The Oscar Quest: Worst Best Supporting Actress Choices

This one is easy as hell for me. I can rant all day about the shitty decisions the Academy’s made.

This category in particular — they use it to just dump Oscars on people. Of all the categories, this is the one with the most bad decisions. I don’t want to start going over examples, because I can go on all day with those.

Basically — here are what I consider the ten most egregious (as opposed to the other few dozen not so great) decisions in the Best Supporting Actress category. Remember — oh fuck it, you should know the disclaimer by now. If not — read more.

Here they are:

10. 2006, Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Beat: Adriana Barraza & Rinko Kikuchi, Babel, Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine, Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

I know this appears on my list of weakest Best Supporting Actress categories, but it still doesn’t change how bad the decision is. Jennifer Hudson is not an actress. She sings. All she does in the movie is sing a song. It’s one big song that she won for. I am baffled as to how she got through an entire awards season as a favorite and won an Academy Award. Sure, Barraza spoke mostly Spanish in her role, and Kikuchi didn’t speak at all (but in Japanese), Breslin was only 12 and Blanchett had just won one — but seriously? I’d rather have seen them give it to Breslin. Hudson is just a weak choice and a product of a very weak category.

9. 2003, Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Beat: Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog, Holly Hunter, Thirteen, Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River, Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April

Another one of my weakest Best Supporting Actress category choices. This is one with good actresses, but not great performances. Clarkson is a filler nominee, Harden went along with the film (when you win an Oscar or have a big performance, there’s a three year period afterward (unless you’re someone they always look to) where you can be nominated for pretty much anything), and Hunter was a stature nomination. She is Holly Hunter. That’s why she was nominated. Aghdashloo gave the best performance, but wasn’t well-known, so no one voted for her. Zellweger was perceived to have been snubbed for Chicago (and she was. If we’re going solely on the fact that she was a better choice than Nicole Kidman was that year. Except, everyone forgets the fact that Julianne Moore should have won that year), so that pretty much made it a sure thing that old lemon face was gonna win here. Which is a shame — because the performance wasn’t very good at all.

8. 2000, Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

Beat: Kate Hudson & Frances McDormand, Almost Famous, Judi Dench, Chocolat, Julie Walters, Billy Elliot

I like Marcia Gay Harden, so my dislike of her win has more to do with the fact that she beat Kate Hudson. I bet more people will be okay with this than I am — but I’m not okay with it. Which is why this is here.

7. 1993, Anna Paquin, The Piano

Beat: Emma Thompson, In the Name of the Father, Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence, Rosie Perez, Fearless, Holly Hunter, The Firm

My problem with this is — why did Paquin need to win? What about that performance screamed “Oscar”? This wasn’t exactly Tatum O’Neal. To me, Emma Thompson gave the best performance. But she had an Oscar already. And Winona and Rosie gave much better performances than Paquin did, not to mention the fact that Ryder has had a much better career than Paquin has. I don’t really like anything about this decision.

6. 1936, Gale Sondergaard, Anthony Adverse

Beat: Alice Brady, My Man Godfrey, Beulah Bondi, The Gorgeous Hussy, Bonita Granville, These Three, Maria Ouspenskaya, Dodsworth

My problem with this is that it’s the first Best Supporting Actress Oscar ever given out. And when you’re establishing a category, you should be setting a precedent. For example: the first Best Supporting Actor Oscar? Went to Walter Brennan. This performance is not one that personifies the category, either by role or by actress. And here you have Alice Brady — who was an actress that personified the category, and they still didn’t vote for her. I don’t like this at all.

5. 1987, Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck

Beat: Anne Ramsey, Throw Momma from the Train, Anne Archer, Fatal Attraction, Norma Aleandro, Gaby: A True Story, Ann Sothern, The Whales of August

This is just a weak decision. I ranked this as the weakest Best Supporting Actress category of all time, so it’s not entirely Dukakis’s fault. Still, it’s not a strong decision. There’s reason, but it’s still weak.

4. 1974, Ingrid Bergman, Murder on the Orient Express

Beat: Talia Shire, The Godfather Part II, Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles, Valentina Cortese, Day for Night, Diane Ladd, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

My reason for this is — she didn’t need it. She really didn’t. She had two Oscars (both of which she shouldn’t have won — the first because it was the wrong year (but it’s mostly okay) and the second because she was the worst performance in the category) already, and you have Talia Shire, Madeline Kahn and Diane Ladd to choose from. I just don’t get it. Plus Bergman is literally only in five minutes of the film. If she had more screen time, maybe I’d be okay with this. But five minutes? And those five minutes? This isn’t exactly Beatrice Straight.

