Even before Meryl Streep was awarded her third Oscar last night, there was no denying that she is among the most honored movie actors of our (or any) time. Since co-starring in The Deer Hunter 34 years ago, she has been nominated for 17 Oscars, a Ruthian record that appears unbreakable. She’s five nominations ahead of Jack Nicholson, who’s tied with Katharine Hepburn for second place of all time, and 36-year-old Kate Winslet is only one-third of the way to eclipsing Streep, who, by the way, is far from finished (See: the upcoming Great Hope Springs, with Tommy Lee Jones; and August: Osage County, opposite Julia Roberts). Twenty Oscar nominations is certainly within her reach.
You could argue that she should be there already. Though it seems like Streep has been nominated for every role she’s ever played, there have been times where she’s actually been overlooked. I’m not talking about Mamma Mia! or The River Wild, though they were two of her most popular movies. I’m talking about numerous carefully calibrated turns that if you don’t have her IMDb page open in front you, you’d swear she was nominated for. When you’ve been nominated as many times as Streep, it’s difficult to recall which ones were recognized by Oscar and which ones were merely excellent films, sans nomination. A little test, to prove my point: I’ll list five of her movies, three of which earned her nominations.
Without Googling, pick the two that didn’t make the cut:
-Music of the Heart
–One True Thing
Scroll for the answers and for three of my favorite non-nominated Meryl Streep performances.
If you picked The Hours and Marvin’s Room — nice work!
In The Hours (2002), if you recall, Nicole Kidman and her nose won the Oscar for Best Actress, while Julianne Moore was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Streep, though recognized with a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination for playing a New Yorker looking after an AIDS-stricken writer (Ed Harris), did not land an Oscar nod, likely because her role in Adaptation got one instead. Her conflicted character, Clarissa, a lesbian literary editor still devoted to her former male lover, who himself has been gay for decades, is so fully formed, and her inner pain stings the most because of the way Streep internalizes it.
In Marvin’s Room (1996), Streep plays Diane Keaton’s estranged sister, who could be the bone-marrow match that can save her from leukemia. Keaton is the good daughter who’s spent the last 17 years caring for their half-comatose father after Streep left and never looked back. Streep smokes, squirms, and stresses over her pyro teenage son (Leonardo DiCaprio) — it’s actually fun to see her so aggravated and overwhelmed. Keaton got the Oscar nod, but Streep did her share of the heavy lifting.
Long before The Iron Lady and The Devil Wears Prada, Streep played another powerful woman in The Manchurian Candidate (2004) remake. Her Eleanor Shaw was a ruthless politician — a deranged modern-day Lady MacBeth — and Streep took such delight wearing those shoes. “Where are all the men any more?” she barks at the men who she thinks have failed her son.
Do you have a favorite Streep role that failed to capture the Academy’s attention? (To be fair, there aren’t that many.) Are you a fan of Defending Your Life or Heartburn? Couldn’t she have easily been nominated for every role she ever did? (Okay, except Death Becomes Her.)