Thoughts on 2012’s Best Actress

There’s no question that Meryl Streep is a terrific actress, and quite possibly one of the greatest of all time.  Sophie’s Choice, The Hours, The Manchurian Candidate; Streep’s resume speaks for itself.  Now, for the 2011-2012 Academy Awards, she has been honored for yet another fine performance in The Iron Lady.  I’m in no way ready to make a case that she shouldn’t have received the award (mostly in part to the fact that I haven’t had the chance to view The Iron Lady),  but as I’ve heard whispers surrounding the award this year regarding whether this is a “body of work” award rather than one for the specific film, it’s made me start to wonder if there’s some truth to this, and if so, how often it may actually occur.

Think of it this way: the Best Actress category of the Oscars was stacked with talent this year.  In addition to Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, three of the other nominees also played characters in so-called “period pieces.”  Michelle Williams played Marilyn Monroe, Viola Davis played an African American maid in the 1960s, and Glenn Close played a woman playing a man in 19th century Ireland.  Rooney Mara also showed off her acting chops in an incredibly difficult role for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (side note: I would have loved for Mara to have won this award even though it would have been a huge shock; she is one hell of an actress to pull off that role).  Basically, long story short, I wonder what it is exactly that separated Streep from the rest of the pack.  Even during the commercial segments between awards there were voice overs teasing viewers about whether or not Streep would finally win her first Oscar since 1982, as if trying to foreshadow the fact she was a lock for the award.  As far as I can remember, she was the only Best Actress nominee that was focused on for the majority of the evening.

Once again, I have no doubt that Streep produced a quality performance as always.  What I’d like to know however is who would have taken home the award if these were the first performances of each of these actress’s careers.

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