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Longlists to Nominees: Actress

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We’re in the home-stretch now. And, thankfully, this category is pretty cut-and-dried. I wish there was more competition, but I think I can pick a very satisfactory final five out of this group. So let’s to it.

  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
  • Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers)
  • Olga Kurylenko (To the Wonder)
  • Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
  • Rooney Mara (Side Effects)
  • Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  • Tashiana Washington (Gimme the Loot)

For these last four articles, I’m going straight to the longlists. No precursor lists, no auto-ons, no auto-offs. We’ve got 10 performances and 5 slots.

  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Even given my issues with the film, I won’t deny she does a hell of a job here. She has to carry the film mostly single-handed, goes through a physical and emotional gamut, and pulls it off extremely well. Absolutely worth the nomination.

  • Judi Dench (Philomena)

It really is a strong performance she gives here. She doesn’t play up the cuteness of the character, but finds a happy balance. She’s totally believable from start to finish. Will I nominate her? Quite possibly. It depends, but I’m quite happy the Academy went with her (over, say, Emma Thompson).

  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)

I was so, so, so happy when the Golden Globes nominated her. And, watching that clip, I’m reminded why. Because, even though it’s a comedy, even though the absurdity of Frances’ existence–caught between twenty-something bohemianism and “adulthood”–is often played for laughs, here Gerwig also gets at how poignant Frances’ frustrations really are, trying to define her ideal partner to an indifferent audience, grasping for words, possibly on the verge of laughter, possibly on the verge of tears. So, she’s on. No question. And if I needed another reason–I didn’t nominate her for Damsels in Distress last year.

  • Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers)

I couldn’t really find a clip that singled out Hudgens’ performance, and that’s telling; the four girls in the film really work as an ensemble. They’re good individually, but it’s as a quartet, then a trio, then a duet that they truly work.  If I was to nominate anyone, it would be Selena Gomez (and she would be Supporting), but Hudgens, good as she is, doesn’t make the cut.

  • Olga Kurylenko (To the Wonder)

Again, not really a performance you can nominate, but she did a good job. I honestly remember Rachel McAdams’ character more, but Kurylenko managed to go beyond what could been a one-dimensional free-spirit role. She’s worth citing.

  • Brie Larson (Short Term 12)

I’d heard big things about this performance well before I saw the film, and…they were all true. Seriously, Larson is absolutely phenomenal here. Grace, as the film reveals, is as seriously troubled as many of her charges, and Larson plays it as clearly and honestly as you could ever hope for. The Academy truly fucked up in overlooking her. Stunning, stunning work. On the list.

  • Rooney Mara (Side Effects)

Not the most representative clip for this performance (the clip I used for Catherine Zeta-Jones in Supporting is better), but it’ll serve. Mara does quite well here, and she also was good in her brief role in Her. (I haven’t seen Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.) It’s a nice performance that reveals more layers as more layers of the story are revealed. For a nomination, though…this isn’t The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m not really compelled to go with it.

  • Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color)

What Seimetz does here is hard to appreciate in excerpt, but her investment in the role, her buying totally into material that, on paper, seems absurd, is a huge part of what makes the film work at all. Kris goes through a lot over the course of the film, and Seimetz’ performance helps us feel the weight of it, giving an emotional grounding to a potentially alienating film, and helping elevate it to greatness. She’s on.

  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Ah, Meryl. Of course she’s great here–but of course, the role of Violet Weston is so good, you’d have to try to fuck it up. But I’m not nominating her. She’s obviously done as good if not better work over the last 35 years. If I ever get around to doing my Awards for years past (as I hope to do), she’ll have ample opportunities to get recognized. If there was a little less competition, I’d go for her, but as it is, it’s not happening.

  • Tashiana Washington (Gimme the Loot)

It’s a really fun little film, and Washington is really, really good in it–the film doesn’t shy away from showing the difficulties Sofia has being accepted into the male-dominated world of graffiti, but Washington, with her low-key toughness and humor, keeps it from becoming from becoming self-serious.  It’s just an immensely likable performance. I’m definitely going to consider her.

So, we’ve got Bullock, Gerwig, Larson, and Seimetz as locks. But do I go with Dench or Washington for the final slot? Do I go with the old pro or the newcomer?

Dench may be more technically assured, but she plays a gentle-natured old woman, while Washington is playing a teenager, with the attendant self-consciousness and impulsiveness–so really, both performances are spot-on for what they are.

Dench may have a wider range of emotions to play, but is that the only criteria by which a performance may be judged? Washington embodies the spirit of her film, and that’s not to be ignored.

Really, I could go either way. My first instinct is to spread the love and take Washington. My second instinct is to take Dench, because she’s great. This is, honestly, almost a coin-toss situation. I could drop one of my four locks–but why would I do that? Seriously, though…this is tough.

For the time being, I’ll take Dench, but I’m keeping Washington on hand as a potential replacement, pending my seeing Gimme the Loot again.

So…

  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
  • Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
  • Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color)
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