THE 2008 LULUs: StinkyLulu's Best Supporting Actresses of 2008

The acclaimed Supporting Actress performances of 2008 have posed a particular challenge for me, as one who especially values the actresses at the edges of my favorite movies. Indeed, this year's best Supporting Actresses have underscored the question that always tests the definition of "Supporting" actress. Now, StinkyLulu's no size queen but, this year has established the question of "what's too big" and "what's too small" with regard to supporting actressness as a question that may have no answer. So, in part to make sense of the conundrum myself, this year I have elected to award "The Lulus" -- my own accounting of the most impressive actressing at the edges of 2008. And I do so by offering three distinct categories (Long Form, Short Form, & Traditional Scale), each of which acknowledges the different work being done by the increasingly broad array of performances that find themselves gathered under the umbrella of "Supporting Actress."

Best Supporting Actress - Long Form
excellent performances from women at the center of their films,
in what might arguably be leading (or co-leading) roles

Amy Adams - Doubt
"absolutely perfect in the part"
Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married
"rock solid in the film's toughest role"
Samantha Morton - Synecdoche, New York
"consistently compelling and enigmatic"
Kate Winslet - The Reader
"a great Best Actress performance"
Elsa Zilberstein - I've Loved You So Long
"endearing and charismatic"

* * * * *

Best Supporting Actress - Short Form
memorable work by women in a mere handful of scenes*
*Kathy Bates in Revolutionary Road might yet sneak in here

Viola Davis - Doubt
"the true gem in this film"
Lena Olin - The Reader
"a simple, throttling performance"
Dianne Wiest - Synecdoche, New York
"quite simply, luminous"
Debra Winger - Rachel Getting Married
"masterful work, haunting and complex"
Evan Rachel Wood - The Wrestler
"tectonic shifts in emotion"

* * * * *

Best Supporting Actress - Traditional Scale

a pivotal character, essential to more than a handful of scenes,
though in less than 30% of film's total screen time

Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
"hilarious, inspiring and heartbreaking"
Mila Kunis - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
"a revelation"
Sophie Okenedo - The Secret Life of Bees
"electrifying and adorable"
Hanna Schygulla - The Edge of Heaven
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
"vivid, precise and real"

* * * * *

StinkyLulu's Best Supporting Actresses
my favorites, in roughly descending order*
*Kate Winslet in The Reader is a leader on my imagined Best Actress ballot

1. Hannah Schygulla - The Edge of Heaven
2. Debra Winger - Rachel Getting Married
3. Lena Olin - The Reader
4. Viola Davis - Doubt
5. (tie) Penélope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
5. (tie) Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

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


Cal said...

Well I haven't seen Doubt, Rachel, Synechdoche or The Wrestler, which certainly limits my feedback. But thanks for fuelling my anticipation for the women in these films a little more, as well as Hanna Schygulla, who I've heard great things about elsewhere too.

I absoloutely agree with you about Lena Olin in The Reader, although it's kind of funny that her and Winslet are both being being discussed as 2008 Supporting Actresses, given their comparative screen time. But then, I guess that's part of why you split up the categories.

Olin was bitter but composed, and I was really frightened for Ralph's character in that scene because Olin made it so apparent that he was never gonna win that exchange because he just couldn't come from the same place as she did. It was the same kind of feeling I had at the end of Downfall, where that woman is just SO painfully guilty, but in this case the guilt is inhabited by Fiennes and his unwaivering sentimentality for a war criminal.

Sophie Okonedo was undeniably charming in The Secret Life of Bees, but I didn't love it. Maybe it's just that the character is so baity (I'll refrain from spoilers) and that it's so obviously written that way. Mila Kunis is very natural in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but she doesn't have a lot to do really. I much preferred Kristen Bell who I'll admit is occasionally a bit overt and cartoonish but the film doesn't want her to be any other way, and I'm surprised that I didn't feel empathy for her despite the film's obvious contemptuous treatment of Sarah Marshall as shallow and indecisive.

CanadianKen said...

Beautifully organized and clever as ever. I really enjoyed reading your lists. I've got so much to catch up on as far as 2008's supporting actresses are concerned. But you HAVE made me absolutely determined to see what Hanna Schygulla's up to in EDGE OF HEAVEN. I share your enthusiasm for the actressing in SYNECDOCHE. But i'd definitely give a shout-out to the wonderful Catherine Keener, who (like Samantha Morton) somehow never seems to disappoint. And I was happy to see Debra Winger's name high on your list of finalists. There was so much I didn't like about RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. But Winger's fabulous contribution left me thunderstruck. I'd love it if she could sneak in among the Oscar nominees. But the lady would have to get past a host of other names who seem to have more precursor support (including Rosemarie DeWitt from the same film). I do expect to see the marvelous Viola Davis among the Oscar nominated, though - and if there's a worthier winner out there I've yet to see her.

RC said...

excellent choices!


I love the way you've broken these down. and then reassembled them for something resembling an Oscar ballot (well done)

I also really liked Olin in The Reader and may cheat a bit (since she plays two characters) to put her on my limited/cameo category.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Yes, yes, yes for Lena Olin. Can we please get more good roles for her like this?

tim r said...

Lovely stuff stinky, and thanks for the birthday wishes! From your picks I am all about Tomei, DeWitt, Davis, Winger and Schygulla.

But I would add three names to the discussion from films you may not have seen yet: Edith Scob in Oliver Assayas's Summer Hours, Farida Benkhetache in the excellent Couscous (aka La graine et le mulet, aka The Secret of the Grain) and Mary Roscoe in the little-seen British drama Unrelated -- all films worth tracking down if you can, and offering terrific opportunities to their ensemble casts.

Sally Belle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally Belle said...

I have to redo, because I made spelling and other errors...

Winger, Olin and Wood...three actresses known for balls to the wall performances...all together in the short form category! Thought they were all great in these small roles.

Rosemary Dewitt has suffered form the exact opposite...too much screen time, and being Rachel in a movie entitled Rachel Getting Married. But, far superior to Amy Adams in Doubt...who was just as central to the story.

Dianne Wiest...one of the best ever. She should be working all the time. Is it because she's a woman, or because she doesn't want to work all the time? Hmmm?

Great list overall!

robraug5 said...

My nominees...

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married*
Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth
Tilda Swinton, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married

Finalists: Samantha Morton (Synecdoche, New York), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Patricia Clarkson (Elegy), Lena Olin (The Reader)

tommy salami said...

I think Viola Davis has this cinched, but I also really liked Debra Winger's understated performance in Rachel Getting Married. She makes it obvious that the mother is the linchpin of the family's issues but it's never thrust in our face or overdone.