Melissa Leo and the Best Supporting Actress Race

Of the six main Oscar categories, the only race still up for grabs is the best supporting actress race. After winning the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe, The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo seemed the obvious front runner. But when the BAFTA nominations were announced yesterday, Leo was noticeably absent from the ballot. Leo may have the lead in American critics circles, but across the pond Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan), and Lesley Manville (Another Year) are who made the cut.

In a way, I am not surprised. Leo is one of the best actresses working in Hollywood. She is on par with Meryl Streep, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Her tendency to take on gritty and unflattering roles, most notably Ray Eddy in Frozen River, also makes her one of the most under-appreciated actresses.

Compared to her The Fighter co-star Amy Adams, whose performance is remarkably and wonderfully against type, Leo is her always hard-edged self. There are few actresses who could play Alice the way that Leo did and it is a character that works into her character actress strengths. This is why Leo’s performance can easily be lost in the shuffle.

I have read some rumblings that Leo’s award winning streak is in some ways making up for her not winning the Oscar for Frozen River. I could not disagree more. Leo’s performance in Frozen River did not receive 1/3 of the accolades that she has received for The Fighter. As far as independent films go, Frozen River did have the momentum going into the Oscars that Winter’s Bone has. Moreover, I do not believe that Frozen River has been seen by a large enough audience, even though it has been two years since its critical success.

The best supporting actress race is still a three-way race between Helena Bonham Carter, Amy Adams, and Leo. If Leo wins the SAG, the Oscar is likely hers. But I am still skeptical because Leo is always the consummate character actress. For some reason, I believe this works against Leo while Adams’ extreme likability factor works in her favor. (There are endless possibilities in this category that I am just wrapping my head around.)

I’ll leave you with this thought of mine from the Golden Globes that sums up my understanding of Melissa Leo’s acting career:

So what are your thoughts on Melissa Leo and the best supporting actress race? Sound off below.

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4 thoughts on “Melissa Leo and the Best Supporting Actress Race”

  1. I don’t want her to (shameless plug, go see my review of the film and see why) but what I’m really hoping doesn’t happen is Mila Kunis turning up anywhere NEAR a nomination or Hailee Steinfeld being nominated here since she’s not a supporting player (or deserving of a nod in my opinion). I want HBC to win, just for nepotism or Wiest for brilliance (though she won’t even be nominated) or Weaver because she’s great.

    But Leo is a lovely woman, her interviews show as much – but if someone from the film must win I’d much prefer it to be Amy.

  2. Andrew – Haha, I read your review earlier and have been trying to think of a good response. :-) It is hard to see why Leo stands out in The Fighter because she is playing a role she perfected – gritty, unlikeable women. In a way I do think she is being awarded for her stellar but underrated career. That is I’m not too keen on Leo winning.

    This is a thought I had earlier – HBC and Adams are splitting the votes and then votes for Leo are slipping in… Do you see that happening?

    Candice – To me, not liking Frozen River is blasphemous. I just don’t understand how you can’t love that movie.

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