Saturday, March 14, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar: The Best of the Bests

8. Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton (10 points)

I was surprised that Tilda Swinton got enough points to rank this high on the list, considering how recent it is, but I think that considering the talent of the actress involved and the strength of this performance, I should be less surprised. I'm more surprised that Swinton even won the Oscar, considering that this is her only real mainstream performance and when there were more likely candidates (overdue Dee, genderbending Blanchett and critic's favourite Ryan). Robbie Kendall says, "I’m voting for this as my favorite, in spite of it being so recent because it truly is the best supporting performance to have won and though Patty Duke and Rita Moreno come close the only real competition is from Frances McDormand in Fargo." And I completely agree with Jeffrey M. Anderson, "2007 was a great movie year, and in selecting Tilda, the Academy showed something they rarely show: cool."

8. Hattie McDaniel – Gone With The Wind (1o points)

When I remember the history of this award, McDaniel's name comes to mind most readily as what a supporting actress should be; she supports and elevates the film without making her scenes all about her. And seeing her grateful, polite acceptance speech wins me over every time. Robbie Kendall says, "I adore her in this. She, and Olivia de Havilland to an only slightly lesser degree, made this film for me." I think this was another example of the Academy choosing the right performance when nobody expected them to.

8. Kim Hunter – A Streetcar Named Desire (1o points)

Although this performance was loved, nobody commented on it, so I'll provide my own comments. Hunter provides a steady base for this film, a very temperant balance between Leigh and Brando at their best. While they may sometimes tip over into excess, not to the detriment of their performances or the film, Hunter's Stella stays very calm and steady throughout the film. I think it's a very neat coincedence that Hattie McDaniel and Kim Hunter both won, deservedly, for performances where they supported Vivien Leigh.

8. Estelle Parsons - Bonnie and Clyde (1o points)

From what I've gathered around the blogosphere, this is a love-or-hate performance. Parsons isn't understated in her role, and she is often shrill, but she still managed to gather enough lovers to score this ranking. (Personally, I love her in this role and although she isn't the strongest actor in this film, I thinks she taps into what must have been a very difficult to achieve balance between simply being shrill to tapping into a genuine feeling of terror.) Tripp Burton praises her, "Yes, she is larger than life, but she is so in a wonderful way. A perfect performance." with John Henry Roberts conceding, "It helps that she’s in one of the best films to win this category, but Parsons hits the right shrill notes to keep everyone (on screen and off) on edge."

7. Vanessa Redgrave – Julia (12 points)

Vanessa Redgrave's Oscar win for Julia is what I believe to be a rare case of an actor winning for a performance at the peak of their career, she had a few good-to-great performances before this and many great performances after this, but this was the right performance for her to win for, if that makes any sense. The performance itself is a thing of beauty that leaves us guessing and wanting more and she more than satisfies the high expectations the film sets for her and the character. Svanur Petursson says, "The film is named after Redgrave's character and the film belongs to her the entire time. At the time, Redgrave said it was the best work she had ever done. I agree."

6. Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker (13 points)

Patty Duke's win for The Miracle Worker has to be one of the most unconventional performances to win an Oscar, and it is one of the most unrelenting, powerful ones to do so. Nothing Duke, or any actress before or after will do will ever be able to duplicate this performance, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see it rank this high. Robbie Kendall agrees, "Patty Duke has "it" - that connection to the divine creative spirit just flows through her, yes, like water. There is such master in her performance."

5. Rita Moreno - West Side Story (16 points)

I am unsurprised to see this performance rank in the top five, a landmark performance in one of the best regarded film musicals of all time. I'll let the commenters speak for themselves on this performance: Robbie Kendall says: "Haunting and spellbinding and raw. The depth of her conveying the tragedy in this story is unforgettable." While Shawn enthuses, "Moreno knocks it out of the park; her work as Anita is not close to perfection, it’s beyond it." I can add nothing to these words: This is the performance by which all other musical performances are set against, and which few if any have matched.

4. Dorothy Malone - Written on the Wind (22 points)

It's been a few years since I've seen this performance, and I'm not that old, so I think I really need to revisit this. From this comments, it seems like this is the kind of the performance that people should've been complaining that it hadn't won the Oscar, but it somehow did. I think that it, like Sirk, is much more appreciated now than it was then. I'll let the commenters sing their praises, though: " One of the few times the Academy showed foresight -- and a sense of fun. Malone wasn't a great actress, but this performance was irresistible, and it showed respect for Douglas Sirk, who wouldn't be considered a great artist until well after his death," says Jeffrey M. Anderson. Shawn gushes, "It may not be the greatest work to win a Supporting Actress Oscar, but I once called Malone’s Marylee Hadley my favorite supporting performance, and I haven’t seen anyone who’s changed my opinion."

3. Diane Wiest – Hannah and Her Sisters (25 points)

Another performance that I was unsurprised to see rank this highly, a perfect win for one of our most talented supporting actresses, and a performance that I personally adore. The comments ran wild with this one, so I'll let them illuminate the performance:

"The glue that holds this delight of a masterpiece together." – Matt Kilgore.

"Her win for Bullets Over Broadway may be more fun, but it is also the kind of performance that has award written all over it. In Hannah, she gives the kind of performance that is just as challenging, and even more rewarding, but doesn't get Oscars. Her subtle charm and graceful tenderness is a wonder on the screen." – Tripp Burton

"She won twice, both times for Woody Allen films, and for two remarkably different, comic performances. In this one, she's hilariously damaged goods, and heartbreaking in the scene when she slowly realizes that the architect prefers her friend April." – Jeffrey M. Anderson

"If you ask to 10 movie fans who would be their favorite Woody Allen character, I'm pretty sure that 9 of them will say: Annie Hall. But I'd rather not follow the majority and confess that the one who would deserves the first spot for me is Holly. Not because she was wonderfully written: Wiest deserves her credit! Her construction of the confused and junkie, yet lovable sister is great that it's impossible not to be captivated by her. I remember watching this movie with a friend of mine and in the surprising ending, she said: "well, did she slept whit someone else? That's nasty!" And I replied: "oh, well, I forgive her! She's so damn funny!" – Celso Oliveira.

