Sunday, October 28, 2007

Naked Gold Man: The Supporting Actress Stock Shortage

He's 13 1/2 inches tall. He wears only a sword. He's shiny. Everybody wants him. He's the Naked Gold Man and this is a new weekly Sunday series --my attempt to keep Oscar discussion corraled in the weekends until we're truly in the season.

Previously: The Michael Clayton Fix

A truth as I see it: There is never a shortage of quality “for your consideration” candidates for any acting category at the Oscars. The truth as other people see it: There is often a shortage of viable contenders in one acting category or another at the Oscars and that shortage usually occurs in the actress categories (This year, the age old “empty!” gripe is aimed at the Supporting Actress category).

These truths may seem contradictory but they’re not. The variable that causes the disconnect is this: Though there is never a shortage of quality work there is sometimes a shortage of stock roles that are typically deemed worthy of attention. When this disconnecting factor occurs people say a category is empty. But the category is never empty. You just have to look beyond the usual suspects; Actors do award worthy work in non-traditional roles and less “baity” genres frequently.

To cite three quick examples: Daryl Hannah slam dunked her boo!hiss! Elle Driver role in the Kill Bill movies, many film buffs think that Drew Barrymore was astonishing in Scream (any less of a performance and would people really still be talking about her scene more than a decade later?) and everyone in the known universe loves the depths and weird wonder of Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns. But the cold hard truth is that actors don’t win awards (and are rarely nominated) for nontraditional triumphs.

I recently chatted with Supporting Actress expert and archivist Stinky Lulu (who hosts monthly “smackdown” retrospectives of his favorite Oscar category –this month: 1940) and asked him to help me identify the five most commonly Oscarable “types” within this particular category. We came up with the following “perfect” (i.e. most traditional) Supporting Actress Shortlist. It would consist of these five character blueprints in descending order of nominated frequency:

Read the rest ...for Oscar's 5 favorite supporting actress "types" and thoughts on the women of Atonement and other golden hopefuls
*

48 comments:

Lisa said...

I watched Marie-Antoinette and I loved it. I can also see why people didn't like it.

I think the Supporting actress field is pretty much wide open.

Anonymous said...

ok nat,nice piece,i as u should know live in the uk i have seen atonement 3 times here is my take on thiose 3 supp perfs -

ronan - extremely good,precocious without being annoying,she has a scene with mcavoy near a river which is better each time you see it,it's def her oscar clip scene,i feel sure despite her age she will get in.

garai - the weak link,she does not do her big scene justice,the apology scene it is shot from the back and wether it is down to that or her rather flat delivery i don't know,there seems to be something missing from her perf,she seems shy and the younger version is anything but,she misreads or plays it differently than the other 2 but never gets to grips with the huge error she made!!!

redgrave - the beatrice straight role she is 100% perfect ,she has v little screen time but she had me in tears,it is the way she delivers her lines,it is through her we find what really went om,i for one think when the film sweeps she will be pulled in,i really liked her in it but her screen time is small.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the race, but Barrymore is perfect in Scream. Perfect.

- cal roth

Neel Mehta said...

To those of you who've already seen American Gangster: any chance that Ruby Dee can sneak into contention?

Lord knows Hollywood owes her.

Ryan said...

Thank you!

Yes, Barrymore was truly sensational in the opening scene of “Scream”. It just felt... frighteningly real. To quote Ms. Pfeiffer (who publicly lauded Barrymore’s performance), “she portrayed terror in a way I’d never seen an actress do.”

And speaking of Pfeiffer, it truly is a shame that both the HFPA and AMPAS ignored her diabolical work in “Batman Returns”. As with Barrymore’s, that was a performance you just NEVER forget; “…all good girls go to heaven.” Yikes!

Ryan said...

And one more thing, speaking of non-traditional roles and nominations…

Whenever I find myself vexed at AMPAS, which over the last few years has been more often than not, I try to remind myself of those few “non-traditional” performances they did stick their necks out for. The one that always comes to mind is Sissy Spacek in “Carrie”.

I’m sorry, but it is a f*cking miracle she got that nod. I felt she deserved the damn award but come on- a non-traditional role in a horror film. Big no, no when it comes to Oscar. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

what about sigourney weaver in aliens even more shocking.

Anonymous said...

I love the thought of all Briony's getting in. They do such differnt things.

Those who love Garai, reallllllllly love Garai. She arguibly has the most brilliant role but it is stunning - and for me the standout after James. The mix of emotions on her face (jealousy, guilt, naivity) during the apartment scene was just wow, wow, wow.

Redgrave gives a masterclass in screen acting. Actors should take notes.

adam k. said...

I like the idea of playing a game where you try to identify which nominated role is which type from each year.

