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« Curio: Oscar Food 2012 | Main | Gold Thread, Crystal Host, Bronze Bragging (If We Must) »
Monday
Feb272012

Internal Conflict & Streep's Third Oscar

My own personal history with the Oscar stretches back to the early 80s but there's so much self-mythologizing about it that I sometimes get confused about when I finally figured out What It Was. I know with certainty that the first ceremony I was aware of was in Spring 1983 because I had seen Gandhi, Tootsie and E.T. with my parents. But if I watched I remember nothing from that ceremony. My first sure Oscar ceremony memory was watching Shirley Maclaine win Best Actress for Terms of Endearment (which I hadn't seen). I remember being excited for Maclaine who I already loved but I don't remember why (probably TV airings of musicals?) and I remember being super excited by Meryl's Silkwood clip. Before I ever knew Meryl Streep as an actress -- her movies were always rated R and I wasn't allowed to see them -- I knew her as The Great Oscar Winning Actress.  I think my first Meryl movie in the theater was Out of Africa (1985) and I desperately wanted her to win her third Oscar now that we were well acquainted.

Meryl finally wins her third

When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going 'OH nooooo, oh come on. why Her? Again?' You know? But whatever.

First, I'm going to thank Don because when you thank your husband at the end of the speech they play him out with the music and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives you've given me. And now secondly, my other partner, 37 years ago my first play in NYC i met the great hairstylist and makeup artist Roy Helland and we worked together pretty continuously since the day we clapped eyes on each other. His first film with me was Sophie's Choice and all the way up to tonight when he won for his beautiful work on The Iron Lady thirty years later EVERY SINGLE MOVIE IN BETWEEN. And I just want to thank Roy but also I want to thank -- because I really understand I'll never be up here again -- I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here and I see my life before my eyes. My old friends. My new friends.

Really this is such a great honor but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendship and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together. My friends thank you, all of you, departed and here for this, you know, inexplicably wonderful career. Thank you so much. Thank you.

I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited. I waited through backlashes, box office poison, comebacks, astounding technical biopic work (Cry in the Dark), and mysteriously moving original creations (The Hours), through thrilling musical/comedy (Postcards from the Edge), improbable rebirth as box office mega-sensation (Devil Wears Prada), less thrilling musical/comedy (Mamma Mia!). I wasn't always rooting for her but I was always rooting for her if you know what I mean.

My heart danced a bit when she spoke, just a bit since I was upset. And I laughed at her psychic opening (you know that's true!) and teared up at what sounded like a lifetime achievement speech which is what it essentially was. Meryl finally won her third.

Be careful what you wish for.

Two great actresses. Only one statue.

Though I've desperately wanted Meryl Streep to have a third Oscar -- who deserved a third more? -- it became suddenly tied up with my single biggest Oscar pet peeve (the Academy's relentless all-devouring soul-crushing belief that biopic mimicry is the highest form of acting) and tied up with the defeat of a new(ish) actress who I genuinely think is one of the greats... just without the roles to continue proving it.

Though I find roughly half of the regular charges of racism levelled at the Academy tiresome and ill thought out (it has to be about the movies that are released and the performances inside of them or it holds no water -- that's all Oscar has to choose from!) it's hard not to look at Viola's loss and bemoan Oscar's (and Hollywood's) resistance to women of color.

Here we had a great actress headlining a major blockbuster hit, giving an astoundingly deep, moving performance and singlehandedly elevating her movie into the substantive kind that gets nominated for Best Picture (we can argue all we like about how "substantive" The Help is and how much other actresses contributed but it's Viola that gave the movie its only sharp edges and its soul and made it however substantive that it is). She also managed to win a few key awards and stay in the press for months and months and months on end.

It's hard to imagine all those plusses and still coming up empty-handed on Oscar night, especially in favor of a previous winner in a movie that no one likes. It's also hard to imagine a year like Viola had not being followed by major offers for major roles but so far... crickets. And this last is more anger-making than an Oscar loss, and something we'd all hoped an Oscar win might've helped to overcome... though this is perhaps wishful thinking; Hollywood is as resistant to great black actresses as the Oscars which reflect them.

In some ways you can argue that it's just the luck of the draw. Meryl was always going to win a third. It was just a question of when. But it's hard to look at the way Meryl's third was shoved aside for a Movie Star Queen doing her best but hardly statue-worthy work just two years ago, and it's hard to look at other performers who've sailed to Oscars with ease that aren't anything like Viola Davis's caliber.

In Halle Berry's Monster's Ball Oscar-winning speech she spoke movingly of her historic moment as the first Best Actress of color.

This moment is for Dorothy Dandrige, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women who stand beside me Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox, and it's for every nameless faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

Did the door quietly swing closed again?

