I felt a list coming on so I didn't fight it. Neither did I fight the order as I slotted them in, though you know how this goes if you've ever made such insane list. The order might change with a moodswing and it would definitely change (perhaps drastically) if I had an opportunity to rewatch all these pictures back to back.
Ten Most Deserving Best Supporting Actress Oscar Wins
Runners up: I'm crazy about Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon but they're both unarguably leading roles so I'm not voting for them. My apologies in no particular order to Ruth Gordon, Wendy Hiller, Catherine Zeta-Jones and, oh, dozens of people. Never mind. Moving on! (The one winning performance I'm most frustrated to have not yet laid eyes on is Gloria Grahame's in The Bad and the Beautiful (given the hosannas I read about it... even right here.)
10 I want to offer the tenth spot to either Mercedes Reuhl in The Fisher King (1991) or Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind (1956) though I haven't seen either performance in aeons. Both are sometimes regarded --even by me -- as performances that are so over the top they're buzzing about King Kong's head like tiny airplanes. But given that the films they're in are as colorful and eccentric as the Empire State Building is tall, they're truly excellent and memorable contributions to their movies if you ask me.
She's got poise. The way she holds her head at just the right angle. That takes training. That takes years of training. I see what Willy sees. Willy's got big ideas, Jack."
-in All The King's Men
09 Mercedes McCambridge, All the King's Men (1949)
She slices right through the thick air of political grandstanding. Modern and mercurial, I sometimes like to imagine McCambridge dropped right into today's pictures. Imagine her starch and steel freed up by looser contemporary mores. She'd be even better about complicating her movies.
Where did April come up with that stuff about Adolf Loos and terms like "organic form"? Well, naturally. She went to Brandeis. But I don't think she knows what she's talking about. Could you believe the way she was calling him David? "Yes, David. I feel that way, too, David. What a marvelous space, David." I hate April. She's pushy."
-Holly's interior monologue in Hannah and Her Sisters
#8 through #1
Tilda, Rita, Dianne and More after the jump
08 Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Even in voiceover Dianne Wiest is an A+ actor. "Holly" is one of Woody Allen's best character creations and Wiest rises to the challenge with both the comic surfaces and the dramatic interiors. She's endlessly sympathetic even while being entirely aggravating.
Isn't he wonderful looking?"
-Horny "Stella" in A Streetcar Named Desire
07 Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
It's a stone cold classic movie for a reason. Well, dozens of them, actually, but the five most obvious being playwright Tennessee Williams and the quartet that embodied his creations so definitively for the screen: Karl Malden, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh... and this Oscar winner right here, Kim Hunter. More on this performance in our "Best Shot" episode about this movie.
06 Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton (2007)
Terrorized limb-chewing survival and performance anxiety form a deadly cocktail in this hypnotic performances. Tilda's in-character rehearsalsas a lawyer in way over her head are like performances inside and about the performance from this ever fascinating actress. I still can't believe she won!
05 Maureen Stapleton, Reds (1981)
"I'm thrilled, happy, delighted... sober" Maureen Stapleton quipped to big laughs when she won the Oscar for her relentless activist, the communist Emma Goldman. We're thrilled, happy, and delighted that she won too though you can get drunk on that grand performance in just one scene.
You tell him that Chino found about them. And shot her!"
-Anita rages in West Side Story
04 Rita Moreno, West Side Story (1961)
If we were crafting a list of the ten greatest performances in movie musicals [editors note: heyyyyy *lightbulb* ] well, she'd probably make that one, too. Anita's gonna get her kicks tonight ♫ She'll have her private little mix tonight ♫
03 Mo'Nique, Precious (2009)
"Who who who else was gonna love me?" With a performance that seismic, everyone, that's who. It's hilarious now to think of all the Doubting Thomases who thought she might lose the gold because she didn't "campaign" sufficiently. Sometimes the Oscars are decided on merit. Not often enough, mind you, but it has occurred.
There are women who reach a perfect time of life when the face will never again be as good, the body never as graceful, as powerful. It had happened that year to Julia."
-V.O. to Vanessa's entrance as "Julia" in Julia (1977)
02 Vanessa Redgrave, Julia (1977)
From my review: "Even an actor less gifted than Redgrave might have won gold in the title role: the movie fawns on the character and where movies fawn, awards often follow. But Redgrave continually elevates the movie that is so eager to put her on a pedestal. When it speaks of her beauty and grace she doesn't empty out her face as so many actors do when a movie requires them to become an abstract vessell for the audience. Instead, she lets a goofy sideways grin flash. When Jane Fonda works the traditional tears and drama in the film's climax, Redgrave refuses the sentiment of the scene repeatedly. Throughout the movie she seems a little wild-eyed. Redgrave understands that it takes more than just Goodness to fling yourself into martyrdom the way Julia does. You need a bit of madness for that level of commitment."
01 Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Has any double Oscar winner ever displayed as much range within their two statued roles? The only thing "Holly" and "Helen Sinclair" share besides their author (Woody Allen) is their vessel. She's only one of the greatest actors of all time. Next up for Dianne: The Corrections with Ewan McGregor.
"DON'T SPEAK". No, actually do. Speak a lot, if you will, in the comments. Surely you have a lot to say about this massive topic.