Sunday, March 8, 2009

Supporting Actress Oscar Survey: THE WORST

Here we have it, ladies and gentlemen, from the least worst to the worst:

10. Jessica Lange – Tootsie (10 points)

As I understand it, Jessica Lange's other Oscar-winning turn in Blue Sky isn't that well regarded either, and it surprises me and disappoints me that such a talented actress with such a sure-fire run of successes in the 80s has two Oscars for her most disliked performances. "Does anybody see anything special about her in the movie?" says Mike Savidge, with Svanur Petursson concdes that it's 'not a bad performance but I have never understood the excitement behind it at the time. Edward Copeland gives a particularly scathing review on this performance: Another case of someone who wasn't even the best supporting actress in the movie she won for and in this case the best one (Teri Garr) was nominated. Her performance seemed absent-minded and so loose that at times I was convinced when she cocked her head backward, it would fall off. Carlos Oliveira acknowledges the greatness of her turn in Frances, but concedes that it was going to go to Meryl Streep that year.

10. Rachel Weisz – The Constant Gardener (1o points)

I felt this choice might've been more noticeable of a general disapproval to the Academy's recent choices, but there seems to be a trend against that in this survey, which I found encouraging. However, it still managed to attract quite a disdain, with Tripp Burton being quite blunt about it: "An actress I have never enjoyed in a plodding film." Jeffrey M. Anderson recounts the Weisz's rather odd race to the podium, "I remember watching helplessly as this bad, overpraised film somehow crept ahead of all the other contenders." Ultimately, for me at least, Rachel Weisz is the actress I have the hardest trouble remembering when recounting recent winners in this category.

9.Miyoshi Umeki – Sayonara (14 points)

This is one Oscar race I would love to go back in time and witness, because I have no idea how an Asian actress would win an Academy Award over the legendary Elsa Lancaster, two nominees in a Best Picture film and another actress who was a rising star. Even if the performance was excellent, which by all accounts it wasn't, it still bewilders me. Most commenters on this performance stray to one of the worst crimes a performer can commit: Boring. Robbie Kendall remembers less about the performance than he should whereas Shawn struggles to recall anything about her performance. (He does, however, recommend her in Flower Drum Song. Fire up the Netflix engines!) Edward Copeland bravely states, "This was P.C. run amok. Umeki did absolutely nothing special to deserve a nomination, let alone a win and the rest of her career sort of bore that out." Perhaps Tripp Burton sums up this performance most effectively and succinctly, though: Eh.

8. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny (15 points)

I was surprised to see this appear outside of the top 5, not because of the actual performance, but because of the reputation it has gained as an urban legend. Has any other win been so supposedly bad to generate suspicion that the presenter read out the wrong name? Many of the detractors to this performance note the strength of the field, Svanurr Petursson thinks that this Oscar should have gone to Judy Davis, a sentiment echoed by John Henry Roberts, who declares that she was "by far the worst of the ‘92 nominees, being the only American on the ballot likely won her the anti-immigrant vote. Amusing caricature in a broad comedy isn’t shameful, but favoring it over Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives, that is." Carlos Oliveira is more restrained in his criticisms, saying that it was not at all a bad performance, but not Oscar-worthy. Robbie Kendall holds no bars, though: "Try as I might, I have no words to convey the depth of loathing I feel for the Oscar going to this 'performance'." The one defence I can afford this win is that Tomei is one of the few Academy Award winners to improve upon themselves after their Oscar, and seems to have retroactively earnt it, a bizzare polarity to those who win it long after their prime.

7. Judi Dench – Shakespeare in Love (18 points)

Criticisms of this performance revolve around two aspects; the screentime, and the 'fact' that the Academy was making up for not giving her the Oscar for Mrs. Brown. Jan Baart calls the performance 'absolutely overrated', Svanur Petursson saying that she could 'do it in her sleep'. John Henry Roberts earned a chuckle out of me by snarking, "She’s a great actress, but this was a cameo and the wig did 90% of the work." David Gaffen is gentler on the Dame, however, "A give-back from the Academy for picking Helen Hunt over her in the previous year. There's nothing wrong with this performance, but it's a cameo, ultimately too brief to be worth anything more than a smile." Myself, I think it was a Kate Winslet case; this woman deserves an Oscar, but for the performance that most people don't consider her best just goes down like a bitter pill.

6. Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind (19 points)

Connelly is another one of those who I completely forget has an Academy Award. It just seems like a very odd moniker to attach to her name, especially considering the plummet in her career in the years since (no matter how good she was in Reservation Road, me being one of the two people who saw it). Onto the commentators, Matt Kilgore places the blame on Ron Howard, "I guess it's not all Jennifer's fault that she had to act under the direction of Ron Howard." Robbie Kendall is much more harsh on the actress, "Just a piece of trash in a film that was not much better." And John Henry Roberts is a little bit gentler, "Connelly's refusal to be typecast as eye candy is admirable, but she's a limited actress. In the right role, her low energy plays as subtlety; here she's mush." To fill in the necessary void, I'll mention that Connelly was also much weaker than her fellow nominees, a beautifully underplayed Mirren, a hilarious Smith, a mercurial Winslet and a heartbreaking Tomei. Can we all pretend she won for Requiem of a Dream instead?

5. Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost (21 points)

A performance I was surprised to see rank this high, but one of which attracted some of the most strong criticsms, so I'll let them: David Gaffen throws out, "There's nothing here to suggest that this performance is anything but a stunt. Talk about Marisa Tomei all you want, but at least she's acting in that movie. This is dreck." Matt Kilgore says, "She brings a certain annoying lining to this laughable romantic comedy." John Henry Roberts provides a reason for her win, "Press at the time figured Oscar owed Goldberg after her work in The Color Purple was passed over; compare the performances, it’s a sad decline." As an avid non-menopausal watcher of The View, I will maintain my silence on this performance.

4. Goldie Hawn – Cactus Flower (25 points)

Another one of those actresses that I'm always surprised at when I remember that she's an Academy Award winner. It's a performance I personally like but can definitely understand the dislike for, Tripp Burton quips: "It is nice to know that even 40 years ago they were giving this award out to whichever actress the voters most wanted to sleep with." While Jan Baart adds, "I have to include her because I just generally dislike her and her performances." Which I'm sure sums up a lot of the general opinion towards this win.

3. Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls (29 points)

Jennifer Hudson's win seems more and more surprising as the two years since then pass by; how was it that this performance was considere a lock over the other four, worthy nominees? Not that I think it's particularly bad. Jeffrey M. Anderson makes a callback to that hype that seems so alien to me now, "Her tragic personal life aside, this was one example of hype overcoming reason. I mean, why wasn't Beyonce ever considered? Or why -- for example -- was Hudson better in this than Meryl Streep was in "A Prairie Home Companion"?" Jan Baart sums up the dilemma of her winning an Academy Award straight up, "I generally dislike musicians playing musicians and I haven't seen anything from here that puts her into the category of actors deserving an Oscar, including this work." Not a bad performance, just a very bewildering win for me.

2. Helen Hayes – Aiport (36 points)

Missing out on the top spot by only a single point, Hayes managed to attract a lot of disdain for this win. Shawn starts us off with a little anecdote, "Give Hayes credit, though: in her autobiography she states she kept far, far away from the movie, until she was on a cruise wherein some (supposed) friends tried to force her to finally watch the 1970 blockbuster onboard. Hayes told them she had to go back to her cabin and throw up instead. Smart lady." Svanur Petursson was understandably harsh on the performance, "This was a comedy performance, and it wasn't even funny. Probably the only performance of those who have won this award that I actually didn't like at all." while Jeffrey M. Anderson expresses exasperation at the win, "One of the Academy's worst gimmes. For "Airport"? Really? Why?" Finally, David Gaffen sums up exactly what is up with the Academy giving her this award: "The ultimate in giving an award to the "cute, plucky old lady."

1. Renee Zellweger – Cold Mountain (37 points)

We have our winner, ladies and gentlemen, and I am not at all shocked. Here are the zingers to this performance in their unedited glory:

Wasn't a fan of this performance at the time. Zellweger is a talented actress but her accent in this film was unconvincing. – Svanur Petursson

Pure and simple, a make-up Oscar from the Academy to apologize for her not winning for Chicago. – Robbie Kendall.

Really, Zellweger ought to be ashamed of this performance. (Didn't I see something just like it on "Hee-Haw"?) – Jeffrey M. Anderson

Leaves me cold. – David Gaffen.

It’s an awesome performance all right, but not in a good way. If only the concept behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was real, so I could erase this one from memory. I’m convinced an evil, untalented twin locked Renee up in a closet and took her place just before Mountain commenced filming, as I refuse to believe this is the same girl we all fell in love with in Jerry Maguire – Shawn.

