Herrington and Akers on the Oscars (2011), Part 3: Supporting Players

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We kicked this always-longer-than-intended annual shindig off Monday, when Flyer film writers Greg Akers and Chris Herrington hashed out the screenplay nominations for Sunday's Oscar awards. Yesterday we took the Animated, Editing, and Cinematography categories by the horns. Today, the back-and-forth swings over to the Supporting Actor and Actress categories.

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech).

CHRIS HERRINGTON: Pretty good group of nominees here, really, but as far as who Will Win: It looks like a two-man race between Bale and Rush. Bale's performance is begging for a statue, but I feel like the ardor (Really? Apparently so.) for The King's Speech will manifest itself most strongly in the acting categories, so I'm picking Geoffrey Rush. Then again, I'm terrible at predicting this stuff.

Should Win: I have positive feelings for all these performances, even, much to my surprise, Rush, whose turn is less showy and sentimental than I expected. But this is a pretty easy choice for me: John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter's Bone. He's fierce, taciturn, and tough but unexpectedly complicated, and so much of the movie plays out in his eye. But I wouldn't complain about Ruffalo or Bale winning either.

A little bit of Teardrop, John Hawkes in Winter's Bone:

Got Robbed:: I don't feel like anyone was truly done wrong by their exclusion here, so I'll take the cop-out route with an alternative five: Armie Hammer as the Winklevi in The Social Network, Michael Shannon as a wild Kim Fowley in the otherwise floundering The Runaways, a game Matt Damon in True Grit, an unexpectedly lovable Dustin Hoffman as Paul Giamatti's dad in Barney's Version, and, if I must pick an alternate winner, Ben Mendesohn as a disturbed, dead-eyed criminal in Animal Kingdom, where he's been unjustly obscured by a showier Jacki Weaver.

GREG AKERS: I love Christian Bale generally and really liked him in The Fighter, so I'm not going to be sad that he's going to be winning his first Oscar this weekend. I agree with you that Geoffrey Rush is definitely in play here, but Bale has won every indicator award up to now. (Except the BAFTA, which went with Rush for the most British movie ever, but what else do you expect the Limeys to do?)

Definitely a contender —┬áChristian Bale in The Fighter:


Should Win: I agree with you, too, that these are all excellent performances. John Hawkes is a great character actor whom I've liked forever, and his Teardrop feels like the most real human being of any of these roles. But I'm going to shock myself — seriously, I'm shocked — by going with Mark Ruffalo. As the sperm-donor dad who has to traverse complicated feelings about meeting his children, who are adults, and their lesbian moms, one of whom he starts an affair with, Ruffalo really walked the dramatic/romantic/even comedic tightrope and made it all believable for me. I bought his character way more than Annette Bening's, but more on her on Thursday.

Got Robbed: I'm going to take a cue from you and suggest an alternate to your alternate starting five: Andrew Garfield as the most sympathetic (but no less complicated) character in The Social Network, Sam Rockwell as the convicted murderer brother to Hilary Swank in the legal redemption story Conviction, Stanley Tucci as the understanding dad with a dry wit in Easy A, Bill Murray as the understated undertaker in Get Low, and the winner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the supremely bad ass right hand man in Inception.

HERRINGTON: Murray is very good in Get Low. I don't care much about the film and, as a result, had sort of forgotten about him. But I can't really agree with you on Gordon-Levitt. I don't think he even gives the best male supporting performance in Inception, much less the best of the year. I thought Tom Hardy, who plays the "forger," was more striking in that film.

AKERS: Tom Hardy is great, and I can't wait to see him and Gordon-Levitt reunited in Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie. But there's something unquantifiable about G-L's presence in Inception. In that movie, it takes a lot to draw your eye away from whatever else is happening on the screen. Watching Inception, I couldn't stop looking at Gordon-Levitt. Unashamed #mancrush.

Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

AKERS: This is a category where an Oscar prognosticator will earn their salt. This is a two-horse race, and it's arguably the tightest race of the night. The presumptive front-runner is Melissa Leo. She has won what matters up to now: the Golden Globe and the SAG (the latter being what really, truly matters). Up until two weeks ago, Leo had all the momentum. But this is a weird year for momentum. Things that looked like a lock in one direction two or three weeks ago now are very much in doubt or are emerging as a sure thing going the other way. And where does momentum come from? It's not like there's a scoreboard where we can see how Leo is doing versus the other nominees. Momentum just is, and it's reported with surprising accuracy by many Oscar experts in the national media (if history is a judge). What those type people are saying right now is that Hailee Steinfeld has pulled ahead. Part of that is that Steinfeld does a great job in True Grit, a major box-office success in which she's actually the lead performer and more than holds her own against Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Steinfeld is the opposite of Judi Dench from Shakespeare in Love (who famously won this category despite only being in the film for 8 minutes). Steinfeld is like a Super Supporting Actress nominee.

