Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Oscar Spotlight: Best Supporting Actress

It still feels just a bit too early to start ironing out real Oscar predictions, and therefore I’ve decided to take a brief look at the acting categories, one per week. Many buzzed-about films have yet to be seen, and more may still emerge in the next month and a half. For now, here’s a brief rundown, sight unseen in some cases, of the likeliest contenders at this point. Please feel free to add your own thoughts as well as to point out any actors I may have missed in the comments section.

The veterans:

Barbara Hershey (Black Swan)
Hershey hasn’t done much in the way of serious acting in a while, and this could be her chance to jump back into this race after being nominated back in 1996 for “Portrait of a Lady.” As Natalie Portman’s mother in “Black Swan,” she looks to be certifiably intense. In the past, however, only the lead actors of Darren Aronofsky’s pictures have earned nods, so it will be an uphill battle for Hershey.

Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham)
Here’s one two-time nominee from the 1990s who has an extremely baity role as the Secretary of State in England. Richardson is a respected actress who hasn’t been honored much lately, but it’s likely that this film will throw her back into the awards circuit and she’ll go far, even if the film stumbles.

Sissy Spacek (Get Low)
Back in the 1980s, Spacek was getting nominated every two years. After a fifteen-year hiatus, she was recognized for 2001’s “In the Bedroom,” and now plays the romantic interest of Robert Duvall’s hermit. I’m not sure how the film will fare, but Spacek has been working consistently and is probably the film’s best bet.

Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole)
Two-time Oscar champ Wiest is back in the running after her Emmy win for HBO’s “In Treatment” as a grieving grandmother in John Cameron Mitchell’s drama. Wiest was last nominated back in 1994, and I think her chances will rest on the size of her role and the reception of the film.

The breakthroughs:

Elle Fanning (Somewhere)
Her older sister is still without any Oscar nominations despite delivering impressive performances at an even younger age than Elle. Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film “Lost in Translation” fared well with Oscar voters, even if it couldn’t net Scarlett Johanssen a nod. “Somewehere” may prove to be a hit, and Fanning might get recognized for what is sure to be a mature performance.

Lesley Manville (Another Year)
I already wrote about Manville in my post about Best Actress two weeks ago, and I’m just hopeful that she’ll get nominated somewhere since a good case can be made for her in either the lead or supporting category, and it will just be up to voters to decide.

Rosamund Pike (Barney’s Version/Made in Dagenham)
Pike is a wonderful actress you’d probably recognize from “An Education” and she has scene-stealing parts in two independent films with very large casts. Her small role in “Made in Dagenham” likely won’t muster enough attention, whereas she is framed in “Barney’s Version” as the object of the title character’s obsession, which should help. Ultimately, I think two films will pull her in two directions and she’ll end up snubbed.

Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Last time this book was adapted, John Wayne won an Oscar and Kim Darby went home empty-headed (no nomination at all). Now, last year’s winner Jeff Bridges is in the lead role and now newcomer Steinfeld, in her first feature film role, is primed to garner Oscar buzz and possibly face accusations of category fraud. We’ll see how it plays out.

The one-time nominees:

Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
This category’s biggest and only lock is a one-time nominee, back in 1997 for “The Wings of the Dove.” After doing great work in films like “Sweeney Todd,” she is a shoo-in to get honored for the kind of role she hasn’t had in a role time, as the stuttering King George’s wife.

Marion Cotillard (Inception)
She won in 2007 for “La Vie en Rose” and came close to getting another nomination last year for “Nine.” Now, she’s in the position of being the most easily praiseworthy of the cast of this summer’s blockbuster hit. It’s also a marvelous and haunting role, and I suspect she may fare better than most are predicting.

Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Leo was nominated in the lead actress category in 2008 for steering “Frozen River,” and since then, she’s been getting some pretty terrific roles. She doesn’t appear to be going for any accolades for her role in “Conviction,” so maybe this will land her a second nod, depending on the size of the role and whether voters prefer Amy Adams in the same film.

Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)
I’m dubious about Thomas’ chances since the film appears to be so small. Thomas was nominated back in 1996 for her lead role in “The English Patient” and scored a Golden Globe nod for speaking in French in “I’ve Loved You So Long.” She’s had a good year – French film “Leaving” in addition to this – so maybe she has a shot.

The uphill battles:

Amy Adams (The Fighter)
After playing an adorable, chatty pregnant woman in “Junebug” and a sweet, do-gooder nun in “Doubt,” Adams is vying for nomination number three in a role that looks to be a whole new direction for her. She’s still the sweetheart for Mark Wahlberg’s fighter, but the trailer makes her seem considerably punker and grittier. Adams is talented, and she should be able to capitalize on playing against type.

Ruth Sheen (Another Year)
This Mike Leigh favorite has an arguably lead role opposite Jim Broadbent in his new film, and since his films do have a good Oscar track record, her chances will be based on where showier costar Lesley Manville ends up being placed. Her performance is definitely excellent, and it will also be a matter of whether voters like the movie.

Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
I’m all for Weaver’s nomination; I’m just worried it will be the sole means of recognizing a terrific, underseen film. Weaver’s role as a mother deeply involved in the criminal activity of her sons is extremely meaty, and she does a phenomenal job. Hopefully, Americans will be able to appreciate this esteemed Australian actress.

That’s all for now! The Oscars aren’t that far away, and Golden Globe predictions will begin on Tuesday.

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