Editor’s note: Welcome to the seventeenth of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By StinkyLulu of StinkyLulu.
A sweet young thing tarnished by her encounter with the big bad world. A fiercely devoted mother desperately trying to protect her child from the world’s casual cruelties. A sultry and possibly insane temptress. A generously loving mother with humble wisdom to spare. A hussy with a heart of gold. In many ways, the roles performed by this year’s Supporting Actress nominees draw upon some of the most familiar cliches. At the same time, this year’s roster of nominated Supporting Actresses stands as one of the most uniformly deserving and accomplished in recent years.
Amy Adams in Doubt
Adams’s Performance: In a role that requires simplicity without stupidity, purity without pretension, Adams’s gift for conveying sweetness melds with her knack for revealing her character’s easily overlooked depths to accomplish a near perfect performance in Doubt‘s trickiest role.
Why Adams Will Win: Though her role might not be the year’s showiest, and her performance might not be the most memorable, Adams delivers a likably moving performance in one of the year’s most acclaimed films. What’s more, Adams benefits what might be called the “Hollywood” advantage, as she’s a rising and increasingly bankable American star supported by a really skilled publicity machine. If there’s an “upset” this year, it might well be Adams who takes the trophy home.
Why Adams Won’t Win: If anything, voters might look past the astute work Adams does in the deceptively simple role of Sister George, noticing instead the showier, fireworks-laden performances of her co-stars and her co-nominees.
Cruz’s Performance: Cruz’s Maria Elena arrives to the film at its midpoint, bringing the entire enterprise into a sharper emotional focus and injecting a clarifying jolt of instability to the film’s routine experiments in sexual chemistry. Cruz is, by turns, hilarious and heartbreaking — some might say, “Gee-nee-uuss.”
Why Cruz Will Win: Oscar has recently begun appreciating Cruz as more than just another foreign pretty face and Cruz’s memorable handling of this emotionally complex, bilingual role promises to appeal to a broad range of Academy voters. Plus, the Academy has a long history of noting Woody’s Supporting Actresses (while ignoring him elsewhere).
Why Cruz Won’t Win: Since summer, the trophy has seemed Cruz’s to lose and, with Winslet now out of the Supporting race, it seems likely that Cruz’s grasp on the goldenboy is increasingly secure. Yes, the Doubt women loom as potential spoilers (albeit for different reasons), and Tomei has been known to surprise, but look for a blast of Spanish pride as last year’s Supporting Actor Javier Bardem calls Cruz’s name as Best Supporting Actress.
Davis’s Performance: Viola Davis’s brief but indelible turn as a devoted mother trying only to protect her son from harm both complicates and elevates Doubt. Hers is a breakthrough performance by a formidable acting talent.
Why Davis Will Win: It’s a meticulously crafted, emotional wallop of a performance. Plus, not only is the role just the sort to stick in voters’s minds (it won Adriane Lenox the Tony on Broadway) but Davis also steals the movie right out from under the likes of critical favorites Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Why Davis Won’t Win: Some Oscar pundits say the role is too small, the screentime too minimal, but the main reason Davis will likely not be accepting a trophy on her own behalf is probably because the acclaimed stage actress’s film career has not quite taken full flight…yet.
Henson’s Performance: With wit, warmth and dramatic clarity, Taraji P. Henson amplifies the humanity of a well-worn stock character and, in so doing, provides proof of her many gifts as a screen performer. In Benjamin Button, Henson provides a compelling reminder of her status as one of the most consistently captivating, capable and surprising actresses of her generation.
Why Henson Will Win: For all the depth of Henson’s skill and talent, and acknowledging that Henson is way overdue for such recognition, this nomination (and Henson’s potential win) strikes me as what I sometimes call a “coaster,” or one of those occasions when a Supporting Actress nomination/win gets swept into the current of positive sentiment for the film and, as a result, “coasts” to its own recognition.
Why Henson Won’t Win: For the reasons stated above, in any other year, Henson would likely prove a real contender for the win but, up against this batch of ladies, roles and performances, I’m thinking that, for Henson, it will be an honor just being nominated. An overdue honor, but an honor nonetheless.
Tomei’s Performance: With unflinching empathy and precision, Marisa Tomei brings both sides of her character — Cassidy the world-weary stripper and Pam the lonely single mom — to vivid life. Tomei is naked, emotionally and physically, in the role and The Wrestler‘s the better for the clarifying reality of her presence.
Why Tomei Will Win: After years of being the category’s biggest punchline, Tomei has stealthily emerged to become one of the category’s stalwarts. With her third nomination as Best Supporting Actress, Tomei joins the elite sorority of actresses to have received three or more nominations in the category and stands out as perhaps the only Supporting Actress to be nominated while in her 20s (for 1992’s My Cousin Vinny), in her 30s (2001s In the Bedroom) and in her 40s (for 2008’s The Wrestler). So the voters might do well to recognize Tomei for stamina alone. Not to mention the fact that Tomei’s performance is as remarkable for its subtlety and nuance as it is for her fully exposed, rockin’ 44 year old bod.
Why Tomei Won’t Win: Her performance is solid, surprising and effective — better than it needs to be, really — but isn’t that exactly what we’ve come to expect from Marisa Tomei? Indeed, Tomei’s emerging status as the “Cher” of the Supporting Actress category might work against her taking another trophy home for some time to come, as it almost certainly will this year.
Who Will Win: While Oscar really can’t go wrong in calling any of these names to the winner’s podium on February 22, the trophy probably will (and probably should) go to Penélope Cruz for the electrifying magic she brings to Vicky Cristina Barcelona. That said, the accomplished work done by Adams and Davis yet casts some — ahem — doubt on the certainty of a Cruz win.
Who Should Win: If I had a vote, I’d probably give it to Viola Davis, though I would be sorely tempted to split it with Cruz and Marisa Tomei. (As much as I adore her, and as much as it pains me to do so, Taraji P. Henson’s is the only nomination I find myself rooting against.)