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Streep’d of all my defenses

How can you possibly argue against Meryl Streep? Try winning that debate. Rapturously praised as the greatest actress of our time(and I probably agree), what can you say about her that is negative? Well, for one, she’s done a load of crappy movies in the last decade. And “The Iron Lady” just may be the worst of the lot. At the very least, it’s a draw with the insipid “It’s Complicated” from 2009. Heck, I’ll even re-watch 2008’s “Mamma Mia!”(also helmed by “Iron Lady”‘s Phyllida Lloyd)over the Maggie Thatcher bio. At least with the Abba musical you had no right thinking it would be any good(of course, the damn thing was a worldwide SMASH!). I’ll even concede that Ms. Streep’s half of “Julie & Julia” is more than tolerable. But that Amy Adams “Julie” portion is so sophomoric that it sinks the whole enterprise. Same for 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada”. It’s a toothless misfire. But Meryl is absolutely glorious in it as Miranda Priestly(a thinly disguised Anna Wintour). She deftly humanizes a monster in that, but the picture tanks whenever she’s not on the screen. We all know what Streep’s victory for “The Iron Lady” was about. Hell, they were running an ad in the trades all last week! IT’S BEEN 29 YEARS SINCE MERYL STREEP HAS WON AN ACADEMY AWARD! It was an instructional guide. A bullhorn reminder that despite 17 total nominations(more than any actor ever), she hasn’t walked up to the podium since Ronald Reagan’s first term as President. Not since her marvelous turn in 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice”. That’s a loooooong time—and they made sure everyone knew it. Man, she lost for some superb films and performances in that time, too. In fact, a history lesson…            Ms. Streep rounded out a trio of terrific acting jobs(along with Cher and Kurt Russell)in 1983’s “Silkwood” from Mike Nichols. Will anyone ever forget the horrific shower scenes…possibly only rivaled by “Psycho”? My God, it was referenced on “Seinfeld” over a decade later for crying out loud! But that was the year of “Terms of Endearment”, and Shirley Maclaine’s only competition was her co-star Debra Winger. I adored Meryl in 1985’s “Out of Africa” as well. She may have been saddled with a miscast Robert Redford, but again, her Karen Blixen carried the film. “I had a farm in Africa…”—it’s ingrained in my memory. But it was time for the legendary Geraldine Page to garner her statuette(that generation’s greatest actress)that year for “The Trip to Bountiful”. She was also incredible in 1987’s “Ironweed” alongside the equally astonishing Jack Nicholson. That one is such a downer you may want to slit your wrists when it’s over, but Meryl and Jack make it worth the depression. That year, btw, was finally Cher’s turn for “Moonstruck”. And in 1988 Meryl knocked it out of the park as Lindy Chamberlain in Fred Schepisi’s underrated “A Cry in the Dark”. You want to talk iconic—they spoofed that one on “Seinfeld” too! Jodie Foster took her first for “The Accused” that time around. What about Streep’s comedic gem Suzanne Vale role in 1990’s “Postcards from the Edge” from Mike Nichols? A Carrie Fisher-inspired big Hollywood story to boot. But Meryl couldn’t get by Kathy Bates breaking James Caan’s ankles in “Misery”. She was also luminous in “Defending Your Life” in 1991, athletic in 1994’s “The River Wild”, and biting in the 2004 remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” in a few of her non-nominated performances.               Hey, she had her share of major successes this past decade, too. She never got me to forget Cherry Jones’ original stage creation, but Streep’s Sister Aloysius in 2008’s “Doubt” was pretty freakin’ good. Also, her vocal for Mrs. Fox in the animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” from 2009 was top-notch. And I really thought she hit paydirt in 2002’s “Adaptation” from the brilliant Spike Jonze. How in the world did her Susan Orlean portrayal lose Best Supporting Actress to “Chicago’s” Catherine Zeta-Jones?! I mean—are you kidding me? So, listen—I love Meryl Streep. LOVE HER. She is deservedly a legend and one of the select few who can be called “great”(is there a more overused platitude?)without making me cringe. But Viola Davis’s Aibileen was more worthy this year for being the one that almost saved “The Help”. And Michelle Williams deserves mention too(the Indie Spirits got that right the night before the Oscars)for actually saving “My Week with Marilyn” as Marilyn Monroe. Chances are, Streep wouldn’t have had to wait that much longer for a third Academy Award, anyway(remember, besides “Sophie’s Choice” in 1982, she also was victorious as Best Supporting Actress in 1979 for “Kramer vs. Kramer”). Her upcoming take on Violet Weston in the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-Prize winning “August: Osage County” is the kind of role that has Oscar written all over it. But, no more sour grapes. I applaud the celebrated Ms. Streep on her most recent triumph. Her impersonation did not do it for me, but the voters have spoken. Maybe Viola Davis will eventually win for a performance that she doesn’t deserve it for. Of course, that’s part of the issue. It supposed to be an award for the “Best” acting. Not for being the oldest or the most overlooked. Not for “Best” impersonation. Best ACTING. Oh well, it’s hardly the first time and it won’t be the last.

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