Sunday, August 15, 2010

2009 Honorees: Best Supporting Actress



CLAUDIA CELEDÓN for The Maid, who lacks critical distance on the full scale of her privilege, but her inchoate feelings for her maid surpass mere sympathy or cluelessness;

VERA FARMIGA for Up in the Air, because she exudes a palpable shift in thought every three seconds, while still being sexy and sporting, and still keeping mysteries at bay;

MARCIA GAY HARDEN for Whip It, whose sense of family ties, rejection of the unfamiliar, fondness for old-school femininity, and secret rebellious streak all feel so real;

MIMI KENNEDY for In the Loop, because she evokes genuine outrage, avoids the lazy ballbreaker route, and is so sharply comic with relatively few boldfaced character notes; and

MO'NIQUE for Precious, who lacks polish but emits profound commitment, blazing with anger, self-pity, and illness, forcing us to feel the lethal stakes of this story.

Extremely honorable mentions to Rona Lipaz-Michael, who is almost as gripping an observer-reactor to Hiam Abbass in Lemon Tree as Celedón is to Saavedra in The Maid; and to two secret weapons of the Mumblecore-ish set, Alycia Delmore's patient but exasperated girlfriend in Humpday and Katy O'Connor, the spacy, occasionally tearful store clerk in Beeswax, who wears her liberal bleeding heart on her thrift-store sleeve.

Next tier down, though "down" is hardly the right word, were Mariah Carey's weary, candid, but ultimately overchallenged social worker in Precious, Naturi Naughton's commanding Lil' Kim in Notorious, the deftly comic character work of Anna Chlumsky in In the Loop, the chilly, death's door maternity of Edith Scob in Summer Hours, and Hope Olaide Wilson's impressive spin on the stock role of the tough, abandoned older sister marooned on some unlucky relative's front door, this time in Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

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23 Comments:

Blogger Brook Brooks said...

I was so excited to see this list, and I'm excited to see two of my favourites up on this list. Mo'Nique, obviously and even moreso, Mimi Kennedy. I also have a strong affection for Vera Farmiga's performance, even if I kind of loathed the film.

Mimi Kennedy's work is genius because she's the first character that really hints at the stakes here, her line-reading of "You have no basis for saying that." is perfect; she's practically swallowing down the rage and hurt by the end. Oh, and she's also hilarious.

My personal picks were:

Mo'Nique, Precious.
Mimi Kennedy, In the Loop.
Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds.
Rosamund Pike, An Education.
Edith Scob, Summer Hours.

I'm interested as to what you think of Kruger and Pike, who I both thought did well despite overwritten and underwritten roles respectively!

1:00 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Glenn said...

Interesting! The inclusion of Kennedy is lovely, I thought I was the only one who thought she was best in show (or, maybe you don't think she is, but she's certainly excellent). The Mariah mention was predictable yet fabulous!

My personal picks were:

Marion Cotillard, Nine
Hae-sook Kim, Thirst
Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Lucky Country
Mo'Nique, Precious

With honourables going to Cruz, Pike, Lewis, Farmiga and Aniston.

1:37 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Catalina Saavedra was my performance of the year (that's right, I preferred her to Tilda), so I didn't much notice the surrounding actors, but you might have a point about Celedon.

Farmiga and Mo'nique would go on my ballot too for precisely the reasons you mention. As would Marion Cotillard, Samantha Morton (the exuding-palpable-shift-every-three-seconds note applies here two-fold - I suppose that makes it every 1.5 seconds) and Julianne Moore (much as I disliked Single Man, the actors clearly left an impression - Moore was broad and shaky-accented but appropriately Fabulous).

Alycia Delmore would be sixth in line, and in a Top 10, I'd find room for Mariah Carey, Harden and Katy O'Connor (Beeswax is another case where I preferred the ensemble to the movie - though it was a much more worthwhile movie than Single Man). A great year for Supporting Actresses (but then what year isn't).

I just can't get behind In the Loop though. I kinda loved it but my love for it was resolutely tv-sized. I thought all of the actors were note-perfect, but none of them particularly inspired.

1:45 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Ooh, two Kruger fans. She was obviously having a ball being in a Tarantino movie, and that fun was generally contagious to me. Her exhausted condescension about the monolingualism of Americans was great. But she still doesn't strike me as much of an actress, not in any detailed or technical way: she gets through the bulk of that scene where Pitt is poking the bullethole in her leg (an admittedly awful scene) via some pretty amateur Owwwwws and Yikessss, and often looks visibly like she's rehearsing. Wanted her to do more in the scene where she arrives to the gala and is immediately found out, or to show us even earlier that she knows no plan is ever going to work out if it involves these ding-dongs. QT's style doesn't always ask for a lot of actorly digging, but that doesn't mean you can't still give him some.

