Awards shows are about to boil down all the great movie work of 2017 to a pathetic, overhyped few. Before that happens, let’s appreciate some of last year’s finest achievements that those retired academy voters might forget to acknowledge.
We’ll start with some of the great performances by lead actresses (I’ll do actors next week). There were a lot, and they all can’t get nominations. So I’m listing some who will and some who probably won’t. Does my criteria go any deeper than superb performances don’t need awards campaigns to validate them? Perhaps.
So, yes, we’ve acknowledged that Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan were perfect in “The Post” and “Lady Bird,” respectively, just as we respectfully expect them to be all the time now. And Frances McDormand was her expectedly disrespectful force of nature spewing out all of that unnatural “Three Billboards Outside Wherever It Was” dialogue.
Last year’s performances that really got me, though, were the surprise ones from actresses either trying new things, expressing compounds of feelings we hadn’t thought them capable of before, or just coming out of nowhere and stealing, the irresistible little crook, my heart.
In descending order of how much I’ll never forget them, here are the top five actresses of 2017:
Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”): Actors often earn easy praise for playing a character with a handicap. It permits them to go over-the-top and lean on technique in ways they otherwise probably wouldn’t. English marvel Hawkins does some of that in this Cold War woman-fishman love story, but uses it to enhance her mute custodian Elisa’s full-on humanity, not merely to define her by her most distinctive trait. Peculiar lust, passion-fueled bravery and a curiosity about the “other” that the world could use a lot more of nowadays are just a few of the qualities Hawkins draws so very, very engagingly. All while Elisa makes the movie’s most profound connection with…