With the werewolves out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled programming. A few weeks ago, The Hollywood Reporter ran a piece called "Shallow pool for Oscar's actress contenders." The basic premise: While the list of female directorial hopefuls is stronger than ever for the 2010 Academy race, the actress nods aren't so hot with Meryl Streep leading only a handful of other front-runners (Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe). The piece also noted the other potential Best Actress candidates, the possibility of notable performances in the remaining releases, the struggles women still face in Hollywood, and -- egads -- the fact that some are talking about Sandra Bullock getting a nod for The Blind Side.
Reading the article through, I quickly had a thought .... and it was most definitely not about that previously mentioned werewolf flick getting any award love. Usually a discussion like this might be disheartening or aggravating, but the thought wasn't negative. It was, in fact, quite positive.
Why don't we use this "shallow pool" as a reason to celebrate unconventional roles and performances?
Now I don't mean "unconventional" as in "weird," but rather, roles that we're not used to seeing on the awards roster. If we celebrate some roles that we might not usually see come Oscar time (or not see often), ones with great and engaging women, isn't there a possibility that increased exposure could help not only the films, but also these types of roles, and maybe, just maybe, lead to a larger collection of great roles for actresses to bite into? Acclaim -> Exposure -> Increased Demand?
Even if some of the roles aren't as good, there is no way that it would dilute the Best Actress race. We're talking about an awards ceremony that sometimes gets it right, but can also get it disastrously wrong. My best (as always) example: There is no way that Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich shows more acting talent, or embodies a more perfect performance than Ellen Burstyn's Sara Goldfarb. If we can accept that blip, we can accept a little broadening of the actress expectations.
Let's face it -- there's a whole lot more to the world of female acting than heavy drama and "going ugly" for a gig -- it's one of the reasons I love the thought of Streep winning this year. Her performance is bang-on, and it's always a refreshing treat to see someone get an award for a stellar performance that doesn't evoke tears and heartache.
I wish that we could include the likes of Rachel Weisz and Agora in this discussion, but she won't hit American screens until 2010. Luckily, there is also her delightful turn as Penelope Stamp in The Brothers Bloom. At first, Stamp looked like one of those typical quirky and rich recluse characters -- one who crashes cars without a care and barely sees beyond her own nose. But bit by bit through the film, the role was flushed out into one of my all-time favorite female characterizations -- a woman full of intelligence, ability, and charm.
In the airline sector, George Clooney is getting a lot of talk for Up in the Air, but it would be wonderful to see either female co-star gain some of the cred. Vera Farmiga's Alex Goran was a breath of fresh air, even with a few flaws, and what about Anna Kendrick? Her name -- Natalie Keener -- might be a bit cliched, but the girl -- quite bluntly -- kicked arse. Here is an actress who sent from random supporting Twilight cast member who looked like nothing more than the bubbly teen actor to an actress who adeptly held her own against the likes of Clooney and Farmiga.
Maybe I'm wrong... But I can't help but wonder if this is at least a little part of the problem -- if we keep jovially chastising the crappy romcoms as okay fluff fare and throwing awards to the heavy drama, maybe that's all we'll ever really get the chance of seeing in most of Hollywood. But if we stretch those boundaries a little to the magic that can be found in so much easily tossed aside fare, I can't help but think we'd be one step closer to having Best Actress complaints only revolve around how to choose between all the stunning performances and varied female roles.
If you were going to choose some conventional and unconventional picks for 2010's Oscars, who would they be?
Added note: While her role was too small for this discussion, Zoe Kazan was all shades of delightful in Me and Orson Welles, so keep an eye out for her.