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Wednesday
Jan282015

Best Supporting Actress: The Poll & My Ballot.

Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut."

Rene Russo is so hardshell intoxicating in Nightcrawler. I understand the potshot I've heard a couple of times that she's cribbing from Faye Dunaway in Network (one of the all time best performances of any kind) but if you're going to steal, steal from the best. My favorite thing about her work is the way she both recoils from and recalibrates to Jake Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom constantly. She's repulsed by him (witness that amazing date scene) but recognizes a soul mate... or rather, a mate in soullessness, and the financial worth of that. 

Anyway, I jumped ahead. While the world prepares to celebrate Patty, Emma, Meryl, Laura, and Keira on Oscar night, we take a brief time out to continue the Film Bitch Awards. Though I enjoyed all of those Oscar nominated performance only two made my own correlative list: the steamrolling Patricia Arquette and Keira Knightley. Knightley has really been pushing herself in the last few years and her commitment is showing in more relaxed, more interesting, and more successful performances. While The Imitation Game isn't her most challenging role, there's something to be said for perfection. She nails her every scene and very nearly saves the film from itself on a couple of occasions.

Keira, surprised to see her name again.It's always a difficult thing to extract five performances from the hundreds available in the supporting realm and say "these five. right here" but it must be done. My "was considering" list was about 24 women long but in the end I went with the aforementioned British beauty, two semi-forgotten actresses who vividly reminded us of their gifts, our most versatile new chameleon, and a singular icon who had a rather amazing multi-headed year of memorable new characters. 

Check out my ballot for why I voted this way. And make sure to vote on the Oscar poll in this category, too!

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Reader Comments (68)

I'm disappointed to see Elisabeth Moss missing from this (my favourite supporting performance of the year!) - or did you consider her lead?

My ballot:
01. Elisabeth Moss, Listen Up Philip
02. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
03. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
04. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
05. Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac, Volume 1

... with Chastain and Russo as finalists. This was a very very strong category!

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSid

Patricia Arquette - Boyhood
Laura Dern - Wild
Kim Dickens - Gone Girl
Carmen Ejogo - Selma
Keira Knightley - The Imitation Game

Those are my five right now, with Rene Russo just missing. It feels incomplete without her but I can't let any of the others go....

What a great year for this category.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

Here is what I came up with, this year:

5. Rene Russo in Nightcrawler
4. Mackenzie Foy in Interstellar
3. Emma Stone in Birdman
2. Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer
1. Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNika

My top 5:

1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
2. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
3. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
4. Agata Kulesza, Ida
5. Kim Dickens, Gone Girl

I liked Keira a lot, too, but I'd actually nominate her for Best Actress for Begin Again this year. I still haven't seen Nightcrawler or Listen Up Philip.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

For me this is Swinton's category all the way, though I loved Russo too. After those two I'd probably go with Riseborough and Stone from Birdman and Rose Byrne from Neighbors (I don't see how she's not a lead, but if you're putting her here, well, I love that performance, so ...).

I can't wait to eventually see Chastain (haven't yet).

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

My four favorites were Patricia Arquette, Rene Russo, Andrea Riseborough in Birdman and Lesley Manville in Mr. Turner.
The fifth spot would be between Naomi Watts, Gaby Hoffman and Fanni Metelius in Force Majeure.
As sad as I was to see Russo miss out, I'm actually pretty good with the Oscar lineup, too. I think Dern, Knightley and Streep are doing good work in their performances. I could live without Stone.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

@Mike in Canada: Thanks for reminding me about Gaby Hoffman...I absolutely loved her performance.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

Nat, I totally thought you were going to pick Uma Thurman for Nymphomaniac, Vol. I

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

I agree with you. I think Patricia Arquette and Keira Knightley belong on that ballot, I even liked Emma Stone, but Meryl Streep and Laura Dern? I thought Knightley was amazing in The Imitation Game.

