I have had enough! All my life I’ve had to deal with the utter agony of making hard choices in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar race. Every year I’ve cursed the concept of free will as I looked over the embarrassment of riches in this category. Every year, despite the fact that I am not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and therefore have no say in this whatsoever, I have been kept awake at night trying to come up with a solution for the problem we face at every Oscar ceremony. There are too many good performances that get pitted against each other in Best Supporting Actress. It’s a category that has recognized everything from Judi Dench’s seven-minute run in Shakespeare in Love to Viola Davis’ arguable co-lead performance in Fences. And yet it’s not enough. I demand more!
There are too many phenomenal performances that are going overlooked or under-appreciated in Best Supporting Actress. More often than not, I find myself less than compelled by the nominees in another category and wishing I could just give that category’s Oscar to one of the BSA nominees. Handing Toni Collette a “Best Original Song” statuette for her phenomenal work in The Sixth Sense, with our thanks and apologies. It’s not the most graceful solution, no, but at least I am trying to come up with options here! We all have to put our minds to work on this problem. Truthfully, Best Supporting Actress is the best Oscar category and we ought to just do a whole ceremony devoted solely to it every year. But y’all aren’t ready to have that conversation.
I suspect that the reason we always have such a packed Best Supporting Actress lineup is at least partly due to Hollywood’s long history of overlooking stories that focus on women. Though we’ve seen progress, it’s not unusual to see a film with a man in the lead role and no woman as co-lead, resulting in any meaty parts for women being bumped down to supporting. Often, say with historical epics about war, this can seem like simply the only way the story can be told. But usually that’s just evidence of a lack of narrative curiosity. You can’t find one more plot point in all of World War II for Laurie Metcalf? Really?
This is the blessing and the curse of BSA. Like Best Supporting Actor, it is a category that’s a magnet for kooky performances and big swings, but it’s also a haven for parts that, with a little more attention, could have been central to the film. Sometimes it’s “Best Supporting”, sometimes it’s “Best Carrying This Picture On My Back”. A gamut.
It’s for this reason that I think we should give out two Best Supporting Actress Oscars every year. Who is this “we”? Me and the Academy (and by the Academy, I mean every gay person who spends too much time on the Best Supporting Actress Wikipedia entry.) I don’t think there’s any need to differentiate between the two BSA Oscars. It’s not “one real one and one for category fraud”. It’s just two Oscars, like there was a tie every year. This year, for instance, Ariana DeBose is heavily favored to win for her spectacular turn in West Side Story. This is good and right but also… have you heard the good news of our Lord and Savior Kirsten Dunst? I refuse to pit these two against each other. I will not do it. I’m taking a stand. It takes nothing away from one winner to simply announce another winner. It’s one additional Oscar, what could it cost to make, $10?
Two Best Supporting Actress Oscars a year would solve roughly 54% of our society’s problems. Did you know that Amy Adams has been nominated in this category five times. FIVE. The only person with more Best Supporting Actress nominations is Thelma Ritter. What are we, as a society, going to do about Amy Adams’ lack of Oscars? Well, for years my plan was to build a time machine and go back to make sure she got Best Actress for Arrival, but I think it would actually be easier to just create a world where Anne Hathaway still gets to murmur “It came true” at her statuette but also Amy Adams gets to say something equally iconic but probably less ethereal in response to winning for The Master that same year. Who doesn’t want to see Anne Hathaway and Amy Adams grinning side-by-side holding their Oscar twins? It would be like the belt scene from The Devil Wears Prada, but, like, with Oscars.
The stress of Best Supporting Actress takes so much of my mental energy and I really think we can fix it by just being less stingy with Oscars.
In 2010, Melissa Leo put up the most revolutionary Oscar campaign in history by taking out full page glamor shot ads for The Fighter and she won. You know who was also in The Fighter but didn’t win? THAT’S RIGHT AMY ADAMS. With two winners in this category, we could have fixed this and had a bunch of Fighter pun headlines like “Leo, Adams give Oscars a one-two punch” or “Fighter actresses score a knockout!” Why would we squander this opportunity?
Amy Adams isn’t the only person who would benefit from this reparative action. Joan Allen had back-to-back nominations in '95 and '96 for roles in Nixon and The Crucible. She followed those roles up with an extraordinary performance in The Ice Storm and then the great Pleasantville. She missed out of noms for the latter two, which is a sacrilege that we as a society should be ashamed about to this day.
Now, I’m not saying the whole board would have shifted in a way to get Joan Allen one of the two latter nominations if there were two Oscars up for grabs. (Particularly not in 1997, which had Joan Cusack for In & Out, Minnie Driver for Good Will Hunting, Julianne Moore for Boogie Nights, Gloria Stuart for Titanic, and eventual winner Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential. If there’s a second trophy, I’m guessing it’s going to Moore but I’m hoping it’s going to Cusack, to be honest.) So what gives Joan Allen the second, equally important BSA Oscar? I think she gets it alongside Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite in ‘95. She gets nominated again in ‘96 for The Crucible. She still gets shut out in ‘97 because it was a crazy year, but because of the Oscar glow and she gets back in in ‘98 for Pleasantville, knocking one of the nominees off the board.
Figuring out how to get Joan Allen an Oscar is my version of D&D.
The ultimate goal of all of this is recognizing our bounty of talented actresses. If there were a second winner in this category every year Viola Davis would have more Oscars, Marisa Tomei would have more Oscars, Cate Blanchett would have more Oscars, Holly Hunter would have won two Oscars in the same year (The Firm and The Piano)! Why can’t we live in that society! Down with Oscar scarcity for actresses of note!
I’m just saying: we have so much actress support. The best actress support, really. It’s time we recognized it. Best Supporting Actress isn’t just one category in an evening of worthy categories. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a worldview. It’s the future of film. Fire up that Oscar kiln or whatever, and let's start rewarding.
Cover image: Getty
Editorial assistant: Sean Simon