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Thursday
Jun202019

Smackdown '01: Connelly, Tomei, Winslet, and the Dames

A bohemian novelist, a longsuffering wife, a snobbish Lady, and a supremely competent housekeeper were the Oscar-honored roles in the Best Supporting Actress competition of 2001. 

The shortlist that year was a veritable who's who of this very category, most of the actresses had been nominated before / would be again. One was already a two-time winner and Dame of the British Empire in fact (Maggie Smith... Helen Mirren wouldn't become a Dame until 2003). The anomaly / party crasher was Jennifer Connelly, who had been a teenage star and was receiving her first taste of awards glory as an adult, building on the momentum of a critically well-received turn the previous year in Requiem for a Dream with a borderline leading role in on of the year's biggest hits (A Beautiful Mind made an incredible $170 million at the US box office, believe it or not). 

THIS MONTH'S PANELISTS   

Here to talk with your host Nathaniel about these five nominated turns are (in alpha order): Erik Anderson of Awards Watch, freelance critic Valerie Complex, This Had Oscar Buzz's Joe Reid, and Shane Slater from Awards Circuit. Now it's time for the main event...

2001
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN + PODCAST  

Jennifer Connelly as "Alicia Nash" in A Beautiful Mind
Synopsis: A student marries her mathematician professor only to discover that he's schizophrenic after she becomes pregnant.
Stats: Then 31 yrs old, 19th film, 3rd billed. First and only nomination. 45 minutes of screen time (or 33% of the running time) 

Erik Anderson: Connelly has never been a very expressive actress and she certainly isn't given anything meaty to work with here. Her Alicia Nash no true path to explore elements of her own character that aren't directly related to Russell Crowe's John Nash and she ultimately becomes little more than set dressing for the film.  ♥♥

Valerie Complex: This performance isn't bad, it's just surrounded by so much mess that it can overshadow her work. Upon revisiting A Beautiful Mind, her role as Alicia Nash as the aching wife sticking by her man is so tired, that even Connelly deserves better, but she did excellent with what she had to work with. 

Joe Reid: As terrible a movie as A Beautiful Mind is, I try not to hang too much up on Connelly, who is incredibly beguiling in the early going and then does the absolute best she can with that old-age makeup at the end, and in between she acts appropriately terrified for her little bathtub baby. As an IRL sweep winner, she's a bit of a puzzler, and the fact that her career choices nosedived from here is a shame. But judging just by performance, she definitely stands out in the film, which is faint praise, but here we are.  

Shane Slater: Can someone explain why this is viewed as such an infamous case of category fraud? Jennifer Connelly's role as Alicia Nash is such an archetypal supportive wife that she doesn't seem all that significant in the grand scheme of this film. As for the quality of the performance, she's absolutely sincere and on a more trivial note, captivatingly beautiful. I couldn't take my eyes off her. It's therefore easy to see how she became the Academy's celebrated ingenue of the year. But otherwise, her performance isn't substantial enough to merit the win. 

Nathaniel R"This can't be happening," she says in one of her most distraught moments realizing her husband has had some kind of psychotic break. Which was roughly my feeling the year she bulldozed towards an Oscar win. Jennifer is first asked to essay 'the hot student' and then the dazzlingly perfect "muse" of a girlfriend, and then the longsuffering wife/mother who took the "...and worse" part of the marriage vow seriously.  It's always in relation to a man's point of view. Connelly is strong in the hospital scenes midway through the picture and wonderfully inexpressive (I do mean this as a compliment) in a late scene when she's talking, with a relatable lack of effusive emotion about her long marriage and her anger at God. But the inexpressiveness otherwise is a problem, particular in a role that needed to be rescued from a bad screenplay and poorly conceived character. 

Reader Write-Ins: "She simply isn’t given enough to do, and is not doing enough with it" - Mark B (Reader average: ½)

Actress earns 12½  ❤s 

Helen Mirren as "Mrs Wilson" in Gosford Park
Synopsis: The strict housekeeper of an English manor has her hands full as her employer hosts an ill-fated shooting party. A secret from the past hangs over her like a dark cloud.
Stats: Then 56 yrs old, 36th film, 11th billed of 20 principals (alphabetical order). Her 2nd of four nominations. 12 minutes of screentime (or 9% of the running time) 

Erik Anderson: Regal, despite her place downstairs, Mirren musters a devastating performance in the middle of one of film's most epic ensembles in Gosford Park. The pinnacle of strength but her breakdown in the face of a human truth in front of her is some of her best work.  ♥♥

Valerie Complex: Between the Dames in Gosford Park, it's Mirren who steals the show. Her stoic, reserved performance as Mrs. Wilson will go down as one of her best performances. 

