Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1993

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 66th Annual Academy Awards are...
of Alex in Movieland/My Latest Oscar Film

ANDREW of Encore Entertainment
BROOKE of The Performance Review
JERKWOD of Reese Reviews
WALTER of The Silver Screening Room
WAYNE of A Cinema Neophyte
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

Thanks once again to Smackdowner ALEX,
we can whet our actressexual appetites with this extended clipreel:

click image to be routed to video

1993'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.)

Holly Hunter in The Firm
ANDREWIt’s supposed to be that short and effective role that everyone marvels at…but it doesn’t quite live up. A credible performance ...? Barely. When Tammy leaves the screen we don’t really care… and when she returns we don't care either.
JERKWODAn underwritten character that even Hunter can't get out of. Her performance here lacks all credibility and passes way beyond being a human being and enters the zone of cornball caricature – no humanity, no affliction, no trust. A dull, tiring, and repugnant performance.
ALEXA typical plot device. She’s fresh air in all the stiffness of the film and has one maybe two good moments, but truth is she barely makes an effort. I doubt she believed in the character, plot, movie and it shows.
BROOKEHunter is a breath of fresh air in this film, but that’s about all she is. Always interesting, but her character is just an exposition clotheshorse and lacks necessary depth to warrant a nomination.
STINKYLULUI sorta just love this performance (easily the most believable thing in this overwrought melodrama). The performance probably has no business being nominated (and probably wouldn’t be in any other year) but you gotta give it to Hunter for making that “under the desk” scene work so well.
WAYNEAt first Hunter’s sexy secretary seems like a stereotype but, using her expressive eyes (at some moments warm with humour and others frightened with terror), Hunter cranks up the tension of this predictable thriller. An interesting performance not given enough room to become great.
WALTERThe role itself isn't much, but she's a hoot. From early on, she lets on that she's got as much brains as she does boobs. Her terrified determination to see justice done is fascinating: shaky hands, set jaw. Hell yeah.
TOTAL: 15s

Anna Paquin in The Piano
ANDREWIs she acting well…or she is playing herself? Tough call. But her face is what sells me. The candid expressions make up for the somewhat occasional shrill delivery. And despite the flaws it's believable.
ALEXFor a child performance, it’s very good and sometimes interesting to analyze small nuances. As the most normal character, she’s the bridge connecting us to the film. But even so, no difficulty at times in spotting Anna and not Flora.
WALTERShe is quite good, certainly. It is nice to see a mostly unmannered performance from a young girl. But I just don't believe she would betray her mother the way she does. Maybe I just don’t understand the movie.
STINKYLULUPaquin inhabits the character with alacrity and verve, and her easy spontaneity in the role crafts a peculiarly captivating -- by turns sweet, silly, and serious – performance, one utterly essential to the film. I simply can’t think of The Piano without thinking of Paquin.
JERKWODPaquin manages to keep in touch with that childhood innocence and the disconnection from the horrific complexities of adult life, yet consistently taps a darker, more sinister, undercurrent of human morality that becomes devastatingly authentic. The kind of work that hyperbole can't sing enough praises to.
BROOKEPaquin is naturalistic and raw, which is just what this character, and this film, needs. She goes further by giving a complex performance; those monologues illustrate everything we need to know about the character and she does it without missing a beat.
WAYNEA ferociously precocious performance. There's a strange fire in Paquin's eyes throughout, one that sears her portrait into memory, and the mature emotions that play across her young face are at times breathtaking. A fantastic portrayal of a complex individual inside a child's body.
TOTAL: 28s

