It may have taken Kate Winslet six tries before she finally won an Oscar in 2008 for "The Reader," but she is expected to prevail in just her second Emmy contest (she was a 2006 guest comedy nominee for "Extras") for playing the title role in the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce."
In the race for Best Movie/Mini Actress, she faces off against three women who all lost their sole Oscar bids and are now first-time Emmy contenders as well -- Diane Lane ("Cinema Verite"), Elizabeth McGovern ("Downton Abbey") and Taraji P. Henson ("Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story") -- as well as Jean Marsh who reprises her Emmy-winning role in the reboot of "Upstairs, Downstairs."
Marsh, who co-created the series with Eileen Atkins, won the second of her three Best Drama Actress bids back in 1975. The show won Best Drama three times and Limited Series once. It contends this time around in the combined Movie/Mini race. Atkins, who did not appear in the original run, is featured this time around as the imperious matriarch of the new family inhabiting the London townhouse on Eaton Place and contends in the supporting race. Marsh is once more playing Rose Buck, who has risen from parlor maid to running her own staffing agency. However, she is overshadowed by the rest of the cast and stands out only for her truly hideous haircut.
As the sole American in the cast, McGovern certainly stands out on "Downton Abbey." Unlike "Upstairs, Downstairs," which follows the lives of those living in a London townhouse during the time of Edward VIII, "Downton Abbey" is set during the reign of his grandfather, Edward VII and takes place all around a vast country estate. McGovern plays a wealthy American who has wed the impoverished lord of the manor. What began as a marriage of convenience has turned to true love. McGovern is excellent but it is a stretch to classify her as the leading lady of this production.
Lane is outstanding in "Cinema Verite" as Patricia Loud, the matriarch of television's first reality TV family. The actress recreates some of the iconic moments from the 1973 PBS series "An American Family," including a staggering scene when she confronts her unfaithful husband and tells him she wants a divorce. The TV academy snubbed her co-stars Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini and the script was also overlooked. No actress has won this category without a nominated script since S. Epatha Merkerson did for "Lackawanna Blues" in 2005.
In "Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story," Henson weeps and then screams herself hoarse as a mother whose son is snatched and taken to South Korea by her ex-husband. Her theatrics would be impressive if they weren't standard fare for Lifetime telefilms. "Taken from Me" is a truly bad thriller and Henson doesn't lend it any credibility. Some sympathy or feeling should be evoked for a woman constantly shouting, "I want my son back!" Instead, Henson drowns in awful writing and it's painful watching her flounder. Her nomination suggests just how low voters had to go to snub Jennifer Love Hewitt for "The Client List."
Discussing these other nominees is a mere formality. Winslet will almost certainly prevail for "Mildred Pierce," leaving her just a Tony win away from completing the EGOT. She won a Grammy in 2000 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for "Listen to the Storyteller" and that Oscar at long last in 2008. Hers was the most nuanced, accomplished performance on the small screen all year.
Winslet's portrayal of the strident, cloying Mildred Pierce ranks among the finest of her career. Shouting and railing at Emmy nominees Brian F. O'Byrne, Guy Pearce, and Evan Rachel Wood, she delivers one awards clip after another. While she works brilliantly with her co-stars, there's no mistaking that Winslet is the star.
Gold Derby experts, editors, and users all concur giving Winslet overwhelming odds to win. Registering in the low single digits, the other four nominees are just along for the ride.
Senior editors Rob Licuria and Chris Beachum discuss the race in this video slugfest.