Monday, January 19, 2009

My Best Actress Ballot (and the Awards Race)

Some prominent 2008's Actress wins in roughly chronological order: Sally Hawkins, Sandra Corveloni, Dominique Blanc, Melissa Leo, Hawkins (twice more), Anne Hathaway (twice), Kate Winslet and Hawkins

Many awards groups have come and gone eager to have their say and loudly proclaim their opinions on the "best" of film acting for 2008. That these diverse opinions, once you get past festival season, are often barely distinguishable from one another is neither here nor there for this discussion since this time it's all about me!me!me! or, rather, mine!mine!mine! (I get so territorial with my beloved actresses, you know).

If you value awards consensus, which is often an interesting curio for each film year, there's roughly only 7 great performances by a leading actress given this year (so far ... Oscar speaks on Thursday morning and could surprise). Those are, alphabetically:
Aside from perhaps two performances I find either problematic with definite high points (Streep) or perplexingly limited (Jolie), I think it a super list. Well done, consensus!

Still and all: I always wish we saw more variety in awards season. Where was the hoopla for Julianne Moore's return to form (twice over)? Where were the kudos for career stretches from two continually undervalued actresses Famke Janssen and Emily Mortimer? Oh, riiiight, "continually undervalued" ... I answered my own question.

Click For My Ballot
I'd love to hear yours in the comments

And, just for fun, since I'm always eager to share my actress affliction with all of you, here are the 16 lead performances I considered noteworthy in some way (from the 100+ films I saw) and that I shuffled around in rank throughout this annual Sophie's Choice ordeal of choosing "the best"


Anonymous said...

Wow, I think that's quite a surprising list! I pretty much agree with you, although I found Meryl better in Doubt than Kate was in The Reader. I love the fact that you nominated Michelle Williams; totally deserved!

Anonymous said...

my actress ballot

1 - kate winslet -revolutionary road for that phone call at the end

2 - sally hawkins - happy go lucky for making herself lovable and for the tango lesson.

3 - keira knightley - the duchess - for showing me as she did last year that she is a fine actress and for the dinner table scene when shes introduced to fiennes offspring.

4 - julianne moore -savage grace - for making an unwatchable film watchable,and for "THAT" airport confrontation

5 - melissa leo - frozen river - showing everyone who should've known like idid in 2003 that she is great at making roles feel lived in and her sacrifice at the end.

Unknown said...

mmm... do you think they'll reward Hawkins on Lead and Winslet on Supporting, or do you agree with me, that, in the end, given the more than likely double nomination of Winslet they'll decide to award her for Revolutionary Road (and by the way, rewarding the film in some important way) and leave Supporting for Davis or - more likely - Cruz?

My bet right now for acting winners is Rourke - Winslet - Ledger - Cruz.

Dame James said...

My ballot so far (I still haven't seen Winslet in The Reader, Leo or Scott Thomas) goes like this:

Anna Faris, The House Bunny
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Julianne Moore, Blindness & Savage Grace
Brittany Snow, Finding Amanda
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Anonymous said...

Four performances struck me this year as standard-bearing -- Hawkins, Williams, Scott Thomas and Leo -- and while I've liked other work this year, nothing else really enters that league.

So I guess I'd make mine a ballot of four. Who said we have to have five nominees for everything? The Academy? Pah!

As for the winner, that's just too hard for words, but Hawkins' performance reveals more to me with every viewing. Then again, it's the film that has had the longest amount of time to sit with me.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy for Michelle Williams. I have never expected her to be so terrific. It's such a terrible shame that there was no Oscar campaign for her - I don't think she would make it over Jolie, but if Melissa Leo was recognized, why not Williams? At least more people would be tempted to see this tiny little moving film ("Wendy and Lucy" is in my TOP 3 of 2008 at the moment).
In my ballot I would swap Hathaway and Winslet for Cruz and Winslet (because I haven't seen neither "The Reader" nor "Rachel Getting Married").

NicksFlickPicks said...

Great list! I really had no idea who you'd settle with outside of Hathaway and Hawkins, though I suspected Williams, and this is a really interesting cross-section of work. The rankings among your finalists and semi-finalists are also interesting. I'll be following suit soon!

Anonymous said...