Joe Reid: Mrs. Wilson is the beneficiary of the big third-act twist in Gosford Park, and maybe that's what was able to push her out ahead of worthy co-stars like Emily Watson. Mirren is a stout and stalwart presence among the downstairs servants, though I'll admit that I often had a hard time remembering which traits were hers and which were Eileen Atkins's. But it's that final ten minutes and her scenes with Atkins and Kelly MacDonald that really seal it for her. 

Shane Slater: Perhaps the most deceptively complex role in this group, Helen Mirren's Mrs. Wilson initially appears to be made of hard steel. A key piece in the machinery that runs this upper-crust country house. You immediately get the sense that she's been doing this for many years, commanding respect from the rest of the staff with an unwavering, no-nonsense approach. As the murder mystery unfolds however, we learn that she is opaque by design. And it makes her eventual breakdown all the more heart-breaking. Her matter-of-fact delivery of the line "I'm the perfect servant. I have no life" - and the dialogue surrounding it - is a true gut punch. Considering how well Robert Altman is servicing the film's extensive ensemble, it's perhaps selfish to wish Mirren had more screen time. However, I just craved one more scene to put her ahead of the pack in my books. ♥♥

Nathaniel RIs it strange that this is my all time favourite Helen Mirren performance? It is. think its the utter stillness and lack of vanity, for an actress that can pull focus with ease to deliver a "star" turn (and usually does). Here she's completely in service to the material, as if there is no acclaimed actress involved... only Mrs Wilson, the perfect servant. That she has no identity outside of work, save that which has been subsumed and hidden, Mirren brilliantly conveys with stiff posture and minimalism. All of which makes her late film mini-breakdown superly effective. I wish I could watch a whole movie about her! 

Reader Write-Ins: "She serves up her big scene at the end with the same measured efficiency that Mrs. Wilson (nee Banks) is known for, but so many small, delicate moments leading up to it provide a groundwork with layers of maternal regret and instinctive intelligence." - Mike S. (Reader average: )

Actress earns 25 ❤s 

 

Dame Maggie Smith as "Constance Trentham" in Gosford Park
Synopsis: A snobbish lady visits her benefactor's manor, while complaining about the service and gossiping with her lady's maid.
Stats: Then 67 yrs old, 36th film, 15th billed of 20 principals (but it's in alpha order). The last of her 6 nominations (she'd already won twice at this point). 16
 minutes of screen time (or 12% of the running time). 

Erik Anderson: With no subplot of her own, Smith is relegated to Gosford Park's best zingers and one-liners (a role she would basically replay in Downton Abbey a decade later). But, those one-liners are delivered with the driest shade possible in a way that no one but Smith can provide.  ♥♥

Valerie Complex: Dame Maggie Smith's Oscar nomination for Gosford Park is well deserved. This is a slightly different performance than we're used to seeing from her and she looks to be having fun in the role. 

Joe Reid:  It's impossible to watch this movie and not see the long shadows cast upon Julian Fellowes' later project, Downton Abbey. But Fellowes gifted Maggie Smith with a character who was not only locked and loaded with classist barbs (her assuring Bob Balaban's Hollywood producer that none at the dinner table would ever see his movie so he might as well spoil the plot is a stick in the eye for the ages) but with a conspiratorial appreciation for mischief and gossip that makes her so much fun.   

Shane Slater: I'm not as familiar with her work from this period of her career, but looking at "Gosford Park" now, it seems like this role had Maggie Smith's name written all over it. In that sense, it often feels like a triumph of casting rather than a masterful performance. This snobbish, old-money persona has become her schtick and it therefore feels like she's not putting in that much work - much like her leisurely character. Still, she's highly effective and amusing, with every line laced with the haughty disdain that only she can bring. No one does it better. ♥♥

Nathaniel RI had misremembered this role, morphing it into a twin to her iconic Dowager Countess in Julian Fellowes not too dissimilar follow-up Downton Abbey. But this Lady is a bit different, definitely  less secure in her fortunes and place at the table, and that comes through in delicious ways, especially in her conspiratorial impish but one-sided gossip with her lady's maid (beautiful scene-partner work from Kelly Macdonald throughout) and a snobbishness that feels slightly more performed than innate. She's a lot of fun and Trentham's disdain for Hollywood within this movie is still hilarious all these years later. 

