Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rethinking Best Supporting Actress

When you do "best of" rankings, everything depends on your mood. I think I may have made an error in my own Best Supporting Actress ranking by placing Marion Cotillard in 3rd, behind 2nd place winner Mo'Nique. What's done is done, but if I had to make those rankings again today, Marion would take silver (to first place winner Anna Kendrick!).

I think Marion's is the type of performance that grows over time. I think Mo'Nique's is the complete opposite. Everyone was so blown away by Mo'Nique's "powerhouse" performance the second they saw it. In five years time, I wonder if it will pack the same emotional punch that everybody thought it did.

This is where Marion's strengths lie. There's no way that her performance as Luisa Contini will decay as Mo'Nique's might. It may just be the dynamics of Nine vs. Precious, but I truly believe it's something more. Mo'Nique came out of nowhere with Precious. As soon as people saw the film in Sundance there was buzz. The more people saw it, the more intense the buzz grew. It was a comedienne/talk-show host who was giving one hell of a dramatic performance. Marion, on the other hand, was set to be in one of the baitiest Oscar movies of the season: Nine. When Nine failed to take off with audiences and critics, nearly everything connected to it (save Penelope) was left behind in the dust. It was seen as an all-around disappointment because expectations were soooooooooooooooo high.

See the difference? Precious became a surprise hit. Nine became a surprise critical and Oscar failure. Mo'Nique was on the upswing of Precious, and Marion was brought down with Nine. It was expectations that let Mo'Nique soar, and it was expectations that let Marion's chances of a second Oscar nomination plummet. But when we look back in five years and regard Nine as a "total mess," won't Marion's performance seem more impressive? And when we look back in five years and expect the second-coming of Christ from Mo'Nique, won't we all be disappointed? It's the momentum of the season that can help an actress get nominated. Not to defy Mo'Nique's speech, but there is more to winning an Academy Award than just the performance, like it or not. It wasn't about the "politics" so much as the momentum-The Precious momentum carried her, not the other way around.

In 2015, let's all revisit Precious and Nine, and pay close attention to Mo'Nique and Marion. I'd be surprised if people still hailed Mo'Nique as they do now. Marion's lack of an Oscar nomination will probably be on some of those "worst snubs" lists.

What are your thoughts? Which performance do you think will be better in five years' time?


  1. I think both are great, but it's subjective. Mo'Nique will age fine, but people will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

  2. Simon - Totally. In five years I just don't think many will still understand what the big commotion was all about.

  3. You may be on to something here. You know, I think by the time Precious made it to the Oscars it's appeal had sort of already dulled. At first, at Sundance and Toronto, but unlike Slumdog Millionaire which won at Toronto and kept on winning it's way to the best picture, Precious didn't stay fresh and exciting as the inevidable backlash over its portrayal of race (sigh!) dulled it a bit. Plus the seeminly universe agreement that Lee Daniels is a pomous moron. However, I I'm not so sure anything about Nine will be remember either. Like most remakes of great films from great directors (Breathless, Magnificent Seven, etc) they aren't remembered over the timelessness of their originals. It will be interesting to see though if Nine actually takes on a life of its own once it is actrually released on video.

  4. Mike- You're right, the buzz was fading really fast on Precious. Whenever something deals with race automatically it stirs up backlash. That's too bad for filmmakers who do want to tackle race in their movies.

    And I think Nine might have a second life in it. Might.

  5. tbh I quite liked the film itself - I know that's sacrilege in the cinema-speaking world. but yes, cotillard was amazing. as always. xx