In 2016, if there was ever a category needing a Top 5 instead of a Top 10, it is the Best Supporting Actress category. Multi-Oscar winners continued their incredible run of great performances and some surprising newcomers entered the conversation, as well. Unfortunately, we only have room for five great performances, so the Reel World staff put their heads together and narrowed down the choices and leave it up to you to be completely happy or totally dissatisfied with the first of our 2016 Year in Movies Top 5’s.
Alright…so we cheated a little and put in six.
5) Rachel Weisz, The Lobster
Getting into the headspace of a character such as this has to be challenging enough. Billed only as “short-sighted woman”, Weisz also narrates this film in a somewhat simplistic fashion. Her tone and delivery are actually setting the stage for the viewer to be relatively detached from any expectation of connection with the story. While on screen, however, she’s one of the few for whom we begin to care. Because of her performance, we’re brought further into the characters rather than standing as an outside viewer of this strangely unique film.
TIE 4) Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures/Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls
Alright, so we said a Top 5, but we just couldn’t decide and we didn’t want Rachel Weisz to not be on the list.
Monae had a breakout year both in Hidden Figures, where she shined bright opposite Olivia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson and with Hidden Figures co-star Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. While both roles called for something slightly different, she played both confidently and with an aplomb that should have her acting for many years to come.
Jyn Erso Felicity Jones has a great year as the star of some space opera nobody saw, and also in a co-starring role in J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls. While she is not going to win any awards for her role as Jyn Erso, she certainly is deserving for her co-starring role in Bayona’s film and would be fitting recompense for not receiving the Oscar after rescuing the ham-fisted Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything.
3) Naomie Harris, Moonlight
In what is sure to be a week’s worth of posts including Moonlight, we start by giving a big nod to Janelle Monae’s other adult co-star, Naomi Harris as Chiron’s crack-addicted mother, Paula. Not only does she manage a great physical transformation–which causes a double-take when you realize it is the same actress as Moneypenny in the Bond movies–but her emotional resonance and humanizing of an otherwise easy character to demonize is superb. Her final scene with Trevante Rhodes is so confusing. You are supposed to dislike this woman, but she is broken, relate-able, and human, it endears you to her character. A lovely performance!
2) Viola Davis, Fences
Many actors and actresses can be overshadowed working opposite Denzel. Viola demands attention to her character and the love and sacrifices she makes. She is running the gamut of emotions throughout this film and she explores every nook and cranny of happiness, betrayal, anger and forgiveness. To my immediate recollection, I don’t believe a woman shouting at her husband on screen has ever made me want to cry. Viola Davis accomplished that.
1) Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea
An almost complete consensus #1 across the board for all the staff, Michelle Williams is deserved of snagging her fourth Oscar-nomination and, hopefully, her first win for her performance in Manchester By The Sea. In her standout scene with Casey Affleck towards the end of the movie, she perfectly balances owning the scene and channeling pent up emotion that should get to even the most soulless of individuals. Williams has always been a maser of the subtle, but she is equally masterful at channeling big emotions and creating connective tissue between her and the audience. Hands down the best of the best in 2016.