I enjoyed Pike and certainly thought she saved the role from what it must look like on paper, but she's powerless to do it in a way that fully escapes the built-in problem that Helen is borderline autistic. One thing not to speak French, another not to know what a foreign language is. She very wittily managed not to look demeaned by this role, but it's not a good enough part to be great in, and she sometimes does play with the grain of its innate wrongheadedness. But not always. I did like her, but just clarifying why I didn't flip.

Glenn, Mimi Kennedy almost certainly is my "best in show" for In the Loop, which is saying something.

1:49 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Goran: Hey, given how many strong contenders were out there, that's an awful lot of agreeing between the two of us! Glad to see Delmore, Harden, Carey, O'Connor, and so many others making inroads into your roster, and glad for the semi-seconding of my motion re: Celedón. I though Cotillard, Morton, and Moore all had very strong moments (in that order).

1:52 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Of the movies represented here, I've only seen Precious and Whip It, and I confess that — while both roles were meaty, with their performers taking huge strides to redeeming them — I couldn't get past the built-in drawbacks of Mo'Nique's or Harden's roles, structured to caricature them early on, and only deepen them afterwards in late-breaking speeches. In both movies, I was far more taken by the smaller, lightning-smart impressions made by Xosha Roquemore and Juliette Lewis; and especially the former, who holds the camera effortlessly even when she isn't its focus, and commits to her approach of devil-may-care flippancy even where other actresses might deem it inappropriate, as when she breezes past Precious' baby and then giggles at its blood-soaked blanket.

2:16 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Andrew Rech said...

I've been looking forward to these picks and it's definitely been worth it! I haven't yet seen The Maid or In the Loop (But I will very soon) but I love what I have seen that made your ballot and your runner ups. I loved Edith Scob's steely, and guarded loneliness. That final shot of her lingered with me for days. I also agree on Katy O'Connor. She kept me second guessing her, every barely concealed nervous looking glance made me keep an eye on her wondering if her earnest liberal sincerity was a mask for other things. And Marcia Gay Harden provided the finishing touch on the very warm and delightful Whip It! That final moment with her brought a watery smile to my face.

I don't think I ever quite finalized what I would have voted for but I think my ballot would have looked like this.

Mo'Nique - Precious
Julianne Moore - A Single Man
Marion Cotillard - Public Enemies/Nine
Kerry Fox - Bright Star
Marcia Gay Harden - Whip It!

I loved the messy tangy-ness Moore brought to A Single Man, and that goodbye kills me. I couldn't decide whether I loved the fragile and slightly quirky warmth and heartbreak of Cotillard in Public Enemies, or her broken and damaged assault in Nine. And Kerry Fox's knowing, but cliché breaking portrait of a watchful and loving mother.

I echo everything you said about Farmiga, I might switch her in with Washington on another day. And my other finalists would have consisted of Juliette Lewis in Whip It! giving the gift of a weary but fiery rival, both Scob and Binoche in Summer Hours, Kendrick in Up in the Air (Divisive I know but it works for me) Cruz in Nine, Kruger for Inglourious Basterds, and Olivia Williams for An Education for similar reasons that I loved Kerry Fox in Bright Star- I know Pike has many new found fans because of her work in the same film, but maybe I just don't see that much to love? Above what she's given but I can't say she was especially award worthy.

Really must check out The Messenger soon, need to see how Samantha Morton is.

2:25 AM, August 15, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

Another wonderful list, though I'd be inclined to swap two of your picks for co-stars. Hard to land on a performance that isn't ace in In the Loop, but I think I'd hover nearer Gina McKee than Kennedy -- interesting that you've demoted the latter from lead, where I seem to remember you placed her last year. Have you changed your mind on the performance's status, or is this just a cunning way of squeezing her in somewhere? As for Celedón, great that you've singled her out, but I think I liked Mariana Loyolo even more in the film.

Our one overlap is the unavoidable Mo'Nique, and I already knew we were on the same page regarding Delmore, who made my five. I know where you stand on two of my other nominees -- Pike and Cotillard (for Public Enemies, not Nine) -- but would be interested to hear your thoughts on my fifth, Nicole Dogué in 35 Shots of Rum, who might well have won my prize had Hurricane 'Nique not come along.

4:05 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Shtajner said...

