the oscars: best supporting actress

it’s hard for me to get excited about this category.

WHAT! BLASPHEMY!

it is. sorry.

in seventy-seven, beatrice straight won the award for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in network. if you were to ask me what else she’s been in, i couldn’t tell you. if you were to ask me about her performance in that film, i couldn’t tell you. i remember the movie. i remember faye dunaway, william holden, peter finch and robert duvall. if you go to imdb and look at the credits, first-billed only, you’d have to click see full cast to see her name… sixth from the bottom, before the roles mosaic figure, tv technical director, laureen hobbs, hunter’s secretary and narrator. i checked her filmography, and the only two films i recognized, after network, of course, were endless love and poltergeist. i’ve not seen either of those. that’s how memorable she is. fifty bucks says you’d never heard of her until you read this post. i’d wager more, but i don’t have a job right now, and fifty bucks is a lot of money at the moment.

i remember this scene:

i’d forgotten this one:

and yeah, it shames me to say all that. i call myself a film geek, and i can’t recall an oscar-winning performance in a film i’d seen. the other nominees that year were jane alexander in all the president’s men, jodie foster in taxi driver, lee grant in voyage of the damned and piper laurie in carrie. 

the following year, maggie smith won for the role diane barrie in california suite. didn’t see it. the other nominees were dyan cannon in heaven can wait (did see it; didn’t love her in it), penelope milford in coming home, maureen stapleton in interiors and meryl streep in the deer hunter. i didn’t see any of those. maybe i should. i probably won’t.

winners in the eighties: meryl streep in kramer vs. kramer; mary steenburgen in melvin and howard; maureeen stapleton in reds; jessica lange in tootsie; linda hunt in the year of living dangerously; peggy ashcroft in a passage to india; angelica huston in prizzi’s honor; dianne wiest in hannah and her sisters; olympia dukakis (i love her) in moonstruck; and geena davis in the accidental tourist. i’ve seen two of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: carrie fisher in the empire strikes back and return of the jedi; jane fonda, lily tomlin and dolly parton in nine to five (it’s hard for me to choose who’s supporting whom there); ally sheedy in the breakfast club; barbara hershey and bette midler in beaches (same deal); dolly parton, shirley maclaine and olympia dukakis in steel magnolias. none were nominated for these roles. they’re memorable parts in films that had great appeal, and i think they were portrayed well.

the nineties: brenda fricker in my left foot; whoopi goldberg in ghost; mercedes ruehl in the fisher king; marisa tomei in my cousin vinny (yay!); anna paquin in the piano; dianne wiest in bullets over broadway; mira sorvino in mighty aphrodite; juliette binoche in the english patient; kim basinger in l.a. confidential; and judi dench in shakespeare in love. i’ve seen six of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: laura san giacomo in pretty woman; shirley maclaine in postcards from the edge; mary-louise parker in fried green tomatoes; and gena rowlands or angelina jolie in playing by heart.

the two thousands: angelina jolie in girl, interrupted; marcia gay harden in pollock; jennifer connelly in a beautiful mind; catherine zeta-jones in chicago; renee zellwegger in cold mountain; cate blanchett in the aviator; rachel weisz in the constant gardener; jennifer hudson in dreamgirls; tilda swinton in michael clayton; and penelope cruz in vicky cristina barcelona. i’ve seen three of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: anne bancroft in keeping the faith; maggie smith in the harry potter films and divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood; ashley judd and fionnula flanagan in divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood; elizabeth banks in seabiscuit; emma thompson in love actually; diane keaton in the family stone; and laura linney in the nanny diaries.

this decade: mo’nique in precious; melissa leo in the fighter; octavia spencer in the help; anne hathaway in les miserables; lupita nyong’o in twelve years a slave; patricia arquette in boyhood; and alicia vikander in the danish girl. i’ve seen one.

supporting actress roles i favor from this decade: patricia clarkson in one day; bryce dallas howard in the help; and jessica chastain in lawless.

i can’t get excited about this particular category is because i’m not too excited about the films. of one hundred eighty-eight films nominated in the last four decades, i’ve seen fifty-nine. so about a fourth. a third if you’re feeling generous. that’s not too bad. that number’s higher than i thought it would be, actually.

anyway the nominees this year are:

viola davis for fences
(i can’t see how that’s not best actress material, but okay…)
naomie harris for moonlight

nicole kidman for lion


octavia spencer for hidden figures
(janelle monae should’ve been nominated, too)


michelle williams for manchester by the sea

i don’t know that i can see fences; i really don’t care for denzel washington. but based on the clips i’ve seen of it, moonlight and manchester by the sea, paired with having seen lion and hidden figures, i’d have to say viola gets this one, that she blows the others’ performances out of the water.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: marisa tomei in my cousin vinny; cate blanchett in the aviator; and octavia spencer in the help.

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1 comment

  1. Linda Hunt and Geena Davis were both excellent in their roles.

    I've also seen both of Streep's. I don't think either performance is particularly impressive or bad. She's a good actress, but the constant bowing down to her is really annoying.

    Hemingway's good in Manhattan, not great. Wiest is good, but I think Hershey is better in the same film.

    The Academy was too snooty for Star Wars. Same goes for Breakfast Club.

    Tomei, Basinger, and Jolie were all worthy. Especially Jolie.

    Connelly, Zeta-Jones, and Cruz were good. I would have put Weisz in Best Actress.

    Interesting that you have one of the most controversial winners as one of the most deserving.

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