"Hey, look at me, I'm a hillbilly!" Nothing more to say. – Carlos Oliveira.

And now something from your humble host: I consider this to be the worst performance to win any Academy Award for several reasons:
  1. It's simply a misjudged performance in the context of the film. Every moment involves Zellweger mugging for the camera, every expression and line-reading calculated to draw attention to herself and away from the other performers in the film. She illuminates nothing about her character, and acts from disjointed shot to disjointed shot.
  2. Zellweger is an actress who I considered to be talented. Her performances in Jerry Maguire, One True Thing, Nurse Betty, Bridget Jones' Diary and to an extent, Chicago all display her unique, if not particularly amazing, talent for her craft so it makes little sense that she would slum it for this role.
  3. Her performance is actually very detrimental to the film; it actually degrades it to a level of farce and comedy, and it's not like it was on very steady legs to begin win.
  4. The fellow nominees in the category would all have been worthy winners, particularly Shohreh Aghdashloo and Holly Hunter. The other two wouldn't have been amazing, but I don't think anybody would really be against an Aacademy Award for Patricia Clarkson and overly aghast at seeing Marcia Gay Harden win again.
  5. A completely subjective point: The manner in which she received the Oscar seemed so smug and supercilious that it made me think that this performance was calculated, played the lowest denominator for the sole reason of winning it. It just made me think less of the actress.
So, I can unequicovally call this the worst performance to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Next up: The bests!


  1. While Helen Hayes certainly shouldn't have won, her win never angered me the ways other ones have. For what the part was, she nailed it like an old pro. I also don't have much spite for Zellweger, even though I agree she was terrible and over the top, because whenever she showed up it at least kept me awake for a few moments in the snoozefest that was Cold Mountain. Kidman, Law and the movie were just as bad, but they were boringly bad. Zellweger was at least entertainingly bad.

  2. One winner, in my opinion, that should have been posted on here is Angelina Jolie.

    Of course she won the Oscar; she screams, yells, cry's, and has a breakdown. The big problem is that all that showyness never goes anywhere deep. It's as if it's just there so you won't walk out on the movie. I wouldn't say that it's a particularly bad performance, but inferior to her competing nominees. To put it this simply- she shouldn't have won over either Chole Sevigny or Toni Collette's fantastic performances.

  3. I forget who said it but remember that the Oscar doesn't usually go to the person who acts the best but to the one who acts the most.

  4. Gloria Grahame came close, but she should have made the top 10, and the same goes for Estelle Parsons. Grahame must have really been liked in Hollywood at the time because there isn't anything outstanding about her role. I think Parsons manages to escape the cellar (and even make the Best list!) because she happens to be in an All-time Great movie. The reasons above cannot sway me from liking Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I can understand why Dustin Hoffman wants her - she's utterly charming, beautiful and a in need of the right guy. Nothing about the characterization rings false. I'm glad she didn't attempt to cut it up and instead gave a grounded performance that helped underline the others around her. She epitomizes "supporting" and the movie is better because of the role, not despite it.

  5. Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. So to ask why Beyonce or Meryl Streep didn't win over her is a ridiculous question to ask, because she wasn't even competing against them. They were nominated for Best Actress, and she was, again, nominated for Best SUPPORTING Actress. Not the same category. And as I remember, Meryl Streep won for Devil Wears Prada, so it's not as if Jennifer Hudson beat out all the big wigs.

    In conclusion, Jeffery M. Anderson is an idiot and to cite him does not give credence to your article.

  6. I disagree on Jessica Lange and Whoopi Goldberg. I thought they were great. (But I agree completely on the others!)

  7. "I have no idea how an Asian actress would win an Academy Award over the legendary Elsa Lancaster, two nominees in a Best Picture film and another actress who was a rising star."

    Wow, that was...racist. What, Asians aren't allowed to win Oscars?

  8. I don't have a huge problem with Zellweger's performance. It started comedic. However, as you learned more about her background and as she took on more refined qualities from exposure to Kidman's character, the performance deepened.

    As for Weisz - no way that performance belongs on a list like this.

  9. I do not know how you can have a list like this and leave out Ingrid Bergman in Murder on the Orient Express. People say that she had won 2 other Oscars and did not need a third, but in my opinion, if you are good, then I don't care if you win 5 Oscars as long as they are deserving. You could have removed her from the movie and the film would not have changed a bit. This is one of the worst cases of Oscar overkill