Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress

This week in Thursday Movie Picks – run by Wandering through the Shelves – we’ve been asked to list three to five actors and actresses who claimed Best Supporting Oscars. As usual, I’ve made my selection from films I have seen.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin for his performance as Edwin Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

There is much to enjoy in this offbeat comedy about a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who enters a beauty pageant. Arkin shines as her grandfather, a foul-mouthed geriatric who was kicked out of his nursing home for snorting cocaine. Their bond is beautiful and unique, and Breslin and Arkin have fantastic chemistry.

  • Sam Rockwell for his performance as Officer Jason Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Rockwell rarely disappoints, in my opinion. In Three Billboards his character is prejudiced and offensive but experiences the largest character arc. It’s a brilliant, thought-provoking film and Rockwell excels alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson.

  • Mahershala Ali for his performance as Don Shirley in Green Book (2018)

Inspired by real life events, Green Book follows renowned black pianist Don Shirley (Ali) as he is driven by a white chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) to performances across America’s Deep South in the 1960s. It’s a powerful film that captures the racist zeitgeist of that time. Ali and Mortensen both deliver strong, memorable performances.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Whoopi Goldberg for her performance as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost (1990)

There are two reasons to watch Ghost: Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg. The other lead, Demi Moore, delivers a decent performance but the magic between Swayze and Goldberg is palpable. Goldberg’s Oda Mae, a psychic who channels Swayze’s recently departed Sam, is perfect in the role: effervescent and comedic.

  • Angelina Jolie for her performance as Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted (1999)

It has been years since I watched Girl, Interrupted, starring Jolie alongside a strong female cast including Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy, but the performances and plot have stayed with me. Inspired by the real-life experience of Ryder’s Susanna Kaysen when she spent 18 months in an institution in the 1960s, Jolie portrays Lisa Rowe, a magnetic but deeply manipulative patient who forms a close bond with Susanna.

  • Octavia Spencer for her performance as Minny Jackson in The Help (2011)

Like the above, The Help features a strong female line up that included not only Spencer but Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis and Emma Stone among others. Like Green Book, The Help is set during 1960s America, and Spencer’s Minny works for Bryce Dallas Howard’s Hilly Holbrook. As the plot develops, Spencer delivers a powerful, moving performance.

15 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress

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  1. I’m not always a fan of “career” Oscars, for instance Al Pacino’s for the horror show that is his performance in Scent of a Woman, but it’s much less painful in the case of Alan Arkin who won for a delightful piece of work-though surely his decades in the industry helped him along.

    I think a bit of that acknowledgement and a sense that it was his “time” played into Sam Rockwell’s win for a perfectly fine but hardly extraordinary performance when he had been better elsewhere.

    I like Ali and think he is a talented performer but nothing in Green Book struck me as special. I didn’t see it until after its win and while I liked it, I was shaking my head at its Best Picture win.

    I LOVE Whoopi’s performance in Ghost! She and Swayze did share a real connection and she made the picture something special. Without her it would have been a decent romance with a spiritual twist, but she really injects a spark into it that made it rise above the rest.

    I’ll never watch the film again, but Angelina Jolie was memorable in Girl, Interrupted. I think if she had wanted it with a bit more concentration and a better selection of projects, she could have had a sustained career as a big-ticket film star-she’s certainly unique, but her interests lay elsewhere.

    The Help has some problems but none of them relate to the performances of the cast. I was so happy to see Octavia Spencer win, her career up to that point had not been as notable as Arkin or Rockwell but she’s another of those journeyman performers that deliver film after film and it’s great to see that work finally bear fruit.

  2. I also chose three from each category that are favorites.

    The Razor’s Edge (1946)-Anne Baxter-Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) disillusioned by WWI drifts through Europe looking for life’s meaning. In Paris he becomes reacquainted with childhood friend Sophie MacDonald (Baxter) who he remembers as a happy wife and mother. Having lost her family when a drunk smashed into their car Larry finds her a broken, drug addicted prostitute and tries to help her but her sorrows run too deep.

