Oscar: Supporting Actress Award as Jinx

Having won the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Golden Globe, Melissa Leo is the frontrunner for the Supporting Actress Oscar for her sublime performance in David O. Russell’s sports family melodrama, “The Fighter.”

Two years ago, Melissa Leo was up for a lead Oscar in the indie drama “Frozen River,” but she did not win.

A friendly advice to the gifted Leo: Beware of the Supporting Actress Oscar.  It’s been a jinx for most winners in that category.  You’ll get the spot light for a few days, and more money for your next feature, but the coveted statuette might not do much for your career in the long run.

Over the past two decades, most of the actresses who have won the Supporting Award have either made bad films after the Oscar, or their careers never took off, or simply declined and disappeared.

The List is too long to recite, but a few examples will illustrate my point.

What ever happened to Mercedes Ruehl, winner of the 1991 Supporting Oscar for Terry Gilliam’s “The Fisher King”?

Or to Mira Sorvino, who received the golden statuette for playing a smart hooker in Woody Allen’s comedy “Mighty Aphrodite.”

After winning the 1997 Supporting Oscar for “L.A. Confidential,” Kim Basinger has made mostly films, which turned out to be flops for one reason or another, such as “I Dreamed of Africa” and this year’s “The Burning Plain,” which arrived and left within a week.

Take Jennifer Connelly, winner of the 2001 Supporting Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind,” who followed with roles in Ang Lee’s disappointing comic strip “The Incredible Hulk” and the terrible remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” 

Last year, Connelly was seen (with companion Paul Bettany) in “Creation,” as Charles Darwin’s devout wife, but I doubt if many people saw the picture in the theaters (or on DVD, for that matter).  Currently, she is one of the femmes in Ron Howard’s serio comedy, “The Dilemma,” which is a critical and commercial disappointment.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, winner of the 2002 Supporting Oscar for “Chicago,” was last year on Broadway, appearing in the revival of Sondheim’s masterpiece, “A Little Night Music,” for which she won the Tony Award.  But can you think of her last couple of films, before Michael Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer?

Speaking of musical, the verdict is no longer open for Jennifer Holliday (“Dreamgirls”). Four years after her win, her record is not all that impressive.  (Yes, I know, her career has been beset by family problems).

Please do not mention Cate Blanchett as an example.  Though her only Oscar to date is in the supporting category, as Katharine Hepburn in Scorseses’s biopic “Aviator,” she is a leading lady who chooses projects according to interest and challenge, not size of role. So far, Blanchett has been nominated six times, twice in the lead (for “Elizabeth” in 1998 and its sequel) and three secondary parts (including “Notes on a Scandal”).

Hopefully, Melissa Leo would follow in the footsteps of Blanchett: she is a gifted actress who deserves to play and is capable of rendering compelling performances in both lead and supporting roles.