Newcomers often have a chance to shine in the Oscar race for Best Supporting Actress (see Alicia Vikander and Lupita Nyong’o). Fresh faces may emerge as contenders as the year rolls on. But we’re also keeping an eye on some heavy-hitter scene-stealers in supporting roles.
Contenders to emerge from Sundance include Oscar-winner Holly Hunter (“The Piano”), who steals the show alongside Ray Romano as two anxious parents with a comatose daughter (Zoe Kazan) in Amazon’s “The Big Sick,” Oscar-winner Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”), who pops in nuns-gone-bad drama “Novitiate” (Sony Pictures Classics), and an unrecognizable Mary J. Blige, who shines amid the sprawling ensemble in Dee Rees’ acclaimed southern drama “Mudbound” (Netflix). The Academy loves such riches to rags transformations. And Oscar voters should check out veteran Lois Smith, who gives a heartbreaking performance opposite Jon Hamm and Geena Davis in “Marjorie Prime,” a drama that takes a novel approach to not going gentle into that good night. (She also has a great scene with Saoirse Ronan as a sharp nun in “Lady Bird.”)
Two actress-director reunions to watch are Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes and Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola. Moore was nominated for Best Actress the last time she worked with Haynes (“Far From Heaven”), and went on to win for “Still Alice.” Never-nominated Dunst plays one of several southern ladies who take in a wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) in Coppola’s Cannes Director-winning remake of summer release “The Beguiled” (Focus Features), which will need support this fall from critics groups to become an award-season contender.
Three British actresses emerged from the fall festivals: Kristin Scott Thomas shines as person with the most influence on Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, his wife, in “Darkest Hour”; TV star Tatiana Maslany plays the nurturing woman who cares for Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) in true Boston marathon survivor story “Stronger”; and Claire Foy plays the wife who won’t give up on her polio-ridden husband (Andrew Garfield) in “Breathe.”
American theater stalwart Laurie Metcalf is the powerful, critical, loving mother in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” which is building momentum. Allison Janney plays the hard-driving force behind the rise of skater Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.” And last year’s “Manchester By the Sea” nominee Michelle Williams returns as a mom in “Wonderstruck” and also carries a larger role in P.T. Barnum biopic “The Greatest Showman” (Fox).
A list of (alphabetical) possibilities is below. No film is deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.
Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”)
Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”)
Holly Hunter (“The Big Sick”)
Tatiana Maslany (“Stronger”)
Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”)
Claire Foy (“Breathe”)
Kristin Scott Thomas (“Darkest Hour”)
Michelle Williams (“The Greatest Showman”)
Julianne Moore (“Wonderstruck”)
Kirsten Dunst (“The Beguiled”)
Lois Smith (“Marjorie Prime”)