"You have no basis for saying that!" I mean, Mariah Carey??? I just didn't like her and I think I couldn't get to like her even if you put the gun in my mouth! I foung Marcia Gay-Harden quite solid (actually glad she didn't make a caricature of her character), but this year was full of great supporting work, so I couldn't include her even on my Honorable mentions list.

So these are my choices:

*Edith Scob in Summer Hours - the easy winner, I could cry just seeing her face when the family left, and how spectacularly she recieved those presents and then turned the happy day into torturing session of giving instructions to her oldest son,
Rosamund Pike in An Education - I didn't think that I could like such an ignorant character that much,
Mo’Nique in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - was it really in November when I discovered this loving mother, or perhaps in summer (???),
Lorna Raver in Drag Me to Hell - oh, that witch!, the pronounciation of her own name is so haunting,
Mimi Kennedy in In the Loop - all I can say is - The Maestro!

Really, guys, why did you all forget about Lorna Raver and her magnificent turn? She was just amazing! (unlike the rest of the actors in Drag Me to Hell, the film I also didn't like)

Extreme honourable mentions:

Maria Esmeralda del Carmen in Mammoth - very subtle and charming,
Alycia Delmore in Humpday - so easy and so affecting,
Gina McKee in In the Loop - oh my God, how could she put up with those insults so easy and so funny!!!

Honourable mentions go to:
Judi Dench in Nine - the best in show, including that cabaret scene everyone seems to dislike,
Susi Sanchez in The Milk of Sorrow - it's so easy to play with your employees, she knows that!,
Anna Chlumsky in In the Loop
Emily Blunt in Sunshine Cleaning
Diane Kruger in Inglorious Basterds
Juliette Binoche in Summer Hours
Susanne Lothar in The White Ribbon
Isabella Rossellini in Two Lovers
Jennifer Aniston in He’s just not that into You
Blanca Portillo in Broken Embraces
Maggie Gyllehaal in Away We Go
Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air
Michelle Valley in Dogtooth
Lisa Gay Hamilton in The Soloist.

And I actually think I could add probably about 8 performances and make it a very worthy list of 30 performances! So worthy I could start writing the book about them (and it would be the small book)! I sure hope that 2010 will be even better!

6:21 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Farmiga would have been my vote had I been an AMPAS member. A wonderfully nuanced performance, although I did admire Kendrick as well (although the crying-in-the-hotel scene was probably the only reason she was invited to the Kodak).

Probably would have put McKee on for In the Loop as well as Pike for An Education in favour of the two nominees I didn't see (Harden, who's probably brilliant anyway, and Celedon).

6:35 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger tim r said...

Adore this list and completely get the virtues of everyone on it (except Celedon, but only because I haven't seen her yet). Include me in too on the love for Raver, Scob and Dogué. I had both mums from Nowhere Boy on mine, but presumably that hasn't reached you yet? I think KST is as splendid as you'd expect, and Anne-Marie Duff a complete revelation. Agreed that Pike does just about the best she can, but has her hands tied by the sniggery condescension of Hornby's script towards her character. And Kruger is game and likeable without being all that skilful.

7:04 AM, August 15, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

Oh, let me second Tim's endorsement of the Nowhere Boy ladies -- had I not been playing by Oscar-eligibility rules, Kristin Scott Thomas would totally have been on my list, probably displacing Marion. As it stands, both she and Duff are still perched on my 2010 ballot.

7:44 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin: Fair points, and I maybe ought to have included Lewis and Roquemore as Honorable Mentions. I disagree, though, that Harden and Mo'Nique were only playing characters until the ends of their movies. That shopping trip to Austin that MGH takes with her daughters is the first sign we get that she acts against her own instincts out of maternal adoration, and yet it's clear in many scenes that her maternal role doesn't define her, and nor does her investment in the debutante ball. I think she gives the Mom a real point of view. Mo'Nique certainly wouldn't be here without her final scene, and even at that my review of Precious lingered on my ambivalence about what she's doing. But I do think she's a robust performer, and the earlier at-home visit from the social worker or the instant rejection of whatever an "alternative school" is were early high-points of the turn.

@Andrew: I like most of your picks, too, even though I can't quite get behind Williams or Moore and really struggled with Kendrick. Very glad to see the Kerry Fox mention, and to see that someone else remembers Katy O'Connor fondly.

@Guy: The fact that I couldn't immediately remember whether Loyola was the maid who wrestles, the maid who from the end, or the angry daughter, but that each of those endorsements seemed plausible to me, shows just how much good actressing is going on in The Maid. On rewatch, I decided Kennedy made more sense in Supporting, though it still seems like a close enough call. I liked Dogue okay, but like almost everything about 35 Shots I'd like to dial her work up just a little bit... and I think Denis's filmmaking is really what "makes" almost everything in the movie, more than what's in the script or what the actors are doing.

