Much like the boys in roles that do not hog the spotlight, the girls too showed their mettle in some iconic bit roles. The Academy Awards too were mostly on track, honoring the deserving winners more frequently than not. We continue our game here at The Cinemaholic, placing the winners of the Best Supporting Actress category in one fictitious year and ranking them on their performances alone.
17. Jennifer Connelly, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2002)
It is certainly not easy to be the spouse of a person like John Nash. The brilliance bordering on psychopathy takes much handling and the inner anguish of his partner is certainly unfathomable. The love she must bear is something worth visualizing. However in a thoroughly guarded and highly external performance, Jennifer Connelly never lets us into the character. The Academy Award win was surprising, and that is only a mild word for it.
16. Rene Zellweger, ‘Cold Mountain’ (2004)
As the hard farm woman Ruby Thewes, Rene Zellweger blends in perfectly with the movie’s tastefulness. She was unapologetically spirited and induced fun with her strutting and perpetually swinging arms. It was a good performance but the Oscar win was a huge overstep.
15. Rachael Weisz, ‘The Constant Gardener’ (2006)
As social activist Tessa Quayle, Rachael Weisz took a step forward from her usual shallow character roles. She was fiery, passionate and thoroughly outstanding, displaying the much needed gutsiness and holding the mysterious curiosity with aplomb. She tried to excel in something new and succeeded. The Oscar win was a long shot though in our opinion.
14. Catherine Zeta Jones, ‘Chicago’ (2003)
As the jazz showbiz Velma Kelly, Catherine Zeta Jones was versatile, with jealousy, rage and hilarity oozing out of her every move. The ruthlessness and the notable lack of remorse is apparent, especially during the song ‘All that Jazz’, which she performed after killing her sister and husband. It was a fine performance, but the Oscar win looked a bit far-fetched.
13. Tilda Swinton, ‘Michael Clayton’ (2008)
Tilda Swinton lends in a disarming vulnerability as the counsel Tilda Swinton. Building her character in layers, she was sharp and remained in control throughout the movie. She was good if not excellent in her portrayal. The Oscar nod was a more punctuated yes than a unanimous chant, but no strong complaints can be made certainly.
12. Octavia Spencer, ‘The Help’ (2012)
To the bookworms Minny Jackson is a lovable character indeed. Octavia Spencer did a decent job in bringing her to life. She was sassy and funny and was really pleasing to the eye. She had a host of good punch lines but sadly lost her thread while nailing a few. The Oscar win was a bit confusing though.
11. Marcia Gay Harden, ‘Pollock’ (2001)
Playing a tormented wife to a complex character like Jason Pollock (Ed Harris) could have been extremely one-dimensional, full of pain and pathos. Marcia Gay Harden however never sacrifices her command, both in character and in her performance. It is incredible how she evoked sympathy and patience while keeping the strength of her personality, displaying the vulnerability and personality of a woman. The critics had panned her, but the Academy Awards Jury was spot on in this case.
10. Jennifer Hudson, ‘Dreamgirls’ (2007)
The backing vocal Effie White was a woman marked with vulnerability, pride and defeatism. She was alternately stubbornly tough and self-pitying. Jennifer Hudson brought all of these into the picture with her compelling portrayal and was the worthy recipient of the golden statuette.
9. Penelope Cruz, ‘Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona’ (2009)
The emotionally eccentric painter, Maria Elena was the embodiment of the famed Spanish fiery passion and breathtaking beauty. Penelope Cruz fitted the character to perfection. That raw sexual aggression, vulnerability and temper was constant in her. She painted, screamed and loved with that fire burning in her. She was the Barcelona of the movie. The Oscar win was deserving in every sense.
8. Alicia Vikander, ‘The Danish Girl’ (2016)
As Gerda Wegener, wife of a transgender artist, Alicia Vikander never had the usual banalities of a supportive wife. She was hungry and energized throughout the length of the movie. She was equally compassionate and heart breaking, providing an exquisite balance of nuance and charisma. The Oscar win was as easy as the painting she paints.
7. Anne Hathaway, ‘Les Miserables’ (2013)
In this memorable musical, Anne Hathaway’s Fantine was a plethora of complexity depicting sarcasm and disparity in oodles. The despair and humiliation she faced as a mother who would do anything to save her child is heart wrenching. Anne Hathaway’s emotional connect to his was a bonus with her mother enacting the same role in Broadway. The Oscar win was only imminent.
6. Viola Davis, ‘Fences’ (2017)
Viola Davis is no doubt exceptional in ‘Fences’. She gives a theatrical performance — which is good — but let’s be honest: she has given better performances in her career. And yet, she is at No.6 on this list. That tells you a lot about her caliber as an actress.
5. Lupita N’yongo, ’12 Years a Slave’ (2014)
It was a bold debut and Lupita N’yongo stamped her mark with a fiery performance as the slave girl Patsey in McQueen’s grilling take on slavery. She had to take immense abuse on her body and soul for this and succeeded in bringing out the struggle of the slave girl perfectly. She had fought and never gave up in this brave portrayal. Certainly one of the best debuts of all time, she was correctly adjudged the winner for this category.
4. Cate Blanchett, ‘The Aviator’ (2005)
With remarkable ease and magnificent poise did Katharine Hepburn’s soul enter the body of Cate Blanchett delivering the many mannerisms – the forceful hand gestures, the arrogant walk, the veritable mixture of strength and vulnerability coupled with feminist independence and sexuality. Blanchett is truly one of the best actresses to have walked the earth and thoroughly deserving of every single award received.
3. Melissa Leo, ‘The Fighter’ (2011)
Rarely does a woman shine as a potential negative shade in a men’s sports biopic. Melissa Leo stole the show as the chain-smoking mother – manager Alice Ecklund- Ward who was still reeling under the faded success of her elder son. The withered townie look, enveloped in a perpetual curtain of smoke, speaking with a hiss in a raspy tone paved her way to the spotlight in every scene and led on ultimately to the Oscars which she won without a fuss.
2. Mo’Nique, ‘Precious’ (2010)
In one of the most humane roles in a tear inducing movie, comedy veteran Mo’Nique was strangely terrifying in a soul jarring performance as the sadistic, vile and abusive mother Mary Lee Johnston. The emotional jolt she provided during her monologue ‘who was gonna love me?’ remains one of the most haunting scenes ever. One of the most powerful performances of modern cinema, Mo’Nique received every single award out there for the grabs and after such a performance, who could argue?
1. Patricia Arquette, ‘Boyhood’ (2015)
In a life role as a single mother, Patricia Arquette puts in a selfless performance, painting a gritty and sobering portrait of motherhood. The aging was natural, not only physically but the mental growth was evident. The struggle was true and so was every bit of the emotional war raging in her. The best performance in this category for sure, Patricia Arquette was the shining star in this masterpiece of a movie.