The Weak Year For Women Is A Myth


Maybe is it just the movie-lovers I follow, but there appears to some diverse attitudes to the actress awards race – leading all the way to the promised land that is the Academy Awards. Some seem bitter, some make assumptions, some even think they know what is what and what is going to happen. I’m not too interested in waiting on the edge of my seat to see if they are right in the end. No, because this is really about now, what is happening now, and what has been happening for years and years and years. The struggle for strong roles for women in movies. More specifically, at the moment, how infuriating it is to hear or read about the inevitability of the Best Actress race because it has been a weak year for women. Bullshit. And I will tell you now, constantly banging that drum is not helping the perception of the problem we have with women in film.
I suspect Julianne Moore would love to win an Oscar, but I also imagine some of her biggest fans want it more. Sure, she has been bypassed many times before by Oscar, does not have the amount of nominations her work warrants, and of those gold bald guys on her mantel. We came to the conclusion she would not be contesting this year for Cronenberg’s Map To The Stars (she won Best Actress in Cannes for this), so along came Still Alice, and all of a sudden Moore is the front-runner for that. Now, I am in no way going to deny her the win for that performance, and I am not particularly playing devil’s advocate, but on the flip side I have, in my many many years following the awards season, been an audience to negative reactions to nominees or winners being honored because there were due.

Marion Cotillard is now getting a lot of attention by winning Best Actress awards with the critics over this past week – credited for two movies, Two Days, One Night and The Immigrant. The former is likely where she will be nominated should this coverage take her all the way to the Academy Awards. Cotillard is not the only actress with more than one movie in contention.


Keira Knightley (Begin Again, The Imitation Game) and Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Birdman) have had a great year, and will both likely have a good grasp of a nod in the Supporting category. Shailene Woodley, with The Fault in Our Stars, and White Bird in a Blizzard, is also popular – again the former is where Woodley is the dark horse to make the Actress short-list. Break-out Gugu Mbatha-Raw appears to be getting a lot of praise too for her performances in Belle, and Beyond the Lights. And the bigger household name Scarlett Johnasson added impressive turns in Under The Skin, and Lucy to her acting resume – though both movies are surely not appropriate for Academy consideration. Eye roll.
And I only now mention Jessica Chastain and Tilda Swinton, whose varied and numerous roles this year have impressed enough to fill the actress categories all by themselves.


Then there are the actresses not a lot of people are talking about. And not because they are not special, there most certainly are. No, this is rather because their movies are just so small or not really discussed in terms of awards given for acting. I can’t mention them all, but Mommy’s Anne Dorval, Charlotte Gainsbourg in Nymphomaniac, and Mia Wasikowska in Tracks are kind of veterans now in this year of film, and although unlikely to make the cut in the end, corners of the movie world have been talking them up for months and months.


More recently then, tongues have been wagging optimistically about the likes of Kristen Stewart (Camp X), Unbroken director Angelina Jolie (for Maleficent), and even the mighty Jennifer Lawrence ({The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1). Three particular indies also deserve special mention, in Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins), and Elisabeth Moss (The One I Love). As a special bonus I am going to personally big up a magnificent performance by Essie Davis in the Australian horror The Babadook.

Still think it is a weak year for movies? Given the fact it is no secret many women struggle to get the “good” roles. Do you really agree with those that casually accept it is a weak year for actresses? That is hard to find a solid five that can make any list of Best Actress nominees? Give me a fucking break. You only have to watch Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable video to see some of the strength there is.


I’ve yet to mention (other than Moore and Cotillard) who the consensus have as the truly big contenders this year. There’s Amy Adams, of course there is, for Big Eyes. She got a lot of stick last year for being nominated for American Hustle, which meant other, more worthy actresses did not get in. So last year women were fighting to get in? What that a strong year? I did not much care for David O Russell’s movie, but Adams was great in it. She always is though.


Who else? Oh yeah, double Oscar winner Hilary Swank (The Homesman), and single Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon (Wild), and Anne Hathaway (Interstellar). Jennifer Aniston is now making a late surge for her performance in Cake – yes, that role has on more than one occasion been described as Oscar-worthy, and that can’t hurt.


