Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Favourites

I’ve been tinkering with this list for a while, so finally I’ve completed it., which marks the final category, Check out the others, if you missed.

                 

                 
Here is the list of the thirty supporting nominees that have had the most profound effect on me. These are the women that I think are best, well not quite the best...I'm not sure I understand what that word means anymore. Here are the women that I like the most. Enough.

                 
TIER THREE
30 – Glenn Close in The World According to Garp
29 – Maggie Smith in Othello
28 – Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights
27 – Natalie Portman in Closer
26 – Meg Tilly in Agnes of God
25 – Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate
24 – Kate Winslet in Iris
23 – Ruth Hussey in The Philadelphia Story
                          
TIER TWO
22 – Judi Dench in Chocolat
21 – Margaret Avery in The Color Purple
20 – Marianne Jean-Baptise in Secrets & Lies
19 – Marisa Tomei in In the Bedroom
18 – Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias
17 – Cate Blanchett in Notes On A Scandal
16 – Oliva De Havilland in Gone With the Wind
                 

THE FINALISTS

15 – Shirley Knight in Sweet Bird of Youth
Along with Angela Lansbury above, Knight lost her chance at Oscar to Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker. All three performances were good so I can’t say that Duke’s was underserved. Knight’s performance, though in Tennessee Williams’ play is quite good. As the estranged girl friend of hero [Paul Newman] she plays a young girl Heavenly – as tongue-in-cheek as Tennessee can get, and her role though quite important to the film; is not excessively large; but she plays it well. With a team of future Oscar winners, she holds her own quite nicely. Her ‘big’ scene comes when she faces off with Ed Begley in his Oscar winning role as her father. It’s a nice, strong moment and she does well with what she’s given.
                

14 – Celeste Holm in All About Eve
This performance is often regarded as inferior, especially in comparison to the ostensibly better performances of Davis, Baxter and Sanders. However, I love this performance from Celeste Holm. She’s the first person we see in the narrative, and her expressive face is what leads us back to the memory of Eve Harrington so long ago. Celeste’s part is for the most part reactive. She watches while Margo goes crazy, while Eve changes her behaviour and as her husband dallies with the actress. And it is with that expressive face that she sells it. I love that scene in the bathroom with her and Eve, and it’s exceptionally well played. Never, do we doubt her love for Margo even though her actions could have suggested otherwise.
               
13 – Maggie Smith in Gosford Park
Maggie Smith is exceptional. That much we know. Even with those one-liners in Harry Potter she still excels. In Gosford Park she is given the perfect role for an aging actress. Her performance is hinged into the beginning and the end of the film. At the start, the absurdity of having her maid stand in the rain is sad and humorous at once; and her narcissism in shown again at the end where she laments how trying being a witness at court would be for her. And in between that he spot-on delivery of her lines is enviable; in particular those few scenes with Kristin Scott Thomas [with whom she shared an uncanny chemistry] where she changed the course of the narrative were done well. A beautiful job from her.
                 
12 – Patricia Clarkson in Pieces of April
For an actress that seems to be as ubiquitous as Patty I’m always a little bewildered at times when I realise that this is her only nomination. But then this performance is not as frivolous as it seems. The movie is enjoyable, if a bit trite but Patricia elevates her character to such a height that it’s amazing. There’s a scene that always sticks with me. It’s where she vomits in a bathroom on the road and replaces what we realise is a wig on her head. Then looking at her reflection in her mirror she gives her visage a knowing, deceptive smile. It’s a nice acting moment from her, and it’s little touches like that that make turn this character into a realistic character.
                   
11 – Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George
1994 in retrospect was quite a good year in this category. Although I was not enamoured with all the performances, it was a definite step up for the Academy from 1993. Helen Mirren’s Queen Charlotte is a Cannes’ winning performance and with reason. It is a bit of co-lead I suppose; she and Nigel Hawthorne are the driving force behind the film and she handles her role wonderfully. It’s a pity that this performance is not as remembered as it should me.
                 
