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The Oscars are quickly approaching. Because we’ve spent the time to see the nominees and because we’re really smart (and I, at least, have impeccable taste), we’re telling you what should win in all the categories.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Jared

I’m a big fan of Amy Adams. Watching Junebug (and her performance in it) was one of the reasons I started down this Oscar-obsessive path. She’s pretty much always fantastic, and one of the reasons I suggest people check out the underrated Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. That all said, there’s absolutely no good reason she was nominated for her role here. Sure, it was darker than she usually plays, and she was good. But it kinda seems like she got the nom for jacking off Philip Seymour Hoffman, which is maybe not the best reason ever to nominate someone.

It was surprising to me that Jacki Weaver hadn’t been receiving more Oscar buzz for her role, given she was a recent Oscar nominee and lots of people love Silver Linings Playbook. She’s actually pretty good as a character who is pretty much the complete opposite of her Oscar-nominated character in Animal Kingdom. But I don’t really get it. Especially considering Ann Dowd was in the mix this year as another middle-aged woman who struggles to keep things together while making a lot of food. Weaver and Adams’s nomination kinda make it seem like the Academy needs to get out and see more movies. Which is bad, since it is sort of their job to do that.

You know, I don’t quite get the love this year for Sally Field. As I mentioned earlier, I thought Kushner’s script had a little difficulty fitting the Lincoln family into the cast of thousands. Her scene with Tommy Lee Jones in the receiving line was fun, sure. And she does some good work in a bedroom scene. But in my mind there’s just not enough there to merit a nomination.

John and I both had Helen Hunt as the runner-up in our Spirit Awards picks, and we talk about her performance a little bit there. I’m not really a fan of the use of “brave” to describe acting, and the fact that Hunt got naked doesn’t really affect my opinion here. But how well she used her nakedness while portraying a sex therapist does. Nudity in movies often serves as a distraction (good or bad), and while it serviced the plot here, the impressive part was Hunt jumping into the character, almost teaching the audience to be comfortable with skin as she taught Hawkes the same. She also gets credit for the emotional scenes at home and in the car, even if I’m not sure they really added to the film.

hathaway1

But, yeah, obviously it is Anne Hathaway in her Sinead O’Connor homage. I don’t really have anything new to the conversation here, so I’ll just say that I watched the pilot episode of Get Real, which starred Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, among others. It was actually pretty decent. And kind of a fascinating link from the television of the late 90s/early 2000s and the often hyper self-aware television of today.

Should have been here: Man, this is a really tough category. If you asked me right this second, I have Hunt and Hathaway in my top five, along with Samantha Barks, Les Miserables; Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister; and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But a few seconds later I’d figure out a way to get Ann Dowd, Compliance; Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man and/or Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect in there. And I’m leaving out a handful more performances I really want to mention. It was a great year for supporting actresses, if you are willing to think outside the box a little bit.

John

She really cleans up after she dies

She really cleans up after she dies

I’m a lemming and going with Anne Hathaway. She doesn’t have much screen time but she sure is memorable. She gets a little bit of derision since for “winning for one song,” but she does do at least a little more there. Not that it matters. Her “I Dreamed a Dream” is very powerful and instantly iconic.

Hunt is my second choice. The Sessions walks a fine line. It needs to be sympathetic to its subjects – it finds humor in the situation without ever mocking – but doesn’t want to stray into maudlin territory. The performance are a big reason why it succeeds.

Twice now in the short history of this site I’ve discussed that I like Amy Adams but that she was swept to an undeserved nomination as part of an acting showcase. Jared makes the same argument above because here she is again for a film that also landed nominations for two other actors. This time, though, I’m totally fine with it. Its hard to not be dominated by the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in a film, but she manages to be memorable in her own right.

Finally, not to disparage their work, but Field and Weaver made very little impact on me.

Who should have been here? You have to think that Ann Dowd finished 6th or 7th in the voting for Compliance and she would have been a favorite for me in the category. Compliance is a film that requires all its characters to continually do stupid things at the behest of a prankster. Through Dowd’s character we can at least understand how a well-meaning person could be duped so much. At least she got our Independent Spirit vote. Jared says it was a good year for this category but I disagree. Even his outside of the box suggestions do very little for me.

