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Jr. in Boyhood
  36. Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street
  37. James Franco as Aaron Ralston in 127 Hours
  38. Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone
  39. Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
  40. Benedict Cumberbatch as Aaron Turing in The Imitation Game
  41. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball
  42. Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse in Captain Phillips
  43. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight
  44. Christopher Plummer as Hal Fields in BeginnersWINNER
  45. Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
  46. Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game
  47. Jacki Weaver as Dolores Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook

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GOOD CHOICES, THOUGH NOT MY FAVORITES

  1. Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde-Hawking in The Theory of Everything
  2. Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena
  3. Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of EverythingWINNER
  4. George Clooney as Matthew King in The Descendants
  5. Laura Dern as Bobbi Grey in Wild
  6. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight
  7. Meryl Streep as The Witch in Into the Woods
  8. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper
  9. June Squibb as Kate Grant in Nebraska
  10. Steve Carell as John Du Pont in Foxcatcher
  11. Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs in Albert Nobbs
  12. Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle
  13. Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn
  14. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln
  15. Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit
  16. Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn
  17. Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in The Artist
  18. Denzel Washington as William “Whip” Whitaker, Sr. in Flight
  19. Robert De Niro as Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  20. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit
  21. Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz in Foxcatcher
  22. Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech
  23. Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon in Warrior
  24. Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle

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I’M OKAY WITH THEM… I GUESS?

  1. Amy Adams as Margaret “Peggy” Dodd in The Master
  2. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln
  3. Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short
  4. Jeremy Renner as James “Jem” Coughlin in The Town
  5. Mary Rylance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of SpiesWINNER
  6. Janet McTeer as Hubert Page in Albert Nobbs
  7. Mark Ruffalo as Paul Hatfield in The Kids are All Right

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NOT BAD, BUT UNNECESSARILY NOMINATED

  1. Robert Duvall as Joseph Palmer in The Judge
  2. Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball
  3. Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo
  4. Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel in Argo

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NOTES ON THE RANKING:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Highest-ranked  winner: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn (# 101)
Lowest-ranked winner: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (# 45)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Highest-ranked winner: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (# 119)
Lowest-ranked winner: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (# 88)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Rooney Mara in Carol (# 11)
Highest-ranked winner: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (# 30)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs (# 115)
Lowest-ranked winner: Octavia Spencer in The Help (# 73)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Highest-ranked winner: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Alan Arkin in Argo (# 120)
Lowest-ranked winner: Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (# 114)

Strongest Year in…
Best Actress: 2015 (# 5, # 19, # 21, # 23, # 43)
Best Actor: 2011 (# 6, # 41, # 68, # 80, # 89)
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 (# 11, # 33, # 70, # 82, # 91)
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 (# 47, # 48, # 60, # 75, # 81)

Weakest Year in…
Best Actress: 2011 (# 2, # 12, # 44, # 96, # 101)
Best Actor: 2015 (# 25, # 48, # 61, # 78, # 119)
Best Supporting Actress: 2011 (# 36, # 62, # 73, # 102, # 115)
Best Supporting Actor: 2012 (# 24, # 57 # 104, # 111, # 120)

Ranking the categories be like:
Best Actress: 2015 > 2010 > 2012 > 2014 > 2013 > 2011
Best Actor: 2011  > 2014 > 2012 > 2010 > 2013 > 2015
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 > 2014 > 2013 > 2010 > 2012 > 2011
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 > 2015 > 2010 > 2014 > 2011 > 2012

Over-all ranking be like:
Actress > Supporting Actress > Actor > Supporting Actor

Performance Profile: Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)

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Role: Nina Sayers, a mentally unstable and fragile ballerina

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Black Swan is a thrillingly orchestrated psychological horror-thriller anchored on a powerful performance by Natalie Portman (more on that later). From the director of the modern classic Requiem for a Dream Darren Aronofsky, the film is an engaging depiction of the downward spiral a perfectionist ballerina experiences when she wins the lead role in Swan Lake. Technically, the film is flawless: the beautifully choreographed cinematography, on-point editing, intriguing sound design, and the iconic make-up.

How does Natalie Portman enter the film?

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Her character enters exactly the moment where the film starts. In a riveting dream sequence, Sayers dances the role of the White Swan as she is suddenly tormented by Rothbart, the terrifying antagonist in Swan Lake. This scene already embodies the majority of what to expect in this performance: a mix of technical and emotional complexity. (And the dance double is not an issue to me, by the way.)

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As stated above, the film really anchors on the character of Sayers, the troubled ballerina. First of all, this is a case of great casting: Portman always had the ‘good girl’ image that fits the character so well, but she is also more than that. To add to that, she already enjoys the advantage of being the sole lead actor in the film; everyone else is in the background, therefore giving her more opportunities to shine.

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And the film never falters to give her moments to relish as an actress. This is a flashy character to play, but the writing is not really the film’s strongest point. The film has a tendency to overdo the simplistic depiction of good vs. evil, so it is left to Portman to emphasize on small moments to provide nuances to the character to eventually build it in small moments even before the showier scenes come.

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Portman successfully careful calibrates the performance with humanity and believability. The story takes the character to haywire moments, but Portman makes those scenes even more terrifying because she has effectively earned our empathy.