Here are my picks:

1. Patricia Arquette
2. Keira Knightley
3. Tilda Swinton
4. Renee Russo
5. Carmen Ejogo

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

I liked your choices especially of Arquette, Chastain and Swinton because they all make my personal ballot. Knightley was very forgettable in Imitation Game outside that great final scene. Russo also while great was betrayed by the final third of the film where I felt her character was sadly forgotton. The other women that I include are Carrie Coon who in her screen debut steals Gone Girl from the much bigger names of Affleck and Pike. Also can we just talk about how between Nora Durst and Margo Dunne that no one has as impressive a breakout in 2014 then Coon. Elisabeth Moss also makes my 5 for her brilliant turn in Listen Up Philip. Watching her for years as many have as Peggy Olsen and also recently in Top of the Lake this film performance is so exciting to see. Also she was great in The One I Love and now with Mad Men ending Moss is lining up role after role including broadway and another Alex Ross Perry film has be holding out hope for a very promising film career post impressive tv career.

1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
2. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
3. Elisabeth Moss, Listen Up Philip
4. Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
5. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Love this lineup-easily my favorite of the FBA's this year. The only person whom I would substitute in would be Laura Dern in Wild for Keira in The Imitation Game, but Keira was just aces in Imitation Game (she'd be in my 7th place position) and so I can't complain too badly. I truly wish this lineup was what Oscar had gone with.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I like your list a lot and agree with your thinking on the ones I have seen, and trust you on the ones I haven't. If there are names missing (for me), it is Watts and Duncan from Birdman. Especially Duncan. I realize it is only 2 1/2 scenes, but she does more there than most actresses manage in their careers. The Riggan/Tabby bar scene is genius and probably my favorite scene from any film of the year. And I don't understand why Tilda missed (AMPAS) for Snowpiercer. Did they send the screeners too early with no follow up?

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Excellent picks. I was awfully sad not to see Russo or Swinton on nomination morning.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBD

Great picks! Mine are nearly identical, though I would swap Keira Knightley for Agata Kulesza in Ida. Patricia Arquette for the win!

Honorable mentions to Naomi Watts in Birdman and Zoe Graham in Boyhood.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

My choice from the movies I've seen so far would be Elisabeth Moss for Listen Up Philip.

I don't think Russo is stealing much from Dunaway's performance. I love Dunaway in Network and she brings great dark humor to the role, but it's a heightened character who's totally in control and supremely confident for most of the movie, more like a concept (she's even called "television incarnate" by William Holden's character). Russo actually plays someone who feels like a real person, even if the script is a little dubious at times.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Guesses on the other 10:

Naomi Watts, Birdman
Imelda Staunton, Pride
Agata Kulesza, Ida
Mia Wasikowska, Only Lovers Left Alive
Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
Marisa Tomei, Love is Strange
Carmen Ejogo, Selma
ScarJo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Melanie Lynskey, Happy Christmas
Alison Brie, The LEGO Movie (?) (I think I'm pretty solid on the first nine, but this was just a stab in the dark. Unless you're so resistant to voice turns that they can't even wind up in your top 22 in the supporting category.)

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Really good lineup - I'd probably substitute Marion Bailey for Keira Knightley, but otherwise, I think we're on the same page.

Loved Agata Kulesza in Ida, but ike you, I still can't really comprehend why so many people are classifying this performance as supporting. Which brings me to a pressing question...

In your opinion, will we ever again see a double nomination in a lead acting category, or do modern Oscar politics make this essentially impossible? My instinct it that it would require an All About Eve type scenario, where a single movie has so many same-gender performances to push that they HAVE to promote more than one candidate as a lead....but even then, I don't know. Thoughts?

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJosh R

I thought Keira was great in Imitation Game, but I'd have nominated her for Best Actress for Begin Again. If people haven't seen that they should really watch it- she's so relaxed, natural and wonderful in that movie.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRiley

Nathaniel, you got a great ballot, dude. I would swap out Knightley for Stone. I did like Kiera, but she'd be in my No. 7 spot. Earlier in the season, I honestly thought that Birdman might be the first film since Tom Jones in 63 to get three Supporting Actress nods. Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts and Lindsay Duncan were through-the-roof terrific.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Elisabeth Moss not even a semi-finalist? (She'd win my gold medal)

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

For me the year's best supporting actress was Dorothy Atkinson in "Mr. Turner." What she was able to convey with the tiniest movement or facial expression was astonishing - almost a silent performance, and note-perfect.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

It's funny because all of them were runner-ups for me, except Tilda.