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Oscar nominations come out on the 10th.  I’m looking at the state of the race in the big eight categories.  This time: Supporting Actress

VIRTUAL LOCK

  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Sally Field, Lincoln

Say what you will about Hooper’s direction (and I did), but Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” may well have been the quintessential Oscar scene.  She has one prior nomination, for Rachel Getting Married.  In my mind, Sally Field’s Mary Todd Lincoln wouldn’t have been enough if the rest of the movie had turned out to not be very good.  As is, the two time Oscar winner (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart) should be through just fine.

GOOD BET

LIKELY IN

  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions

The only thing dropping Hunt down to this section is that The Sessions just hasn’t been in the Oscar conversation as much as I would have expected.  But she gets naked, and it is Meaningful, so the Academy should eat it up.  Hunt won an Oscar for As Good as It Gets.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Samantha Barks, Les Miserables
  • Judi Dench, Skyfall
  • Ann Dowd, Compliance
  • Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy
  • Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Still haven’t seen The Master, but Amy Adams is supposed to be solid and in a role unlike most of her others.  She suffers from being a movie that appears to be losing ground in the Oscar race, though she does have three prior noms (JunebugDoubt, and The Fighter).  I thought Barks was quite good, but she is facing a movie with sharply divided reviews and is overshadowed by Hathway, plus she has no Oscar history.  Judi Dench has five Oscar noms (Mrs. BrownChocolat, IrisMrs. Henderson PresentsNotes on a Scandal) and a win (the infamous Shakespeare in Love), all since 1998.  Her role isn’t terribly showy, but it is a meaningful one in the Bond canon, and Skyfall‘s PGA nom may suggest support for the film.  I just figured out that Ann Down played Busy Philipps’s mom on Freaks and Geeks.  I haven’t seen Compliance yet, but Dowd is the easy to root for underdog, as the veteran character actress is self-financing her campaign.  The Paperboy is supposed to be dreadful, which would be entirely consistent with seemingly 90% of the films Nicole Kidman picks.  She’s picked up steam lately, and has past noms for Moulin Rouge! and Rabbit Hole, along with a win for The Hours.  I don’t understand the love for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The characters really weren’t any fun at all, but Smith’s is the only one who shows even mild signs of development.  She has prior noms for OthelloTravels with My Aunt, A Room with a View, and Gosford Park along with wins for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and California Suite.

DARK HORSES

  • Emily Blunt, Looper
  • Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Kelly Reilly, Flight
  • Amanda Seyfried, Les Miserables
  • Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

I don’t really think any of these actresses have much of a shot, you basically have to believe in the wave theory of nominations and that the Academy really liked each respective film.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister
  • Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises
  • Taraji P. Henson, Think Like a Man
  • Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man
  • Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect

Well this look at the successful performance showcases, the complement to my earlier look at the failed ones, is ridiculously late. But it’s been sitting on my hard drive for a while so why waste it? Plus many of these are now available on DVD so you can go judge them for yourselves. Though you may as well leave the judging to me, right?

Animal Kingdom

There was a good chance that this one was going to land on the “failed” portion of these posts, but happily Jacki Weaver eked out a Supporting Actress nod for this very low profile film. Animal Kingdom is an Australian crime drama centered around a family of bank robbers. The opening credits made me think I was about to see The Town: Down Under with its images of bank heists. Instead, it’s a character-focused drama about the family unraveling as the crooked cops close in.

Weaver plays the family matriarch. She’s outwardly sweet and caring, but in reality is chillingly ruthless. Her daughter dies of a heroin overdose so her estranged grandson comes to live with her. Meanwhile, her son is hiding out from the cops while the Melbourne police become more brutal with their tactics. The cops begin killing off members of the gang, the gang retaliates, and the heretofore innocent grandson gets entangled in it all.

The movie is very good. I think some people may find the grandson character frustrating as he waffles between his family and the police and seems to willfully put himself in danger. But I think the film does a good job establishing the character and his passiveness. Weaver is quite memorable. I think it’s a role ripe for scenery chewing, but she dials it back and it makes her actions even more chilling. Hopefully her nomination will cause more people to seek out the film.

