Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Encore Awards: Supporting Actresses

I always go overboard with the supporting women because year after year it’s always this category that offers the widest foray of good performances, most of which incidentally are not as lauded as they ought to be. Last year, my top three supporting women (Marion Cotillard in Nine, Samantha Morton in The Messenger, Rosamund Pike in An Education) all did great jobs in elevating potentially stock roles and this year there’s one again a gamut of supporting women to choose from. I single out five nominees, but I make mention of twenty more bringing the total to 25. Take a look:
(click on photos for review)
Amy Adams in The Fighter (as Charlene)
Like Bale she’ll get the kneejerk support for all the wrong reasons. The fact that she’s brilliant here doesn’t hinge on the fact that she’s playing against type, Charlene’s toughness. Adams will always impress me because she always has the ability to appeal to my emotions with her facial expressions – and it’s a running thread in her performances that doesn’t make them any less worthy. She’s no saint, and she’s as interested in forwarding her own agenda in Micky’s life as his dysfunctional family – but her heart in the right place, and it’s that sort of internal conflict facing her that Adams is able to demonstrate. Like a cat, she’s always ready to fight but she’d much prefer to sit back and relax. (Highlight: “I’m Charlene, we just met. Do we have to do this again?”)

Kristin Scott Thomas in Nowhere Boy (as Mimi)
I was prepared to like this performance, but at first I was sceptic. “No, Kristin, you’re overdoing,” I thought. “Too obvious with the coldness, too palpably prickly.” And then she surprises me, and keeps surprising. It’s sort a thin role, and then again it’s not when she plays it and she really manages to pull off the rapport with Aaron Johnson well even though Duff has the more “obvious” chemistry. Speaking of Duff, though, both women burn brightest against each other and it’s that sort of filial chemistry that can’t be forced (well in actuality it is, they are *acting*). (Highlight: Confrontation with her Sister)

Kerry Washington in Mother & Child (as Lucy)
Of the three main role hers seems to emerge as a caricature almost immediately. I immediately feel an eye roll coming on as I watch her talk about how much she wants a baby – and then amidst all the mannered ways of Lucy you sort of get the authentic of the character even though she’s still mannered and then those small moments like a dinner with her husband’s parents or watching her try (almost like it’s a physical exertion) to be the perfect wife it’s almost chilling in a Stepford wife sort of way. But Kerry still manages to make this character the most sympathetic of the three. Odd, and yet sort of awesome. (Highlight: “Who the fuck does she think she is?”)

Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom as (Janine Cody)
The thing I like most about Weaver’s work here is, incidentally, how difficult it is to read her. It’s no surprise that she’s been doing this for decades because the adeptness with which she approaches the character is impressive. Someone remarked, and I agree, that Weaver’s biggest credit is ensuring that Animal Kingdom doesn’t become bogged down by the barrage of maleness that surrounds it. She doesn’t “tower” above the narrative, but still looms – often in the background – but still in our consciousness ensuring that her agenda emerges as important – even if she’s really not as certain about everything as she pretends. (Highlight: “I’m trying to find my positive spin...”)

Dianne Wiest in Rabbit Hole (Nat)
I love her eyes , sure they look like she’s constantly squinting (it’s just her face) but she’s like a hawk in the way she takes note of everything and she shrouds her sagacity behind a smokescreen of congeniality. Case in point: her first scene where Becca brings the clothes to Izzy. She’s watching them closely, she knows what’s going on and then she injects her random bit of kooky mother humour and her soothsaying powers. You’re tempted to roll your eyes and this sort of lovable woman, but it’s just her brand of damage control. She spends the entire film being there for Becca and yet carrying around her own grief – with aplomb. (Highlight: too hard to pick.)

FINALISTS: Helena Bonham-Carter plays the officious Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland to brilliant results (more here). She succeeds in the overbearing loudness all the while ensuring that the character’s (admittedly vague) humanity is shrouded in the high comedic way of it all; Kim Cattrall and Olivia Williams don’t really play off each other in The Ghost Writer but their opposing viewpoints are an important part of learning about our protagonist. Cattrall’s ostentatious mannerisms do not indicate not a flaw in her performance but a clear realisation of her character and Williams’ pragmatism is brilliant to watch; Thandie Newton is riveting to watch in For Colored Girls so in touch with her troubled character easily doing some of the best work of her career; and Naomi Watts emerges from Mother & Child with a refreshingly good handle on a difficult character managing to deliver emotional poignancy in those last few minutes.

