On Actors and “Supporting” Actors


There are a few things that consistently bother me about the way the Oscars nominate and hand out awards. One is when a foreign film (Amour) or an animated film (Up) are nominated for both Best Picture and either Best Foreign Film or Animated Film respectively. Doesn’t logic dictate that therefore they MUST win their respective categories? If not, then the film that beats them should clearly have had their Best Picture slot over them, no?

Logical entanglement aside, it’s another more subjective issue that bothers me now, the disparity between “Supporting Actors” and just plain “Actors.” I feel like the two are getting increasingly entangled, and the line is drawn between the two for purely political reasons.

Case in point this year would be Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress. I like Jennifer Lawrence. I like the way she fell on stage and seemed genuinely shocked by her win. I like the way she flipped off the cameras during photos afterwards (as seen above). She’s quite hilarious and charming and was fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook. A movie in which she was in no way the lead.


Rather, that film was about Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat. It was his story, and he was rightly nominated for Best Actor. But it’s hard to argue that Lawrence wasn’t in a supporting role in that movie. She had a great deal of screen time, yes, but she was not the lead actor in the film, unlike Jessica Chastain and Quvenzhane Wallis. You could argue that Emmanuelle Riva split time with her male co-star, who had more lines, and that Naomi Watts shared time with Ewan McGregor, but the films were still about them.

So, is it about screen time then? All the Best Supporting Actresses this year had far less screen time than Lawrence, especially Anne  Hathaway who more or less won for eight minutes of powerful scenes in a nearly three hour movie.

I don’t buy it.

Why? Well look to 2011 when young Hailee Steinfeld was nominated for True Grit. The film was about her. It was her story. Yet somehow, because Jeff Bridges is Jeff Bridges, he gets a Best Actor nomination despite being in an obviously supporting role to Steinfeld. Somehow, the two got switched, and this is one of the most egregious examples of this I can think of.

true grit

It just seems odd to me that Lawrence one when so many past Best Actress winners have been far and away the very obvious stars of their film. Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Helen Mirren in The Queen. I had to go back to 2005 to find another example of something similar where Reese Witherspoon won for Walk the Line, even though that was very obviously Joaquin Phoenix’s movie with her supporting him.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m making too much of a fuss of this. Maybe a film can have two leads even if the central focus of the movie is on the other person. But it just seemed odd to me and I wonder if anyone else agrees.


  1. BPM February 26, 2013
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