This article marks Part 18 of the 21-part Gold Derby series analyzing Meryl Streep at the Oscars. Join us as we look back at Meryl Streep’s nominations, the performances that competed with her at the Academy Awards, the results of each race and the overall rankings of the contenders.
In 2006, Meryl Streep and director David Frankel scored box office gold – the greatest financial success of Streep’s career at that point – with “The Devil Wears Prada.” Given her affection for working alongside filmmakers on several occasions, it was a sure thing the paths of Streep and Frankel would cross again.
They reunited six years later with “Hope Springs” (2012), a genial, breezy comedy-drama that at last paired Streep with Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones. While hardly a smash hit, the picture, which found both stars in fine form, was warmly received by critics and audiences alike. No Oscar nominations, however.
That 18th Oscar nomination would instead land for Streep in 2013, with the release of “August: Osage County,” TV producer John Wells‘ screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Letts play. Despite Letts penning the script and an all-star cast, the film opened to tepid reviews and comparably modest box office grosses. Not that a middling reception has prevented Streep from drawing Oscar love before…
The 2013 Oscar nominees in Best Actress were:
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Adams portrays Sydney Prosser, glamorous grifter and partner to fellow con artist Irving (Oscar nominee Christian Bale). Caught by hotheaded FBI agent DiMaso (Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper), the two are forced to work undercover in a sting operation to bring down a corrupt New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner). This performance, which won her a Golden Globe, marked Adams’ fifth Oscar nomination.
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Blanchett portrays Jasmine Francis, a New York socialite who, having suffered a nervous breakdown following the dissolution of her marriage to the disgraced Hal (Alec Baldwin), moves in with her unpretentious sister Ginger (Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. In emotional shambles and without much in the way of job skills, Jasmine still finds time to demean those around her. This performance, which won her honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle, plus a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA Award, marked Blanchett’s sixth Oscar nomination and second win.
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Bullock portrays Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Working alongside veteran astronaut Matt (George Clooney) on a routine spacewalk, their effort is interrupted when debris from a Russian satellite catastrophically strikes the shuttle, leaving the rest of the crew dead. The sole survivors, surrounded by silent blackness, must find a way to reach safety before the debris field returns. This performance marked Bullock’s second Oscar nomination.
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Dench portrays Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who for 50 years has waged an agonizing search for her son, put up for adoption by nuns to an American couple. She meets disgraced former journalist Martin (Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay), who takes an interest in Philomena’s extraordinary story and arranges for a profile piece that might just lead her to some answers. This performance marked Dench’s seventh Oscar nomination.
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Streep portrays Violet Weston, impossible matriarch of Osage County, Oklahoma’s Weston family. More a hot mess than ever following the death of husband Beverly (Sam Shepard), Violet, who is battling oral cancer and addicted to narcotics, is joined by the rest the Weston clan, including her three daughters (Oscar nominee Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis), for the funeral. Tensions run high as Violet targets everyone with a dose of her “truth-telling.” This performance marked Streep’s 18th Oscar nomination.
Overlooked Contenders: Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”; Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
Won and should’ve won: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Adams looks spectacular in “American Hustle” but ultimately, she’s all dressed up with nowhere to go, in an empty, sanctimonious picture that thinks it can hide its worthlessness by blasting wall-to-wall 1970s rock. It’s a film that elicits responses like “love that song” or “adore those costumes, brings back so much nostalgia” and manages to win over many viewers, even though there’s not a clever or genuine thing really happening on the screen.
Moving on, this category gets so, so much better.
“August: Osage County” marks one of the great stage plays of the 21st century, so one cannot help but be a little underwhelmed with Wells’ merely workmanlike film adaptation. There’s no shortage of marvelous acting, especially from Roberts and Nicholson, but a feeling of staginess for sure lingers over the proceedings and the director brings little filmmaking flair of note to the table.
Streep’s turn is a lot of fun. Donning a big black wig and chowing down on scenery, this is the closest thing to “Mommie Dearest” (1981) the actress has ever done. The performance lacks the nuance some of the supporting players bring to their roles but still, Streep has a ball with the Letts dialogue and even if we never fully buy her as Violet, it’s still a blast watching her duel with Roberts.
Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Gravity” might be an epic, CGI-packed sci-fi spectacular but there’s no overshadowing its leading lady. While the film looks sensational and Cuaron’s Oscar-winning direction is so tense it’s suffocating, “Gravity” would not work at all without a commanding performance at its center and Bullock pulls it off perfectly. Her desperation is plenty palpable, as we ride a riotous roller coaster of emotions with the character
Dench is a real delight in “Philomena.” The film is something special, decidedly a step-up from the amusing fluff that was Dench and director Stephen Frears‘ collaboration on “Mrs. Henderson Presents…”(2005). Despite the sorrowful subject matter, Dench has a number of side-splittingly funny moments in the picture For the most part, however, it is an aggravating and tragic story and Dench sells it beautifully. It’s one of her most sensitive and subtle turns to date and she and Coogan make for a marvelous team.
