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First Round Predix: 5 Questions About Best Supporting Actress

"Actressing on the edges" is one of our favorite things, as the Smackdowns should make clear. Since most TFE readers are similarly affected with this obsession love, we assume you'll have plenty to say on the topic of "Best Supporting Actress" even before you've seen the performances and movies in question here. 

Will The Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt) cheat on her husband with a handsome Prince (Billy Magnussen)? Anything can happen in the woods

Oscar traction for the supporting categories of either gender is always hard to see in advance primarily because the size and substance of the roles in question aren't broadly telegraphed in advance the way lead characters tend to be. (It's not even always clear with adaptations of familiar material since role compositing happens and focus can shift characters from one version of a story to another.) What's more, supporting campaigns are often dependent on love for the lead actors and for the movie itself and the reverse is hardly ever true.

But speculation is fun! 

Who will win MVP reviews? This is always a pertinent question for ensemble properties when it comes to awards traction. In the first Broadway production in the 80s The Witch and The Baker's Wife were where it was at. In the revival in the Aughts people seemed more obsessed with Cinderella and, arguably, Jack. Into the Woods is funny like that, shifting focus and soul with each production. Some people though the recent short revival in Central Park with an all star cast turned the show over to The Baker (Denis O'Hare at the time who is not in the movie). Despite shifting love from viewers, The Witch (Meryl Streep in the movie) is always considered the lead role but that's only because it's the "star" part, not because the role is larger than the others. (Technically speaking Jack is probably the biggest role). If Streep goes lead that'll leave Anna Kendrick's Cinderella and Emily Blunt's Baker's Wife as our possibilities. I'm currently predicting Oscar favor to lean in Blunt's direction. Maybe that's wishful thinking and the desire to see her strangely quiet career get noisier but there's no arguing that The Baker's Wife isn't a great part (Amy Adams played it in the park recently). This adaptation could go any which way from Oscar behemoth to total flop and any actor could well be the one that gets people excited. Yes, even Little Red Riding Hood (played by the recent "Annie" on Broadway, Lilla Crawford).

After the jump four more pertinent year-in-advance questions about this year's Best Supporting Actress race...

Kristin Scott Thomas in Suite Française

It's probably just because we are super fans that we hope AMPAS cries out for her this year as if to say "no, don't leave the movies; they need you!" She has two key supporting roles this year in the WW II drama Suite Française which we will definitely see in theaters given high Oscar hopes from its distributor and a much smaller picture My Old Lady in which she's playing (I believe) the spinster daughter of Maggie Smith in a Parisian apartment. The latter film is based on a well liked and funny stage play and is the type of thing that might end up on DVD or cable or turn into an Oscar hit. Anything is possible when a movie is in post. It all depends on execution, the fickle favor of distributors, the marketplace, and luck.

My safe guess is that Meryl Streep has only a cameo in The Homesman (since she shares no scene with Swank and is not one of the characters that drives the narrative) but other movies require riskier strenuous guessing. Laura Dern plays the cancer stricken dead mother of Reese Witherspoon in Wild but might that role be potent enough in the flashback scenes for awards attention? Or will we just get one scene with tears? Viola Davis only needs one scene to be Oscar worthy (see: Doubt or Antwone Fisher) but generally Oscar voters expect to see more of you before your name goes on a ballot. Is her role as James Brown's abandoning mother big enough in Get On Up? Felicity Jones, playing Stephen Hawkings wife in Theory of Everything and Jessica Chastain, playing Oscar Isaac's wife in A Most Violent Year sound like leads given early descriptions of the films. But even with a huge part "the wife" sometimes goes supporting (see Connelly in A Beautiful Mind or Bello, who was snubbed, in A History of Violence). Will that be the case this time? For now I'm guessing supporting for both but that could change. 

Thank You For Smoking aside, all of Jason Reitman's movies have had good roles for actresses. He laid an egg last time with Labor Day but his short but prolific filmography is otherwise strong. Oscar voters loved Juno and Up in the Air and his best film, Young Adult is slowly gathering a devout fanbase. His latest, based on the novel "Men Women and Children" has so many characters and stars in it that it's impossible to know who will pull focus. I mean Judy Greer, Sigourney Weaver, Emma Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Kaitlyn Dever from Short Term 12 are there and that's just the "name" ladies. So, was Labor Day an ill omen or did Young Adult suggest a still growing sharply observational contemporary voice? 

Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson meet in a diner in "Carol"

If Todd Haynes' lesbian drama, based on the Patricia Highsmith's novel "the Price of Salt" is released in 2014 (and it's a big if since it only started filming in March) I'd safely expect it to dominate the Actressy awards. That's what would just happen with a lesbian drama directed by a great filmmaker that stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, and Sarah Paulson. (Paulson is the cast's bonafide lesbian so we want to give her extra points, though Oscar is still stuck in that thing where they think it's "brave" for straight actors to play gay. Blech!)


