Supporting Actress Smackdown - 2007

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 80th Annual Academy Awards are...
ADAM WALDOWSKI of The Oscar Completist
JAMES HENRY of Rants of a Diva
JS C of He Thinks He's A God
NICK DAVIS of Nick's Flick Picks
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

2007's Supporting Actresses are...
(Each Smackdowner's comments are arranged according to ascending levels of love. Click on the nominee's name/film to see StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

JAMES HENRYBlanchett’s definitely startling and exciting, but not necessarily in a good way. She’s so mannered and exaggerated that, with the way she tacked on “man” to the end of every sentence, for awhile I thought Jeff Bridges in full-on Dude mode had also been hired to play Dylan. It wasn’t until her final scene, where she drops all the mannerisms and pretense and offers that enigmatic smile, that I finally saw a real human being.
A swell inhabitation of the Dylan persona she is chosen to work
with, Technical Cate once again displays her tremendous ability to
create interest though not always emotional attachment (fondness
maybe) in a showcase role. Also, that last smile? A great touch of
"thank you for watching."
It’s often fascinating to observe Blanchett sculpt the humanoid contours of this enthralling, startling and infuriating creature. A technically spectacular performance that remains an expert, but curiously soulless, concoction.
I see Stinky’s point in his earlier post that this performance could have used some richer emotional chords, even taking into account the jackass/cipher traits of the role. Still, Blanchett is playful, smart, subtle, and technically exquisite—not just as a mimic, but as the architect of an uncanny and insinuating character that’s very much her own.
Effortlessly funny and ultimately unique performance. Blanchett goes far past the genderbending baity aspects that the role might provide and dives into the nitty-gritty of this character; s/he becomes a force to be reckoned with on the screen.
Only Blanchett or Streep could have elevated this beyond a caricature or gimmick. Her gait, voice, and demeanor don't just express masculinity, they implore it. Rather than impersonating, she's explores the psyche of a supremely egotistical Dylan circa Don't Look Back that's an enigmatic, charismatic tour de force.
TOTAL: 22s

JS CSLAP! That's all. The rest? Quite adequate.
ADAMShe's going to slap the hell out of me, but Dee, with her unbelievably limited screentime, is left standing after Denzel's two vanity projects fell flat. Still, she surely wonders how a slap and a hug got her this far. Mama Lucas appears like an unfinished sketch--or with those expressions, why not say cartoon?
NICKMy eye went right to her, and she did more with her scenes than she needed to: I love the slightly foggy air in which she hides her skepticism and disappointment—until, at last, she doesn’t. But, simply, this isn’t major work.
JAMES HENRYI have to concede that the bitch slap heard ‘round the world is quite fantastic, but this is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles which nothing can really be done with and is only elevated by Dee’s legendary status.
STINKYLULUBrief but brilliant. Dee’s efficiently crafted character arc – a mother’s proud devotion curdling into despairing disappointment – goes far to provide the only emotional mooring for this lumbering film. (And while the slap might be more memorable, that first scene about the bedroom set remains proof that this is real, substantial actressing.)
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER A very small performance that leaves a large impact when you leave the film. Dee's natural gravitas and acting talent impresses, even if we really wanted more of it.
TOTAL: 11s

ADAMGarai and Redgrave give considerably better performances and that's because they're evolving from Ronan, who's limited to her deadpan stare and shrill, wavering voice. Only 13 years old, any nuance escapes Ronan who stoops to playing the spoiled child... and nothing more.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTERRonan makes the unwise choice of playing the character like an adult would play it; not as the child actually Briony actually is. On top of that, the performance is too fussy and bland for the gravitas this role demands.
NICKI find her very well cast in terms of “type” but also very directed, frequently rigid, and in ways that obscure or flatten Briony as often as they reveal her. Better than lots of kids would have done, sure. But where oh where is Bonita Granville? (Or what’s-her-name, also in These Three, whom everyone on this blog revered so intensely. [ed's note: That would be Marcia Mae Jones.)
STINKYLULUI admire Ronan’s ability to score the cracks in Briony’s self-insulating certitude, how that work routes the paths followed by the subsequent (more exhilarating) Brionys. A deftly directed performance by an exceptionally talented young actor.
JS C Precocious control of her physical self. Those subtle facial
adjustments in an otherwise powdered glacial front conveys
unimaginable change and turmoil. The next Tilda Swinton? Possibly.
Yeah, I wrote it.
JAMES HENRY While I fear that, vocally, many other child actors could have done this role with just as much conviction as Ronan, what sets her apart in my mind is her commitment to detail in every other aspect of the character: the 90 degree turns while walking, whacking to grass with her stick, the rehearsal scene with her cousins.
TOTAL: 14s

JS CYou can tell she must have been having a ball with that accent and,
while she tries to blend – then break through – the visual ugly of the
movie, the performance reaches a point of over-reliance on said
technique. You can't tell whether she really chooses to
play it this two-dimensionally or whether that really was just the role.
A Mike Leigh performance—lived-in, vivid, mannered, and a little unpredictable—but with a coarser director at the helm, and an actress with a less sure sense of how much might be too much for the intimate camera and the giant screen. Oscillates between tough insights and garish speculation.
With a character as ugly as Helene McCready, it would have been easy for Ryan to try and soften her up a bit, make her a little more human. Instead, much to her credit and actorly instincts, she shoves Helene’s flaws right in our face and makes this monster mother more memorable.
Ryan’s Helene is a perfectly hideous narcissist. A monstrous phantom crafted with clarity, ease and a wicked Boston accent – vivid, haunting, effective.
Ryan completely makes the film her own. She nails the emotional core of the character within the histrionics, an incredible accomplishment in itself. Special note must be given to her line-readings; each dripping with the sheer essence of this character.
As a white trash crack whore single mother, Ryan has (to say the least) an intensely unlikable character. However, she alternates between self-serving bitch to loving mom with fluidity and depth. In a morally ambiguous film, Ryan's the piece that makes it nearly impossible to decide where your sympathies lie.
TOTAL: 21s

