2019 Oscars Look: Best Supporting Actress


Welcome to our annual Oscar Look series, formally known as “Oscar Circuit” – our deep dive look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Look 2018. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your own predicted winners in the comment section too!

And the Best Supporting Actress Nominees Are:

The Best Supporting Actress race at the Oscars this year evokes two words: statistical anomalies. Oh, and get used to these words too as we discuss the race: “Marcia Gay Harden” and “Marisa Tomei.” Substantively, this is a fun category with two past Oscar winners from the same film, a perennial contender, and two newcomers (one of them unexpected).

For stats guru and awards history buffs, weird stuff has already happened – and will likely continue to happen – in this category. In the last two years, the eventual winner of this Oscar (Viola Davis in “Fences” two years ago and Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” last year) won all four significant precursors–the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the SAG, and the Critics’ Choice. The ultimate outcome of this Oscar race was never in doubt.

Not so this year. This time around, things got weird fast. Presumed front-runner Regina King missed a SAG nomination and a BAFTA nod. Only Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock,” 2000) and Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind,” 2001), have won the Oscar after missing out on a SAG nod. The result of this is that three different women won the four precursors.

First, Regina King did take both the Globe and the Critics Choice, defeating her rivals for the Oscar. All except for Marina de Tavira, that is, as none of those groups nominated the “Roma” actress (most of them went for Claire Foy instead). Marina becomes the first woman since, yes, Marcia Gay Harden, to achieve an Oscar nod without a single nomination from one of the four precursors. Since 1990, the only other woman to do this was Marisa Tomei (“My Cousin Vinny,” 1992), though that was before SAG and the Critics Choice were around.

In any case, eventually Emily Blunt won the SAG for “A Quiet Place.” But, she was not even nominated for the Academy Award. This will be the first time ever in the history of SAG that SAG’s Best Supporting Actress winner is not even considered for an Oscar. (Kate Winslet won the Supporting Actress trophy at SAG for “The Reader,” then the lead acting Oscar for the same film.) Indeed, the Screen Actors’ Guild had correctly presaged the winner in this race for nine years in a row, and 14 out of 15 times if you exclude the Kate Winslet/Penelope Cruz year. So, those streaks will end.

Finally, Rachel Weisz triumphed at BAFTA. Winning the Oscar without a BAFTA nod is not as unusual as without a SAG citation. Indeed, Weisz herself won an Oscar after not being nominated for BAFTA (“The Constant Gardner,” 2006). But it is still relatively uncommon in recent years, since BAFTA moved to before the Oscars. The last to do this was Melissa Leo in 2009 (“The Fighter“).

So, it is a year of statistical quirks. Only a win by Rachel Weisz would be consistent with past history. Marina de Tavira’s nomination is unprecedented, but a win by her would also be rare for the same reasons: you usually have at least one precursor win, again, unless you are Marcia or Marisa (or Anna Paquin, “The Piano,” 1993). For that very same reason, however, a win by either Amy Adams or Emma Stone would also be anomalous–they have not won a single precursor. Regina has some stats on her side–but also against her. About the only thing not anomalous about this race is that we have two women from the same film nominated – that has happened over 30 times in the nearly 90 that this award has been given out.

With all of that in mind, we know that Academy voters do not make choices based on statistics. They vote for what they like. Let’s take a look at who and why they liked them…

Best Supporting Actress Nominee Breakdown

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Oscar Scene: When she threatens young Dick Cheney with divorce

In “Vice,” Amy plays Lynne Cheney, the at times domineering and always supportive wife of the eventual Vice-President. Amy delivers a magnetic performance, toe to toe with Christian Bale. She commands the screen while varying the tone of her performance as the Cheney’s lives required. Lynne is a resolute, aggressive matriarch. She encourages her husband, helps his career, and is very aware of a woman’s role in history. Improbably, Amy makes a politically and morally dubious character likable.

But none of this is likely to translate into an Oscar. This is Amy’s sixth Oscar nomination and her fifth in this category. Her first was all the way back in 2006 for “Junebug,” but Amy is still searching for that elusive win. If Glenn Close wins Best Actress, Amy will become the living actress with the most nominations and no wins. Unfortunately for her, the movie she is in had a mixed to icy reception from critics. While it still did well with the Academy come nominations time, Amy was never able to convert goodwill towards her into a win. I am afraid Amy will have to hope the seventh time’s the charm.

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Oscar Scene: Telling the kids that dad is not coming back

One of the most audible gasps on Oscar nominations morning came when Marina’s name was read out as a Best Supporting Actress contender. As mentioned, it has been a long while since this happened. But, Marcia Gay Harden at least had some critical citations. Marina went from being completely off the radar to an Oscar nominee. At the very least, this shows tremendous support for “Roma” from the acting branch of the Academy. After it was shutout at SAG, this has to make the “Roma” team breath a sigh of relief.

