With another Oscar nod likely in the cards for Ms. Streep, that will likely bring her nomination total to a nice fifteen (Doubt is opening in steady rollout in major American cities, which means it'll get to Atlanta in...2012) I thought it prudent to pay tribute to one of my favorites with a top ten dedicated strictly to her.
10. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Meryl Streep singing? Sign me up...except Mamma Mia! This was a, whimsical and lived-in performance. She proves here that she's just as good when she's having fun as she is when she's in a dramatic role. And Tomlin+Streep, be it at the Oscars or in this film=Comic Gold.
9. She-Devil (1989)
Like I said before, I love Streep when she's having fun. Put Meryl Streep and Roseanne together and you get fun, campy genius. Awesomeness overload. The whispery voice. The hoity-toity attitude. I believe this to be the basis for Jessica Lovejoy (Reverend Lovejoy's daughter) on "The Simpsons," who Meryl Streep voiced.
8. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
I have a lot of issues with this movie. Its reactionary politics of the late seventies/early eighties, the condemnation of working mothers...Okay. Fuck it. This isn't a sociology paper. This is still a great performance from Meryl Streep. The movie itself isn't even terrible, but even it had been, it would have been salvaged by Joanna's heartbreaking speech at the end when she gives up custody of her son. It's the scene that probably won her the Oscar and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.
7. Marvin's Room (1996)
It may have been Diane Keaton who scored an Oscar nod, but it was Streep who gave the better performance. Her no-nonsense mothering of Leo DiCaprio's fucked up character was awesome. She always goes real where so many others would go maudlin.
6. The Hours (2002)
Of the three principle leads in The Hours, Streep's scenes are the ones that stuck with me the most. So much more lived-in that Kidman's haunted glower (an impressive turn nonetheless) and Moore's uncharacteristic vacantness. The breakdown when the faucet sprays, the conversation with her daughter about happiness...Streep gets Clarissa Vaughn and The Hours, neither of which are all that simple.
5. Adaptation (2002)
Again, this is Meryl having fun. But it's complex, deep fun in service of a heavier piece of cinema. I love that an actress of her caliber can still handle supporting roles with such amazing aplomb. I can watch Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper making dial tone noises a million times and it will never stop being delightful
4. Sophie's Choice (1982)
Enough has been said about this performance that there's very little for little old me to say twenty-six years later. The woman learned Polish, for God's sake. That's commitment! A tough role, deftly handled by one of our greatest actresses.
3. Angels in America (2003)
This isn't technically a film. I'm aware of that. But it's a damn fine mini-series boasting a damn-fine performance from Ms. Streep. In multiple roles, no less.
2. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Who else but Meryl Streep would have been able to do what she did with this role? She's such a smart woman. She plays it down where any other actress would have played it up. Quiet where another actress would have been loud. Imagine Glenn Close as Miranda Priestly...a lot of yelling. "Answer your phone An-dray-ah! I won't be igNORED!" Or God forbid, Sally Kirkland. Yikes. Streep is awesome. That's all.
1. Silkwood (1983)
Let me give you a rundown of the best actress race from 1983 in the form of a math inequation. Streep > Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment) > Shirley Maclaine in (Terms of Endearment)
Karen Silkwood remains Streep's best performance. Her most lived-in, authentic and arresting performance. This is not just her best. This is one of the best screen performances ever by any actor. Period.