The Oscar Quest: Weakest Best Supporting Actress Categories

This is perhaps the article I’ve been waiting for. Picking the worst Best Supporting Actress categories is like asking an astronomer what their favorite planet is.

I don’t really know where that analogy came from.

Best Supporting Actress is, easily, the weakest of all the major Oscar categories. Don’t believe me? Just wait until you see some of these categories. They’re really terrible. The worst is when they’re terrible and they don’t have a clear winner. Oh man, I hate that.

Also, as always — the idea is that all of these are weak, and the specific rankings are personal preference. (I have to keep saying this, because there’s always some asshole that’s gonna bitch about pointless stuff. This is the internet.)

So here are the weakest Best Supporting Actress categories. Brace yourself.

10. 1989

  • Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot
  • Anjelica Huston, Enemies, a Love Story
  • Lena Olin, Enemies, a Love Story
  • Julia Roberts, Steel Magnolias
  • Diane Wiest, Parenthood

Take off Brenda Fricker. What do you do, then? My point exactly.

9. 1996

  • Joan Allen, The Crucible
  • Lauren Bacall, The Mirror Has Two Faces
  • Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
  • Barbara Hershey, The Portrait of a Lady
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets & Lies

When Juliette Binoche is a clear winner (seriously, almost none of these performances should have even been nominated), for that performance — it’s bad.

8. 1998

  • Kathy Bates, Primary Colors
  • Brenda Bleythn, Little Voice
  • Judi Dench, Shakespeare in Love
  • Rachel Griffiths, Hilary & Jackie
  • Lynn Redgrave, Gods and Monsters

Judi and Brenda — sure, but outside of that? Yeesh. (Also, Judi is barely on screen and most people don’t even like that performance. Which only adds to it.)

7. 1963

  • Diane Cilento, Tom Jones
  • Edith Evans, Tom Jones
  • Joyce Redman, Tom Jones
  • Margaret Rutherford, The V.I.P.s
  • Lilia Skala, Lilies of the Field

This one sucks because the three nominees are canceling each other out. And Skala’s performance shouldn’t even be there. So by default, Rutherford’s performance becomes the winner. And that is not a performance that should be winning an Oscar. Terrible category. (Take off Evans and Skala and put on better nominees. That’s how you fix this. Unfortunately for us, there’s no post.)

6. 1954

  • Nina Foch, Executive Suite
  • Katy Jurado, Broken Lance
  • Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront
  • Jan Sterling, The High and the Mighty
  • Claire Trevor, The High and the Mighty

Did you know Nina Foch was married to James Lipton? I do. That’s fascinating. Oh, also — this category blows. Eva Marie Saint was actually gonna go lead, and most people say that if she wasn’t so much of an unknown, had she been pushed lead, she might have even won that category. I say that wouldn’t have happened, but still — take her off of this list, and then what? Yeesh, again.

5. 1949

  • Ethel Barrymore, Pinky
  • Celeste Holm, Come to the Stable
  • Elsa Lanchester, Come to the Stable
  • Mercedes McCambridge, All the King’s Men
  • Ethel Waters, Pinky

I hate this one so much. Come to the Stable is one of the worst films I’ve seen from this Oscar Quest (worst meaning — I hated it so much), and Ethel Barrymore should not have been nominated for so many Oscars. (She did the same thing every time! The same character!) McCambridge and Waters were solid, but Waters is taken out by the Barrymore nomination. So basically you have four blank nominees in a category. Thank god McCambridge was so great. Even so — this is terribly weak.

4. 1946

  • Ethel Barrymore, The Spiral Staircase
  • Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge
  • Lillian Gish, Duel in the Sun
  • Flora Robson, Saratoga Trunk
  • Gale Sondergaard, Anna and the King of Siam

Okay, Baxter is good. So that’s one. Sondergaard — passable, but in a category like this, doesn’t make it stronger. She just falls down with the weak ones. Gish is a veteran nomination, so that’s a blank. Barrymore does what she does. Blank. And Robson is just so shockingly racist — this has to go here. It’s terrible.

