By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 20, 2013 at 3:08PM
Last week, we began our For Your Consideration series, with five Supporting Actor should-be-contenders, highlighting performances that deserve awards recognition, but have been otherwise overlooked by prognosticators and predictors. So this week, we're moving onto the Supporting Actresses.
In case you've forgotten when we took a look at the category a couple of months back, it's one of the categories that's most in flux this year: Oprah Winfrey for "The Butler," Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years A Slave" and June Squibb for "Nebraska" are all looking good, but things have changed since we made our predictions. It's safe to say that Cameron Diaz will not be figuring into the race this year, while Scarlett Johansson has become a surprise dark horse in the category for her vocal-only turn in "Her" thanks to a win at the Rome Film Festival.
So excluding the other serious contenders in the category (Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Lawrence, Margo Martindale and Julia Roberts are likely to be battling it out with Johansson for the other slots), what other performances haven't figured much in the conversation, but are just as deserving of votes from Academy members? We've picked five of our favorites below, and you can fly the flag for your favorites in the comments section.
Sally Hawkins - "Blue Jasmine"
One of the more upsetting Oscar snubs in recent years came in 2009, when despite having won the Comedy/Musical Golden Globe, Sally Hawkins failed to earn a nomination for her outstanding turn in Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky." But even if voters didn't pay much attention, Woody Allen clearly did: he'd already worked with the British actress on the otherwise inexcusable "Cassandra's Dream," and reteamed with her this year on his latest, "Blue Jasmine." Again, she seems destined to be overlooked, with much of the attention on the film focused on her co-star, Cate Blanchett. And it's an enormous shame, because while her work is less showy than Blanchett's, it's just as terrific. Hawkins plays Ginger, the Amy Winehouse-haired Stella to Jasmine's Blanche, and while her adopted sister has ended up in a life of wealth and privilege, Ginger struggles to get by over in San Francisco, working menial jobs and making a series of somewhat disastrous choices about men. With a flawless American accent, Hawkins eschews Blanchett's theatricality for a quiet, lived-in naturalism, creating an equally vivid creation that might be Hawkins' finest work to date—which is certainly saying something. It's also remarkable the extent to which the two really do feel like sisters; all too often, screen siblings end up appearing like they met a few days earlier, but between them, Blanchett and Hawkins create an instant shorthand that shows off a lifetime of resentment and reluctant love. It's a turn both sweet and subtle and voters would do well to remember Hawkins' contribution as well when filling out their ballots.
Joanna Scanlan - "The Invisible Woman"
After the film got decent, but hardly ecstatic notices at Telluride and TIFF, most dismissed Ralph Fiennes' "The Invisible Woman," his biopic of Charles Dickens' mistress Nelly Ternan, from the Oscar race, and I hadn't been particularly looking forward to it. So I was pleasantly surprised when I caught up to the film, and discovered that it's something of a gem, a confidently-made, woozily beautiful film that's closer to Wong Kar-Wai than Merchant-Ivory. There's a brace of very fine performances in the film, with leads Fiennes and Felicity Jones particularly excellent, but I'd argue the absolute stand-out is a face who may not be especially familiar to American audiences—Joanna Scanlan, who plays Dickens' wife Catherine. Scanlan is best-known in the U.K. for her amazing performance as civil service jobsworth Terri in Armando Iannucci's "The Thick Of It," and as the co-creator and star of dark nursing comedy "Getting On" (with the remake from HBO debuting this weekend), but given the comic nature of those parts, she's a rather unexpected face to see in a role like this; a woman whose marriage has been sexless and loveless for so long that she's become cold out of self-preservation, but who can't disguise the deep hurt when she finds that she's been betrayed. Scanlan only has a few brisk scenes, and is mostly absent from the second half of the film, but she makes an indelible and crucial impression on the whole: one scene in particular, as she comes to Ternan to deliver a present from Dickens that was delivered to her by mistake, is one of the most heartbreaking, generous and powerful bits of acting I've seen all year. Scanlan's low profile, and the lack of heat on the film as a whole, will likely see her overlooked, but we bet there'll be more nominated performance that'll be much less good than this one.