Sure, Lupita Nyong’o is Oscar shoo-in but don’t underestimate her ’12 Years’ co-stars

All 23 of our Oscar Experts are predicting a Best Supporting Actress nomination for “12 Years a Slave‘s” Lupita Nyongo. Such is the level of her support that she has even moved ahead of Oprah Winfrey (“The Butler“) in our odds.

Whether or not she can win, I wonder why there is so little discussion about her female co-stars as possible contenders.

It’s common for films to receive multiple acting bids in one category. Indeed, films with strong support across the board often carry featured players into the Oscar races even with relatively scant screentime. Remember, Alan Alda in “The Aviator” and Catherine Keener in “Capote. Both Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly were nominated for singing just one song apiece in “Chicago.”

So with the Supporting Actress race relatively wide open — I think Winfrey and Nyong’o are the only safe bets at this point — here are three other “12 Years” women we should pay more attention to.

In descending order of their strength as candidates:

Before we’re introduced to Nyongo as the long-suffering Patsey, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) encounters another woman who has suffered greatly: Eliza (Oduye), who is bought and forcibly separated from her two young children. Though she has less screentime than Nyongo, she does have her own story arc and a few big emotional scenes, including one where she argues with Solomon about refusing to stop crying for her children.

Oduye doesn’t have much name recognition — then again, neither does Nyongo — but she made enough of a splash in her breakthrough film “Pariah” to be name-checked – albeit mispronounced – by a humbled Meryl Streep in her Golden Globe acceptance speech for “The Iron Lady.” If a second “12 Years” woman manages to break through, it’ll probably be her.

Paulson isn’t quite as prominent or as flamboyantly villainous as her on-screen husband Michael Fassbender, but her Mistress Epps is nearly as cruel. She is given additional shades of loneliness and insecurity by Paulson, whose star is on the rise thanks to recent TV performances in “Game Change” and “American Horror Story.” With more screentime she might have been a shoo-in, but as it stands she still has an outside shot.

Other villainous women have won in recent years (Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton,” Mo’Nique in “Precious”) or been nominated (Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”). Just last year, Amy Adams received a bid for playing a similarly cold, sinister wife in “The Master.”

Admittedly a longshot, Woodard only has one scene in “12 Years a Slave. Though it’s not as explosive as Beatrice Straight‘s famous five-minute winning performance in “Network,” it still packs a punch. There’s even an emotional arc contained in her speech about waiting for God to inflict his wrath on plantation owners while she enjoys the comfort of her amorous master’s affections.

It helps that Woodard is the biggest name among the female cast. She already has one Oscar nomination under her belt — for “Cross Creek” 30 years ago — as well as four Emmy wins out of a staggering 17 nominations. TV success doesn’t always translate to the big screen, but it demonstrates consistent support from her industry peers.

Do any of the other “12 Years” women stand a chance, or will Nyong0o stand alone against Oprah? Make your predictions below.

4 thoughts on “Sure, Lupita Nyong’o is Oscar shoo-in but don’t underestimate her ’12 Years’ co-stars

  1. Ive been thinking ever since I finally saw the film, that Paulson will get in and ride the acclaim of the film. Woodard has to small of a part and her scene is important but lacks emotional punch. And honestly, a lot of Oduye’s moments felt awkward, to me at least. Paulson and Fassbender are two of the most evil people Ive ever seen on screen. And though she has less screentime than him, they make quite a pair from hell . She is able to be a dominant force in scenes where she doesnt have many lines, such as the whipping scene. And the late night dance party showdown between her and Fassbender is likely to stick in peoples minds.

  2. I agree with Sam Eckmann! ADEPERO ODUYE is a good actress but her scenes were quite awkward… ie… the scene between her and Chiwetel at Slave Quarters and he basically flips out at her…. the dialogue was a little off… and her crying just seemed too forced…. I love Alfrie Woodard but I don’t think she’ll be nominated 🙁 (although I want her to). I believe that you have to be on screen for at least 10 minutes to be nominated (again I believe)…. and Sarah… omg! that chick can act her butt off… she was reserved but a powerful force with hatred! She may or may not be nominated… but again…Lupita takes the crown out of all of these performances…. it was truly heartbreaking and believable…. I’m praying she gets the Oscar for this!

  3. Adepero Oduye’s key scene in 12 Years a Slave was the film’s one and only misstep. That incessant crying was unconvincing and started to get on my nerves.

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