I haven't picked a winner yet, but here are my nominees:

Cate Blanchett … The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sally Hawkins … Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo … Frozen River
Kristin Scott Thomas … I’ve Loved You So Long
Michelle Williams … Wendy and Lucy

Honorary Mention: Julianne Moore … Blindness & Savage Grace, Kate Winslet … The Reader & Revolutionary Road,
Juliette Binoche … Flight of the Red Balloon, Anne Hathaway … Rachel Getting Married, Tilda Swinton … Julia

bubba said...

1. Kate Winslet - The Reader
2. Juliette Binoche - Flight of the Red Balloon
3. Sally Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
4. Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy
5. Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married

Anonymous said...

It's so odd that Kate Winslet is possibly the least likely of the five to be nominated on Thursday morning, but once she is nominated, she'll arguably be the favorite to win.

Anonymous said...

My list:

Streep ... Doubt
Hathaway ... Rachel...
Leo ... Frozen River
Hawkins ... Happy Go Lucky
Winslet .. Revolutionary Road (NOT The Reader )

Anonymous said...

My own ballot, keeping in mind that I put Winslet's Reader role in my Supporting ballot and that I haven't seen a lot of films:

1. KATE WINSLET, Revolutionary Road
2. ANNE HATHAWAY, Rachel Getting Married
3. LENA LEANDERSSON, Let the Right One In
4. SALLY HAWKINS, Happy-Go-Lucky
5. FRANCES MCDORMAND, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Anonymous said...

Cate Blanchett is not even a semi-finalist? You crazy, and what you said about Binoche you could say about her, too. This is not a hard part, but she just owes every scene in an astonishing way.

- cal roth

Anonymous said...


- cal roth

Anonymous said...

I simply cannot get the fascination with Anne Hathaway's performance and Rachel Getting Married.

Anonymous said...

Oh and also...

If you value awards consensus, which is often an interesting curio for each film year, there's roughly only 7 great performances by a leading actress given this year...

Which is still better than Picture/Director (5 films), Actor (2: Rourke and Penn) and Supporting Actor (1: Ledger). So not too bad considering.

Anonymous said...

One more thing: if The Reader weren't released in 2008, Winslet's turn in Rev.Road would giver her which status? Nominee, Finalist or Semi-Finalist?

Anonymous said...

That was cal roth, too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I've never read this note above about not using the "anonymous" option...

Brian Darr said...

Cal Roth hasn't seen Flight of the Red Balloon, methinks.

I must admit that your argument in defense of Binoche's performance seems stronger than that in favor of your actual nominees. Maybe it just reads that way to me because I'm already convinced, though.

Glenn said...

Yay! Always my favourite category at the FB Awards. I'm surprised Janssen didn't make it in, actually, but still a great list. I haven't seen three of them, but it seems so Nat and I love it.

As of right now my top five are:
Anna Faris, The House Bunny
Sally Hawkins, Happy-go-Lucky
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Kristen Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long
Meryl Streep, Doubt

with special mentions to Jess Weixler (Teeth), Maeve Dermody (Black Water) and Keira Knightley (The Duchess).

I still say Faris' performance is a comic masterpiece. *sigh*

Keelay! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My winner prediction remains Meryl Streep. She does not even appear anywhere in your list.

Very Disappointing, Nate

Anonymous said...

Anyone who nominates La Fanning needs to be permanently banned from discussing acting in public.

The Secret Life of Bees is an abomination.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

anyone who overlooks keira knightley in the duchess needs a talking too meryl style!!!

you know shes gonna win best actress in 2011 for my fair lady!!!!

James Hansen said...

For me, Williams and Hawkins are the only truly great performances this year. Strong performances by Binoche in a great movie. Solid performances by Faris and Leo in "meh" movies. I just can't get past how overrated I found RGM, THE READER, and DOUBT to give them much cred, although I think Hathaway shows good range. I just straight up didn't like the performances in DOUBT much. And, for what it's worth, I disagree that Kate is lead. She might be for the first hour, but then she only appears intermittently, as the focus strongly shifts to the guy. Her character remains supporting, especially in the second and third sections/acts of the movie. Doesn't change the fact that the performance is overrated, but still...what film hasn't been this year?

Anonymous said...

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road

Anonymous said...


mrripley: I think that's Cantica Untaru from The Fall. She made it into my Supporting Actress ballot. Great movie.

Kurtis O said...

Well, I guessed 3/5, and if I base that on my star rating scale, it ain't that great. I was sure that Julianne Moore would rank higher than a finalist. Oh well.

