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Oscars: A tale of two actresses

There are only two real races in this year’s Oscars. That among the Best Pictures and that among the Best Actresses. Like the Best Picture, the Best Actress Oscar is probably confined to two contenders, Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2010 18:11 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

Gautman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
There are only two real races in this year’s Oscars. That among the Best Pictures and that among the Best Actresses. Like the Best Picture, the Best Actress Oscar is probably confined to two contenders. Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia and Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

If I were to make a choice, it will certainly be Streep, whose performance in Julie & Julia (where she essays a chef) is brilliant. But then she has always been a fine artist. Some call her “the world greatest living actress”, and she has won no Oscar since 1982, when Sophie’s Choice got her the trophy. Earlier in 1979, she clinched her first in Kramer vs Kramer. Nominated for an Oscar on no less than 16 occasions, Streep could lose out to Bullock, though for the wrong reasons.

Bullock is interesting in a low-key role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, a story that actually happened. A happy wife and mother of two lovely kids, she gives a home and new life to a battered 18-year-old black boy and turns him into a football star. Bullock looks real and compassionate, qualities that may bowl over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Most pertinent, this may be Bullock’s last chance to win the Oscar, and the Academy members may just about cast the sympathy vote for her. But, then, who is to say. In early 2000, Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis were considered the hot acting favourites for About Schmidt and Gangs of New York. In walked
Adrian Brody in “The Pianist”, that narrated the Nazi atrocities on artists, and won the Oscar. Day-Lewis and Nicholson were left wondering what went wrong. Nicholson is undoubtedly a fantastic actor, and Brody could hardly come anywhere close to him.

Perhaps, it was the film itself, The Pianist, which did the trick. A powerful and moneyed Jewish lobby in America still nurses its World War II hurt and humiliation, and the Academy cannot easily detach itself from this. About Schmidt is the personal story of a man’s search for meaning in his life. There is little drama or disaster in this, and that great cinematic curve is missing.

So, if Bullock and Streep – like Day-Lewis and Nicholson – were to vote each other out, reports talk of Carey Mulligan (in a coming-of-age love story, Education with Johnny Depp) delivering the I love you mama, papa and the World speech on March 7.

However, Mulligan is just 24 and Bullock 46. Mulligan may get many more chances to win an Oscar, Bullock may not have that many. The Academy is known to look at all these before casting its vote. Well, at Los Angeles talent counts, but other considerations could colour the outcome.