 

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Reader Comments (246)

I felt similarly last night. I love Meryl Streep, and we all knew she was going to win a third. But it's just so unfortunate that it had to be this year. It's like they've always said, you win for the wrong performances.

I'm curious to see where Meryl goes from here. There's a part of me that wonders if this chapter of our and the Academy's relationship with her has come to an end, the chapter that started after The Devil Wears Prada. Are we in for a Kate Winslet post-The Reader period? Will it be quiet on the Streep front for awhile? Will she be nominated in the next 3 years, or will the fact that she is no longer 'overdue' curb a lot of her momentum in the next few years? Genuinely curious.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

The moment Meryl won was one of the strangest moments of my life. I was so shocked and excited, and yet my first reaction was to look at Viola, and my heart just broke for her. I've been waiting for Meryl to win her 3rd Oscar for so long now. I spent most of the 2000s hoping she would upset someone: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock; and it didn't happen any of those times. But it just had to happen over Viola, who is one of the finest actors out there, AND who is dealing with limited roles. And yet, still, I was just so excited that Meryl has three Oscars now. Conflicting feelings.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

It pains me that this is what the topic of discussion has become since Meryl won last night. What she did as Margaret Thatcher was incredible. A performance that won her her fair share of awards throughout the season, including a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and NYCC. This was a head to head race the entire time and someone had to lose. Do I love Viola Davis? Yes. Do I wish she had an Academy Award? Yes. Do I think that has to come at the expense of Meryl Streep winning a 3rd Academy Award for a performance that some voters may have felt was better? No. I'm just shocked this is a conversation happening now and people didn't complain this much when Sandra Bullock won for a glorified Lifetime movie. I think Meryl deserved the award and if I was a voter that is how I would have voted.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrian

Completely agree! Viola was robbed!!!!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Burns

A very well written piece Nat! I kinda felt, I guess deflated is the right word. As an African American, Viola's win would have been special, especially cause Octavia won earlier in the night. But an actressexual, I was glad Streep got her 3rd. I would have felt soooo much better if Streep had steam rolled through all of the award shows to win. Having it look like Viola might take it only to be denied at the last second was tough.

I'm just glad all those rabid Meryl stand will be quiet for a while talking about how overdue/under appreciated Meryl was. I also anticipate that she'll be back in the \"Insert Name Here\" theater whenever August: Osage County comes out. I just wonder if she's great in that role will there be the same REWARD HER! feelings since she's won recently.

BTW, why is Scott Rudin sitting on that Fences adaptation?! Denzel just had a hit movie and Viola an Oscar nomination...make it happen Scott!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

With brian on this one, more or less.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMayukh

I absolutely agree with everything you said.
I'm happy for Meryl, as you said, no one deserves a third Oscar more than her, but this is not how I imagined her third win. I never expected that the feeling that would define her third win would be sadness or frustration, but it is.
I want her third win to represent what her late carreer, the funny, bright and bubbly Meryl Streep from Adaptation, A Prairie Home Companion, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, It's Complicated and Mamma Mia! I wanted to jump out of the couch screaming \"YES! YES!\", not going \"Oh, no... why this year?\" like I did.
If even Meryl Streep, the greatest one of the actresses, has to do a biopic and get buried in pounds of makeup to get an Oscar is there any hope left for a non-biopic, non-gimmick win anywhere?
Does it make any sense what i'm typing?
Meryl's win for \"Kramer vs. Kramer\" as Hollywood and the Academy saying welcome to a great new talent. Her win for \"Sophie's Choice\" was a confirmation that she was among the great ones. Both win already went down on history as deserving ones and I'm trully afraid that history will not be kind for third win to the point that I believe that winning for \"The Iron Lady\" will tarnish the way we all regard Meryl. I can feel the backlash forming.
As you, I feel totally conflicted by Meryl's win, to the point of considering if it would be better if she had never won her third Oscar. Most of we talk is what the Academy got wrong, specially whom they've wronged. I would rather have Meryl as perennial wronged one as to have her as the one they wronged some else for - again, do I make any sense? I rather have Meryl as Cate Blanchet, not as Gwyneth Paltrow, or Meryl as \"The Social Network\", not \"The King's Speech\", and I'm truly afraid her \"The Iron Lady\" win will turn Meryl in \"The King's Speech\". All I can do is hope that I'm wrong.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictor S

I agree with Brian- Streep won for the RIGHT performance, thank you! It was hailed as, once again, the best female performance of the year (including by Time), it won Drama Globe, New York and BAFTA prizes- the top in the industry, and her reviews were amazing. Sorry if it wasnt the best over all film, but it also won Makeup- so the academy DID like it apparently.

