Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1999

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards are...
BRAD of Criticlasm
JOE R of Low Resolution
JS C of He Thinks He's A God
MIDDENTO of when i look deep in your eyes
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

1999'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.)
BROOKEA rather surprising nomination, but not a bad one. Collette, despite being in a rather neglected role, delivers a decent performance. If only the role was written a bit more, this offbeat talent could really have shone.
Stirring a heady mix of ferocity and vulnerability, Collette avoids cliché while layering complexity and compassion into Lynn's every gesture, providing a formidable and funny emotional anchor for the film.
I hate to say that I was sold on this flick, manipulative as it is, from Collette's performance alone. Touching and real, yet (despite the tears) unsentimental, the performance grounds the film in a subtle, nuanced way.
"Do... Do I make her proud?"
Collette dropped doing too much and did just enough. Though the nomination is probably based on the car scene, watching the film again makes me realize it's the woman she's set up – the woman who cares for her son deeply – that makes Lynn as resonant as she is. My favorite performance in the film by far – even more than Mischa Barton as Linda Blair.
Kills me dead every single time. Fierce strength and shattering vulnerability, at once. The way she acts with her fingernails. And that scene in the car -- the rare "Oscar clip" scene that lives up to the billing.
TOTAL: 25s
MIDDENTOAs we are supposed to venerate actressing at the edges, EDGES THAT CUT HAHAHA, I ask whether the uneven, JAGGED YAAAAAH rollercoaster ride Jolie takes us on supports the movie by foiling a subdued Winona WEEPING PAIN or her own clear ascent WHEEEEEEEEEE! to stardom
STINKYLULUJolie's palpable emotional clarity ably steers the film and the actress delivers a generally lucid performance. Not bad, but rarely subtle, and never deep.
JS C"Playing the villain, baby, just like you want. I try to give you everything you want. Because it makes you the good guy, sweet pea. Is that a dare or a double dare? I like that. How am I supposed to recover when I don't even understand my disease? That's everybody. So, what's your diag-nonsense?"
JOE RThe movie utterly fails her at the end, but I've long been a fan of an actor's ability to channel his or her charisma into a laser beam, and Jolie's Lisa has hers focused so tightly she could cut diamonds.
BRADJolie delivers what by now feels like a standard Jolie performance – fascinating, energy sucking, combative, more than present. She takes any light in the room, and is fascinating on screen. The perf feels almost bigger than the movie though, in the end, I was more emotionally interested in the scenes with Britanny Murphy – even to the point of feeling that hers is the most surprising performances of the film.
BROOKEA visceral and unflinching performance by this talented actress. Jolie manages to portray the crazy while still keeping the ever-changing moods of the character nailed perfectly.
TOTAL: 16s

Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich

STINKYLULUKeener’s charismatic restraint maintains Maxine’s entrancing mystery even as the character transforms unsubtly before our eyes. It’s a thin characterization, long on style and short on subtext, but a consistently delightful performance nonetheless.
BRADKeener does a fantasia of her own tough cookie, smart and sassy broad roles, seemingly speaking only in lines that most actors would have as subtext for something much more polite. I don't think there is much of a transformation in the character and it feels that she's having such a great time being arch that the other stuff gets short shrift. And without that, I don't quite believe the ending.
JS C"You're right, my darling, it's so much more. It's playing with people!" (Gestures toward a 7½ story high window.)
JOE RThere's a fierce competition, in Malkovich, for Maxine's attention, and in Keener's hands, she wields her gaze like a weapon. There's an emptiness to the character, by design, but Keener slowly doles out pieces of Maxine. You can't know her, but she gives you enough to keep chasing.
BROOKEA stunning, scathing and sexy performance by this still criminally underrated actress. She balances the surreal comedy with the underlying emotions perfectly, a true display of actorly talent.
MIDDENTOSmart, sassy and conniving without being sorry for it: Maxine could be the villainous femme fatale hated in every other movie. Here, however, Keener mesmerizes with just enough restraint to make her (and the role) delicious.
TOTAL: 24s
JS C"I had a wonderful evening. I don't need a genius to have a good time."
JOE RShe works her angelic, expressive face to its greatest advantage here, but it doesn't add up to much. Particularly when it's in service to Woody Allen's fucked up issues with women (better that they can't speak at all!).
STINKYLULUMorton inhabits Hattie's silent clarity and wordless integrity with endearing wit, yet even Morton's savvy performance can't ameliorate the creeping misogyny of the role. An adept, adorable but ultimately negligible performance.
BRADUnfortunately, she's constructed as something for Penn's great characterization to bounce against. As such she does her job, and some of her luminosity comes forward, but I was left confused by the character, wondering if she was slow, challenged, or just easily confused. A disappointing performance – sad, because I was really looking forward to it.
BROOKEIn her silence, Morton manages to steal scenes out from under Penn, on top form. She manages to elevate the character out of the pothole of dull writing, but traces do sometimes show.
MIDDENTOMorton electrifies here with the face and movements of a silent movie star – and I don't say that just because she's mute. She brings a lot to the role – which, oddly, I don't care for as much, tired as I am of Allen's simple girls.
TOTAL: 12s
BRADSevigny’s native insouciance works for the bored teenager Lana, but she's unable to break through it later in the film. Though she's definitely present, she comes alive more in the intimacy of the relationship than when the sh** really starts to hit the fan. It's during the violence and the difficulties where she feels a little lost to me, losing the screen to what's happening around her.
JS C"I hate my life."
STINKYLULUWhile often excellent "in the moment," I remain unconvinced that Sevigny’s as excellent "in the character." Still – a most astonishing, breakthrough performance in a year loaded with them.
MIDDENTOI remember not rooting for this to win that year; seeing the movie again for the performance makes me appreciate the small moves Sevigny makes to make this more than a simple "lust object" characterization.
BROOKESevigny is essential to the success of the movie, perhaps even more so than Swank. She keeps the film grounded with her truly humane and naturalistic performance; she doesn't overplay any moment and keeps it uncomfortably real.
JOE RI was initially ready to dismiss Chloe's as a nomination based on the audience's projected infatuation, via Brandon. But as Lana begins to leap impulsively off a series of cliffs, Sevigny's ever-intense face belies her desperation, and later gives way to the ecstasy of a way out.
TOTAL: 23s
Oscar chose...
Angelina Jolie
in Girl, Interrupted
But the SMACKDOWN forcibly dissents and, in a single heart squeaker, appoints...
Toni Collette in
The Sixth Sense