Rabbit Hole

This story of a couple mourning their recently-deceased son works in parts. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart grieve in their own ways, which drives a wedge into their relationship. Kidman is prone to awkward public outbursts that can be quite uncomfortable to watch. The film is filled with these scenes and it can be hard to take.

But some scenes are just wonderful. Most of the scenes Kidman shares with her mother, played by Dianne Weist, are terrific and insightful. Eckhart has a nice scene in his son’s bedroom with a family looking to buy the house.

The film is a series of mostly successful individual scenes while some overall plot points fall a little short. I found the relationship between Kidman and a young man sort of contrived, but it yielded several nice moments.

I think your mileage may vary in a heavily dramatic movie like this. What rings true or connects emotionally for one will feel wrong to another. And that is fine, considering the film is about people who express their grief differently.

Kidman is very good and she grabbed the film’s one Oscar nomination for Best Actress. I enjoyed Eckhart, and he did land an Independent Spirit nod, though a few of his showcase scenes didn’t work very well for me. How much was him and how much was the writing, I don’t know. Finally, Weist is also very good and it’s too bad awards momentum for her stalled so early.

It’s a good film that I would recommend, but given its weight I’m not sure if there are many people I’d specifically recommend it to.

Biutiful

We all severely despised this movie. Javier Bardem landed a Best Actor nod for his role as a Barcelona black marketeer who is severely down on his luck. His illegal immigrant workers get deported and he has the heart to care about their families. His own ex-wife is unreliable, leaving him to worry for his children’s safety. He is sick. His dreams are full of tiresome artsy fartsy imagery.

The film received some critical malign for being such a downer. I contend that to be a downer a film must make the viewer care enough to feel the depression and Biutiful fails miserably at that. I wasn’t saddened by Bardem’s slog. I was bored. Very, very bored.

It severely drags. I started looking out for the ending, constantly expecting for the finale to be right around the corner and pondering if I liked certain developments as the denouement. In hindsight it turns out I started doing this about 45 minutes in. That is a bad sign.

Blue Valentine

I anticipated this being up my alley but it started losing me pretty quickly. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are a married couple with a young daughter. The film starts with their relationship in trouble and watches as it crumbles. Interspersed are flashbacks showing them meeting and falling in love.

It reminded me a lot of Revolutionary Road from a few years back. It could be a poignant look at the strains that are put on a relationship, but it’s really just about two people that shouldn’t be together. And at least one is a douchebag. It becomes pretty clear that there isn’t a lot of depth to their relationship and I began rooting against the pair because it seemed like they’d both be better off alone. By the end it was just tedious.

Williams got a Best Actress nomination but it’s surprising that Gosling was barely even in the picture. He didn’t even score any recognition from the Independent Spirits. Maybe the field for Best Actor was just more competitive. But I have a hard time imagining someone responding the movie and Williams’s performance but not Gosling’s.

Another Year

This one isn’t a successful performance piece but at least it did get some Oscar attention, receiving an Original Screenplay nod. Lesley Manville really should have been in the mix for Supporting Actress, but at least she was a contender.

My colleagues liked Another Year considerably less than I did and I understand why. It’s slow with a very understated plot. But it’s all in service of its themes. I’m not sure why, but I’m drawn towards films about the passage of time and the transient nature of lives in this permanent world and Another Year has these in spades. Four segments corresponding to each of the seasons follow English married couple Tom and Gerri as they host family and friends at parties and events over the course of a year. They are in love and appear to have a happy life, but the same cannot be said about everyone else in their coterie. Manville stands out as Gerri’s lonely middle aged coworker who drinks too much at the get-togethers and fancies her hosts’ much younger son.

The film does sacrifice plot for theme. In fact, it would be hard to claim there’s much of a plot at all as the action is all conversation. We do see the characters’ progression throughout the year though much of the action occurs between the seasonal meetings. Mary’s excitement to buy a car and subsequent troubles with said car later in the year is one more light-hearted example.

The slowness did get to me a little as some of the scenes aren’t the best at advancing the themes. I’m happy to accept subtlety when warranted, but sitting through some of the scenes that seemed pointless to me was harder to stomach. With a little tightening it could be more entertaining and packed a heftier punch.

