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Why Don’t True Supporting Performances Win At The Oscars As Much anymore?

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  • Joe Burns
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    #163251

    I’ve been thinking about recent trends at the Oscars a lot lately and one that  has come to my mind  is the always prevalent  issue of category fraud-  There are many performances that are really leading ones that end up  in the supporting category  and  it’s quite shocking to see how  many winners can be   considered leading.   If you watch winners from Oscar’s past,  you see that they tended to honor more obvious supporting performances (not saying that they always did it,  but  I feel like  they did it more then they do now):  For example,  Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry,  Sandy Dennis in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?,  Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire, Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara,  Estelle Parsons in Bonnie And  Clyde,  Ingrid Bergman in Murder On The Orient Express,   both of Jason Robard’s wins, and  others.   Several of these were for performances that arguably had very little character development  and are certainly not as layered or dynamic as some  of the more recent supporting winners.  Robards, Jones, Umeki,  and from what people say,  Bergman ae examples of this.  

    Here are some  winners from the last 20 years that can be considered leading performances (Note:  I don’t necessarily feel that they are leading, I’m just saying that they can be considered leading.  Feel free to disagree).  

    Best Supporting Actress:  

    Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost

    Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite

    Juliette Binoche in The English Patient  

    Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock

    Jennifer Connely in A Beautiful Mind

    Catherine Zeta-Jones In Chicago  

    Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener

    Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls

    Octavia Spencer in The Help

    Best Suppporting Actor:  

    Kevun Spacey in The Usual Suspects (Never seen the film, but I know  people can consider him a lead)  

    Benicio Del Toro in Traffic

    Jim Broadbent in Iris

    Tim Robbins in Mystic River

    George Clooney in Syriano (Never seen him either, but I have heard people say he’s leading)  

    Javier Barden in No Country For Old Men  

    Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

    Christoph  Waltz in  Inglorious bastards (?Never seen the film and not sure if people feel he’s leading)  

    Christian Bale in The Fighter

    Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained  

    If you  just focus on category, then it doesn’t seem as overwhelming,but  if you put them together, it  seems as if the Academy often prefers  performances that have more screentime  more of an arc/depth then performances that  are true supporting ones that add a lot to the film.  Which is odd because they are called “Supporting” performances, not leading.  What are your thoughts?  

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    Anonymous
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    #163253

    True-true. I’m kinda tired of seeing lead performances taking away someone else’s worthy supporting Oscar.

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    manakamana
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    #163254

    As Meryl once said, “if you’re not a supporting actor, you’re not an actor.”

    No, but I think so many times it’s just so up in the air. If you ask me, Christoph Waltz in  Django Unchained was absolutely a supporting performances. SPOILER, he dies early, and exists simply to build up and train the central character of Django to help his family and fellow slaves escape their circumstances. On the other hand, I think Hailee Stanfield in True Grit was only put in supporting to ensure her the nomination as she was almost surely the lead in the story. 

    Either one puts any shorter performances at a disadvantage, fairly or unfairly. I think Lupita’s win last year was a perfect example of a purely supporting performance, with only occasional screentime here and there for her to prove her gravitas and ability to make her few scenes the center of the film. I don’t know if I necessarily think that “cameo” performances like Beatrice Straight in Network deserve her Oscar, considering how little she had to do to measure up to other perfectly supporting performances in her category.

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    Anonymous
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    #163255

    As Meryl once said, “if you’re not a supporting actor, you’re not an actor.”

    No, but I think so many times it’s just so up in the air. If you ask me, Christoph Waltz in  Django Unchained was absolutely a supporting performances. SPOILER, he dies early, and exists simply to build up and train the central character of Django to help his family and fellow slaves escape their circumstances. On the other hand, I think Hailee Stanfield in True Grit was only put in supporting to ensure her the nomination as she was almost surely the lead in the story. 

    Either one puts any shorter performances at a disadvantage, fairly or unfairly. I think Lupita’s win last year was a perfect example of a purely supporting performance, with only occasional screentime here and there for her to prove her gravitas and ability to make her few scenes the center of the film. I don’t know if I necessarily think that “cameo” performances like Beatrice Straight in Network deserve her Oscar, considering how little she had to do to measure up to other perfectly supporting performances in her category.

    Christoph Waltz is Django Unchained is clearly LEAD. Hailee Steinfield too.

    Lupita’s Oscar is indeed a perfect example. But for something else. But I’m not going to talk about politics here.

    I really liked Beatrice and she’s a true supporting in The Network.

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    CAROL-CHANNING
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    #163256

    The only winners for whom I see no logical reason for their supporting placement over the past few years (other than them having an easier chance to win) would be:

    Jennifer Hudson–She is the lead, along with Beyonce
    Catherine Zeta-Jones–Her role in the movie was slightly reduced from what it is in the stage show, but even still, she’s Renee’s co-lead.

