Countdown to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actress

While it’s true that the majority of roles for women unfortunately continue to fixate on youth, winners of the supporting actress category over the past decade have fortunately chosen to recognize the value of earnestness in it’s many forms.

From the tear-jerking breakout performances of young actresses like Jennifer Hudson and Lupita Nyong’o to career-defining roles for journeywomen like Melissa Leo and Patricia Arquette, the Academy tends to get it right when it comes to awarding the right actress in this category. With the exception of Penélope Cruz stealing the Oscar from Viola Davis in 2008, fortune tends to favor intensity, yes, but celebrate sincerity most. This year is no different.

Try to think of a word that captures the essence of each this year’s nominees.

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight? Intense.

Rachel McAdams in Spotlight? Brave.

Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs? Dedicated.

Rooney Mara in Carol? Vulnerable.

Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl? Earnest.

When I saw films like Suffragette and Trumbo this year, I couldn’t stop seeing Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, as incredible as they are, playing roles that are tethered to their own iconography—just as the men in this category are recognized for doing. While their ages are generally young and there is unfortunate lack of diversity in this year’s supporting actress category, the bottom-line is that each of this year’s nominees were recognized for the conviction of their characters and the perceived authenticity of their performances.

For no other nominee does this description ring true than in Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of a committed wife and friend who follows her husband to the end of his existence, not only as a man, but as a person. In stark contrast to her turn as a robotic prototype in the equally impressive Ex Machina, she’s proven that she deserves to be recognized as one-of-a-kind this year.

Who will win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Who should win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Who should’ve been nominated: Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

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