"Moms" Duke It Out for the Supporting Actress Oscar

Allison Janney in 'I, Tonya' | © Neon
Allison Janney in 'I, Tonya' | © Neon
Photo of Graham Fuller
Film Editor2 March 2018

This category might be the easiest one to call on the night, but that should not distract from the array of fine performances by all the nominees.


Mary J. Blige—Mudbound

Allison Janney—I, Tonya

Lesley Manville—Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf—Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer—The Shape of Water

Graham Fuller’s pick:

The Best Supporting Actress category is usually a tough one to call, and so it is this year—even though it appears to be a two-horse race between Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf. Golden Globe-victor Janney has the edge here by virtue of the fact that her portrayal of Tony Harding’s mom LaVona, an unpredictable martinet, is more flamboyantly attention-grabbing than Lady Bird’s tightly wrought helicopter mom Marion, played by Metcalf.

Laurie Metcalf in ‘Lady Bird’ | © Focus Features

It’s a shame that there has to be winner because Oscar-worthy roles are scarce for actresses in Janney and Metcalf’s age group. It is possible that neither will get another nomination in this category in the future.

Octavia Spencer won the Supporting Actress award for her work in The Help (2011), but she is currently fifth-ranked to repeat her success according to the influential Gold Derby website. Mary J. Blige, the other African American actress nominated, would be a popular choice for her reticent, watchful performance in Mudbound and could yet seize the day, though Gold Derby’s experts place her third in the running behind the favorites Janney and Metcalf.

Mary J. Blige in ‘Mudbound’ | © Netflix

The English actress Lesley Manville, who excels as the Daniel Day-Lewis character’s supercilious and hard-as-nails sister in Phantom Thread, was thought a surprise choice by some observers when the nominations were announced. If Phantom Thread pulls off a coup in other categories, don’t rule out Manville doing the same, unlikely as it seems.

Should win: Laurie Metcalf. Will win: Allison Janney.

Cassam Looch’s pick:

It’s great to see Lesley Manville get some recognition for her performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. Going toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis is an incredible ask, yet it’s one that the actress not only attempts, but actually excels at.

Lesley Manville | © Universal Pictures/Focus Features

Manville won’t win, even though she should. Janney has been locked in for this one for a good few months now. The veteran actress is actually very good in I, Tonya, pulling off a self-referential character that fits in with the overall narrative tone of the movie.

One performance that has been overlooked here is that of Michelle Williams in All the Money in the World. For all the great work that Christopher Plummer did on that movie, coming in late to replace Kevin Spacey, it was Williams who was tasked by director Ridley Scott to complete all the heavy-lifting in that film.

Should win: Lesley Manville. Will win: Allison Janney.