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But Ava DuVernay doesn't cast her to play a charismatic goddess. Instead, she's there to do what Oprah does best.
Oprah Winfrey's Major Movie Roles Ranked, From 'The Color Purple' to 'A Wrinkle in Time' (Photos)
She brings hope, spirit and positivity to the film, and when she's talking to the film's main character, she has a gift of sounding as though she's talking directly to you. Winfrey gave her all for the adaptation of Toni Morrison's "Beloved," showing sadness and anger in equal measure on screen.
She even went method and simulated the experience of being a slave in preparation. But the film was a sprawling and overlong epic as handled by Jonathan Demme, and the its failure at the box office sent Winfrey into a "depression.
Winfrey plays a small but significant role in Ava DuVernay's civil rights drama "Selma. She quietly and just barely holds her head up to recite the Preamble of the Constitution and prove her civil knowledge. But it's devastating to see someone even like Winfrey humbled by pervasive racism.
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In this HBO movie, Winfrey plays a woman searching for a mother she never knew. Henrietta Lacks was the unwitting donor of a tissue sample that was eventually used as a cure for polio and countless other medical advances. But after years of lies and cover ups from the medical community, the Lacks family has grown untrusting and paranoid. Winfrey plays Henrietta Lacks' daughter as unpredictable and volatile, and her performance anchors a movie about how an African-American woman battling her own paranoia comes to terms with her heritage and family's legacy.
Best New Music — September 20,
In "The Butler," Winfrey walks a fine line between sweet and motherly -- and even unlikable. She's cheating on her upstanding husband and struggles with drink, but she's still a sage figure in this family's household. She has an incredible scene as she's talking about Sidney Poitier, playing polite until her son insults the dignity of his own father. It's the type of performance where Winfrey is convincing enough playing nice that you're surprised when she reveals she's not a pushover.
In what is her finest work by a mile, Steven Spielberg got a hold of Winfrey just before she was "Oprah.