Friday, February 21, 2014

Non-Oscars: Best Supporting Actress

I have not yet seen Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine, nor Julia Roberts in August: Osage County.  I thought that Jennifer Lawrence was fine in American Hustle, but not the eye-opening performance many found.  June Squibb was an absolute scene-stealer in the best way in Nebraska and earned a well deserved nomination.  Newcomer Lupita Nyong'o gave the best showing of the five with her difficult role in 12 Years a Slave.

Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station
Melonie Diaz gave an incredibly impressive debut in Fruitvale Station.  She plays Oscar Grant's long suffering girlfriend.  And in the hands of Diaz this character certainly suffers, but she also loves and supports.  This is a smart character that is not just dependent on a man, Diaz gifts her with a lot of strength that is important later on in the movie.  Diaz has great chemistry with Michael B. Jordan and that incredibly expands the world of the lead character.  One of many performers that I really hope to see again soon.

Adepero Oduye, 12 Years a Slave
Crying on film is sometimes seen as cheap and manipulative.  It is certainly true that actors will cry for an Oscar, but there are still performers who can break down and make the audience feel.  I remember Adepero Oduye's character vividly, even with her limited screentime.  Oduye gives one of the most harrowing portrayals of a grieving mother that I have ever seen.  There is just something about the way she constantly cries after being separated from her child that is so tragic.  And then there is her standing up to Solomon Northrup for her feelings.  After being yelled at to stop crying she turns around and lashes out on the film's leading character.  It is one of the most powerful moments of an incredibly powerful film.

Margot Robbie, Wolf of Wall Street
There are certainly sex bomb roles that rely solely on sex appeal.  Girls are definitely cast just because they look pretty.  Then there is Margot Robbie who is portraying a very sexual role and forces you to acknowledge her acting.  Margot Robbie completely owns every scene she is in and is an intimidating force against the much more experienced Leonardo DiCaprio.  There is a fearlessness to her character and an intimidation that sticks with you.  This is the type of character that can affect the superficial Jordan Belfort.  Robbie in the role of a victim really has some incredible strength that is one of the most memorable things about the long film.

Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
She may be too young for the role and may not have much screen time, but you don't care because Octavia Spencer owns every second of screen time as Oscar Grant's mother.  One of the film's many highlights is a scene between an incarcerated Oscar Grant and his mother.  The scene is reliant on its two actors and Octavia Spencer gives a tour de force performance.  She shows love to her son, but she also shows disappointment.  There is something that sticks with you about Octavia Spencer's expressions in the jail.  There is so much emotion coming out of her small performance that fuels the rest of the movie.  Octavia Spencer helps the audience understand that Oscar Grant was a man with a mother who loved him and demanded better of him.  Which is of course so tragic that he lived up to that, but not for long enough.

Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
Early buzz was all around Oprah in this role.  She may have been overhyped, I remember seeing this with high expectations and not thinking that her performance was anything special.  But after looking back upon my two viewings this really was a great performance.  It was not a big, showy role but she supports the movie.  She completes the family that is made up of Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo. She shows conflict in Whitaker's home life while maintaining the family's connection with Oyelowo.  Oprah really represents the home life and family aspects of the Civil Rights movement.  She shows a side that isn't fighting externally, but struggling with some very relatable performances.  Getting her to act again was great for this movie.

Other Great Supporting Performances:
Alison Brie (Kings of Summer), Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug), Jena Malone (The Hunger Game: Catching Fire), Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave), Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave)

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