2000:
Harden - longsuffering wife
Hudson - "the girl"
McDormand - monstrous/martyred mom (it's kinda both)
Dench - "the mouth on her", I guess? it's really just the special "Judi Dench" category where all you need to be is Judi Dench
Walters - saintly teacher (another category that's more of a staple in lead), also kinda "mouth on her"

2001:
Connelly - longsuffering wife
Mirren - monstrous/martyred mom (again, she's kinda both... you know the perf is great when it manages to be both)
Smith - the mouth on her
Tomei - "the girl"
Winslet - biopic (a category usually reserved for lead that sometimes pops up here)

2004:
Blanchett - biopic/mimicry, kind of an amalgam of several categories
Portman - "the girl" in a major way
Okonedo - longsuffering
Madsen - "the girl" + longsuffering = double whammy
Linney - longsuffering

Lots of longsuffering wives that year... wow.

2005 is interesting cause there were lots of nontraditional roles (Adams, Weisz, Keener, and also unnominated Bello). I suppose great roles are allowed to be nontraditional.

the jack said...

Garai and Redgrave don't really have a chance (although if the catergory is REALLY weak - which it is already obvious that it isn't, but they might be lazy - then Redgrave might sneak in, but don't count on it) but Ronan is a knockout.

The best thing I can say about her performance is that it completely overshadows the other two that come after her. You just watch Garai and Redgrave and go "they're not Briony, that little girl we saw earlier is." Garai doesn't do anything with her screen time and she fails to step out of Ronan's shadow, and Redgrave has so little screentime that I can't see her getting any traction either. And it isn't a case of Judi Dench in "Shakespeare In Love", because Dench really stands out in that film. At the end of Atonement, no matter how affecting Redgrave is, you just think "wow, that old version of the little girl at the beginning was really emotional."

I guess what I'm saying (in a really rubbish, roundabout way) is that when anyone thinks of Briony or just "supporting actresses from Atonement" in general, they're going to think Saoirse Ronan and no one else.

At the moment though, Leslie Mann is my personal Supporting Actress of the year, and will definately get on my ballot. That scene where she argues with Paul Rudd after she caught him at the fantasy baseball meeting was actually a really touching moment, despite the fact that it was in a "gross-out" comedy. Nat, if you've seen it, I'm hereby starting an FYC campaign for your 'best delivered line' award for "You think because you don't yell, you're not mean? This is mean."

Kamikaze Camel said...

*cough* Samantha Morton = Long Suffering Wife in Control.

And, thank you for mentioning Drew Barrymore. It really is amazing that an 11-minute "first dead girl" part still elicits such praise. I love that The Pfeiff praises that performance. That means a lot.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I found the interview with Michelle where she mentioned Drew. It makes me giddy.

http://www.filmfestivals.com/venice_2000/whatliesbeneathconf.htm

steve said...

Re: Redgrave

What Oscar voter is going to see Redgrave in action and think, "What's the deal with this old imitation of Little Briony?" If she nails her part the way the buzz is indicating, screen time and screen time alone will keep her off the shortlist. She's a legend, after all - people are going to be paying attention to her.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, Drew's cameo must be her best performance ever? I like her very much, but her acting in this scene is so fierce, intense, compelling...

-cal roth

Kamikaze Camel said...

Also, is there a reason why John Travolta is nowhere to be seen on your supporting actor page? Am I crazy for thinking he's at least in the top 10 of candidates?

daveylow said...

Catherine Keener is looking better for Into the Wild, since she's been nominated twice before and actors respect her. Maybe Binoche for Dan in Real Life?

Ryan said...

-cal roth…

On Barrymore in "Scream":

Yes. It was all about how she portrayed terror in terms of its elevation. As the phone call becomes increasingly threatening, her emotions match it perfectly- ultimately achieving that level of visceral, raw terror.

vince said...

Scream was definitely Barrymore's best work. She was outstanding. She was quite good, though, in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

I just watched "Year of the Dog," and though I'm sure there are detractors, I enjoyed Regina King's performance. She definitely falls into the "girl with attitude" category.

Anonymous said...

Well, although I'm resigned to it doing well, Atonement didn't quite blow my mind, ultimately losing me in the France sequence (technically stunning long shot, but a director showing off rather than supporting the power of his message).

I read Anonymous 6.18pm's comments with much interest, though I must confess I preferred Garai to the other two.

However, I've only seen 2 supporting actresses worth my time of day so far this year: Imelda Staunton (Order of the Phoenix) and Juliette Binoche (in those five stunning minutes in Paris, Je T'aime).