But all of that was true back when Melissa Leo was giving her SAG acceptance speech and raking in the momentum. And then she did a weird advertising thing. A personal Oscar campaign? Ewww. Thus is the paper-thin margin between good vibrations/voter love and bad juju/voter disdain.

So if you want to win your Oscar pool, you better get this category right. Did Leo blow her lead? Will Steinfeld capitalize and grab the gold? Or will even Helena Bonham Carter sneak in, getting The King's Speech boost. (HBC did win the BAFTA, after all.)

Will Win: As for me, I'm predicting Hailee Steinfeld.

Should Win: I've got to go with Hailee Steinfeld here too. As I noted, she impressively holds her own against Bridges and Damon. Contrast that to Leo, who I thought was good, but I see her performance as more of a part of a battery of supporting roles, along with Bale and all those dang sisters in The Fighter. Amy Adams more than held her own — she dominated the female performances in the movie. I thought Helena Bonham Carter was pretty good, but to be honest kind of unremarkable. She had good chemistry with Colin Firth, but mostly she seemed like a plot functionary in the script. I didn't see Animal Kingdom, so shame on me.

Got Robbed: Another alternate five: Marion Cotillard in Inception as the terrifying Mal, providing the whole foundation for the movie's emotional colors. Ruth Sheen as the happily married woman who struggles with a friend's constant relationship woe in Another Year. Violante Placido as the prostitute/love interest to George Clooney's gunsmith in The American. Rebecca Hall as the kind and good daughter to an elderly woman in Please Give. And my winner, Mila Kunis as the free-spirit rival ballerina in Black Swan.

HERRINGTON: It's pretty much a joke that Steinfeld is nominated in this category for what is incontestably True Grit's lead performance. I don't know any more about the controversy over Leo than what I just read from you, but I just don't see her winning this with a fellow cast-mate pulling votes and more likable performances in contention. Will Win: I'm calling an upset for Helena Bonham Carter.

Should Win: I do not think Bonham should win however. Like you, I consider it a professional but ultimately minor performance. Weaver and Leo are both blowsy, showy, damage-doing den mothers whose scenery-chewing obscures better supporting turns in their own films. Of the two, Weaver is better, legitimately unsettling where Leo's caricature is all wardrobe and prop. Steinfeld holds the screen, but isn't asked to show much range. She's comedic true grit, all the time. Instead, the best performance of this group is the most normal: Amy Adams as the most real human being on display in The Fighter. To use a sports cliche, she's the heart and soul of that picture, but her front-porch beatdown of those harpy sisters proves she's can still match the rest of the cast's fireworks when called on.

Dueling Best Supporting Actress nominees square off in The Fighter:


Got Robbed: God there are so many good contenders here. I had my own alternate five set up and you stole two of them. And the three that you didn't are all good picks: Mila Kunis is a blast of needed fresh air in Black Swan, the only actor who seems to be in on the joke. Hall is terrific amid a great ensemble cast in Please Give. And The American's Violante Placido? Okay, well, urm ... I guess I'm not sure how good her acting was, but her presence was, well, um... let's just move on. Of the two you took, I'll move Another Year's Ruth Sheen off my alternate list to make room for another worthy name, but I can't do so for Marion Cotillard, because she's my winner. She makes Inception work, bringing danger, allure, emotional stakes, and real, grown-up weirdness into the mix. She makes it feel like a little Celine & Julie Go Boating or Mulholland Dr. is bumrushing the fanboy club. Rounding out my alternate five: Olivia Williams, sexy, smart, scheming in The Ghost Writer. Dale Dickey, cutting through her backwoods caricature in Winter's Bone. Greta Gerwig, gloriously uncomfortable victim of cross-generational collision in Greenberg. And Rosamund Pike, so, so charming in Barney's Version.

AKERS: Steinfeld indeed gives a one-note performance in True Grit. Co-sign what you said. Her pluck and confidence somehow makes the film feel a little more minor to me than if it was a more emotionally involved revenge flick. That said, she hits a home run based on what she was asked to do by los bros. Coen, so what else can you do? As for Violante Placido, "urm" sums it up for me.

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