EUROCHEESE: Hello Gents – With the SAG awards throwing us a curveball, this might be the most exciting race this year! I have no idea who’s taking the win. Before we get into it, any thoughts on these five nominees?
MARK: Any thoughts? All the thoughts!
I honestly did not expect for this race to be as exciting and, dare I say, unpredictable as it appears to be now. A month ago, it seemed like Angela Bassett’s to lose, a long coronation to a storied—and underrewarded—career, and now…I don’t know what to make of it, following Kerry Condon’s win at BAFTA and Jamie Lee Curtis’ gobsmacking upset at SAG…
Are we correct to presume that the Oscar is one of those three’s to lose? With Hong Chau and Stephanie Hsu (xoxo) looking in, ostensibly just happy to be nominated.
CLÁUDIO: Such is the chaotic quality of this race, and so tremendous is EEAAO’s popularity that I don’t even know if Hsu can be classified as ‘just happy to be nominated.’
Hong Chau, whose film underperformed with the Academy, is the only one for whom a win feels inconceivable. That has nothing to do with the quality of the performance, of course. Though I find The Whale to be a vile thing and Fraser’s potential win a travesty of bad taste cum bad judgment, Chau powers through the wreck and comes out mostly unscathed. While many of her competitors got here through roles tailored for acting pyrotechnics or scripts written in such a way that they help the performers, she is handled an impossible text. That Chau comes close to solving the conundrum in her scattered scenes is a testament to her craft.
I could go on and on, as is my custom. Moreover, even though none of these performances make my personal Best Supporting Actress ballot, they’re all eminently discussible and worthy of analysis. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
EUROCHEESE: I agree that Chau did an excellent job with a terribly written character (thank goodness The Whale missed Screenplay), but that she’s the one out of the running here. I am insanely biased when it comes to EEAAO – Hsu and Curtis would be my #1 and #2 picks for the category this year – but until SAG, I assumed we were looking at a two horse race. But now…
Let’s add a little confusion to the mix: In any other year, a career narrative forming around an overdue actress that took Critics Choice and the Globe, but did not translate to SAG or BAFTA, would indicate the momentum isn’t there to win the Oscar. In any other year, BAFTA’s home bias extending to the serious Irish contender when she didn’t score elsewhere would be chalked up to BAFTA playing their usual tricks. (I also find it fascinating that when Keoghan and Condon both won, he was immediately dismissed but many are now ready to declare her the frontrunner.) In any other year, a SAG win for a veteran actress in a Best Picture frontrunner could be seen as the one place she might be rewarded. Long story short – I can excuse all of these as not being indicators for a win. So, chaos reigns? Jobu Tupaki is having her way and giving us an opening for Hsu? (For the record, much as I’d love it, I think a win for Hsu would still be a stretch.)
I am leaning in one direction, but could honestly be swayed by our conversation. Would either of you like to pitch me on who is most likely to take the win?
MARK: Oh, boy. Well, part of me feels like the Oscars’ coronation of the Queen Mother of Wakanda, Miss Bassett, may be too irresistible a pull for the Academy to pass up. (I felt similarly when Regina King was inexplicably missing at both BAFTA and SAG, but cruised to ultimate victory…albeit for a very different kind of film than Bassett’s. They both are just so well respected and worthy in their own right.) And yet another part of me has been surprised—and elated—by how dominate EEAAO has proven itself to be with guilds as varied as the CDGAs and the DGAs/PGAs, which certainly bodes well for Bassett’s fellow Hollywood veteran, Jamie Lee Curtis. So considering it could come down to legend vs. legend, that does seem to provide an opening for Condon to win, à la Tilda Swinton in the even more chaotic year that was 2007.
Bassett > Condon > Curtis > Hsu (dark horse), that’s my inkling at this point. (Honestly, it seems to change by the day.)
With actual Oscar voting starting, can you read the tea leaves better than I? What do they tell you?
