It is easy to criticize the Academy for its choices.  Like any organization, they are going to make unpopular decisions.  And as with any vote, the most deserving person or film isn’t guaranteed victory in the least.  But part of the genesis of this project is the idea that it isn’t fair to ridicule a winner without seeing all of the other nominees.  So, we watched all the nominees.  Quixotic?  Maybe.  Fun?  Almost always.  Here’s what we thought of the Best Supporting Actress category:

JOHN

This is a pretty weak category for me this year. There are a few performances in here that seemed to greatly affect many people but didn’t do much for me. Which certainly isn’t to say these are bad performances, just that I didn’t find myself blown away. My choice therefore becomes quite easy even though much of that is just due to process of elimination.

Let’s get it out of the way: Amy Adams is the worst of the bunch. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write, but it’s true. I like her a lot and I wish she had received a Best Actress nod last year for Enchanted, but the chirpy act she put on there that was so brilliant feels one-note and kind of annoying in Doubt. Part of that may be that the film doesn’t give her character much meat. She’s meant to represent the audience’s thinking but it’s just a repetitive strain of “I just don’t know what to believe!”

Taraji P. Henson made quite an impression on others but did not for me. It was a bit of a showy performance, though still quite good. She’s not even the best supporting actress in Benjamin Button, however, considering Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton’s performances. Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) gets points for her fiery work but again I never felt myself blown away. I can’t say she ever drew me into her character, she was more like passionate wallpaper. I liked Viola Davis quite a bit though her scene fell flat for me for reasons I detailed in my Doubt post. She does really nail it, however, and I would not at all be upset if she wins.

But it’s an easy choice of Marisa Tomei for me. Her role requires some range and she always hits the right note. Scenes where she scrounges for lap dances in the strip club or gently deal with Randy’s advances call for some subtlety. Others, like her final plea when she comes to the wrestling match, need more emotion. The Wrestler works in a lot of ways and Tomei is no small part in that success.

Snubs: Alas, the rough year for nominees doesn’t translate into a goldmine of snubs. It’s just weak all around. I would have liked to see Rosemarie DeWitt get more recognition for her great work in Rachel Getting Married.

ADAM

Will Win: Penelope Cruz

    Supporting Actress is another category where there is a clear front runner.  Ms. Cruz has been winning awards left and right for her portrayal of the “passionate” ex-wife in Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona.  And these acclaims are well earned.  Cruz is a terrific actress and she does not disappoint in this role.  She far and away gives the strongest performance in the movie.

I Want to Win: Marisa Tomei

    I have to admit, I am a Marisa Tomei fan and I was extremely impressed with her portrayal of an aging stripper opposite Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.  She provided an excellent counterpoint to Rourke’s character.  Also, I would love to see her win two Supporting Actress awards.

Dark Horse: Viola Davis

    There has been a lot of talk about how Viola Davis’s very powerful, but ultimately brief scene in Doubt shouldn’t even be nominated.  I, however, disagree with this sentiment.  She gave, however brief, an extremely compelling performance.  I do not think she has any shot at winning, but should the unlikely happen, I think the Academy would not have made their biggest mistake in choosing her.

Random Notes:

    The inclusion of Taraji P. Henson and Amy Adams in this category this year is a testament to the weakness of the category.  Neither of these actresses did a poor job; they just didn’t do a great one either.  However, it was a very weak year for Supporting Actresses, so I can’t necessarily fault their nominations.  However, I think the Hollywood Foreign Press got it right when they nominated Kate Winslet as a Supporting Actress for The Reader.

JARED

The list of nominees here suggests a weak year, but personally, I think had Rosemarie DeWitt and maybe Elsa Zylberstein been in there instead, the group would look much stronger.  Also, prior to this year, if I’m doing this correctly, three of the supporting actor nominees had been recognized by Oscar.  Heath Ledger and Robert Downey, Jr. had a nomination apiece, and Philip Seymour Hoffman had a win and a nomination.  Prior to this year, three of the supporting actress nominees had been recognized by oscar.  Amy Adams and Penelope Cruz had a nomination apiece and Marison Tomei had a win and a nomination.

Taraji P. Henson is perfectly charming in Benjamin Button.  But if you cut her scenes out and pasted them in, say, The Secret Life of Bees, she wouldn’t have received a nomination.  To me, her selection is emblematic of the Academy’s desire to reward certain movies with a pile of nominations.  “I liked Benjamin Button so much, I think it deserves a hundred nominations,” is how that reasoning would go.  Obviously, I find it faulty.  I like Amy Adams for a number of reasons, The Office, sure, but Junebug was one of the first movies to get me thinking that seeing all the Oscar nominees would be a good plan.  But her nomination here is a bit much, I think.  Maybe had the role reached its potential.  But frankly, I liked her more in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  I mentioned it before, but had I been removed from Oscar coverage,  it would have taken me some time to guess Viola Davis would get nominated.  Certainly not a knock against her, I just remember the controversy surrounding Dame Judi Dench winning her lone Oscar for her short role in Shakespeare In Love, and surely Davis wasn’t in Doubt for much longer.  Davis was fine, but I just don’t see it here.

I’d be happy with Tomei or Cruz winning the statue.  A stripper with a heart of gold isn’t exactly a breakthrough character for Hollywood, but Tomei was an exquisite counterpoint to Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.  It is nearly impossible to think of the awesomeness that was Mickey Rourke without thinking of Marisa Tomei, and that’s about a good definition of supporting actress as any.  Penelope Cruz’s character didn’t make the title of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but in a way, she defines it as the source (indirectly or directly) of a large portion of the conflict in the movie.  She lucked out in that her character gets to exhibit a range of emotions, sure, but she really made the movie, providing some much-needed tension.  I guess I want Penelope Cruz to win, because I see her bursting out of the confines of the script and Tomei hemmed in a bit by the minor problems I had with The Wrestler, but it is close.

BRIAN

I’m not all that enthused by this group, though I’m surprised by my looking for a Rosemarie DeWitt nom in Rachel Getting Married, a movie that has grown on me considerably. With this crew, though, I liked both Amy Adams and Viola Davis in Doubt…though the former was playing the same naif she plays in every movie and the latter had one scene! One scene! She nailed it however, so I wouldn’t be too up in arms with her getting the award. Yet still, one scene?

Taraji P. Henson spouted nonsensical life lessons and was one of the least impressive performances in the ensemble surrounding Brad Pitt; I think my strongest memories of her in the movie come from the trailers more than anything else.  Penelope Cruz plays the fiery Latin well, and her scenes with Javier Bardem were mucho caliente — but I didnt find the depth that I would usually like to see in an award-winning performance. Perhaps the fault lies more with Woody Allen than Cruz for that.

Lastly, the Wrestler is poised to be my favorite film of the year, and a large part of that is thanks to Marisa Tomei as the stripper with a heart of gold. The Ram’s demise is heartbreaking enough, but through Tomei’s acting, I think the sadness reaches an even higher level.

Sorry for the brevity, but with a category like this, I can’t find much to get excited about.

Advertisements