The Chart!
It's big and brimming with possibilities as Supporting Actress always is. The chart features Oscar winners (Sarandon, Tomei) current sensations (Chastain, Kendrick, Mara) rising stars (Temple, Jones), and nominees who've never won (Kristin Scott Thomas twice over!). Whatever you're feeling right now, do share it. 

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Reader Comments (29)

Good job. Everything looks great. You missed writing a blurb for Viola, Dern's is duplicated. And one small correction Cate Blanchett is playing the title character in Carol. Mara's character is called Therese.

Paulson isn't straight though, but I hope she can make it in after being snubbed this past year.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

To answer each of your questions:

1. I'm going with Kendrick because the role is both the comedic and heart of the show and Kendrick as proved she is a great singer (she was a tony nominee at 12) and has a fanbase with cups plus she is a previous nominee. The Witch will be lead because Streep is Streep and the role is lead. Blunt is the question mark as I have no prove if she is a good singer and with The Baker's Wife while it is a great role it can either be as magnificent as Joanna Gleeson or as forgetable as who played her in the revival. I need prove of Blunt's sining skills before I can feel confident in her.

2. Kristen Scott Thomas from early reports has basically a forgettable role in Suite Française and I do not see her other film being big enough. Also Thomas announcing her retirement and her likeliness to not campaign creates a negative energy around her and I do not see the academy ever going for her again to the sadness of her fans.

3. Laura Dern has a small role and the film is Witherspoon's oscar return and while I would welcome another Dern nomination I think it might not be fleshed out a role as Dench who with 8 minutes was able to create such presence because of the writing. Streep has small cameos in The Homesman and The Giver and if Suffargette comes out this year with a small role similar to Dench she could easily get a nomination. Chastain will have two other clearly leading roles this year so I see her being pushed supporting for A Most Violent Year similar to the other women you mention. Davis plays the mother and her one scene from reports comes when James Brown has played the Apollo and his mother who abanded him comes back to him and it should be a memorable scene and if Doubt proves anything that is all she will need. I do like Jones as an actress and feel Theory of Everything will be like The Fifth Estate and do not see her or the film being in the oscar conversation.

4. I see Reitman's new film being a great ensemble but no one really being able to stand out even though from the book Judy Greer has the best role and from her great work in The Descendants she has proven she can do well in a large ensemble.

5. When it coms to Carol I am anticipating this film so much I do not care which year it will come out and while I want it to be a 2014 I do not see that happening unless the film is ready in time for Venice as every Haynes film plays a film festival and if the film is not ready by then we might just wait till 2015 which I believe would be best as this year looks quite impressive in every category the film will be competing in. It should make the move and maybe it will have a similar path that Foxcatcher seems to might have this year. I do believe that Weinstein could easily get two leading nominations for his women and Mara has a lead oscar nom before so she would be no stranger to the category and I feel he might try to get two lead noms once again even though he didn't do this for August: Osage County. As a fan of Paulson I would love her to be a nominee as her profile grows year after year and starring in 12 Years a Slave only helps to show her as a bigger star and maybe when Carol comes out she can get the supporting push or maybe both get in.

When it comes to your predicted 5 I will you are leaving out Emma Stone for Birdman who has the second largest role in the film and with her four high profile films coming out this year should have a lot of buzz to push herself to be a first time nominee similar to Jennifer Lawrence. I agree with you with Chastain and I love your mention of Sarandon even if it doesn't happen. I also feel Julianne Moore might be better with a supporting push for Maps to the Stars as Wasikowska looks to be the lead but overall I like your out there predictions.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I'm feeling optimistic :) And since I'm a Tomei fan (and a Paulson fan!), they top the list!

Sarah Paulson - Carol
Marissa Tomei – Love is Strange
Berenice Bejo – The Search
Anna Kendrick – Into the Woods
Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

Alternate: Viola Davis – Get On Up; Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Disney will have Streep in lead... No question!

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Great job! I think we should also be on the lookout for Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep in 'Suffragette.' The latter only has a cameo, but that's probably all she needs to get a nomination.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
Emily Blunt- Into the Woods
Viola Davis- Get On Up
Anna Kendrick- Into the Woods
Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl

I see Carol coming out in 2015. I currently have Chastain going Lead for A Most Violent Year but, now that you mention it, I wouldn't be surprised to see her pushed as Supporting. Also, I see most bloggers putting Pike as Lead. I don't know much about the novel itself, but Pike is not a particularly well known star yet and even if she's a lead in the novel I could easily see the marketing pushing her for supporting to increase her chances. If she is a co-lead and great in the role, going supporting could make her a threat for the gold.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdoughyjunn

People I'm rooting for...