But what of Marina’s chances? In the film, she plays Sofia, the emotional foundation of her family. Marina is an accomplished actress in Mexico, and her range and talent are on full display in “Roma.” Of the five nominees, she is arguably the most believable as the mother who has to put on different faces to her children, her husband, her own mother, and her maid. Sofia is also a matriarch and a determined one at that. Marina conveys her fear, her sadness, her resignation with a very personal performance.

The only argument I could see for her win would be that – much like Tomei or Gay Harden themselves – the shock of the nomination may propel her into people’s minds. Indeed, it is noteworthy that both of those actresses won the Oscar after achieving a statistically unlikely nomination. However, while I think she will have support, the goodwill for Regina King seems too strong to overcome.

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Oscar Scene: Pleading with Victoria to change her testimony

In “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Regina King play Sharon Rivers, the mother of the female lead, Tish. Of the five nominees, King is the one with the “most supporting” of the roles, as she has relatively limited screen time. But, two emotive scenes capture King’s acting talents and show us why she is the likely winner of this race. The first, when Tish tells her family of her pregnancy, and King as Sharon rises to her daughter’s impassioned defense. You do not mess with her. The second, towards the second half of the film, comes when she travels to Puerto Rico to plead with Victoria, the woman that is accusing Fonny of rape, to change her story. Here, Sharon exposes her vulnerability, and her own pain is laid out to bear. It is a fascinating contrast that shows why King would be a worthy winner.

Still, King will have to overcome some headwinds to emerge victorious. If she wins, she will be the first in recent memory to oust four contenders from Best Picture nominees. And, as noted, she will be the first in a while without a SAG nomination and the first in a long while without both SAG and BAFTA nods. But, it is unlikely that most voters will look at whether she has this or that nomination. If the voter likes her performance, they will vote for it. Her concern has to be whether everyone is watching the movie, which is only up for three Oscars total.

If consensus had coalesced around one of her competitors in the two races that King was not up for, it would make more sense to bet against her. As it is, it would be foolish to do so, and she is likely to convert her first nomination into a victory.

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Oscar Scene: Her wedding night

Emma Stone won the Best Actress Oscar just two years ago for her performance in “La La Land.” Now, she is back with her third overall nomination, and the second in this category. In “The Favourite,” she plays Abigail Masham, a conniving, contriving arriviste that has high designs for herself. Abigail devilishly and wickedly manipulates Queen Anne and outmaneuvers her rival, the Duchess of Marlborough. In the role, Stone again shows us why she is such a well-respected actress. The film requires coquettish seriousness, wink-wink macabre humor, and even some physical moments. Abigail is thrown off or down something a number of times, is beaten, and has her face bashed in. She also has to be a clever, cunning woman, and Stone delivers all of those notes to perfection.

Whether she will outmaneuver her costar, Rachel Weisz, for the Oscar, however, is quite a different story. Arguably, Stone plays one of the leads in the film, and one wonders whether rumblings about category fraud may have turned off some voters against her. And though it is certainly not uncommon for a winner to emerge from this category against costars from the same film, one has to imagine that some vote-splitting is also going to hurt Emma. The film and its team never seemed to coalesce against which of the two women to throw their weight behind.

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Oscar Scene: When she tells Queen Anne she looks like a badger

Going toe to toe with Emma is Rachel Weisz, who plays the Duchess of Marlborough in the Lanthimos satire. Weisz is, like Stone, a past winner, though she actually won Best Supporting Actress way back in 2007 for the film “The Constant Gardner.” This marks Weisz’s second Oscar nomination overall.

In the movie, Weisz is usually deadpan as she is being outgunned, adding to the comedic effect of the performance. She is also forceful and determinate in dealing with Queen Anne and members of the court. As can be seen by her choice in attire and hobbies, she views herself – and is – smarter and stronger than all the people around her, particularly the men. While Abigail is at times infantile, Weisz’s character is always stern and therefore less inherently likable. But, thanks to Weisz’s oozing talent, you cannot help but sort of root for the otherwise wicked Duchess.

As for her Oscar chances? They are certainly not zero. Clearly, the movie she is in has support among the many branches, given its ten nomination tally. And, if the British contingency coalesces behind her as they did for BAFTA, she has a fighting shot. To be sure, Regina King fans will be nervous until the envelope is open because we all know that the one name that could plausibly be called instead of hers is Rachel’s…

WILL WIN: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
COULD WIN: Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
SHOULD WIN: Amy Adams, “Vice”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Elizabeth Debicki, “Widows”

Who do you think will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress? Who would you like to see holding that trophy? Let us know in the comments!