My ballot:

Agata Kulesza, Ida
Elisabeth Moss, Listen Up Philip
Erica Rivas, Wild Tales
Tild Swinton, Snowpiercer
Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac: Volume 1

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

My top five would look something like...
1. Elisabeth Moss, LISTEN UP PHILIP
2. Patricia Arquette, BOYHOOD
3. Julianne Moore, MAPS TO THE STARS
4. Melisa Sozen, WINTER SLEEP
5. Uma Thurman, NYMPHOMANIAC
(6. Marisa Tomei, LOVE IS STRANGE)

I included that number six because on our Film Experience ballots MAPS wasn't eligible so wanting to point out that she did appear on my ballot for nab her a point.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I can't, I JUST CAN'T, get rid of one.

Elisabeth Moss - Listen Up Philip
Laura Dern - Wild
Kristen Stewart - Still Alice
Rene Russo - Nightcrawler
Carrie Coon - Gone Girl
Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

I also don't see much if any overlap between Rene Russo & Faye Dunaway's performances - I mean, the characters in sketch-form are similar, but I think each actress puts their own very different spin on them, and it seems totally superficial to me for anybody to say Russo's stealing.

That said as much as I love RR while I haven't made my own list yet I don't know that she'll make it; there really are SO MANY great supporting female turns this year to pick from.

I do know that for sure when I do get around to my own picks I'll have zero overlap with Oscar; Dern's the closest but it's more just me adoring Laura Dern than any great affection for that performance - it is, by necessity, too sketchy; there's just not enough for her to do. (Not that she doesn't work her usual magic with what she does have, but when the Great Laura Dern Roles lists are made years from now I don't see how it can rival stuff like Amy Jellicoe or Nikki Grace or Lula Fortune or hell even Ellie Sattler.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Can i make a shout out to Adriana Barraza in Cake.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

Network is my all-time favorite movie (sue me), and I never once thought of Faye Dunaway's performance while watching Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. (She's Nicole-Beharie-in-Shame-level dynamite in that movie, which is saying something.)

Anyway, my top five would be:

1. Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
2. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
3. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
4. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
5. Kim-Dickens-Carrie-Coon, Gone Girl

(Shamefully I haven't gotten around to Listen Up, Phillip or Nymphomaniac, but I'm dying to see what Elisabeth Moss and Uma Thurman do in each.)

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Shout out for Anna Kendrick from Into the Woods.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Oops, I forgot Rose Byrne in Neighbors! Definitely top five for me.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I like your list a lot, mostly because I love to read about the details you observed in each choice. Arquette's is a performance that didn't leave a huge impression on me the first time I saw Boyhood, but has steadily grown in my estimation to the point that I think she's my favorite of the Oscar nominees. Unlike many others, though, I found the "I just thought there'd be more" scene to be something of a whiff; it didn't feel to me like a tonal fit with the rest of the performance, whose power lies in its finely judged reactivity. The moment I most LOVED in that movie was when Mason comes home after midnight on his birthday after clearly having drank/smoked, and you see Arquette quietly process the fact that her son isn't a little boy anymore. In that small exchange, she is confronted with the fact that he has a life now that doesn't include her, and has secrets that he won't share with her, and that there's no going back.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

1. Keira Knightley - The Imitation Game
2. Rene Russo - Nightcrawler
3. Naomi Watts - Birdman
4. Dorothy Atkinson - Mr Turner
5. Elena Lyadova - Leviathan

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Mine:
Coon, Dern, Russo, Staunton, Wasikowska...
maybe.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

1. Agata Kulesza "Ida"
2. Marion Bailey "Mr. Turner"
3. Leslie Manville "Mr. Turner"
4. Lindsay Duncan "Birdman"
5. Adriana Barraza "Cake"

Saw "Cake" this weekend. Aniston and Barraza were both sensational. Barraza performance pushed Polly Draper "Obvious Child" out of my fifth slot - but Draper's still terrificl. As are Gaby Hoffman "Obvious Child" and Andrea Riseborogh "Birdman". Also liked Scarlett Johansson "Chef", Oprah Winfrey "Selma" and Laura Dern "Wild". But the competition in this category was just too fierce for all of them to get in. Still, Dern's the only one of the actual nominees I would have considered. This Arquette tidal wave is something I'll never ever understand.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Knightley blew me away in Imitation Game. People don't give enough credit for the subtle but strong performance she gave - the role wasn't the best written one but she made it memorable and was the heart of the film. If there was no Joan portrayed by the way she did in this film it would've felt flat.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermarioa

I like all of your choices, I think I would swap out Laura Dern for Carrie Coon. I am very pleased to see Keira Knightley getting some overdue credit for her work. But there is no denying that Arquette held Boyhood together for me.

