Best Supporting Actress, 2001
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Jennifer Connelly
A Beautiful Mind


A beautiful, intelligent younger actress emerging from years of forgettable character parts and a recent spate of jaw-dropping indies to claim the lead opposite The Actor of his moment and act neither afraid of him nor insolently attention-seeking? Mira Sorvino won with a lot more of the attention-seeking. Mercedes Ruehl won in a lot more left-leaning film. Juliette Binoche won with a way lamer plotline. Kim Basinger won with the same costar. Marcia Gay Harden won against Connelly's last costar. Sensing a pattern?

Connelly's only vulnerable if the appeal of the Great Ladies is too strong to resist rewarding them in her stead—but which of the Great Ladies? Mirren, Smith, and Winslet will all have their supporters, and then we're back at square one...
Helen Mirren
Gosford Park

Mirren disappears into what's in many ways the least showy of Gosford Park's two dozen leads, though she blooms later on when she eventually gets her moment. She's done everything from wifely devotion to sexual fearlessness in the course of her career, and the Academy's given her nothing to show for it.
The Academy didn't give Edith Evans anything to show, or May Whitty, or Gladys Cooper, or Kim Stanley, and even Gloria Stuart and Lauren freakin' Bacall were outflown by that sweet bird of youth in the '97 and '96 races. And that was without scene-chewing costars to siphon off their votes.
Maggie Smith
Gosford Park

Having just watched Ingrid Bergman in Murder on the Orient Express, another murder "mystery" among the audaciously wealthy, I no longer harbor any certainties that one would demur from voting a third, entirely unnecessarily Oscar to a proven favorite in a thinnish part. Indeed, since Maggs' punchlines may offer the one oasis of obvious humor to viewers who otherwise don't care, she may be easier to get excited about than dour-faced Helen Mirren.
She does have those two other Oscars. And she does have a repetitive persona from film to film that's fun to nominate—but to give an actual award to?
Marisa Tomei
In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom is a widely admired film that allowed Tomei to second-guess all those harpies who claimed her first Oscar was a mistake.
Yep, folks, she already has an Oscar—and if Dame Maggie Smith is going to be denied a trophy based on past victories, there ain't gonna be no exceptions for Marisa Tomei!
Kate Winslet

Iris exists as a film only because Winslet, no less so than Dench, exists as an actress. Her rare combination of sex appeal, distinterest in sex appeal, brazen physicality, and predilection for literate projects makes her a totally rare bird in the film world, and there's a perception that she's owed something only seven short years into her career.
This just isn't the time: Connelly has all the buzz right now, and she's easier to cast, so the Hollywood crowd will be more motivated to give her the boost. Winslet will be back for more races, no doubt playing more indomitable free spirits, and Iris increasingly cedes thematic focus to her older costars.

WHO WILL WIN: Connelly seems to have an edge on her peers, even those to whom she is hardly a peer, of all things. Mirren, Winslet, and Smith all have strong individual points in their favor, but none of them have a strong overall recipe for winning, and they tend to cancel each other out besides.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Well certainly not Connelly or Tomei, who both performed an honest day's work, but hardly in such a way that their contributions seem irreplaceable. I had a ball with Maggie Smith, but she is mostly repeating herself. I can't say I have a strong preference, then, between Mirren and Winslet, both of whom bring a certain combination of reliable traits to all their characters and yet never make them boring, predictable, or mere carry-overs from other work. And their turns in Gosford Park and Iris are rich enough on their own merits to warrant a prize.

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: Plenty of people have noticed that Emily Watson was mysteriously left off the good ship Gosford Park when it set sail for Los Angeles—but has anyone figured out a compelling reason why? And as for another double-standard, for all the hoopla surrounding Naomi Watts' work in Mulholland Drive, was Laura Elena Harring chopped liver? Her role was so difficult, and so different from Watts', and the impression she made so vivid that it's cheap to afford David Lynch and his team of craftsman with all the credit.

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