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Six Circuit: Which 2011 Best Actress Got Snubbed By ‘The Iron Lady’?


NOTE: “Six Spot” will now be known as “SIX CIRCUIT.”

A wide variety of “overdue” narratives fought for the Best Actress prize in 2011. Meryl Streep was in search of her third Oscar, as it had been 29 years since her previous win (“Sophie’s Choice” in 1982). Though she had not had as long of a career, many felt Viola Davis was overdue for a leading lady career and awards recognition after a decade of scene-stealing supporting performances. Glenn Close added Oscar nomination number six to her tally (without a win) for “Albert Nobbs” in 2011. Meanwhile, Michelle Williams was riding Oscar heat with her third nomination (and second consecutive Best Actress nomination). With so many people to crown, there were lots of options for the fifth slot, particularly from past winners. Before we look at who missed out, let’s talk more about who earned a nomination.


    • Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs”
    • Viola Davis – “The Help”
    • Rooney Mara – “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
    • Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady” (WINNER)
    • Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”


SS MSIn many ways, Meryl Streep’s role in “The Iron Lady” seems like an Oscar mad-lib. She takes on the role of Margaret Thatcher in a biopic that loosely strings forceful monologues into an acting reel. Streep took home the Golden Globe and some critics prizes for the performance. However, after four nominations in five years, this was the year she finally campaigned hard. Many felt Viola Davis was going to win for “The Help,” up until the very end. She had won both the SAG and Critics Choice Awards for her role as Aibileen Clark, a Southern maid in the ‘60s who exposes the harsh conditions of her work. Plus, “The Help” was a massive late-summer blockbuster and received a Best Picture nomination. Still, Streep’s aggressive campaign plus biopic fever pushed her to the win.

The only other nominee to show up at the BAFTA, Golden Globes, SAG and Critics Choice Awards with Streep and Davis was Michelle Williams in a biopic of her own. Williams took on the role of Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn,” which won her the Golden Globe in the Musical/Comedy category. Though this marked the second consecutive nomination for Williams (and third overall), she was decidedly in third place.

One year out, Glenn Close’s passion project “Albert Nobbs” looked like a sure-thing. After mixed reviews and even worse box office, those early prospects dimmed quite a bit. Still, the legendary actress returned for her sixth nomination after showing up at SAG and the Golden Globes. The fifth spot was clearly Rooney Mara for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” who only had a Golden Globe nomination as a precursor. The movie had barely broke even, but guilds were rallying around it in many categories. Overall support for the film and director David Fincher helped Mara take the ingenue spot.


  • Kirsten Dunst – “Melancholia”
    • Precursors – National Society of Film Critics (WINNER), Cannes Film Festival (WINNER), Los Angeles Film Critics Association (Runner-Up), New York Film Critics Circle (Runner-Up), Online Film Critics Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Jodie Foster – “Carnage”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Yoon Jeong-hee – “Poetry”
    • Precursors – Los Angeles Film Critics Association (WINNER), National Society of Film Critics (Runner-Up)
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Adepero Oduye – “Pariah”
    • Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Elizabeth OIsen – “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Online Film Critics Awards, Gotham Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Emma Stone – “The Help”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Actress (Viola Davis), Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) (WINNER), Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain)
  • Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards, Critics Choice Awards, SAG Awards, BAFTA Awards, National Board of Review (WINNER), Online Film Critics Awards (WINNER)
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Charlize Theron – “Young Adult”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Kristen Wiig – “Bridesmaids”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Original Screenplay
  • Kate Winslet – “Carnage”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None


SS ESIt helps to headline an acclaimed ensemble. The one ensemble that kept taking home awards, including the coveted SAG Ensemble, was “The Help’s” nearly all-female cast. This was supposed to help Viola Davis’ chances for a Best Actress win. It did help Octavia Spencer win for Supporting Actress and for Jessica Chastain to earn her first nomination in that same category. If voters loved the cast of “The Help” so much, was Emma Stone closer than we think to a Best Actress nomination? Though the future Oscar winner gave a strong performance in the film, her storyline was a weak spot that drew focus away from the women of color who should have been at the center of the film. Lack of precursor support also illustrates that perhaps this was not Stone’s year to shine quite yet.