ADAMSwinton benefits most from the absurd final scene that all of Michael Clayton builds up to, but even then she's in bad form, channeling too much into every glance and movement. It's nice to see her finally recognized by Oscar. Too bad it's for the least distinctive performance of her career.
JS C What is it about Tilda Swinton's body that her voice only seems to
be a bonus in the performance? This melting conduit of Michael
Clayton's staid urban fairytale perfectly reflects what it means
to be living in such a world: a beautifully constructed creature in
ill-fitting corporate (& corpse) skin with a voice that
cannot convincingly be distinguished between fa├žade and emotion.
BROOKE CLOUDBUSTER The best performance in this category for some time. Without any fluff; this is a masterclass. Swinton makes Karen into so much more than she is on the page; getting into the character's each flaw and quality perfectly.
JAMES HENRY Swinton could have copped out with this performance since it seems that the character was thrown in as an afterthought, but instead she nailed it, showing the vulnerable and twitchy side of a corporate ball-buster with those daring sweat stains, the bewitching rehearsal scenes and her utter horror at the lack of control in the final scene.
STINKYLULU Where most actresses would have mined the workaholic Karen Crowder for her humanizing idiosyncrasies, Swinton dives to the piteous depths of the corporate automaton’s depleted soul. Technically pristine work, with a frighteningly human edge – some of the best work the category’s seen in years.
NICK Knows exactly (unlike Ryan) how much the camera will catch, makes rigidity work as an essential character point (unlike Ronan), lingers in more of the movie than she’s actually in (unlike Dee), and suffuses emotional thrums of sorrow, striving, and anxiety throughout an otherwise technical performance (more fully than Blanchett does). Superior in every respect, and also in specific ways to all four of the competing performances.
TOTAL: 27s

The SMACKDOWNERs are clear:

But we must be content
to wait until later this evening
to discover Oscar's Choice...

And lo - behold - OSCAR agrees!
Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton is
The Best Supporting Actress of 2007!

For their part, the Smackdowners
were/are divided in their predictions.
Nick and JS C think it'll go to Tilda. Nick observes that Michael Clayton is "the most admired movie...and more people seem to have 'discovered' the performance as awards season has trundled onward" while JS C notes that Tilda's "the only strong Clayton nominee in any category and the Academy must 
recognize Clooney." Adam and Brooke, on the other hand, are calling the race for Cate. While Adam claims Cate's win with the passion of a true believer ("Though the Weinstein Company took a sure thing this season and let it morph into the most unpredictable category, I think -- and pray -- Cate Blanchett will win") Brooke's a little more resigned to the statistical inevitability of Blanchett snagging at least one trophy tonight ("Few double nominees go home with nothing. It's the sad truth, and not even the respect for Dee or the critic's praise of Ryan can change that"). For his part, James Henry is going with the "sentimental vote" and calling the race for Ruby. As for me, I don't have a clue. I suspect Cate'll snag it (they almost had it engraved for her six months ago), though Ruby might just upset things. I somehow don't think it's Tilda's to take but I'd love to see it happen. All in all, I'm just giddy that my beloved category -- after a couple bouts of inevitability -- is actually a wide open race. So, I'll just go out on a limb and predict Saoirse to win. Wouldn't that grab some attention for our beloved actresses at the edges of 2007?!

BUT, lovely reader, what do YOU think?
Share your thoughts, opinions and predictions
below in comments.
(And do vote in today's pre-show polls at right.)


RBurton said...

I'm especially grateful I could participate in this smackdown. This really benefits since Supporting Actress is the real wildcard race tonight.

And for all my effort, Swinton was impossible to derail. I'm obviously a Swinton fan, just not for this performance or film. It's funny that I still rank her third in this category.

Only Nick and Brooke didn't mention Dee's slap. I applaud them on finding something else to say.

J.D. said...


Once again, the Smackdown succeeds.


CanadianKen said...

Wait a minute. Have I wandered into a meeting of the Tilda Swinton Appreciation Society?
...No- right address; I guess this IS the 2007 smackdown, after all.

Seriously, nice work from all participants. I enjoyed reading
every single entry. Should I resign myself to a Swinton coronation tonight? No I don't think so - I'll bet sentiment carries the day for Dee. It's a standing ovation waiting to happen.

StinkyLulu said...

I think actressexuals are Tilda's main voting bloc, so -- of course -- she's over-represented here. (Just like Ryan's the perfect performance for critics and acting nerds.)

I'll believe Tilda's win when I see it. Until then, I'll keep pulling for the most shocking possible outcome: SAOIRSE!!!

Nick Davis said...


Marius said...

YES!!! Tilda Swinton. I'm soo happy she won the Oscar. Great job, everyone.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

rburton: I almost mentioned it. But, for some reason, I saw No. 2 the other day. (Indie New Zealand film she starred in '06) and the bitch slap she almost gave in that doesn't even compare to the one she did give in American Gangster. It'd be a disservice to mention it.

I'm glad for a Tilda victory both here and at the Oscars. There's nobody who deserves it more than she does on this night.

Middento said...

Wow!! Congrats you guys! Apparently, the Academy channeled you tonight!!

criticlasm said...

You are right; the Oscars were right. It's a very happy Monday.

MovieMania said...

An amazing performance from Swinton, who most certinley deserved the Oscar.

dchowe8 said...

Very happy to see Swinton enter the mainstream with this award. It's a great performance, but she already has a dozen indelible performances behind her. BTW: If you haven't seen her in Julia, you haven't seen her. She's great.