So, are there any British actresses that can force their way in too? Shit yeah. We are still waiting on how well Into The Woods could fair in the Oscar race, but you will find Emily Blunt on many people’s on-the-brink list. Which leaves us with two almost certainties for Best Actress nominations (though again you never know with AMPAS) in Felicity Jones, who is simply perfect in The Theory of Everything, and of course, the sublime Rosamund Pike in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. There is a performance that carries all the weight of components making up a true Best Actress winner. In fact, in such a weak year for women, it is not too difficult for me to predict that Amazing Amy may win this race in the end.
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12 responses to “The Weak Year For Women Is A Myth

  1. You waited until the very end, but I'm glad you mentioned Felicity Jones. Finally caught up with Theory of Everything over the weekend… I was hesitant about it, I don't do well with bios and/or movies about infirmities… but I was first pleasantly surprised by it, and then kind of shocked that Jones turned out to be the soul of the picture and the best part of it. Redmayne had the fireworks, but Jones' character was more interesting. Hawkins is an amazing person, but he's kind of a victim of circumstance. He's a genius trapped in a decaying body. Beyond the old “triumph of the human spirit” thing, he doesn't have a lot of choices. Jane has choices to make. She's in control. The fact she wasn't just a saint made her more interesting.

    Plus, I always favor performances where an actor has to take a relatively “normal” person and make them interesting. It's east to cry and scream and pee your pants and seem like you're “acting” but it's harder to make an ordinary person real and compelling.

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  2. Yeah I too only just watched that movie, and Jones was so brilliant – not just the wife off a victim, she almost stole the movie. When they are playing croquet and she is struggling to hide the sorrow she feels for Hawking I almost bawled myself. Wow. It's these impact roles that often guarantee awards nominations and wins.

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  3. My heart is kind of with Moore just because she's been so badly overlooked for so long, but it's nice to see Jones get a role worthy of her talents.

    I still haven't seen Wild yet, have you?

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  4. No I have not seen Wild yet. Really want to though. As for Moore it would be great if she won, she would get a great response from audience too. Standing ovation no doubt. Though I haven't seen Still Alice yet either. Do you get Screeners then?

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  5. Count me in as a person behind Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike. I know the Moore supporters can be obnoxious, but I do empathize with them. Overdo does not translate to having it in the bag. Marion Cotillard could lock this up with a few more critics wins.

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  6. Rosamund Pike is probably my favorite, but have seen a lot of great performances this year. Essie Davis in The Babadook was just fantastic, but of course they won't go for that. The formulaic crap is often what gets on my nerves. Voters need to live a little, think outside the box.Anyway, don't get me started.

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  7. I'm going to see Babadook Saturday night. I'm driving 35 miles to go see it. I'm sure I'll be impressed with Essie's performance. BTW, don't get ME started on AMPAS, they'll never be right with me again.

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  8. That reminds me, SPOILER, my next post is Oscar Could Have Beens 2011 and one of the 5 is Michael Fassbender for Shame. That's privileged information. As much as it pains you, 😀

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  9. It boggles the mind that Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who's had a breakout year with “Belle” and “Beyond the Lights”, both excellent and soulful performances from her, and manages to elevate both films, yet there's little or almost no traction by critics or by Fox Searchlight and Relativity Media to push her for a Best Actress nomination. Yes, it's a crowded field with Pike, Witherspoon, Jones, Moore and Swank, but she's very-much worthy of being in that conversation and not as an afterthought.

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  10. Yeah this is absolutely spot on. Sometimes I want to burst into offices and shake them up and say Have you fucking seen this girl? Are they afraid of the unknowns and reliant on the house hold names? Most of my favorite female performances each year had none or little chance of making it all the way to the Oscars.

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  11. I haven't seen Moore for “Still Alice”, or Reese for “Wild”, or Swank for “The Honseman”. But I have seen Mbatha-Raw TWICE, and I feel that her performances in both “Belle” and “Beyond the Lights” are more complete and more worthy than what I'll eventually see from a Swank or a Witherspoon.

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