January 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

...yeah, on second thought Riseborough instead of Wasikowska...

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Question, would Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow be considered supporting or co-lead? I'm still having trouble deciding, but if I went with supporting she'd crack my top5.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpaco.

1. Tilda Swinton - Snowpiercer (by far)
2. Laura Dern - Wild (less is more; she helps carry the film even though she "doesn't have much to do")
3. Viola Davis - Get on Up (not much to do, but boy does she do it)
4. Patricia Arquette - Boyhood (almost a lead)
5. Imelda Staunton - Pride (funny as hell)

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

My top 5
1. Najarra Townsend The Toy Soldiers
2. Patrica Arquette Boyhood
3. Rene Russo Nightcrawler
4. Tessa Thompson I see white people
5. Carrie Coon Gone Girl

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Viola Davis was stellar in Get On Up. Too bad that movie was released too early and not pushed for any sort of awards. But one of my top 5 best performances of the year is Keira Knightley. Before Imitation Game, I thought she was just a reaaaaaaallly bad actress who managed to be famous because of how photogenic she is but she changed my mind. Her performance was just perfect. She just seemed like that rare person who can make you want to be better. So endearing, charming and she also has moments where she shows that she knows more about the world. A silent revolutionary. I won't mind if the film was about her actually. It's a subtly revelatory performance. Fully deserved nomination.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermcv

Nice!

Mine would look something like...

1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
2. Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
3. Naomi Watts, Birdman
4. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Fifth slot is prob between Viola Davis in Get On Up (srry but I love her and she kills that scene with him backstage... heartbreaking), Carmen Ejogo in Selma, and Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer.

But I still have to watch Ida and Cake and for some reason I feel like those supporting ladies (Agata and Barraza) will appeal to me... I wish I considered Julianne in Maps to the Stars supporting because she was truly phenomenal! And I might consider Kristen Stewart in Still Alice but her Three Sisters scene killed me, lol.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Josh R: I wonder about that as well. If, for example, Thelma & Louise were released today, would both women be campaigned for lead? I can't help feeling someone would try to push Susan Sarandon as supporting, simply because Geena Davis's character has a slightly clearer character arc. (In my view, by the way, both are absolutely lead.)

If by Oscar politics, however, you are including campaigning, then don't forget that Steve Carell and Channing Tatum were both pushed as leads for Foxcatcher, as were Annette Bening and Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right and Frank Langella and Michael Sheen for Frost/Nixon a few years ago. So there are attempts at getting two leads nominated for the same movie. Whether it will happen again remains to be seen, but I hope it does happen again. Plenty of films have two leads of the same gender, and it's silly not to nominate them appropriately (assuming they are nomination-worthy, of course).

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I love Josh R's question. I know that "Stepmom" got no nominations, but I remember they were trying to push Sarandon in lead and Roberts in supporting, when Roberts had technically two less seconds of screentime or something like that.

The awards cycle for Season One of "True Detective" is over now, but I appreciated that both Harrelson and McConaughey were being nominated in Lead Actor at SAG/Emmy/Globe and no one was making bones about it.

And *yes* to Kim Dickens. I had never seen her in anything before and from her first scene I felt that she was a detective who went home by herself at night.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjakey

So enjoyable! Thanks Nathaniel <3

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I first saw Kim Dickens in Hollow Man where she's killed by Kevin Bacon. lol She by far my favorite in that movie.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

This is easily the most boring of the four categories this year (in terms of what the Academy nominated, not necessarily the options they had.)