9:35 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Shtajner: You made me laugh with your lead-in to that Carey dig, even though I still think she's a huge asset to Precious. For one, her reactions feel like the only thing in the film that keeps that climactic scene about Precious herself in any way, when the direction, lighting, and editing are all happily serving the scene up to the admittedly astounding Mo'Nique. But line readings like "You're gonna have to talk to somebody if you wantcher check, sweetie," "You know what I'm talking about," "Yes... that," and "But you allowed him to hurt her" still linger in the mind. I know people know that I'm a fan of her Other Life, but I honestly didn't expect to be so moved by what she did here. As for Raver, I did think she was spiffy, and you've got to hand it to her for being willing to go everywhere the film asked her to, including drooling all over her young co-star at close range, gumming her face, barfing up all that crud. But as good as she is, most of the impact she makes on me has to do with the role and with the filmmakers' presentation of her, more than her specific contribution as the actor. Not disputing that she's special in it, though.

@Jonathan: I think Farmiga probably would have gotten my vote, too, or else she would have been awfully close behind Mo'Nique.

9:42 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim and @Guy: No Nowhere Boy for American audiences till this fall, at which point I'll be running out to see what KST and AMD have got up to. Which is the only reason I'll be heading over, because I'm kind of completely immune to the Beatles or their mystique, and the movie doesn't sound altogether like my cuppa. But I think you both basically liked it, right? Anyway, as you both clocked, that's why they're not here.

9:46 AM, August 15, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

"Basically liked," with the emphasis on "basic," is about right. It's hard to actively dislike a film that thin, but the actressing is the only thing it really has going for it. (I speak as a dyed-in-the-wool Beatles fan, but if anything, I think that made me less predisposed to the film.)

It should be said that both ladies, good as they are, are immeasurably flattered by being placed opposite the dread Aaron Johnson throughout.

10:42 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Steve-o said...

Again, a great list. I'm always happy to see Whip It (one of my favorites of 2009) get some recognition, even if Harden's not the supporting actress I'd recognize from that cast (although she's certainly a runner up). My own list:

1. Mo'Nique - Precious - For reasons everyone else has mentioned, time and time again.

2. Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air - Ditto.

3. Julianne Moore - A Single Man - Because I'm obsessed. I get so excited when she actually shows up to bat, I act like she hits a grand slam even if it's a triple. But I also think she injects some real energy into this otherwise soulless film.

4. Diane Kruger - Inglourious Basterds - Because she's having fun, both as an actress and as her character. Charisma to spare (and where did that come from?).

5. Kristen Wiig - Whip It - Because she brings along her trademark Wiig-isms (I'm thinking specifically about her "crabs" comments), but shows off some real talent that feels fresh and natural. Her "maternal moment" with Page in the high school parking lot is a real winner.

10:54 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Nick: I should really find the time to more fully write up my thoughts on Whip It before mid-Sept rolls around, but I'll just note that I probably disagree with you on MGH less than my lumping her with Mo'Nique implies. I did appreciate that the movie lets us empathise with MGH's character without forcing her into a turnaround for Bliss' choice, and MGH does make smart choices to complicate her before her third act scenes. (I like the insinuation, for example, that pageantry for her isn't all that different from roller derby for Bliss.) But I'm still piqued that the film's central narrative pivot essentially forces us into a dichotomy between the derby and the pageant, which reinforces the daughter/mother and relaxed dad/disapproving mum divide. And casting-wise, I find Page's and MGH's physical features to contribute to this problem as well.

As for Mo'Nique... I guess I'm resigned to feeling alienated about her the way I do about Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream. Both have deeply affecting Oscar monologues, and some inspired comic moments (like when Mo'Nique goes "Uh oh" when Little Mongo drops her candy on the floor, or Burstyn's "That's orange" or reactions to food). But with Mo'Nique especially, I find that her film plows her into garishly surreal raging fits that, to be fair, work on a pantomime-y, social-theatre kinda level. But it doesn't jive with the more realist approach I'm expecting, especially with Sidibe doing such quietly affecting work — I'm thinking of that early tirade of Mary Jones' where Precious is standing atop the stairs, her chest heaving with the weight of Jones' insults — and with the divide that I thought Lee Daniel was attempting to draw between Precious' Fantasy Mary Jones and her Realer self.

12:07 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Shtajner said...

