Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

February 27, 2014

CALLERI: One sure thing, and a tough best picture race highlight Oscars

Niagara Gazette — Last August, in this newspaper, I essentially gave the 2014 Academy Award for best actress to Cate Blanchett for her extraordinary performance as the delusional, self-absorbed Jasmine French in Woody Allen’s exceptional “Blue Jasmine.” Nothing has changed my mind. Blanchett will win. In fact, for all intents and purposes, she’s the only sure thing at this year’s 86th annual Oscars.

I had thought Blanchett might have strong competition from French actress Adele Exarchopoulos of “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” but the Academy didn’t nominate her heartbreaking acting, which, while not quite a crime, does indicate that although Oscar voters may love visiting Paris, when it comes to honoring a lesbian high school student character in France, they’d rather run screaming for the hills. The Beverly Hills, of course.

Who received Exarchopoulos’s spot in the list of nominated actresses? Perhaps it was Judi Dench for “Philomena,” a soggy sponge of a misguided movie, which for half of its length plays a serious true subject, the abuse of pregnant Catholic Irish girls by nuns, for laughs. Dench’s performance lacks an essential ingredient, something one would expect from a woman, who, as a teenager, was forced to sell her child: unbridled rage. Dench’s Philomena exhibits no anger. She shows more emotion when she discovers that her Washington, D.C. hotel serves waffles at breakfast. For the record, this delights her.

And possibly, it’s Sandra Bullock instead of Exarchopoulos. Bullock’s performance in the half-good “Gravity” was tantamount to listening to a mouse squeak. Who said “in outer space, no one can hear you scream?”

The other women in the best actress category are Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, both of whom I enjoy watching in movies. I wrote that Streep’s caustic matriarch of a dysfunctional family kept “August: Osage County” from complete tedium, and I praised Adams along with her exuberant co-stars in “American Hustle.” However, on Academy Award night, go with the deserving Blanchett and start your Oscar pool off right.

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