Looking at 2013 you can get to a perfect conclusion: What a year it was for film. I’m talking about quality films, about directors who worked on some of the best material they’ve had in years, about actors giving it all to their characters and populating our imagination.
When February 2014 came, and the nominations were out, we stood in awe at the ones left out: Thompson, Hanks, Redford and many more. But the ones in are no less deserving. The members of the Academy must have been scratching their heads thinking which ones of the extraordinary talents should be left out of the list. In a perfect world, they would have had to accommodate people who should also be recognized, opening the 5-nominee standard to 7 or 8, but, as some people say: “Hey, it’s just the Oscars”, so we won't lose much sleep over it. I'm sure Emma Thompson isn't.
The next best thing in a film are their supporting actors (sometimes stealing scenes from the leads). This year Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong'o, Julia Roberts and June Squibb have been around in every major award event, like they belonged to a family (or the same film). Roberts is the star and more experienced one in the group, Lawrence the youngest and also recipient of last year's Best Actress award. Hawkins is finally recognized by Hollywood, Squibb is enjoying a late blooming career and Nyong'o scores it high with the first film to her credit.
Some have already predicted that Lupita will end up rising over Lawrence, as if this was a 2-nominees competition, and even if it seems like it is a race, out of respect to the thousands of professionals in the industry let's just call this a celebration, and the winner would be the bearer of the trophy that every one of these fabulous actresses deserves with enough merits.
There's always the misconception about what the academy is really rewarding? The actress or the character? An actress whose career we follow (or one who is just in the beginning but gets all our attention), or the well created character unfolding on the screen? Well, if the actor did a great job, we should not find a difference (or are you going to tell me you can differentiate Anthony Hopkins from Hannibal Lecter?).
So, let's just cut to the chase and review the five nominees for best actress in a supporting role.
Sally Hawkins English actress Sally Cecilia Hawkins graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to the stage before she jumped to TV and later to Film. This year, the Academy has mended a mistake they made in 2008 when they failed to nominate her for her stupendous work in Mike Leigh’s ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’. Very few actresses could create such a rich character experiencing life’s hardest events with a smile. She has been working for quite some time in films like ‘An Education’, ‘Never Let Me Go’, ‘Made in Dagenham’ and twice with Woody Allen for ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ and her first Oscar Nomination in ‘Blue Jasmine’. Her character counterbalances Cate Blanchett’s with a less tragically serious take on life, which, of course, underlines Jasmine’s surreal state of mind.
Jennifer Lawrence The first thing you hear when someone talks about Lawrence is how young she is to have this towering talent. Well, if you have any doubt, watch her first Oscar nominated role in the indie film 'Winter’s Bone' and then her Oscar win as an older and much self-conscious woman in 'Silver Linings Playbook'. She has, of course proven also that she has enough magnetism to handle a big budget mega franchise like ‘The Hunger Games’. So it is no surprise to see that she's again up for an Oscar as a supporting actress in a very colorful character that moves the story in different directions. O. Russell knew she was the right choice.
In her breakthrough role in 'Winter's Bone', Jennifer Lawrence impressed everyone with a strong performance as the only sane member of a crumbling family in the dark and harsh Ozark Mountains looking for her father and taking all the punches. This Oscar-nominated performance elevated her from teen-actress to better material right from the beginning of her career.
Silver Lining Playbook
In a film that is mostly a characters study, with numerous changes of mood and direction, Lawrence managed to always surprise and deliver some of the best lines...and that took her right to the podium as she won her first Oscar.
12 Years A Slave
Lupita Nyong’o Very few actors score it big their first time out, and Lupita managed to stand on her two feet and steal all the scenes she was in. Suddenly, you’re not watching a movie about how Solomon Northup was kidnapped and enslaved, but about Patsey, the beautiful young girl who does anything to survive but succumbs to a nightmarish social injustice. As a viewer, you will never forget Patsey after you see ‘12 Years A Slave’.
August: Osage County
Julia Roberts She was America’s sweetheart in the 80’s with ‘Steel Magnolias’ (her first Oscar nomination) and ‘Pretty Woman’ (her second). She then became one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood with ‘The Pelican Brief’, ‘Runaway Bride’, ‘Notting Hill’ and a personal favorite ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’. She tried for meatier roles with ‘Mary Reilly’ and ‘Michael Collins’ until she was handed the starring role in ‘Erin Brockovich’, which would give her the Best Actress Oscar confirming her status as one of the most popular actresses in modern American cinema.
2013 brought her to the Oscars again with her turn as the older daughter of Meryl Streep’s character in the drama ‘August: Osage County’. The experience is one she was waiting for all her professional life, and their screen time together sparks fire of old-time grudges, as mother and daughter get on each other's open wounds.
To crown Roberts' successful career, she finally got her Oscar playing real life activist Erin Brockovich. She had already been nominated for 'Steel Magnolias' and 'Pretty Woman'. As a well established actress, Roberts understands the entertainment value of each of her characters and makes sure her audience is listening and watching when she delivers her fast-paced and witty lines.
My Best Friend's Wedding
Among all her succesful romantic comedies, the same films that changed the face of Hollywood in the 90's and gave this genre a more prominent presence, her character in 'My Best Friend's Wedding' functions as both a reflection of Julia's well established lovable persona and a detestable selfish one.
June Squibb Alexander Payne hired Squibb to play Jack Nicholson’s wife in ‘About Schmidt’. Too bad her character dies just as we meet her. But he knew he had to work with her again. There’s a lot you can bring out of her. So he paired Squibb with the unique performance of Bruce Dern and got an American neorrealistic feel that sounds close to many people’s lives. Squibb personifies that little old woman that seems so nice but is capable of saying the most horrible things before serving you coffee. And she did that with no effort and a lot of zest.