Best Supporting Actress of 1999!

BUT, lovely reader, what do YOU think?
Please share your thoughts in comments.


Middento said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Middento said...

You know, I was struggling whether to give my highest score to Collette or Keener. I'm totally happy with the results.

Folks might be amused to know that 1999 was a year that I saw enough flicks to make my own list of five favorites that year -- only one nomination of which matched the final results. I've posted my own opinions from that year on my own site.

StinkyLulu said...

I too am pleased with the winner, though I wonder what might have happened had Cameron Diaz been nominated.

Secretly, though, I was rooting for Sevigny for the purely selfish reason that I might use this image as my banner for June.

Joe Reid said...

This is a year Oscar can look back and be proud of, don't you think? Not just because of the quality of the performances (though four of the five would have appeared on my own ballot, so I clearly think they chose wisely), but because these five first-time nominees have all blossomed significantly since then. I can say this now that Angelina seems to have righted her ship after all the Tomb Raiders and Alexanders. But this was the year that the Academy "discovered" Samantha Morton (quality of performance aside), lent legitimacy to the American career of Toni Collette and the mainstream career of Catherine Keener, and hoisted Chloe Sevigny out of the Harmony Korine ghetto.

I have to say, too, about Boys Don't Cry after seeing it a second time: that supporting cast, from top to bottom, was just superb. Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton, Jeannetta Arnette, Alicia Goranson, Matt McGrath...it's a shame only Sevigny was singled out.

JS said...

Oooohhhh, now don't I feel like a jerk as well as my original five hearts went to Keener but then decided to give it to Colette instead.

I include Libby Villari in the mix for the Boys Don't Cry women. She was the nurse who "just knew."

And lulu, that Sevigny picture is so David Lynch!

As of now, I'm 3-0 so far in the smackdowns. :)

Joe Reid said...

Oh, the nurse! Good call.

jakey said...

Entertainment Weekly proclaimed 1999 as "the year that changed movies". While The Sixth Sense was that rare breed of horror film that got Oscar's attention (was there another one between that and The Exorcist?), I still think Collette getting nominated for it was enough of a feat. Not only was it a tricky genre, but all the attention seemed to be on Shyamalan, Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.

StinkyLulu said...

Carrie (1976) didn't get nommed for Best Picture but it did in two acting categories (Best and Best Supporting Actress).

Is Ruth Gordon the only Oscar winner for a supernatural thriller?

RBurton said...

Chloe would've gotten my vote. She's never had an acting class in her life, yet she's got more talent than anyone else in the category. It's not a bad category, either!

How odd that Collette has yet to get another nom though...

whip-smart said...

I'm glad for Collette. She was excellent.

I'm sad I couldn't take part. Angelina Jolie was charismatic but so camp that it really took the movie into the realms of bad taste... Chloe Sevigny was striking, a five-star performance on its own right, but kind of overshadowed by Swank. I haven't seen Morton's film, and I really don't get the Keener love. I don't... at all. Shrill and uninteresting.


Buck said...

For the record, Ellen Burstyn was also nominated for Best Actress for "The Exorcist," and more than a few people expected her to win it.

But the first-ever acting Oscar awarded for a horror movie belongs to Fredric March for "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," way back in 1931.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I'm pleased with this result, ultimately. While Collette's is a performance that I'm particularly fond of, it's definitely one I can respect.