10 – Judy Garland in Judgment at Nuremberg
I know that everybody in the world loves Rita Moreno’s vivacious Anita in West Side Story; but as much as I like the film and enjoy her performance I really was not gunning for her to win. I suppose that somewhere hidden there is an irony that when Judy went straight up drama she lost her Oscar to a straight up musical performance. Of course Judy has always and will always be remembered as an omnipresent musical star but this is my favourite acting performance of hers. As a pivotal witness in the Nuremberg trials there is an alarming weakness that she brings to the role which is unlike much we’ve seen her do before. Stanley Kramer handles her scenes very well and it comes off a deservedly nominated performance.
                   

9 – Dianne Wiest in Parenthood
There is something that just charms me about this movie; but more importantly there’s something that just charms me about Diane Wiest in the movie. As a single mother, who may be just a little crazy she imbues the character with so much good nature that she’s wonderful to watch. Never does it seem off, and never does it seem as if she’s trying too hard. Even in those silly moments with her daughter – it’s all done in good taste, so funny and yet so poignant. There’s just, as I said a charm about her that I can’t resist. She is a wonderful actress.
                       
8 – Joan Allen in The Crucible
As a fan of Arthur Miller I can’t say that The Crucible is my favourite play of his; but there is something amazing about the play nonetheless and the adaptation of it is able to capture the beauty of it. As Elizabeth Proctor Joan Allen towers above the cast [yes, even the talented Daniel Day Lewis]. Of course the effusiveness of her performance is owed to Miller’s original work; but there is just something outstanding about her performance that I just cannot put my hand on. It’s a pity that she had to go against my darling Binoche in 1996, a year earlier or later I could have seen her easily winning the populist fare that Oscar rewarded. And it doesn’t look as if he’ll ever get the recognition that she deserves.
                       
7 – Vanessa Redgrave in Howards End
Ruth Wilcox, more than any other character in Howards End, hovers over the film. It’s not the obvious type of hovering where a character’s death must be solved. But eventually we realise what it is, Ruth Wilcox is Howards End. At the end when Meg Schlegel finally gets the house, we can almost see the figure of Ruth smiling in heaven…and seeing that her character disappeared from screen almost two hours earlier, this is no mean feat. And that is because Vanessa Redgrave is so talented. I wonder if Merchant Ivory meant for this character to seem important. Even if he didn’t Vanessa certainly made it seem so. Her rapport with especially Emma Thompson is beautiful to watch and hers few scenes are just so well acted that there’s no doubt that her Oscar nomination was deserved.
                     
6 – Glenn Close in The Big Chill
I know that many are not as fond of this performance as I would like; but then many are not as fond of the film either. Glenn plays Sarah; one of a group of friend who meet for a weekend after the suicide of one of their friends. The group went to college and have met again after a parting of ways. The Big Chill is their story. You can click on the link to see more of what I thought of the performance; but with every thing she’s given and what is an ensemble film Glenn still manages to make Sarah seem more important. It’s a well deserved Oscar nomination.
                   
5 – Kate Winslet in Sense & Sensibility
I always felt that Kate’s first nomination [more than her most recent, obviously] was always the easiest; or should have been the easiest actually. With Jane Austen as her guide Kate played Marianne Dashwood, the eponymous ‘sensibility’ of the film’s title. She is the excitable middle Dashwood girls, who is Elizabeth Bennett of Pride & Prejduice – but with less morals. It’s a sweet performance from Kate, and a thoroughly English one. She plays well alongside Emma Thompson and even seems to make a convincing romantic connection with Alan Rickman, which ostensibly seems strange.
              

INTERNAL STRUGGLING: The Respected Women
4 – Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons
Mme Tourvelle. Michelle earned her first nomination in Frear’s Dangerous Liaisons, a nomination I wish had substantiated into a win. What I love about this performance is Michelle’s use of body language, but more importantly the use of her face. The internal struggle of Tourvelle is difficult to present cinematically, and wordiness would not be true to the character, but yet we are able to understand. Clichéd perhaps, but goodness is not something that we can hear and believe, it comes from inside and just happens to shine through. Michelle’s Tourvelle lets her goodness shine through.
                   
