Handicapping the Race: Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables.

The Academy Awards are less than a month away and there is little clarity on who are the frontrunners. Lincoln appears as the favorite, but Steven Spielberg’s historical drama generates little passion, same as Life of Pi. Silver Linings Playbook has avid fans, but also equally ardent detractors. Amour, the best film of the bunch, is also the least seen.

In order to sort out favorites from also-runs, we’ll analyze the most important categories until Oscar night next February 24th. Let’s start for a deceptively easy one: Best Supporting Actress.

The nominees are:

Amy Adams in The Master. Even though The Master is a polarizing film, most agree Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama features some mesmerizing performances. That said, Amy Adams takes the backseat to Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’ scenery chewing. As the shrewd wife of cult leader Lancaster Dodd, Adams is compelling, but her character lacks development and a showcase scene. Odds: 100 to 1.

Sally Field in Lincoln. The two-time Oscar winner (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart), Sally Field had the odd chance late in her career to star in a Spielberg movie. Unlike her counterpart Daniel Day-Lewis, Field acts hard and her work feels stagey. If there is a Lincoln sweep, she has a chance. Otherwise, Field should be content her swan song wasn’t Brothers and Sisters. Odds: 10 to 1.

Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables. True, the role of Fantine is not particularly long or textured, but the power of a single moment has propelled the talented Anne Hathaway as the one to beat. Her searing, haunting version of “I Dream a Dream” is what Stanley Kubrick called an unbreakable moment: No matter the quality of the movie, one scene overtakes the whole endeavour. Odds: Even.

Helen Hunt in The Sessions. Here is why Helen Hunt is the best of the bunch. She disappears in character, a major achievement when you are playing a sex therapist and spend most of the movie in the nude. The problem for Hunt (Oscar winner for As Good as it Gets) is that she is playing a believable person, as opposed to larger than life figures like Fantine and Mary Todd Lincoln. Odds: 25 to 1.

Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook. According to insiders, the acting branch of the Academy is partial to Silver Lining Playbook. Consequently, all the leads of this overrated comedy (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver) got nominated. Of all, Weaver is the least deserving. Her role as the mother of a bipolar man fresh off the loony bin barely registers. In a nutshell, all Weaver had to do was to look distressed –relegated to the background- for an hour and a half. Judi Dench in Skyfall was far more deserving. Odds: 500 to 1.

Should Win: Hunt. Will win: Hathaway

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

4 thoughts on “Handicapping the Race: Best Supporting Actress”

  1. It will depend on whether or Hunt has retained her Mad About You-status as America’s Sweetheart. I dunno, what are they saying at Walmart about The Sessions? Too risque?

  2. If you’re offering these odds Jorge, I’ll take $10 on Hathaway and $2 on each of the other candidates.

  3. For those who aren’t gamblers (or math nerds), what Jorge has done here is create a book with a negative house edge. To determine the probability associated with an odd O = x to y, you use the formula P = y/(x+y) So, for example, Hathaway’s probability of winning is, according to Jorge, P(hathaway) = 1/(1+1) = 0.5 (even odds mean 1 to 1). If we add all of the candidates, we get P(total) = 0.00990099 + 0.090909091 + 0.5 + 0.038461538 + 0.001996008 = 0.641267627. Since this total probability is less than 1, it is possible to exploit this book by betting on all options (as i have offered to do). If Jorge is comfortable with his odds for the long shots, he should be offering odds no better than 1 to 5.578947368 for Hathaway (like 1 to 6).

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