Rosie Perez in Fearless
ANDREWI know throughout that I'm supposed to be impressed with the performance…but…that “but” keeps coming up. Certainly not a bad performance…but I just wasn’t won over. But I hardly think it's her fault - the film is just inadequate.
WALTERIt's not that Perez is bad in this. But there's something missing. It isn't organic. Perez gets each scene individually, but as a whole, I don't feel a consistent character.
BROOKEPerez trails along the edges of greatness with this performance, she tends to circle the airport in her quieter scenes. However, she achieves a visceral, shocking level of emotion in her bigger moments; it’s a true display of what this underrated actress is capable of.
JERKWODIn a role that could have easily come off as melodramatic and/or campy, Perez holds onto Carla's soul and brings it forth with the urgency of frustration. We understand Carla because Perez allows us to see exactly why she makes the decisions she does.
WAYNEA surprisingly expressive and memorable performance. Perez does a fine job of portraying grief with her dead eyes and immobile face, but it’s her poignant work with Bridges that brings out the sparks. And those last moments in the hallway made me cry.
ALEXThe role is more than Rosie can carry and she drops it a bit in the stewardess confrontation scene. Other than that: terrific performance – emotional, difficult, well-balanced and so natural and down-to-earth! Way above her competition.
STINKYLULUUsing bold, broad, palpably emotional strokes, Perez roots her performance in the erratic rawness of Carla’s inconsolable grief (and inexpressible shame) and, in so doing, crafts a performance that is devastating for its openness. Extraordinary work from a woefully underutilized actress.
TOTAL: 23s

Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence
STINKYLULURyder looks great, often sounds right, and maneuvers the intricate plot machinations with quiet intelligence – which all makes sense for May and her gift of perfected, banal artifice. Yet, with Scorsese’s heavy directorial hand especially weighted in Ryder’s scenes, Ryder’s artifice becomes a little too banal.
ALEXUnder the calm & quiet image of her character, I could hear Winona roaring for an Oscar scene. May’s innocence was child-play for her and when the juicy part started, the film was over. However the subtle gestures make it a memorable performance.
BROOKECasting is half the strength of this performance; Ryder’s natural innocence works wonders for this character; but it’s Ryder the actress who nails that last scene; a stab so masterfully delivered that the impact doesn’t land until after the credits.
ANDREWIs the character bland and vapid? Or is it she? It's a thin line… It's not as easy a role as it seems and the performance is unfairly maligned. A capable performance but as the years go by I like it less and less…
JERKWODIt's not easy portraying a woman that feels emotionally trapped in her own environment yet fearful of taking a step out of the prison, but Ryder does so splendidly, and with such ease, that she completely engages and fades away into the role.
WAYNEAt first her work feels like a glass vase: empty and pretty to look at. On second viewing, you notice the nuance she puts into her interactions, the way her eyes dull with each dishonest conversation. A subtly sly portrayal.
WALTERWinona Ryder is perfect in this movie. She is sweet and manipulative, but not in a cruel way. The fact that May knows the whole time and says nothing...that's love, baby. And with Winona, we believe every second of it.
TOTAL: 24s

Emma Thompson in In the Name of the Father
ALEXI admire the energy displayed, the honesty and the simplicity of the performance! Great actress! But does she fit into THIS film? Not really. Her trial scene, though impeccable if singled out, threw the movie off-balance. Overcooked the little she had.
WAYNEEmma Thompson’s cool intelligence and dignity create a barrister that anyone would want on their side. It's easy to see why Thompson got a nomination considering the admirable character Pierce is, but the role doesn't demand much. Still, Thompson gives a typically strong performance.
BROOKEThompson shows us why she is one of Britain’s most well-regarded thespians. She gives a good performance, a scathing portrayal of righteous anger, without any clear character arc provided by the screenplay.
STINKYLULUA defining, peripheral presence throughout, Thompson blasts into the film at the ¾-mark to deliver a clarifying jolt of humor and hope to an otherwise desperate tale of outrageous injustice. Better than she needs to be, Thomspon’s is an utterly plausible, absolutely professional performance.
ANDREWThe selling point is her court scene, and as short as it is she thrives. There isn’t much for her to say, so we must look into her eyes to see what she feels and it is through those sensitive eyes we see her character.
JERKWODA character any other actress could have played blandly, but Thompson kicks the viewer in the gut as a demanding, harsh force of nature without growing overly hysterical. Personal demons lurk beneath Thompson's portrayal, which slowly drift from transparency as the film comes to its conclusion.
WALTERThompson is given a character who could very well be a cliché and instead, goes with bad-ass. Consider her first scene with Gerry, where she sits coolly, allowing him to finish his "hardened prisoner" routine. Awesome, awesome stuff.
TOTAL: 22s

Oscar chose...