The problem with \"Well I wish she could win for something else\" is that this is the same shitty excuse that comes EVERY TIME she is nominated. Because she has so many performances that have been up for Oscars (17) we all will have different preferences as to which one she should have won for. So get over it and be happy that she won for what is considered one of her finest performances, and sorry- but the CRITICS even gave her prizes. Davis was supporting in The Help, and sorry how would it look for the academy to give two black women Oscars for playing maids in a average at best movie? Come on. Even Zeta-Jones and Zellweger couldn't both win for Chicago (Jones won, Zellweger lost to Kidman). And if you want to bitch about African Americans who were robbed of Oscars, I think Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in What's Love Got to Do with It were HIGHLY more amazing then Davis and Spencer, and they lost. Ditto for Goldberg and Winfrey in The Color Purple. At least Spencer won (and Spencer was spicier and more interesting then Davis's same note performance that was similar to her role in Doubt).

Streep deserved her award last night, and if you feel it was for the wrong performance that's too bad- it will never be for the right performance. The academy, then, should have given Streep the award for Julie & Julia and not the terrible Bullock- but we all know that didn't happen. And even then people were griping Streep would win for the wrong role. Because what exactly is the RIGHT role for her to win for? She's versatile and amazing, she won for a role she imbedded from frame one. Bravo Meryl.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason Travis

The thing is, Streep IS still overdue. Shouldn't she really have 4 or 5 oscars by now, if we're being fair?

What I hate most is that if Halle Berry hadn't won 10 years ago, and all else were equal, and The Help got made this year and did how it did, I'm 100% positive Viola would've won AND been the first black access to win. But that's not how it went, and Berry's win could, arguably, be indirectly related to the Help getting made at all.

You also have to consider that a big strike against Viola was that The Help was very much an ensemble film, and Viola was not the clear lead, and was in face absent for huge chunks of the narrative. She was even talked up as a supporting contender at first. Those kinds of roles can rarely go the distance with oscar, Nicole Kidman in The Hours aside. That plus everything else made it a huge uphill climb.

But Viola really is a treasure, and Meryl knows it. She probably feels as bad as anyone. I kept waiting for her to mention Viola in the speech, but really, it would've been inappropriate, and unfair to the other three nominees. This was Meryl's moment, and she truly made the most of it. Beautiful speech.

And, even with Iron Lady being what it is, there would be worse things for Streep to win for. The movie was basically a 100-minute ad for Streep's awesomeness, and when you leave the film feeling nothing but \"damn, that woman can act\" (since there was, frankly, not that much else to think about it), you can't blame people for choosing now to throw the award at her. I think this perf was better than Julie & Julia. Definitely better than doubt. It was a whirlwind of pure A-C-T-I-N-G; it involved not only expert mimicry but deft and soulful comedy, which is what this past decade of Streep's career has been known for. Watching her play an 80-something year old doddering Brit was absolute joy. I think the elderly portions were by far the best, and they get shortchanged when people talk about the film.

Sad, though, that beautiful Viola, rocking that fro, had to lose, while Octavia Spencer got to win supporting in the tradition of Mo'Nique, JHud, and Hattie McDaniel. It says a lot. Lots of ambivalence indeed.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Keller

Agree 100% with you Brian.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I'm gutted for Viola obviously, but I don't really have any conflicting feelings about Meryl winning her third Oscar. I am ridiculously happy for her and while it wasn't how I picture her winning, I did want her third win to be a surprise of sort and this one fit the bill.

As for Viola, it'll be really interesting to see what happens when she gets that third nomination. Ditto Michelle with her fourth. Anyone want to guess who gets the Oscar first between these two or is it way too soon for all that?

Finally just had to LOL a bit at RJ's comment \"Are we in for a Kate Winslet post-The Reader period?\" You the mean the period when Winslet took a brief break then won every TV award ever for doing Mildred Piece as well as get herself a Globe nomination for Carnage? Most recent Oscar winners wish they could have a lull like that. ;-)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I'm really sad about it too, still in shock that Meryl won. People forget she was in not one but TWO Best Picture nominees. Viola Davis is only a year younger then Sandra Bullock so it wasn't her age.

I think what hurt Viola is (a) when you compare the way Sandra campaigned and the way Viola did with Sandra she was able to make us believe that she didn't want it and it was all just happening to her, but with Viola you could see the wheels turning in her head. and (b) We should have known from the start that Meryl would win because Harvey is in control and was going to get one of his ladies the gold, and Meryl herself campaigned more then she ever has, doing things like JIMMY KIMMEL! that she never does.

Meryl told producers to give Viola a movie and they did but Meryl herself was convinced she deserved another one and she probably doesn't feel toooo bad for Viola. Why should she feel bad about her win? Margaret Thatcher is a great role that no one in recent memory has tried to play and Meryl did it with perfection, and you have to admit there are very few women of Margaret Thatcher's 'stature' out there if you will that has had the level of power she did, compared to a maid character that is essentially a supporting role.

