Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Encore Awards (2012 in Review): Supporting Actress

Each year I end up having significant difficulty with this category, for various reasons.
And even as I’m readily willing to admit that this year the supporting women are the
least impressive batch of nominees, it’s mostly because the other acting categories have been significantly impressive. My issue with the supporting ladies this year was not a lack of performances to cite, but the difficulty in ranking them. True, there is no performance which I find as unequivocally better than the competition like Chastain and Redgrave last year, but I do have a batch of eleven women who give supporting turns I love for various reasons and deciding which five were explicitly better than their competition. Eventually I managed.(FYI: Key category placement issues I went through HERE.)

Addendum: I may have been wavering on my love for these women, but writing these blurbs only reminds me how each of them in key ways made me love their work. It’s been a good year for acting in all categories, but it’s always a good year for acting if you look hard enough.


(Click on photos for links to reviews.)

Lizzie Caplan in Bacehlorette (as Gena)
Caplan is an unmitigated joy to watch in this ace comedic turn. Scene by scene she's peeling away the layers of Gena’s insecurities but doing so while being hilarious and on-point. She’s great at projecting that air of snarky disinterest which marks her illusion of control, always on-point with line deliveries and forging great rapport with Dunst (that tendency for friends attempting to one-up each other but without bitterness is stark) and Scott (selling a romantic subplot that should not work as well).

HIGHLIGHT: The bedroom confession or the hectic cab-ride with Scott is probably my highpoint. Very different in tone but both proving how adept an actress she is as at balancing tonal shifts so well.

Sally Field in Lincoln (as Mary Todd Lincoln)
Her unhinged but not too erratic Mary seems the performance least indebted to its historical counterpart. She cunningly suggests Mary’s otherworldly inclinations without pulling focus from the script (this is a tale of Lincoln, not Mary). She realises that someone like Mary can only gain audience sympathy by being completely unfiltered in her grief.

HIGHLIGHT: That first scene of being a knowing seer, the party showdown opposite Jones, the grief rising to the top in that argument but I’m partial to that scene before the party – Mary at her lowest and one of the few moments she’s too distracted to plan a performance. The voice cracking at “I saw he was dying” is a beauty.

Gina Gershon in Killer Joe (as Sharla)
She matches the seediness of the script and doesn’t shy away from its most grotesque aspects goes above and beyond in carving out an unusual but effective portrayal of womanhood, wifehood and even motherhood. She nails Sharla’s predisposition for nastiness and snark but also finds time for key moments of softness.

HIGHLIGHT: Towers above everyone in that final scene moving deftly between wily, nervousness, fear, horror and then humiliation. It’s the key example for her. But I must single out, too, her angry insistence that Ansel tell Dottie what’s going on. “She’s not like you and me Chris!” An unlikely maternal plea in its tenderness. Ace.

Helen Hunt in The Sessions (as Cheryl)
Helen is so intent and adept at sharing scenes and not just because she’s the type of performer predisposed to doing that but because she’s aware of the type of giving soul that Cheryl is. Even when the camera is focused on her she’s always projecting outward to Mark and by being a buttress for mark does not make her Cheryl any less real or natural.

HIGHLIGHT: Later moments like the funeral scene or responding to the poem at home are lovely, but not much captures the precise burst of light and warmth she brings to the film like her meeting with Mark. And she’s moving through her annals of professionalism while still being slightly fearful of this new, challenging client.

Kerry Washington in Django Unchained as (Broomhilda)
With a role I readily admit descends into occasionally wispiness it’s sometimes a lesson in silent performance. She’s believably elusive as dream-Broomhilda haunting Django with her illusoriness, and then shattering in those flashbacks and that first “real” meeting with her. She’s skilfully navigating between fear, curiosity and nervousness in that meeting with Schultz and then nimbly deflecting from DiCaprio at the dinner table scene with rarely a line of dialogue.

HIGHLIGHT: Each of her longer scenes seem ideal here but I’d wager she’s strongest against Jackson in the kitchen scenes. Expertly showing Broomhilda’s attempt to hide her excitement and hope, but still significantly aware of the ever-present danger.

