Welcome to Season 2 of Oscar Justice, a weekly feature at IceCream4Freaks. It’s a simple concept: I give an Oscar to someone who rightfully deserved it, then I follow the repercussions down the line until I am satisfied.
This week on Oscar Justice: Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice
2005 Best Actress, Pride and Prejudice – Lost to Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
2014 Best Supporting Actress, The Imitation Game – Lost to Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Though a prolific child star, Keira Knightley wasn’t a household name until 2003. Following her breakthrough in the indie hit Bend It Like Beckham, the British actress achieved superstardom at the tender age of 18 in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Critical success was soon to follow.
Following some small hits and big misses, Knightley landed the coveted role of Elizabeth Bennett in the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Despite some deviations from the source material, Knightley garnered a bevy of acclaim and awards for the role, including her first Oscar nomination at the age of 20. She became the third-youngest (at the time) Best Actress nominee, but lost the award.
Further commercial success followed Knightley through the aughts but awards attention alluded her. She finally returned to the Academy’s good graces in 2014 as Best Supporting Actress for The Imitation Game, but once again walked away empty-handed.
Despite no Oscar success recently, Knightley continues to find work and is still only 37 years old. Don’t be surprised to see her walking across the Academy stage one day.
Keira Knightley defeats Reese Witherspoon at the 2005 Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
WHY THIS JUSTICE?
I had been a long-time skeptic when it came to British costume adaptations. I never found them particularly interesting. When I discovered Pride and Prejudice, I was blown away. Part of my love for this film is its modern feel, despite taking place hundreds of years ago. Knightley especially conveyed that modern feel. Just because the setting is in the past does not mean these people are completely alien and no one was able to make a character feel as modern as Knightley did.
Beautiful actresses are often patronized to and accused of getting where they are based solely on their looks. Knightley is never ugly in the film, but her beauty is never the focus of her personality. She is vibrant and expressive; becoming the heroine the film needs her to be.
The Best Actress performances of 2005 leave plenty to be desired. Witherspoon’s win was more of a coronation, but the inundation of musical biopics has not aged her film well. Speaking of not aging well, Felicity Huffman’s portrayal of a transgender man is not a great look, not to mention there is no cultural impact of the film itself. Judi Dench’s nomination was seen as a reputation nomination over anything else in a film that no one saw. Theron is great in North Country, but again, the film has no lasting cultural impact.
Knightley easily gives the best performance of the bunch.
One of the reasons I picked this particular justice is it gives me a chance to award several great performances down the line. Witherspoon is good in Walk the Line, but it’s a right-place-right-time, momentum win for Witherspoon. It was deemed her time to win an Oscar, the stars aligned, and she won. In reality, she deserved an Oscar nine years later.
Witherspoon is good in Walk the Line, but she is transcendent in Wild. In fact if not for Julianne Moore’s narrative in 2014 coupled with Witherspoon’s previous win, she might have walked away with the trophy.
With Reese’s Oscar in 2014, that again makes Moore Oscar-less. I wrestled with which of the four Oscar nominations to give her, but I settled on Boogie Nights. First, Moore gives one of the greatest Supporting Actress performances of the decade. Secondly, Kim Basinger’s win leaves a lot to be desired. I love L.A. Confidential. It might be my favorite movie. That being said, Basinger is good, but not great in the film. It feels like an odd choice for a victory in a year with the powerhouse performances in that category.
Moore gets the award in 1997. Basinger doesn’t have another nomination but is still working steadily.
Keira Knightley wins Best Actress in 2005 over Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon wins Best Actress in 2014 over Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore wins Best Supporting Actress in 1997 over Kim Basinger
Next time on Oscar Justice, the juggernaut of the 1991 Best Actress race gets a shakeup and a long-time loser gets her award.