Viola thought she could do what she did with 'Fenches' and go lead and still win but The Oscars are not the Tonys and it fell back on her. I do think I know where her heart was and the Lead nomination is a big deal that will or should make people see her in a different way but yeah....she has no projects in developement, one ensemble film coming out this year and two more bit parts booked in 'Enders Game' and 'Beautiful Creatures' = let's hope someone comes to her with a great script. She can still make history if she get's another nomination becoming the first black actress to get three nominations. GO VIOLA!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLola

To elaborate – I'm glad that AMPAS avoided a potential mistake they could've made through rewarding Meryl. I think Viola is immensely talented but the rhetoric surrounding her campaign this whole season has struck me as a bunch of pundits desperately trying to convince themselves that what she delivered in The Help some sort of great shakes. She is moving in the role – dark, moody, forceful. But it is not a great performance. We're capable of giving her better roles.

Giving her an Oscar for that performance would have been a step in the opposite direction – a denial of the fact that, yes, the meatiest role we can give one of our finest actresses of color is that of a maid (beating on a dead horse here). Can't you just imagine those voters patting themselves on the back had she won? \"Okay, yeah, we did well, rewarding that nice little yeoman black actress. How nice, how cute.\" And that would've ended it. Visibility does not equal progress. It gets a conversation started, okay, but the myriad problems we've clearly become aware of within Hollywood's framework wouldn't have been solved had she won.

Viola deserves a challenging role. I am confident she will get it. She and Streep should be treated on an equal playing field, and, to me, that's what happened last night. That is progress. Condescending to an immensely talented actress of color, pretending her dependable and solid work constituted something great, and over-rewarding her for this good but minor work – that, I am afraid, would have been racist. (I speak from the point of view of a person of color)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMayukh

So happy for Meryl, have wanted this 3rd Oscar for a while now. Why couldn't it have happened over Bullock or for The Hours? Heavy heavy heavy heart Viola lost. Actually thought about her before going to sleep and right after I woke up which is crzy for someone not really in my life.

Will the right movie and right role ever align for her again as they did this year? The best we can hope for is that she gets a showcase supporting role in the next couple of years. Make it happen, Scott Rudin (thanked him for changing her career when she won Tony for Fences).

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMurtada

DAMN sorry for all those typos

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMayukh

I don't subscribe to the idea that one (or in Meryl's case, two) Oscars somehow isn't enough recognition for great actors. In a way, I think it's even more special when greats meet their one shining moment on the Oscar stage. By and large, the best actors only win once, or not at all—winning twice is often a fluke, more indicative of great luck and timing than actual talent or merit. \"More Oscars means more appreciation\" doesn't hold any water for me.

No one would mistake Sally Field as a better actress than Glenn Close, and the fact that lesser actors have won more Oscars than her doesn't make me think Glenn Close is undervalued. What makes me think Glenn Close is undervalued is the fact that she isn't met with a fraction of the fawning, mythologizing, and hyperbole that Streep has soaked up for the vast majority of her career—with or without a third Oscar.

That's the real prize, and Meryl has had it all along. The fact that Osage: Orange County was hers with barely any debate (What about Sigourney Weaver? Susan Sarandon? Glenn? A dozen of their underemployed peers?) is worth so much more than the Oscar she just won. So it's not just the fact that she didn't deserve the award at face value, which people rarely do, that bothered me—it was the notion that Streep was owed anything more than her unmatched power and almost unquestioned recognition as \"the greatest actress of all time.\" And that she was somehow owed it SO BADLY that Viola Davis could be brushed aside so we could give it to her.

This was as much an expression of Viola Davis' disadvantaged position in Hollywood as it was a gesture of how gratuitously and irrationally blessed Meryl has been over the past two decades since her inarguable prime in the 80's. Viola is not the only actress whose career has suffered for it.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

I am tired of this race BS.
If race really matters, maybe Michelle Yeoh should AT LEAST be considered this year!
Or maybe you should write an article about how Damien Bachir was robbed!
Viola gave a performance that's VERY SIMILAR to what she did in Doubt.
And is it REALLY the best among five? What about the snubbed Dunst, Swinton & Olsen?

Btw, Streep will get her fourth Oscar and 18/19th nomination in 2014. (That depends on if Great Hope Springs could be the new Something's Gotta Give.)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterh

Nathaniel,

Why do you keep saying The Iron Lady was a movie nobody liked? I liked the movie, more than most, and I'm somebody. It certainly was better than most critics are saying. For me it was all about the performance, as it should be, since we're talking Best Lead Actress. We can argue about the movie and its flaws, and the way the story was presented, about the awful politics of Margaret Thatcher, but Streep's performance was simply astonishing. She carried the movie entirely (I would say elevated), portraying someone during a 40 year span, essentially playing two different characters. She probably was in 90% of the film. As I've stated before, I would rate Streep's performance in The Iron Lady as one of her top five, it was that good.

