It's Oscar week! We'll be posting Oscar predictions for the top categories (supporting actress, supporting actor, actor, actress, best director, and best picture). Tonight I kick things off with Best Supporting Actress.
This year's nominees are:
-Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
-Ruby Dee, American Gangster
-Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
-Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
-Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
CATE BLANCHETT: Let's get this out of the way first: I adore Cate Blanchett. I worship the ground she walks on, and I believe that, along with Kate Winslet, she's one of the greatest living actresses. Having said that, I don't think Blanchett will win this year. It's rather facile to say this, but the truth is that her win (in this category no less) in 2005 for "The Aviator" is too fresh in the collective Oscar voters' memories. The film (which I haven't seen yet) has been quite polarizing: many people disliked it, may more loved it, but most were perplexed. Personally, Todd Haynes can't do no wrong in my eyes, and I look forward to seeing the film. I hate to underestimate Blanchett, but I just don't think lightning will strike twice...at least this year.
SAOIRSE RONAN: Saoirse Ronan was, quite simply, exceptional in the role of Briony Tallis. She is the galvanizing force in McEwan's story, and, gasp, a child-villain (haven't seen one of those in a while, Oscar). So, we all know Oscar loves little girls who turn in great performances (see Patty Duke, Tatum O'Neal, Anna Paquin, Keisha Castle-Hughes, etc.), fair enough. Saoirse also stars in one of the Best Picture nominees for this year, which means more exposure, and which could translate into more votes. There's also the UK vote. It seems like all the pieces are there...but not so fast. "Atonement" lost a lot of momentum (quite unfortunately), and even the recent BAFTA triumph was met with a whimper. It's also reasonable to think that the UK vote will be split between Ronan and Swinton. Youth can be both shield and sword. Just ask folks who rationalize voting for someone older by thinking that the young one will have plenty of more chances to be awarded later in their career (silly as that is). Finally, Ronan hasn't been as visible throughout the award season as some of the other nominees -- fair or not, voters take note of such things. I'm not totally writing off Ronan. Surprises tend to happen most often in the supporting categories. Anna Paquin's win remains one of my top Oscar moments, but let's remember that Paquin was recognized with a LAFCA for her work in "The Piano." Ronan doesn't have any precursor wins to her name -- but again, I wouldn't count her out.
TILDA SWINTON: Unquestionably a great actress. If you haven't seen "Orlando," please rent it asap (only if you like trippy films, though). Unfortunately, I haven't seen "Michael Clayton" yet (though it's apparently on its way from Netflix as I type this). Her BAFTA triumph seems to have shocked a lot of people and many pundits are now predicting her for the win. I would love to follow suit, but my thought is that Swinton might have peaked too late. I would not be surprised if she took the Oscar on Sunday night, but I wouldn't bet on it.
RUBY DEE: A living legend; a lovely woman, and a solid performance. Let me correct that, a solid five-minute performance. Oscar is no stranger to rewarding short film appearances, it's true (see Judi Dench, Beatrice Straight, etc.), which is why I think Dee has a very strong shot at a win here. The film itself is not strong, but Dee's performance is not forgettable. She does a lot with just a few lines. The nomination was a surprise, and I'm glad Dee's talent was recognized. Reaction to Ms. Dee's nomination has been, for the most part, quite shameful on the part of many people, and that's a real bummer (hey, I totally understand why people would be mad, but attacking the lady is just out of line; if anything, attack the Academy, they're the ones who nominated her, after all). In my humble opinion, lesser performances have been rewarded. Would I vote for Dee? If I were to vote on merit, no (my vote would go to the lady in the next paragraph), but I wouldn't be insulted if Dee won. She has a solid body of work, and I'm used to Oscar trying to right prior wrongs with questionable late-career wins (wassup Alan Arkin? Good to see you). That's just how it is.
AMY RYAN: Ryan is incredible in "Gone Baby Gone" (an underrated gem of a film). She swept virtually every critic award of consequence, but unfortunately lost steam with Globe and SAG losses (she wasn't eligible for the BAFTA, maybe next year!). Ryan, a stage actress, had her hand fulls with Helene McCready. She plays an unlikeable character who makes questionable choices and who doesn't seem to learn much from life's vicissitudes. And yet, Ryan rises up to the challenge and elevates what could have been a stock caricature with three-dimensional emotions and feelings. Her Helene is funny, unnerving, dumb, street smart, angry, isolated. But what I most admired of Ryan's performance was her unwillingness to make the audience like her character. She doesn't pander but rather pushes and pushes until we can barely take it anymore. It's a courageous performance that deserves to be rewarded. I predict that, if GBG was seen by enough people, Ryan will win the Oscar she so rightfully deserves.
Winner: Amy Ryan
Spoiler: Ruby Dee
Dark Horse: Tilda Swinton
Tomorrow I'll write about Best Supporting Actor.