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Friday, February 02, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress

Kicking off my predictions for this year's Academy Awards, it should be noted that all four acting categories have little suspense. All of them have nominees who have won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award. There are a few who win, like Marcia Gay Harden, without taking any precursors, but that's rare.

Perhaps the most slam-dunk of any category is Best Supporting Actress. Allison Janney has won the two precursors, as well as a host of other awards for her role as the mother from hell in I, Tonya. Janney is so good as the sharp-tongued emotional abuser that after seeing the film you may forgive your mother anything she may have done to you. Oscar can favor horrible people, because it allows for scene-stealing, and Janney does this here. There's even a moment late in the film when she breaks the fourth wall and asks where her character went off to.

Janney has a shelf full of awards--she's won seven Prime-Time Emmys, most from The West Wing, where much of America got to know her. I think the first time I ever saw her was in the film Private Parts, the one and only film starring Howard Stern. Also in that film was Paul Giamatti.

Okay, so if Janney should somehow not win, who will? I think the least possible is Lesley Manville, as Daniel Day-Lewis' cool-headed sister in Phantom Thread. The nomination was something of a surprise, and Manville, though long an actress, many roles in Mike Leigh films, she's not exactly a household name.

Octavia Spencer, as a cleaning woman alongside Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, has now tied Viola Davis as the black woman with the most nominations--three. She is also the only black woman who has been nominated after she has won (She did so for The Help in 2011). She seems to be popular with the Academy, as I didn't think this was an Oscar-worthy performance. One of Spencer's early role was as a prostitute in Bad Santa, in which she complains about Billy Bob Thornton's vigorous sodomizing.

Mary J. Blige is mostly known as a singer, and has only made a few films. She has a couple of distinctions this year--she is the first performer to be nominated from a Netflix film, as the stoic and enduring matriarch in Mudbound--and she also is the first person to be nominated for acting and Best Song in the same year, from the same movie. Best Song is her better chance, I think. The concept of an Oscar winner from a Netflix film is still a few years down the line, and the role doesn't have any histrionics--there's no good "clip." Blige's next film is a voice actor in Sherlock Gnomes.

It's another mother, Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, who is Janney's biggest rival. Metcalf, is probably best known as sister of Roseanne, but she got her start at the Steppenwolf Theater company in Chicago. She has four Tony nominations, and has won three Emmys, all for Roseanne. Unlike Janney, she plays a mother who has many sides to her, and in another year she might win. But there's nothing stopping Janney this year. Metcalf's film debut? Desperately Seeking Susan.

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