Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler
This is easily the most wide open of the major categories. None of these nominees have one any of the precursors (Globe, BAFTA, SAG all went to Winslet). That makes this a very unique case. It also makes this race difficult to really determine who is in the lead. Let's take a closer look at this race.
Amy Adams in Doubt has earned her second nomination ('05 Best Supporting Actress for Junebug). Adams is definitely one of the best actresses today. Doubt is a great acting film, but Adams probably delivers the weakest performance. It's not to say that the performance is bad. It just isn't a performance good enough to truly win. In time she'll get her Oscar, but don't expect it to be Sunday.
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is currently considered the frontrunner. This is her second nomination ('06 Best Actress for Volver). She should probably win the Oscar for simply kissing Scarlet Johansson. Seriously though, I am a little worried that Vicky really didn't garner much support from the Academy. This is the film's only nomination. She does have a couple things to her advantage. Woody Allen has a good track record of females winning Oscars for roles in his films. She also has the Harvey machine, who knows how to Oscar campaign.
I honestly didn't even know who Viola Davis was until I saw Doubt. This is her first nomination. She is really a wild card in this race. I actually think this is the best performance and is the actress I would vote for. She does have little screen time, but that scene with Meryl Streep has Oscar written all over it. It's really powerful and shocking. I couldn't believe her character would say that. Her biggest problems is that she is relatively unknown and does have very short screen time. She may also split the vote with Adams.
Taraji P. Henson for Benjamin Button probably has the biggest mountain to climb on Sunday. This is her first nomination. There's really no moment in this film that makes me say Oscar right away. Button is a great technical achievement, but the acting was nothing amazing. She's a real dark horse in this race and the only person who I think has no legit chance. Her nomination feels like her award.
I have to say that Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler is still looking good in her 40s. This is her third nomination (won Best Supporting Actress in '92 for My Cousin Vinny). I worry that her role of a stripper will hurt her. She's another wild card in this race, but I would say to look elsewhere. She also already won an Oscar. I can't picture the Academy having the distinction of giving her two Oscars.
I feel confident that I'm going to stick with Penelope Cruz. Though, I would not be surprised if Viola Davis won. This is going to be a real exciting category on Oscar night as there are more than two legit contenders.