3. 1992

  • Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives
  • Joan Plowright, Enchanted April
  • Vanessa Redgrave, Howards End
  • Miranda Richardson, Damage
  • Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny

I’m actually kind of surprised this wasn’t number one. When I went into this (I compiled the categories and ranked them months ago, and now I’m going in and commenting on them with a fresh perspective), I thought this was clearly going to be #1. Now I’m afraid to see what the next two are. Plowright and Richardson should not be here. Redgrave is only here because she is who she is. Davis was fine, but since I hate that film with a passion, it doesn’t help anything for me. Tomei was amazing, and while I’d probably have voted for her anyway, it seems like it was too easy. This category is awful. Seriously, what are the next two?

2. 1984

  • Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India
  • Glenn Close, The Natural
  • Lindsay Crouse, Places in the Heart
  • Christine Lahti, Swing Shift
  • Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwich Village

Oh god — I was right. This is worse than I could have imagined. Page is in the film for only one scene, Close doesn’t have anything to do, Lahti and Crouse shouldn’t have even been nominated. And Ashcroft — that doesn’t need to win. This is a terrible category. And the fact that Page didn’t win it kept an Oscar from Whoopi Goldberg the year after this. (It’s either that or racism. Which would you rather blame? Personally, I blame both.)

1. 1987

  • Norma Aleandro, Gaby: A True Story
  • Anne Archer, Fatal Atrraction
  • Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck
  • Anne Ramsey, Throw Momma from the Train
  • Ann Sothern, The Whales of August

Oh yeah — this is your number one. Sothern and Aleandro are two of the worst nominees I’ve ever seen in this category. Archer was fine, but the performance needs a better category to work. Ramsey was great, but again, it’s one of those performances — like Tomei, or Madeline Kahn in ’74 — it needs to be the one you root for even though you know it probably won’t win. Here — it’s the only performance you can vote for. Don’t give me that Dukakis crap — she barely did anything in that movie. Awful, this category. Absolutely awful.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

11. 2003

  • Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog
  • Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April
  • Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River
  • Holly Hunter, Thirteen
  • Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Kinda surprised this didn’t make the top ten. Pretty much none of these nominees really should have won. This is a horrible category.

12. 1983

  • Cher, Silkwood
  • Glenn Close, The Big Chill
  • Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously
  • Amy Irving, Yentl
  • Alfre Woodard, Cross Creek

Another one. Even the easy winner didn’t give that great a performance. The performance itself is okay. 80% of it has to do with the fact that she played a man. Cher didn’t do shit. Close was great, but not an easy winner. Irving was good, but also not that strong. And Woodard — I didn’t like the performance, and thought it was kinda racist.

13. 1991

  • Diane Ladd, Rambling Rose
  • Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear
  • Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides
  • Mercedes Ruehl, The Fisher King
  • Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes

Oh jesus… what a terrible category. I saw Mercedes Ruehl’s performance third on this. And I said, “That was okay, but there’s no way this is actually gonna be good enough to win.” It’s one of those, “Nice, but not for a vote” performances. And then I got done with the category and was like, “Really? She held on to win?” Tandy is old, Nelligan didn’t do anything, and Ladd didn’t do anything. And Lewis was fine, but shouldn’t have won. When there’s no one to vote for, a category is weak.

14. 2006

  • Adriana Barraza, Babel
  • Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Another one — Jennifer Hudson shouldn’t have won so easily. All she did was sing. Breslin did a good job, but it’s not like she should have won. Blanchett was a co-lead, and this performance was nowhere near the one she won for (or gave the year after this). Kikuchi and Barraza cancel each other out, and neither performance is really in English. Honestly, I should have put this in my top ten. But from a performance perspective, four of these are pretty solid. It’s just that there’s no one to vote for. That’s what makes it weak.

15. 1972

  • Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid
  • Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free
  • Geraldine Page, Pete ‘n’ Tillie
  • Susan Tyrrell, Fat City
  • Shelley Winters, The Poseidon Adventure

I hate this category. Winters and Berlin are great, but you can’t really vote for them. (Well, you can vote for Winters, but — giving her three?) I didn’t see anything worthwhile in Tyrrell’s perfomrance. Page is in like three scenes, which would be okay if the category was stronger. And Heckart was just a “I guess…” vote. The whole is less than the some of its parts.

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