February 27, 2014

OSCARLAND: Why and Why Not? – Best Supporting Actress


As we did with Best Supporting Actor and will do the rest of this week with the other major categories, this is a final look at the rationales behind and against each nominee’s likelihood of winning.  We’re assuming deserved merit for all, and we’re not going to count up precursor wins.  So, onward:



WHY:  Woody Allen’s direction has been a charm in this category:  9 previous nominations, 4 of them wins (2 by Dianne Wiest).  The chance of being swept along in the tidal wave of her co-star’s all-but-certain win.  A classy, consistent career.  

WHY NOT:  Even the nomination was something of a surprise.  Little recognition from US audiences.  Very much–literally–the little sister to her co-star’s character.  Not much campaigning.


WHY:  The first true “America’s Sweetheart” since Julia Roberts, and with her added action-superstar component, arguably the biggest woman movie star in history–at age 23.  Even with a supporting role in a celebrated ensemble, blew her co-stars away in the opinions of many.  A giant star who took a smallish role for the director who brought her last year’s Oscar.  Someone from the fully-nominated cast has to win.  This is the category where comedy roles aren’t poison (Marisa Tomei, Mercedes Ruehl, Whoopi Goldberg, plus Woody’s women).

WHY NOT:  Back-to-back wins are awfully tough.  At 23, she has decades ahead of her to pile up statuettes.  Off filming her next blockbusters, so unavailable for campaigning.  Isn’t life already too easy for her?

LUPITA NYONG’O, 12 Years A Slave

WHY:  The “It” Girl of this Oscar season.  The font of emotion in a largely stoic drama.  The lead female in the Best Picture favorite.  A great star-is-born story.  A treat on red carpets and at podiums since the campaign started last fall.  An instant fashion icon.  The category likes to celebrate young newcomers (Anna Paquin, Jennifer Hudson).

WHY NOT:  An impressive first major performance could be a fluke.  The film, difficult for many to watch, may not have any coattails to ride on.  The role was virtually unrelieved suffering.

JULIA ROBERTS, August: Osage County

WHY:  She’s Julia Roberts.  Standout in a massively talented ensemble.  A major star in a supporting role.  Showed willingness to play unlikable.

WHY NOT:  Already has her Oscar.  The movie was generally considered a major disappointment, with no nominations for Picture or even Adapted Script, and only moderate box office success.  Some think she bigfooted Margo Martindale out of a nomination when she decided to go Supporting.  Didn’t do much campaigning.


WHY:  The other kind of great Oscar story, a little-known veteran who finally gets a chance in the spotlight and makes the most of it.   The kind of scene-stealing role that sticks in voters’ memories.  Let’s face it, at age 84, very possibly her one and only chance to win.   A trouper on the campaign trail.  Academy members, especially older ones, would love to give something to the movie, and it probably won’t be one of the big prizes.

WHY NOT:  The competition is fierce.  The movie is one of the least financially successful Best Picture nominees.  The role is showy but lightweight compared to what the men get to play.  Oddly, the same issue as the 50-years-younger Nyong’o:  voters have seen her in very little else (too bad that Girls episode doesn’t air until Oscar night).


LUPITA NYONG’O.  Someone who wants back-to-back wins has to really fight for them, and Lawrence wasn’t around.

Also, you might want to read about the Best ActressBest Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Picture races.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."