The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1995

1995. Braveheart. Decent year, not a great year. Like Braveheart a lot, but, Best Picture? Not sure. Still a good choice based on the nominees, I think.

Mel Gibson wins Best Director for it — an easy (and good) decision based on the fact that DGA winner Ron Howard wasn’t nominated (talked about here). Nicolas Cage wins Best Actor for Leaving Las Vegas, which I love as a decision, as I explained here. Susan Sarandon wins Best Actress for Dead Man Walking, which I really don’t like as a decision (she should have won one, but not this year. Elisabeth Shue should have won). And Kevin Spacey wins Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects, which, aside from the whole lead/supporting thing, is an awesome decision.

So in all a pretty good year, capped off by this decision, which, despite my track record, I really love. A lot.


And the nominees were…

Joan Allen, Nixon

Kathleen Quinlan, Apollo 13

Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite

Mare Winningham, Georgia

Kate Winslet, Sense and Sensibility

Allen — I’m very outspoken about my love for Nixon. I think it’s one of Oliver Stone’s best films, which, is saying a lot, considering — JFK, Natural Born Killers, Platoon, Wall Street, Any Given Sunday, Salvador, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, W., The Doors, World Trade Center (plus he wrote or co-wrote Midnight Express and Scarface). Just so we’re clear, my favorite Stone films are: JFK, Any Given Sunday, then this, Natural Born Killers, Wall Street. And Born on the Fourth of July after that. Just so that’s out there. I like Platoon next, but, in the pantheon of Vietnam films, Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now take precedent for me. Plus, Stone has made so many good films, I don’t feel bad putting it that low. Because it’s not representative of the film’s quality at all.

Anyway, the film chronicles Nixon’s rise to power and subsequent fall from power, led by a tour de force performance by Anthony Hopkins. And Joan Allen plays his wife, who sticks by him through the whole thing because of their history together. At first she tells him she’s divorcing him, and this is early on, before he’s even president. Because she wants him to settle down with the family and stop being in politics. And he gets her to agree to stay with him through “one more campaign.” Which turns into — well, you know. And she stands by him through it all.

Allen plays the character perfectly. You see exactly why she wants to leave him and why she stays with him. You also completely get why she’s the only woman (hell, the only person) in the world who Nixon would listen to. Allen was always good at playing strong characters, and this was one of her strongest. Really, she absolutely deserved this Oscar, and, she didn’t win because — understandably — Mira Sorvino was so fucking likable in her movie.

Quinlan — Yeah, this is that “support” nomination I keep telling you about. The one where, when the Academy likes a film, they look to give it at least one acting nomination. Well, this one got two, Ed Harris and this one. This one I see as more of the product of a relatively weak category. It really falls off past the strong first three. But, it’s all support for the film. I see it as, if they like it to be nominated for Best Picture, it needs an acting nomination. If it wants to win, more is better. And this one had a legit shot, so they gave it a second.

The film, as you should know, is about the mission to the moon that went wrong, and the men (and NASA) had to figure out a way to get them home, which involved slingshotting around the moon back toward earth. The whole thing is really great. It’s a fantastic movie that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Now, Quinlan plays Tom Hanks’s wife, who mostly exists to give them something to cut to that’s not NASA or the space shuttle. Time filler, is what I think. There’s really nothing of importance that happens with her character, it’s just one of those extra things you see in these 2 1/2 hour movies now to fill it out more. She gets an early scene with her husband, sees him off, sees all the shit going wrong, gets worried. That’s really about it. Then she gets to be happy when she hears he’s okay. That’s really all she does. She’s fine in the movie, and was never gonna win here, nor should she have. That’s about it.

Sorvino — Okay, right off the bat, let’s address the elephant in the room. This is a Woody Allen film. You know my history with those. It’s not favorable. I don’t like his movies. I just don’t. We accept that as a fact. However, some of them, I do tolerate favorably or even like. Those include (and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve yet to see the early comedies. I’m saving them for last as sort of a light at the end of the tunnel) Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors (only the Alan Alda half. The other half bored me to tears), Bullets over Broadway, Sweet and Lowdown (mostly for Samantha Morton’s performance), Small Time Crooks, Whatever Works, and this. I’ll also state that the ones I actually legit like like, and not just think, “Well, these aren’t so bad,” are Small Time Crooks, Whatever Works (the plot is for shit, but Larry David is fucking great in the part), most of Annie Hall, and this one. I fucking loved this one.

The reason I mostly loved this one is because of Mira Sorvino. The film begins with a Greek chorus. Yes, a chorus. Allen is pretty open about using the styles he likes best (ever see Interiors?). They pretty much narrate the film, and, in typical Woody Allen fashion, he communicates directly with them at one point. The film is about Allen as a sportswriter (but his career doesn’t matter in these films, does it?) who is married to Helena Bonham Carter. They adopt a child (since she can’t get pregnant because of her job) and raise it. After a few years, Allen is curious to find out who the biological parents of the kid are, because he turned out to be so intelligent. Eventually, he finds the boy’s mother — Mira Sorvino.

