Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

BAFTA Preview: Best Supporting Actress

The Supporting Actress category is a story of bizarre omissions and an inspired inclusion

Having praised BAFTA yesterday for its Best Actor picks, I must express a certain degree of bemusement over its selections for Supporting Actress. It has largely followed the line of other awards ceremonies, nominating Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain for their performances in The Help, and Melissa McCarthy for her comedic turn in Bridesmaids. However, it has deviated from others by nominating Carey Mulligan in Drive, and Judi Dench in My Week with Marilyn.

Spencer deserves her nod and is probably the favourite to win both here and at the Oscars, but her co-star Jessica Chastain has been nominated for the wrong film. She appeared in something like 95 films last year, so you can understand why it was difficult for awards bodies to choose a role to nominate her for, but The Help was perhaps the least notable of her performances, even if it was the most in-your-face. Her soulful, quiet and beautiful appearance in The Tree of Life would have been a better choice.

The other curiosity when you consider The Help is the absence of Bryce Dallas Howard from these nominations. She is just skin-crawlingly terrifying in that film, delivering a performance of self-righteous insidiousness along the lines of Marcia Gay Harden’s overlooked but not forgotten performance in Frank Darabont’s superior horror-thriller, The Mist. However, she has been left as little more than an observer this year. Melissa McCarthy does have a very noticeable role in the solid comedy Bridesmaids, and she is a very admirable actress. Her success is not undeserved, but I would have lost her to gain Howard.

And speaking of omissions, you have to look at the inclusion of Dame Judi Dench and wonder where Vanessa Redgrave is. Dame Judi is, of course, excellent in My Week with Marilyn, but she has little to do in it, and her nomination feels almost statutory for BAFTA. It is an example of a particularly British lack of imagination, particularly when Redgrave, in the more inaccessible Coriolanus, is just astonishing. She is absolutely on fire and is utterly compelling, selling the Shakespearean language to a modern audience seemingly effortlessly. I understand why BAFTA would be wary of another Redgrave acceptance speech (her last one was just bizarre), but she just should be there this year.

However, BAFTA did get one nominee absolutely right, and Carey Mulligan’s surprise inclusion for her role in the brutal, action-thriller, Drive, is most welcome. She is a serene and enchanting presence in that film and wonderful to watch. She would get my vote, and may well get BAFTA’s, but the gutsy Spencer will be difficult to beat.

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