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Her frustration, helplessness, jealousy, and confusion all feel real. These are all effective because we have seen her from the beginning, the innocent Nina, up to when she starts to lose grip of sanity. This makes the psychological turmoil more felt and tangible.

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Portman’s slow metamorphosis both as a ballerina and as an innocent girl is credible and engaging. As her character actively and reactively changes the course of her fate, She maintains a steady grip of understanding of the character as the narrative progresses.

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She brings the human part of the film amidst the entire spectacle. The character must have been difficult to play because it is all about everything around her going out of control and abnormal, and yet it is her character that brings the reality that we need for the whole roller-coaster narrative to work.

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Portman nails the big moments of the character. It is in the last thirty minutes of the film where she gets to highest peaks of this performance. This is where the film goes blurry within reality and fantasy, the horror in her mind and the monsters around her. This is the make-or-break turn of the film, and it all succeeds because the film is so well-directed and because Portman keeps it all together.

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Upon repeated viewing, while everyone during the 2010 awards season was all about Portman’s dancing in the film, it is actually the non-dancing scenes that stick with me the most. Sure, she is a really believable ballerina, but I tend to notice more the emotional complications the characters was set to have rather than the technical aspect of it which is the dancing part. Portman’s performance survives the craziness of the film and emerges as an acting triumph.

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ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES, 2009-2015, RANKED:

  1. Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)
  2. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.

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Film stills courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended. 

Performance Profile: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Role: Tiffany Maxwell, an edgy and uneasy young widow
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Silver Linings Playbook is a gem of the romantic drama-comedy genre. With an ace cast and a surefire screenplay and direction from David O. Russell, the film is indeed packed with moments of superb filmmaking. Bradley Cooper is mighty fine in the lead role of Pat Solitano, Jr., the conflicted man who returns after being institutionalized due to a violent meltdown. The rest of the cast are as strong as he is including Robert De Niro as the superstitious father and especially Jacki Weaver as the loving mother.

So where does Jennifer Lawrence enter in the picture?

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Her character enters the film when the plot is already in full speed. She enters in the film in the 25th minute mark following an intriguing briefing to Solitano. I’m not buying the category fraud argument; though the film centers on the plight of Solitano, the film is a romance, and in this case, the film anchors its narrative on the relationship of the couple, so both Solitano and Maxwell are crucial to the story; therefore, both leading.

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Anyway, back to the performance: it’s a beautiful set-up because in a brief amount of time, we are already informed of who she is and who she might be since it’s all in the first impressions level. With the sharp line delivery and all-natural gestures, Lawrence easily glides through her entrance in the film without obstructing the rhythm previously set before she even enters the film.

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As the film progresses, we also get to know her history: her emotional wounds because of the death of her husband, the promiscuous behavior due to depression, the hinted problems within her family, her sister’s superiority to her. These are all points we discover about Tiffany in the brief amount of time (after her first appearance, we only get to see when she runs with Solitano).

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However, she does not want to be judged. In an explosive confrontation scene, she vents her anger to Solitano after a failed dinner with him. It’s a powerfully acted scene; Lawrence releases an emotional force through her emotive face and voice. Her anger, frustration, and feeling of betrayal are all delivered so well.

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There is also the story about her being the messenger to Solitano and his wife. Some might initially read it as Maxwell’s way of trying to dominate Solitano by making him do the dance because of the letter, but upon rewatching and seeing the nuances Lawrence underlines with those scenes, it’s actually an act of desperation on her part (probably hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film). In those small moments of quietness, Lawrence makes use of these small pauses to show the nervousness and the uncertainty that her character goes through.

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But it is not always drama. The film is a romantic comedy too, and she more than lives up to it. She also utilizes her sharp line delivery to highlight the film’s brilliant dark humor. She has some difficult dialogue to handle, and she delivers them with pitch-perfect timing.

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She also has evident chemistry with co-star Bradley Cooper (I don’t mind the age gap, I don’t mind the casting choice). This is the reason why the romance works because both give strong performances, and they have the chemistry that makes the romance works. Both are troubled souls, but they compliment each other – Solitano is the lost one who actually can say what he wants to happen (to be reunited with his wife), while Maxwell buries all her doubts and self-doubts with the tough façade as she serves as his guide towards healing and recovery.

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Upon rewatching, I get to appreciate more how Lawrence raises empathy by not being afraid to show the vulnerable side of Maxwell despite the character’s edgy nature. It’s just too easy to play this character one-note; Tiffany Maxwell is such a badass character that any less talented actress could merely simplify the intricacies of the character. But alas, Lawrence makes the character three-dimensional and complex.

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When she surrenders her emotions, it’s just a blast (the running scene at the end of the film is a great actressing moment).

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Something is holding me back, though. Everything about Silver Linings Playbook is so good and there are just so many things happening around her that I tend to lose my focus on her. That’s not Lawrence’s fault, and I won’t take anything against her; that’s just how brilliant the film is in everything. It’s as if the film is split into two parts: the familial drama and the romantic comedy, and both works so well and compliments each other.

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She’s probably not the best among the cast nor is her character the most important (that would be Cooper’s Solitano), but Lawrence has the most exciting character and is the most memorable part of it because she is electrifying and terrific.

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ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES, 2009-2015, RANKED:

  1. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.

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Film stills courtesy of The Weinstein Company. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended.