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Thursday, February 02, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress

I'm kicking off my annual Oscar predictions with the easiest category to call: Best Supporting Actress. Ever since the producers of Fences shrewdly put Viola Davis in the supporting category, rather than lead, she has the award sewn up.

Davis is a mixture of a historical trend that honors actors who are due, and also those who manage not to get steamrolled by their flashier co-stars, this time Denzel Washington. She should have won for The Help a few years ago, and that there were no Oscar nominations for actors of color for the past two years may see a swing that sees three black actors winning this year.

While Davis is a worthy winner, Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) has gotten into the same category--when is she going to win an Oscar? This is her fourth nomination, and while she has not become a big star as far as name goes, she is always worth watching. She doesn't have much screen time, but her scene apologizing to Casey Affleck may be the best five minutes of any performance this year.

This category is so rich that in another year Naomie Harris, as the central character's crack-addicted mother in Moonlight, might have won. I was stunned to hear she filmed all her scenes in three days, as she plays three different ages and three different stages of addiction. While she has made her mark in action films (two Pirates of the Caribbean films and two Bond outings) her future in dramatic work seems assured.

Some nominations are for the role you play (such as Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God--almost any competent actress would have won for that role) and who you are, such as Nicole Kidman in Lion. I venture to say what can't be proven--that if some unknown Australian actress had played the part there would be no nomination. Kidman is okay in the role, and has one "clip" scene, but this is hardly her best work or one of the best five performances of the year.

Rounding out the category is Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures (the first time three black actors have been nominated in a single category). Spencer, of the three main performances in Hidden Figures, is the least flashy, and familiar; she's gotten it down pat playing sage women of a certain age. Hey, whatever pays the bills. She won't win, and it's a shame Taraji P. Henson wasn't nominated in the lead category.

To sum up:

Will win: Viola Davis
Could win: Michelle Williams
Should win: Davis
Should have been nominated: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

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