Reader Write-Ins: "Drama is hard, comedy is harder. And Dame Smith makes it look easier than ever. True, it's not much of a stretch for her but she knows how to twist and joyously explore the multiple faces of comedy. That she so desperately wants out of her own film while being the funniest component of it is no easy task." - Alex D (Reader average:  ¼)

Actress earns 19 ¼ ❤s 

Marisa Tomei as "Natalie Strout" in In the Bedroom
Synopsis: A single mother feels terrible guilt that she might be derailing her young lover's future but she leans into the relationship when her ex-husband gets violent.
Stats: Then 37 yrs old, 22nd film, 7th billed ("and" Marisa Tomei)2nd of 3 nominations (she'd won on her first). 26 
minutes of screentime (or 20% of the running time.)

Erik Anderson: With a surprisingly minimal amount of screen time (and no real b-story of her own after the event that kick starts the story), Tomei manages to embody - physically and emotionally - a fragility that we hadn't seen from her before. Her Natalie, is sorrowful and remorseful while having to endure her own pain and suffering and Tomei just nails it.  ♥♥

Valerie Complex: The characters quietly carry In the Bedroom through its runtime. Tomei executes her performance as Natalie Strout with subtlety.  The audience can tell what the character is thinking and feeling through her facial expressions and body language. A well-deserved nomination. 

Joe Reid: It's a credit to Tomei's impact that I was shocked upon rewatching to find that Natalie is only in a handful of scenes and disappears almost entirely for the latter half. And she makes this impact so quietly. Reticently. She's perfect at playing those notes of abashed discomfort. Even before Frank is killed, Natalie is so nervously guilty around his parents. Tomei makes the choice to have Natalie see herself through Ruth's eyes — suspect and unwelcome — and she's brilliant at it. 

Shane Slater: I remember being quite taken with "In the Bedroom" when I first watched it more than 10 years ago as a budding cinephile. Yet although I recalled a horrific tragedy at the heart of the plot, I somehow forgot exactly what it was. But there's an early scene when Marisa Tomei's Natalie discusses Frank's future (played by Nick Stahl) that really hit home. The look on her face is so regretful and apologetic that it all came suddenly rushing back to me. Such is the depth of Tomei's performance. She conveys an underlying fragility, even in her character's most vibrant moments. Though she won her Oscar for a more showy, scene-stealing part, I think she shines even brighter with more nuanced roles like this one. ♥♥♥♥

Nathaniel RIn the opening scene she runs through grassy fields laughing and besotted, like a Wyeth painting sprung to life. And yet there's something ineffably sad about the performance from the very start. The acccent is a bit distracting but the feelings she conjures are major. Natalie might feel underwritten or at least underexplored in lesser hands, but Tomei knows exactly what to do with this woman who doesn't even know what to do with herself. You can feel the weight of her past and fears about the future eroding her now; she's particularly impressive in a scene where you see guilt fall over her face when her boyfriend considers delaying college for her. Tomei grants the film a mysterious undertow well before tragedy strikes. The movie knows just what to do with that feeling and with her, however cruelly it dismisses her with that sharp stinging slap -- this story is no longer yours. 

Reader Write-Ins: "A lesser actress would not have added the shading required to make this film such an emotional gut punch. Outstanding, career-best work." - Brian R (Reader average: ♥♥♥½)

 

Actress earns 26½ ❤s 

 

Kate Winslet as "Iris Murdoch" in Iris
Synopsis: A free-thinking promiscuous young novelist falls in love unexpectedly with an atypical suitor, a stuffy virginal fellow academic.
Stats: Then 26 yrs old, 11th film, 3rd billed. 3rd (of 7 nominations). 28 minutes of screentime (or 31% of the running time).

Erik Anderson: Kate Winslet's fierce feminist Iris works in perfect opposition to Dench's deteriorating version of the acclaimed writer and Winslet gives one of most fiery performances here.  ♥♥

Valerie Complex: She's surrounded by an outstanding cast of actors. She plays the younger version of Iris so well. Almost too well. While Winslet always delivers an A+ performance, it doesn't seem she was challenged enough.  

Joe Reid: Winslet brings every bit of life and vitality to the young Iris that she can, all the better to contrast with old, sundowning Judi Dench in the present. I think Judi outdoes her, but Winslet comes to play. In particular she nails a moment of vulnerability late in the film with a kind of take-a-breath-and-charge-forward air about her that I found deeply endearing. I'm not sure she'd ever make my top 5 (of 2001 or of Winslet performances), but she's very solid. 

