Of all the major categories set for Sunday night’s 86th Academy Awards, the race for Best Supporting Actress might be the toughest to call right now. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o from “12 Years a Slave” and last year’s Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” have gone back and forth as favorites throughout awards season, and neither has emerged as the clear favorite for the Oscar.
Both camps of supporters are fervent in their support, so before the start of the big night, we decided to have one last debate to see if this could be settled ahead of time and before anyone’s feels got hurt. Who deserves the Oscar? It’s time for a good old-fashioned awards debate!
Kevin: This isn’t going to be easy, but it’s something we need to talk about before Sunday. Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t win for Best Supporting Actress this year. Now before you say anything, you need to know that like any red-blooded American, I love JLaw and think she absolutely deserved to win last year. But that’s the thing. She already got an Oscar for her performance in “American Hustle.” They gave it to her last year for a movie called “Silver Linings Playbook.” Her part in “American Hustle” hit a lot of the same notes as Tiffany but took away a lot of the depth. Lawrence is going to have a long career filled with Oscar nominations. Shouldn’t we wait until she kills it in a role that doesn’t feel so similar to honor her again?
Kase: One of the great things about the Best Supporting Actress category is its function as a place for fresh faces to break through, or for more seasoned vets to show off a different side of their talent. But, but, but, that’s not the only reason it exists. It would be so easy to look at the category as Lupita vs. a bunch of veterans, but let’s remember that America’s BFF, JLaw, has only been around since 2010 and is 23 years old, which hardly makes her the same kind of institution as fellow nominee Julia Roberts.
And, even though this is the actual earth and there’s no such thing as considering something in a vacuum, let’s consider this in a vacuum. This isn’t “Lord of the Rings,” where we’re giving an award to the third movie with the understanding that it encompasses the first two as well. In that case, congrats on winning your Oscar for “Winter’s Bone,” Jennifer Lawrence! Oh, wait, she didn’t get that one, did she?
Kevin: It’s interesting that you bring up “Winter’s Bone” because that’s an entirely different mode that we haven’t seen from JLaw in a while. If she had won last year for “Silver Linings” and was nominated again for a role that felt that different and unique, then I’d be all for consecutive wins. Instead, we’re getting a retread. JLaw could give the same snappy delivery in a movie every single year, and she’d always be really, really great. Does that mean she deserves an Oscar every time?
In the other corner, you have Lupita Nyong’o — yes, a new talent — and someone who gave a heartbreaking performance that feels complete by itself, without owing anything to a previous role. That’s much more Oscar worthy.
Kase: That’s the thing though: All things held equal, Jennifer Lawrence’s turn in “American Hustle” is memorable, funny and sad all on its own. It’s affecting, as is Lupita’s turn in “12 Years a Slave.” You won’t hear an argument from me that the roles aren’t different, and that the Grand Importance and intentions of the films aren’t miles apart. I understand that. But the importance of a film’s subject matter shouldn’t work against it — after all, the award is for the performance. Lupita was heartbreaking, yes, but she was heartbreaking over and over in a somewhat smaller role. JLaw was funny, sad, infuriating and memorable, in a part that any actress would be psyched to play so she could show off her chops.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but I missed the part where a depressed amateur dancer is the same as a conniving wannabe con-artist boozer wife who inadvertently causes national security leaks. Is there a required 50-year gap between film settings to “deserve” an award?
Kevin: I think it’s pretty clear at this point that we’re not going to agree on this one before Sunday night. I think the only thing to do now is get my “Loopy for Lupita” t-shirt ironed and ready for the big show. Yes, I iron my t-shirts. What of it?
Kase: Meanwhile, I’ll be stocking up on Doritos and satin-safe stain remover, because Team JLaw and I have some serious snacking to do. May the odds be ever in my favor.