The Help was a box office hit because it was based on a popular bestselling book. The film had a great ensemble cast. The mistake Viola Davis made was competing as a Lead Actress. Had she gone supporting she had a good chance of winning. This takes nothing away from Viola Davis and her achievement. She is talented. Her day will come.

There was simply NO WAY Streep was going to be denied again. I thought Streep gave the best performance of the nominees. So did AMPAS. I'm happy she won her third Oscar for an outstanding performance. And I look forward to her winning Oscar #4.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

I also think the critics and bloggers brainwashed the masses into thinking Davis had this in the bag.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

It's a shame, although it's hard to begrudge her since, as always, she gave good speech. Still... Viola! The Academy had the chance to do something that's never happened before (two actresses of colour winning the acting categories) and, as you say, rewarding a black woman for being the soul of one of the year's biggest hits (and, for that matter, the highest grossing original film of the year). Alas...

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I don't think its swung shut Viola just got caught in all the give Meryl that third Oscar sentiment which is a shame, I still hold that ANYBODY who has two Oscars isn't overdue for anything. Spread the wealth. Hopefully it won't be like Katharine Hepburn where they gave her a second for Guess Who's Coming for Dinner (undeserved) only to have her knock it out of the park the next year in The Lion in Winter and gave her another, at least Barbra got her due at the same time.
What is really a shame is that a middlingly inferior talent like Halle Berry has an Oscar and many great actresses like Viola and the divine Alfre Woodard are still unrewarded.
But I don't know if it can all come down to color, although the opportunities are definitely not as great, it is often more a series of time, place, feeling for certain performers etc. or else Glenn Close wouldn't be empty handed after 6 at bats nor Peter O'Toole Oscarless after 8 nominations.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Great writing Nat, even though you and I don't share the Streep love. It just really irks me that she's put on this ridiculous pedestal, at the exclusion of all others. What other actress could score so many nominations from movies that offer little else? Why isn't she held to the impossible standards other female actresses are burdened with in always picking \"the right\" script. If she's the be-all and end-all, let's use modern technology to use Meryl in every role in every movie and everyone else can go home. And in the interest of fairness why is there no male equivalent to Meryl? The God like status in my mind is all smoke and mirrors. I won't fault her for the Academy being so enamored with biopics and therefore trying again with her own Blindside - a Lifetime tv movie with a Hollywood budget. But history will prove she won for the wrong role. If I had to give her one it would be for Doubt.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCity_Of_Lights

Victor S-I sincerely doubt that Meryl's legacy will be ruined at all by winning her third Oscar for a performance that is not of the caliber of Kramer and Sophie for a couple reasons-with the exception of someone like Brando, few if any actors get three knock-out punch sort of roles that deserve to steamroll through Oscar season (and even Brando couldn't do it with his Streetcar/Waterfront/Godfather triumvirate). Most of the actors who have won a trio of Oscars have one that's \"questionable\" in the bunch-Hepburn has Morning Glory (an easy first win, but hardly revolutionary in hindsight), Bergman has the Orient Express, and Nicholson has As Good As It Gets (I'll leave poor Walter Brennan out of this since his star has all but faded). And yet, people don't generally tend to bad mouth them because with films like The Philadelphia Story, Casablanca, and Chinatown, there's a solid argument to be made that they deserved the third Oscar, even if they didn't get it for the \"right\" film (as one could definitely state with Streep). Hepburn, Bergman, and Nicholson are still and will remain legends and are regarded as amongst the greatest actors the films have ever known. Streep's legacy was secure before, and with this third Oscar, she just adds to it.

I'm also really curious as to what Streep does next as well (in addition to the other four nominees). August Osage has the ink newly dried on the contract, and if they do it right at all she'll likely be back for No. 18. The question sort of becomes, does she want a fourth? Does she care about it? I think she genuinely wanted the third Oscar, and I personally think she wanted it for this film, and most definitely for one directed by a woman (though she notably didn't thank her director during the speech). I also hope that during her \"time off\" if she pulls a Winslet, that she returns to the stage for the Tony. Awards may mean nothing to her anymore (to quote one of her speeches), but having the world's greatest actor have the Triple Crown seems wholly appropriate. With Viola, I don't know-if Scott Rudin sees the money for an art house hit with Fences, he'll pursue it (oddly, he EGOT-ted with relatively little fanfare a couple of weeks ago at the Grammys), but he'll need Denzel who seems averse to prestige lately. And the sad fact is that Davis will turn 47 in a few months, an age where Hollywood forgets about actresses-one of the main reasons I made sure to go to see The Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs in theater rather than wait for the DVD is because I want every dollar that can be mustered for women over 40 at the Box Office on the rare occasions that Hollywood let's them lead a film.

