Watch scenes from the performances nominated in the category of best actress at the 95th annual Academy Awards, as well as interviews with the stars at the links below.
The Oscars will be presented on March 12.
Cate Blanchett, “Tár”
Cate Blanchett won the best actress BAFTA and Golden Globe for her riveting and at times grueling performance as Lydia Tár, a celebrated Berlin orchestra conductor whose professional success (cresting with her rehearsals for a cycle of Mahler recordings) and marriage is jeopardized by her actions, which open up a wave of attacks on social media, fueling charges of cancel culture. Written and directed by Todd Field (“Little Children”), the film is provocative and at times brutally caustic in its examination of a woman seeking to remake herself, whose personal demons drive her to self-destruct.
Part of what is fascinating about Blanchett’s performance is the performative nature of it. In her early scenes as Lydia Tár, on stage or in her Juilliard master class, there is a rigid, almost script-reading cadence to her dialogue; yet in private, more intimate scenes, her delivery is more naturalistic, less self-assured (or more threatening). We come to realize that in public Lydia is herself playing a character, the character of Lydia Tár, who comes undone when she is no longer in control.
In this scene, when we are introduced to her during an interview with The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, Lydia describes her function as an orchestra conductor:
Blanchett learned to play the piano and studied conducting, including stick technique, for the role. She told “Sunday Morning” that when she led the orchestra (in German, no less), “I had to do a lot of preparation. But I mean, look, an audience couldn’t be less interested in an actor’s homework, because it’s like, Look how hard I worked. You know, it’s like, who cares?”
But she loves the homework. “I do. I mean, I found the whole thing fascinating.”
She described how her character combined the powerful and the vulnerable: “Yeah, we’ve all got those dualities in us, don’t we? And I think I we spend half of our lives in the middle of a confidence trick of pretending we’ve got our s*** together when, in fact, you know, we don’t. The world and being alive is full of nuance and gray areas. And I think that that’s where the film is really human and really provocative.”
It’s an exquisite performance that earned Blanchett her eighth Academy Award nomination. She has previously won two Oscars (for “The Aviator” and “Blue Jasmine”).
“Tár” is now in theaters, and available on demand and home video, and streaming on Peacock.
Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
Playing a tortured soul is a recurring theme among Oscar-nominated performances. Playing an acting or music legend is another. Ana de Armas, who became a star in “Knives Out” and held her own on screen opposite Daniel Craig in “No Time to Die,” earned praise for playing movie icon Marilyn Monroe in the Netflix biopic.
This clip shifts in time from Monroe watching herself in her breakthrough role in “All About Eve,” to her memory of herself, as Norma Jeane, attending an acting class:
The film, adapted from the Joyce Carol Oates novel about Monroe, received more than its share of critical drubbing for being exploitative (as well as garnering an NC-17 rating); in fact, “Blonde” leads this year’s Razzies, awarded to the worst film of the year. But de Armas was hailed for her performance.
She told the Hollywood Reporter, “I’m horrible at imitating people. If you told me to impersonate someone, I cannot. Not even my friends. People always said, ‘Can you do Marilyn’s voice?’ For me, it was not like that. It’s not a switch that I could just turn on and off. It needed some preparation and thinking before it could come out. There were not little things or tricks that I could do to make it work. There were no shortcuts. I had to be mentally there, in that emotional state, for the whole thing to come together. It was like a study of her whole [inner] state, what she was thinking [and] feeling at all times.”
This is de Armas’ first Academy Award nomination.
“Blonde” is available to stream on Netflix.
Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”
One of the biggest surprises of the morning when Oscar nominations were announced was to hear Andrea Riseborough’s name, in connection with a little-seen, barely-discussed entry in this award season discussion.
In “To Leslie,” Riseborough plays a single mother in Texas who squanders a lottery prize, and tries to redeem her life, and her relationship with her son, despite the ever-present specter of alcohol dogging her.
