1. “Meryl Streep’s Hunger Games.” Charles Taylor on the actress’s recent string of gorgon roles.
“More kindly, you might say that Streep, who is still only 65 (and, thank God, still looks like herself, having chosen not to disfigure her face in the manner of so many others actors), has entered her late-decadent period. She began as a dull barometer of respectable taste, like NPR, conferring a veneer of civility and culture on those who like that sort of thing. Then she moved on to Great Lady poses, roles that made her the heir apparent to that paragon of boring American acting Helen Hayes. Now, she has entered the Sacred Monster stage. Streep now provides a higher-brow version of the kind of bald scenery chewing that Joan Crawford and Susan Hayward specialized in. But unlike those paragons of masochism, Streep doesn’t suffer or go nuts. Rather, Streep has managed to channel the tastelessness of her showboating grotesquerie into middlebrow vehicles like Doubt and August, which come to the screen with the cachet of acclaimed stage shows, or the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, whose cachet is political and historical. No one need be embarrassed watching a Streep performance—though, by God, she should be.”