While maybe not quite as tight as this category was in 2007, at which time we guessed correctly that Tilda Swinton would take the trophy from the likes of Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan, and Ruby Dee practically by default, once again Best Supporting Actress is giving Oscar prognosticators everywhere the fear of—gasp!—getting one category wrong. The only candidate everyone feels pretty safe writing off without a qualm is Jacki Weaver, whose performance as Animal Kingdom's quasi-incestuous Ma Barker picked up a citation from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, but whose slow-burning presence in the film doesn't really start to accrue merit points until long after some voters could be expected to hit eject.
But while we're on the topic of Oscar bloggers, do you get the sense that the people who are most offended by Melissa Leo's cleve-thrusting extracurricular Oscar campaign are…Oscar bloggers? Especially given no group more frequently and unashamedly positions themselves as the stewards of Oscar's whims? (We love Sasha Stone as much as the next guy, but has anyone ever taken anything more ludicrously personally—indeed, near suicidally—than the perceptible fall from grace her pony The Social Network has allegedly suffered?)
What Leo's campaign did on behalf of her, up to now, frontrunning performance as The Fighter's blowsy
Ma Barker Ma Fratelli is, until next Sunday, anyone's guess, because it isn't really clear what we're being asked to "consider." That she's still a good-to-go goddess fighting for her piece of a prize that usually goes to rail-thin young pieces of tail? That she's got the range to scrub off that Lowell grime and hit the red carpet? Whatever the message Leo was trying to sell, to hear Oscar bloggers describe it, she's dealt her chances a fatal blow, despite winning nearly as many precursors as Mo'Nique did last year. (You know, the same Mo'Nique who allegedly demanded appearance fees on the Oscar campaign trail and still won.)
If Leo's campaign was, as she's said, a reaction against ageism in Hollywood, don't you think Amy Adams's performance in the same film would have emerged by now as a reasonable alternative? She's now on her third nomination, so the Academy clearly likes her. She's comfortably under the hill. And you know a significant portion of the voting body's Ernest Borgnine demo would love to have her sit on their laps. (And, if I may editorialize, her surprisingly veracious, moxie-popping MTV girl represents the first time I've been happily surprised by the actress I'd up to now considered a one-trick pony.) But no, the only significant precursor Melissa Leo has given up to anyone else was the BAFTA, which went to Helena Bonham Carter as The King's Speech's
Ma Barker Ma Fratelli Queen Mum. Though we've reached the point that we could almost imagine Harvey Weinstein engineering a win for The King's Speech in Best Documentary Short, for HBC to score an upset here would represent a coattail win to end all coattail wins.
And so it is that Oscar bloggers, seeking to itch the scratch Leo's blatant assertion that campaigning, not prognosticating, is what wins Oscars, have collectively shifted the balance of power back to the plucky 14-year-old girl who tore through every scene (every. scene.) of the Coens' beloved True Grit. Steinfeld's sass certainly falls in line with precedent for teen girls winning this category (i.e. Tatum O'Neal, Anna Paquin), and there's something to be said for the inclination that voters will want to turn True Grit's 10 nominations (a mere two less than The King's Speech) into at least one above-the-line win. But, really. If voters were really so completely taken by Steinfeld, wouldn't they have had the decency to place her in the correct category? The demotion (which was, admittedly, the result of campaigning) reeks of consolation prize. So, as we said back in 2007 and as it, no doubt, came to pass last year, "default" is the name of the game in Best Supporting Actress, and we're putting our chips on the house favorite.
Will Win: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Could Win: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Should Win: Amy Adams, The Fighter