The 2010 Academy Awards, set to be broadcast on March 7th, are only eleven days away. Over the course of the upcoming days, I will be breaking down some of the major categories. For the first installment, I'm going to stay simple, and start off with the Best Supporting Actress category, which is perhaps the easiest of the night to predict. Mo'Nique has won every award on the western hemisphere for her chilling portrayal as Mary Jones in Precious, and I don't see any reason why that run shouldn't continue on Oscar Sunday.
Among the other nominees, Penelope Cruz has the least chance of winning for her turn in Rob Marshall's Nine. The actress does some fine work here -- though not quite on the same level as Broken Embraces -- but the combination of the critical and commercial bomb that Nine turned out to be, and the fact that she won just last year for Vicky Cristina Barcelona put her chances of winning at about zero. However, she has obviously gained a lot of weight in the industry. For an actress to be nominated for such a weak film only a year after she won an Oscar shows some elite status. It also makes us wonder where Marion Cotillard is at this point in relation to Cruz.
Anna Kendrick, the 24-year-old actress from Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, has been praised for her performance ever since the film debuted at Toronto. She goes head-to-head with two very accomplished, polished actors, and she does more than just hold her own. She is wholly deserving of the nomination she has received, although it is highly unlikely that she will make any play for a win, as vote splitting with co-star Vera Farmiga is the most likely outcome.
Farmiga has been a favorite of mine for years, and it's about time she has gotten her first nomination. Over the past three or four years, Farmiga has given multiple performances worthy of Oscar nominations, and she has been overlooked every single time. From The Departed to Nothing But the Truth, the actress has tackled difficult and challenging roles on a consistent basis, and has always managed to pull it off with grace and effectiveness. It's somewhat ironic that she has been nominated for Up in the Air because, although it is a terrific performance, if you compare it to some of her most recent work, you will find that it feels like one of her most effortless roles. That's a testament not only to the chemistry she had with her co-stars -- most notably Best Actor nominee George Clooney -- but also the pitch-perfect writing that Reitman brought to the table.
Finally, there is Maggie Gyllenhaal, the wild card of the bunch. Gyllenhaal was a surprising nominee based on the fact that she was overlooked at both the Golden Globes and the SAGs, but the heart-warming buzz surrounding Crazy Heart kept her in the game from day one, and that persistence eventually paid off. She deserves credit for creating something more than a caricature in what is essentially a Jeff Bridges vehicle of a film. She doesn't go through the motions and let Bridges run the show; she challenges him in every scene. In my opinion, she has the best shot of knocking off Mo'Nique, simply because of the vote splitting that will occur between Farmiga and Kendrick. Her chances to win are still slight at best, but in my mind, she's the #2 at this point.
There's my say. Mo'Nique will win the Oscar, and she certainly deserves it. Although part of me is disappointed at how overlooked Paula Patton's performance was, I'm also somewhat relieved because who knows what type of vote splitting could have occurred if she did end up in the final five. Nevertheless, if I had to pick one supporting actress from 2009 to put in this category, it would be Paula Patton without a doubt.