Saturday, March 3, 2012

The magnificence of Meryl...

Although it's been nearly a week since the Oscars, I absolutely could not let my excitement about Meryl Streep's Best Actress win go unmentioned. Although she had been nominated a record 17 times, and won a number of Golden Globe Awards and other honors, she actually hadn't won an Oscar since 1982, when she was honored for her brilliant work in Sophie's Choice.

For many, this Oscar win was a surprise, as conventional wisdom thought that Viola Davis might win Best Actress for her excellent performance in The Help. That was more of an ensemble picture than The Iron Lady, plus Academy voters love rewarding actors and actresses both for biographical pictures as well as those whose characters suffer from some sort of illness, and Streep did both.

The fact is, Meryl Streep was long overdue for a third Oscar. While she gives brilliant performances in nearly every movie she's in, over the years she has given performances that might have been Oscar wins in a different year, or if she wasn't nominated alongside another award-worthy actress.

Some of her best performances in recent years included the comic and poignant Postcards from the Edge in 1990 (she lost to Kathy Bates' unhinged fan in Misery); the heartbreaking One True Thing in 1998, where she played a mother suffering from cancer (she lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love); her flirty, complex portrayal of author Susan Orlean in Adaptation in 2002 (she lost to Catherine Zeta-Jones' Velma Kelly in Chicago); the hard-as-nails and funny-as-hell Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada in 2006 (she lost to Queen Elizabeth, Helen Mirren, for The Queen); the no-nonsense Sister Aloysius in Doubt in 2008 (Kate Winslet finally won her Oscar for The Reader); and the beloved Julia Child in Julie and Julia in 2009 (she lost to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side). And she wasn't even nominated for her brilliant work in The Hours in 2002.

For an actress of Streep's stature, by all accounts, she is a tremendously funny, gracious, and generous person. On the awards circuit this year, she told many people she was pulling for Viola Davis (the two acted together in Doubt). Just after the Oscars this week, it was announced that Streep donated $10,000 to a Rhode Island Upward Bound Scholarship Fund in honor of Davis, who established the fund with her sister in 1988. Streep also donated $10,000 to the Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, RI, where Davis grew up.

And how can you not love and respect a woman who has used the same hairdresser and makeup artist on every movie since 1982, someone she has known for 37 years? She made a point of thanking J. Roy Helland in her acceptance speech. (Helland also won an Oscar for his work on The Iron Lady.)

Streep was at her self-deprecating best during her acceptance speech, which I've included below. And even if she's correct, that she'll never win another Oscar, I hope she continues delivering exceptional performances and being a role model for other actors—and human beings.

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