She plays a prostitute (and sometimes porn star). Allen tries to talk to her, but the only way to do that is to make an appointment with her. So the first meeting is him trying to talk to her and her trying to suck his dick. And she’s a real ditzy woman as well, which makes everything even more hilarious. She’s just not bright. But, she’s not bright in a charming and sincere way. She’s just not intelligent, and the sincerity is what makes the whole thing work. And Allen starts following her, and eventually she agrees to start talking to him, and they get to know one another, and he even gets her to quit her job (by having to bribe her pimp, who has been known to put people through glass windows). Then he tries setting her up with a guy who he thinks she’d like (the guy is just as dim as she is), but that doesn’t work out. And during all this, Helena Bonham Carter starts sleeping with her boss. And when Allen finds out about it, he sleeps with Sorvino, but then gets back with Carter, and Sorvino ends up with a deux ex machina, finding a perfect man for her to make a happy ending. And the joke at the end is, they meet up again in the last scene, and each has each other’s child, but they don’t know about it. Allen has her biological son, who he adopted, and Sorvino was pregnant with Allen’s child from when they slept together.

I really, really enjoyed this film. It seemed to work completely for me. The scenes of Allen and Sorvino are magic, and the scene with Allen having to go talk to the dangerous pimp is also great. I didn’t care so much about the rest of the movie around it — but that’s how Allen’s film’s always are with me. I like one part and the rest I ignore completely — but that one part was enough for me to love the film.

Sorvino totally deserved this Oscar. You just watch her performance and can see it. Also, she singlehandedly got me to like a Woody Allen film. That’s worthy in itself of a win.

Winningham — Yeah, this movie was not very good. This is probably — or definitely — one of the films I liked the least on this Quest. I just — I don’t know — wasn’t interested.

It’s about Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the younger sister of a successful country-ish singer. That’s Winningham. And we follow Leigh as she tries to be a singer, but mostly she travels around, doing backup work for people, doing drugs, and just being a mess. Then she shows up at one of her sister’s shows and stays with her. And her sister tries to get her to clean herself up, but she keeps just not doing it. And that’s really it. Leigh descends into more drugs, and there’s a sequence in the film that’s the centerpiece, where she performs a ten minute song in a single take — and that’s why I think a lot of people like the film. The raw performances in the musical numbers. Now, I get why they liked Leigh’s performance, but, I just didn’t care for any part of this film from top to bottom. It just wasn’t for me.

Winningham’s performance is — well, she’s there. She just kind of does nothing, but I think, because Leigh does so much, it seems like she’s doing something. But I just kind of saw her there. I really didn’t see anything in this performance. Maybe others did, but, for me, she’s a #5. Sorry, didn’t see it.

Winslet — And… Kate. Her first Oscar nomination, at age 20. I have a very love/hate relationship with this film. That is, I hate that so many people love it. It’s not that this is a bad film. It’s a standard period piece. My problem with it is — are people serious when they say it should have won Best Picture? But that’s an argument for another time. Now we’re dealing with Kate.

If you don’t know — I really don’t want to have to tell you — it’s a Jane Austen book. So, lots of marriage shit happens. I really don’t want to go into a synopsis. I had to read this fucking book, and it bored me to tears. Sisters, want to marry, shit happens, manners. Honestly, this book is like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” They want one thing, but they get what they need. I think. Fuck if I know. But this is a movie where it seems like there are only ten British actors. Seriously, if you’ve seen Harry Potter and Love, Actually and this film, you’ve seen the same twelve people in them all. But I digress.

Emma Thompson is the older sister who is kind of the boring one, threatening to be an old maid. And Kate is the younger sister who is headstrong and wild. And she does a good job with it. She’s exactly what the character is supposed to be. She performs the role well, and deserved the nomination. I’m not voting for her because I loved Mira Sorvino’s performance and because — it’s just too on the nose. I mean, really. Does this sound like something I would ever vote for?

My Thoughts: This category comes down to Mira Sorvino and Joan Allen. Kate would have made an interesting contender, but, her being my third choice and this being her first nomination, there was time for her to win. Plus lead was better than supporting. So it’s between Sorvino and Joan Allen. And Allen was also really good, but, I still say Sorvino was the best choice. She was so fucking good in this movie. She was hysterical and perfectly realized the character. She’s my vote all the way.

My Vote: Sorvino

Should Have Won: Sorvino, Allen

Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. Great decision. I mean, career-wise, yeah, Allen was a better choice, but, there’s a chance she’ll still win one of these days. I’m sticking with Mira as the best result.

Performances I suggest you see: Mighty Aprhodite is one of the few Woody Allen films I out and out like. That says a lot. Of all his films, this is one I actually can recommend and feel good about it. And also, Nixon is a fucking fantastic film. If you’re interested in history, presidents, government, Anthony Hopkins, Oliver Stone films, or tour de force performances, this is a film for you. And even if you just like movies, this movie is fucking incredible. Not as good as JFK overall, but just as great in a different way. This is about the performance. The other one was about the whole thing. The trial and the theory and just the construction of it all. This is just a one man show, with great supporting pieces. Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch that movie. And Apollo 13 is a fun fucking movie. You can just put that on and watch it almost any day of the week. And with my parents, who watch the same cycle of twelve films over and over whenever they’re on TV, I have watched this film many, many times. And it never gets boring. Everyone will enjoy this film. I guarantee it. It’s like Spielberg. No one gets bored. And you get the added bonus of this being a fantastic film, and not enjoying on just that, you know, Michael Bay level. And also, if you like stuffy, semi-boring British period pieces, then I guess Sense and Sensibility would be for you. I’m not gonna use the ‘r’ word, but I will say, if you’re into that thing, go right ahead. I say — fuck manners.


5) Winningham

4) Quinlan

3) Winslet

2) Allen

1) Sorvino

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