2. Jane Darwell – The Grapes of Wrath (26 points)

I am a fan of this performance, but the voters for this performance muster up a love more eloquent than I can express for it, so I'll let them have at it:
"You can watch the movie without the sound and she will still wrench your gut." – MIKE SAVIDGE

"One of the all-time great screen performances, the strength and tenderness she shows are amazing to watch. The only problem is if she is better than Judith Anderson in Rebecca, whom she defeated." – Tripp Burton

"Darwell's strength almost single-handedly provides the fortitude the Joads need as they make their new start." – Edward Copeland.

"So many actresses won an Oscar for playing the mother of the leading star but Darwell's is a true gem. Her presence on screen is powerful. Her eyes, her gestures, her dialogues with Henry Fonda – playing her son – are incredible and bring the watcher to tears." – Celso Oliveira.

"She simply encompasses the pain and endurance of a nation in her every word, action and expression." – Matt Kilgore

1. Sandy Dennis - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (31 points)

Perhaps with a few more voters, another performance would have emerged victorious, but I am very, very happy that one of the my favourite performances of all time managed to nab the top spot. Unfortunately, a lot of the voters were the non-commentators, so I'll have to fill in the gaps myself, and with the YouTube clip above. a. I don’t know what the hell Dennis thinks she’s doing, but I can’t keep my eyes off her (very entertaining, and frequently inspired) neurotic ticking. Shawn says, "An unmatched performance, whether one views Dennis' work in a good or bad sense." Celso Oliveira gives a lengthy write-up which I'll post in it's unedited glory:
"Dennis character in Virginia Woolf has less lines and scenes than any other on screen. Even George Sagall – who plays her husband – appears as much as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who plays the main couple of the story. Conclusion: Dennis plays the only real supporting role in the movie, an annoying and submissive wife who seems to prefer to alienate herself from the conversations than accept the hard reality that she is the victim of George and Martha's cruel games. So what's so great about her acting in this masterpiece? The answer is simple: she knows her place. In the whole movie, you don't see her struggling for getting more attention. Any other actress could just play the role above average, but Sandy's acting succeeds in every level! The result is a superb and captivating performance that captures the watchers from her very first moment on screen until the last scene leaving the public asking "oh, where is here? I want more of her!" The transformation of the submissive, silly wife into a exploding, brandy-drinking rebel who start questioning her husband opinions and orders is really one of a kind! And seriously, who never wanted to grab her hands and go round and round the room singing "Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?... Virginia Woolf… Virginia Woolf…"? – Celso Oliveira.

I think perhaps the best or at least the most unique part of this performance is that Dennis underplays the neuroses and tics of her character, all culminating in her climactic scene, heartbreaking as she crawls on the ground and pleads. Even as Dennis nails the most difficult character arc in the film, the only truly sympathetic character, she nails so many of the little moments, such as her terrified and broken reading of the simple word, "No." in the final scenes. I am completely okay with this perofrmance being voted as the Best Performance to win a Supporting Actress Oscar.


  1. imo, Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway is the best winner this category has ever had. but it's nice to see her getting some credit for Hannah, where's she's fabulous as well. (though I do have a crush for A Room with a View, and therefore 4 Maggie)

  2. I know she was just a teenager,but I can never find it in my heart to forgive Patty Duke for stealing the Oscar that should have been Angela Lansbury's for The Manchurian Candidate. Mrs. Iselin was one of the greatest screen characters of all time.

  3. Dennis is truly the best of the best. Originally I would have given Patty Duke that title, but Sandy is cream of the crop. I never once got the impression that she was acting- that's how natural it felt.

    I applaud those for also choosing Tilda Swinton who is one of the best winners in recent years.

    Great work!

  4. Nice work on the survey! Was glad to see a bunch of mine rank in the also-ran category. I chose Celeste Holm as my favorite winner in the category, followed by Cloris Leachman (so great, so great).

  5. Estelle Parsons landing so high surprises me, too. I wonder if the voters might have given the performance more credit than it deserves, maybe because it's in such an iconic movie?While Parsons does her role justice, it really is a one-note character. Watching "Roseanne", in which she played the title character's mother, it becomes obvious that she earned kudos for "Bonnie" more for her exasperated rendition than artistry. At least three other actors in the film outshine her. I would have liked to have seen Shirley Jones, Brenda Fricker, or Cloris Leachman make this list over Parsons. Heck, if you were going to have rewarded exasperation, you could have at least chosen Whoopi Goldberg. I like this list otherwise and hope to see "Written in the Wind" soon.

  6. A few thoughts about Swinton. She could have been the ultimate witch by heightening the devil's-advocate complex she donned. We all know she has the capacity to do that (Narnia, poor reference but it works lol).

    Anyway, she humanized the character, and you actually felt sympathy, instead of just being loathsome of the dirty tricks she pulled in support of the corporation (the corporation in the movie). She too suffered, just like Wilkinson's character......It's just that her suffering was not as blatant as Wilkinson, for it was tamed by her strong will.

    I think she did a lot of work to accomplish I'm a 100% behind her win as well.

  7. I would have added Eileen Heckart for Butterflies are Free and Angelica Huston for Prizzi's Honor

  8. Malone's performance was perfection. I feel she was always underrated as an Actress. But that night she took home her well earned OSCAR.