Thursday, December 17, 2009

What criteria determines Best Supporting Actor/Actress?

Ask any critic this awards cycle of what category they would dare to predict the winner, and this year's Best Supporting Actor and Actress races seem to be the surest bets in town. Monique, in her standout role as the abusive mother of the lead in "Precious," is on everyone's short list. Virtual unknown Christoph Waltz has been so buzzed about since earlier this year for his breakout role as a Nazi in Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" that he seems a virtual lock. It's all well-deserved praise to be sure as both of these actors command the scenes in which they appear, despite neither receiving top billing. Therein lies the reason for the honor.

When Catherine Zeta Jones won her Oscar for Supporting Actress in "Chicago," no one was surprised. It was because she stole every scene opposite Renee Zellweger. You simply gravitated to her more. Not to mention her musical numbers were show-stoppers, and she demonstrated tremendous versatily in a skill of which most people had no clue she was capable.

At the 1997 Academy Awards, before he started whooping and leaping about the stage, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s win was considered a sure thing as well. His role as the soulful, intense, family-driven Rod Tidwell in "Jerry McGuire" made people laugh and cry, and he added a new catch phrase to the American lexicon - "Show me the money."

So, the next time you watch a film and an actor's performance raises your eyebrow(s), ask yourself two things: 1. Did this actor's name appear before or after the film title in the credits? 2. In any scene, did he or she eclipse the film's main star? If so, take note - that actor could be the next one supporting a coveted statuette come awards time.

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