We’re taking a look at Oscar categories in advance of tonight’s show. Now we’re on Supporting Actress. The nominees:

  • Amy Adams, The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
  • Melissa Leo, The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Jared

I don't see the big deal, this FYC ad seems kinda classy...

The supporting categories are always tough for me because it is hard to figure out how, exactly, to weight screen time.  Should I favor being fantastic in five minutes over a solid performance in forty-five minutes?  Perhaps appropriately, I just flipped on the radio and The Zombies’s “She’s Not There” started playing.  I’m a big Amy Adams fan and loved that she got to play a little against type in The Fighter.  But she didn’t have enough to work with to make an impression on me.  She had a few memorable scenes, sure.  But I’m still not entirely certain how she nabbed a nomination over, say, Mila Kunis.

When the actress receiving a nomination is genuinely confused about it, you know Hollywood silly groupthink has reared its head again.  Like a movie?  Then vote for every single aspect of it!  Helena Bonham Carter does a perfectly fine job, but one of the five best performances of the year?  It is really odd how Hollywood can’t distinguish between different aspects of a movie they loved.

So, I fell asleep during Animal Kingdom.  Apparently I was out cold.  But don’t worry, after waking up I went back and caught what I missed.  The whole time (at least when I was awake) I was wondering how on earth Weaver managed a nomination here.  For me, it isn’t even the role being confused for the performance, but the idea of the role.  The thing is, I can totally see a film where she’d be worthy of a nomination.  One that wasn’t the most boring crime film of all time.  And one where her role gets fleshed out a little more. I really hope, though, some casting director has taken notice and casts her as the villain in some better production, because I really do think she can pull it off admirably.

I’m a little lower on Hailee Steinfeld than others.  Maybe part of it is because there’s absolutely no way to defend calling her performance supporting.  None at all.  Whoever first pitched the idea of doing so has balls the size of golden globes.  John has mentioned how much he liked Dakota Fanning in The Runaways.  Obviously the roles aren’t really comparable, but I’d tend to agree that I’m not entirely comfortable seeing Steinfeld recognized but not Fanning.  I think Steinfeld has a very bright future and hope that she soon gets new roles to be her calling card.

I don’t think this category is as strong as other this year, which perhaps is one of the reasons prognosticators are finding it a little difficult to predict.  Hilariously, Melissa Leo, probably the front-runner, shot herself in the foot by running For Your Consideration ads on her own dime.  Doesn’t she know how to play the game?  You aren’t allowed to actually say you want to win!  In any case, she’s my pick here, overcoming an awful script to create a memorable presence.  And really doing everything you’d want from a supporting actress, I think.  She always looms large, but never takes over the movie.

John

This is a tough category to pick. Whereas so many of the other categories are embarrassments of riches, I find this one to be slim pickings.

Let’s start with the women from The Fighter. Adams simply failed to make an impression on me. So many others were impressed with her work that I concede I may need another viewing. To me, she’s being swept up in an acting nomination wave for the film. I enjoyed Leo much more, but she also has a more colorful role and I can’t deny that she does seem to be Acting Very Hard.

Everyone loved Steinfeld but she actually drove me a little nuts. I don’t think it’s her fault. For one, the lack of contractions in the dialogue sounded bizarre to me from all characters. And the inflectionless way she often delivers her lines was probably directed out of her. So I think these are stylistic choices that happened to not work for me and therefore reflect poorly on Steinfeld.

Carter is a totally blah nomination. She’s good in The King’s Speech, of course, but she doesn’t get to display much of her considerable skills. It’s just such a straight-forward role. And that leaves Weaver, who you might think therefore wins by default. She plays a ruthless matriarch of a crime family in Animal Kingdom. What makes her so successfully chilling is how sweet she is while doing awful things. I think the tendency would be for the actress to really sell the fact that the sweetness is a charade, but Weaver plays it pretty straight. So she’s just acting sweet. It’s a great choice for the film, but does that make a great performance? The same performance with different words and she’s just a normal doting mother. Or am I missing some nuance?

Oh, honey.

Therefore I have concerns over them all. I’m going to choose Melissa Leo with Jacki Weaver not too far behind. I also just want Leo to win, partly because I like her and partly because I’d feel bad for her if she won all these precursors and lost. People would be blaming it on that photo spread and it would be awful.

