Oscar Spitballing: Best Supporting Actress 2009

This Oscar season is promising a telecast with surprises that the awards themselves might not necessarily deliver. Slumdog Millionaire is the odds-on favorite to take Best Director and Best Picture, the ghost of Heath Ledger has Best Supporting Actor sewn up, and it’s Kate Winslet’s turn at Best Actress.

Best Supporting Actress, however, is still somewhat up in the air. Penelope Cruz seems to be the current pick, but anything can happen here. Let’s take a closer look.

Viola Davis, Doubt
She gave a very strong performance as a conflicted mother trapped in an awful family situation, but she only had one real scene, and although the Academy has awarded that before, it’s not likely in the cards here. Sure, she’s in an actor’s movie, it’s not that great a movie overall. She’ll split the Doubt vote with Amy Adams, and there won’t be that much of a Doubt vote to split.

Amy Adams, Doubt
She’s very sweet and innocent as the nun who doubts herself and everyone around her despite her desire to believe the best of people. Yet, see above, and we can also wonder if some of the older Academy members will continue to mistake her for “that Shopaholic girl.”

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sure, Benjy Butts got the most nominations out of anyone, but since then there’s been a significant ‘god, that was long and boring’ sentiment building against it. Certainly nothing to do with Henson, who is the most emotionally demonstrative character in the film. It’s certainly the most “Oscary” film, but the Supporting categories are where the Academy generally honors the more daring cinematic efforts. Henson is a smart actress with the right sensibilities, though. There’s a good chance she’ll be back here.

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
This is an actor’s film even more than Doubt, and Tomei is fearless, unglamorous and gritty in a great performance, but ultimately it’s a film about professional wrestling, and the Academy probably considers it a magnanimous gesture that it even got nominated. Bruce Freaking Springsteen wrote a song for it, and even the Boss didn’t get nominated. Pro wrestling gets no respect, even though its stars should probably be in SAG. Then again, when the programming routinely features ‘lingerie pillow fight matches,’ it becomes harder to make a case that it deserves respect – at least in the eyes of Oscar voters.

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
She’s got Woody Allen cred, she’s been here before, and she’s speaking in English a lot this time. They wouldn’t give her Best Actress for a movie with a Spanish title, but it’s seeming ever more likely that they’ll hand her the trophy for this role, as a passionate, abrasive and occasionally suicidal artist in a strange and volatile three-way relationship with Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson. It’s kooky, it’s sexy and she steals the movie. The only knock is that maybe the movie itself is a little too light, but there’s likely enough pathos to put her over the top.

Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz
Who Should Win: Marisa Tomei

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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