During the voting period of the Oscar nominations (Fri 5 – Wed 10 March), I will be putting out FYC campaigns for what films Academy members should be giving a watch and who they should be considering giving a nomination for.
Today’s FYC push: Pieces of a Woman
Best Actress: Vanessa Kirby
In what was a very strong start to the campaign for Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, above McDormand for the Golden Lion film Nomadland. The buzz started to kick in for the performance and even though the film hasn’t gone on to the critical success that many were originally expecting, everyone still seemed to praise Kirby’s performance.
Of course, it is hard to deny her performance when there is a show-stopping 25-minute long one-take scene of her giving birth. It is quite simply the best scene of the entire year, and that is down to many factors: the cinematography, the writing, the pacing, the narrative, and most importantly – the acting. I challenge anyone to watch that single scene and not be compelled to give Kirby a nomination.
The film is incredibly tough to watch emotionally, and that might be why many voters haven’t given Kirby a fair shot. However, her performance has everything that the Oscars love from a dramatic performance. There are tears, there are tantrums, there are loud moments and there are quiet moments. This is a story all about grief and dealing with your emotions, and Kirby is the one that carries that from start to finish.
The momentum for Kirby really seems to have dropped in the past few months, even though she is managing to get nominated across the board. If there is someone from the top four contenders who may lose out on the Oscar nomination, it seems to be that Kirby is the most vulnerable. I seriously hope that does not happen, as she gives the best performance of the entire year and has earned that place in the Best Actress line-up.
Best Supporting Actress: Ellen Burstyn
If the momentum for Kirby seems to have dropped, it is nothing compared to what has happened to Ellen Burstyn. Missing out on the Golden Globes and the SAG Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, she is relying on the Critics Choice nomination and the BAFTA Longlist to keep her momentum going. Considering the mess of the Best Supporting Actress category, I want to make a case as to why Burstyn should get a nomination.
If voters are struggling with how intense the film is, especially with that birth scene, they will end up missing Burstyn’s biggest moments in the film. This is a film that Academy members need to commit to, but the reward is worth it for Burstyn’s scenes. She ends up delivering some of the best scenes of the film, being the only person in the film that can match Kirby’s performance.
There is one scene in particular, where Burstyn is telling the story to Kirby about her own experience of childbirth, that is so heartbreaking. This is only more powerful when you hear that Burstyn ad-libbed a section of that script in the moment, expanding on the original ideas within the script and adding more weight to it. The payoff is worth it as it is impossible not to be impacted by what her character went through.
There have been campaigns throughout the year to honour these actresses that have been in the film industry for decades. From Sophia Loren to Glenn Close, this has felt like a year to honour a lifetime of working, rather than going for a young and fresh face. Even if Burstyn already has an Oscar for her performance in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore over 45 years ago, I think she has earned herself a second award this year.
To see my full review of Pieces of a Woman, click here.