Rob

Anonymous said...

my supp actress list reads so far with what i have seen here in the uk

1- saorsie ronan - atonement
2- tilda swinton - michael clayton
3- vanessa redgrave -atonement
4- michelle pfeiffer - hairspray
5- susan sarandon - in the valley of elah

honourable mention sigourney weaver the tv set.

crazycris said...

I'm with Rob (2 posts above), Imelda Staunton as Prof Umbridge is THE supp actress performance that has most stayed with me this year... bubble-gum pink nasty woman...

NATHANIEL R said...

i meant to mention this year's casualties of biases against traditional performances but i see that just mentioning the problem has done the trick.

interesting or potentially interesting performances this year that will be casualties of this bias

michelle pfeiffer -stardust
marley shelton -planet terror
imelda staunton -order of the phoenix
nicole kidman -golden compass

i really wish serious drama wasn't the only thing considered worthy of consideration for praise

Anonymous said...

nat what about pfeiffer in hairspray i thought she was terrific does she have any awards potential she seemed to be all over the summer this year do you think if the globes go for it in a big way and ithink they will inc travolta whom i did not think was right,will ms p get her 4th nom .

Kamikaze Camel said...

I can see the HFPA nominating her quite easily (they love her more than She Who Shall Not Be Named and Nic Kidders. They nominated her six years in a row back in the 80s/90s.

I believe they were the only people that nommed Shirley Maclaine for In Her Shoes back in 2005, so they're loyal to their faves. Although they didn't nom her for White Oleander, so perhaps they don't like her anymore...

RC said...

three briony's getting nominated...i just don't see it this year.

good thoughts...i think there will be some random fillers based on best picture nods...it could be anyone from Rudy Dee in American Gangster to Julia Roberts in Charlie Wilson's War if those films get shortlisted.

(and that would have been very cool if Barrymore got a nod for her work in Scream...too bad she didn't)

NATHANIEL R said...

glenn yes, Pfeiffer is one of the Globe record holders (i think Streep has also done that? but at any rate Pfeiff is tied with someone else for the consecutive nods film work thing) but the White Oleander thing was 100% infuriating --it basically killed Pfeiffer's momentum for what should have been a 'contending for the win' nomination.

and to think the HFPA nominated Cameron Diaz's utterly unremarkable appearance in GANGS OF NEW YORK rather than honoring Pfeiffer. The mind boggles.

Cameron Diaz has given fine performances in the past but to name her as one of the best of 2002 for that is quite looneytunes.

rc i don't "see" it either but i wonder if back in 1963 if people really expected all three Jones women to dominate the category?

Julia said...

Nat -- excellent analysis, as usual, on the supporting actress race.

I wasn't a big fan of "Michael Clayton"...but Tilda Swinton was AMAZING in her part. From the very moment the audience is introduced to her, to the end scene...she captivated my attention through and through. Maybe her part can be placed in a variation on a "monstrous mom" role...but even then, the nuances she brought to the role are beyond categorization.

Aside from her performance, I've seen a few decent ones...Leslie Mann in "Knocked Up" was certainly entertaining, Tabu in "The Namesake" hit all the right emotional notes, and Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" was also very good. BUT, I'm holding out hope for the "Atonement" ladies + Cate in "I'm Not There."

Beau said...

I say Catherine Keener and Kristen Stewart in 'Into the Wild'. There's two slots right there.
And Binoche was fantastic in 'Paris Je T'aime'.

cadavra said...

Glad to see I wasn't the only one knocked out by Staunton in PHOENIX. That she isn't being mentioned at all as a viable contender proves that it's not so much the performance (or even the actor) as it is the picture itself.

Scott Feinberg said...

To the person who mentioned Ruby Dee--I've seen the film, and although you're right that she is a wonderful actress and probably deserved recognition in the past, this is more of a ceremonial cameo than a deep performance... although she does have one or two emotional scenes, so you never know. I think people would have to REALLY love the movie for her to get in on coattails, which I'm not sure is possible.

Anonymous said...

is michelle p really an oscar possibility,i can see it why can no one else.

steve said...

Damn straight re: Drew.

I guess my nominees look like this right now:

1. Gainsbourg - I'm Not There
2. Mann - Knocked Up / Swinton - Michael Clayton
3. Swinton / Mann
4. Blanchett - I'm Not There
5. Staunton - HP: Order of the Phoenix

Already a pretty solid list. We'll see how the rest of the year goes.

Anonymous said...

I think Michelle Pfeiffer will be nominated for the Globes.So, there is a real chance for the Oscar. I believe and I hope some of the percursors awards remember her. I can't belive that an actress like Pfeiffer doesn't have an Oscar yet. So, fans of Mrs. Pfeiffer let's keep our fingers crossed! Make comments if you want! Let's remember for people all the time how good she is! A question: Juliette Binoche in "Dan in Real Life": She is amazing!A nomination is possible? Bye everybody!