- Sarah Paulson. She's so talented on AHS and 12 Years so I hope this can be her time (though she's bisexual, not full out lesbian, just saying... I remember being confused in your interview when she said she wanted to have sex with Michael Fassbender because I thought she was a lesbian, so then I read her wikipedia page :p).

- Patricia Arquette. I think she's super talented and I'd love to see her nominated. Boyhood is one of my most anticipated films this year

- Viola Davis. I just want her to continuously be showered with attention and love and awards.

- Kirsten Dunst. She said some stupid stuff recently but she's still my favorite actress and was snubbed for Interview with the Vampire/Melancholia so I want her nominated.

- Maya Rudolph. SHe was great in Bridesmaids and that would just be really cool and interesting.

Watch none of these happen, but whatever. I like rooting for odd ones.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Although we haven't seen any of these films I am 99.9% positive that Meryl Streep will be campaigned lead for Into the Woods. She has the showiest role and that's what matters (her roles in Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada were co-leads as well).

I think Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt are both likely for supporting if the films go over well.

There is no way that Rosamund Pike and Berenice Bejo are supporting for their films. That won't fly.

I'd like to add Naomi Watts as a potential supporting actress nominee for Birdman. Supposedly she has a hilarious and showy role as a Russian prostitute. Plus, she could use a career boost after last year's disaster.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Ryan -- "paulson isn't straight"... well, that's why i included the line of bonafide lesbian! at least a new gay film's got one.

Mike M -- suffragette is one of the films i assume will be 2015

May 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'd add Octavia Spencer as a possibility for "Get on Up" for obvious reasons.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Patricia Arquette isn't happening, guys. I've seen the film, and as great as she and it are, it'll be lucky to get a Screenplay nod.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Jordan -- i've seen the film too. I think she's great in it but yeah, IFC doesnt' campaign and ithe film's successes are maybe too subtle for Oscar in just about every single way

May 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@aaron - that's St Vincent Van De Nuys with Bill Murray & Melissa McCarthy you're thinking of and she's meant to be quite divisive in it but that's better than just being okay I guess!

Fantastic work Nat as always so much love for Emily Blunt so I hope something comes her way - you should do a top ten on actors who's careers started with a bang and then never quite lived up to their breakout performance?

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

Travis, Bejo is lead in The Search.

In war-torn Chechnya, the suffering and destruction is endless. Russian solders, including a teenager named Koila, storm across the countryside, bombing villages and killing at will. In one village, Hadji, a 9-year-old boy, hides as the soldiers attack his parents. He is able to escape and make his way to a refugee camp, hoping to reunite with his sister. At the camp, Carole(Berenice Bejo), an NGO worker, trying to make sense of the conflict, takes him in. As she tries to help Hadji she is forced to recognize the human tragedy of the war and demands that the international community take action. Carole and the orphanage director, Helen(Annette Bening) work together to find Hadji's sister and help the thousands of people, including Koila, whose lives hang in the balance of the horrific conflict.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Also, Pike is very likely to go lead - I mean if Rooney Mara did it. Beside, Amy Dunne is the heart of the story and the last half of the novel is big for her actions and thoughts.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterleon

I feel like a broken record, but it's odd that St. Vincent isn't even making your longlists. Weinstein has scheduled this for an October 24 release, right in the heart of Oscar season, and it seems like a crowd-pleaser in the vein of Philomena and Silver Linings Playbook. Granted, it has an inexperienced director, but Weinstein knows what sells, and they wouldn't be going for prime real estate on this one if they didn't see potential. With a release date like that, they're probably taking it to one of the fall festivals. I have to go with aaron and say if Watts is getting noticed for anything this year, it will be that.

Likewise, it's just time to give up the ghost on Grace of Monaco - it's obvious they're dumping it. Weinstein movies without the studio's support do not get Oscar nods.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I'm just hoping Viola Davis will be rewarded with an Oscar one day (soon). She makes everything seem so natural - no forced nuances, no tics, no overpowering display of technicality, no showboating. Although I'm not one of those who feel she deserves the Oscar unequivocally for The Help, I have nothing but respect for her talent and humility. Let's hope she continues to get plum roles and award attention.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJans

@Nathaniel - Agreed. Critics/cinephiles will love it, but like most of Linklater's films, it'll go unnoticed by AMPAS. Not in there wheelhouse in any way.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Supporting Actress is my favorite category. I think that from the edges female thespians are allowed to create fascinating portrayals of different types of women, I think that I've seen more memorable, chilling, and edgier work in this category that in the leading actress one.

