Well, it’s official, and we Oscarologists can heave a sigh of relief. Viola Davis herself has allowed her performance in the upcoming “Fences” to be campaigned for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. So the EXTREMELY crowded and competitive Best Actress race will now go to a young’un once again. Either Emma Stone in “La La Land” or Natalie Portman in “Jackie.” Annette Bening I feel will get nominated for her performance in Mike Mills’ comedy “20th Century Woman”, but she again won’t win. Such is her fate to always lose to a younger female.
And Viola Davis, I personally feel, was traumatized by losing Best Actress a couple of years ago to Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.” Equally so that her co-star in “The Help” Octavia Spencer, went blithely forward to pick up the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for which she was nominated. And I think she REALLY didn’t want to go through that experience again. She is a great actress, one of the best there is, at the moment.
It is much easier for African-American actresses to win in Supporting. And while I saw Viola burn up the stage on Broadway in “Fences” for which she won a Best Actress Tony, I well remember the rather incredible debate that went on at the time as to whether her searing performance as Denzel Washington’s put-upon-but-faithful wife was lead or supporting.
And when I saw the trailer to “Fences” a couple of weeks ago, I went “uh-oh”. It looked like Denzel(who’s also directing it) had cut Viola’s part of his wife back. It looked like a supporting performance, and evidently when Ms. Davis saw the film herself this weekend, she allowed the Supporting campaign for her to go forward.
But wait! The Academy itself is the one who actually decides who goes where. The Golden Globes usually will follow the dictates of the studios in how it’s campaigned(see “the Martian” as Best Comedy or Musical winner last year) but the Academy is a law unto itself. And may put Davis in lead.
So the Best Actress race is competitive beyond belief this year. Having seen Portman’s incredible “Jackie” I can’t see her losing to Emma Stone in a musical.Or Annette Bening in a comedy. And then there’s the lovely Black actress Ruth Negga in “Loving,” which is also an extremely nominatable performance. Both Davis and Negga could end up in Best Actress at the Oscars. And then where would we be? They’d cancel each other out?
And placing the brilliant Davis in Supporting diminishes the whole film’s Oscar impact, I feel. This decision makes “Fences” seem already like an also-ran. Like Paramount doesn’t have the faith in it that it should.
Things are going La La in La-La land.