For an industry traditionally unfair to females, Hollywood, some are saying, has turned out this year an unusually large number of meaty women’s roles. Meaning that the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress races will be heated. Meaning that a lot of big name actresses and ingenues have revved up scene-stealing performances of women who either embody the Western ideal of womanhood, a self-sacrificing mother and wife, or its opposite, the malignant, witch-like termagant who spurns her natural place in order to pursue her own perverse ideas of independence, career ambition, sexual fulfillment, or short haircuts.
Why should these two groups be forced to compete against each other? So I propose another Oscar Category, The Hope Davis Award for Best Performance by an Actress in the Role of a Shrew.
And believe me, it’s been a strong year for shrews. It was tough narrowing the field to five. I considered Meryl Streep’s superbitch boss in “The Devil Wears Prada,” but since I only saw the film on an airplane with no sound (the headphones were broken) I decided that would not be fair. Similarly with Jennifer Connelly as the suffocating careerist wife in “Little Children,” since I fled the room after ten minutes of watching the DVD because of the godawful voice-over narrative. Diane Lane as the ballbusting, incredibly needy, wealthy girlfriend implicated in George “Superman” Reeves death in “Hollywoodland?” Perhaps, but not exactly what I had in mind; she’s more the traditional role model taken to hideous extremes. Bonnie Mbuli as “Precious,” the nagging, ultimately treacherous wife of the innocent guy driven by the South African Police into terrorism? Well, the guy did cheat on her, and she was tortured, so her bad attitude is kind of understandable.
Anyway, here are my nominees for 2006’s Best shrews:
1. Annette Bening in “Running With Scissors.” She’s the nightmare version of the empowered feminist with delusions of grandeur and a persecution complex, who, in the process of pursuing her manias and pretentions ruins her son’s life and even makes you sympathize with Alec Baldwin.
2. Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal.” Not only has she rejected the normal female roles of wife and mother for a sterile career and a malignant spinsterhood, she has apparently dedicated her life to subverting other women who have achieved those goals with her Iago-like, predatory crypto-lesbianism.
3. Katie Holmes in “Thank You for Not Smoking.” I really admire the way this film, ostensibly a satire of amoral p.r. people, instead makes the journalist responsible for exposing the hero into the bad guy; of course, like all women in her profession, she’s basically a whore who seduces men to get her scoop.
4. Angelina Jolie in “The Good Shepherd.” As we all suspected, the reason why American foreign policy has been so screwed up for the last six decades is because the people in charge -- ie, the CIA (or just “CIA” as those in the know put it) -- haven’t been getting any. And the ones to blame, of course, are their neurotic, sexless, ruthless and pitiful wives.
5. Thandie Newton in “Pursuit of Happyness.” Will Smith sure isn’t getting any happyness from this sourpuss.