In this scene Leslie is confronted by her grown son James (Owen Teague) about her addiction:
Riseborough has given sterling performances in a number of high-profile films, including the Oscar-winning “Birdman,” “W.E.,” “Resistance,” “Shadow Dancer,” “Battle of the Sexes,” “The Death of Stalin,” and “Matilda the Musical.” As Leslie, her haunting character is filled with the sadness and anger of an alcoholic refusing to admit to her dependency, throwing away any sense of agency over her life.
She told The Hollywood Reporter that she recognized the very personal nature of Ryan Binaco’s script, which was based on a true story: “Sometimes you read something and you think, ‘Oh, this is that one important story for them.’ That was clear on the page. It was a celebration of somebody – in all of the glorious and horrible moments.”
“To Leslie” bowed at last year’s South by Southwest festival, and received a modest theatrical release (it earned $27,000 at the box office). But without a major promotional campaign backing its awards chances, the film’s director and wife launched a grassroots effort, built on praise for Riseborough’s performance from other actors, including Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Charlize Theron.
The Academy investigated whether the social media campaign violated its rules, throwing Riseborough’s nomination into jeopardy. But the nod remained.
“To Leslie” is available on demand and home video.
Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”
Michelle Williams has previously been nominated for Academy Awards for “Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Valentine,” “My Week with Marilyn” (playing Marilyn Monroe!), and “Manchester by the Sea.” In Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” she plays Mitzi, mother of Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker.
In this film à clef, Mitzi is a stand-in for Spielberg’s mother, Leah, and like Leah she divorces her husband after having an affair with her husband’s best friend.
The film is told through Sammy’s eyes, and so we see his vision of his mother change, from that of the nurturing woman who encourages him to use a movie camera to calm his fears — a secret the two share — to a parent whose seemingly selfish actions upend his entire world — a secret he happens to uncover through his camera.
In this scene, Mitzi offers Sammy an 8mm instrument of self-actualization:
Years later, Mitzi apologizes to her son for hitting him, though the apology is really for something else:
In an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Williams said of acting in “The Fabelmans,” “I still feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience with it, just like — I’m in a movie with Steven Spielberg?”
She spoke of the voluminous home movie footage that Spielberg had of his mother: “She was kind of a larger-than-life person. She really just comes through in everything you see, everything you listen to. She had this incredible laugh that was kind of like my touchstone for the part I would listen to before every take, this guide track of her laughing over the years.”
“The Fabelmans” is now in theaters, and available on demand and home video.
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
After decades of stardom in Hong Kong action films and international blockbusters (including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Crazy Rich Asians”), Michelle Yeoh earned her first Academy Award nomination for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” She plays Evelyn Wang, a woman who is being investigated by the IRS and being called upon to help save the universe. Not the typical plight of an immigrant laundromat owner, but then, The Daniels’ tongue-in-cheek tale of the multiverse is not your typical action-comedy.
For one thing, the part of Evelyn was originally written for man, and pitched to her “Supercop” costar Jackie Chan. She told “Sunday Morning,” “He texted me and he said, ‘Hey, congratulations on your film. Do you know your directors came to look for me first?’ I said, ‘Yes, bro, I know! Your loss, bro, thank you!'”
The actress, now 60, said she did not expect such a rich character — and such a physical role — would come to her. “Oh, I had a spectacular career,” she said. “But, you know, you don’t want it to just slow down or end because you have gotten to a certain age and, you know, you start getting scripts where the guy, your hero, is still in his fifties, sixties — some even more! — and then they get to go on the adventure with your daughter! And then you go like, ‘No, come on, guys, give me a chance, because I feel that I am still able to do all that.'”
In this scene Evelyn connects to her multiverse versions of herself, including a kung fu master, in order to fend off an attack – and in the process sees alternate paths for herself and her husband, Waymond (Oscar-nominee Ke Huy Quan):
In this scene, Michelle Yeoh gets to demonstrate some of her action film prowess, as Evelyn and an IT guy — each connected by earpieces to multiverse versions of themselves — engage in some impressive martial arts skills, until their connections are lost. Skill sets gone!
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is now in theaters, and available on demand and home video, and streaming on Showtime