Oscar 2011: Best Supporting Actress

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Octavia Spencer

Over the next two weeks until the Oscar ceremony I will take a look at each of the “major” categories and analyze who I think will win and why, plus some other pontificating. I start with the easiest contest to call, Best Supporting Actress.

The runaway favorite is Octavia Spencer, who played the sassy maid Mnnie in The Help. It’s the kind of showy part the Academy loves, in a popular film, and Spencer has won all the precursor awards. It is very possible that there will be two black women who will Oscars in acting this year, a first. It will then be true that of the seven women who will have won Oscars (Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Monique, and then Spencer and Viola Davis), three of them will have played maids, and another two were characters on welfare. I guess this is progress–remember that McDaniel said she’s rather play a maid than be one.

If for some strange reason Spencer doesn’t win, who would it be? My guess is Melissa McCarthy, as the blunt force of nature in Bridesmaids. A lot of people who write about this sort of thing complain that broad comic performances are almost never honored–Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda and Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou or the only two I can come up with off the top of my head–so perhaps this would be a chance for that to addressed. But it’s an unlikely outcome.

The other three nominees are in the “happy to be nominated” category. Only an absolute sweep by The Artist could get Berenice Bejo, who played the star who made the transition to sound pictures, Peppy Miller. Bejo was fine in the role, but I didn’t see anything award-worthy about it. Jessica Chastain made about a zillion films this year. I didn’t see them all, but I did see four of them, and Chastain, as the flibbertigibbet Southern woman in The Help, was, to me, her weakest performance, behind roles in The Tree of Life, The Debt, and Take Shelter. But The Help was the most popular of these films, and Chastain does some scenery-chewing, so there it is. She won’t win. If there was an award for quantity, as the New York Critics can be, she’d win that.

Perhaps with the least chance is Janet McTeer, as a woman pretending to be a man in Albert Nobbs. The film is dishwater dull, except when McTeer is on the screen. She creates a very realized and interesting character, and to see her a few weeks later in full feminine dress in The Woman in Black only made her performance that more amazing for me. She doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance, but I’d vote for her.

Will win: Octavia Spencer
Could win: Melissa McCarthy
Should win: Janet McTeer
Should have been nominated: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

One response »

  1. You know who really got screwed in this category? Vanessa Redgrave in Coriolanus. The movie’s pretty good in its own right, and Redgrave is spectacular as Fiennes’s mother. Jessica Chastain, sadly, is mostly relegated to the sidelines, but Redgrave goes toe to toe with Fiennes late in the movie, and it’s as good a scene as I’ve seen all year.

    I don’t recall her getting any real consideration, though. I wonder why; you’d think that an old, respected actress doing Shakespeare would be almost automatic, especially when the field as is weak as it is this year.

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