Academy of One: Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2012

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

I don’t usually write this at the top, but I think this one’s a shoo in. I’m not going to waste a lot of your time baiting you into thinking I’m going to change my mind midway through the post. Let’s get right to it. Here are the nominees as they stand.

  • Amy Adams - The Master

  • Sally Field - Lincoln

  • Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables

  • Helen Hunt - The Sessions

  • Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook

I do have a couple of contenders I think can upend this list of actresses a little bit. Here are my choices.

  • Judi Dench - Skyfall

  • Ann Dowd - Compliance

Judi Dench is always fabulous. She’s been the only constant within the Bond franchise as it has appeared the last twenty odd years and she’s done a hell of a job reshaping M into an interesting character and not just a suit behind a desk. Her work in this film is the piece de resistance to the character and the franchise.

To watch Compliance is to come out of it saying, “I wouldn’t be that person. I wouldn’t have done that,” but Ann Dowd’s measured, nuanced, complicated performance shows that any one would do that, any one could do that if they thought it was right. It’s really a sight to behold.

O.K., now that I’ve given a few of my favorites some love, I can get on with the inevitable, right? Well, no, I think these two would make a really fine addition to this group and I’m going to remove a couple of actresses from our original list to make room for them. Here’s that original list of nominees again.

  • Amy Adams - The Master

  • Sally Field - Lincoln

  • Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables

  • Helen Hunt - The Sessions

  • Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook

I have the two actresses I’d like to remove. To start, I’ll take out Helen Hunt. I like Hunt. I think she’s a good actress and that this is a good performance, but I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best of the year. It’s certainly one of the most unique, though.

I’ll also remove Jacki Weaver. I think she rode the wave of Silver Linings Playbook love, but as far as her actual performance goes, beyond constantly offering her son “crabby snacks and homemades,” there wasn’t a ton of substance to her performance. She’s a good actress and her performance is fine, but it’s not one of the best.

All right, with those actresses out of the running, it makes room for my choices. So, here’s what our field looks like now (as if it matters, right?).

  • Amy Adams - The Master

  • Judi Dench - Skyfall

  • Ann Dowd - Compliance

  • Sally Field - Lincoln

  • Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables

Well, with our names in place it’s time to award our winner and close out this week. So, I ask the question, have I been lightly gaslighting you this whole time? Short answer, yes.

I think Anne Hathaway is a good actress who took on a character with a long and storied legacy and really did a stellar job at it, but there’s another character, with a legacy that can’t be denied.

For me, Judi Dench gives the best supporting performance of the year. She brought such gravitas to the Bond franchise. When she debuted, we were all still going gaga over gadgets. She was subverting us then, quietly embodying the leader we all wanted. One who while she respects Bond doesn’t take his shit.

That idea is never more present than it is in Skyfall. For the entire franchise, M has been behind a desk, but Dench is able to come out from behind it and thus lift the curtain and add a third dimension we’d only seen hidden in her features before.

M is a calculating spymaster who’s been in the business for long enough to have her mistakes catch up to her. She sees her chickens come home to roost with the diabolical Silva using his vast means to disrupt the foundations of the world that made him, in order to get to the woman who scarred him.

Dench doesn’t shy away from the demons that haunt the head of a spy agency. She embraces them and lives in the moment with this character as we’ve never seen her portrayed and it is incredible to watch. Dench rebuilt this character for us and developed her into a character that we actually care about. So much so that her death is a tragedy. We’ve (almost) always know this Bond to save the ones he most cares about, especially when they’ve been there for him and championed him, but in this moment he’s unable to save her. He has to watch her die. It’s heartbreaking and a stellar piece of acting.

You may think Dench is an odd choice and I respect that you think that. As I stated at the beginning, these are my opinions. I feel strongly that being a cinephile means forming your own opinions and cultivating a conversation about films that aren’t always thought of in high brow terms because even if it’s created with a $100 million budget to try and reap $300 million domestically, it’s still art and it still is culturally valuable.

I’ll get off my soapbox and just say, rewatch Skyfall with an eye on Judi Dench. She’ll reel you in as she has me. There will always be another Fantine, but for me, there is only one M.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit my website, www.zachyoungs.com for links to where you can buy my self-published works. Here on my blog you may also be interested to read a few serialized blog stories that I post every Wednesday and Sunday.

A new post of Academy of One will be available every Friday on this very site.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday when I dive in to the Best Director nominees for 2012.

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