Meanwhile, 2011 was a particularly great year for Kristen Wiig. Her film “Bridesmaids” had become the word of mouth summer sensation that audiences couldn’t stop talking about. The R-rated comedy earned two Oscar nominations, Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy and Best Original Screenplay for Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Though Wiig was nominated for writing, could she also have gotten in for acting? Her only major precursor was at the Golden Globes. Still, the film had earned a SAG ensemble nomination, which elevated its Oscar chances across the board. If the movie had made a splash in Picture, perhaps Wiig could have been the next, most likely coattails nomination. Instead, voters probably just thought they could honor Wiig in the screenplay category rather than in Best Actress.


SS CTWhile this year’s category featured many overdue actresses, there were plenty of former winners who were in the hunt this year. The most lauded was 2007 Supporting Actress winner Tilda Swinton. Her work in Lynne Ramsey’s “We Need To Talk About Kevin” earned her plenty of high profile televised nominations (SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globes, Critics Choice) and prestigious critics wins (National Board of Review, Online Film Critics). Despite the accolades, the film showed less traction in other categories. This was most likely due to the upsetting nature of the film, which cast Swinton as the mother of a teenager who orchestrates a school massacre.

Charlize Theron (2003 Best Actress Winner) had a more palatable Oscar vehicle that sported an impressive pedigree. “Young Adult” was the first re-teaming of Oscar winner Diablo Cody and Oscar nominee Jason Reitman since they made “Juno,” a Best Picture nominee. Unfortunately, “Young Adult” was less of a smash success, compared to “Juno.” While the film commands a strong cult following, it struggled to amass enough passion to sneak Theron into Best Actress. She only earned nominations at the Critics Choice and Golden Globes. Unfortunately, her miss at SAG likely thwarted her Oscar hopes.

We consistently talk about the curveballs that the Golden Globes like to throw at prognosticators with their Musical/Comedy nominee choices. In 2011, the Hollywood Foreign Press gave Best Actress nominations to “Carnage” stars Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster, both former Oscar winners. Roman Polanski’s play adaptation was pronounced dead on arrival long before the Golden Globes tried to resuscitate it. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for Winslet and Foster.


SS EORooney Mara wasn’t the only new actress hoping to be anointed by Oscar. Elizabeth Olsen received rave reviews for her debut in Sean Durkin’s thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” Her role as a cult escapee catapulted her to a strong career and earned her plenty of accolades in the process. While she thrived at the indie film awards (Gotham, Indie Spirits), the Critics Choice Awards also put her in their lineup. Had her film had a higher profile, she might have been a very strong challenger to Mara for breakout of the year.

It would be very wrong to call Kirsten Dunst a breakout. By 2011, it had been roughly seventeen years since she starred in “Interview with a Vampire,” which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Still, her role in “Melancholia” arguably got her closer to an Oscar than ever before. Her leading role in Lars Von Trier’s apocalyptic drama won her awards at the Cannes Film Festival and National Society of Film Critics. In the past, Von Trier had directed Emily Watson to a Best Actress nomination for “Breaking the Waves.” Unfortunately, his abrasive style doesn’t always connect with Oscar voters, which must have hurt Dunst’s chances.

Some critics rallied around Adepero Oduye (“Pariah”) and Yoon Jeong-hee (“Poetry”) for Best Actress. However, their pockets of support were small and not quite mighty enough. For a critical favorite to really make a play at Oscar, they either need unanimous critical support or a surprise nomination from the likes of SAG.




Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2011 Best Actress race? Share with us in the comments below.


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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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