This year’s nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category run the gamut from a feisty lingerie-wearing mistress to a monstrous, abusive excuse for a mother, and while this category is usually pretty hard to predict, I’m thinking this year not so much. Here are the nominees for best actress in a supporting role.
At the risk of being unpopular I’ve got to admit, I didn’t much care for Precious. For me it read more like a tedious after-school special than the moving dramatic powerhouse so many people hailed it as. That said, Mo’Nique did manage to impress with her repulsive yet dangerously close to sympathetic turn as the abusive mother to Gabourey Sidibe’s downtrodden Precious. As an actress known more for her questionable comedy and outspoken personality than any real acting talent, the performance seemed to come out of nowhere. Audiences and critics have been eating it up and I won’t be the only one surprised if she doesn’t win the Oscar.
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
As a tightly wound corporate downsizer, Anna Kendrick managed to not only hold her own against magnetic leading man George Clooney, she actually managed to upstage him. Not an easy feat for any actress let alone one so young and relatively inexperienced. As a character-driven film with little action, Up in the Air needed actors with some serious acting chops to handle the dialogue-heavy material, and Kendrick did it with conviction. Her ability to go from perfectly-coiffed, levelheaded employee, to messy emotional wreck made her the real star of the movie. So far the role has earned her awards from the Toronto and Austin Film Critics’ Associations, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and the National Board of Review.
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
After years of hard work and a solid resume to her credit – including stints working with A-list heavyweights the likes of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio – Vera Farmiga has finally gotten the attention she deserves with Up in the Air. With this role she showcases her ample allure and wicked charm to a mass audience – finally. As the tough but irresistibly charming Alex she manages to tame George Clooney and bring him back to Earth (so to speak). Farmiga has been touted as deserving of Oscar recognition for the past few years, particularly for her role in the little-seen indie gem Down to the Bone, and hopefully this recognition will lead to more high profile roles for her. A reward she surely deserves.
Penelope Cruz (Nine)
Consider this the WTF of the category. Reviews for Rob Marshall’s Fellini-esque musical Nine were dismal, and it tuned out to be one of 2009’s biggest disappointments. Granted, Cruz’s reviews were better than those of most of her costars (save Marion Cotillard), but an Oscar nomination? Really? This isn’t to say she wasn’t good. She certainly breathed some life into the supposed-to-be-splashy musical when she burst on to the scene in her skimpy lingerie and sexy heels. Few can play the role of spitfire better than the feisty Spanish actress. But I still maintain that it doesn’t warrant an Oscar nod. Anyway, whether you agree with the nomination or not, her win in the same category for last year’s Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Nine’s poor reception make it unlikely that she’ll take home the hardware on March 7th.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
Maggie Gyllenhaal has continually proved herself to be an actress with a diverse range and her role as a single mom who falls for a washed-up country star is a great addition to her oeuvre. Nevertheless, the nomination was a surprise – even if well deserved. Gyllenhaal didn’t receive any precursor awards for this role but she’s been on Oscar’s watch-list for a while now thanks to her work in gems like Secretary and SherryBaby. One gets the feeling the Academy wanted to acknowledge her because it’s unlikely Jeff Bridges would be racking up so many awards if he hadn’t been paired with the talented 32-year-old (behind every great man there’s a great woman, no?). Her win for Crazy Heart is a long shot (read: not gonna happen) but there’s no question she’ll be back in a couple of years.
Who should win: Despite the fact that I have a hate on for the movie, I really think Mo’Nique deserves this one for Precious.
Who will win: This was the mother of all roles for Mo’Nique and her win is pretty much guaranteed.