Academy of One: Best Actress in a Supporting Role 2013

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.

The Academy has yet to recognize voice acting or motion capture acting in the acting categories. The crafts of each of these has been around for quite some time now and are no less challenging or immersive than the visualization of an actor on screen. I for one don’t differentiate and will be cognizant of where I think the performance, while visually devoid of a familiar face, is still a viable option for any acting category. Keep that in mind as I present my deliberations.

This is an interesting category this year for reasons other than a possible incursion by an actress in a voice acting role because it’s one that could claim a bit of category fraud.

While many vouch that Julia Roberts is the true lead, if not co-lead, of August: Osage County, I already espoused my belief that the film is wholly an ensemble piece with no true lead. Although, to satisfy my own edification I did a cursory search for how much of the film Roberts is in and I got back was 49%, which is more than any other actress in this category, so really this isn’t category fraud, but as I deliberate you’ll see I think there may be better performances out there from this same film.

Here are the nominees as they currently stand.

  • Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

  • Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle

  • Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave

  • Julia Roberts - August: Osage County

  • June Squibb - Nebraska

I like this group of women. It’s a wide range of raw talents and experience based talent. None of these actresses have reached their peak and some of their best work is ahead of them, but we’re in the here and now and I have to ask the question, is this work worthy of this nomination?

I have a few more wonderful women on deck that may help me answer that question. Here are my candidates who could potentially upend the current nominees.

  • Scarlett Johansson - Her

  • Margo Martindale - August: Osage County

  • Carey Mulligan - Inside Llewyn Davis

  • Lea Seydoux - Blue is the Warmest Color

  • Oprah Winfrey - Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Yes, it was Scarlett Johansson’s affecting, heart-breaking work as the artificial intelligence, Samantha, I wrote of in the introduction. She speaks as if she’s in the room and she is ever present in Theodore’s ear. The depth of the emotional resonance we can have for a character we never see is only enhanced by Johansson’s incredible auditory performance.

Margo Martindale is another reference from my introduction. She’s overlooked and underrated at nearly every turn, but in a film where everyone around her has turned their dials to 11, she stays on the ground of nearly every moment and is able to pull off the only scene that affected me the whole film. She’s incredible and you will see her name again on this blog.

Carey Mulligan is one of those actresses that could have been type cast wholly, and completely, never getting out of that rut for the rest of her career, but she challenges herself with roles that are against type. In Inside Llewyn Davis she plays the scorned lover with such delightful vitriol. It’s a performance that stands out and captures the audience’s attentions.

Blue is the Warmest Color would not be the revelation that it is without the fire of Lea Seydoux. She has so much passion behind eyes that always look on the verge of closing. Her charm is in that comfortableness with the uncomfortable and the way she is a constant physical presence in the scenes she’s in.

I’ve praised Oprah Winfrey a lot more than I thought I ever would, but she really is that good. She’s able to slip into boozy, unfaithful Gloria so easily that many maybe thought it was a trick. The rest of the film is stunt casted (I’ll describe this practice later in the blog, about 1998 or so) within an inch of its life. Yet, Winfrey isn’t too over the top. She found the balance in her character and it makes the performance better than the rest of the film, like she’s in a film all her own. She commands our attention with each sip of that drink.

So, now that I have a great assortment of actresses that can be plugged into the list of nominees, two of which I know I want to include, who can I exclude, so to speak? Here’s that list again.

  • Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

  • Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle

  • Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave

  • Julia Roberts - August: Osage County

  • June Squibb - Nebraska

All right, I’ve got two in mind. First up is Sally Hawkins. I have nothing against her performance. I think it’s fine, I just don’t see what everyone else sees. I don’t see the extraordinary talent that the Academy has seen.

When I first saw the list of nominees, she was a question mark for me and I still can’t place my finger on it. So this is an exclusion by way of an unaffected viewer. There’s no need for me to find praise in her performance when what I can remember of it is good, but unremarkable.

I feel like I’m trashing Hawkins and that’s not what I’m attempting to do. She does her job well. She’s just in the way of women who are doing their job better.

The next on my list is Julia Roberts if only because of what I already discussed in regards to Streep. The performance is a caricature rather than a character. Also, like Hawkins, I can’t seem to remember any of the performance after I saw it. It’s just a blank spot with scenes from the trailer that I saw far too often.

This is another exclusion by way of an unaffected viewer. Roberts does her job, but she isn’t excelling at it here.

O.K., now that I’ve taken two actresses out for, I’ll admit, because I can’t remember their performance at all and am using that as a basis for excluding them, lets see the two women whom I can remember and left a big impression on me.

  • Scarlett Johansson - Her

  • Oprah Winfrey - Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Here’s what the list looks like with my additions.

  • Scarlett Johansson - Her

  • Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle

  • Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years a Slave

  • June Squibb - Nebraska

  • Oprah Winfrey - Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Now the question is, is Lupita Nyong’o still our champion? Short answer, yes.

Often, the Academy has an eye for the raw talent of actors. They see the power in a performance and give that actor a platform they may not have otherwise had.

Lupita Nyong’o built her own platform and stood atop it daring us to look away. Her performance is the kind of performance many actors hope to give someday, that someday being a light that keeps them going. Nyong’o stepped out of school, off the stage and onto a movie set where she truly transformed into Patsey.

Many of the heart-breaking scenes she’s in don’t even involve speech, they just require her expressions of anguish, anger, and depression. She carries that history in her walk and movements as well.

She’s able to put it all out there, throw herself on the fire because as we watch she is able to do what we wish for all great actors to do and indeed praise all actors for and that is a complete shedding of the self.

I don’t want to describe the scenes that prove Nyong’o’s talent because they are difficult scenes as are most of the scenes in 12 Years a Slave. I do want to urge you to see this movie if you haven’t and reflect if you have. Just to see this incredible performance and the platform Nyong’o built for herself is enough of a reason.

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 with the Best Director nominees of 2013.

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