I do want to say one of my favorite points in the speech was the old friends, new friends part of the speech. If I mapped out the geography of the Kodak correctly, she was looking directly at Glenn Close on old friends and Viola Davis on new friends. I thought this was incredibly classy and even if it wasn't her intention, it was a heart-warming gesture to two extraordinary actresses both of whom have the massive talent that deserves an Oscar even if they will probably never get one.

And yes, while I was Team Viola (and secretly Team Glenn, because come on-what does she have to do to win one?!?), I've been on Team Meryl since I first loved the movies, and you can't help but be happy that she finally did it.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I'm still in shock. I've always firmly believed that when Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar, the Kodak Theater would spontaneously self combust or the Atlantic waters will part or something. And instead, the planet kept spinning around in the usual manner and, worse, I still had to get up in the morning and go to work.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

And my apologies-that was way longer than I thought. Leave it to Meryl to bring out the soliloquy in all of us. :)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

how do you think glenn close feels; goes home empty-handed for the sixth time after spending the past 30 years in meryl's shadow

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

So now that Viola DID NOT win....now it is about race?? So....now it is ok to make this about race????

These are my thoughts as a Streep fan....my thoughts alone...

I have a gut feeeling that this race was extremely close and that it could have gone either way. i highly doubt no one voted for Viola....

I feel that Meryl won the Best Actress Award because it was her time....and by that I mean whenever someone has been nominated that much in a 5 year period they usually win the Oscar...and usually for the wrong role simply because we missed out on rewarding you the last time...this Oscar was not for The Iron Lady...but for Devil, Doubt ( with Winslet's category confusion) and Julie and Julia being taken out by Bullock....There was just not a good enough reason to NOT vote for Meryl especailly after BAFTA, Golden Globes, Bernale Golden Bear, Kennedy Center Honors, New York Film Critics....Every organization honored her this year...but what....the Oscars are going to continue to hold out on her? I thought so. But I am glad that they did not.
I loved last night. I am glad that she has 3 and I do not really care how she got it or how deserved anyone thinks it is. I am glad I am not waking up today to bloggers saying \\\" oh...but she will win for August OSage County (AND THEN BE NOMINATED AND LOSE TO JENNIFER ANISTON)

Is Viola a talented actress? Yes! Was she great in The Help? Sure! But I felt it was a supporting role and she served the part well. The media and Oscar bloggers for some reason decided to promote this performance to no end...as if we had never seen anyone powerhouse act the way she did as Abileen. And I just do not get it. I do not understand the blatant push to try to make Viola the favorite this year for LEAD. I guess I need to see her in more things....

For one brief moment last night when Meryl won...I thought, \\\"wow. The Academy Awards just surprised me\\\"....and I have to admit I liked having that feeling that anything is possible on Oscar night....including rewarding a legend who deserved it for sitting there graciously losing 14 times....

And yes...I am still rooting for Oscar nom 18 for August Osage County...just so everyone is warned

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Brandz,
I would agree with your brainwashing logic if Viola hadn't won the SAG and hadn't had such reception by her peers. Thinking that Viola Davis was the front-runner was not a belief based on a puff of cloud.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Excellent piece, Nathaniel. It summed up my feelings on the matter perfectly. I think I'm sadder for Viola than I'm happy for Meryl, and I thought I’d be ecstatic over a Streep win no matter who her competition. I feel like the best I can hope for Viola is a win for supporting within the next two or three years. I just don't see a leading role like that happening for her anytime soon. And to make another observation, it's odd that given the Academy's voting history that Michelle Williams or Rooney Mara didn't have more traction in this race. We were fortunate to see a nail-biter between two deserving actresses over 40.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Brandz... this is your most sensible contribution to date. Enjoying Meryl's glorious achievement while remaining generous to her competition. Welcome back to Earth ;-)

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I don't think Meryl deserved a third Oscar. I would give her wins for Manhattan and Silkwood, but I never understood why she's considered such a great talent. All surface and no soul, for the most part.

Anjelica Huston, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek are stronger, and that's looking at Streep's generation alone.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

par3182: I don't think Glenn Close went home feeling bad. She had no reasons to believe she was going to get it this year, and this I think was reflected in how she seemed to be enjoying herself yesterday night. She felt at ease, even projecting some sex appeal. Her face when Meryl Streep's name was called out was of genuine but glad surprise. She was obviously happy her longtime friend had won.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJones

Let's not give up hope, shall we? What in the horizon for Viola Davis? I tell ya boys, she won't back down.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGage Creed

I agree with everything you wrote, Nathaniel. When Colin Firth read a name different than the one I expected to hear, I thought, \"Wow, a surprise!\" I was giddy for a second until I realized what had actually happened.
I was really looking forward to Viola's speech. This was a rare year where I was happy with nearly every frontrunner, and it took a second to remember, that no, this is not the role I want Meryl Streep to win an Oscar for- not at all. (And not the dress I wanted her to win it in either. Yikes.)
I'm glad that she's has the third Oscar. Glad because all the talk of her needing a third Oscar (which is silly) can end, and glad because I got to watch one of the greats win an Oscar, which is increasingly rare.
If I had my way, like others have written, Streep would have won Sandra Bullock's Oscar. That wasn't really the role I wanted her to win for either, but it wouldn't have come at the expense of such a deserving frontrunner.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Strangely, I was pleased that Davis didn't win--and I was rooting for her! It wasn't a lead performance (for me) and I would much rather see her win for a complex role that didn't require the accompanying excuses for its source material.

