Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Theory on Why Julianne Moore Will Win Best Actress

Julianne Moore
With the Oscars closing in, it's time to finalize the votes for who is likely going to win the top prizes. While I have already discussed the three pronged Best Picture race (SelmaBirdmanBoyhood), but now it is time to get into the other big categories. Over the next few days, I will be sharing quick pieces on who is likely to win in each of the major categories as well as any discussion of a potential upset. Coming up is a piece on why Julianne Moore (Still Alice) is pretty much going to walk away with the Best Actress trophy on Oscar night.

Reese Witherspoon - Wild
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything

If there is one unfortunate trend that has popped up during this Oscar season, it was the lack of love for female-centric films in the Best Picture categories. With the Best Actress category, it appears antithetical to the trend with each of these nominees showing female characters that not only inhabited the movies, but even enhanced them and brought personality. In some cases, such as Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, they gave breakout performances that struck audiences in ways that their more popular counterparts didn't. It was a great year for female-centric films, though I do humbly wish that the Best Picture category better reflected this.

However, what exactly gives Julianne Moore the edge here? For all purposes, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night embodies similar circumstances. She is bipolar and hopeless in a performance that marks one of her best. However, it is easily the most surprising nominee of the group simply because she has been absent from Oscar conversation prior to her nomination. It is also more nuanced and thematic than any of the other nominees. If the category is going for a mental struggle battle, it's between Moore and Cotillard, though the latter comes in way behind.

Why is this? Because Cotillard already has an Oscar to her name for Best Actress for La Vie En Rose. Also, her latest simply lacks a profile or a deer reasoning. In Still Alice, Moore plays a woman whose memory is fading before our eyes. It is a crushing and heartbreaking role that sees something unprecedented in Oscar winners. The performance begins as large as things will get and tears apart the layers. There's subtlety as she has lapses in judgment and eventually reaches her inevitable conclusion. Each deterioration comes unexpectedly and is more tragic than any of the other nominees.

Much like Best Actor front runner Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Moore's gimmick is that she has an illness. Characters with disabilities always plays well with the acting awards. It presents a struggle and embodies something that is often harder than biopic characters. Much like Jennifer Lawrence winning this category for Silver Linings Playbook, mental illness is the hardest to perfect and convince audiences of. In the case of Still Alice, it isn't about how showy it is, but how convincing the tragedy is. There's a hopelessness that causes the predictable ending to become a tear jerker in ways that none of the others have. The film is phenomenal largely because of Moore's performance.

Of course, there's one singular reason that goes beyond the great performance. It is that many believe that Moore is overdue for an award. As has been the case in the past, many Oscars have been given out to various actors not because of great performances (though this is contrary here), but for a body of work so impressive that it seems criminal to have ignored them. Moore has had a long and storied career full of memorable performances that thankfully show her range. For her to finally receive an award for such a complex and memorable performance is a no brainer and likely the reason that she'll win on Oscar night.

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