Oscars 2014 Cheat Sheet: Best Supporting Actress

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As is traditional now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, we’re profiling the nominees in each of the main categories and assessing their strengths and weaknesses going into the competition. We already profiled Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Today is ladies’ day, with the Best Supporting Actresses getting their turn. Whether scene-stealing, star-supporting or heartbreaking, these five are the chosen contenders for the Oscar. But who will go home empty-handed on the night?

Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. Her scenes goosed the whole film to life, adding in extra comedy and pathos to the more procedural elements. 1. She was a good decade (or even two) too young for the role she played, and while she was so entertaining that we barely cared, there’s an argument that she doesn’t really fit the film that well. 2. She won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, was nominated for the SAG Awards. 2. She lost out to Nyong’o for the SAG prize, and the Globe isn’t that good an indicator of the likely Oscar winner. 3. Who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence right now? She’s everybody’s sweetheart. 3. Two Oscar wins, from three nominations, by the age of 23?! That would just be offensive (she’d also be the fourth-youngest Supporting Actress winner ever if she took the prize).
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. She’s a former winner, who’s taken something of a break from the limelight only to return triumphant in an eye-catching role. Classic Oscar-winning scenario. 1. Some would say this role is too obviously Oscar-baiting to earn the big prize, given that it’s one of the shoutiest roles in a film that’s seriously heavy on conflict. 2. She has SAG, Globe and BAFTA nominations behind her, and has received good reviews even from people who didn’t like the film. 2. The film has had virtually no love besides that for Roberts and Streep, and even they have lost out to Nyong’o and Blanchett at award shows to date. 3. She goes toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep and stays standing. No mean feat. 3. Films starring Meryl Streep rarely leave enough oxygen for anyone else to win an Oscar.
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. She’s heartbreakingly, breathtakingly good in 12 Years A Slave, a figure who is at once immeasurably strong and devastatingly vulnerable. 1. It’s her very first acting role, so voters may find it hard to judge just how good she is. What’s more, it’s in a film that voters may find a bit too heavy. In recent years, the Academy has often gone for cuddlier choices. 2. She won the SAG award, despite opposition from almost the same line-up she faces here (Oprah was nominated there instead of Sally Hawkins). She also has a BAFTA nomination and was Globe nominated. 2. She lost out at the Globes and BAFTAs. It’s possible voters are jealous of her evident talent and unfailingly awesome dress sense. 3. Her speech at the Critic’s Choice Awards was charming. We want to hear another! 3. You know who else gives charming speeches? Jennifer Lawrence, that’s who.
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. Hawkins has been consistently good in everything, and surely rides a wave of goodwill that’s been building ever since Happy-Go-Lucky. 1. She’s far too nice and humble to campaign as hard as the US demands. Such self-deprecation is admirable but probably a bit baffling in Hollywood. 2. She had a Globe nomination and a BAFTA nod, and is an increasingly recognisable name in Hollywood, with many fellow actors professing vast admiration for her work both here and in other films. 2. All of the Blue Jasmine chatter has been for Blanchett so far, and with the star a virtual lock for Best Actress (something we’ll discuss tomorrow) Hawkins may fall victim to an attempt to share out votes across other films. Actors from the same film have only won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress eight times in Oscar history, with the last one Shakespeare In Love, so it’s rare. 3. Similarly to Roberts, she shares the screen with a monster performance, this time from Cate Blanchett, and not only holds her own but adds to the main event. That’s talent. Like George Clooney in Gravity, she is like ballast that holds the film and stops it floating away. 3. It’s such a generous performance that Hawkins doesn’t get some of the attention-grabbing scenes that the other contenders here have.
June Squibb – Nebraska

WHY SHE WILL WIN WHY SHE WON'T WIN 1. She’s brilliant in the film, mixing elderly irascibility, outrageous pronouncements and some shocking behaviour to often steal scenes from under the (highly accomplished) noses of Bruce Dern and Will Forte. 1. There’s such a thing as being too funny to win an Oscar. A funny, scene-stealing performance will get you nominated, but it will rarely actually land the win – especially without a total tragic breakdown to balance it out. 2. She was nominated for a SAG, a Golden Globe and a whole raft of critics awards. Not bad for someone who didn’t seriously start acting onscreen until she was in her ‘60s. 2. She hasn’t won any of the big prizes yet, and missed out on a BAFTA for what that’s worth. Have these people no respect for their elders? 3. Everyone loves a little old lady being rude. Look at the one in Blazing Saddles. 3. There’s rude and then there’s just naughty. Honestly.