I suppose that’s why Vegas had to start saying “No more bets”. Oh well. Time to put my money on a whole new set of numbers – one an easy gamble, the other a blind pull. I’ll begin with Best Supporting Actress, since it’s the easier call.
It’s encouraging to see Jacki Weaver back just two years after her previously nominated turn in ANIMAL KINGDOM, even if this role didn’t require nearly the same amount of range. While her work in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is charming, her nomination here came through a wave of support for all things PLAYBOOK. I look forward to seeing her continue to take advantage of her raised profile, but she’ll be resting easy on Sunday night.
It’s likewise encouraging to see Helen Hunt back after what feels like a decade-long walkabout. Her role in THE SESSIONS showed the sort of grace and confidence the character would require, and was a bright spot in a somewhat underrated film. The nomination is her reward, and if we’re all lucky, she’ll parlay it into a steady stream of parts that remind us of how talented she is.
Amy Adams will win an Oscar one day – but it won’t be this year. It’s a pity too since I’m of the opinion that her performance as Peggy Dodd actually comes with a massive amount of nuance. She shares the room with two acting giants and often towers above both. As the film is rewatched and rewatched through the years, her part will be dissected and discussed as one of the most fascinating elements within the piece. For now though, she has to be content with playing bridesmaid for another year.
Sally Field is the spoiler in the category if there even is one. Besides the fact that she has never been nominated and lost (how many actors can say that?), her work as Mary Todd Lincoln makes a high wire act seem easy. While some have decried her part in Spielberg’s film as showy and even “hammy”, they overlook the wit, ferocity, and intelligence she demonstrates in the receiving line scene. We forget sometimes that political spouses are just as much politicians themselves…but Field’s performance reminds us. The lustre of LINCOLN is fading, but this could make for one of the night’s few upsets.
However, if that upset is going to come, it will register on the Richter Scale. Anne Hathaway has this award so very locked up, that I’d wager her statuette will come with her name already engraved. People have made a lot of the fact that she’s winning the award “for one scene”. I won’t argue that today, but I will say this: That “one scene” is such an amazing bit of acting that the film never recovers. She stops the show in the classic sense, and while that says as much about my thoughts on LES MISERABLES as it does about Hathaway’s performance, it is nonetheless the stuff Oscar eats up with a spoon.
Ryan’s Pick… If you choose anyone other than Hathaway in your Oscar pool, you are leaving points on the table.
Best Supporting Actor is a lot trickier – in part because all five nominees are past winners, and in part because none of the five has distinctively separated himself from the pack.
The Fredo of this Corleone family is Alan Arkin. As joyously snarky as his performance in ARGO is, it doesn’t feel as though we’re seeing him do anything truly special. He’s more there to buoy the narrative and give Affleck & Goodman a lift (speaking of which, it’s a pity Goodman wasn’t nominated). It’s nice to see him back at the ball just a few years after LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but he’s the darkest of dark horses.
It feels strange to say this, but Christoph Waltz is also a longshot to take the prize. While it’s nice to see him capitalizing on the stardom INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS brought him, his chances might have actually been hampered by the fact that he’s re-teamed with QT. Forgetting about the fact that the role is a leading part re-branded a supporting by Oscar campaigners, his turn as King Schultz just feels too similar to what he did as Hans Landa to really merit rewarding.
In any other year we’d be calling this category for Philip Seymour Hoffman for his work in THE MASTER. When I think about the amount of presence he brought to the part of Lancaster Dodd, I’m reminded of the scene where Freddy Quell first stows away on The Cause’s boat in San Francisco. As he passes by, we get a passing glance at the deck, and even from that great distance and that cursory glimpse, we are able to see one person dancing in the middle of a crowd…and the amount of magnetism he holds for said crowd. That’s acting. It’s no wonder the man has been nominated four times in seven years. Unfortunately, I don’t feel THE MASTER has the support he needs to land himself his second award.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly twenty years since we last saw Tommy Lee Jones walk up to the Oscar podium. Since then he has made a cottage industry from his dry wit and scowly demeanour, both of which underline his performance in LINCOLN. What he does within the movie not only gives the audience some much-needed comic relief, but it provides a counterweight to what Daniel Day-Lewis is doing everywhere else. Where Lincoln was stoic, Thaddeus Stevens was belligerent. Jones could well be poised to parlay it all into his second award…
…Call me crazy, but I’m beginning to get this funny feeling surrounding Robert DeNiro. It began when I had to think about how long it had been since I liked him in any film as much as I liked him in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (my answer: HEAT, 17 years ago). Complimenting that feeling was the amount of joy I got from SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK as a complete work, and how much of that came from what DeNiro did within it. What’s more, I can’t help but feel like I’m not the only person having these feelings. Maybe…just maybe…Oscar voters are happy to have Robert DeNiro “back”, and want to encourage him to leave his Analyze These and Analyze Thaose behind and get back to doing what he was so fucking good at doing. Think an Oscar might encourage him to do just that? Yeah, me too.
Ryan’s Pick… I could pay for this later, but look for DeNiro to return after 32 years in the wild.