This has always been my favorite category, but given the lackluster choices of late, I'm much more willing to see the nomination as a victory itself and call it a day. Some of my favorite performances of the last few years never had a real shot (Hathaway in \"Rachel Getting Married\" or Sidibe in \"Precious\" or Sandino Moreno in \"Maria Full of Grace.\") but I relished their mentions anyway. And I'm not even bringing up this year's much more intriguing performances, like Dunst in \"Melancholia\" or Yun Jung Hee in \"Poetry.\" Neither was even part of the conversation--they would have made it much more fascinating.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzig

Agreed, Viola will come out of this like a phoenix. And we will all benefit from the work she'll do.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJones

h, I agree with you...

As a part of a minority (Latino), i don't understand this claim with Viola Davis. Yes she's a talented actress and her performance in The Help is good, but I think is so overrated by many people. Let's think what would happen if Davis became the winner - If would be a big backlash against her and the film. Brian made excellent points.

I saw the five nominees and let me say Streep really deserved this Oscar and also think the movie is better than most critics throught. I'm glad for Bichir's nomination, but I'm not complain because Dujardin have the best performance of the group.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Off-topic, but Nat, we someday should have an \"earliest Oscar memories/earliest Oscar broadcast you followed seriously\" thread - the stories would be really interesting (as was yours)! Not necessarily now, as we may be getting Oscar fatigue...

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I don't think Streep has been the best of the year, or even the best of the nominees, since 1982. I just don't get what's so great about her.

I think the Best Actress category will substantially improve once she stops making films...I'd revoke 15 of her nominations.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Like I said in another thread, I did cringe at Viola's loss (mostly because she looked like she thought it would come and I've since read that she had to be consoled)--but I had given up on Best Actress when I saw the line-up. Other than Rooney Mara, I didn't think any of the rest of them should've been there over Kirsten, Charlize, Elizabeth and Tilda. So, I wasn't terribly invested in the Meryl/Viola battle.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

@Jones

My comment about critics and bloggers brainwashing the masses comes from my observations at the Gold Derby site. I followed the Lead Actress race closely this year (more closely than usual). If you followed the Gold Derby site (like I did, daily), I saw critic after critic jump ship, one by one, and coalesce around Viola Davis as though she had it in the bag. Everybody wanted to be on the 'correct and winning' side. I am oh so happy they have egg on their faces now. As far as I'm concerned, they're the ones who needed to come back to earth.

They were like lemming headed off a cliff. One by one. Yes, even the critics and bloggers can be wrong. This makes the Streep win even sweeter for me.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Again- NO ONE was complaining when Sandra Bullock won for The Blind Side. Where are the massive articles questioning why Sandra was able to win for the weakest performance of her company? But Streep wins and suddenly all the critics and experts have to write thesis papers analyzing why they think she shouldn't have won/ or what she needs to do now. AGAIN- WHY THE HELL WEREN\"T YOU ALL complaining when Bullock derailed everyone? Because she's America's Sweetheart, and heaven forbid we shit on the nicest woman in the world? Give me a break. Streep won- its over, deserved and in the bank. Like Meryl said herself last night, \"But...whatever\".

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason Travis

I firmly believe that people who put down Meryl Streep's acting abliity know nothing about acting....I think when someone is as honored and revered as she is in her profession, some like to take her down a few pegs for some reaon whichI will never understand

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Jason Travis: As I recall, nobody was happy with Sandra Bullock winning. She had a few defenders here and there, but it was not a happy win on the blogs. The difference is that she was the frontrunner, so by the time she won the Oscar, most people had accepted it and moved on.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Exactly. Excatly what I was thinking.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNic

Love it Jason Travis!!!!

And also have to admit I agree with Brandz,,,what was going on with Gold Derby and other blog sites this year...even Entertainment Weekly....Was Dinsney offering some incentives to go the VIola route because the critics were pointing towards Meryl or MIchelle???? Hell, it should have been Streep vs. Close this year

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I think admiration of Streep's work indicates a poor understanding of what acting is. She is a masterful impersonator---great at accents, willing to learn instruments, wear ugly wigs, lose weight, gain weight, etc. But, she never loses herself in a role. You can always see the wheels turning in her head. Click, click, click!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I felt the same way. Happy for Meryl, but completely conflicted since it came at the expense of Viola's amazing talent, performance, and ultimately, making history.