    Others can be debated, but I can see why they were put in the supporting category: Tim Robbins, Christoph Waltz (Django), Javier Bardem, Jennifer Connely, Marcia Gay Harden.

    Non-winning nominees, however, are a different story.  There’s a lot more category fraud for non-winners than for winners, imo. 

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    Beyonce
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    #163257

    Catherine Zeta-Jones In Chicago 

    Octavia Spencer in The Help

    Benicio Del Toro in Traffic

    Tim Robbins in Mystic River

    Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

    Christoph  Waltz in  Inglorious bastards (?Never seen the film and not sure if people feel he’s leading)  

    Christian Bale in The Fighter

    none of these are leading by any strech of imagination. I would like to see the arguments about what makes these leading perfs because sometimes I think GD feels that having a showy performance equals being a protagonist and that is not true at all

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    Anonymous
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    #163258

    Octavia and Emma Stone are as leading in the film as Davis. It was just easier to make room for Spencer in supporting, so they pushed Davis to lead.

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    CAROL-CHANNING
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    #163259

    I would say Velma Kelly is a protagonist in Chicago.  The entire story is about her and Roxie Hart’s rivalry.  It’s like Margo Channing vs. Eve in All About Eve to me.  Granted, as I said above, it could just be that I have the stage version (in which there is no doubt whatsoever the Velma and Roxie are co-leads) in my head, which is clouding my judgement, because the role of Velma was definitely given less impact in the movie.  But I don’t think the role was trimmed enough to knock her down to a supporting character.

    As far as Octavia goes, her role was definitely trimmed down to the point where she is not the main protagonist in The Help compared to what her role is like in the book.  We definitely don’t get as much insight into her life as we do Davis and Stone’s characters in the movie. Many of her actions as well as her whole plot with her abusive husband is more seen through the eyes of other characters as opposed to being at the forefront of the movie. 

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    OnTheAisle
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    #163260

    It’s like Margo Channing vs. Eve in All About Eve to me.

    This is an interesting point. I have read Oscar historians claim that Anne Baxter insisted on being touted for Best Actress instead of supporting, splitting the votes and costing Bette Davis a third Oscar. I would contend the movie is called All About Eve for a good reason. She is the lead. Margo Channing is the difficult character to determine placement. If Bette Davis was not so compelling and dominant in the role, I could see it being another supporting performance, equivalent to Celeste Holm’s work as Karen which won the Supporting Actress Oscar. Margo and Karen have fairly equal screen time.

    I see the Margo Channing placement as much the same as Hannibal Lecter’s 22 minutes in The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins is so compelling and dominant in the role, it elevates the performance to leading status though there is insufficient screen time to justify the role as a lead.

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    M
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    #163261

    Lupita’s Oscar is indeed a perfect example. But for something else. But I’m not going to talk about politics here.

    For a bigot you certainly are schizo.

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    Anonymous
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    #163262

    [quote=”Vincelette”]Lupita’s Oscar is indeed a perfect example. But for something else. But I’m not going to talk about politics here.

    For a bigot you certainly are schizo.[/quote]

    Thank you!

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    GhostOrchid
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    #163263

    Did they also award more true leading performances in the past?
    I have the feeling mostly actresses won for borderline supporting performances (borderline in both categories) than males overall. Or is that incorrect?

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    ETPhoneHome
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    #163264

    On the point of Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds: he is absolutely a supporting performance. The movie was really about two stories, one focused on Brad Pitt and the Basterds, the other focused on Melaanie Laurent and her theatre. Christoph Waltz was the key villain in both stories, but really only came into effect when they collide near the end. Until then, he was just the main villain in the Laurent story.

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    ETPhoneHome
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    #163265

    [quote=”SammyPollock”]
    Catherine Zeta-Jones In Chicago 

    Octavia Spencer in The Help

    Benicio Del Toro in Traffic

    Tim Robbins in Mystic River

    Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

    Christoph  Waltz in  Inglorious bastards (?Never seen the film and not sure if people feel he’s leading)  

    Christian Bale in The Fighter

    none of these are leading by any strech of imagination. I would like to see the arguments about what makes these leading perfs because sometimes I think GD feels that having a showy performance equals being a protagonist and that is not true at all[/quote]
    I agree that Heath Ledger is totally supporting, no question. I frequently argue that Bale is supporting, despite actual screentime. Does anyone actually think Spencer is a lead? It seems like a pretty big stretch. I already said what I think about Waltz above. But Robbins, Zeta-Jones and Del Toro are really co-leads. I don’t really object to their placement, but I could see them all go either way.

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    vinny
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    #163266

    Whoopi was absolutely supporting in “Ghost”. Demi was lead in the film but Whoopi kinda stole that movie from everyone. Same for Ledger in “The Dark Knight”.

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