Anna Paquin
in The Piano
Click above image for video of the legendary acceptance speech.

is compelled
to agree...
Best Supporting Actress of 1993!

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


Alex Constantin said...

oh, no! Rosie Perez lost! and she wasn't even close. :) I knew there was gonna be Paquin love, but not this much. The biggest suprise for me, however, was all that Winona Ryder love. I admire that performance, but still...

I guess the film quality counted a lot too. Rosie had a shitty movie, filled with bad performances (Rosselini, turturro, benicio) and Anna had... The Piano!

I thought it was a rather weak category. or weaker compared to others of its decade. Interesting performances, but none (except for Rosie) that I felt really deserved to win. it's strange how the Best Supp Actress category alternated during the 90s.
1990 good, 91 nope, 92 good, 93 nope, 94 good, 95 nope, 96 good, 97 nope...

SPB said...

Great fun as usual! Wonderful way to start my Sunday. But I remember being really bothered by the actress noms in 1993, Best and Supporting but mainly Supporting. Not only do I think Angela Bassett should have won the main prize, but I've always had a problem with kids winning Oscars--NOT that Paquin had a lot of competition, other than a host of other women in the Tina Turner movie who DIDN'T get nominated. And wasn't The Wedding Banquet that year? And didn't Rosie do better work in Untamed Heart? And Lisa Summerour as Denzel's wife in Philadelphia? Or Angelica Huston in Manhattan Murder Mystery? And those are just off the top of my head! Okay, off my soapbox and back to enjoying one of my favorite blogs! ;)

Slayton said...

I don't like Anna (or her film) and she's the only one of the nominees I've seen.

My personal ballot:
1. Claire Skinner - Naked
2. Lili Taylor - Household Saints
3. Katrin Cartlidge - Naked
4. Gong Li - Farewell My Concubine
5. Christina Ricci - Addams Family Values
6. Joan Cusack - Addams Family Values OR Madeleine Stowe - Short Cuts

Brandon said...

This was a rather weak year, but I cannot wait for the '56 Smackdown which I think will be the year for October.

SPB said...

Yes yes yes, Slayton! I thought about Ricci and Stowe as well!

StinkyLulu said...

Part of the task of the Smackdown, though, is to look seriously at the history we have, not the history we might have made. So, as much as I can enjoy the play of "fantasy ballots", the Smackdown's really trying to do something a little different. (And anyway: although Ricci is brilliant in AFValues, JJL would be my nominee from Short Cuts, with Julianne Moore a close second. Not Stowe.)

What's interesting to me is that Paquin, it seems, is one of the most easily dismissed double wins (Trophy and Smackdown) we've encountered. Whether because she's a kid or because something about the film/performance is unappealing, I don't recall many times when folks have been so inclined to simply dismiss the consensus of the Smackdown. (I mean, she won the Smackdown for the same reasons most winners have: when considering it among its actual competition, NO ONE ranked the performance below 3 hearts.)

StinkyLulu said...

(And on the Fantasy Ballot: don't forget that The Joy Luck Club was released this same year... A huge array of missed nomination opportunities there.)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I figured Paquin would win. As noted, I feel much of my reaction has to do with not "getting" the film.

I agree with Alex: it was a rather weak year, and I can't help but wonder if our own affections for certain actresses helped sway our votes. Could my crush on Holly Hunter have influenced the four hearts I gave her? I admit: possibly, but I still wouldn't change it.

I also disagree with Alex: If I am shocked by anything, it's how LITTLE love Ryder received. The difference is but one heart, but my least favorite nominee (Perez) is rated above my absolute favorite (Ryder). I know only three people rated her under four, but come on! Surely if the Globes and I are in agreement, that makes it fact, right?

Alex Constantin said...

Walter, I wouldn't exactly go to the Globes to define what's right and wrong :)
you named yourself to be a subjective smackdowner. maybe you had a crush on Winona.
Cause objectively looking at the performance I saw subtle, one or two looks that defined the character arc (in the scenes included in the clipreel) but that's about it. As I said in the zinger, I'm sure she could've done more, had the film & screenplay allowed her to. But they didn't and what we were left with was just a glimps of something.

Alex Constantin said...

