Six Circuit: Which 2012 Supporting Actress Got ‘Les Miserables’ News on Oscar Nomination Morning?

Welcome to the thirty-third entry in our Six Circuit series.

“It Came True.” From the announcement of Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables,” Anne Hathaway was proclaimed frontrunner for her role as Fantine, the dying prostitute. Once we heard “I Dreamed a Dream” in the first trailer, the race was pretty much over. Still, the race for nominations led to plenty of surprises. Before we get into who came in sixth place, let’s take a look at the five nominated performances for Supporting Actress in 2012.

THE NOMINEES WERE:

  • Amy Adams — “The Master” {“Peggy Dodd”}
  • Sally Field — “Lincoln” {“Mary Todd Lincoln”}
  • Anne Hathaway — “Les Misérables” {“Fantine”} (WINNER)
  • Helen Hunt — “The Sessions” {“Cheryl”}
  • Jacki Weaver — “Silver Linings Playbook” {“Dolores”}

OVERALL SUMMARY

As stated before, Anne Hathaway ran away with this category. She swept the SAG, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Critics Choice Awards. Each win came with a memorable speech. It also helped that “Les Miserables” was a Christmas hit and earned eight nominations. Even the Hatha-haters couldn’t derail the campaign.

Second place likely went into Sally Field for her performance as Mary Todd Lincoln. Both her and Helen Hunt were nominated at all the major precursors. They also both have Oscars (in fact, Field has two Oscars). Still, “Lincoln” was a Best Picture nominee that went home with two wins. Hunt was the lone nominee for “The Sessions,” despite lots of buzz for the film.

Many predicted that Amy Adams would earn her fourth Oscar nomination for “The Master.” Though she missed SAG, Adams won plenty of critics prizes and showed up at all the other major precursors. In fact, “The Master” earned three acting nominations, including Lead Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) and Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

That just leaves Jacki Weaver, who was the biggest surprise of all the acting nominees. Yes, “Silver Lining Playbook” was an Oscar magnet, earning eight nominations, including nominations in all four acting categories. Still, up until nominations, Weaver did not have any precursors. Her surprise nomination was the result of riding the Best Picture coattails of “Silver Linings Playbook.” Which precursor player did she displace? Let’s take a look.

THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:

  • Judi Dench – “Skyfall”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards, Critics Choice Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song (WINNER), Sound Editing (WINNER), Sound Mixing
  • Rosemarie DeWitt – “Your Sister’s Sister”
    • Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Ann Dowd – “Compliance”
    • Precursors – Critics Choice Awards, National Board of Review (WINNER), Online Film Critics Society, Independent Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Nicole Kidman – “The Paperboy”
    • Precursors – SAG Awards, Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Brit Marling – “Sound of My Voice”
    • Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Maggie Smith – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
    • Precursors – SAG Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Lorraine Toussaint – “Middle of Nowhere”
    • Precursors – Independent Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • Kerry Washington – “Django Unchained”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Picture, Supporting Actor (WINNER), Original Screenplay (WINNER), Cinematography, Sound Editing

INDIE SPIRIT PICKS

There have been many “little engine that could” narratives that have paved the way for Oscar glory. Movies like “Frozen River,” “The Visitor,” “The Messenger” and more all received acting nominations for their character actors based on this strategy. Ann Dowd took this strategy to a new level with her “Compliance” campaign. “Compliance” was a micro-budget indie that dramatized strip search phone call scams that were happening across the company. Dowd received raves for her work as Sandra, the manager complicit in carrying through the act. Despite the acclaim, the film distributor was not planning on spending for an Oscar campaign. Dowd decided to fund her own campaign, which made headlines. She got some traction, winning National Board of Review and getting nominated for the Critics Choice. Unfortunately, the narrative didn’t make it to the Dolby.

Dowd also earned a nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards, losing to future nominee Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”). The rest of the lineup featured many strong indie performances. Rosemarie DeWitt (“Rachel Getting Married”), Brit Marling (“Sound of My Voice”), and Lorraine Toussaint (“Middle of Nowhere”) all rounded out the category. Their strong performances didn’t get enough grassroots support to make it to the major lineups, as Dowd had the better narrative. However, these actresses have all seen their stars rise and can use this to further their future awards narratives.

A-LIST ACTRESSES

Once Oscar loves someone, they continue to pay attention. Stars like Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Robert DuVall all frequently get nominated for movies where they are the lone nominees. Though she has less overall nominations than those examples, Nicole Kidman fits the bill of an A-list actress people always consider. Just two years earlier, she received a lone nomination for “Rabbit Hole” in Lead Actress. Lee Daniels’ movie “The Paperboy” was as far out of Oscar’s comfort zone as any film can be. Kidman sparked headlines with her role as a jailbird’s fiancee who psychically orgasms and pees on Zac Efron, among other things. Her SAG and Golden Globe nominations were shocking, but made people think that voters were watching the movie and considering it. At the end of the day, the movie must’ve been too campy and small for Oscar to nominate its A-list star.

Jacki Weaver shows that merely being in a Best Picture nominee gives a supporting player a leg up in the competition. Among the other supporting female performances in Best Picture nominees, the most likely to experience a similar bump would be Kerry Washington. The “Scandal” TV star was at the peak of her fame when she co-starred in “Django Unchained” from Quentin Tarantino. The role was rather small (she has even less screen time and lines than Margo Robbie in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”). That coupled with the lack of precursors kept her from the nomination. Perhaps if Quentin Tarantino earned a directing nomination, momentum could have earned Washington a nomination.

BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD CONTENDERS

One of the key sleeper hits of the summer was “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a dramedy of octogenarians retiring in India. The film was filled to the brim with esteemed Oscar favorites. From the cast, six time nominee Maggie Smith emerged as best in show in terms of awards attention. Many prognosticators placed her in their predictions as early out as May, when the film opened. As precursors came in, Smith kept missing. Yet, the SAG nomination was key for keeping her in the race. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough.

Her co-star, Judi Dench, picked up a precursor or two for the film in the lead category. Yet, her real Oscar shot this year came in Supporting for her role as M in “Skyfall.” No performer had ever earned an acting nomination for a James Bond film. Yet, “Skyfall” earned five nominations, winning two of them (Song and Sound Editing). Both Dench and Javier Bardem did extremely well in the precursors. The Academy at large clearly had seen the film and were impressed. Finally, Dench had six nominations at this point and was one year away from her seventh (“Philomena”). The Academy’s love affair with Judi Dench was clearly not over.

THE SIX SPOT FOR 2012 BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS WAS:

JUDI DENCH – “SKYFALL”

Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2012 Best Supporting Actress race? Share with us in the comments below.

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