Nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing 15 times, Meryl Streep is considered by many to be America's greatest living actress. Known as perfectionist, she can always be counted on to turn in an outstanding performance. Who can forget her work in such diverse films as Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie's Choice, The Hours, Julie and Julia, and Doubt? Of her performance in Sophie's Choice, the irascible Roger Ebert said, "There is hardly an emotion that Streep doesn't touch in this movie, and yet we're never aware of her straining. This is one of the most astonishing and yet one of the most unaffected and natural performances I can imagine." Ms. Streep is now 62, and she only gets more beautiful, though she's never afraid to play women who are decidedly unattractive. She's a master of dialect and accents, and occasionally even sings. A Yale graduate, she has received an honorary doctorate from Harvard and Princeton, and even has a Sesame St. character - Meryl Sheep - named for her! Meryl Streep is truly a national treasure.
She was recently called "the thinking man's sex symbol", and she's 65! Helen Mirren made her debut in the 60's and continued to work in the 70's, but didn't really gain much recognition until she played Detective Jane Tennyson in the 90's BBC series Prime Suspect. An actress of astonishing talent, versatility and presence, she's won countless awards and nominations, winning the the Academy Award in the best actress category for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006). She definitely has her bawdy side as well. I like actors who can disappear into their roles, and that's true of no one more than Ms. Mirren.
It's hard to pin down the" je ne sais quoi", the factor that makes me admire Julia Roberts. There always comes a point in each of her movies where a part of her performance will really affect me. The scene that comes to mind right now is the one inMy Best Friend's Wedding, when her character realizes how snotty she's been, and begs her best friend to forgive her. But there are countless others. She's so real up there on the screen.
Every bit as individualist as Johnny Depp, Helena BC is another British standout. Her first leading roles were in Lady Jane and A Room with a View (1985), and most recently has played Queen Elizabeth against Colin Firth in The King's Speech. She is now married to Tim Burton, and the couple has collaborated on several quirky projects, including Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. My favorite among all of HBC's roles is that of Helen in Howard's End. In early 2009, Bonham Carter was named one of The Times newspaper's top 10 British Actresses of all time. It's always fun to look for her on Red Carpets because of her interesting choices in evening wear.
Quintessentially American, down to earth, with a real sense of humility, Sandra Bullock makes you wish you knew her. Her acting style is refreshingly natural. She's stunning, yet can play ordinary women with total credibility. And the roles she picks are almost always interesting ones. So she has questionable taste in men.... Nobody's perfect.
Dame Judi has been around for a long time, turning out stellar performances that reflect her classical training. From Shakespeare to Telly Britcom, from The Importance of Being Earnest to Ladies in Lavender, she is equally at home on stage and in front of a camera. Married for 30 years, until the death of her husband, Michael Williams, Ms. Dench is not afraid to show, or act, her age. She is beloved both in England and America. I've never seen a better Queen Elizabeth I or Queen Victoria.
Not conventionally beautiful, Emma Thompson brings a quiet sophistication and wry sense of humor to her roles. She has the distinction of being the only person to win both acting and screenplay Oscars. Ms. Thompson's range as an actress is vast; she can do Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Nanny McPhee with equal aplomb. Among her dozens of roles, my favorites are Margaret in Howard's End, for which she won the best actress Oscar, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing with her then husband Kenneth Branagh, and Kate in Last Chance Harvey, with the great Dustin Hoffman.
Aussie Cate Blanchett first caught my attention when she played the Queen in Elizabeth. Perhaps her most difficult role was that of Katherine Hepburn, an icon if there ever was one, but Cate pulled it off in 2004 in The Aviator, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Since then her performances in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Notes on a Scandal with Judi Dench, and Lord of the Rings have garnered her countless nominations and awards. Always elegant while managing a slight edginess, her acting range is wide and deep, and she's something of a chameleon. A pleasing mix of beauty, brains, and talent.
After 21 years as a school psychologist, I now work part-time at two local historical museums, giving tours and teaching special programs. This leaves me more time to enjoy my little grandchildren, and … more