Cinema: Four Women in Search of an Oscar

In Hollywood's annual class act, Streep and Lange head the class

It is an autumn ritual, like football games and the first frost. America's A team of actresses, who would never accept summer-movie roles as Rambo's guerrilla girlfriend or Michael J. Fox's mom, invigorate Hollywood's ration of serious films. The seminar is in session, film scholars. It is the season to pay attention, even if you want to cut class.

The roster of Acting Professors is inevitable: Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Glenn Close. The tone of their films can turn turgid in their insistence on beating moral lessons into thick skulls. And in a limited genre one can easily lose...

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