@Nick: I just saw the Dogtooth for the second time (and the grade is A, of course, again) and as I found I liked Hristos Passalis (the son) even more than the first time, I actually saw some real brilliance in Michelle Valley's performance (the mother). In the scene when she explains the meaning of the word "vagina" to her younger daughter, she reminded me of Tilda Swinton in Julia. The same facial expression, same affection as Tilda's when she had to explain to the young boy that his father loved him; I actually felt like I was looking at Tilda giving another one of her master-classes in acting! And the scene when she only opens her mouth to say that she's sorry for not spending more time with her children, and then starts to lick her husband... Oh my God!!! So now Michelle Valley climbed up on my list and has the status of extremely honourable mention!

And this means that it would be better for you to mention her on your 2010 Fifties list! If you don't, I'm affraid I'm going to have to find the way to make you laugh again! And I mean it!!!
(Remember Tracey Ullman's fantastic line: "Just kiddin', everyone! Hahahaha!" from Bullets Over Broadway???)

1:37 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

wonderful choices. i wish i had squeezed Mimi Kennedy or Diane Kruger in my list somehow but they were 6 and 7 respectively.

I agree that CELEDON was special in The Maid (but i like the whole cast) but i prefer LEWIS ever so slightly to GAY HARDEN in Whip It maybe because I was just so freaking glad to have her back in a real role with some bite again.

given what you've written and what you haven't i'm curious as to your feelings about these two performers:

SAMANTHA MORTON in The Messenger (who made my list, and i know you have been known to respond to her)

and CELIA WESTON in Observe and Report

I'm with Tim that KST and AMD are really special in Nowhere Boy but with Guy that nothing else is so personally i'm a little worried i overrated them. But both were so strong that I think i want to see it again despite the snoozeville of what's surrouding them.

3:50 PM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Daniel Smith said...

My ladies of 2009:
1- Anamaria Marinca, Storm
2- Marion Cotillard, Nine
3- Joan Chen, 24 City
4- Isabella Rossellini, Two Lovers
5- Mo'Nique, Precious

But also: Lu Liping, 24 City; Kirin Kiki, Still Walking; Edith Scob, Summer Hours; Vinessa Shaw, Two Lovers; Jillian Hennessy, Lymlife; Samantha Morton, The Messenger; Adriene Lenox, The Blind Side

It was a solid year for Supporting Actresses, unlike 2008, where, other than Julia Ormond in Kit Kittredge (and you're the only person I know who shares my feelings about that performance, Nick) and Juliet Stevenson in When Did You Last See Your Father, there wasn't anyone I felt truly passionate about.

3:55 PM, August 15, 2010  
Anonymous Mike said...

Wow! Great lineup; I’m always thrilled to see Farmiga over/ranked higher than Kendrick because the latter’s effortful performance is just NOT in the same league. Had the (richly deserved) Mo’Nique juggernaut been released a different year, I’d be fascinated to see which “Up In the Air” girl the Academy would have called to the stage. Sure, the media was rooting for Kendrick but I think Farmiga might’ve pulled it off in the end.

And while your taste is fairly impeccable, I do have one quibble Mr. Davis: the absence of MARION COTILLARD’s galvanizing portrayal of a wife both exhausted and scorned in “Nine”. I mean, just consider her achingly beautiful number “My Husband Makes Movies” (with those close-ups of her face affording us years of back-story viva those wounded, sparkling eyes) and of course her show-stopping, fiery rendition of “Take It All”—that sequence in particular showcasing Cotillard’s versatility and tonal dexterity; consider her line reading (and posture upon delivery); “Thank you… For reminding me I’m not special.” Vocally quiet but expressed with such exhausted rage simmering beneath. Compare this to her vocal delivery viva the inter-cut musical number where she ramps things up a bit but never once allows her delivery of those lacerating lyrics to render as histrionic. Add to that all her stellar, luminous moments in-between (spotting Guido’s mistress at dinner, berating him later in bed) and you have one of THE finest supporting performances by an actress this decade!

4:28 PM, August 15, 2010  
Anonymous Mike said...

My personal picks:

1.) Mo’Nique, “Precious”
2.) Marion Cotillard, “Nine”
3.) Vera Farmiga, “Up In the Air”
4.) Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
5.) Vera Farmiga, “Nothing But the Truth”

runner-ups:
6.) Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”
7.) Mariah Carey, “Precious”
8.) Rosamund Pike, “An Education”
9.) Marcia Gay Harden, “Whip It”
10.) Kristin Scott Thomas, “Easy Virtue”

4:42 PM, August 15, 2010  

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