Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Yawn. What a boring race. Just kidding. This is probably the most exciting race of the night and the sad part is that it will probably be the first or second award given out. I'm not going to lie, this is a wide open race and that you could make a good argument for almost every one of them. Let's take a look.
Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There was the frontrunner back when this race started. Everyone thought she was a lock and that no one could top her performance as Bob Dylan. Not going lie, she did an amazing job. Then, she started to lose a bunch of critic awards. She came back with the Golden Globe, but is that enough? She won an Oscar in this category ('04 for The Aviator) a couple years ago, so voters might one to give it to someone else. She's the only nominee that even has previous nominations ('99 Best Actress and '07 Best Supporting Actress). Also, don't be tricked that since she got nominated for both this and Best Actress that she has to win. Many actors and actresses have pulled off this double nomination and went home empty-handed (Julianne Moore recent example of 0/2 and Jamie Foxx recent example of 1/2).
Another thing that worries me is that the Weinstein Company had to release a "highlight reel" of her performance due to fear of voters not watching the film (she doesn't even appear until roughly an hour into it). Cate needs to work her name and the fact that she is one of the best actresses working today. Although, that still may not be enough to win
Ruby Dee for American Gangster is a huge wild card in this race. Her performance is extremely small and not really Oscar worthy, yet she won the SAG. That's huge. Why? Because actors make up the largest individual branch in the Academy. If she didn't win the SAG, then I wouldn't even worry about her, but she has a real legit shot to win. Supporting acting Oscars have sometimes been nicknamed lifetime achievement awards and this will clearly be one of those cases. Dee has been around for years and is well respected. Hell, the woman is 83 years old and this is probably her last chance. Another reason why I think she has a shot to pull this off is that there is no one in this category that wants to take it. Almost every nominee is taking some piece of the precursor pie. If Dee can get the older part of the Academy to support her it may be enough to lift her over the edge. Just don't forget about the younger part that doesn't care as much about lifetime achievement and all that.
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement is probably the only nominee that is out of this race. I think it has more to do with the fact that she is only 13 years old and has won nothing so far. Still, that shouldn't take away from her fine performance. If she continues to choose her parts well, there's a chance we could be hearing a lot more about her in the coming years.
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone is easily this category's critic darling. The unfortunate part of that is the critic darling doesn't always translate to Oscar darling. The critics don't vote for the Oscars. It seemed like this race would be between her and Blanchett, but the race has become a little more crowded. I liked Amy Ryan in this race for a while, but she failed to win the BAFTA, Globe, or SAG. The other part that worries me about her is that she is fairly new to this "game". She's 38 years old and doesn't stack next to the three other serious contenders. You have to ask yourself whether she would get votes over the other nominees and that's where I run into a problem. I don't see her support to be as large as some think.
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton has somewhat come out of nowhere. I really don't know what to think of her chances. Yeah, she won the BAFTA. And yeah, Michael Clayton "needs" to win something, but can she really come in and pull this off? Here's what I don't buy. Great films don't need to win an Oscar. Who cares if Michael Clayton goes winless? Are you telling me that coming home with makes it a unworthy film? It's a foolish way to look at the Oscars and I don't see voters thinking that way. And if they do, shame on them. I know there have probably been other examples, but Gangs of New York was an "amazing" 0/10. Take that for what it's worth.
As for Swinton herself, she's been around and is respected. I just don't know if the BAFTA can carry her over. Also, people seem to forget one important fact. Only Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ronan were nominated with her. Amy Ryan and Ruby Dee didn't get nominated for the BAFTA. I just don't see it.
So, who should you choose? Blanchett, Dee, Ryan, or Swinton? Not sure. Well, I'm not sure either. Just pick what you think is the best scenario to play out and don't be surprised if you're wrong because this category is very tough this year.