This year's Best Supporting Actress field has more or less firmed up. It seems Patricia Arquette and Meryl Streep are ahead of the pack and have been for weeks. Keira Knightley and Emma Stone are on somewhat solid ground, rounding out the four with the HFPA/BFCA/SAG trifecta. Jessica Chastain is obviously in the mix and we've already written about Tilda Swinton being in the thick of it (as well as about why Minnie Driver deserves to be in the thick of it). Naomi Watts has her SAG nod, but that will probably have to suffice. And so that seems to be the field. But you know who really should be in this conversation? Rene freakin' Russo, that's who.
I've delighted in seeing the “Nightcrawler” star pop up on a few critics' nominations lists, and even win. But as Jake Gyllenhaal slowly works on cracking the Best Actor five, Russo's stunning work needs to be remembered, too. I watched the film again last night and a few things stood out (not that they didn't on first pass). It's smooth as hell, for starters, clicked into place thanks to a water tight script that is just a dazzling showcase for actors. Also, Robert Elswit, man. But Russo in particular continues to stand out this season to me with her depiction of a forthright, determined news division head desperate for ratings.
There's a fragility there that gives the performance a whole other dynamic. Her Nina Romina is wounded and sexy and tenacious. Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom is rather an open book compared to her guarded, clearly wronged disposition. She's someone who has struggled to make it in a man's world, a career of regret palpable throughout. Ethically, she sold out long ago, but Bloom's behavior in courting her reminds her of the tiny thread of dignity she still has, and the tragedy lies in what she's willing to bargain away still. It's a pretty timely character, really, but I'll leave the zeitgeist connections between the film and current scavenging media obsessions for now.
It's a fantastic supporting performance in a movie I really and truly hope catches on with the Academy in other areas. The Gyllenhaal love has hopefully done its job in moving the screener up on the priority list for voters, but this race in particular really needs a shake-up. Hearing Russo's name called on the morning of Jan. 15 would be such a huge shot of adrenaline for the category. My fingers and toes are crossed.
“Nightcrawler” is still playing in theaters. Go out and catch it if it's near you.