Shane Slater: I've long been a fan of Kate Winslet, but this is my least favorite of her Oscar-nominated performances. While I appreciate the effortless quality to her acting here, the part feels quite lite. Especially in contrast with the more difficult task handed to Judi Dench as the older version of her character. The film portrays both a character study and a decades-spanning romance, but I wasn't convinced by the chemistry between Winslet and Hugh Bonneville. Her one vulnerable scene - a monologue where she basically confirms that they aren't quite the perfect match - is a great one. I wish there were more scenes like it

Nathaniel RIn my then very young Film Bitch Awards I gave the gold, silver, and bronze to Winslet, Tomei, and Mirren respectively. Rewatching I think I'd reverse the order, not because Winslet isn't fab but because I realize a portion of the deep love I felt for the performance was her megawatt screen presence as the most exciting young actress of that era. She's brilliantly enigmatic, earthy, and sensual as this budding novelist though the movie isn't asking for a full characterizations as much as for her to insure that we fall madly in love with Iri's potential and mystery. All the better to set up the gutpunch of watching Judi Dench's beautiful mind fade to white. Neverthless it remains an undervalued performance in Winslet's filmography 

Reader Write-Ins: "Playing counterpoint to Dench's fragmenting Iris, Winslet's youthful  version devastates because she makes the crumbling spark of a brilliant mind more precarious and cruel." - John V. (Reader average: ¼)

Actress earns 20¼  ❤s 

 

Jennifer Connelly swept the awards race for A Beautiful Mind (but for SAG where she was nominated in the lead actress category and Helen Mirren won instead) and won the Oscar on her first try. But the Smackdown disagrees and emphatically endorses Marisa Tomei as the rightful winner that year for In the Bedroom

THE PODCAST CONVERSATION
Download and listen to the companion podcast right here at the bottom of the post, or on iTunes for a more in-depth discussion with our panelists about these four movies and five actresses. 

Other Smackdowns: 1941, 1943194419481952, 1954, 196319641968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 197719791980, 1984, 19851989, 199419952003, 2016, 2017, and 2018 (prior to those 30+ Smackdowns were hosted @ StinkyLulu's old site)

NEXT UP? The 1960 Oscar race on Sunday July 14th. Watch: The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Elmer Gantry, Psycho, Sons and Lovers, and The Sundowners before then to maximize the fun!

Smackdown 2001 - Companion Discussion

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Reader Comments (70)

Jennifer Connelly won this award for her "running in the rain in a T shirt" scene. How did this happen? Marisa Tomei all the way here!

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

it was interesting that the reader votes alone would have given this to Helen Mirren.

Collective Readers Rank
1. MIRREN - clear winner
2. TOMEI
3. [tie] WINSLET / SMITH (and both not far behind Tomei)
5. CONNELLY

Panelists only rank
1. TOMEI - clear winner
2. MIRREN
3. WINSLET
4. SMITH (not far behind Winslet)
5. CONNELLY

June 20, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

You gave your medals in the right order back in 2001.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Marisa Tomei still keeps a win in her column!

My votes:

Kate Winslet- Iris- I hated this movie. I'm convinced it was only made so Kate Winslet could be nude on screen again. And while the real Iris Murdoch was no prude and probably wouldn't mind the nudity, they spend hardly any time on her work. I don't even know a title of her books. People keep saying she is brilliant but in Winslet's scenes, she never writes but juggles suitors and gets naked. I feel like I know nothing about this woman (I had never heard of her before watching this movie) except that when she was young she liked sex and when she was old she got sick and in between wrote books. Winslet tries (and has a very nice singing voice she gets to showcase in one brief moment) but this movie is so annoying and preoccupied with her boobs that her character, motivations, ideas, etc. all come second. Our literal introduction to the character is her swimming naked. I mean if you've got it flaunt it, but Winslet doesn't get to flex any acting muscles in this movie. 1.5 hearts

Maggie Smith- Gosford Park- This may have been the beginning of Maggie Smith being Maggie Smith on film. Dowagers with pithy lines and scorching burns (Don't encourage him!) but with a heart of gold underneath it all. Having been exposed to Downton Abbey, this performance seems to lose a little luster. We've seen it before. There is one moment, where Smith learns that her allowance may be discontinued and she suddenly contemplates the prospect of not having money readily available, but it is just a brief moment. She honestly seemed a little giddier in the Harry Potter movies. 2.5 hearts

Jennifer Connelly- A Beautiful Mind- The supportive wife in a supporting role. Oscar eats this up like chocolate on Easter. But I don't want to take away from Connelly who gives a spirited performance to balance out Crowe's more internal performance. The two balance each other out very well. She has the best chemistry with her romantic costar of all the nominees, but beyond that, there really isn't anything spectacular about her performance.
3.5 hearts