FINALISTS: Helena Bonham Carter in Les Misérables for a funny yet chilling portrayal of a woman with little ethics; Blythe Danner in Hello, I Must Be Going (my #6) for a sensitive turn as an occasionally bitter mother with depths of sadness; Megalyn Echikunwoke in Damsels in Distress for a funny, spirited turn as a girl intent on keeping up an illusion; Macy Gray in The Paperboy for moving between funny and moving as an off-kilter surrogate mother; Kelly Macdonald in Anna Karenina for brilliantly playing both Dolly’s desire to be loved and her longing to leave and her perfect line-reading of “But I didn’t do anything!”; Mae Whitman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower for a whip sharp portrayal of cynicism atop a less certain girl.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS (I would love to cite all of them higher): Doona Bae in Cloud Atlas for restraint and emotion where necessary; Samantha Barks in Les Misérables for a lovely take on longing; Annette Bening in Ruby Sparks for using the Earth Mother trope to brilliant use; Jessica Chastain in Lawless for a profound sensitive take on a different kind of womanly strength; Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables for key bursts of emotion and an ethereal charm in that final scene; Isabelle Huppert in Amour for being unafraid to show childish selfishness; Frances McDormand in Moonrise Kingdom for a deft take on vaguely unwilling wifehood and even motherhood

Which supporting ladies have you been rooting for? Any on ballot would earn a citation from you, too? Who's missing?


Squasher88 said...

I love your writeups for each performance.

Lizzy was really great in a movie that I didn't quite take to. She's also so beautiful here! I couldn't believe it was the same girl from Mean Girls.

Helen Hunt's warm presence is always something that draws me to her. I'm one of the rare unabashed fans of her as an actress.

Kerry is such a lovely muse. I hope filmmakers take notice and cast her in more stuff.

Hooray for Megalyn! That performance makes me smile just thinking about it.

Dave said...

Lovely to see Caplan here, even if I definitely don't agree that she's a supporting player. But she really brings all her recent reinvigorated sharpness to the role, and brings Dunst up a level in those stakes I think. (Isla Fisher's just off in her own world as usual, god love her.)

Great write-up of Field, who's a real favourite of mine too - I especially love your last sentence. Sad to see not even a mention of Juno Temple when Gershon's taking your top spot - for me, they're both superb, although I'd give Temple the edge for such a knowingly beguiling turn. Hunt I absolutely love this year, but I can't get on board with Kerry Washington. Someone said that if she'd been white, she'd be a shoo-in for an Oscar nod, and while it is quite a similar role to Jacki Weaver's, I just don't see her doing much of anything outside of the scene in the kitchen with Jackson, where she is admittedly a bundle of mingled, heightened emotions.

ruth said...

Helen Hunt was brilliant in The Session. I agree that her moments in the funeral scene and also the part where she was sobbing in the car was powerful and moving. She brought such honesty and warmth to her character. Such a tough role to pull off but she did it beautifully.

Tim said...

Yay for Gina Gershon! A performance that I loved kind of despite myself, and I've been frustrated by how few other people have been calling her out for it. Terrific job of explaining why it works so well.

Nick Prigge said...

Lizzy Caplan. Getting much deserved recognition. Thank you.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

shane thanks much for the appreciation. i feel helen acts so rarely, i'm not able to be an emphatic fan, but i am nonplussed about the hate she seems to elicit.

dave it's weird in retrospect, i have caplan here and i have juno in lead? errr, i don't know what i'm going for either. category placement is hard :( fischer is lovely, too.

but kerry gets more (and succeeds with more) than jacki, though, right? it's a performance of reactions for good and bad, but those reactions are more profound than many of the characters with slick lines for me.

ruth i love how she doesn't even try to mug for the camera. it's very natural and easy but not bland to watch.

tim the thing is, i kept second guessing gina for #1 and even in the top 5 but then every time i'd rank it and i just couldn't see myself placing anyone above her. it's just fearless and ferocious ACTing in the best and most grotesque of ways. even if not for love of the performance, i wish she'd get talked up for that fearlessness.

nick i thought of you as i wrote that caplan bit. glad for fellow fan of her in this.

Jesper said...

I also loves your write-up!

For me Kerry Washington is one of the actresses I really want to like but just can't. In both Scandal and Django Unchained she has left me cold and I've almost felt lured by her, something in her portrayals just don't seems real to me.

Otherwise I love your lineup (even though I haven't seen Killer Joe, but it seems interesting).