Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars 2009: Best Supporting Actress

The category of Best Supporting Actress can be hit-or-miss for me. Some years, the nominees are fantastic in their roles and deserve to be recognized, while some years its just a collection of the same roles that Oscar tends to love to see women in (the stripper with the heart of gold, the long-suffering wife/girlfriend, etc.). Last year was one of the latter, while this year's category features some fierce performances from phenomenal actresses. This year's breakdown:
  • Let's face it: nothing was more shocking or awe-inspiring than Mo'Nique's about-face performance as Mary Jones in Precious. The amazing feat that she pulled off was that you couldn't believe a woman like this actually exists, and yet at the same time you could easily recognize her in your own life, as if you already knew her. And Mo'Nique never relents: no matter what her character does, she does it with conviction, allowing the monster that is Mary to come to exhilarating life.
  • Now come the sexpots. The first is Penelope Cruz, who smolders as Guido Contini's mistress Carla in Nine. Cruz proves that she can be fiery and sexy in her number "A Call to the Vatican," she has a wicked deadpan ("I will wait for you here. With my legs open."), and provides an emotional ground in her unrequited love for Guido. Its a high-wire act that Cruz pulls off fantastically, and she makes the most of her limited screen time.
  • The second sexpot is Vera Farmiga, who plays the sultry Alex Goran in Up in the Air. In a role that could have simply been a female version of George Clooney's character, but instead she gives the role a sensuality that lures us in with Clooney. Alex is all fun and flying, a perfect companion for Clooney's Ryan, but in the third act she cements her nomination in what I can only describe as revelatory. She ignites the screen in her performance, and never once lets that fire flicker out.
  • I like Maggie Gyllenhaal, I really do, but her role as Jean Craddock in Crazy Heart is not her best, nor is it one of the year's best. Sure, she plays the role well, heartbroken by the fact that she's fallen for Jeff Bridges' bad boy Bad Blake, but there's nothing really new happening here. Its an unfortunately rote role that Gyllenhaal is better than. I'd have included Nine's Marion Cotillard here instead.
  • Twilight made it to the Oscars! Thankfully, not this year, but alum Anna Kendrick is nominated for her role as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air, which is infinitely better than what she does in that glittery-vampire flick. Kendrick proves herself to be a phenomenal actress, not only making the could-have-been-dull role as a new hire with a plan to change how people are fired into a fascinatingly complex character, but also surprises by holding her own against her much more experienced co-stars Clooney and Farmiga. Hopefully she'll be able to get out of Forks soon and show us more of her glorious talent.
The ballot:
  1. Mo'Nique, Precious
  2. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  3. Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  4. Penelope Cruz, Nine
  5. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

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