And I'm unashamedly a huge fan of this Angelina Jolie performance, but I like her so much more in A Mighty Heart.

What I love about this year more than any other, is that all of these ladies got their Oscar nomination and then improved upon it in the future films. Angelina Jolie, with A Mighty Heart. Toni Collette with About A Boy and Little Miss Sunshine among others. Chloe Sevigny, not so much in films but definitely on TV via Big Love. Catherine Keneer in Friends with Money, Capote and the 40 Year Old Virgin. Samantha Morton in too many films to count.

So, ultimately, I'm really glad that this year was picked. Still rooting for Jolie, though.

Joe Reid said...

I love how Jolie's performance runs the full gamut on our jury. A 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

par3182 said...

i'd never want to begrudge the fab toni collette anything but chloe sevigny would've got my vote - watching brandon through lana's eyes made swank's (already great) performance even more believable

i'd also replace jolie and morton with bonham carter (fight club) and paltrow (the talented mr ripley)

1999 was a damn fine year for movies (yet the academy botched the best film line up so horribly)

Kamikaze Camel said...

My top five for the year were:

San Juan

Although I haven't seen Sweet or Lowdown.

I gotta say, I was expecting Keener to take this in a walk. But, such is the beauty of these things, surprises do exist!

J.J. said...

Keener's work here is funny but criminally and constantly overrated. The two performances she's been nominated for (BJM and Capote) are almost ciphers. (I know: blasphemy.) Instead, look to Lovely & Amazing, The Ballad of Jack & Rose, Walking & Talking...

But great job picking Collette, panel. That's the right choice!

Gustavo H.R. said...

There couldn't have been a better choice here.


i definitely agree that AMPAS should be proud of this lineup.

at the time I completely agreed with it (with the exception of Morton who i would have traded for Julianne Moore in Magnolia) but in retrospect it's hard to argue against booting someone for HELENA BONHAM-CARTER in FIGHT CLUB who is just so against type and thrilling or even LESLEY MANVILLE in topsy turvy who is just so moving.

great year

elgringo said...

I'm going with Collette as the winner here...with Keener not too far behind her. I hadn't really thought about 1999 in Hollywood's timeline. Apparently, it was amazing. I was too young/stupid to catch a lot of these performances during their theatrical runs but thanks to Digital Video Discs, I've caught up.

Michael Parsons said...

I am so happy with this. So you have an award you can give her?

Co said...

I hated Jolie's performance, I thought her win was completly undesserved.

Here's what I've had chosen:
1) Catherine Keener
2) Toni Colette
3) Chloe Sevigny
4) Samantha Morton
5) Angelina Jolie

CanadianKen said...

Enjoyed reading the comments, though none of the films involved were favorites of mine. The fact that Toni Colette could be very good in a film as dreary as "The Sixth Sense" certainly constitutes an accomplishment. But she wouldn't have made it to my list of five that year. I liked Joe R's use of the diamond-cutting laser image for Angelina Jolie's performance. "Girl Interrupted" certainly does offer a sterling example of Jolie's innate ability to electrify. I know I'd have been tempted to make her my fifth nominee in '99. Though, in hindsight, the performances of Susan Sarandon in "Illuminata" and Leslie Stefanson in "The General's Daughter' linger more intriguingly in my memory. I do know, however, that my first four nominees would've been:
JEANNETA ARNETTE "Boys Don't Cry", who - for me - delivered far more than Sevigny or Swank.
TOVAH FELSHUH "A Walk on the Moon"
with the trophy going to CARTER.

whip-smart said...

I find it completely ludicrous that anyone could value Jeanetta Arnette's performance - a shrill portrayal of a white-trash mother that delivers nothing more than the script requires - more than Sevigny's or Swank's.

StinkyLulu said...

Well, then.

That's the fun of this kind of thing.

There is no right answer.

CanadianKen said...

I just wasn't that moved by "Boys Don't Cry". Certainly some of the story's potential was realized onscreen. But the film's effectiveness depends so much on one's response to Swank and Sevigny. And - for me - Swank, though undeniably committed - wasn't completely convincing. Sevigny I found to be hit and miss - her Lana an enigma, but not a compelling one. Clearly, Whip-Smart, the film - and those two performances - had a much stronger impact on you. And just as you think I undervalued the leads, I think you've not given Arnette quite enough credit. Yes, she supplied what the script asked for. But, beyond that, I thought she achieved a pretty heady level of documentary-like realism, fuelled by genuine, well-honed acting ability. We go to films to be moved on some level. And - given the potentially powerful subject matter - I wasn't completely satisfied by the main body of the picture. But did find myself fully engaged by Arnette's contribution at its edges.

MovieMania said...

Sevigny totally made her film. couldn't have cared less about Swank's strut and martyr. It was Chole who I loved, and stole the show from the cringe inducing Swank.

My favorite line of her's: "What the f*cking f*uck, you said you would be like five minutes!"