Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Fifties for 2012: Best Supporting Actress

Some more great acting from the earlier part of the year.  My fifth choice involves a role so modest  that neither the film's publicity materials, its trailer, nor the long arm of Google Image furnishes a single shot of the actress in character.  In truth, she's already lost her spot to a performance I've subsequently seen from this year, but all the more reason to celebrate this selfless turn!

Best Supporting Actress
Carmen Ejogo for Sparkle, for reinvesting such nuance, glamor, and depth in the stock role of the swishy-hipped fallen angel, and for that dinner-table confrontation;

Louise Harris for The Snowtown Murders, for shading this unnerving, heartbreaking turn as a blind-eyed mom with expert skill, while maintaining an amateur's unfakeable transparency;

Diane Kruger for Farewell, My Queen, for giving this charismatic queen a reflex narcissism that's barely conscious of itself, while endowing her, too, with an astonishing delicacy;

Noémie Lvovsky for Farewell, My Queen, for her subtleties in the semi-backgrounded mezzo role of the lady in waiting, making her as fascinating as the women she summons or attends; and

Elizabeth Marvel for The Bourne Legacy, for her invaluable role in one of those ambiguously sinister encounters at which this film excels, cutting through the scene like dark glass.

Honorable mentions do not, for the record, include Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises, Amy Adams in The Master, Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz, or Samantha Morton in Cosmopolis, all of whom attracted their passionate devotees.  I found the first two intriguing but inconsistent, never dispelling my sense of the laudably ambitious performers being miscast; the other two make an impression without, by my count, having all that much to do.  This hasn't been a banner category so far this year, which might make the Oscars interesting.  I quite liked Rachel Weisz in The Bourne Legacy, balancing the game and the haughty sides of her persona better than most of her roles since Constant Gardener. I wanted to spend more time with her, as I did the bayou teacher and the ambivalent birthday girl that Gina Montana and Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal sketch so briefly but memorably in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Oslo, August 31st, respectively. MyAnna Buring sure made the most of a potentially abrasive or unmemorable part in Kill List. In a different generic universe, the uproarious Kathryn Hahn and Michaela Watkins are magicians with their punchline characters in Wanderlust.  One of those ladies would qualify here with just another showcase scene or a slightly elevated degree of difficulty.

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Blogger James T said...

I haven't watched many (any?) movies this year so your picks work even more as rec's than usual.

Looking forward to watching The Snowtown Murders and Farewell, My Queen. I am a little afraid of the former but I'll try to be strong.

I'm also thinking about watching Sparkle if only for that dinner scene you mention here and in the podcast. (I hope I don't get too sad watching Whitney..)

11:36 AM, October 03, 2012  
Anonymous BVR said...

The only one that crosses into my list is Diane Kruger for Farewell, My Queen. I'm interested to know what you thought of the ladies in Magic Mike--Cody Horn and Olivia Munn--especially Munn, who I thought needed a little bit more to do in that crucial last encounter with Tatum to really drive her performance home, but who I still think nevertheless nails a key role in Mike's awakening. Also, Anais Demoustier, who was an honoree in your 2004 awards, is brilliant in the Juliette Binoche movie "Elles." And I thought that Weisz was much better in Bourne Legacy than her most praised turn in The Deep Blue Sea

11:40 AM, October 03, 2012  
Anonymous The Man With No Name said...

I LOVE that you mentioned Elizabeth Marvel, since she was so creepy and unsettling from the moment she appeared and only got more so as the scene progressed. I *would* like to know what you thought of Whitney Houston in Sparkle. Carmen Ejogo was clearly best in show, but Houston's performance grew on me with subsequent viewings. Have you seen the original? I thought Ejogo improved on Lonette McKee's performance. Her acting was a bit one-note, but her singing/stage presence was sort of electrifying. Mary Alice is Mary Alice, though, and Houston had her work cut out for her. Alice had less to do, but used her knack for making an indelible impression in only a few minutes to great effect. See The Women of Brewster Place for another example of this talent of hers at work.

4:59 PM, October 03, 2012  
Anonymous The Man With No Name said...

By the way, I was referring to McKee's performance in the sentence following the one in which I compare the two portrayals of Sister.

5:10 PM, October 03, 2012  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

so good to have you writing online again. so glad i bugged you about Farewell My Queen.

i want to say that I recently watched WANDERLUST because of your comments about it and though I didn't much like it (felt very much like the actors goofing off and the movie not being controlled by anyone) i absolutely 100% loved the two ladies you mention, particularly Michaela Watkins who was so great at barely conscious confessional . so so funny.

9:21 PM, October 03, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@James: Be afraid of Snowtown. Straight truth, I had a hard time sitting in front of it, despite my admiration for its craftsmanship, seriousness, and intelligence. It's really tough stuff, but really well made.

@BVR: I have Elles rented from Amazon Instant and am eager to see it. I liked Munn almost enough for an Honorable Mention; you've put your finger right on my reservation about the performance. And I completely agree about Weisz.

@No Name: Another Marvel fan! I need to watch Sparkle as context for an essay I wrote about another Lonette McKee movie, but I haven't made it happen yet. I do love Mary Alice. To Sleep with Anger? I'll Fly Away? Shoot. I thought Whitney got the job done perfectly well in Sparkle, even when the part didn't need quite as much Diva hauteur as she brought to it, or when you could tell she was still getting the hang of the camera. Still, good stuff. Sad.

@Nathaniel: I should check YouTube to see if anyone's made an all-Watkins clipreel. I feel exactly the same way about the movie as you do, but you put it better. I don't want to rent it again for those reasons, but I'm dying to see MW again, and to hear Hahn say to Aniston in the truth circle, "I'm not just going to sit here while you spew your lies!"

10:17 PM, October 03, 2012  
Anonymous Mike M. said...

"Honorable mentions do not, for the record, include Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises, Amy Adams in The Master..."

Am completely baffled by the fact that these actresses are so celebrated.I feel validated by your suggestion that, contrary to popular belief, they are not without their limitations.

9:11 AM, October 04, 2012  
Blogger Shtajner said...

If you think Kathryn Hahn is good in Wanderlust (which I also do), then you should definitely see her episodes in Parks and Recreation! She's a knockout!

6:19 PM, October 04, 2012  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

As you say, not a vintage selection, but I'm sure Louise Harris would still crack my list against far tougher competition. So, so pleased that you included her.

I might have found room for Megalyn Echikunwoke in Damsels in Distress -- kind of one-joke part, sure, but I thought she socked it anyway, wringing a laugh from me with pretty much every line reading. And I do think Juno Temple is remarkable in Killer Joe, though I get why you'd disagree.

Also, I second BVR's vote for Olivia Munn, who struck me even more on a second viewing. That restaurant scene is just terrific -- from Tatum, too.

7:44 AM, October 05, 2012  
Blogger Such-Fun said...

Wow, we match in some areas :D So glad I'm not the only one behind Gina Montana and Kruger :D

10:14 PM, February 04, 2013  

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