Helen Mirren- Gosford Park- To me, this performance has two parts. In the beginning, we see Mirren as Mrs. Wilson, the head housekeeper of a sprawling manor owned by a particularly lusty lord. Mirren skirts about, making sure everything is in order and her performance is competent in these scenes. But the ending...What an ending. As someone in the service/hospitality industry, it made me completely review her beginning scenes. In the end (SPOILERS) we discover that Mirren is the murderer, killing to protect her son. Her speech to Kelly Macdonald about what makes a good servant (It's the gift of anticipation) is a monologue I have personally used in job interviews before. And in her final scenes, she utterly crumbles into tears, knowing that she saved her son, but that she will never know him as she gave him up for adoption years ago. These final scenes stuck with me and upon further consideration, I see that the first scenes of mere competence is just Mrs. Wilson blending into the back. Good servants observe and understand by being present but not showboating. Mirren absolutely nails this.
4.5 hearts

Marisa Tomei- In the Bedroom- Tomei is Natalie, the older single mom who starts a relationship with a younger man. His parents react differently, the mother skeptical, the father enthusiastic. But her ex-husband wants back in, and during a violent fight, the young man is killed. Tomei is forced to run an emotional gauntlet, peaceful and palm to panicked and flustered. She hits all the right notes. But what impressed me the most is how she rises above what the script and general direction of the film ask of her and what the perception of her character is. Unfortunately, in our society, the single mom is often looked down upon- all somehow all her misfortunes were her own fault, regardless of circumstance or background or privilege or lack of it. The movie is so much more concerned with the parents than her. The last scene of her is getting slapped and dismissed. Natalie is second, an afterthought compared to everyone else. But Tomei takes control of her scenes, never judging Natalie but making her a human being who is very aware of her flaws but also aware of the injustices life has given her. It's a powerful performance. 4.5 hearts

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

I thought Helen Mirren are gonna be the winner. : O

This reminds me how much i love In the Bedroom and indie "little" films like Duck Season or The Squid and the Whale

My quartet-winners from the nominees are:
Tom Wilkinson
Renee Zellweger
Ian McKellen (i would prefer Jim Broadbent were nominated and win for Moulin Rouge!)
Helen Mirren

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

As a giant Marisa Tomei AND a giant Altman fan, this is a particularly satisfying category for me. I treasure all 3 of those performances and nominations, and I'm glad Marisa gets to win a Smackdown.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

It was intentional to named the movie "A Beautiful Wife" in this post?

If it is, was a nice touch

XD

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Mirren is my fav here... in fact, it’s my favorite performance in one of my top three favorite films ever. Gosford Park is a masterpiece and Mirren builds up the most solid wall and then blows it away in one sentence... god. It’s completely perfect.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBilly

I recall being so disappointed with the film Iris - much like the almost contemporaneous Sylvia, which Joe Reid recently discussed on his podcast, it does an enormous disservice to a major literary figure by reducing her to viewing her through the lens of a romantic relationship. Biopics about men don't do this (thankfully, biopics about women rarely do this anymore either).

Anyway, I think Tomei's performance is magnificent and I am glad she won.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I love the Smackdown and this category. Thanks Nathaniel. I noticed this category has a group of actresses with a current combined total of 21 nominations,

I checked the nominees in this category from the past 20 years and found that 2002 and 2014 lead with current combined totals (mainly because of Meryl Streep) and that this year comes in third.

Connelly is one of 10 of the past 20 winners who won on their sole career nomination (to date).

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick T

Tomei is the real Winner!

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel

It’s interesting reflecting on Maggie’s work now - with Downton in the history books but at the time, this was a barnstorming performance for the ages.

Mirren deserves this, sorry Tomei.

Such fun work - thanks team!

I wonder how the voting at the actual Oscars went?

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

It was also interesting that in the reader votes, Marisa Tomei's performance was the most divisive. Her heart rankings from readers were all over the place whereas the others were pretty consistent in how they scored.

June 20, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I need to see Gosford Park. I would have given this to Winslet just to avoid her Reader win. Tomei's sophomore nod was so quietly acknowledged in the press. Like the elephant in the room is she's still the most infamous surprise acting Oscar win ever.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Such a fun year to review, and a great choice for the winner.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

eurocheese -- it really was. only four movies makes it easier and it's five really famous actresses so it's easy to have a way "in" as it were. This is one of the rare years where I really love the lineup and wouldn't change much. I think in my own awards at the time i went 4/5 here... obviously i didn't nominate Connelly but otherwise I love the performances that were honored.

June 20, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I think two deletions here wouldn't be impossible for the women of Royal Tenenbaum.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I remember being so happy for Tomei's nomination. I loved her in My Cousin Vinny and this felt like beautiful validation for everything she had to put up with ("He just read the last nominee's name again") for that win. The fact that she came back to the circle again and is seen as an actress that consistently delivers great work is a wonderful Hollywood story.

