best film: Manhattan. This is far from being Streep’s signature film/role and she’s no better than the 5th best (or most important) performance in the film. I think Deer Hunter is a masterpiece (though not quite on Manhattan’s level) so that’s a fine film to have as your best film. Streep is wonderful in that film and she does battle with De Niro and Walken who are also near (De Niro) or at (Walken) their career peaks as well in terms of their superb performance. The next best film for me would probably be the gorgeous Out of Africa.
best performance: Sophie’s Choice. It’s not her best film but it features her trademark accent or dialect perfection, is indeed a strong film, and has that pivotal choice/flashback scene that would be amongst the handful of scenes you would show someone if you wanted to show them how good screen acting can be. There only a dozen or so other fine candidates here for best performance but right underneath Sophie’s Choice would be Deer Hunter (mentioned above), Out of Africa (another high-wire dialect-laden epic) and Kramer Vs. Kramer which may feature her best performance on a per-minute basis. What she’s able to do in the opening and closing of that film (and maybe one or two in-between- she’s not in much of the film) is otherworldly. She gives a duality and complexity to the film that baffles me. We should dislike her—and we don’t- that’s a triumph of Streep and I can’t see another actress pulling it off.
stylistic innovations/traits: We’re at 20 total films in the archives and counting. Streep is clearly still going strong. She’s the record holder in Academy Award nominations for an actress and I think clearly the best actress of her generation. She may lack quality performances in masterpieces (1) but her depth and clear range as an actress is her case. Her 11th best performance (probably A Cry in the Dark or Angels in America) would be top 5 for almost every other actress in film history. It’s just too overwhelming for other great actresses that are in superior films in comparison with Streep (say like Faye Dunaway). Her vast range includes those accents and authenticity but she doesn’t need it to wallop us with her performance either (Deer Hunter, Adaptation).
directors worked with: Mike Nichols (3) and then Cimino, Woody Allen, Pakula, Demme, Altman, Spielberg and Spike Jonze all once a piece. This makes her distinctly different than the previously mentioned actresses here like Masina, Gish, Ullman and a few others that paired up so often with a top 10 auteur.
Top 10 Performances:
- Sophie’s Choice
- Deer Hunter
- Out of Africa
- Kramer vs. Kramer
- Postcards From the Edge
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman
- The Bridges of Madison County
|1978- Deer Hunter|
|1979- Kramer Vs. Kramer|
|1981- The French Lieutenant’s Woman|
|1982- Sophie’s Choice|
|1985- Out of Africa|
|1988- A Cry In the Dark|
|1990- Postcards From the Edge|
|1991- Defending Your Life|
|1995- The Bridges of Madison County|
|2002- The Hours|
|2003- Angels In America|
|2004- The Manchurian Candidate|
|2006- A Prairie Home Companion|
|2017- The Post|