Best of 2016 – Supporting Actress

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Each year I set aside time to examine and spotlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and for the next several days I’ll be highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. The ladies go first and we start by looking at Supporting Actresses. Last year was rich with quality supporting performances from so many talented actresses. It was tough to narrow down, but these were my standouts.

#5 – Lucy Boynton (“Sing Street”)

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The more I watched her character in “Sing Street” the more I appreciated Lucy Boynton’s surprisingly nuanced performance. The role isn’t nearly as shallow as its first impression. Boynton deftly unwraps her character’s inner turmoil but she’s also a ton of fun playing within John Carney’s nostalgic, spirited 1980’s sandbox. As the film went on I loved the performance more and more.

#4 – Aïssa Maïga  (“The African Doctor”)

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There are a number of scenes that demonstrate why I appreciate Aïssa Maïga’s performance in “The African Doctor”. But I particularly appreciate how she balances the numerous things thrown at her. She has her broader comedy moments, but she also deals heavily with frustration and resentment. In many ways she is asked to be the film’s conscience. Maïga handles it all with ease.

#3 – Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”)

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There are few performers with more natural talent for acting than Octavia Spencer. You never doubt what she brings to the screen regardless of the size of her role. This was never more true than in “Hidden Figures”. Her performance is so grounded in truth that you never question her character’s feelings or motivations. Even when the script is bit on-the-nose Spencer has you buying every second of it.

#2 – Nicole Kidman (“Lion”)

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I had lost sight of Nicole Kidman’s brilliance as an actress. Silly me. Her performance in “Lion” served as a wonderful and welcomed reminder. There isn’t an ounce of glamor or show in what she does. Through her every scene Kidman remains quiet and understated yet she steadily brings an emotional heft. It’s a tricky role that many actresses would have milked dry. Kidman knows exactly how to play it and the results are astounding.

#1 – Viola Davis (“Fences”)

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For my money there was never a competition for first place. From the moment I left the theater after seeing “Fences” I knew I had seen my favorite female performance of the year. Simply put Viola Davis is electrifying in what is close to being a lead role. Sharing this much dialogue and screen time with Denzel Washington may seem a bit intimidating, but Davis matches him line for line. It’s an absolute master class and anything short of the Oscar would be an insult.

So there are my picks out of a really strong category. What do you think? Please share your thoughts on this list and on what would have made yours.

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29 thoughts on “Best of 2016 – Supporting Actress

  1. I haven’t seen any of these yet but I’m a big admirer of Davis, Spencer and Kidman. It’s not a surprise that they would make your cut. I’m looking forward to catching up with these films.

      • D’you know, I do expect big things from Denzel and Viola. The pairing of them alone has caught my interest. One of those films that can make you appreciate performers at the top of their game. I hope I wont be disappointed. I certainly don’t expect to be.

    • You are so right. I know the exact scene and it is excruciating. So much truth in that performance. I was literally entranced. I can’t imagine her not winning the Oscar.

      • She stands toe-to-toe with Denzel. I think you could say she is the heartbeat of that picture. Hopefully you will get to see it soon. I just recently saw it a second time and it definitely holds up.

  2. I only saw Spencer out of your picks but I loved her work and loved the movie. She may not have a big scene like Taraji but she is consistently amazing and just sells the hell out of her character. What a charming movie tough, the entire cast was great especially Henson and Costner

    • You are so right. Spencer sells it in every scene. You never doubt anything about her. And she’s like that in pretty much every role. Such a great actress.

  3. I couldn’t have put it any better myself re: Viola Davis. She outshone everyone and there really were some phenomenal supporting work from the ladies this year. Kidman, Spencer, Nyong’O (Queen of Katwe), and ….Oh wait, actually I think I had Naomie Harris above Davis now that I think about it. She was astoundingly good in Moonlight. But Davis is basically right there with her. Can’t the Oscar be shared this year….?!

    • You know, I found this to be an intensely strong year for women. This category and Lead Actress has given me freaking fits. Who gets included, who gets omitted? For example Lou de Laâge is a brilliant young actress who barely missed my Supporting Actress list (for “The Wait”) and barely missed my upcoming Lead Actress list (for “The Innocents”). Too many gems.

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