Steve’s 2013 Oscar Predictions, Part 1: Best Supporting Actress

With the Oscars only a week away, it is time to start rolling out my annual predictions. I’ll begin with the acting categories and then finish with Best Director and Best Picture. It was a fabulous year at the movies with many wonderful performances. Although there are clear frontrunners in some of the categories, this year’s Oscars could have a few surprises and with three movies vying as the favorite, along with at least a couple of dark horses, things should remain interesting right up until the end. So, let’s get started.

Best Supporting Actress Nominations

Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts for August: Osage County

June Squibb for Nebraska

12_years_a_slave_lupita_nyong_ojennifer-lawrence-first-american-hustle

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o

Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence

This category is a reminder of how crazy this whole process is. Does it even make sense to offer prizes for artistic endeavors? Certainly every artist should seek to make great art, but do we need a competition to determine whose art is the best? Isn’t there a better way to celebrate great art, and in this case great filmmaking, without having winners and losers? This category has two clear frontrunners, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence. Both gave absolutely fabulous performances in their respective films, but those films and thus the performances called for are of such different natures that it seems insane to try to compare them, let alone declare one of them the best performance. However, barring a tie, that is precisely what will happen next Sunday, so let me take a shot at it, crazy though it is.

I predict that the Academy will award its golden statue to Nyong’o, in part because 12 Years a Slave is perceived as a more important movie than American Hustle. Nyong’o’s tragic performance as the slave woman Patsey is deserving of that accolade, but Jennifer Lawrence is more deserving for her perfect portrayal of the con man’s wife, Rosalyn, a part at turns comedic, dramatic, and often both at once. When I think about 12 Years, there are only a couple of scenes that come to mind in which Nyong’o was truly captivating. They are brilliant, powerful scenes, but I can still easily imagine that movie being just as great with someone else in the part of Patsey. On the other hand, every scene in which Lawrence appears crackles with energy, with her energy. I simply cannot, nor do I want to, imagine American Hustle without her. She is the best supporting actress of the year.

What about the others? Do they deserve their nominations? All three most certainly do. Sally Hawkins’ strong performance in Blue Jasmine is easy to overlook because it is done in the shadow of Cate Blanchett’s stellar work in the lead role, but in that way Hawkins is the epitome of what it means to be a supporting actress. Great acting cannot be done in a vacuum, it requires real characters to interact with in order to come alive and Hawkins provides that for Blanchett. June Squibb was a hoot in Nebraska and it is wonderful to see her nominated at age 84. Her performance was somewhat one-note, but what a delightful note it was. Julia Roberts gives what may be the best performance of her career in August: Osage County. I’m generally not a huge fan of Roberts, but her work here blew me away. She delivers an incredible range of emotion in a tightrope walk of a part, more than holding her own with Meryl Streep. In many Oscar seasons she would be a favorite to win, but not this year against Nyong’o and Lawrence.

Is there anyone else who should be here? It would be hard to decide which of the five nominees to remove, but if there was an opening, Octavia Spencer would be well deserving of the spot. Her screen time in Fruitvale Station is limited, but she makes the most of every moment that she is given. Many seem to feel that Oprah Winfrey was snubbed regarding her work in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. I thought she seemed too old for the part early in the film, which was distracting, but as the character aged Winfrey did solid work, but I’m not sure it was worthy of a nomination.

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