That said, voters got this one right.
Blanchett’s Jasmine is one of the all-time great hot messes to grace the silver screen (and among the most compellingly written Woody Allen characters). Another actress could have surely overplayed it but Blanchett strikes precisely the right notes, managing to draw empathy from viewers, even as she alienates most of the other figures on-screen.
“Blue Jasmine” itself is not quite among the top tier in Allen cinema but at least reaches the same heights as fine films like “Husbands and Wives” (1992), “Alice” (1990) and “Stardust Memories” (1980). Its leading lady, however, is surely up there with the most stirring turns to lead an Allen picture, a testament to the filmmaker’s ability to still occasionally capture a virtuoso performance, even as his filmography becomes more and more scattershot.
The performances ranked (thus far):
1. Jessica Lange, “Frances”
2. Whoopi Goldberg, “The Color Purple”
3. Meryl Streep, “The Bridges of Madison County”
4. Meryl Streep, “Sophie’s Choice”
5. Shirley MacLaine, “Terms of Endearment”
6. Meryl Streep, “Silkwood”
7. Jane Alexander, “Testament”
8. Sally Kirkland, “Anna”
9. Maureen Stapleton, “Interiors”
10. Glenn Close, “Dangerous Liaisons”
11. Glenn Close, “Fatal Attraction”
12. Sigourney Weaver, “Gorillas in the Mist”
13. Cher, “Moonstruck”
14. Mariel Hemingway, “Manhattan”
15. Marsha Mason, “Only When I Laugh”
16. Elisabeth Shue, “Leaving Las Vegas”
17. Debra Winger, “Terms of Endearment”
18. Kathy Bates, “Misery”
19. Anjelica Huston, “The Grifters”
20. Julianne Moore, “The End of the Affair”
21. Fernanda Montenegro, “Central Station”
22. Susan Sarandon, “Dead Man Walking”
23. Emily Watson, “Hillary and Jackie”
24. Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”
25. Sharon Stone, “Casino”
26. Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
27. Viola Davis, “The Help”
28. Diane Keaton, “Reds”
29. Meryl Streep, “Kramer vs. Kramer”
30. Meryl Streep, “The Deer Hunter”
31. Jane Alexander, “Kramer vs. Kramer”
32. Julie Andrews, “Victor/Victoria”
33. Meryl Streep, “A Cry in the Dark”
34. Melanie Griffith, “Working Girl”
35. Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
36. Meryl Streep, “Postcards from the Edge”
37. Jessica Lange, “Sweet Dreams”
38. Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
39. Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
40. Sissy Spacek, “Missing”
41. Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth”
42. Joanne Woodward, “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge”
43. Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
44. Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”
45. Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
46. Geraldine Page, “The Trip to Bountiful”
47. Judi Dench, “Philomena”
48. Meryl Streep, “Adaptation”
49. Penelope Cruz, “Volver”
50. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
51. Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
52. Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
53. Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
54. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
55. Meryl Streep, “One True Thing”
56. Jodie Foster, “The Accused”
57. Susan Sarandon, “Atlantic City”
58. Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
59. Annette Bening, “American Beauty”
60. Janet McTeer, “Tumbleweeds”
61. Holly Hunter, “Broadcast News”
62. Meryl Streep, “Out of Africa”
63. Julie Walters, “Educating Rita”
64. Candice Bergen, “Starting Over”
65. Maggie Smith, “California Suite”
66. Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
67. Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”
68. Julianne Moore, “The Hours”
69. Katharine Hepburn, “On Golden Pond”
70. Kathy Bates, “About Schmidt”
71. Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
72. Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
73. Kate Winslet, “Little Children”
74. Meryl Streep, “Ironweed”
75. Anne Bancroft, “Agnes of God”
76. Debra Winger, “An Officer and a Gentleman”
77. Meryl Streep, “Music of the Heart”
78. Emma Thompson, “Sense and Sensibility”
79. Meryl Streep, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”
80. Dyan Cannon, “Heaven Can Wait”
81. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
82. Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”
83. Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
84. Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
85. Penelope Milford, “Coming Home”
86. Queen Latifah, “Chicago”
87. Barbara Barrie, “Breaking Away”
88. Julia Roberts, “Pretty Woman”
89. Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
90. Gwyneth Paltrow, “Shakespeare in Love”
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘The Deer Hunter’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Sophie’s Choice’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Silkwood’
SEE Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa”
SEE Meryl Streep in “Ironweed”
SEE Meryl Streep in “A Cry in the Dark”
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Postcards from the Edge’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘One True Thing’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Music of the Heart’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Adaptation’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Doubt’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Julie & Julia’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘The Iron Lady’
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