My Top 5 Women:
- Asia Argento, "The Last Mistress"
- Anne Hathaway, "RGM"
- Sally Hawkins, "H-G-L"
- Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
-, that's it.

I haven't seen the actressy feasts "Rev. Road," "Frozen River," "Wendy and Lucy" OR "I've Loved You So Long." I hated Jolie in "Changeling." I live for Blanchett, but I found her perf. in "Ben Button" to be nearly as empty as Pitt's. And while I reveled in Julianne's turn in "Savage Grace," she's thrilled me much more in the past. I love this actress year -- a big one for many talented ladies. And the whole Winslet factor has made everything so much more interesting. I'm kind of glad there are films I need to catch up on -- they'll only extend the pleasure.

Anonymous said...

When did it become cool to "hate" Jolie in Changeling ?


Anonymous said...

Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Keira Knightley - The Duchess (& The Edge of Love)
Nicole Kidman - Australia
Meryl Streep - Mamma Mia!

The Fifth spot will probable change, haven't seen films like Doubt and Rachel Getting Married.

David Giancarlo said...

1) Kristin Scott-Thomas
2) Michelle Williams
3) Sally Hawkins
4) Kate Winslet - The Reader
5) Meryl Streep - Doubt

I know it's in vogue to turn your nose up at Meryl this year, but, I LOVE her in Doubt. The same way that I adore Bette Davis and Faye Dunaway in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "Mommie Dearest", respectively.

Kurtis O said...

Arlequin: it's not cool at all, actually. It's quite tragic. I'm not looking for reasons to dislike her acting, she just keeps handing them over. If '08 proved anything for me, it's that Jolie - the most visually appealing and entrancing heroine in modern cinema - should stick with fare like "Wanted" and leave the "Changeling"s to the Winslets and the Streeps. "Coolness" has nothing to do with it


arlequin -- yeah, i don't think it's cool to hate Jolie but i didn't like her in it before it opened so i'm not following any trend. I just think it's a one note role and she didn't add notes.

I thought she was a million times better in A Mighty Heart last year.

mrripley -- sorry about Keira. I did like her in the movie.

cal ... i agree that Blanchett holds the camera exceptionally well (always) but my problem with both her and Pitt in that movie is that I feel like i know next to nothing about either of their characters when all is said and done. AND THEY HAD 3 HOURS TO FLESH THEM OUT. ;)

Basically the only character trait conveyed to me isn't even a character trait, it's a plot point: they're in love.

i think the movie is beautiful to look at (as are both stars) but it seems so empty to me, as do the performances.


kurtis o -- i like that people keep citing Asia Argento because she's such a riveting screen presence but I guess I kind of feel the same way about her as I do about Angelina Jolie in her not best work i.e. GREAT presence... but is this a performance?

mr ripley the phone call is my third favorite scene of Kate's in Rev Rd... but it is pretty stunning (my favorites being the breakfast sequence and for me the tops ... the bar sequence with her neighbor when she's getting drunk

everyone i guess i should've seen The House Bunny but I missed it.

Anonymous said...

Looking at your little grid of awards winner Nat, it's kind of sad how much weight Sally Hawkins has lost since the awards season started- she was terrifyingly skinny at the Globes but you'd never guess it looking at her Berlin photo.

Unknown said...

Great list! My own, for Actress:

- Juliette Binoche - Flight of the Red Balloon
- Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
- Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
- Julianne Moore - Savage Grace
- Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy

And Supporting Actress:

- Patricia Clarkson - Elegy
- Viola Davis - Doubt
- Vera Farmiga - Nothing But the Truth
- Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
- Dianne Wiest - Synedoche, NY

Cinesnatch said...

Ana Farris was cute in The House Bunny. I don't think it was too different from anything she's done in any of her other comedies. Only this time, she's the lead. But, she does a good job carrying the film.

However, I was more impressed by some of her costars, namely the leader, the saracastic one and the blonde bitch. I thought the blonde bitch delivered the third most bitchiest high school/college girl after Kim Walker and Nancy Allen.


vinci... WOW. that bitchy?


julia er, yes. I think the outfits are doing that too (she's skinny in her movie) to some degree but as is the MO of Hollywood... everyone is getting too thin (Hathaway and Winslet are also tinier than usual these past couple of months. eep)

i don't want less to love on all these beauties. EAT

Anonymous said...

thanks nat,keira gets such bad press in the uk,admittidley she is no winslet but she has impressed me every year since p and p it killed me to leave her off my best actress 07 ballot for atomenment i just liked cotillard,linney,wei,christie and berry more,i thought she was fantastic this year i will not be leaving her off,could you put a mention in for her in actress seemed you overlooked as last year.

i can't believe you like kate more in reader the breakfast scene is as you say another wowza scene and the truth argument about people lying better something like that but her def oscar clip is the phone call,will you be doing that this year.

agree about blanchett 3 hours and nothing no idea who she was she seemed like a fantasy character in fact i didn't like her daisy at all,i felt she was better in the very last scenes when shes old.