3. 1984, Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India

Beat: Glenn Close, The Natural, Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Lindsay Crouse, Places in the Heart, Christine Lahti, Swing Shift

Another one ranked among my weakest Best Supporting Actress categories of all time. Makes sense. Weak categories produce weak winners (most of the time). It’s 90% a weak choice because of the category, and 10% because they had the opportunity to give Glenn Close a well-deserved Oscar (in spite of the performance) or give Geraldine Page an Oscar (that they clearly wanted to do), which would have allowed Whoopi Goldberg to win (like she really should have) the year after this. This is weak no matter how you look at it.

2. 1944, Ethel Barrymore, None But the Lonely Heart

Beat: Agnes Moorehead, Mrs. Parkington, Jennifer Jones, Since You Went Away, Angela Lansbury, Gaslight, Aline MacMahon, Dragon Seed

Aside from the fact that the performance is just not good at all (for a win) — she deprived Agnes Moorehead of an Oscar. She deprived Angela Lansbury of an Oscar. Do I need to keep going?

1. 1957, Miyoshi Umeki, Sayonara

Beat: Hope Lange & Diane Varsi, Peyton Place, Carolyn Jones, The Bachelor Party, Elsa Lanchester, Witness for the Prosecution.

The performance is terrible. I say terrible because — when you are nominated for (and especially, when you win) an Oscar (I always say, it’s like a first round draft pick) it automatically puts expectation there. And this performance — it isn’t. She doesn’t speak a word of English — I don’t even think she knew what was going on in the scene. She just sat there. It’s laughable to me that they gave her this Oscar, especially considering how great Hope Lange was, and Elsa Lanchester being who she is. Worst of all time.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

11. 1964, Katina Paxinou, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Beat: Paulette Goddard, So Proudly We Hail, Gladys Cooper & Anne Revere, The Song of Bernadette, Lucile Watson, Watch on the Rhine

Wow. How didn’t this make my list of Weakest Best Supporting Actress categories? (Probably because there are ten more just like it that are also not on.) Still, weak category, not really anyone to vote for. Based on who she is — Paulette Goddard seems like the better choice. Even so — weak choice because of a weak category. I understand. Still doesn’t change the fact.

12. 1972, Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free

Beat: Shelley Winters, The Poseidon Adventure, Jeannie Berlin, The Heartbreak Kid, Geraldine Page, Pete ‘n’ Tillie, Susan Tyrrell, Fat City

Terrible category. I understand. Still a weak choice, though.

13. 1988, Geena Davis, The Accidental Tourist

Beat: Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Liaisons, Frances McDormand, Mississippi Burning, Joan Cusack & Sigourney Weaver, Working Girl

I think the performance is pretty weak. Plus, Michelle Pfeiffer has gone on to have a much better career, pot-1988. So that makes her the better hindsight decision.

14. 1980, Mary Steenburgen, Melvin and Howard

Beat: Cathy Moriarty, Raging Bull, Diana Scarwid, Inside Moves, Eileen Brennan, Private Benjamin, Eva Le Gallienne, Resurrection

I just think it’s a weak choice. I’d have gone with Moriarty. Even so, the performance isn’t particularly outstanding.

15. 2007, Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Beat: Saoirse Ronan, Atonement, Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There, Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone, Ruby Dee, American Gangster

I just don’t think the performance was up to the caliber of three out of the other four, and the fourth was Ruby Dee, who — based on who she is and what she represents — was a better choice. Tilda Swinton is a good actress, so I’m not entirely against the performance (plus, this win is probably what’s keeping her from getting nominated and winning Best Actress these past few years), it’s just — it would have been better if it were in another year (like, say — 2006).

One response

  1. Chad

    I agree with most of your choices, except for your #7 which I HIGHLY DISAGREE with. I’ve actually seen all five nominees for myself, and in my eyes, Anna actually gave BY FAR the best performance (Winona was completely overrated in The Age of Innocence which bored me out of my mind). And for you to say Anna is the worst choice they could have made that year just INFURIATES me. I know you probably think I’m just some retarded fanboy for saying that, but this is how I honestly feel. I feel sorry for you that you could not see how good her performance really was. She was one of the best things about “The Piano”.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm

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