Inspired by Vince’s totally excellent “10 Awesome Minor Characters We Could Have Used More Of in 2013” feature, I came up with a list of 8 supporting actresses who also deserve their own films [She lies, I assigned it to her. -V]. The reasons for this gender inequality have less to do with Hollywood’s biases than the fact that Oprah deserves three slots (and all of our lost souls). Not all of these women will earn Oscar nominations, but they do deserve their own movies, our endless love, and a Starbucks gift card.
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1. Oprah Winfrey, The Butler
There’s a large audience of people out there who believe that Oprah can do no wrong. As Oprah in The Butler proves, these fans are slavish, obsequious, and absolutely one hundred million percent correct. The Butler tells the true-life story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), an African-American butler who spent multiple decades serving presidents in the White House, and his wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), who spent those same historic decades watching TV and putting on lipstick. She’s my favorite type of action hero – sedentary – but that doesn’t stop her from offering her opinions on everything from Emmett Till, to potato salad (less pickle, more dill – genius call, Oprah), and to her son’s new girlfriend (“trifling, low-class bitch”). There’s even a Mommie Dearest moment where drunk violent Oprah croons “Que Sera, Sera” in front of a mirror, and we all shit our pants a little. She’s a DC Desperate Housewife in a real rayon tracksuit documenting the civil rights era, and I can’t imagine anything better than that.
Oprah, if you hear me out there, come back home. No one makes a better narrator of history than a full-time mom with a totally-loveable drinking problem. I’d love to have you star in … a successful daytime television talk show that’ll one day become a billion-dollar-entertainment-industrial complex? It’ll be a little different this time though, I promise. Because now, you’ll only be wearing this –
One can dream.
2. Emma Watson, This Is the End
While Mindy Kaling and Rihanna make brief appearances, there are really only three memorable performances by women in This Is the End: Emma Watson, and the two ladies who suck Michael Cera off. No disrespect to Michael Cera or his loveable wiener, but Emma Watson is the only female character here with staying power. This is the End tells the story of Seth Rogen and a group of celebrity bros who are forced to hole up in James Franco’s mansion upon the end of the world. Emma Watson manages to find her way to Franco’s house, only to have her friends send her to bed and then accidentally spend the next five minutes telling “they’re not rape jokes, they’re meta rape jokes” outside her room. Emma overhears their conversation, thinks she’s about to be victimized, then proceeds to steal a fire ax, smash Rogen’s glasses, and make off with Franco’s booze, all without the help of a wand.
I can’t deny that this is half of Emma Watson’s appeal in the movie – the transformation of her from a twee little wizard with a RON BONER to a fearless ax-wielding Hunger Games tribute. She’s no Jennifer Lawrence (no one is, nor ever will be), but in the bro-iest of bromedies, she holds her own. Next time Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg put together a movie, I hope they consider Emma Watson as lead – she’s got Royal balls.
3. Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
Next to Grown Ups 2, Fruitvale Station might be the worst possible candidate for a sequel ever imagined. At just eighty-five minutes, the film depicts the tragic murder of Oscar Grant III (Michael Jordan), and is glued together with taut storytelling and a will-someone-put-this-woman-in-a-Wax-Museum-already performance by Octavia Spencer. Octavia plays Gloria, Oscar’s mother, who maintains a loving hold on her family all while redefining mom-sexy in an Ann Taylor Loft business suit. She’s strong but flawed, caring if not always consistent. When Oscar is dying in the hospital, Octavia keeps a tough upper lip without transforming into the Erin Brockovich of stop-and-frisk. That’s not to say we don’t need one, but mothers in grief are more likely to bang against hospital window panes than they are to start revolutionary twitter accounts.
Fruitvale Station contains about as much sadness as a movie can successfully handle (I went through not one but TWO boxes of Kleenex Aloe & Vitamin E Tissues). Still, I’d love to see Octavia star in the movie’s prequel, documenting the struggles of a mother trying to raise her child in Oakland amongst inequality and invading hipster armies. She’s a committed mother who’s nonetheless been unable to protect Oscar from the cracked-out-beast of the state prison system. Dangerous Minds had a song featured on Now That’s What I Call Music, so it’s about time for a real-life California story.
4. Mickey Sumner, Frances Ha
I know I’m supposed to hate Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, and her crew of clever, elitist New Yorkers, but what can I say? They’re family. Noam Baumbach’s Frances Ha, starring best friend Brooklynites Greta Gerwig as Frances and Mickey Sumner as Sophie, is a member of this *delectable,* self-aware, and polarizing new genre. While Greta has something of a conscience, Mickey is beautiful raw uncorrupted snark. Unafraid of a tumblr dedicated entirely to international selfies, Mickey is Dunham without nuance, which makes her all the more entertaining. She goes from making fun of dudes with pre-distressed baseball hats to then marrying one named Patch, the tragic tale of every overeducated person in their twenties. Clever and borderline soulless (who cares? She’s funny), I’d pay top $$$ to see a Mickey and Patch spin-off, feet up on my chair, proud to be the worst.