I meant glimpse.
And the whole comment was obviously just my perspective :)

Slayton said...

As a New Zealander, I really didn't like The Piano. Maybe Jane Campion's sojourns in Australia (she's a soil traitor, by the way... An Angel At My Table and The Piano are the only films she's done that are connected in any way to NZ) made her forget how photogenic and cinematically tangible the NZ landscape can be. The way she structured the film, the photography, the mise-en-scene, everything made the NZ scenery seem almost stagebound. I resented the way the film condescended to Maori (the school play scene is PURE 'silly natives' passive racism) and I felt the narrative on the whole was incredibly muddled and ultimately pear-shaped with random plot threads that didn't go anywhere. Didn't love Hunter either - she seemed more mannered than graceful and her voiceovers intrigued me far more than the scenes where she was actually on screen. Keitel's bushman was a ridiculous concoction and when a film stars Sam Neill you just know that there's trouble afoot. Although, to be frank, he was merely poor here instead of his regular awful (although when he was required by the script to turn into a vengeful jealous lover he just lost the plot completely). Definitely my least favourite Campion and probably my least favourite "great film" of the Nineties.

As for Paquin, it didn't seem, to me, like acting at all - more like Campion just letting Paquin play "pretend" with her imaginary friends/imaginary screen partners (as she certainly didn't seem to be interacting with anyone who was actually on-screen). Never did I feel that Campion was making any effort to coach this performance away from the shrill, primary-school-play effervescence that ended up dominating it.

The most troubling thing about this win is that it has let Anna Paquin build a career around it despite being, frankly, grossly untalented.

Criticlasm said...

I remember hating Age of Innocence. To the point of actual anger/annoyance at it.

I looked at the posted video, and forgot that both Thompson and Hunter were doubled nominated. Is that the only time that happened in the same year?

Also, I do love the Piano. As much as I love Basset's work in WLGTDWI, I remember the theatre I saw the Piano in, and how I couldn't breathe through most of the film--that moment when she lets go of the blue at the end and you don't feel your submerged anymore is brilliant. Though comparing this and Basset's perf really is apples and oranges and one of those times that you realize how random it all is.

Do love Paquin in it as well, and I think it's notable that she has continued to turn in great performances after this.

SPB said...

Well, now I don't feel so bad: I didnt like The Piano either. It felt overheated and not as smart as it thought it was being. Haven't seen it in years, so maybe I should check it out again...

That said, thanks to Slayton for articulating the exact thing I think: "The most troubling thing about this win is that it has let Anna Paquin build a career around it despite being, frankly, grossly untalented."

Right on...lol

Alex Constantin said...

mean, Slayton! mean :)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Alex - *sigh* alas, if only the Globes COULD define right and wrong. i do think they only gave her the award because it was the 90s and she was Winona and the Globes love their celebs...

But I don't mean to suggest that my love for an actress will *completely* blind me to a bad or merely mediocre performance. (I've seen Ryder in The Informers, after all :P) Merely that I think we all have our biases, and so we'll either be more lenient or harder on certain performances because of this. I'll grant we all have those times when a hated actress surprised (Aniston in Freinds with Money) or a beloved actress disappointed (Kidman in The Invasion), but otherwise, we approach a film expecting certain results.

*sigh* and yes, Winona was my first celebrity crush. But in my defense, I saw the movie long after many other actresses took her place! :)

Sam Brooks said...

I'm unsurprised to see Paquin win; it's a generally well-regarded performance in a generally well-regarded film. I'm surprised to see all this dissent, though.

As much as I love her in this film, I think Gong Li's turn in Farewell My Concubine and Kieu Chih's turn in The Joy Luck Club deserved to be nominated, if not win the prize.

A missed oppourtunity for the Academy.

Rae Kasey said...

I have to agree! The Piano is one of my favorite films and I think Paquin gives one of the greatest child performances I've ever seen.

She's perfect and utterly assured as both Ada's confidant and, ultimately, her betrayer.

Wayne B said...

Way to go Paquin! I was hoping that she would win it. It was a lot of fun watching some of these titles for the first time like "Fearless" and "Age of Innocence." A big thank you to our host Stinkylulu for hosting this always interesting meeting of thoughts.

