Whether Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar in two months’ time or not is still highly uncertain — Michelle Williams has so far been winning the battle of the biopics in the critics’ awards, while Viola Davis must wait until January’s more populist ceremonies to potentially make her mark in the race — but she’s already received a neat maybe-consolation prize in the form of her Kennedy Center Honors presentation, which aired on US television last night.
Certainly, no Academy Award presentation can match this one for either generosity of spirit or simple star wattage: in order, Tracey Ullman, Robert De Niro, Mike Nichols, Kevin Kline, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Anne Hathaway all turned up to pay their respects in an elaborately staged tribute that, while unrelated, seemed to karmically repay Streep for her own lovely testimony at the Academy’s Vanessa Redgrave tribute evening last month. The actress seems more comfortable at the giving than the receiving end of lavish praise, but good sport that she is, she grins through the whole thing.
It starts rather well, with Ullman’s appealingly rough-edged banter and a killer line from De Niro — “As an actor, looking through those moments of Meryl’s life, my first thought is that… I was amazing in ‘The Deer Hunter'” — though I confess I found myself cringing a bit as it segued into awkwardly rehearsed patter between the commendably game trio of Kline, Tucci and Blunt, climaxing with a twee musical number from Hathaway is full head-girl mode. It’s rather like watching all the worst innovations from the last three Oscar ceremonies rolled into one. Still, everyone’s heart is in the right place, and the whole production couldn’t be in service of a more deserving honoree.
I paid my own tribute to Streep recently with my top 10 list of the actress’s finest performances; check that out if you missed it, and enjoy the Kennedy Center video below.
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.
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