Meryl Streep solidifies her standing as one of the best actresses ever, and in the process helps redefine what movie goers want. She won her third Academy Award Sunday night to the shock (how!) of many.
In the history of motion pictures there have been all types of stars. Some stars so beautiful that they stopped traffic. There are others who immersed themselves so deeply into their characters that it took years off their lives in the process. There have been some who could sing and others who could dance. Some of the all-time greats who have passed: Marilyn, Greta, The Duke, Bette, Marlon, Liz. When people are asked about today's great actors, most respond with Dench, Nicholson, DeNiro, Pacino, Winslet, Foster, Kidman or Penn. But when the dust has settled and we look back at the last 30 years of Hollywood, the actress whose star has shone the brightest is surprisingly often overlooked. The best of the bunch: Meryl Streep.
The numbers speak for themselves. The most-ever nominated (17) actress for the Academy Awards, her 3 wins leave her only one behind Katherine Hepburn. Her roles have been varied and she has appeared in many great films-though one has to wonder if her acting made good films great. She is attractive enough, but has never been a looker. The one thing that Ms Streep has that all the greats have is the ability to give depth to her characters. And what marvelous depth she conveys!
From Achilles to Superman, the thing that draws us to our heroes in novels, operas or films is their lack of perfection. Everybody has a weak spot. Ms. Streep is able to portray her subjects in a way that we know their weakness lurks just below the surface, but it remains tantalizing beyond our view. She lets us focus on the good while we remain cognizant of the bad. Like an old Hitchcock film, the shadows are usually more frightening than the "in your face" gore of today, and so is her talent for barely suppressing her character's flaws than exposing them for the world to see. Is it any wonder that the lowest budget Horror Movies often gross the most at the box office? This is how she does it. Meryl Streep has masterfully combined power with innuendo and nuance to create one of the Silver Screen's greatest icons.
But beyond her abilities, and we are watching one of the all-time greats who has honed her craft brilliantly, Ms. Streep's latest Oscar can perhaps help transcend Hollywood. Too often for too long the executives of the major studios have continually bombarded us with young, attractive actresses and ever-increasing complex special effects to pry our hard-earned money from our hands. This may work briefly with the younger crowds, but at some point they all grow up and want to see skill and talent. With her win Ms. Streep has shown yet again that good acting earns money and awards, and the real consumer will gravitate towards good art. If you combine her Best Actress Award, along with the Best Picture Award of the last two years (The King's Speech and The Artist), we may be well on our way to a Renaissance in Hollywood which many people believe is sorely needed.
We all hear how difficult it is to land a leading role in Hollywood beyond the age of 40 for women; men are given much more leeway. One can only hope that with the talent and staying power of Meryl Streep, she is opening doors for actresses of today who can find sufficient work tomorrow. Some of the greatest works of art that we enjoy today were written, composed, painted or created by people beyond the age of most of Hollywood's leading ladies. Why shouldn't this most remarkable art form of the 20th and 21st Centuries enjoy the contributions of their most-talented elder stateswomen? In 2012, haven't we progressed beyond thighs and eyes?
Thank you, Meryl Streep, and I know you have got another Oscar in you.