Meryl Streep, arriving at the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony last night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles
So finally it happened, at long last, after having been nominated 17 times - including two wins - last night Meryl Streep finally go to pick up her third Academy Award. 29 years after her last win for Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice, in which she also won for Best Actress. 3 years prior, she'd received her first Academy Award, this one in the Best Supporting Actress category for her portrayal as the tormented mother in search of herself in Kramer vs. Kramer.
With 3 wins, Streep is practically in a league of her own. Though not quite ... she joins the likes of Ingrid Bergman, who also received two Best Actress Oscars (Gaslight, Anastasia) and one for a supporting role (Murder in the Orient Express). Ahead of both of them is Katherine Hepburn, who received a total of four Academy Awards, and all of them in the Best Actress category. Streep, though, is the undisputed champion when it comes to nominations. With a total of 17 she's four ahead of Hepburn. Still, it's a pretty exclusive club up there, consisting of a mere three women, all universally acclaimed and admired actresses, who were - are - legends in their own time. Already those actresses that have received two Academy Awards are few and far between. There is only a handful of them and their names conjure up all kinds of images, images that have burnt themselves into our collective memory: Liz Taylor, Bette Davis, Jodie Foster, and the only German actress ever to receive an Academy Award - Luise Rainer.
Three Oscars or four Oscars ... all of these women have written Hollywood history and rightly deserve their place in the Pantheon. However, I can't help feeling sorry for those who've been overlooked - like this year's Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender - or those who though picking up nods, kept losing out to their colleagues. One name that springs to mind is of course Glenn Close. She was Streep's biggest competition during the 1980s, receiving five Oscar nominations, mostly in years when Streep was also nominated. When Close's as well as Streep's careers took a nosedive some time in the late 1990s, Close found a new home in television, receiving critical acclaim for her roles in Damages and The Shield. Then, with The Hours Streep's career slowly but steadily took off again and in addition to her loyal following of gay men and middle-aged housewives - those, who were in the student movement when Streep made her first on-screen appearance in Fred Zinneman's Julia and Woody Allen's Manhattan - Streep now also became popular with the generation of their daughters: those who like to shop for Prada shoes or warble Abba songs under the shower. Films like The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia finally made Streep a universal favourite, catapulting her back into the mainstream, made her the household name she always was but few households admitted to be aware of. Streep, today - at 62! - is an international megastar, someone who draws audiences from all walks of life. Just take her appearance at the Berlin Film Festival two weeks ago where she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Outside the festival theatre thousands of fans - men, women - shouted and screamed and were close to hysteria. Inside, she was showered with standing ovations that lasted several minutes, prompting her in her acceptance speech to quip, "Oh I don't think I'll ever go home again!". The last time an actress of a certain age achieved a similar feat was nearly 80 years ago, when in 1933 the then 64 year old Marie Dressler was voted America's most popular actress.
Streep, receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award - bestowed by Jake Gyllenhall - at the Berlin Film Festival on February 14, 2012
But I got sidetracked ... While Streep (or her agents) managed to turn her career around, the same cannot be said of Close. Until last year. Being offered the lead in Alfred Nobbs was a rare opportunity for Close to once more show the world what she's got on the big screen. For her outstanding portrayal of a man in 19th century Ireland she was promptly rewarded with a string of awards and nominations, including one by the Academy for Best Actress. However, as luck would have it, once again she's up against Streep. This battle of two great screen icons up for a Best Actress Oscar reminds me of the year 1950, when Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson were both nominated for their roles in you-know-what-I'm-talking-about. In the end, both of them lost ... last night, though, the odds-on-favourite (?) won. Well, it did take long enough, given that Streep's last win was nearly 30 years ago. However, I can't help feeling sorry for Glenn Close ... ...