64 women enter. One woman leaves.
A few words on the criteria: I'm only taking into account performances from the past ten years (1996 and onward). Film and television performances count. Match-ups will be judged on the following merits: (1) number of performances I've enjoyed (sheer quantity); (2) whose singular best performance is the greatest (quality); (3) if I had an Oscar ballot, how many nominations would the actress have received since '96 (fake Oscars); (4) if both actresses have co-starred in a film, who gave the better performance (spotlights stolen); and (5) who would win in a physical brawl between the two (girlfight factor).
Quantity: Close race. In Kidman's favor: Moulin Rouge!, The Others, The Hours, Dogville, Cold Mountain, and Birth. Half a dozen. In McDormand's favor: Half a dozen plus one. Let's pretend it was her consistently underrated turn in The Man Who Wasn't There that put her over the top. Edge: McDormand
Quality: McDormand as Sheriff Marge Gunderson in Fargo versus Kidman as Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Both won the Oscar, and deservedly so in each case. I feel weird making this call, but I think it has to be Kidman. I know, I know. What kind of pretentious douche picks the lilting dramatics over the hip Coens comedy? Well, this kind of pretentious douche, at least in this instance.
Fake Oscar Nods: McDormand: 3 (Fargo; Almost Famous; The Man Who Wasn't There); Kidman: 3 (The Hours; The Others; Dogville). Push
Spotlights Stolen: They've never shared the screen.
Girlfight Factor: Nicole Kidman has spent this entire tournament getting her ass kicked. Up the hill and down the hill, around the block and back, she's gotten the Botox beaten right out of her. That is, until she stepped into the quarterfinals, where she...got pummeled yet again. Come on, dudes, it's Frances McDormand. It's not even a contest.
Winner: Frances McDormand 2-1
Quantity: Collette's collection is more than respectable, and it just got a bump this week with my screening of The Night Listener. Still not enough to topple Streep, who added a pair of 2006 credits (Prairie Home Companion; Devil Wears Prada) herself.
Quality: Well, I've decided. I like Toni best in Velvet Goldmine. One of her smallest roles on the list, but she makes such an indelible impression. It's not, however, more indelible than Streep's Adaptation performance, a slippery comic adventure hidden under cover of an existential crisis. It was as fun as it was unexpected.
Fake Oscar Nods: Collette: 3 (In Her Shoes; The Sixth Sense; Velvet Goldmine); Streep: 3 (Adaptation; The Hours; One True Thing). Push
Spotlights Stolen: Meryl and Toni co-starred in The Hours, though they're never onscreen together. It's a wonderful moment for Collette, definitely the best of the many second-tier characters the film offers. I'd love to give it the upper hand here. Problem is, Meryl is SO good in the movie. She blows everyone else away, and if it wasn't for Nicole Kidman, she'd walk away with the film. She even manages to perform a nervous breakdown in a way that's not too showy. Love it. Edge: Streep.
Girlfight Factor: They seem pretty evenly matched. Toni's more the scrapper, Meryl's more the covertly vicious type. We'll give this match-up to Toni, but partly because I think Meryl, the victory in the bag and the semi-finals in sight, was trying to keep her fingernails clean for this one.
Winner: Meryl Streep 3-1
Coming soon: The semifinals. Linney. McDormand. Streep. And...who else? Keep voting in the Allen/Witherspoon race!