2014 Academy Awards Best Actress Nominees. FilmBook continues its coverage of this year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards race with the Best Actresses. Four of the five nominated actresses have previously won an acting Oscar. All the nominees this year are industry veterans with impressive bodies of work and a combined thirty-eight nominations and six wins between them!
Amy Adams (American Hustle) –
Who She Plays: Nominated for the first time in the Lead Actress category after having been nominated in the Supporting category four times running, Amy Adams plays Sydney Prosser, a dreamer who falls in love with Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and assists him and the FBI in conducting a sting operation in order to avoid being prosecuted for her own crimes.
Why She Deserves To Win: Adams plays her character with a type of quiet ferociousness, animosity brewing just below the surface that remains hidden behind her veneer of professionalism. It seems to reveal itself only in her interactions with Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), when she gets too cozy with the mob, threatening their entire operation.
Key Scene: We see something we’ve never seen from Adams before when she lays down the law with Irving in a heated late-night conversation after she is arrested (but he is not) for scamming customers seeking loans “with royal banking connections”. It’s raw emotion with highs and lows that leave the viewer wondering how she did it.
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) –
Who She Plays: Blanchett’s sixth acting nomination comes for playing Jasmine, a severely mentally-ill woman who moves in with her sister while trying to get back on her feet after her big-shot, white-collar husband is busted for financial crimes.
Why She Deserves To Win: Blanchett takes what could’ve been a caricatured role in a small, overlooked film and transforms it into a master class on acting. This seemingly put-together character unravels right before our eyes, bit by bit, and the last scene haunts as a tragic reminder of mental illness’ real and sometimes lasting effects on the people it afflicts.
Key Scene: Truly there are too many to pick just one, but a favorite is when Blanchett recounts an interaction (or lack thereof) with a former socialite at an upscale department store after she took a job to survive when her husband was arrested for financial crimes. As throughout the film, Blanchett’s understanding and portrayal of mental illness is about as perfect as it gets. “I SAW YOU ERICA!!!”
Sandra Bullock (Gravity) –
Who She Plays: Bullock returns to the Oscars with her second career nomination for playing Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical scientist who is launched into space after a satellite crashes into her ship, leaving her free-floating with little to no resources to turn to.
Why She Deserves To Win: The physicality and intricate choreography required for the role would’ve tested Hollywood’s most qualified actresses; here, Bullock succeeds so well that she makes it look easy. At age 49, she handily carries the movie and delivers an emotional performance that delivers in every conceivable way.
Key Scene: Tissues are needed when Bullock decides to call it quits, all her options exhausted, turning off the lights and oxygen in her escape pod, hoping to die as she falls asleep. As she stares mortality squarely in the face, she hears a baby crying on a radio transmission from Earth, prompting reflection on her own daughter and their coming reunion in the afterlife.
Judi Dench (Philomena) –
Who She Plays: Dench plays Philomena Leigh in her seventh career Oscar-nominated performance, a woman desperately searching for her son fifty years after he was adopted by another couple against her will by a convent of Irish Catholic nuns.
Why She Deserves To Win: The film plots a tricky path between heartfelt sadness, righteous anger, and playful whimsy, and so does Dench. Her performance is perhaps the most endearing of any performance we’ve seen in years. While her character’s emotions and motivations may at times seem elusive, her display of forgiveness is believable and inspiring.
Key Scene: In a scene that may be seen as superfluous to the meat of the story, but actually reveals much about her character, Dench breathlessly recounts to her accompanying journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), the entire plot of a romance novel she has just finished. “I didn’t see that coming, not in a million years!”
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) –
Who She Plays: Earning Streep her history-making eighteenth career Oscar-nomination is her performance of Violet Weston, a caustic, biting wife and mother battling substance abuse, a recently deceased husband, and a fractured, estranged family returning home in several years.
Why She Deserves To Win: Streep’s sarcastic humor and great one-liners in the film’s trailers may have lured in moviegoers, but it’s when Streep takes off the wig and explores unseen sides of mental illness and substance abuse that she really touches the heart and manages to humanize a most unlikable character.
Key Scene: Streep sealed her on-the-edge nomination with a scene in which she relates to her daughters a story about her parents and a disappointing Christmas gift that came to symbolize her childhood upbringing.
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