I just think back to Streep's SAG speech for Doubt - \"The immensely talented Viola Davis - my GOD, someone give her a movie!\" - and ironically, the year Davis did get that movie, but Streep just happened to come in the same year and after losing a million times, won the one that was supposed to be Viola's.

It hurts. I saw Viola's hesitance when her name wasn't called and it made me so sad.

Honestly, this just makes me angry about Sandra Bullock lol...I wasn't mad when it happened, but now I am. If I could give Meryl the Oscar for Julie & Julia if it meant Viola getting this one, I would do that in a heartbeat. How does someone like Sandra Bullock sail her way to an Oscar nomination, but Viola Davis fight a battle and get THAT close, yet still lose?

It's a sad sad day for the state of minorities in the industry. It just reminds everyone of where we still are and the trouble we have with equality in the entertainment industry.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

@ Nathaniel R.

the \"Did the door quietly swing closed again?\" comment leaves a bad feeling in my stomach!

I can say that the way you ended this article swims in the same waters as some of your tasteless Cate Blanchett comments. And as a reader it disappoints me IMMENSELY!

I know that this is your website, you are in charge of it, you can write whatever you wish here, however, you! who I've received the feeling that fights for appreciation of THE BEST performance of the year and always have defended the non-nominated performances have just openly advocated the insincere universe that so viciously supported a Viola Davis win!

Yes, I too think she's a phenomenal actress, I loved her in \"The Help\", I think it's a leading performance. But @zig said it best!

\"I would much rather see her win for a complex role that didn't require the accompanying excuses for its source material.\"

I support that statement with all my heart.

Ever since that film opened:

EVERYONE would say \"She's great in this\" and would quietly or not so quietly add \"AND SHE'S BLACK. So she deserves it.\"

...and that Ladies and Gentlemen makes me sick! I also think it's the most offensive excuse to award somebody, most offensive to Viola Davis actually:

\"Oh.. you poor black actress you! You've given a great performance, now... let's award that because you're great, but because you're black too!!!\"

I really can't believe you've sunk so low Nathaniel!!! I really can't believe that!

Whoever mentioned \"more Oscars for Streep\", oh boy am I on that train or am I?
She does deserve more, she's been robbed not once or twice.

Where are her Oscars for \"Silkwood\" and \"A Cry in the Dark\" and \"The Devil Wears Prada\"?

Last but not least, the people who think she's done for, are dreaming. We don't even have to wait for 2013! If \"Great Hope Springs\" is OK and makes a lot of money, nomination number 18 is on it's way. I'm expecting her to be really fun in it. Hopefully she is.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Finally settling my thoughts on this one. I wanted it to be Viola. I really did, I think she may be one of the greats, though (maybe to justify her losing?) I am starting to convince myself this edge may give her what she needs to hunt down that next nomination. Hell, it's even possible winning the Oscar would kill her career. She would forever be followed by \"Meryl gave it to you\" snide remarks.

The performances were both great, the movies not so much. Either has a middling/lower rank in my winners over the last decade. But then... the speech. God, I LOVE Meryl Streep. I realized I was sitting here picking on a wonderful performance (not her best, but we're talking fucking Streep so it's still miles above most of them) and finally, at long last, a third for the greatest actress I may ever get to see on film. Every year, I tell myself it would do so-and-so more good to win it; every year, she doesn't fight hard, she cheers her competitors, she remains a professional; every year, she has to hear someone wax on about her because she's a legend. Then she gets to that podium, she jokes about her persona, she tears up while finally getting to shout out her love for her husband, her co-workers, her craft. It's a beautiful moment. Watching it again, it makes me wildly protective: Was anything EVER going to be good enough? Do we all just love her so much that she can't top herself? Is there any way to call her undeserving?

I'm coming around quickly. Yes, this will be the Oscar win for her that no one will remember on Trivia Night. It's also the one that rightly puts her among the ranks of the all time top winners, and next stop is a tie for the top. It's where she belongs. Yes, it was career love from a group of old voters who don't know the frontrunner well enough to mind. (Let's stop the cries of \"snub!\" right now - that's a great way to make sure Davis never wins.) But they love her, and they wanted to remind her that the nominations weren't enough for them. She's one of the reasons I love watching actors perform at the top of their game. Watching her bubble with excitement and pour her heart out... it was gorgeous.

Maybe the best summary would be her fellow nominees' reactions: Close and Williams looked surprised and thrilled (if you have to lose, give it to a legend), and after a moment of shock, Davis bolted from her seat to give a lovely send off to her competitor and friend. There's a reason they love her. She remains at the top of her game, and I loved seeing her reminded of that. Before people start hacking away at her, I hope they remember we love this woman.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese
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