3 – Helen Mirren in Gosford Park
I watched this movie thrice one day. Just because, I knew on each viewing I’d pick up something new. When you know what’s going on, it’s amazing how everything falls into perspective. There’s a scene early, it’s actually the first time we meet Mrs. Wilson, she’s directing Clive Owen where he should be sleeping. He tells her his name and you see the slightest trace of surprise on her face that is immediately cast off. It’s both the genius of Altman and Mirren that make me love that part. It’s so subtle, and yet so telling. Mrs Wilson’s internal struggle in this role is so palpable, and that last scene where she breaks down her in her sister’s arm is never superfluous, but as tender and poignant as it should be. Only Helen Mirren.
                         

2 – Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River
When Celeste goes to Jimmy we are to believe that this woman loves her husband. We must think that this is not a betrayal, no soliloquy is written for her to explain, we just have the actor there. And when that actor is Marcia Gay Harden, you can be assured that we’ll understand what she’s feeling – because she’s that talented. I won’t be covetous. Two Oscars in four years might have been too much, but it wouldn’t have been unseemly. No matter how much Clint Eastwood annoys me every now and again, I will forever respect him for directing this wonderful performance. Marcia Gay Harden in what could have been nothing but turned into what’s my favourite performance of her and of the entire film.
                 

1 – Julianne Moore in The Hours
I always find it strange that I love this performance so much. Because I never question that I wanted Catherine Zeta Jones to win her Oscar, I still don’t agree with Sage and Twister when the rail about her. But still, I cannot disagree that Julianne Moore is astounding in this film. It’s the sort of performance that only gets better with age. It’s the type of performance that so many of the supporting women must do – forced to keep their feelings inside. For a film so simple, there’s that one surreal moment where Laura is about to attempt suicide and we see her bed surrounded by a murky swamp. Laura awakes with a start – a newfound intelligence. It’s a moment that shouldn’t work, in the same way that crying in the bathroom or confessing to Clarissa shouldn’t. And yet…it does work. Is it Daldry, is it Julianne? I don’t know, but it is beautiful.
                     
Whew! That was a lot of writing. Thoughts?

6 comments:

joe burns said...

Oh no, Michelle Pfeiffer for Dangerous Liasons and Julianne Moore in The Hours in your top 4? I knew you liked them, but THAT high?

Alex in Movieland said...

I could never disagree on Julianne in The Hours! Brilliant film! And heartbreaking performance. But a leading one (to me, better than Far from Heaven, but don't tell anyone :P )

you have the usual shockers up there, like Dianne Wiest in Parenthood (so so weak to me compared to her 2 wins). Marcia is a bit too high, but I too think she was better in Mystic River than people give her credit (from what i can remember, seen it only once and no intention going back to it). I would've easily voted for Patricia Clarkson.

and Kate Winslet... hmmmm; great movie & role, but I still think you can see the lack of experience in the performance. I prefer older Winslet

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

joe it's not just nepotism, i really think those two ladies were fantastic. and surely you liked some of the choices?

alex well laura brown is my favourite julianne performance, so i should be asking you to keep mum. on wiest, the film was a big childhood memory, so that could explain why i always find it so charming, and kate is inexperienced in s&s, but it works for marianne...i think.

joe burns said...

Yes,I liked a lot of them (Gay-Harden,Mirren,Clarkson,Smith,Holm,Winslet,and Allen).

joe burns said...

And my review for An Education will be up soon.

anahita said...

saoirse ronan remains one of my favourite supporting performances EVER. maybe it's just the shock of seeing so much raw talent in one young person.

gosford park however does feature a cast of incredible actors - I don't think I would be able to pick my favourite!! xxx