Sometimes it’s nice when actors get nominated just so their film can receive some attention. Sometimes it’s nice to hear good things about little known actresses. Ana de Armas in “Blonde” and Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie” both draw us in with very different characterizations.
The “Blonde” that de Armas plays is Marilyn Monroe. De Armas rises to the challenge of playing one of the most iconic movie stars ever. She steers clear of caricature and employs a perfectly tuned flavor of impersonation. She radiates the not quite explainable magic that was Marilyn Monroe, including the vulnerability that was the mark of this actress, this celebrity, this human being.
Although a worthy Oscar contender, the voting will credit her just a little bit less because she is incarnating Marilyn. Voters won’t fully appreciate the difficult character rendering.
Riseborough’s character is as much a nobody as Marilyn Monroe was a somebody. This character wallows in the dysfunctional, alcoholic life she is cultivating. The story unfolds a very unlikely path to a better life. Riseborough delivers a wonderful balance of a person who does not rate our sympathy but also a person we want to see beating the odds she’s stacked against herself.
Although a worthy Oscar contender, the voting will pass over her as lacking the breakthrough appeal to honor what seems to be a very busy actress.
Michelle Williams fits the world of “The Fabelmans” playing the outgoing, somewhat odd, but obviously loving mother. The Steven Spielberg character is clearly a child getting his nature and nurture from both parents. While the fit strengthens the film, it feels more like a supporting performance than a Best Actress performance. Williams is an apt factor in pointing out that this is a good Spielberg film, not a great one.
The contest for Best Actress Oscar really involves only two of the nominees: Cate Blanchett in “Tar” and Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Cate Blanchett orbits in the same acting stratosphere as Meryl Streep. (OK, maybe not the same but in analogously rarefied air). Blanchett continues stretching through a variety of roles. In “Tar,” she plays an orchestra conductor, a very driven, exacting woman. The portrayal is accented by the demands of proving herself in a man’s world. Blanchett commands the complexity of playing a person whose excellence drinks the same juice that causes behavior that undermines her.
This role should win her third Oscar (“The Aviator,” 2004, and “Blue Jasmine,” 2013). Should … however … there’s the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” factor.
For some reason, some peculiar physics has put a gravitational field around “Everything Everywhere All at Once” that will pull multiple Oscars from the competition. Best Actress will go to Michelle Yeoh.
Yeoh performs very effectively, although it’s fairer to say she is very well used in the pinball wizardry that is “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Yes, she inhabits well the character of a down-to-earth family woman and small business owner, but mostly she mugs a cinematically charged mixture of science fiction dimensions, martial arts gyrations, and screwball machinations.
Usually, younger actresses win at the Oscars. In this case, Yeoh will be seen as a veteran actress whose been underappreciated and who puts an appealing face on underappreciated Asian actors.