SEMI-FINALISTS: There are a whole slew of women who don’t make it to the finalists, but are instrumental in lending bits of hilarity, emotion or fun to their films. The most notable lot are: Helena Bonham Carter for being as perfect as necessary as the charming wife on the sidelines in The King’s Speech; Cher for putting her natural cadence to good use and being essential to the joie de vivre of Burlesque; Patricia Clarkson for doing the same thing in Easy A while always augmenting and never taking away from Emma Stone; Marion Cotillard for being the best-in-show in Inception while playing a woman that’s more memory than realism; Loretta Devine for impressing with the monologue work in For Colored Girls and reminding us why we fell in love with her assertiveness so many years ago; 
Anne-Marie Duff for being wonderfully charismatic in Nowhere Boy playing the role of exotic mother to perfection, but finding the heart beneath; Kimberly Elise for managing to turn what could be a hot mess of character into something worthy of our appreciation in ; Barbara Hershey for working the vaguely clichéd stage mother to better results than you’d expect in Black Swan; Keira Knightley for taking a humdrum character and presenting her as a sort of flawed anti-heroine in Never Let Me Go; Melissa Leo for being especially moving opposite her suns even amidst all the distractions of being loud in The Fighter; Vanessa Redgrave for turning a potentially tepid romance flick into something worthy of luminosity in Letters to Juliet; Anika Noni Rose for bringing an effusive charm to her character in For Colored Girls and maintaining that dignity throughout the lowest points; Susan Sarandon for being the best in show in The Greatest playing her grief more obviously than we’d expect from her, but succeeding nonetheless; Sissy Spacek for surprising with how she decides to show emotion in Get Low and then slaying you towards the end without even saying anything; Kierston Wareing for playing her potentially terrible mother as someone with more humanity than you’d expect.
I’m always fond of this category because there are so many brilliant supporting women to find who’re doing great stuff – I could, perhaps, collectively offer up the entire casts of For Colored Girls, Rabbit Hole and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. People are always lamenting the sorry state of female roles, but I don’t know I’m always being wowed by the work the work they offer up. This category always gets me excited, I offer up two dozen supporting women – do any of them appear on your list? Which supporting women made your 2010?


Robert said...

Wow, what amazing choices! You picked the PERFECT moment for Washington. That line was so many things at once, it was perfect. I mean, I love everyone on your list so I can't single anyone out. But I'm especially to see Weaver and Watts mentioned. :)

Candice Frederick said...

really great list! nice points especially about kerry, marion, thandie, and jacki

Jose said...

Amy FTW!

TomS said...

I, too, appreciated Adams in "The Fighter" even more than the highly lauded performances in that film. And kudos to you for mentioning Kristin Scott-Thomas in "Nowhere Boy". A wonderful portrayal in a film that didn't seem to have much of a chance to find an audience. Next on my must-see list is "Rabbit Hole".

Anonymous said...

Team MTV Girl!

Just to be a contrarian, off the top of my head. Mila Kunis, Greta Gerwig, Kristen or Dakota, Ruth Sheen.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

robert what's it with the "w's" eh? wiest, washington, wiest, watts? shame that so many of these women got NO love this week.

candice i REALLY wanted to put thandie on the list (she's sixth) but everyone is soooo good.

jose i just really don't want steinfeld to win (or even melissa to be honest, even though i like her fine here).

tom the lack of love for nowhere boy hurts me especially. a trio of very good performances (and fine technical work). i really want to see your thoughts on rabbit hole.

paolo greta, kristen and dakota are all considered as lead players for me.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Bah, haven't seen Mother and Child or Nowhere Boy! How did Wiest not get any traction? I know I'm not one to talk, but the fact that so many passed her over surprises me. It *always* surprises me. Glad you chose my favorite scene for Charlene :)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

walter i blame the critics most of all. they put their love behind the youth - like kunis and steinfeld, and ignored older girls like KST and wiest. folly.