Anonymous said...

oh nat did you like leo in 21 grams i saw your ballot and nowhere is she no mention on your 03 blog anywhere for this role.

Cinesnatch said...

ok, maybe I went overboard with that comment. But, she's definitely top 10, not kidding.

Anonymous said...

To each his own: I felt deeply moved by Blanchett in Benjamin Button, and it was all about her. Just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

And you must have forgotten: would Winslet be a nominee for RR if The Reader weren't released last year?

Carl Joseph Papa said...

i really don't get why is there uber love for cate blanchett in the curious case of benjamin button. I kinda feel that she was a little botox-y in the movie much like emmy rossum in the phantom of the opera. as for Pitt, it was just a missed opportunity. he was given the time to shine but what happened is that he just acted his part aptly, nothing special, no extra oomph.


Cal... i didn't really stop to consider whether Kate would've been in for Revolutionary Road or not but if I MUST I would probably put her at #6 if the Reader weren't there.

I'm going to be happy when she wins this year regardless. I've waited a long time for it and in my world she'd have already won two Oscars (HOLY SMOKE) and (IRIS)

Guy Lodge said...

Julia: I interviewed Sally in person in December and can assure you that she looked perfectly healthy (and lovely) ... she's just a delicate little thing.

Sorry, I hate it when people make comments like that ... some people are just naturally slight or skinny.

(Gee, can you you tell I'm a long-suffering ectomorph? Haha.)

Keelay! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally Belle said...

Oh Gosh...Jack Henry...Anna Faris and Brittany Snow?,no,no.

They both have a long way to go to be here.

Sally Hawkins
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet - RR
Melissa Leo
MIchelle Williams

Anne Hathaway

Sally Belle said...

Oh...excuse me...James Henry...sorry!

Anonymous said...

Guy: glad to hear it! She seems like such a sweetheart I would hate to think of anything being the matter which would cause her to lose a bunch of weight.

I still think she's skinnier than she used to be, but think it was a combination of her dress and the slightly hunched over way she was standing at the Globes that made me think she'd really shrunk.

Dame James said...

Sally Belle: I think Brittany Snow and Anna Faris both "arrived" this year in big and exciting ways. The House Bunny is nothing special, but Anna Faris had me on the ground laughing with every line that came out of her mouth. I haven't experienced anything like that since Groucho Marx in Duck Soup. It may not be classy, but it's a hell of a lot more interesting (in my opinion) than watching Kate Winslet quietly suffering in RR and doing mediocre work. As for Brittany Snow, she totally surprised me in Finding Amanda. I loved her beforehand and expect a great performance, nothing earth shattering, from her here, but she completely nailed it out of the park. The role- a whore with a heart of gold- is an absolute cliche, but Snow finds new things to explore. She's nearly as cheery and upbeat as Sally Hawkins' Poppy, but, like Hawkins, she suggests just the right amount of darkness and tragedy to make it an absolutely winning performance.

Anonymous said...

My nods at this early juncture....

Sally Hawkins: for sheer joy. For somehow conveying a wide range of emotions without ever losing the core optimism. For subtly playing up her imperfections (her final scene with Scott alone guaranteed her my everlasting respect)

Anne Hathaway: for shocking the hell out of me. For her cruel precision, great humour.... and for earning that wonderful ending (also, can we get a hell yeah for Mather Zickel as the best man? Totally awesome).

Kristin Scott-Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein: for making this film work (because, on the basis of script or directorial choices, it largely doesn't). For the mileage the film gets from their faces.

