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OSCARS: Looking at the Supporting Actress Race Without a Frontrunner


2017 OSCAR CIRCUIT: We’re a second away from the month of November, where the precursors will kick off at the end of the month.  Thanksgiving will roll around, likely with big screenings, hot after the close of the AFI festival in Los Angeles.  It would be a good idea to actually break down a race or two as we head into the stretch, and what’s better than the “up in the air” Supporting Actress race.

novitiate melissaleoIn a race that seems devoid of a “frontrunner,” it’s hard to ignore that Melissa Leo stands out for her work in “Novitiate.”  Unless her “Consider Part 2™” campaign poisons the well, she should be well on her way to her third Oscar nomination.  Fearless and focused in a role that has garnered fans all over, it’s worth noting she could be in contention for her second Oscar following “The Fighter” in 2010.

The Supporting Actress race has also been a breeding ground of the “double dippers” from the same film.  “Babel,” “Up in the Air,” and “The Help” are just a few examples of two women landing nods.  “Mudbound” offers two different and interesting interpretations of race relations during World War II with actresses Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan.  Blige, who I believe offers the more detailed and emotional work is sublime while Mulligan, who has been chasing her second nod since “An Education” in 2009, has more of the “Oscar scene” that people could gravitate towards.

Netflix has been doing a fantastic job pushing the film on the festival circuit, getting co-writer/director Dee Rees to speak about the film streaming for audiences, and having the cast speak eloquently about their unity and relationships on set.  The awards camp is feeling mighty confident that the film will be able to score multiple nods, and if the Academy, as well as the precursors, go heavy for the film, watch out for the two to maybe sneak in alongside one another.

hongchauHong Chau‘s performance in “Downsizing” is an amazing feat given the nature of the role and how it’s written. She makes the most of every moment, particularly in a scene in which she decides to go on a “trip” with Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz.  It’s what the “Oscar scene” was made for and she fully immerses herself in the character.

As reported here a few a weeks ago, Claire Foy will be pushed as supporting in Andy Serkis’ directorial debut “Breathe.”  With the news that she will not return for “The Crown” Season 3, she may be angling to make more of a name for herself in the film world.  The SAG community will help.

Emmy winners will be plentiful in Supporting Actress as Laurie Metcalf‘s turn in “Lady Bird” will be hard to ignore.  Her co-star Lois Smith, whose role is far too small, has been drumming up her own campaign since the late part of summer for “Marjorie Prime” from Michael Almereyda.

Another Emmy winner is Tatiana Maslany, hoping to carry herself in with Jake Gyllenhaal for the critically acclaimed “Stronger” from David Gordon Green.  Lionsgate will put the pedal to the floor in hopes of nabbing multiple citations along the way.  Co-star Miranda Richardson will be hopping on the awards circuit in hopes of garnering her own Oscar narrative.

allisonjanney itonya2If all the chips fall properly, Allison Janney will be a serious threat as the foul-mouthed mother in Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya.”  Just announced that it was submitted in Comedy/Musical at the Globes, the film has an interesting road to snag itself multiple mentions from the HFPA and with TV people adoring her, SAG is likely to follow suit.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” we’re still awaiting a trailer, image, anything that shows the film has a life.  Multiple sources have stated they have heard that the film screened last week and it’s rumored to be “a mess.”  An awards publicist told Awards Circuit that the film has been going through multiple edits, which explains why no marketing materials have been released.  At this point, wouldn’t the film benefit from a push back to 2018 to find its way?  In that film, you have the likes of Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, and Sarah Paulson who can shake things up.

While Holly Hunter doesn’t run away with “The Big Sick” (Ray Romano and star Kumail Nanjiani do that), she displays some of her best work as a worrisome mother and bitter wife.  It may be difficult for Amazon Studios to push her alongside some “louder” performances but the Icon Award at the Savannah Film Festival is an excellent start.

One performance that can cause some late damage is Lesley Manville in “Phantom Thread,” a performance that is rumored to be more robust than the trailer suggested.  With co-star Vicky Krieps being pushed in Lead Actress, her road could be much clearer, and we all still remember her egregious snub for “Another Year” in 2010.

kristinscottthomas darkesthour 2Kristin Scott Thomas‘ Oscar run has been way more vacant than the community would like.  With a sole nomination in 1997 for “The English Patient,” the British actress has been overlooked despite works in “I’ve Loved You So Long” and “Nowhere Boy.”  In “Darkest Hour,” though much more limited than what an Oscar pundit would feel comfortable with, she nails every nuance and beat the role calls for.  Focus Features should be able to slide her into a lineup, especially with star Gary Oldman set to dominate the Best Actor race, and when that happens, supporting mentions likely follow.

Comic relief seems to be present in a few other films as Octavia Spencer‘s looks to make it back-to-back nominations for her work in “The Shape of Water.”  There’s plenty of humor in Elle Fanning‘s turn in “The Beguiled” although Kirsten Dunst will likely steal lots of the focus.  There’s also a beating drum for Tiffany Haddish‘s summer breakout role in “Girls Trip,” something that may garner lots of breakthrough prizes along the circuit.

We have stragglers lurking around the beat.  Michelle Williams is still unseen in “The Greatest Showman” and “All the Money in the World,” although the latter seems to be a lead possibility.  Julia Roberts will be playing the mother of a young boy with facial differences in “Wonder” while any of the women from “Murder on the Orient Express” can offer up a compelling case notably Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, or Michelle Pfeiffer.

The vote-siphoners will likely come through in the form of Julianne Moore, simply terrific in “Wonderstruck” while the aforementioned Pfeiffer is astounding in the first half of “mother!”  Veteran actress Cicely Tyson in “Last Flag Flying” offers a one-scene home-run, while Emma Thompson is downright hilarious in Netflix’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).”

That’s the talk at the top of the week.  The Oscar Predictions have been updated (including the first DOCUMENTARY FEATURE predictions), along with the sidebars.

What are your thoughts on the Supporting Actress race?  Have your say in the comments below! 



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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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I think Miranda Richardson really wants it so she’ll pull out all the stops, especially with BAFTA voters.


Clayton, I’m not sure what you mean when you highlight “the news that [Claire Foy] will not return for ‘The Crown’ Season 2.” First, season 2 will be released on Netflix in a few weeks’ time and Foy remains the lead. Secondly, it was never in the cards for The Crown to continue with an actress for longer than two seasons, as they are covering so much time and wanted to avoid ridiculous make-up attempts to age Foy by decades. The most recent news on this front is that (the very capable) Olivia Colman (of Broadchurch, The Night Manager, and… Read more »

GJ Cabana

Just give the Oscar to Hong Chau NOW!! Hell, she had to fake walking without a leg while doing all those great scenes opposite Mr. “U-get-nothing-from-me” Matt Damon. Best Supp, and Best Asian perf. ever!!


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