You might feel as though you’re torn in this category. There are so many great performances by five talented women – two or three of them could be considered lead. For instance, Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle is almost as much a lead as she was in Silver Linings Playbook – that she is a bigger star now, it seems odd that she is in supporting. But I understand the math involved. Is her part really that much less than Amy Adams’? June Squibb is bigger than Jennifer Lawrence’s part in Silver Linings Playbook, and so it Julia Roberts’ in August: Osage County. Since there are so few strong leading roles for women, actresses now must find their juice in the so-called “Supporting” categories. But really, most of these performances feel like leading roles. Probably only Sally Hawkins and Lupita Nyong’o are traditionally “supporting” performances. But we know you Oscar voters – you like to vote for leading roles disguised as supporting, like last year’s Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained. It gives those leading roles an unfair advantage over the supporting players but it is what it is.
That might make you more inclined to vote for what you think is the best performance. If one is lead and the other supporting, though, that sets things off balance a bit. Either way, this is a tighter race than it looks like – don’t assume anything.
Since actors make up the largest branch in the Academy, and actors don’t need anyone telling them what is a good performance and what isn’t – this primer is more for the other branches, the non-actors, who might not have been keeping up.
If you haven’t seen all five performances, you are late to the game already. You must do some quick catching up. Here is your Oscar primer for Supporting Actress.
Best Supporting Actress
Short bio: born in Mexico, raised in Kenya, Nyongo grew up acting, starring in a production of Romeo and Juliet. She graduated from a university before working on films as a production assistant. At the advice of Ralph Fiennes on The Constant Gardener, Nyong’o enrolled in Yale School of Drama. She was cast in McQueen’s film after graduating.
On her performance, Glenn Kenny: “Steve McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave” is a masterpiece not just of cinematic artistry but of psychology; one needn’t even be a particularly “close reader” of the movie to understand how it limns a pathology that defines racism in the United States to this very day. The performance by Lupita Nyong’o in the role of the much-abused—and also much “loved,” in a sick, sadistic if not overtly Sadean sense—slave girl Patsey is particularly pertinent in this regard. It’s also a protean performance by any standard of acting, and absolutely deserving of an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Nyong’o's characterization is one of incredible psychological complexity.”
Awards Won so far:
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Screen Actors Guild awards
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Southeastern Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Los Angeles Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Critics Choice awards
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Austin Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Chicago Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Dallas Fort-Worth Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Kansas City Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Las Vegas Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – London Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Washington DC
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Short bio: Teen model from Kentucky decided she wanted more out of life than getting by on her good looks and began acting. She rocketed to worldwide acclaim with Winter’s Bone, her first Oscar nomination when she wasn’t even old enough to drink legally in California. She earned her second nomination and first win for Silver Linings Playbook. This is her third Oscar nomination. She’ll make Oscar history by being the only female to win back to back Oscars from lead to supporting. She became the first female box office star to close out the year with the highest grossing film in 2013.
On her performance, David Edelstein: Who could have dreamed when Lawrence showed up as determined Ozarks teenager in Winter’s Bonethat she had comic chops this spectacular? Under high, bleached hair, she detonates madcap line after madcap line. She warbles “Live and Let Die” while dusting the furniture and swinging her ringlets. She incinerates Sydney with a glare and plants a big kiss on her lips. Her Rosalyn charms gangsters and politicians so thoroughly that she nearly wrecks Abscam — and upends the film.
Awards won so far:
Best Supporting Actress Winner - BAFTA
Best Supporting Actress Winner - New York Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner - National Society of Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner – Phoenix Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner - San Francisco Film Critics
Best Supporting Actress Winner - Toronto Film Critics
June Squibb, Nebraska
Short bio: The actress who has been acting for decades that no one really noticed until now. She was Nicholson’s annoying wife in About Schmidt. She had to convince Alexander Payne she could do the part in Nebraska – she is funny and charming in person, which makes her the dark horse contender for this year. This is her first Oscar nomination.
On her performance: AO Scott, “Once Kate arrives, things become a little clearer, and also more confrontational. Ms. Squibb, killed off early in “About Schmidt,” brings a jolt of tart comic energy — a dash of vinegar in the mashed potatoes. Kate’s blunt honesty is in many ways the key to “Nebraska,” balancing both Woody’s sad illusions and the smiling duplicity of almost everybody else.”
Best Supporting Actress Winner - Boston Film Critics
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Short bio: Ms. Roberts needs no introduction, but let it be said that she has been nominated for the Oscar every decade she’s been acting. This is her fourth Oscar nomination.
On her performance: Joe Morgenstern, “The movie also gives us a chance to see Ms. Roberts in action, and she’s marvelous, too, in an austere style that perfectly complements Ms. Streep’s volcanism. Her Barbara has the dubious gifts of clarity and self-irony. She sees her mother, and her family, for the tortured people they are, but she’s still her mother’s daughter. In a dark, determinist comedy about the transmission of rage from one generation to the next, this seemingly vital woman is incurably infected.”
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Short bio: Theater actress whose film career was launched by Mike Leigh. This is her first Oscar nomination.
On her performance: Susan Wloszczyna ”Ginger is a grocery store clerk with two young sons who gladly allows her snobbish sibling to swan around her cramped quarters as if she were visiting royalty. A lesser actress might be crushed by Blanchett, but the bouncy Brit also scores some triumphs as Ginger begins to question her own choices after Jasmine’s arrival.”