As for the nominees, a solid group all around. Connelly obviously rode the Best Picture train (and let's not forget that previous year's snub) to a win, but Mirren may have had a better chance with a few repeat viewings and less showy internal competition. Speaking of internal competition, the winner that year actually should've been Kristen Scott Thomas, who's managing to have even more fun in Gosford Park than Smith. Lady Sylvia is the perfect mix of monied boredom and disdain. I want to be her when I grow up.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I’m about evenly split between Mirren and Winslet in this category, leaning ever so slightly to Kate. I’m a little surprised to see Tomei take this. I like that performance fine but I don’t really feel she deepened her character that much or made up for the fact that the film loses interest in her in the second half.

My personal ballot would be:
Laura Elena Harring, Mulholland Drive
Mary McDonnell, Donnie Darko
Gwyneth Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums
Goya Toledo, Amores Perros
Emily Watson, Gosford Park
Runners Up: Mirren and Scott Thomas, Gosford Park, Blanchett, The Man Who Cried, Winslet, Iris, Johansson, The Man Who Wasn’t There + Ghost World,

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRayLewis1997

I'm firmly with the Team Mirren camp, I think it's easily one of her best performances. Also, to pull off that performance when there were so many other great actresses around her is remarkable.

Kate Winslet deserved a nomination, and Tomei was interesting and excellent, but I was more swept away by all the actresses in Gosford Park. It was my introduction to Kelly Macdonald, and I was duly impressed. Also, Emily Watson, Kristin Scott Thomas and the nominated Maggie Smith are memorable and great fun to watch.
But Mirren deserved that win. (Maybe this is why she cruised to an Oscar for The Queen a few years later.)
I guess I'm just not much of a fan of Jennifer Connelly, I hated this win of hers and feel a certain satisfaction that the smackdown team agrees with me. (on that at least.)

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Tomei is a treasure - has she ever had a proper leading role, in a great movie? I would love to see what she would do with a great lead - including many of her great supporting roles getting their own movie.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

@Rebecca

Tomei's best leading lady performance is in a little discussed movie called The Perez Family (1995). She plays a Cuban woman obsessed with John Wayne.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

@/3rtful - thanks, I will check it out! Unfortunately it has limited options for viewing, but she's worth a purchase.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I love Oscar lineups where all five would eventually be Oscar winners. Love it.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The one thing I do remember about Connelly's win was her rehearsed speech and terrible dress.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Tomei's sophomore nod was so quietly acknowledged in the press. Like the elephant in the room is she's still the most infamous surprise acting Oscar win ever.

@3rtful Marcia Gay Harden just side eyed you,

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Seems quite a few people are viewing Smith through the lens of Downton Abbey which I never watched but this was a revelation in 2001,Maggie was back,no one said shade much in TV or print in 2001 we just new it was gr8 acting.

Would have been good to get a bit more insight from Valerie.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

My own ballot from 2001 -

1) Kristin Scott Thomas - Gosford Park
2) Mary McDonnell - Donnie Darko
3) Frances McDormand - The Man Who Wasn't There
4) Maggie Smith - Gosford Park
5) Claudie Blakley - Gosford Park

6) Shefali Shetty - Monsoon Wedding
7) Summer Phoenix - The Believer
8) Annie Girardot - La Pianiste aka The Piano Teacher
9) Helen Mirren - Gosford Park
10) Rain Phoenix - O

So my choice would be Smith, with Mirren as runner-up (and Tomei just outside my Top 10).

I didn't care much for Connelly or Winslet (and their films even less so).

A very competitive year and one where I could actually fill my Top 5 with only Gosford Park actresses and still view it as a very high-quality field!

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

@Rebecca, she starred opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Only You (1994), a rom-com directed by Norman Jewison (who, incidentally, had directed Cher to her Oscar). Tomei and Downey, Jr. are charming in it, and they have pretty great chemistry. Check it out, if you can.

Also, more recently, she starred opposite Hugh Grant in The Rewrite (2015).

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Gosford Park Top 10 Because Why Not?
1. Helen Mirren
2. Maggie Smith
3. Emily Watson
4. Kristin Scott Thomas
all nomination-worthy but only 5 oscar slots and hundreds of other 2001 films to consider!

5. Eileen Atkins
6. Kelly Macdonald
7. Clive Owen
8. Jeremy Northam
9. Richard E Grant
10. Stephen Fry

June 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

As far as Tomei's leading lady work, I remember loving her in UNTAMED HEART. I'm sure the movie might be super cheesy now but at the time I was smitten with her.