A question for trivia experts: Is Paquin the only Canadian-born actress to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar?

Andrew K. said...

Sorry about the lateness. Just got power back after a massive power outage. Dependency on electricity is bad...

Not surprised at the outcome. The thing is much as I liked Thompson in this film she was eons better in Much Ado About Nothing. And wasn't that a more Oscar bait role? That film really didn't pick up. And good call on Julianne. She vs Emma [Much Ado] seems like a good competition.

I'm actually surprised at the amount of love for Perez. And Alex I really can't take anything you say on TAOI to heart because Scorsese+Pfeiffer+DDL is just irresistible to me.

Alfred Soto said...

I'm sorry, but this is just wrong about Ryder in TAOI:

a woman that feels emotionally trapped in her own environment yet fearful of taking a step out of the prison.

What is May Welland (in both Wharton and Scorsese's versions) but a woman utterly comfortable with her environment and confident about asserting her place in it? It's clear that she plays the famous last scene as written in the novel: a woman whose steely strength was underestimated by Newland Archer and everyone else.

Unknown said...

What is May Welland (in both Wharton and Scorsese's versions) but a woman utterly comfortable with her environment and confident about asserting her place in it? It's clear that she plays the famous last scene as written in the novel: a woman whose steely strength was underestimated by Newland Archer and everyone else.

I knew somebody was bound to comment on this. Haha.

I used to feel that the character of May was, as you said, someone whose ultimate strength was underestimated, but on reviewing the film (for the smackdown) I got a very strange feeling that Ryder was playing the character in a specifically different manner. This has always got to me because I'm not sure if it's Ryder playing it with the wrong notes, or if she is playing a very subtle sonata. She seems disconnected with her true happiness, almost as if she is putting on a show to seem otherwise - not in a terrible theatrical way, but in a very humanly calculated way. (It's as if Ryder has really given May a very personal actors' touch.)

Take, for example, the scene where May and Newland are sitting with Mrs. Mingott (and her dogs.. hehe)... it's as if Ryder is playing the character like she is trying her best to seem as if she is perfectly happy with where she is. Then there is a scene later, where she seems perfectly fine (the scene with Newland on the staircase) and moments later on a completely different stream of personal disconnection (the scene next the fire place) when Newland stokes her cheek.

I don't know, maybe I am looking far too into it. I really didn't feel this on my original view a few years ago, but I did this time.

Maybe I should really watch the film again and try to piece together exactly where I'm drawing these conclusions on her character. Lol.

Unknown said...

But I just don't believe she would betray her mother the way she does.

I don't think Flora even meant to betray her mother. Kids are known to, at times, feel really bad about certain decisions they make, especially when they are told it is wrong. What makes Flora's later scenes so gut-wrenching is that what came out of her hoping to do good was her delivering what was in that napkin. Such a haunting moment in a fantastic film.

RC said...

GOod call - and it's always good with Oscar and the smackdown choses the same person!


my personal ballot goes like so:

GONG LI -farewell my concubine
CHRISTINA RICCI -addams family values
ANNA PAQUIN -the piano
JOAN CUSACK -addams family values
MADELINE STOWE -shortcuts (my fav performance in that film)

so yes, Oscar got the win right but EVERYTHING ELSE WRONG according to me... and i see according to many of you ;)

Unknown said...

a tear of nostalgia...

The Piano was a Peak Moviegoing Experience - intense, crazy, funny, dirty, original. I was glad to see such a daring, sensual film get any recognition at all.

That said, this is the performance that fulfilled the promise that Winona Ryder made in Heathers. A perfectly-negotiated portrayal of repression and its collaboration. One commenter noted that it doesn't hit you until later. That's the mark of a great performance when you carry it around with you.

What a great Smackdown!

Chad said...

My personal ballot looks like this:
* Embeth Davidtz - Schindler's List
* Gong Li - Farewell My Concubine
* Anna Paquin - The Piano (WINNER)
* Christina Ricci - Addams Family Values
* Emma Thompson - In the Name of the Father (RUNNER-UP)

Anna Paquin and Emma Thompson are the only actual nominees to make it onto my personal ballot. Anna would be my winner while Emma would be my runner-up.