Meryl Streep in ‘The Post’: A look at her 21st Oscar nomination and the competition

This article marks Part 21, the final chapter 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 1977, while Meryl Streep was making her film debut in “Julia,” Steven Spielberg was still basking in the smashing success of “Jaws” (1975). Spielberg’s follow-up that year, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” may not have shattered box office records like “Jaws” but it did earn the filmmaker his first Oscar nomination in Best Director.

Over the following 40 years, Streep and Spielberg would lock down 21 and 17 Oscar nominations respectively, with each scoring three victories. While their paths would occasionally cross on Oscar night – Streep’s victory for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982) fell on the same evening Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” was up for a plethora of prizes – not once had Streep headlined a Spielberg picture. That is, until a little screenplay written by Liz Hannah, titled “The Post,” caught the attention of these two legends.

SEE 2018 Oscar nominations: Full list of Academy Awards nominees in all 24 categories

The 2018 Oscar nominees in Best Actress are:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Hawkins portrays Elisa, a mute woman who in Cold War-era Baltimore works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government research center. Her life isn’t much to write home about until an encounter with a mysterious amphibious creature (Doug Jones) who has been brought to the laboratory for a classified experiment. This performance, which won her Best Actress honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics, marks her second Oscar nomination.

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
McDormand portrays Mildred Hayes, a woman whose teenage daughter was violently raped and murdered. Seven months since her death, Hayes is perturbed as ever at Police Chief Willoughby (Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson) for his failure to make progress in the investigation. So, she releases her exasperation via three billboards outside of town, targeting the chief for this perceived inaction. This performance, which won her a BAFTA Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award, marks her fifth Oscar nomination.

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Ronan portrays Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a strong-willed teenager itching to graduate from her Catholic high school in Sacramento and ideally settle down somewhere in the northeast. She has a stormy relationship with her mom Marion (Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf), a woman just as candid as her daughter and supremely stressed from work – pressure that only gets worse when family patriarch Larry (Tracy Letts) loses his job. This performance, which won her a Golden Globe and Best Actress honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, marks her third Oscar nomination.

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Robbie portrays Tonya Harding, one of the the all-time great and most controversial American figure skaters. Tonya falls for Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), a man equal parts doting and vicious. There are ups and downs for Tonya, both personally and professionally, culminating in a comeback attempt that inspires Jeff and his buffoonish friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) to bring down Tonya’s rival Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). The rest is history. This performance marks Robbie’s first Oscar nomination.

Meryl Streep, “The Post”
Streep portrays Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper who, alongside Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), vies to catch up with The New York Times, the first publication to report on excepts from the more than 7,000 Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War. This performance, which won her Best Actress honors from the National Board of Review, marked Streep’s 21st Oscar nomination.

SEE 2018 Oscar nominations by movie: ‘The Shape of Water’ leads with 13 Academy Awards bids, but how many will it win?

Overlooked Contenders: Annette Bening, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”; Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”; Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”; Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”; Vicky Krieps, “Phantom Thread”; Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!”; Aubrey Plaza, “Ingrid Goes West”; Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”; Daniela Vega, “A Fantastic Woman”; Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”; Debra Winger, “The Lovers”

Will win: To be determined

Should win: Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

What a spectacular year for leading ladies and what a shame so many fabulous contenders failed to garner much awards season recognition. The likes of Bening, Chastain and Dench showed up here and there in the precursors but the comparably wonderful Hayek, Plaza and Winger failed to muster much traction at all. Inexplicably, Lawrence, in the most riveting turn of her career thus far, garnered a Razzie nomination!

That said, the Oscar nominees are a plenty respectable quintet, with only one contender tough to get terribly excited about.

Oddly enough, that nominee is none other than Streep, in study, if unexceptional form as the inimitable Kay Graham. Both she and leading man Hanks are perfectly fine but the film’s more interesting performances come from the supporting players, like Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood. The proceedings mostly meander, sans a few entertaining sequences, and Streep rarely has the opportunity to show off her immense acting chops. It’s hardly a bad performance and not even among her weakest nominations but it’s also a far cry from “Sophie’s Choice” and “Silkwood” (1983).

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Much more interesting, even if the role and performance feel more than a tad familiar, is McDormand, who devours Martin McDonagh‘s terrific “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It’s a portrayal equal parts funny and heartbreaking – she even has a Mary Tyler Moore in “Ordinary People” (1980)-like scene where she reflects on the past from her deceased child’s bedroom – and she’s matched by one heck of an ensemble cast. The performance never feels like a real stretch – we’ve seen McDormand in this form countless times prior – but still plenty satisfies.

Then there’s Ronan, pitch-perfect as the deliciously droll Lady Bird. Ronan, who should have taken the Best Actress Oscar for “Brooklyn” (2015), never hits a false note and, alongside co-star Metcalf, is the heart and soul of the picture. It’s a moving, hilarious and perceptive performance that only further cements Ronan’s status as one of today’s finest young talents.

