Amazing Meryl: Movie Star Through & Through

streep.jpgFROM the moment it was announced on Feb. 2, Meryl Streep’s 16th Oscar nomination — best performance by an actress in a leading role for “Julie & Julia,” in case your attention has been otherwise occupied — seemed both richly merited and a bit redundant. Of course she would! How could she not?

It is barely an exaggeration to say that you can’t have an awards season without Ms. Streep, who has been enmeshed in roughly half of them since 1979, when she was nominated for best supporting actress in “The Deer Hunter.” She won that category the next year, for “Kramer vs. Kramer,” and was nominated in it once again, in 2003, for “Adaptation.” Those three supporting nods are filigree on top of the 13 nominations for best actress, which she won on her second try, in 1983, for “Sophie’s Choice.”

More than a quarter-century has passed since then, which may mean that Ms. Streep is overdue for a third statuette. Since her last one Oscars have gone to Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank (twice) and many other more- and less-deserving younger performers, while Ms. Streep, 60, has been a constant, patient and routinely passed-over Oscar-night presence.

Has she received too much recognition or too little? Trying to quantify an answer is really just trivial showbiz math, pseudoscientific data marshaled in support of a conclusion that is already axiomatic: Meryl Streep is the best screen actress in the world.

I’m not inclined to disagree. A case could conceivably be made for Isabelle Huppert or Juliette Binoche or some other French actress, but everybody knows France is different. Actresses are regarded there as something between natural resources and national treasures, whereas here they tend to be idols, commodities or fetish objects.

And in some respects Ms. Streep’s career resembles that of some of her French counterparts, like Ms. Huppert and even Catherine Deneuve, who move nimbly between large and small films, between comic and dramatic roles, and who have been permitted to age not only gracefully, but also grandly and sensually.

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By A. O. Scott
New York Times
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New York Times

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