I saw her off broadway in Marie & Bruce and she ran circles around Julianne Moore's lead performance in the film version (though the film version isn't very good so perhaps not Moore's fault)

June 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Not my favorite of Supporting Actress affairs - ultimately, I'm actually partial to Dame Maggie, though I'm not sure even she would make my top 5 of the year.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

My favourite Marisa Tomei Leading Role? Actually, it's probably Cyrus (2010) alongside John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill - she's SO good at being a real, whole, believable, nice person isn't she? Like Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets but with better taste in movies.

My favourite Marisa Tomei Supporting Role? A straight tie between The Wrestler (2008) and Factotum (2005) - the latter is far too underseen and she plays an alcoholic party girl on the decline in the most amazing way... actually, both of those roles are people trying to cope with not being a "young" version of themselves in an unforgiving and vicious society aren't they? ANOTHER Tomei speciality...

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

I think that Connelly largely won because of residual respect for her performance in Requiem for a Dream and being in the Best Picture front runner moreso than for her performance. I remember at the time being confused as to why Mirren was getting more attention than Smith, but then I learned that you do have to actually see Gosford Park to understand that. Winslet in Iris likely got a bump from her performance in Quills the previous year. And Tomei got swept in for In The Bedroom and also likely to justify her previous win. But this was always Connelly's to lose, especially when she was somehow bumped to lead at SAG and the supporting actress contenders there really paled by comparison. I'm still a little miffed she appears to be one-and-done at the Oscars, as her performance in House of Sand and Fog is also outstanding. Sadly, her most widely seen performance appears to be in He's Just Not That Into You, but her indie cred is super solid. Looking forward to what she does in the upcoming Snowpiercer series now.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel

Touching on comments regarding Connelly and her being considered "Category Fraud" in some quarters, largely because of the Leading nomination at SAG... it's amazing how much these things can influence consensus. Because she's definitely Supporting.

Remember when Kim Basinger was nominated in Leading at BAFTA for LA Confidential? I still remember people being all "she is the BIGGEST FEMALE ROLE in LA Confidential" like it justified the wrong placement!

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

Kermit -- i think Connelly is a borderline case because of A Beautiful Mind's strange structure. I'm okay with "supporting" but she is definitely lead in the middle hour.

June 21, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Count me as one that doesn't get the Tomei love here. I like her in general and loooove her other 2 noms, but really surprised she took the win. I hadn't seen these films since seeing them in theatres during that awards season so it was fun to re-watch and reevaluate them all again. My picks and observations in order of preference:

Kate Winslet IRIS ❤️❤️❤️❤️(4 hearts)
God, is there anything more exhilarating than an early Winslet performance? Effortless and charismatic, Winslet’s turn as the young Murdoch is such a jolt of energy to this basic biopic relic that it makes Dench’s work as the older woman losing her mind to dementia that much more impactful. And she brings just enough technique (mirroring Dench’s mannerisms and altering her voice) to show she’s not just relying on personality alone, but creating a fully-formed, unforgettable character.

Maggie Smith GOSFORD PARK ❤️❤️❤️❤️(4 hearts)
No one delivers a cutting remark with quite the panache that Dame Maggie is capable of. But with 6 seasons of Downton Abbey since, playing a very similar character, I worried that Smith’s work here would lose some of its impact. Luckily the bitting quips still land and there’s enough nuance to make the performance still stand on its own. Her Constance is much crueler than Violet, but beneath it is a desperation, clinging to her position and status while her way of life (not to mention the money, but keep that to ourselves, dear) is quickly fading away...

Helen Mirren GOSFORD PARK ❤️❤️❤️ (3 hearts)
With a cast of dozens, this category could’ve easily been filled with 5 actresses from Gosford alone. But Mirren’s nomination was secured from a duo of scenes at the end of the movie in which she reveals her character’s dichotomy, all icy reserve in the first that melts away into a teary breakdown. But Mirren has a tendency to project the ending of the film in her earlier scenes leading up to the emotional confession. There’s no discovery. She plays all her moments opposite Owen with too much knowing. She already knows the conclusion before the audience, but doesn’t allow it to unfold naturally.

Jennifer Connelly A BEAUTIFUL MIND ❤️❤️❤️ (3 hearts)
What I love the most about Connelly’s performance as the long suffering wife of a schizophrenic is ultimately what keeps it from being authentic, it is a classic Movie Star turn. The camera loves her and like an old Hollywood starlet, she plays to it. But it’s a performance that’s all surface. As the conflict unfolds, Connelly plays her more challenging scenes as if she's playing the part of an "actress in a drama", never digging any deeper than what is asked or ever feeling like a real person. She suffers beautifully, but that beauty is a hindrance.

