BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
by eric henderson
Christoph Waltz’s lip-licking good show as the smartest BASTERD in the Gestapo has so thoroughly run the table with guilds’, critics’, and humanitarian awards that it’s left the remainder of the category’s contenders cowering in his shadow. It’s so dark back there, in fact, it’s hard to even know who else is vying for one of the other four slots, widely accepted to be superfluous at this point given that no one has amassed a sweep this powerful since Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi in 1994. (Even that invincible perfect storm that was Heath Ledger’s Joker managed to miss a few key trial heats; both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics opted to sidestep posthumous laurels.) Waltz’s biggest miss to date: losing the National Board of Review citation to Woody Harrelson’s tough, empathetic, emotionally wounded war vet in THE MESSENGER. (The Board was blind to Landau too, instead opting for Gary Sinese’s tough, empathetic, physically wounded war vet in Forrest Gump.)
Naturally, Harrelson is the only other legitimate sure thing among plausible nominees. And I use the word “plausible” unadvisedly, since the lack of perspective Waltz’s precursor rampage has wrought means no one else has been given a forum to make a proper case. Not even any of Waltz’s own co-stars. In a just world, Michael Fassbender’s knockout display of just-barely concealed tension in BASTERDS would’ve been enough to at least put his name into the mix. And if being thick-necked, talking in a funny accent, and making absolutely no impression whatsoever are apparently enough to make Matt Damon’s boring INVICTUS rugby star a legitimate candidate, should we not also be talking about the unilaterally terrible Eli Roth’s chances? No? Well, then let’s go ahead and scratch off Puffy Pecs Springbok off the list too. (And cross off Mike Myers’s preposterous cameo too, since his ham-on-wry counterpart in AN EDUCATION, Alfred Molina, was snubbed by both SAG and the Globes.)
Stanley Tucci’s two high-profile performances should have equaled one easy nomination, but the accomplishment diminishes significantly when the double-bill is split. Which is the lesser of the two evils: his willingness to be Streeprolled in the inoffensively boring JULIE & JULIA or his fondness for Telly Monster vocal inflections in the flamboyantly awful THE LOVELY BONES? Both exceeded box office expectations, so we’re going to place our bets on Oscar voters opting for bad overacting in lieu of decent underacting. That maxim probably also launches Christopher Plummer’s bellowing, arguably leading performance in THE LAST STATION into the final five, even though an actor whose work in The Insider couldn’t even score a nomination against Michael Clarke Duncan is clearly hated by the Academy.
Which leaves us with one all but unfillable slot. Because the rest of the Oscars this year seem bent on honoring the simple pleasures of establishmentarian tastes, Christian McKay’s work in what seems to us an anti-Orson Welles beatdown sounds like a perfect fit to us.
Will Be Nominated: Woody Harrelson (THE MESSENGER), Christian McKay (ME AND ORSON WELLES), Christopher Plummer (THE LAST STATION), Stanley Tucci (THE LOVELY BONES), and Christoph Waltz (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS)
Should Be Nominated: Robert Duvall (THE ROAD), Alden Ehrenreich (TETRO), Michael Fassbender (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Woody Harrelson (THE MESSENGER), and Christoph Waltz (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS)
...y'know, I really hope Eric is right and that Damon can be ousted for the most unexceptional performance of his career in lieu of McKay. But I doubt it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
by ed gonzalez
Since the start of the award season, Mo’Nique has been steamrolling her way to a not-entirely-undeserved Oscar win for her performance as the shark in Lee Daniels’s ghetto remake of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE, though you have to wonder if she’s entirely sealed the deal given her recent “performances” at the Golden Globes and SAGs. I ran the New York Marathon in less time than it took Mo’Nique to reach the stage at both events, and she had me feeling like Jane Lynch in Smiley Face by the time she was through with her sermons acceptance speeches. Only a week ago I was taking umbrage at some of the more vile Oscar coverage out there suggesting Mo’Nique should be schmoozing a little more for her prize, respecting the actress’s presumably earnest belief that she should win for her performance in the film and not for her behavior on the red carpet and talk-show couches, but you have to wonder if her self-righteousness isn’t working to corroborate her alleged diva antics behind the scenes.
Mo’Nique might want to pull it waaaaayyy back before she loses the Oscar, but she’s at least a lock for a nomination, as are George Clooney’s sounding boards from UP IN THE AIR, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. The last two spots are something of a crapshoot. We could opt for a combination of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Samantha Morton, and Julianne Moore, but while all three give buzzed-about performances in roles inextricably bound to those of their male co-stars (and sure bets in the actor categories for nominations), it’s hard not to notice Gyllenhaall’s lack of precursor attention, Morton’s failure to connect with more than just a few regional film critic groups, and Moore’s failure to translate her Golden Globe nomination to a SAG one. We could play it safer, ensuring a higher scoring average by supporting some combination of Marion Cottillard, Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench, since all three beloved Oscar-winners escape the clutches of the star-fucking bad time that is Rob Marshall’s NINE relatively unscathed.
But we can play it even safer than that, aligning ourselves behind a combo that would please not just Harvey Weinstein, but us too: Diane Kruger and Mélanie Laurent. Nominations for both may be unlikely in this particularly clusterfucky award season, but the scenario is justifiable given INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS box office clout, well-deserved critical acclaim, SAG ensemble triumph, Kruger’s own solo SAG nom, Laurent’s more significant critical acclaim, and most important of all, the nature of their Oscar-appealing parts: one an actress, the other an art-house proprietress, both with Nazi bloodshed on their minds.
Will Be Nominated: Vera Farmiga (UP IN THE AIR), Anna Kendrick (UP IN THE AIR), Diane Kruger (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Mélanie Laurent (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), and Mo’Nique (PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE)
Should Be Nominated: Diane Kruger (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Mélanie Laurent (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Mo’Nique (PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE), Samantha Morton (THE MESSENGER), Gwyneth Paltrow (TWO LOVERS)
...probably Moore instead of Kruger.
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