For the first time in over 20 years, it looks like Meryl Streep might finally win an Oscar. The 62-year-old actress, whom so many hail as the best living actress, has been nominated a record 17 times but hasn't won since 1983 for "Sophie's Choice." Despite several close races - most recently losing to Sandra Bullock for "The Blind Side" in 2010 - Streep has been defeated in every Oscar race since.
This year, Streep is nominated for "The Iron Lady," a biopic about British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that required the actress to adopt not one but two accents, in addition to physically transforming herself as the character aged. She is benefitting from a massive tide of good will, particularly because this is the fourth performance of hers in just six years (since "The Devil Wears Prada" in 2006) to get nominated. Most pundits have boiled down the race to a two-woman contest between Streep and her close friend and former co-star (in "Doubt") Viola Davis.
Davis is nominated for "The Help," in which she portrayed Aibleen, a maid working for a wealthy white family in the Civil Rights South who agrees to help a young journalist tell the help's story. She has won the Critics' Choice Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for the performance, while Streep has won the Golden Globe and several individual critics' prizes for her own performance. The others in the race, including Michelle Williams for "My Week with Marilyn" and Glenn Close for "Albert Nobbs," are considered also-rans who have no chance in the face of the Davis-Streep battle.
However, the race is once again taking the turn it always does: leaning towards an unrewarded candidate because of Streep's extensive history with Oscar. It's difficult for voters to consider Streep under-rewarded when she's received so much acclaim and so many nominations over the course of her career. As a result, despite her early promise in every race since 2006, she's wound up being defeated by another actress. Some races were close calls: Helen Mirren in "The Queen" was quite good, after all. And some races just weren't: Bullock probably should have placed fourth in her year.
Davis is certainly worthy of the acclaim - her work in "The Help," while not her best, is still a strong performance informed by the same dignity and power she brought to her work in "Doubt." The issue lies with Streep's inability to generate ‘win heat' for her performances because she seems so heavily awarded already. It's still possible she could pull out a win come Feb. 26, but I won't be surprised if it's Davis who takes the gold on Oscar night.
This is the opinion of Kevin O'Keeffe, a sophomore screenwriting major from Austin, Texas. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org