The Best Supporting Actress race, which is often filled with some of the best performances in the Oscar race (Mo'Nique in "Precious," anyone?), is more than a little disappointing this year. The actresses are doing fine work, but that's all it is: fine. There's very little revolutionary work being done by these women, which is a shame because many of the actresses have done revolutionary work in the past.
"The Help" actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain are both solid, if unspectacular; Chastain in particular did better work in several other films this year, particularly "The Tree of Life" and "Take Shelter." Bérénice Bejo is delightful in "The Artist," but she's also a lead actress committing category fraud. Janet McTeer is the best part of a bad movie in "Albert Nobbs." In my mind, only Melissa McCarthy is deserving of her slot in the big race (so, of course, she's not going to win - always a "Bridesmaid," never a bride, after all).
If the category were to really feature the best performances of the year, Academy voters would reward ambitious work by Vanessa Redgrave in "Coriolanus." They would reward the emotionally vibrant performance by Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." They would reward one of the most beautifully nuanced female performances of the year: Rose Byrne in "Bridesmaids." Most of all, they would reward the ballsy, breathtaking work by Carey Mulligan in "Shame."
This year's Best Supporting Actress race is far too much like the usual Best Supporting Actor race - it rewards the comfortable over the ambitious. Unfortunately, it also ignores four incredible performances that deserved more recognition.
If I were an Oscar voter, McCarthy, Redgrave, Woodley and Byrne would all have tickets to the big show, and Mulligan would take home the honors for her powerful and unexpected work. But for now, it looks like we'll have to settle for a Spencer win. What a disappointment.