Marisa Tomei IN THE BEDROOM ❤️❤️(2 hearts)
I never understood the admiration for this film which confuses quietness and slow pacing for depth. And, for me, Tomei suffers the most from this. Her underplaying feels as if she’s not doing anything at all. There’s an emotional vacancy despite her weepy simpering. And with a distracting New England accent this side of Brooklyn, Tomei leaves little impression. Her most memorable scene is as the recipient of a Sissy Spacek slap, but she’s so passive that she just slinks off screen right after with no confrontation, never to be seen again...

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

This was so nice to read/listen to! I wasn’t wowed by Tomei but it was still so interesting to see what everyone else saw in her. Would’ve probably gone with Winslet or Mirren, though I’m so curious if either of them winning in 2001 might’ve impacted their eventual Best Actress steamrolls. Count me in the group who thought Watson gave the best Gosford Park performance, though I love Scott Thomas almost as much. My own five would probably be:

Blanchett, The Man Who Cried
McDonnell, Donnie Darko
Paltrow, The Royal Tenenbaums
Toledo, Amores Perros
Watson, Gosford Park

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

I think we're due for some kind of Maggie Smith retrospective. People talk about her like some sort of one-trick comedienne!

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJF

Also, completely unrelated to these performances (but when is awards season ever just about the performances anyway...), I have to say that this is far and away Kate Winslet's best Oscar dress of all the years she has attended the ceremony. That red Ben De Lisi might even actually be her best red carpet look ever

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

My votes that year were:

Male leading performance: Will Smith, Ali (a breakout performance in a masterpiece movie; Haley Joel Osment was my number two, Ewan McGregor, Gene Hackman, Denzel Washingtonmy other three)

Female leading performance: Nicole Kidman, The Others (Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Sissy Spacek and Kristen Scott Thomas would be her nominees)

Male supporting performance: Ian McKellen, Lotr FotR (Ben Kingsley, Jon Voight, Jude Law, Jim Broadment - Moulin Rouge - his nominees)

Female supporting performance: Ensemble award to Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Kelly McDonald, Emily Watson for Gosford Park. Cate Blanchett (Lotr FotR) would be their nominee.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNatual

Maggie
Helen
Marisa
Jennifer
Kate

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStefan

Well this Smackdown was very successful in that the final rankings matched mine *perfectly*. So let's keep striving for that perfection in the future, 'k folks? Luv ya (air kisses)

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

As I indicated on another thread, I'm just about the only one here who would have voted for Jennifer Connolly (the only bright spot in that godawful film) but my 5 nominees would have been:

Alakina Mann (The Others)
Anne Alvaro (The Taste of Others)
Gwyneth Paltrow (The Royal Tenenbaums)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Ileana Douglas (Ghost World)

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Thank you for shortlisting Illeana Douglas in Ghost World. Sometimes I find myself wanting to say, "This is remarkable," in her exact cadence. ;-)

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Nat nailed Connelly's performance. It's a trope and was always going to be Oscar voter crack. The Best Picture steam is what really ensured what could have been a surprise win by Mirren or Smith. But given what she had to work with Connelly does a pretty good job. Her arc, from confident, pre-feminist professional to dutiful wife is realistically portrayed. We feel that she is determined to see this through while at the same time rightfully pissed off at the circumstances she faces - I could have accomplished so much more without this burden. I hate that the writers went for something as banal as true love to complete their story, when the truth is probably something much closer to peaceful acceptance of their situation.

I have always identified with this character because it is my mother. I grew up with a father who suffered from agoraphobia and panic disorder. He wasn't abusive but certainly wasn't doting. She had so many opportunities to leave; I begged her to on many occasions. No one would have thought any less of her had she chosen to do so. I used to believe she stayed because she was brainwashed but now I understand the sense of devotion she had, not just to him but to a choice she made - for better or worse. Time has dulled some of his symptoms and now they live a quiet, almost peaceful life together.

Anyway I would have voted for Mirren most likely. If I were a voter, my Oscar crack would be long-suffering housekeepers.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Mirren was best in this category hands down. I agree with Nat that this is her finest performance to date.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBecausewhynot

Connelly's Oscar dress was quite disappointing. She always looks great but this dress was...no.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick T

Really appreciated the podcast discussion of the directors category that year. Reminded me once again that Ron Howard receiving the Oscar for Director over David Lynch & Altman is one of the supreme examples of Mediocrity triumphing over Visionary in the Academy's history.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

What a beautiful performance Marisa gave in In the Bedroom. So deserving of the win.

June 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

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