Last year, each of the five women in this category had been previously nominated for at least one Academy Award, combining for a total of eight previous nominations and three Academy Award wins. This year, however, the Best Supporting Actress category is made up of mostly Oscar rookies: Sally Hawkins, Lupita Nyong’o, and June Squibb are each receiving their first Academy Award nomination. The other two nominees, Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts, have combined for five nominations and two Oscar wins. The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)
In her first feature-length role, Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey, a young slave in the South. Although she is her master’s most productive slave, she is also the object of his sexual desire and physical abuse. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave takes an incredibly realistic look at the pre-Civil War era when slavery was prominent throughout the South, and while there are some incredibly powerful acting performances that set the film’s tone, none is more commanding than the 30-year-old Lupita’s. There are times when you smile as Patsey enjoys some simple parts of life, such as making dolls out of cornhusks, but there are also times when you want to break down because of the evils being bestowed upon her by her master (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Sarah Poulson). The vast array of emotions I felt while watching this film were truly illuminated by Lupita’s remarkable debut performance. Even though Jennifer Lawrence had another amazing acting performance in American Hustle, it is hard for me to pick against Nyong’o this year, and in my opinion, the rookie actress is very much deserving of Hollywood’s highest honor. Nyong’o has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.
2. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
In American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, the unpredictable wife of the lead character, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). Irving and his mistress (Amy Adams) are forced by the FBI to help set up a sting operation in order to take down corrupt politicians in New York City, but Irving’s often boozed-up, sun-burnt, stay-at-home wife may threaten the entire job. I will buy into any role Jennifer Lawrence takes on, because no matter what character she might play, she has proven that it will be played with an unparalleled level of wit, enthusiasm, and tenacity, and this performance is no exception. Lawrence is quickly becoming one of the most successful actresses in the entertainment business today, and this nomination marks the third time in the last four years that her roles have landed her at the Oscars; if she wins, she will be only the sixth performer to ever win back-to-back acting Oscars. While her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games has helped garner her the title of “America’s Sweetheart,” Oscar-nominated performances like this one are cementing her place among the greatest young actresses in Hollywood. Lawrence was previously nominated for Best Actress on two occasions: nominated for Winter’s Bone (2010) and winning for Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
3. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
In August: Osage County, Julia Roberts plays Barbara, the eldest daughter of the Weston family. When Barbara’s father commits suicide, she ventures back home to northeastern Oklahoma to reunite with her two sisters, her aunt and uncle, and her pill-popping mother (Meryl Streep). I have never been a big fan of Julia Roberts, and it has been since her Oscar-winning role in Erin Brockovich that I have been even remotely impressed with her acting abilities. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with her on-screen display in this film. If it were not for a couple extraordinary performances this year by Nyong’o and Lawrence, Julia Roberts may have found herself taking home her second Academy Award. She is great throughout the entire film, and the highlight for me was her foul-mouthed argument with her mother and sister over a plate of fish. Julia is in rare form in this film, and this performance has definitely reinvigorated my interest in her career. Roberts was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Steel Magnolias (1989). She was also previously nominated for Best Actress on two occasions: nominated for Pretty Woman (1990) and winning for Erin Brockovich (2000).
4. June Squibb (Nebraska)
In Nebraska, June Squibb plays Kate Grant, the blunt, opinionated wife of Woody (Bruce Dern). When Woody decides to journey to Nebraska in hopes of collecting a $1 million prize, Kate unsuccessfully attempts to convince Woody and his son (Will Forte) that it is all a hoax and a waste of time. This is my first encounter with Squibb as an actress, but she previously worked with Nebraska-director Alexander Payne on About Schmidt (2002). I greatly enjoyed the black-and-white film and its simple, yet compelling plot, and one of the movie’s most obvious high points is Squibb’s character. She curses at people and never shies away from arguing with her husband, and the single funniest scene in the film features Kate flashing the tombstone of one of Woody’s dead relatives. The woman is a straight shooter, and I found her character extremely heartwarming and hilarious. Squibb is the third oldest Best Supporting Actress nominee ever, and if she were to win the award, she would be the oldest acting winner of any kind in Oscar history. Squibb has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.
5. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Sally Hawkins plays Ginger, the sister of the ex-socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett). When Jasmine is essentially kicked out of the high-class world, she moves in with Ginger. Woody Allen is the king of creating neurotic characters, and he did so again with Blanchett’s disturbed character, but the best part of the film for me was Sally Hawkins as Ginger. As a lower middle class mother of two, Ginger is struggling to deal with her sister’s erratic behavior and her own on-the-rocks relationship with her boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), and Hawkins delineates the character on the silver screen with particular brilliance. I was pleased to see Hawkins receive a nomination, but unfortunately, the field is far too packed this year for her to take home a win. Hawkins has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.
Actresses snubbed in this category: Scarlett Johansson (Her) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street)