by RISHI AGRAWAL
Onwards to the second part of Commentary Track’s Academy Awards preview. Just to remind people, I’ll be doing the Top Eight categories: Best Picture, Best Director, the two writing awards and the four acting awards. Yesterday, I covered the writing awards. Today’s agenda: Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
The nominees: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine; Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond; Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls; Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children; Mark Wahlberg, The Departed.
Awards so far:
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine – BAFTA
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond – National Board of Review
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls – Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children – Chicago Critics, New York Critics, Online Critics, San Francisco Critics, Southeastern Critics
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed – Boston Critics, National Society of Film Critics
The clear favorite here is Eddie Murphy. And Eddie Murphy was absorbing and he strutted his way through Dreamgirls. It reminded me very much of Murphy’s old impersonations of James Brown from his Saturday Night Live days. Just because Murphy might have been recalling an old performance, at least in part, does not lessen his accomplishment in this film. He will probably win this award.
However, if my Norbit theory actually turns out to be correct (people will be less likely to vote for him because of Norbit), then I think Alan Arkin will win. I still continue with my disdain for Little Miss Sunshine but I will admit that Alan Arkin was my favorite part of the movie. His connection with Abigail Breslin’s character seemed to be one of the only moments of family rapport in the movie.
I didn’t feel Djimon Hounsou’s performance was nuanced enough, but I did genuinely enjoy the other four actors here in their respective movies. Though Eddie Murphy might be a close runner-up for me, I think Jackie Earle Haley clearly deserves this Oscar. We develop one impression of Haley’s character at the beginning of the movie before he even appears onscreen, based on what other characters say about him. Our impression of him keeps changing throughout the film. At times, we find him sympathetic and sinister and downright crazy. By the end of Little Children, we realize that Haley is all of these things, in varying degrees.
Who will win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Who should win: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The nominees: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine; Adrianna Barraza, Babel; Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal; Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls; Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.
Awards so far:
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine – Online Critics
Adrianna Barraza, Babel – San Francisco Critics
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal – Toronto Critics<
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls – Golden Globes, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice, New York Critics, Southeastern Critics
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel – Chicago Critics
We should start with the favorite: Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. Jennifer Hudson as Effie was easily the most compelling part of the movie. And her singing in the movie was phenomenal. I have heard people say that the Academy is giving an award for acting, and not for singing. Well, I think Hudson’s voice was an integral part of the film. The movie would not have been the same without it, and the dramatic tension would have been nullified if we were talking about someone with just an okay voice. I still think Hudson’s acting was very good. Without her and Murphy, I don’t know if I would have even given a positive review to the film overall. In a sense, they saved the movie. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment.
Barraza and Kikuchi had little in common in the movie Babel. But, these are definitely two actresses that may never have gotten their shot at an Oscar had they not been in this film. I think it’s a testament to the movie that we are seeing characters in truly memorable roles. A large part of this is the writing but I don’t think we can discount their performances.
It would be cute to give the Oscar to Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. She was very good, but I think people are easily impressed when children show the least bit of acting talent. I don’t want to get too critical of her because, well, I don’t want to be the bully that picks on the little girl.
As for my pick, let me just say that sometimes the Academy gets it right.
Who will win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Who should win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls