I am now counting down to the Oscars by revealing my picks one by one. Here's my analysis of the best supporting actress race.
Who Will Win: Viola Davis, Doubt
The Academy loves "fury packed into a few minutes" (as has been said) and Davis' great performance packs that in. Davis plays the mother of a possibly molested boy, and she plays her with a lot of intensity. She only enhances the greatness of "Doubt," a film that didn't receive even a nomination for Best Picture. The Academy will honor the film here.
Who Should Win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
I was going with Davis as my choice most of the way. That was until I saw Cruz's brilliant turn as a bisexual, suicidal painter who believes her husband has ripped off her style. I don't know what other actress could have done this so well and so sadly. Woody Allen milks a performance not usually found in his work.
The other nominees:
Amy Adams, Doubt
Adams had subtle work in "Doubt," and she did well as the reluctant whistleblower who doesn't know if she's right or wrong when she reports to her superior (Meryl Streep), Sister Aloysius. This is not quite her year, but this is not a performance to be missed in any way.
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Her character makes Darren Aronofsky's brutal pic have a heart. Tomei plays a stripper named Cassidy/Pam who has a relationship with Randy "The Ram" Robinson going. The reason that it's devastating is that she comes to him too late. Tomei is a good choice, and it's a good performance, nomination-worthy, but not Oscar-worthy.
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin
Easily the best part of David Fincher's uneven, misguided film, Henson plays the boardinghouse owner who takes Button in as her own son. It's a good performance, but I don't think it's really worthy of a nomination.