In my opinion, the most interesting presence in the current chart is Uma Thurman for "Nymphomaniac", which is probably not going to happen, but if it happens... Jesus!, that would be awesome. The performance is just amazing, so textured, acerbic and compassionate at the same time, a single scene that somehow accentuates Thurman's best powers as an actress: a sort of refined histrionism combined with an abbility to create iconic film creatures in very special and divisive films (Henry & June, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill). The way the actress reads the lines is pure gold.

Uma Thurman is a total longshot, but weird things have happened in this category before with acrtresses nominated for performances with extremely limited screen time or in very odd/under the radar films (Sylvia Miles for "Midnight Cowboy", Barbara Harris for the Dustin Hoffman's movie, etc.).

Another actress I love to see in the chart is Marisa Tomei, whose work is a consistent display of energy, charm and understanding of the character she plays. Marisa Tomei is so capable, that she even gave dignity and energy to the mysogynistic role of the waitress in that 2000's Mel Gibson vehicle. I'm a complete fan of her body of work, especially "Unhook the Stars", "Before the Devil Knows You Are Dead", "In the Bedroom" and "My Cousin Vinny".

An interesting lineup for me (even if I don't think it's going to happen) is:

Laura Dern for "Wild"
Sarah Paulson for "Carol"
Kristin Scott Thomas for "My Old Lady"
Uma Thurman for "Nymphomaniac"
Marisa Tomei for "Love is Strange"

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLuigi De Angelis

The 3 that I'm hoping good things for:

Sarah Paulson: love her, want more for her.

Viola Davis in Eleanor Rigby: I think this is more awards bait. One reviewer described her as the "comedic relief" in the film, so her scenes will stand out. She always strikes me as the smartest person in the room, or the most real person on screen. Playing the psychiatrist making sense of emotional chaos, I can see viewers thinking, yeah, listen to her, she knows.

Mia Wasikowska in Only Lovers Left Alive. I think she will gain critical credit for Tracks, but maybe not enough to propel her into the top tier. This would be a consolation prize for a fun wild child turn, in a well liked film.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

It'll be interesting how Disney Company and Meryl will interact with each other, since she busted Walt with her NBR speech.
But yet there don't seem to be any consequences at all for her so far, so...
I'm still skeptical though. ITW is still a fairy tale musical and that's hardly the Academy's cup of tea outside technical nods, which it will get quite easily. But acting.... I'm not sure.
Although I think they (Kendrick&Blunt) have a higher chance to be nominated than Susan Sarandon for Tammy.
I love Sarandon as much as everyone else here and wouldn't mind another nom, but for that... no.
But then who knows? They loved McCarthy enough in Bridesmaids, so.... anything can happen.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Awards aside I hope that Viola Davis' part in Get on Up is substantial. I can't deal with the spare few minutes of screen time she was given in Prisoners. Someone with her piercing talent should be leading movie after movie... to state the obvious.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

As far as Inherent Vice is concerned, it's Katherine Waterston that has the best supporting actress part. Also: I know you're completely unconvinced, but...I'd leave Glenn Close somewhere on that top 15 for Guardians of the Galaxy. If the film is good enough and the role big enough, career honours will take hold in a Sean Connery in The Untouchables (The Untouchables was period, sure, but it was pulp period and definitely not built from the ground up for Oscar consideration, so I think it's comparable) sort of way. Plus: they've never really nominated the swearing granny cliche (though there is a first time for everything), but Close's character profile of space police chief in a studio comedy (though Guardians IS more action flavoured than the example I'm going to lay down) has at least some parallel's to, say, Eileen Brennan in Private Benjamin.

Aaron: I'd think Fincher is going to pare back the flashbacks which make Pike's character a lead in the book. It'd result in a very different last half, but it just seems like something he'd do these days.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Wow, look at that blond guy's hair and pants. Mostly the pants. Yeah, the pants.

Shame about the shirt, he'll have to lose it.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Have no idea what the role is like, but I'd love to see Lesley Manville get traction for Mr. Turner.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Well, we know Emily Blunt will get a Globe nomination (they lurve her) so she will have momentum for the Oscar and I'd put her first. Kendrick would be second for having a nice voice, but less substantial role.

I saw the recent Central Park revival and must say that the star to me was Sarah Stiles as Little Red Riding Hood. I was really hoping that the filmmakers would go for someone older in the movie.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Nathaniel, SUFRAGETTE has January 16 as opening date in the UK, so it will probably open earlier to qualify. It might even open or close the London Film Festival in October, some say.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRodrigo

Hey Nathaniel - FYI, Midnight Special and Madding Crowd have both been officially announced as 2015 releases since you created this chart. Thanks for your hard work and all that you do!

May 8, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjohnny

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