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Who's Afraid of Angelina Jolie?

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Angelina Jolie is on the Best Actress nomination roll for this year's Oscars and has shown tremendous grace regarding the honor:

[It is] a privilege beyond any expectation. Working with Clint Eastwood [on Changeling] was a reward in itself that will last me a lifetime. It has been an exceptional year for acting, and I am honored to be in the company of these talented actors whose performances all deserve this recognition.

I'm sure she meant it regarding Clint, but all that jazz about the other actresses? Come now, Angie. I would roll my eyes, but I like you too much. Though your philanthropy, growing brood of children, and star relationship with another one of this year's Oscar nominees, Brad Pitt (for his impressive work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), has made you so larger than life, many viewers unfortunately have a hard time separating your movie star/female Bono image from your on-screen performances, you will always be my loony Lisa. But others do agree -- and that's unfortunate, since Jolie has the range, the charisma and the, at times, weird gorgeousness that makes her so compelling. Even in Wanted, in which she skulks around all assassin sexy (not everyone can do that!). So I ask seriously: Why not a nomination for that movie? It was one of last year's best action pictures? (I know, I ask for too much.)

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But in spite of her new-found status as a pouty-lipped sex bomb Mother Theresa, I spy the old Angelina lurking underneath (again, see Wanted) and I like it. Particularly in moments like when Anne Hathaway won the forgettable Critics Choice Award for Rachel Getting Married, and gushed onstage with her goody-goody-gosh-golly-gee-how-did-I-get-here act. Jolie stared her down with as much condescending wickedness as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. I know many of you were turned off by her smirk, but I swelled with full-on, "Hell yes! Hail to the bad girl!" pride.

It also occurred to me later that Hathaway's self-absorbed, drug-addicted, younger-sister character in Rachel Getting Married (for which she is also nominated for an Oscar this year) was such a perfect Jolie role, it's a shame she didn't take Anne's place. Jolie is such an expert at chewing up the scenery like a hungry lioness -- think of her small part in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, in which the very sight of her wry smile, androgynous sexuality and eye patch caused star Gwyneth Paltrow to almost vanish into thin air -- that to have seen her tripping around that wedding, crashing into trees, tearing into her mother, sexing it up in the basement, and hollering at the musicians to shut the hell up would have been a thing of rage-fueled, self-consumed beauty. And that toast. Think of how uncomfortable and yet, strangely turned on the wedding party would have been by this girl who spouts about re-hab (it's all about her!) but might possibly burn the house down if you don't fucking listen!

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Sure, the balance would have been offset because we'd either openly (or secretly -- but the secret ones are suckers) side with her the whole time. We (I, anyway) would have cheered for Jolie adding more cruel dimension to her character. For instance, you know she would have taken all of those plates during that dishwasher loading moment and smashed them to pieces out of protest for the sheer dorky squareness of that competition. With La Jolie, the performance would have been more interesting and dazzling. Go ahead, Rachel fans, scream at me all you want, but I stand by Jolie being the ultimate wedding crasher.

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Not that Jolie's work in Changeling isn't stellar -- it is. She's grown up. And she deserves her nomination. But I miss her earlier work, the crazy-movie-star deliciousness of the "take one fucking step closer and I'll jam this in my aorta" role of Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. Jolie won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2000 for that career-defining performance, striding onstage all gorgeous Vampira weirdo, proclaiming her love for her brother and then quite nearly mashing on him, making the ceremony interesting again, for once. And, on top of that, the win was completely deserved. As the female Randle P. McMurphy of the girly cuckoo's nest, Jolie's lanky troublemaker/sex pot ruled the roost in an institution filled with anorexics, compulsive liars and sensitive types like little Winona Ryder's Susanna Kaysen. Blasting through the movie with the kind of feral intensity and wit of a Nicholson or De Niro, Jolie single-handedly stole the movie from both star Ryder and the film's director, James Mangold, earning, again, every inch of that Best Supporting Actress statue. A movie star was born.

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And a movie star she remains, albeit one who causes people a surprising amount of extra uneasiness. She suffers from her own version of the Madonna-whore complex, a sort of St. Angelina/man-eating home wrecker syndrome. So many want to relate to their screen idols, and she makes it damn near impossible. But I love her for it. Though totally modern with her tattooed, ex-blood-vial-wearing, and current save-the-children stance, she manages to be decidedly old school Hollywood. A knife loving Ava Gardner or a bi-sexual Liz Taylor of our time. Now all she needs is that great Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf role and her inner bad girl will have matured and bettered and grown meaner with age. I want an older Lisa-turned-Martha declaring to George: "I swear if you existed I'd divorce you." And then, why not? Throw in one of her greatest lines from Girl, Interrupted: "Some advice, OK? Just don't point your fucking finger at crazy people!" Exactly. Who's Afraid of Angelina Jolie? Many, I think. Thank goodness. Or badness. Whichever alpha omega realm you'd care to see Jolie embody.

Tweaked and extended from my MSN column Hollywood Hitlist.

Read more Kim Morgan at Sunset Gun and Pretty Poison.