The 86th Academy Awards hosted this time by Ellen DeGeneres will air at 8pm Sunday on ABC and will also for the first time stream live online in some markets. The bigger news however is the tight race in the SUPPORTING ACTRESS category.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE features two nominees vastly different in experience and technique yet equally scene stealing in their performances. Lupita Nyong’o the Yale drama graduate in 12 Years a Slave and Jennifer Lawrence the three-time Oscar nominee and last year’s Best Actress winner nominated here for American Hustle.
Nyong’o’s portrayal is of Patsey, a young girl demolished by slavery and beleaguered by her owner played by Michael Fasbinder, also nominated for a supporting role. Like Lawrence’s character Rosalyn in American Hustle Patsey is a young woman longing to be anywhere else than where she is and anyone else than who she is. Both are women who have been forced to leave childhood prematurely but who try to snatch it back when no one is looking. Except someone is always looking, whether its Rosalyn’s young son or Patsey’s friend Solomon played by Best Actor nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, or the wife of Patsey’s owner played by Sarah Paulson.
Obviously one woman has the freedom to make a difference while the other does not, and in that action and lack of action—one woman passive and forced to live a tormented life, the other bounding, unbridled and oozing with as much freedom as a house wife with child can—we see and experience human energy in two very distinct ways. No other performances in this Oscar category exude that much force, moving or static, coming from the life, or lack of it, on screen. Unfortunately Lawrence’s character is privileged enough to have an air of whimsy and comedy beneath a tragic but fortunate American setting while Patsey’s American condition is humorless and heartbreaking.
That small amount of positive power Lawrence is able to deliver—based on the roll written for her from the Oscar nominated original screenplay—gives her the upper hand. The winner here should be Lawrence by the aggregate of cinematic provisions working in her favor. Nyong’o unfortunately bares a more reactive rather than active performance based on the circumstances. I’ll be happy if either actress wins but Lawrence’s energy emanating from her portrayal is a jaw dropping spectacle you rubberneck to every time she appears.
The category that could be a real shocker however is the BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. 30 Seconds to Mars singer Jared Leto plays Rayon, a drug induced man in women’s clothing in Dallas Buyer’s Club, trying to survive AIDS with co-star and Best Actor nominee Matthew McConaughey. Leto’s Rayon as a gay man in mid ‘80’s Texas is, for lack of a better word, tender. It’s delicate as Leto tries to portray Rayon as just that. Fragile. And that fragility is not made prevalent with the help of weight loss or any physical attributes but by voice and facial expression and delivery of lines. It’s a very quiet performance that is sweet and tragic at the same time. His character is not easy to sympathize with either because of his self-mutilating drug use. Leto is favored to win this category.
But the shocker could be a Jonah Hill win. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is so extravagant in its portrayal of Wall Street hedonism that the sense of fun you suspect went on behind the scenes while filming such a putridly funny, almost slapstick slice of ‘90’s Wall Street criminal adventure, gives everyone in that film a huge net to work within. A very broad path to chew up parts of script with. And Jonah’s performance is just as over the top and extravagant as the movie—and Scorsese’s cinematic approach—is to the subject matter. I think an air of excess on the set allowed Hill to do whatever he wanted so long as he wore those big prosthetic teeth. The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best films of the year and though it won’t win any awards it should at the very least get an Oscar for the best performance by a supporting actor in the role. Jared Leto will win but it should be Jonah Hill.
Here are the rest of my picks:
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Act of Killing
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Frozen
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Get a Horse!
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Great Gatsby
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Dallas Buyer’s Club
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Her
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Frozen
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: The Voorman Problem
BEST SOUND MIXING: Gravity
BEST SOUND EDITING: Gravity
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity
BEST FILM EDITING: Gravity
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: American Hustle
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years A Slave
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Matthew McConaughey
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Cate Blanchett
BEST DIRECTING: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
BEST PICTURE: 12 Years A Slave