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EW's critics square off on the Oscars

In the first of their email debates, Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum pick the Best Supporting Actresses apart

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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Lisa Schwarzbaum Illustration by Eric Palma

EW’s critics square off on the Oscars

LISA: Hey, Owen, I look forward to these weekly email chats, and I like jumping right into the category of Best Supporting Actress, since that’s the award that’s handed out before I’ve barely had time to get a handle on the evening’s fashion trends. So, how about those ”Gosford Park” gals? If I were Emily Watson, I’d have my knickers in a twist, what with Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith getting all the attention. Helen and Maggie, Helen and Maggie, Lordy that’s a lot of plummy acting. I’m no great fan of the film — look beyond the larky fun poked at snooty Brits and boorish Hollywood folk and I think it’s a cranky and supercilious piece of work. But I do think Watson carried the heavy, supporting load while Mirren and Smith got to cut loose. (Has Maggie ever done anything but?)

You know, don’t you, that I’m a big Kate Winslet fan. Winslet takes risks, and she never chooses a softer interpretation when a harder one is more truthful. That said, I can’t really remember her performance in ”Iris,” can you? I know she plays a young woman with a bad haircut, a great mind, and a great appetite for sex, but Winslet isn’t so much supporting the film as warming up the space for when Judi Dench appears as the older, addled Iris Murdoch and pees on the floor, isn’t she?

Great gusts of support may now blowing in the direction of Jennifer Connelly in ”A Beautiful Mind.” But in my ideal telecast, Marisa Tomei will have a chance to make some nutty acceptance speech on Oscar night while commentators recall her zig-zaggy career since ”My Cousin Vinny.” Tomei’s so unexpectedly good in ”In The Bedroom,” isn’t she? She takes a slap in the face from Sissy Spacek so well.

And isn’t that what this Oscar category is all about?