The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

ADAM

Berenice Bejo.  (He is a man of a few words.)

BRIAN

This is the first of a series of posts where I am generally apathetic about the winner. The distance between my pick and my least favorite nominees in supporting actress is pretty narrow, so I won’t dwell on this bunch much. Missing in this group is Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (I don’t want to hear it, Jared), Helen McCrory in Hugo, and Allison Pill in Midnight in Paris. All would have been strong contenders for my pick but since all were ignored, here we go:

I didn’t like Albert Nobbs very much at all, and contrary to John’s crackpot theories about her being a ringer for the Babysitter Bandit from “The Simpsons”, Janet McTeer wasn’t anything revelatory in it. I actually was surprised that she wasn’t in it for longer, considering the buzz she had been getting. Melissa McCarthy was funny and stole the show in Bridesmaids, but this also didn’t really stick with me. Much like the movie is getting notice and recognition for writing a gross-out movie for females, McCarthy was nominated for playing the gross-out role usually portrayed by men. But just because its novel doesn’t mean its anything special.

As for The Help performances, I liked Chastain and Octavia Spencer in their respective roles. I was more disappointed to not see Bryce Dallas Howard nominated for playing against type and really chewing the scenery in the fun “Worst Racist Ever” role. Chastain had a tremendous year — I clearly would have preferred to see her nom’d for Take Shelter — so I think this is mostly a cumulative nod. Spencer wasn’t playing a very nuanced role, so she never got to show the depth her fellow cast member Viola Davis did.

My pick would go to Berenice Bejo — She was an adorable ingenue with heart, class, smarts and that came through with having much less screen time than Jean Dujardin. I’d be really pleased if she took home the Oscar, even though that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

JOHN

This slate of nominees sure shows of the year’s range of quirky characters. We’ve got the silent actress hamming it up, the over-the-top bubbly blonde, the sassy black maid, the woman dressed as a man, and the overweight weirdo from a buddy movie. With a group like that I get worried about distinguishing the acting from the written character. Of course the performer goes a long way in building a character… but it helps when the script gives them good lines. Still, it’s a fine group.

I guess I think of this most in regards to Melissa McCarthy. She steals a lot of scenes, but that’s the job the script gives her. I know McCarthy has some range. Check out the differences between her work in Bridesmaids compared to more softer roles in “Mike & Molly” or “Gilmore Girls.” I especially dug the confident bravado she brings to the character, but, like with many performers in the Apatow oeuvre, I feel like I can see the wheels turning in her head during more improvised scenes and she’s just spit-balling lines. So, I’m conflicted and sway back and forth.

Spencer will probably walk away with the Oscar, but I think I somewhat prefer Jessica Chastain. I can’t really explain what drew me to her and it may also have to do with her all around extraordinary year. If she got a nod for Take Shelter instead it would have been a slightly easier decision. Both are quite memorable in The Help and I think Chastain ends up displaying a little more range. Honestly, it’s possible I would even abstain in this category if I were a real voter since I don’t really care much who wins among this solid if not mind-blowing crop.

JARED

Sorry for pulling a Brian here, but I’m a little miffed Elle Fanning didn’t make the cut, especially in a year with a theme of Hollywood on Hollywood.  On a plane ride with access to Super 8 after I’d already seen it in theaters, I fat-fingeredly found my way to the scene around the train crash, where she first “acts” and where she pretends to be a zombie, just because she’s so good in them.

Without a doubt, the best performance of this lot is Berenice Bejo.  Her role required a wide range of emotions and the ability to express them both broadly and in a subtle manner.  Additionally, the character and movie required a good deal of physicality.  And get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about her dancing and just motion in general.  Unfortunately, I have a little bugaboo about category fraud and to me, Bejo is a clear lead of The Artist.  As such, I can’t give her my vote, sadly.

Jessica Chastain, like an increasingly impressive number of twenty-somethings, appeared on Veronica Mars, and thus will always have my respect.  I realize she pretty much “had” to be nominated, given her year, but I don’t buy that reasoning.  You want to celebrate someone for being solid in a bunch of movies that happened to be released in the same year?  Fine.  Create an award to honor it.  We did, sorta, doing a Laura Linney of the year a few years back.  But Oscar should be for a single performance.  And I just don’t see it here.  Chastain, to be sure, was fine in the role, but there’s nothing to distinguish her from, say, Bryce Dallas Howard.

If Janet McTeer had a few more scenes, I could see her atop my rankings.  I was particular impressed with how she seemed to move and have the presence of a man, particularly of her (presumably lower middle) class.  It was an interesting juxtaposition with Close’s more timid, androgynous Nobbs.

I love that Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination.  Just such an un-Oscar role.  Obviously having a good script helps a ton.  But comedy is an underappreciated talent, I think.  There’s so much that goes into timing and the ability to be funny on screen even after multiple takes.  And especially with physical comedy it is so tough not to go over the line and just look stupid.

But I’m going to go with the consensus (among awards-giver-outers, at least) and pip Octavia Spencer here.  It is a character type that doesn’t often receive Oscar love, so I’m glad to see it rewarded.  Spencer is, in large part, comic relief, but she does get a depth and some meaning to her character, aided in large part by the nuance she brings to it.  In a group of solid performances, she’s just a little bit stronger.

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