"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.
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!
01. INTO THE WOODS
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...
02. KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS
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.
03 SIZE MATTERS
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.
04 MEN WOMEN AND CHILDREN
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?
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!)
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.