This Academy Awards rundown is the second of several that I’ll be doing for the major acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture. Definitely follow this blog on either Twitter, Facebook, or WordPress to keep up!
Additionally, this list is in order of least to most likely to win, and per usual, are accompanied by gifs. The next in this series will be Best Director. Enjoy!
Octavia Spencer: The Shape of Water
Of all the performances, in what’s a fantastic film, Octavia Spencer’s felt run of the mill. In the other rundown I commented that Woody Harrelson’s role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a supporting to the supporting characters, and a performance that was not out of the ordinary for him. The same could be said of Spencer (which actually is a compliment to her talent). She was good, but not great. Partly, because Zelda has few moments to shine, and occupies a restricted register. In short, she’s either supportive or sassy, and fairly cartoonish. I didn’t think Oscar nomination when I saw her role, and I still believe her nomination should have gone to Holly Hunter for The Big Sick. I’m putting Spencer’s chances of winning as minimal.
Mary J. Blige: Mudbound
The early front runner, Blige “faltered” partly because her film was released on Netflix. I have to think that if Mudbound had been released theatrically, then it would have gotten a greater push, but that argument is for another day. Nonetheless, Blige, through sheer talent was still able to nab a nomination. She’s almost unrecognizable in the film, playing a mother who demonstrates love, resolve, pride, and practicality. Blige had some of the best singular scenes of the year.
I don’t think any of the supporting actresses had a better singular scene than Blige’s nursing sequence. When she’s “asked” to take care of Laura’s (Carey Mulligan) children, who are both running fevers, the request isn’t a request. It’s an order. That moment is the crux of the film. There’s no scene in Mudbound that more sums up the sharecropper/land lord, black/white, and middle/lower class dynamic more than there. Not only does Blige carry the emotional weight of the film, she does so in limited screen time. No film required more of their supporting actress. Blige won’t win, but in my book she had the second best performance of the year.
Lesley Manville: Phantom Thread
The only reason I have Lesley Manville, for her fantastic role in Phantom Thread, rated higher than Mary J. Blige is because of the BAFTA’s. Manville is from Brighton, and the BAFTA’s will be on her home turf. Amercians can never feel fully safe going to those awards, and since she snuck in at the last second, maybe Phantom Thread and Manville can pick up some moment with a strong a showing there. In terms of the acting, I don’t think any supporting actress had a more quotable role than Manville, save Janney. She’s the surrogate mother to Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis), and is a rare example of a successful 1950’s business woman on screen. Also, while Manville has her showy put downs of Woodcock, I love the small pleasures of her role. Woodcock’s character loves silence, and that requires a wealth of subtext to be performance. If you’re looking for a late run, and possible upset come Oscar time, my pick would be Manville.
Allison Janney: I, Tonya
I can hear the audible gasps! Yes, I’m not predicting Janney to win. Yes, she has won the SAG. She has won the Golden Globe. She won the Critics Choice. However, I think there’s a strong possibility that she loses at the BAFTA’s. I, Tonya is such an American story, and Manville, a Brit, is nominated. I could see Janney’s momentum halting. In fact, I think the biggest predictor could be Best Picture. Since 2000, only three Supporting Actress winners’ films have not been nominated for Best Picture. Only twice has a supporting actress won, in which their film not nominated for Best Picture or Best Adapted/Original Screenplay since 2000.
Those statistics aren’t insurmountable, obviously, but they’re signs of larger industry wide support. And I’m not looking to tear down a performance, though it will seem like that when I explain why Laurie Metcalf might win. I, Tonya was one of my favorite films of the year **cough, MUST READ, cough**. However, while Janney has the most scene stealing performance of any supporting actress other than Manville, I think some may look toward the overall role.
Laurie Metcalf: Lady Bird
I’ve watched both I, Tonya and Lady Bird, twice, and I’m convinced that Laurie Metcalf had a better performance than Allison Janney. Like I said, I loved I, Tonya and Janney’s performance, but she didn’t have the vehicle to fully showcase her talent. While it would be extreme to say that Janney was one note, she had a couple of scenes (like when she watches Tonya skate, while she’s waiting tables), her performance never rose above sarcasm, fits of shock, and anger. Metcalf was just asked to do more, more often.
While I can only point to a couple of scenes where Janney’s character showed dimension, Metcalf’s moments darted throughout all of Lady Bird. In the opening car scene, Metcalf shows as much range as Janney did in all of I, Tonya and then some. Really, look. Metcalf displays kindness, vulnerability, anger, shock, and sarcasm. She has those moments throughout the film. This isn’t to blame Janney, you do the best with the character you have, and Janney does an amazing job. However, the degree of difficulty was just higher and more often for Metcalf. If Metcalf pulls off the upset, it’ll be because of the support for Lady Bird, with its 5 nominations (2 coming from Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay) as compared to I, Tonya’s 3. It’s a risk, but I’m predicting Metcalf!
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Photo Credit: TheHollywoodReporter