Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara for Carol
Rachel McAdams for Spotlight
Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs
Who should win: Alicia Vikander. This is a quality category, though I’d say it’s behind Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor in terms of overall quality. Frankly, Rooney Mara should not be in this category as she really was the lead or co-lead actress of Carol alongside Cate Blanchett. Rachel McAdams has quietly become one of the more consistent and versatile (in terms of fitting into any type of movie) actresses currently working, but there wasn’t much that felt award-worthy about her role in Spotlight. Kate Winslet did not really impress me in Steve Jobs, and her nomination does feel like it is slightly based on reputation. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the latest person to hitch their wagon to Tarantino and get a good rub from it (joining Travolta, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, David Carradine, et al.). Vikander is someone who stands out to me from the rest of them though. Her performance in The Danish Girl was is emotionally vulnerable and supportive in a difficult and untenable situation. Oddly, I don’t even think it was her best performance (that was in Ex Machina), and had no less than six films released this year.
Who will win: Alicia Vikander. People will praise her for her performance in The Danish Girl, while I’ll just pretend that she is winning for her role in Ex Machina.
Cate Blanchett for Carol
Brie Larson for Room
Jennifer Lawrence for Joy
Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn
Who should win: Brie Larson. As much as it grieves me to say it, J-Law should not have been nominated. Joy was not a good movie. She got this nomination purely on reputation. 2015 was a year that featured a ton of great female performances, and I would have liked to seen one of those get the nod instead of her (I’m talking Emily Blunt in Sicario, Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, Nina Hoss in Phoenix, Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Teyonah Paris in Chi-raq). Still, this is the strongest of the four acting categories. Saoirse Ronan showed that she is a young actress who will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Cate Blanchett further cemented her bona fides as one of the best of this generation. Charlotte Rampling gave an outstanding performance of a woman whose marriage might not have the solid foundation she thought and gives such a natural performance. But Brie Larson, long an indie darling, is great as the protective mother raising her son in captivity and the difficult struggle she goes through to adjust after they escape.
Who will win: Brie Larson. In a year that I think is as strong for Best Actress as 2013 was for Best Actor, the possibility of seeing Brie Larson win this pleases me. I thought she deserved to be nominated for Short Term 12 a few years ago, and this likely win is a huge moment of arrival for a great up-and-coming actress. As a fan of Community, I will take no small pleasure in seeing Abed’s girlfriend win the Oscar for Best Actress.