Kat Dennings: for being completely charming. Okay, I don't have much, but I thought her performance was more effective than Moore's highly fascinating work in Savage Grace, so she gets it. I look forward to seeing more movies.


dame jame i think you're the first person i've heard from that saw FINDING AMANDA. I wrote about it for Tribeca. I thought Snow was ...good... and I see where you're coming from but I wish she'd have pushed the undercurrents further. I think if she had she would have gotten more career change mileage from it. We'll see. but I'm going to agree

arkaan HELL YEAH! (yeah, you can get one ... i hope he gets some good roles out of that movie)

Anonymous said...

I'm so hoping that Sally Hawkins upsets Anne Hathaway here. Please.

Anonymous said...

I'll start by manicialy screaming about how fantastic Kristen Scott Thomas is, shes getting snubbed by everyone, my opinion in FACT blah blah etc etc.

But I must add as well, was I the only one enchanted by Miss Kidman in Australia? I thought she played her role perfectly. Poor Nicole. She's getting such a beating.

Glenn Dunks said...

I'm with James when it comes to Faris. The material she was working with mightn't have been much cop, but i'll be damned if she didn't deliver it with aplomb. It's truly one of the best performances of the year.

Guy! You and me both. I've been defending Keira Knightly for eons. If she was anorexic then there would be clear evidence of weight fluctuations. In regards to Sally, I'm sure she's just stressed and run off her feet at this time of the year. I think she can be forgiven for accidentally skipping a few meals.

Andy Scott said...

Excellent ballot. We match 4/5, with Hall replacing Leo on mine.

I was hoping you'd find room for Hall, actually. Great performance.

Anonymous said...

My Best Actress Ballot

Cate Blanchett, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Frances McDormand, "Burn After Reading"
Liv Tyler, "The Strangers"

Yoan.Petrov said...

I think that Kate's performance in Revolutionary Road is really overrated. It just didn't work for me. technical, but emotionally it just was a mess. sorry! to me this award belongs to Meryl Streep (I loved her performance!) or Kristin Scott Thomas.

Anonymous said...

It's unfair that Moore won the "worst actress" award last year for "Next" but didn't get into the final five for "getting her groove back" this year... But at least she is mentionened the second year in a row at the film bitch awards (last year: semi-finalist for "I'm Not There" best actress in a cameo)

Unknown said...

Deepsouthdick(the old timer knows best)"Tough to beat the system for Oscar nomination" Released early in 2008-A comedy-Relatively unkown in the U.S.(Sally Hawkins)-Heavy promotion for other late year releases. This outstanding performance by Sally Hawkins deserves a nomination at least.

Anonymous said...

My personal choices for best actress would be:

Kristin Scott Thomas
Meryl Streep
Anne Hathaway
Melissa Leo
Hiam Abbass (for "Etz Limon," the Israeli film for which she won best actress at the Israeli film awards. Is that film ever going to be released in the USA?)

(Actually, if it were up to me, Abbass would also get a best supporting nomination for "The Visitor.")

Who do I think AMPAS will nominate for best actress?

Blanchett (for Benjamin Button)
Winslet (Revolutionary Road)
Leo (going out on a limb, making her this year's equivalent of Ryan Gosling two years ago).

Anonymous said...

no Kristin Scott Thomas

no girl from 'Let the right one in'

no Meryl Streep

baaaaaaaaaaaad choices. Sorry, I didn't like them.

Anonymous said...

I had the strangest dream last night, so I post it here (if this isn't oversharing I don't know what it is) just in case it happens:

First part:

1990s: "Batman Returns". Annette Bening gets pregnant, Pfeiffer replaces her. Snubbed in the supporting category.

2000s: "The Reader". Nicole Kidman gets pregnant, Winslet replaces her. Snubbed in the supporting category.

Second part:

The Academy announces that the VCB script is inelligible because it has footnotes (!).

Then I woke up. Absurd, disconnected and senseless as all dreams, it'll scare the shit out of me if one of the two things happens.

Unknown said...

Iggy: priceless.

Nat and others: how many of you guys wanted to jump into the screen and kill Poppy in the most gory and saddistic way possible? Just kidding. Sally is awesome in this one, even thought the movie itself felt way forced and over the top to me, when it wanted to be fresh. But Poppy-Scott driving lessons are about the things that have marked me the most of 2008. The Flamenco lesson... well, I'm spanish and I can tell you Mike Leigh walked in the tighrope there... he was successful, but barely, as here it sounded a bit... ridiculous? Again, it went over the top there, but the final part of the lesson was hilarious. C+ for Happy-go-lucky (I still prefer Secrets and Lies, proof the Academy can do the right thing from time to time)