Anyway, my ballot would look like this I guess:

1. Elizabeth Moss (Listen Up Philip)
2. Melisa Sozen (Winter Sleep)
3. Suzenne Clement (Mommy)
4. Kristen Stewart (Still Alice)
5. Sarah Godon (Enemy)

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

This year in supporting actress really didn't do it for me. I'll take that back. The Oscar list is a big fat dud. I can come up with better, of course! :-)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Agata Kulesza, "Ida"
2. Rene Russo, "Nightcrawler"
3. Emma Stone, "Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance"
4. Tilda Swinton, "Nightcrawler"
5. Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

"A Most Violent Year" never made it to my area. Otherwise, I would have likely loved to add Jessica Chastain to my list. Not sipping the Kool-Aid with Patricia Arquette. She's a mediocre television actress that lucked up in a gimmicky role of a lifetime. Carrie Coon and/or Kim Dickens might have made my list in other years. I'm going to make myself see "The Imitation Game" at some point for Keira Knightley (maybe this weekend or Super Bowl Sunday even, like I give a shit about the actual game). Laura Dern was cameo status in "Wild," so no to her. Carmen Ejogo might have had a shot with more screentime. She was so good in "Sparkle." Hope she lands more opportunities in the future after this exposure.

Agata Kulesza blew my MIND in "Ida," so she easily gets my top ballot. Loved Rene Russo in "Nightcrawler" and wished that she had more opportunities to show her awesomeness in general. Damn ageist Hollywood! Emma Stone would likely be winning the Oscar outright in another year with the voters' obsession with young starlets in this category. This is the best work I've seen her do. Can't wait for her legitimate Oscar run to happen in the coming years. I can't get Tilda Swinton's performance in "Snowpiercer" out of my head either. What a great returning nomination this could have been! Everyone's down on Meryl just when she actually earns her placement fair and square with a memorable and worthy performance. Oh well. That's what past name-checking will do for public sentiment and future awardage.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLawson

Love, love, love Emma Stone, but I don't know how that performance was given such an easy shot to a nomination. And the same for Laura Dern -- once I finally saw the movie, I was completely taken aback. I knew the character would exist in memory and flashback -- but no one stressed the extent to which none of her "scenes" last more than 30 seconds at the time. She simply didn't have the time or material to build a character and instead exists as Reese's idea of her.

The final five in the category represent five actresses that the Academy feels warmly about --- nowhere near the five most interesting, complicated, or even "supporting" of performances we saw this year. I didn't LOVE the performance as a whole, but the fact that Katherine Waterston couldn't get any traction for that single monologue...well. There you go.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Lawson -- i find your comment about Streep fascinating... mostly because I agree with the sentiment but people say that about very different performances. People seem to have very different ideas about which Streep performances are worthy and which are phone-ins by the Academy. ;) that this never coalesces around one performance really could explain why an Academy backlash never truly occurs.

Edward L & Others -- i truly believe that we'll see two actors of same gender nominated again at some point. It would have to be a very popular film and be the right time for both articles (given how often studios refuse to campaign this way) but it'll happen. it's not like no one ever tries as the examples you cite attest.

January 29, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

OK, here's my theory about Arquette. I also thought she was somewhere fine to good - natural, committed, unshowy, all good things the Academy should be better at recognizing - but have also been mystified at how she's steamrolled through this awards season.

And then I noticed something. EVERY single person who applauds her performance includes, in some way, "she lets herself age over 12 years on screen!"

But guess what? NO ONE says the same thing about Ethan Hawke, even when they're singing his praises.

So I'm now convinced that some of the love for Arquette really comes down to sexism. You could say it's really the sexism of Hollywood, and how much more pressure it puts on actresses to always look young and f*ckable than it does on actors, and how therefore that makes Arquette braver than Hawke for letting us see her age, and you would be kind of right. But only kind of.

I wonder it's really our own cultural sexism has us pointing at Arquette on screen while looking around, saying "Did you see that? This woman is AGING! Isn't that amazing?" And if you were to whisper, "But isn't Hawke and the whole cast doing that, too?" The response would just be "But, but, but, but...she's a WOMAN! Did you see that she's a woman?"

It's been amazing to me to see how much people factor that into their praise of her performance while not even considering/mentioning it for a second for anyone else in the same movie.

So part of me is happy for Arquette, who I have nothing against and would maybe even vote for since I don't think her co-nominees are the strongest bunch they could've nominated, but I'm also sad for her, and for women, and for film criticism and our culture in general, that we factor a woman's looks so heavily into how we evaluate her work.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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