NATHANIEL R said...

notables so far...

Blanchett -I'm Not There
Gainsborough –I’m Not There
Keener –Into the Wild
King -Year of the Dog
Leigh –Margot at the Wedding
Macdonald –No Country For Old Men
Mann –Knocked Up
Pfeiffer –Stardust
Pfeiffer -Hairspray
Shelton –Planet Terror
Staunton –Harry Potter
Swinton –Michael Clayton
Tabu –The Namesake
Tomei -Before the Devil...
Weaver –The TV Set

plenty left to see though

NATHANIEL R said...

oh and steve. THANK YOU for having Gainsborough above Blanchett in I'm Not There. I'm not alone!

steve said...

Ha, no problem. She's on par with a lot of my other winners in this category, so I actually wouldn't be surprised to crown her my personal winner at the end of the year. Still waiting for that pleasant surprise though.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Samantha Morton in Control. She gave the best supporting actress turn of the year, IMO. I hope Harvey Weinstein starts a big push for Control, because it's a stunning film and the acting is incredible. I really think he could get Morton and Sam Reily into the race if he wanted to. They both deserve it.

adam k. said...

Who exactly does Gainsborough play in I'm Not There? Or do I not wanna know until I see it?

Leslie Mann in Knocked Up annoyed me. So of the limited crop I've seen, it's really between Pfeiffer in Stardust and Staunton. I'd probably go with Pfeiffer.

steve said...

Well, Mann is supposed to be pretty shrill. She does grate. But the moments she lets her guard down and you see the woman beneath the bitch... seals it up as one of the best performances of the year.

Anonymous said...

Amy Ryan was stunning in "Gone Baby Gone". If she garners critical attention for the role, then expect her to make a run for the final five. She shouldn't be ignored, especially in an up-for-grabs year like this one in supporting actress.

NATHANIEL R said...

Gainsborough plays the wife of Heath Ledger's "Dylan"

Anonymous said...

Pfeiffer is overdue for oscar, but Sigourney Weaver not having one is just criminal!!!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Batman returns since it's theatrical run, and I'm not a huge fan of Pfeiffer (sorry, Nat, I don't dislike her, I just don't LUV her) but her perf as Catwoman stays on my mind after all these years. It was perfectly iconic and criminally under-recognized. Pfieffer found every nook and cranny of what could have been a cardboard character, and located the warmth and humanity as well as the neurosis in her - a particularly rare achievement in a Burton film, much less in a "superhero film".

And since you mentioned Kidman in TGC (and included a pic of her in Eyes Wide Shut in the extended essay -um, that was her, wasn't it?), I have to say that Kidman's perf in that film fell into at least two catagories - Long Suffering Wife, and The Mouth on Her - and, her scene in the bedroom is what motivates the protagonist (Cruise taking the "dreamer" role a bit too literally and sleepwalking through it) and literally motivates the entire film. Her revelation tilts his neatly ordered film off it's axis. Plus, she took dialogue on that on the page that sounded "theatrical" (not necessarily in a good way) and brought it completely to life. I regretted that Kubrick didn't stay there in the bedroom instead of wandering off into the streets. I also wondered at the AMPAS failure to nom her, but I guess too much pre-release gossip, too little box office, and orgy scenes (mostly a no-no with AMPAS) were enough to sink any chances she had for a nom.

RedSatinDoll

Anonymous said...

Just saw Gone,Baby, Gone... Amy Ryan was great and should hook a nomination.

The movie was great .. never having been a Ben Affleck fan, I am amazed at the brilliant directing job he did. How about Ed Harris for supporting actor?

c.p. iñor said...

Imelda Staunton was good in Harry Potter but I think Evanna Lynch stole the show...

VHS said...

I'm predicting these at this time:

Oscars:
Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
Ruby Dee in American Gangster
Saouirse Ronan in Atonement
Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton

Golden Globes:
Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
Leslie Mann in Knocked Up
Saouirse Ronan in Atonement
Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton

Josh R said...

Having just seen "I'm Not There", I gotta say, I don't really think all the hype surrounding Blanchett's work is really justified. She's fine, but ultimately I don't think it really rises above the level of a clever exercise in mimicry. She may be nominated, but it's hard for me to muster hat much enthusiasm for her candidacy - especially given the fact that there are better supporting actresses in the same film.

jeffpw said...

I'm a bit confused by thew lat paragraph you wrote in your blog. you seem to be saying that Tom Jones was the only film you mentioned to win Best Supporting Actress, when it didn't win that category. On the other hand, On The Waterfront did win that category, with Eva Marie Saint's performance (a highly over-rated film, in my opinion).