CLÁUDIO: Full disclosure – I am a terrible pundit regarding prediction accuracy. Even so, my best efforts to interpret the Best Supporting Actress tea leaves lead me back to a past scenario. Like you, I feel 2007 might be the key to unlocking this mystery. In other words, Condon will get this one. Similar to Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, she’s the easiest place to honor a beloved Best Picture contender that looks more and more unlikely to win other categories. Bizarrely enough, the EEAAO dominance, even in the screenplay categories, might help her along. Farrell’s dwindling chances further make her case as the best person to win The Banshees of Inisherin some gold.
Curtis and Bassett share the same sort of narrative to victory, both propelled by illustrious careers with their film/role’s genre trappings as the biggest handicap. Right now, I’d rank their chances thusly:
Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin sole win?
Bassett – A living legend that should have an Oscar already.
Curtis – Legend aided by frontrunner love. Will split votes with Hsu.
Hsu – EEAAO’s most traditional Oscar-y performance.
Chau – Just happy to be included.
EUROCHEESE: I’ll complete our trio: While this is the last race I would bet on, if I was placing a bet, I’d go with Jamie Lee Curtis. Races like this are all about momentum, and Cláudio, I agree that momentum seems to have shifted away from Bassett. BAFTA didn’t make me blink because I knew as soon as she was nominated for BAFTA that Condon was winning there. In 2007, I remember thinking Swinton was a slight surprise, which was not the case this year.
Curtis, on the other hand, felt out of the blue. Bassett was the veteran expected to win, and if the momentum was there for Condon, she could easily have taken it. Hearing the crowd cheer when Curtis gave her “I am an actor” introduction made me realize how much actors respect her, I’m assumingly in part for her season-long cheerleading for her film and leading lady. She’s also in a film that seems to be only gaining momentum. Her win would mean EEAAO would tie Streetcar and Network for their number of acting Oscar wins, but I honestly don’t think voters consider things like that.
I don’t ascribe to the notion that films with high nomination counts have to take home a win, especially when it comes to films heavily focused on dialogue and acting. Condon did an excellent job, but I don’t think audiences left her film thinking about her as the standout. I thought Swinton completely stole Michael Clayton with her nervy villain portrayal. Bassett runs away with Wakanda, but it’s a Marvel movie that didn’t show up in Best Picture. To me, Condon feels like one member of a great ensemble. No examples spring to mind of when that translated to a win (though feel free to tell me otherwise in the comments). Movies like Lady Bird, Up in the Air, all the way back to The Turning Point – movies that won’t land a tech win often go home empty handed.
MARK: Fair point. What’s wild to me is that at the beginning of this (already long) Oscar season, the veteran who seemed most plausibly in the hunt was Curtis (and for a decidedly nontraditional role, no less). But then Bassett followed suit and started racking up nominations *and* significant wins. If it truly does come down to veteran vs. veteran, Bassett just seems to be more of a gravitas actor, while Curtis the venerable actors’ actor. (The SAG win is certainly no small shakes in that regard.)
With Bassett, Academy voters would be rewarding her career as much as (if not more than) a solid performance in a film perhaps less likely to win elsewhere. With Curtis (and, to a lesser degree, Condon), voters have ample opportunity to—and likely will—reward the film elsewhere. Will they, with Oscar voting underway, do this calculus? Chances are no, but we also are talking about the body at large, who may respect Curtis and her nearly 50-year career far more than her previous Oscar misses would suggest. (For the record, she easily could’ve been nominated at least basically once every decade since the ‘80s, and each would’ve been totally inspired.)
I’m leaning Bassett still…slightly. Ever so slightly.
CLÁUDIO: To close us off, I’ll say this – no matter who comes out on top, we’ll finish the season with a good supporting actress winner.
Even Hsu, who I rank fifth in the lineup in terms of personal preference, will receive a standing applause from me if/when she collects the Oscar. Indeed, her Spirit Awards speech might be my favorite from the whole season, holding up the idea of cinema (and theater) as inherently collaborative and all the better for it. Between that lovely moment, Bassett’s imperious excellence, Curtis’ enthusiasm, Condon’s BAFTA homage to her menagerie, and the hypothesis of a thoroughly shocked Chau – the Supporting Actress category feels bound to be a highlight of this year’s Academy Awards.