THE CONTENDERS: The Supporting Actress

ON

I’ve been wrong about so many things this year. Like Kong raking in $100 mil its opening weekend, coasting to a $330 million dollar haul. Like Memoirs of a Geisha and Munich being locks for Best Picture nominations. The Yankees would win 110 games and catch themselves another ring. Larry Brown leaving the Pistons would be great for both Detroit and New York. I would look better if I started clean-shaving again. Bloc Party was going to be the next Coldplay. USC was going to handle Texas.

Remember that guy, Eddie “Mush” in A Bronx Tale? The guy whose luck was so bad that when he placed a bet on the horses the counter would give him his ticket already ripped up? That’s me, I’m Mush. I’m Matthew McConaughey in the second half of the abysmal Two For The Money, except I probably look more like Frankie “Coffeecake”.

See, if this was 6 months ago, I would have told you in my most arrogant fashion that Renée Zellweger would be a lock for a nomination in either the Best Supporting or Best Actress category – depending on how hot the competition was – for Cinderella Man. Well, the competition isn’t so hot in the Best Actress race and still no one is talking about her. Not even in the supporting category.

6 months ago, as I awaited Elizabethtown‘s release, I was sniffing a nomination around Susan Sarandon‘s role. Li Gong‘s role as Ziyi Zhang‘s vindictive tormentor in Geisha? Bank on it. Diane Keaton in The Family Stone sounded like sentimental Oscar bait. Hell, some nut-job who wrote under my name a few weeks ago declared Syriana‘s George Clooney would be nominated Best Actor!

What? Am I, freaking nuts?

No, it’s the Oscars and the more you think about those what-ifs, the less sense things seem to make. You start rounding those roles and performers in your head, that stereotypical image of Academy voters and you undergo the ultimate folly: You try to think how a collective entity that is “The Academy” votes, thinks, feels. You say “They wouldn’t do that!” “They can’t do that!” “They would not dare do that!” “Oh, that is just so like them to do that!” They are the Borg. Resistance is futile and all that jazz. But dammit I am going to prognosticate anyway.

As far as I’m concerned, the best performance I saw this year by any actress, supporting or lead, was Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener (with the possible exception of Carla Gugino‘s breasts in Sin City). Does the Academy agree with me? Enough that she will be nominated. I’m going to give you my guarantee on this one. Hunt me down if you like… I’m listed.

Which kind of brings me to my next pick: Maria Bello gets nominated for her great work in A History of Violence. Yes, seeing her in that cheerleader outfit may have intoxicated my line of thinking, but I think there is enough buzz over the movie to say I’m justified. Hell, the Globes saw fit to nominate her for the Best Actress category (which, as I mentioned in my Best Actress column, is a real possibility).

I never considered her a serious contender, but I did think Sandra Bullock would have gotten a little more talk for her atypical work in Crash. I thought Anne Hathaway was surprisingly good in Brokeback Mountain, but nobody is really talking her up either. I didn’t see In Her Shoes, I just couldn’t do it. Was Shirley MacLaine really that good? The word is that she was, but the lack of a SAG nomination is a little interesting. Maybe between In Her Shoes and her scene-stealing work in Rumor Has It…, she knocks herself out.

On the other hand, Frances McDormand was nominated for both a SAG and a Globe. I liked her in North Country, but thought the role, as written, was a little forced. But she’s very good in the movie and the Academy loves her. She’d have to be my third pick.

Meanwhile, one of the Brokeback girls is getting nominated. Michelle Williams, so emotionally gripping as Heath Ledger‘s beard, seems like she is primed after her SAG and Globe nominations. She’s my fourth pick.

Laura Linney isn’t getting enough talk for The Squid and The Whale for her to be a real contender right now. The SAG’s just nominated Catherine Keener for her work in Capote. She’s very strong in it, but if you ask me, her best performance of the year was in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Now how cool would that nomination be? Yeah, won’t happen.

Let’s talk about some other things that won’t happen that I’d love to see: Isla Fisher getting nominated for Wedding Crashers. How do you not get upstaged by Vince Vaughn in that movie? By being completely and utterly insane. I fell in love with Rachel McAdams, but Fisher was a riot in that movie. My other off-the-wall choice would be the sexy and very fun Michelle Monaghan in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, one of the great pieces of entertainment nobody saw this year. Both actresses were stuck playing “the girl” but they added some real personality didn’t they? I’d also throw in some love for Sarandon in Elizabethown because that movie just got shitted on undeservedly. I mean the entire film critic community lifted the lid, dropped their drawers and just laid log. And you know what, I didn’t care for Memoirs of a Geisha all that much either, but Li Gong was pretty damn good.

Amy Adams for Junebug was going to be my pick for the fifth slot; seems like the kind of role and movie “The Academy” considers but after McDormand grabbed the SAG nomination as well, I just can’t see Frances being ignored. And no way she’s bumping Match Point‘s Scarlet Johansson from the five nominees. Right? Right.

I’m not even going to begin to guess who actually wins this thing. Historically, the Best Supporting Actress category is one tough pickle to predict. Hell, I’m having enough trouble trying to tap the nominations.