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Meryl Streep: Madam chef

Meryl Streep has a love-hate relationship with the Oscars. Her 13 nominations for Best Actress - including this year's one for Julie and Julia - and three for supporting performances suggest...

india Updated: May 16, 2012 12:23 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

Meryl StrrpOscar Nomination for Best Actress Actress

Meryl Streep has a love-hate relationship with the Oscars. Her 13 nominations for Best Actress - including this year's one for Julie and Julia - and three for supporting performances suggest how dear she is to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On the other hand, her woefully small number of actual wins creates a sneaking suspicion in us that there is more than a wee bit of dislike for Streep.

Since her first supporting nod in 1979 for The Deer Hunter, Streep has taken home merely two statuettes: one for a supporting part in Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and the other for Best Actress in Sophie's Choice (1982). A year earlier, she had been nominated for the first time in the lead role for The French Lieutenant's Woman.

It is, to use a time-battered cliché, a million dollar question whether Streep will win this time. The awards will be out on March 7.

It has been 28 years since Streep clinched the trophy in 1982, and it is long overdue for one who has, on many, many occasions, gone home after the big night only to tear up the acceptance speech. One can well understand her disappointment and that of most critics as well as the industry.

Streep is considered to be the world's best screen actress. Since the night of Sophie's Choice, Oscars have to gone to less talented and less deserving artists such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Hilary Swank.

This time, the Best Picture Oscar may well go to Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side for the wrong, rather than the right reasons. One of them is that this may be her last chance to get it, and the Academy may cast the sympathy vote for Bullock.

Yet, most of us will agree that Streep is truly worthy of the Oscar. A much admired performer and one who has managed to retain her sparkling star appeal while portraying diverse characters, she plays television chef Julia Child in her latest work, Julie and Julia. Applauded as one who pushes America to think beyond burgers and chips, she teaches them how to actually cook.

In a film career that began with Julia in 1977, when she was two years away from turning 30, Streep has engaged her audiences with her enormous ability to get into any character. In Kramer vs Kramer, she is the distraught mother fighting a bitter courtroom battle for the custody of her child. In Sophie's Choice, she is an Auschwitz survivor with a lover who cannot get past the demons of the Holocaust. She is the married mistress of Clint
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County, the prodigal daughter in Marvin's Room, the suspicious nun in "Doubt", the fierce careerist in The Devil Wears Prada, the dancing Donna in Mamma Mia and the Danish writer in Out of Africa who tragically loses her husband and son. She has done romantic comedies, political dramas and psychological thrillers. Finally, she is the star cook in Julie and Julia.

The movie has not really taught Streep much about cooking. But she admits that she can now roast chicken to perfection, brown meat wonderfully, clean garlic and handle onion. "There was a whole kitchen set up at the studio and practised my cooking there," Streep told a recent interviewer. "I could justify it because it was part of my job. I've been cooking roast chicken for 30 years, but I'd been doing it wrong, and Julia Child has a recipe that is ab solutely foolproof. It's the difference between doing it pretty well and doing it great. But to cook well takes practice, and to be honest, I feel much more confident about my acting skills than my cooking skills. I like very simple things. A perfect roast chicken with a salad and a glass of Sancerre is my idea of heaven."

Bon appétit, shall we say to her, as she often does in Julie and Julia.

Gautaman Bhaskaran has been writing on the Oscars for many years