Snubs: I’d nominate and give the Oscar to Lesley Manville for Another Year. My off-the-wall choice is Marisa Tomei in Cyrus. (Note: I may be in the bag for Marisa Tomei.)

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Supporting Actress.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • Nobody

There are at least ten women you could legitimately claim to have, based on precursor awards, a shot at a nomination.  Coupled with the fact that the Oscars have a tendency to go crazy in the supporting categories (as commenter Sarah astutely pointed out) and you are looking at a category impossible to call with any certainty.

LIKELY IN

  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
  • Melissa Leo, The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Everything I’ve read about True Grit suggests two things about Steinfeld: that’s she absolutely deserving of a nomination; that nomination should be for a leading role as she’s in every single scene.  I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t weigh in there.  Best Actress is a crazy tough category to break into this year, so I understand why she’s been campaigned as supporting, but Oscar voters are free to place her as they see fit.  I’m enjoying the Melissa Leo buzz because it means Adam gets to rant about Frozen River some more.  She plays a mother quite easy to hate, desperately close to going over the top as a scheming, manipulating manager/mom, but never quite doing so.  Impressive considering how much of a hack job that script was.  I loved The King’s Speech and I’m always a fan of nominations for muted performances, but I don’t know, I think Helena Bonham Carter is riding the coattails of the movie and her co-stars.  Not her fault, her character is really only given two or three instances to shine.

LAST TWO IN

Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

I reserve the right to change my predictions, but here’s where I’m at right this instant.  Black Swan has been getting widespread support in the precursors, suggesting to me there’s an opportunity for it to pick up a nomination in this category.  I’ll get to the other contender shortly, but, if you’ll forgive my crassness,  given that I’m predicting a forty-something, fifty-something, sixty-something, and a fourteen year old, I think the Academy will find a place for the incredibly sexy Mila Kunis.  Which, please understand, isn’t meant to take away anything from her performance as the sometimes real, sometimes friend, sometimes rival, sometimes missing half to Natalie Portman’s character.  Animal Kingdom will be arriving very shortly, so I can’t speak to it, but from everything I hear, the only way Weaver doesn’t get the nomination is if not enough voters saw the movie.

FIRST THREE OUT

  • Amy Adams, The Fighter
  • Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
  • Lesley Manville, Another Year

Amy Adams has garnered a number of precursor nominations, is ridiculously cute, and is a damn fine actress, but her character lacks depth.  Given the crowded race, I think if voters have to choose only one supportive partner, they go with Bonham Carter or one actress from The Fighter, they go with Leo.  But if/when I’m wrong, it most likely will be her.  Way  back before people had really seen the film, Hershey was touted as strong favorite here.  Her star has dimmed a little since then, perhaps because there are so many other actresses playing mothers with severe issues handling their offspring.  I’m stunned I can’t find a place for Manville, given director Mike Leigh’s consistent ability to create strong, Oscar-friendly female characters.  I’m told she’s wonderful, it again may just come down who did due diligence and watched her film.

DARK HORSES

  • Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
  • Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
  • Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone
  • Pretty much anyone from For Colored Girls

Everyone was talking about Dianne Wiest and then no one was, I don’t quite get it.  Dollhouse proved to me that Olivia Williams deserves more recognition, and she’s actually quite good in The Ghost Writer, the film just can’t get any traction in the U.S. (and rightly so).   If I had done this two months ago, I would have put Dickey in the top five, given the buzz for Winter’s Bone, and she’s absolutely deserving of a spot.  I hope whoever did the awards promotion for For Colored Girls learned some lessons from the near total failure to get the film out there.  Granted, I hear the subject matter is difficult and it is can be hard to narrow down an ensemble, but we’re looking at a year with twenty white nominees.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

Marion Cotillard, Inception
Rosamund Pike, Made in Dagenham
Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Rebecca Hall, Please Give
Ellen Burstyn, Lovely, Still
Julianna Margulies, City Island
Patricia Clarkson, Easy A
Annette Bening, Mother and Child

I think I’m leaving out at least a half-dozen interesting performances.  A pretty strong year for supporting actress roles, if you ask me.

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