There is so much to love about Guillermo del Toro‘s “The Shape of Water,” from Dan Laustsen‘s sublime cinematography to Paul D. Austerberry‘s remarkable production design. It’s a picture that really offers a little something for everyone. Even with such close attention paid to the film’s visuals, Hawkins still stands out with ease, in her most affecting performance to date. It’s a sweet and heart-rending turn in an extraordinary film.

PREDICT the Oscar winners now; change them until March 4

Wonderful as McDormand, Ronan and Hawkins are, however, it’s Robbie’s effort that is really the most awe-inspiring.

At last, Robbie (and co-star Stan) found a picture worthy of her talents. She’s at her career-best in “I, Tonya,” stunning, stirring and surprisingly moving as the disgraced skating star. Robbie and the film are at their best early on, as Tonya catapults her way toward the top of the figure skating world, despite the barbaric pain inflicted upon her by LaVona (Oscar nominee Allison Janney), her monster of a mother. She is truly exhilarating, painting Tonya as a gifted, sad and wholly sympathetic figure. The picture isn’t without its faults but Robbie is able to completely transcend them.

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All 105 Oscar-nominated performances ranked:

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. Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
11. Glenn Close, “Dangerous Liaisons”
12. Glenn Close, “Fatal Attraction”
13. Sigourney Weaver, “Gorillas in the Mist”
14. Cher, “Moonstruck”
15. Mariel Hemingway, “Manhattan”
16. Marsha Mason, “Only When I Laugh”
17. Elisabeth Shue, “Leaving Las Vegas”
18. Debra Winger, “Terms of Endearment”
19. Kathy Bates, “Misery”
20. Anjelica Huston, “The Grifters”
21. Julianne Moore, “The End of the Affair”
22. Fernanda Montenegro, “Central Station”
23. Susan Sarandon, “Dead Man Walking”
24. Emily Watson, “Hillary and Jackie”
25. Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”
26. Sharon Stone, “Casino”
27. Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
28. Viola Davis, “The Help”
29. Diane Keaton, “Reds”
30. Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
31. Meryl Streep, “Kramer vs. Kramer”
32. Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
33. Meryl Streep, “The Deer Hunter”
34. Jane Alexander, “Kramer vs. Kramer”
35. Julie Andrews, “Victor/Victoria”
36. Meryl Streep, “A Cry in the Dark”
37. Melanie Griffith, “Working Girl”
38. Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
39. Meryl Streep, “Postcards from the Edge”
40. Jessica Lange, “Sweet Dreams”
41. Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
42. Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
43. Sissy Spacek, “Missing”
44. Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth”
45. Joanne Woodward, “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge”
46. Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
47. Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
48. Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
49. Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”
50. Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
51. Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
52. Geraldine Page, “The Trip to Bountiful”
53. Judi Dench, “Philomena”
54. Meryl Streep, “Adaptation”
55. Penelope Cruz, “Volver”
56. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
57. Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
58. Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
59. Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
60. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
61. Meryl Streep, “One True Thing”

62. Jodie Foster, “The Accused”
63. Susan Sarandon, “Atlantic City”
64. Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
65. Annette Bening, “American Beauty”
66. Janet McTeer, “Tumbleweeds”
67. Holly Hunter, “Broadcast News”
68. Meryl Streep, “Out of Africa”
69. Julie Walters, “Educating Rita”
70. Candice Bergen, “Starting Over”
71. Maggie Smith, “California Suite”
72. Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
73. Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
74. Meryl Streep, “The Post”
75. Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”

76. Julianne Moore, “The Hours”
77. Katharine Hepburn, “On Golden Pond”
78. Ruth Negga, “Loving”
79. Laura Dern, “Wild”
80. Kathy Bates, “About Schmidt”
81. Emma Stone, “La La Land”
82. Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
83. Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
84. Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”

85. Kate Winslet, “Little Children”
86. Meryl Streep, “Ironweed”
87. Anne Bancroft, “Agnes of God”
88. Debra Winger, “An Officer and a Gentleman”
89. Meryl Streep, “Music of the Heart”
90. Emma Thompson, “Sense and Sensibility”
91. Meryl Streep, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”
92. Dyan Cannon, “Heaven Can Wait”
93. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
94. Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”
95. Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
96. Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
97. Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
98. Penelope Milford, “Coming Home”
99. Queen Latifah, “Chicago”
100. Barbara Barrie, “Breaking Away”
101. Emma Stone, “Birdman”
102. Julia Roberts, “Pretty Woman”
103. Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
104. Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
105. 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’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘August: Osage County’
SEE Meryl Streep in ‘Into the Woods’
SEE Meryl Steep in ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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