I recently proclaimed 2008 one of the worst movie years in recent memory and I stand by that statement (so far). And let's be honest, it's never an outstanding year as far as actresses are concerned. I know it's Thanksgiving and we should be happy with what we have, but actresses have had very little to be thankful for. Hollywood does a very good job supplying fun and interesting roles for the guys, but not so much for the gals. The Best Supporting Actress category looks especially dry this year. No real standouts yet. But I must admit that while it is late in the year, it is still pretty early in terms of the Oscar season.
Penelope Cruz received strong reviews a few months ago in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Now it's not like the buzz has been persistent but when you consider the fact that Woody still has some clout with the Academy and the Academy is desperate for strong contenders in this category, Cruz almost seems like a shoe-in. Welcome to the world of Best Supporting Actress.
I give a puncher's chance to the Cinderella Man's granddaughter, Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married), joining her co-star Anne Hathaway among the Oscar nominees next year. But also Elsa Zylberstein for I've Loved You So Long, whose only downfall at this point is being ... Elsa Zylberstein.
This past week the biggest out-of-nowhere buzz has sparked from the Benjamin Button screenings, boosting Cate Blanchett from a "could-be" to a "likely-will" -- and not for Best Supporting Actress (as I'd initially thought), but Best Actress. Though Blanchett wasn't really the big news here: It's the performance by Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow) that has critics going, "Hmm." Button is expected to be a big-time contender this Oscar season and I suspect Taraji will ride the wave.
It's been a long, strange ride for Marisa Tomei, but she's really put it together the past few years. I have yet to see The Wrestler, and it's not like the buzz on Tomei is amazing, but people seem to like how she's aging in her career. They also seem to like the movie a great deal so it would not surprise me at all to find Tomei on the ballot.
Doubt is an interesting movie for this category. Meryl Streep commands leading actress prestige, whether or not she has more screen time than her co-star Amy Adams (remember Streep somehow was nominated Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada despite being more of a supporting player). So she's out in this category. Amy Adams has been on my radar for a Supporting Actress nomination and there's a good chance that'll still be on target. Viola Davis, that wonderful actress from Solaris and Antwone Fisher, has been gaining steam lately for the same movie, making Doubt perhaps the most intriguing Oscary movie for female actors. Any chance three ladies get a nod here? Anything is possible.
Kate Winslet poses an interesting dilemma for the Oscar campaign. One of the safest bets you could make at this point is that Winslet will be nominated for an Oscar this season. She has the heavily-anticipated reunion with The Leo in the hubby-directed Revolutionary Road. A Best Actress nomination is expected. But there is also talk of her getting a Best Actress nod for the Holocaust drama, The Reader. Could she cancel herself out? Will she find herself nominated Best Actress twice next year? Or is there a chance that with The Reader she lands a Supporting Actress nod? Revolutionary Road is clearly about a marriage and it takes two to tango. It's equally Leo and Winslet's movie, no question. But I wonder about the approach director Stephen Daldry (who directed the fem-tastic, underrated film The Hours) has taken with The Reader. I read the book years ago and on paper it seems to me a lead role. But you never know how Harvey Weinstein is going to work the campaign, and you never know how the Academy -- which likes to play around with the idea of what exactly is a lead or supporting role -- is going to look at it (somehow Ethan Hawke was a supporting player in Training Day ... uh-huh). Hollywood will fix things, make them fit, if they really have to. I just wish they'd fix the script and give more of these worthy actresses better roles.