the nominees for best supporting actress are:
amy adams, the fighter
helena bonham carter, the king's speech
melissa leo, the fighter
hailee steinfeld, true grit
jacki weaver, animal kingdom
i wanted to start with my favorite category this year: best supporting actress. this category has always provided some of the biggest surprises and upsets in oscar history. marisa tomei over judy davis. anna paquin over winona ryder and rosie perez. juliette binoche over lauren bacall in what looked like a certain lifetime achievement win.
but this year..... best supporting actress seems almost a lock.
all signs point to a melissa leo running away with the award for her frenetic turn as alice, the controlling and not-so-lovable mother in the fighter. she has won several major critics awards including the new york film critics and the broadcast film critics (or critic's choice award). most recently she's won the golden globe and the screen actor's guild.
she even has a previous nomination under her belt in the best actress category for 2009's frozen river. and academy members love to vote for nominees when they feel have earned their win by having one or two prior nods.
so how could she not win when all momentum seems behind her.....?
well, supporting actress could easily offer another upset this year. how is this possible, you ask? well, there's a lot of talk about another potential upset due to...... splitting the vote.
the one individual who does not seem to be in this discussion is aussie, jacki weaver. her janine is a slow burn through much of animal kingdom but she really turns out a brilliant and terrifying performance if you stick with it and truly understand everything her characters has done by the end of the film. but despite a couple of very high-level critic's wins (including the LA film critics) the film was not widely seen and her character does fly under the radar for most of the movie.
but let's looks at how vote splitting could work.
there's helena bonham carter. could vote splitting between two nominees from the same movie, combined with the momentum of the king's speech, carry her to victory? it's possible. carter does have a prior nomination for 1997's wings of the dove (best actress) and she is the stoic weight of the king's speech. and there's always this: the academy loves the supportive spouse.
amy adams could win if steinfeld and leo, the two contenders seen as the most likely winners, split academy votes. and adams does have a track record with the academy and gives a very solid performance in the fighter.... most importantly stretching her acting chops with a character outside her normal cute and naive range.
but adams and leo could also split the fighter votes which might lead to steinfeld winning for her magnificent debut performance in true grit. steinfeld could join the likes of tatum o'neal and anna paquin..... two young actresses who appear in every scene of a movie (or nearly every) but are relegated to the supporting ranks because of their age. the lead-ness of their performances also help bolster their potential win.
i would also argue that steinfeld deserves the win. she delivers a nuanced and understated performance far beyond her years. at fourteen, she could become one of the youngest oscar winners in the 83 year history of the awards.
(for trivia lovers: 10 year old tatum o'neal remains the youngest winner for her 1973 best supporting actress win for paper moon. the aforementioned paquin comes in second at 11 years old for her supporting win in 1993's the piano.)
steinfeld's performance is not as showy and leo seems to have all the momentum heading into the oscars..... but look for a very potential upset here. however, my gut tells me all signs point to one eventual winner. so.....
will win: melissa leo, the fighter
should win: hailee steinfeld, true grit