2018 Oscars: Supporting Actress

Okay it’s February, which means it’s time to talk Oscars. The winter Olympics gives us an extra week this year, so my annual Oscar coverage will be coming to you Mondays and Thursdays from now until the big day on March 4. Then it’ll be time to put the blog on vacation for a bit and write something else for a while.

Next up…

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Who will win: Allison Janney
Who could win: Laurie Metcalf
Who should win: Allison Janney
Who should be here: Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”

It was thought, before the nominations, that the five woman field here had been long set, and that Holly Hunter would represent indie romantic comedy The Big Sick. But the nominations came and went, and nary a Big Sick performer picked up a slot.

So what happened?

Ultimately, the Academy makes it so difficult to trace these things, but I think it’s simply a case of “What have you done for me lately?” To put it more clearly, The Big Sick came out in the summer, and almost immediately, Hunter’s name started to get floated in this category. Then the field started to take shape in December. But after the first of the year, voters started to get their first look at Phantom Thread, which kind of came out of nowhere at the end with its six nominations (before the nominations at the end of January, many prognosticators only gave it a shot at a Best Actor nom for Daniel Day-Lewis). That vaulted Manville into the conversation and Hunter, months after her film was most relevant, got the Oscar squeeze.

Though many would have liked to have seen Hunter get the nomination, she wasn’t really in the conversation to win once Allison Janney’s performance in I, Tonya hit the screen. Somehow, this is Janney’s first Oscar nomination, and she got it for playing the villain in Tonya Harding’s story, and her character was at points maddening, horrible and heartbreaking, but always believable and sometimes even hilarious.

Janney’s taken the wins in most of the awards thus far, but her main competition is Laurie Metcalf. Probably best known for her role as Roseanne’s sister on the 80s-90s sitcom Roseanne (and, if you don’t remember, watch when Roseanne reboots onto the small screen in March), she played the dual role of antagonist and friend in Lady Bird, much like to any teenager: the mother. Metcalf is the prototypical working actress: she has 79 IMDb credits in multiple series and films, as well as turns on the stage. Hollywood in general and the Academy in particular loves an underdog story, and the 62 year old first-time nominee is certainly that.

Speaking of underdogs, wouldn’t it have been great to see Bria Vinaite from The Florida Project slide into the Top 5 for her first-ever film? Her character Hailey played the perfect foil to seven year old Brooklynn Prince’s lead as antagonist/advocate/Mom – much like Metcalf’s herself. You probably haven’t seen it, so do yourself a favor and give it a shot. I’ll wait. (Spoiler alert: I won’t).