Mike’s Favorite Female Supporting Performances of the Decade (90-81)
I make ‘favorite performance’ lists every year, and I get that these lists, more than the rest, are the most subjective one can make. Because it’s really about what you see in each performance and what you respond to; There’s no objective way to truly rate a performance as better than another. With whole films, it feels easier to make that distinction. So with these lists, I’m just gonna focus on some performances from the decade that I really, really enjoyed, and the goal here is just to shout them out and maybe get some people to watch the films if they hadn’t or reevaluate each of the performances the next time they watch the films.
These are my favorite female supporting performances of the decade:
90. Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Kind of an odd choice, I know. You might even consider her a lead of sorts, but I feel like the film is big enough in scope and has enough characters that you can consider them all a supporting ensemble to Radcliffe. But mostly I wanted to shout out her work in the entire franchise, since she’s been the backbone of it all. Secretly (or maybe not so secretly), Hermione is the best character in the franchise. She’s the one with real emotional stakes, which feels weird to say, because it’s Radcliffe’s franchise and Potter has the most overtly going on. But consider this — Hermione is an outsider… she comes from non-magical parents, parents whose memories she has to erase at the beginning of this film. And she also gets some really great dramatic moments while they’re all hiding out in the woods. Plus, she’s always the most prepared character, she gets nice moments shouting at Ron, and the film does the obvious/unthinkable and reminds us how clearly the two best actors are Watson and Radcliffe, giving them that nice dance moment at the center of the film. Watson’s been progressively great from the start, and this is the film where her character gets to properly shine. It was worth a spot on this list.
89. Rachel House, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Everyone in a Taika Waititi movie has a great role and great material to work with, but House immediately made herself one of those character actors you immediately recognize going forward because of how great she is in this. Case and point: didn’t we all go “oh shit!” when she showed up in Ragnarok? I rest my case about the performance.
88. Hong Chau, Inherent Vice
I love a performance that makes me sit up and wonder who the actor is, and then want to know everything else they’ve been in. That’s what this was for Hong Chau. I know she got all the acclaim for Downsizing, but she doesn’t get Downsizing without this. She’s one of the standout performers in this movie. She just immediately jumps off the screen and makes you want to know more about her. It’s a really great performance.
87. Julianne Nicholson, August: Osage County
I’ve been such a fan of Julianne Nicholson for a bunch of years. And she never gets her proper due. She’s gonna have at least two performances on this list, but could have more. This is probably her one breakout performance. She plays the only daughter of Meryl’s character who still lives close and still is under her mother’s thumb, so to speak. She’s also in love with her cousin, which complicates things. The film is full of meaty roles for actors, and a lot of people get good moments to shine, but of all the people in the film, she’s one of the ones who impressed me most
86. Kayli Carter, Private Life
I’ll admit it — I have types. There are certain performances that I always gravitate toward. One is precocious children (if done right), and another is 20-something actresses who get to show charisma and get those breakout/standout roles. Carter is the latter. The film is largely built around Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti and their attempts to conceive via in vitro, but Carter plays their niece, who wants to drop out of college and be a writer. And of course she ends up moving in with them and becomes a potential egg donor for them as well. It’s just a really standout performance. She jumps off the screen and makes an impression, even in scenes where she’s not the focal point. My favorite scene in the film is one that starts off as a conversation between Hahn and Giamatti and then turns into an argument. And then, at the last second, before they walk out the door, Carter says something (correcting their use of grammar) and then they (and we) realize she’s been there the entire time and has just witnessed all of this. It’s a great moment that highlights everything I loved about her character and performance.
85. June Squibb, Nebraska
Who doesn’t love a foul-mouthed old lady? That’s it. That’s really all I need to say. She’s great, she steals scenes, and who thought I’d get a scene of an 80+ year old woman lifting up her skirt to show her vagina over the grave of a dead suitor?
84. Mya Taylor, Tangerine
Bother Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez burst off the screen with originality. They’re actors we haven’t seen before, and both make huge impressions with their performances. You can’t shout out one without the other. Taylor in particular, while not the focal point of the film, does get some great moments, particularly that song she sings at ‘Hamburger Mary’s’ (though not really, since the interior is elsewhere).
83. Naomi Watts, Birdman
Watts gets one of the best exchanges in the film, when she asks “why don’t I have any self respect?” and Andrea Riseborough responds, “You’re an actress, honey.” It’s a great moment, and two very underrated performances that get lost by the wayside next to the big three in the film (Keaton, Norton, Stone). But Watts in particular does a really great job in what is kind of a thankless role. Her character really isn’t afforded too much to do as compared to the others, but she makes the most of it and delivers a really strong performance that holds up next to the others.
82. Laura Dern, Marriage Story
It’s Laura Dern, who is awesome, and she gets some nice monologues. There’s not a whole lot to the character other than ‘cutthroat lawyer who occasionally gets hints at being a real person with a real life’, but she makes the most of it. It’s a nice character and a nice performance, even if it’s very much a paper thin kinda situation. But hey, the angle at which I can see the paper is really nice.
81. Amy Adams, Her
She’s so good here and no one pays any attention to it. And when I said that to myself, I realized — Amy Adams’ entire career is those kind of performances. Think of almost every time she’s gotten nominated for Oscars — it’s always in the service of or overshadowed by other performances. Doubt — Meryl and Hoffman get the notice, and Viola’s got the big showy supporting part as well. Vice — up with Bale. The Fighter — Bale and Leo. The Master — Hoffman and Phoenix. American Hustle — literally everyone else. And here — she gets overshadowed by both Joaquin Phoenix and fucking Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Everyone who said Scarlett Johansson should have been nominated for voice work over Amy Adams, who is right there the entire time, owes her an apology. Go back and watch this movie. You’ll realize what great work she’s putting in (as she puts in every time).
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