    The Last Picture Show (1971)-Cloris Leachman-In the slowly dying North Texas town of Anarene high school senior Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) drifts into an affair with the coach’s wife Ruth Popper (the recently departed Cloris Leachman). Though it commences more out of ennui than true feeling their involvement soon causes profound changes to both.

    The Year of Living Dangerously-Linda Hunt-Well connected photographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) takes inexperienced correspondent Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) under his wing upon Guy’s arrival in Jakarta. As political tension roils and then escalates to the boiling point both their lives as well as that of diplomat Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) hang by a thread.

    The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)-Harold Russell-At the end of WWII three servicemen return to their hometown to find their way of life radically changed. One of the men Homer Parrish has lost his hands in an explosion, while he has adjusted to living with the hooks that replaced them, he finds the world is a vastly different place for him. Russell, who had suffered the same sort of injury, wasn’t a professional actor but his performance is naturalistic and immensely impactful.

    All About Eve (1950)-George Sanders-In the Broadway world of stage star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) urbane, venomously acerbic and powerful theatre critic Addison DeWitt (Sanders) is tolerated but not liked. Still when Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) insinuates herself into Margo’s good graces it’s Addison who sees through her sweetness to the vicious climber underneath. My favorite Supporting Actor winner, a perfect meeting of actor and role.

    They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)-Gig Young-In the soul crushing world of Depression era marathon dances resides opportunistic promoter and emcee Rocky Gravo (Young) a man devoid of scruple or compassion. He sees the contestants-including hard bitten Gloria (Actress nominee Jane Fonda), glamour girl wannabe Alice (Supporting Actress nominee Susannah York), broken down Sailor (Red Buttons) and audience surrogate Robert (Michael Sarrazin)-as so much fodder to be made money off until they lose their usefulness and are thrown away. The deeply troubled Young (he ultimately killed himself and his fifth wife in a murder/suicide) was a preeminent comic actor for years before this revelatory performance.

      1. Sophie’s storyline in The Razor’s Edge is definitely tragic but other aspects of the film provide some uplift. It has a lot of philosophical questioning built into the script.

        They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? though is all about despair and the soul crushing toll that dashed dreams and hard times take on people. It’s a riveting film with top to bottom award level acting but it’s outlook is bleakly dire. In no way could it be considered a happy picture but it is a worthwhile one.

  3. We match with Ghost! Those 2 were great together. I love Greenbook and The Help which, recently get bad press, but they are true stories and by blasting the films, I feel one reduces and belittles the excellent performances especially by Ali and Spencer. I really like 3 Billboards and Rockwell was great in that film. Little Miss Sunshine is such a fun film and that kid is brilliant. Arkin was quite good and I wish there was more of him in the film. Aneglina Jolie was really quite good in this film and if she stayed with these films rather than adventure flicks, who knows.

    1. Great minds, Birgit! You’re right, Swayze and Goldberg were excellent on screen together.
      I agree about Jolie; her career would have been very difficult if she had stayed with these more thought-provoking and deep films rather than the big budget blockbusters.

  4. I LOVE Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost! As for Green Book, I know people like to pile hate on that film, calling it ‘white savior’ etc… it’s too bad as I think it’s a heartfelt film and Ali was amazing.

    I haven’t seen Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri but I like all your other choices!

    1. Ah, someone else who hasn’t seen Three Billboards yet! I really rate it and think you would enjoy it, Ruth.
      I haven’t read any of the criticism aimed at Green Book, probably because I only watched it last year for the first time, but if it’s there, I think it’s unfair. It’s inspired by real life events and experiences, and the actual Green Book (‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’) was in print for 30 years. I didn’t know that until I watched this film.

  5. We match with Angelina Jolie! That was such an intense performance.
    Sam Rockwell appears to be very popular this week. I haven’t seen his winning performance yet, but I do like most of his other films a lot, so I’m very curious now!

    1. Yep, absolutely – hugely intense performance from Jolie as well as Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall and all the other great actresses. In hindsight, Girl, Interrupted was quite unusual for its time in having such a female centric line up.
      If you can get hold of I really recommend Three Billboards. I saw it for the first time myself quite recently.

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