5. Melissa McCarthy, The Heat
A parade of drag queen elephants, led by a naked Justin Timberlake directing a Heaven-trained electronica marching band, needs to carry a gold-bedazzled Melissa McCarthy onto the Academy Awards stage for her performance in Paul Feig’s The Heat. That’s just how good she is here. I understand there were far more meaningful performances this year in films about war and the Holocaust (blablabla), but McCarthy raises pussy jokes to the level of high Renaissance art, even dick jokes. Boston Irish Catholic cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) teams up with FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) to fight crime in The Heat, but watching this movie for Bullock is kind of like watching porn for the dialogue. McCarthy’s got a Boston accent so thick it makes Mark Walhberg sound like an NPR reporter. A knack for ball-busting so acute it makes Howard Stern sound like Tickle-Me-Elmo. A heart so big it makes Nelson Mandela sound like…Nelson Mandela.
I’d love to see The Heat II where McCarthy takes on a leading role and Sandra Bullock drops the Liz Lemon shtick and spends more time hitting people (she’s really, really good at that). Or maybe a separate spin-off where McCarthy and Poehler sit on a couch and talk about literally anything for maybe the rest of eternity. In this porn, we’d all be lucky just to watch.
6. June Squibb, Nebraska
“I never thought that son-of-a-bitch wanted to be a millionaire. He should have thought about that years ago and worked for it,” June Squibb says of her dying husband in Nebraska, and I feel a little something in my stomach: true love. Although it’s Will Forte who has the SNL experience, June Squibb steals every scene in this movie and locks it in her iron-clad vagina. Nebraska is primarily a father-son story between Bruce Dern and Forte, but there’s also a romance plot involving Dern and his delightfully castrating wife, Kate (Squibb). A henpecker with a strong moral code: imagine if Mrs. Bates from Psycho met Omar from The Wire, and that’s Squibb. She might spend all two hours of the movie calling her husband a demented lifesucker, but at least she never abandons him – the most anyone could ever expect of love.
Alexander Payne, forget you ever directed Sideways and please feature this woman in a seven-part movie series. If not, she’s going to get a loooong list of stalkery love poems from me and a bunch of cynical lesbians, probably sometime in the next twenty minutes.
7. Jena Malone, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
While Catching Fire features some of today’s sexiest young actors, the movie is about as racy as a training bra designed by John Kerry. There’s one exception – when Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) – gets in an elevator and strips for no apparent reason in front of Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss. The scene has no narrative meaning, except maybe to demonstrate that Jena is a lot hot and a little tortured in a Girls, Interrupted kind of way. Still, it was exceptional entertainment in a film where the protagonist drags herself to first base. And as Catching Fire develops, Jena proves herself to be Katniss’ exceptionally talented female alter ego, but without her sense of purpose. She’ll never get a three-part series, but I’d love to hear more about her broken childhood dreams and her early-onset promiscuity in “Johanna Mason” – the VH1 biopic.
8. Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub & Friendz
OK, I’m kind of cheating here. Grumpy Cat isn’t so much a supporting actress as she is a mutant feline, Lil Bub & Friendz isn’t so much a full-length movie as it is a web short for furry fetishists, and cats don’t deserve over-written internet awards composed by an unreconstructed homosexual. But if Lil Bub is the Meryl Streep of the cat video world, sweeping all the awards, then Grumpy Cat is the Steve Buscemi, conventionally “unattractive” but brilliant in all of the important ways. Lil Bub & Friendz has a real purpose as well, but I’m mostly here to watch Grumpy Cat strut her stuff before she teams up with the Obama dog for her Oscar debut.
And honorable mentions go to . . .
1970’s Oprah, The Butler
The Butler explores how racism and matching jumpsuits continue to endure in America.
The Eternal Oprah, The Butler
“Michael Cera’s adorable asshole” (Vince Mancini) has nothing on this.
Apologies in advance to: Michael Cera, for the excessive referencing of his genitals, and Lupita N’yongo – you were great, but if I saw a spin-off of 12 Years a Slave, I’d probably go into shock. Let me know if there any other actresses you’d like to see included – just please don’t make me watch The Great Gatsby again. I’ll do anything for social media, but I just. Won’t. Do. That.
Heather Dockray is a comedian and storyteller living in Brooklyn, NY. She was recently featured in Yeni Sleidi’s “Lesbians React to Sex Scenes in Blue is the Warmest Color.” You can see more of Heather’s work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyv2ZgX35Ws, follow her on twitter @wear_a_helmet, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you aren’t from Moveon.org.