This year's female acting Oscar nominees are a strange bunch of characters — and no, we don't mean the narcissistic actresses themselves. While the Supporting Actress field is rife with Hollywood's version of the female victim, the Best Actress category has some complicated characters that have too damn much going on emotionally for us to be able to tell decide if they were victims (or hookers, or doormats) or not! After all, tragedy doesn't equate victimhood and playing tough doesn't necessarily make one a hero. After the jump, we break down the characters — and ask you to tell us who's a victim, who's a hooker, who's a doormat, and who's on the fence. (Hint: We consult our Magic 8-Ball.)
Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There: Come on, she plays that genius music man Bob Dylan! Who was most definitely not a victim. Or a hooker. Or even a woman. Verdict: OK!
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton: As Hillary Clinton taught us, even if other people try to hate on you, once a ball-busting lawyer, always a ball-busting lawyer. Which means that Swinton's character gets a Verdict: OK!
Ruby Dee, American Gangster: Yeah, it's sort of an iron-clad rule. Playing the guilt-ridden mother of a heroin dealer leaves no other option than Verdict: Victim!
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone: She's an alcoholic. And her kid goes missing. Most definitely Verdict: Victim!
Saorise Ronan, Atonement: Once she reaches young adulthood, her character attempts to correct an error in judgment she had as a child by (spoiler alert!) concocting and selling a fictitious version of events. Which makes her either a crazy or a sociopath. No matter how you look at it, dying alone with regret makes you a guaranteed Verdict: Victim! (Even if you're the one making others into victims. Life is complicated like that, natch.)
[Note: All of these nominees are sorta hard to pin down, so dangerously close do they dance between the line of victim/not-victim. So instead, we simply consulted our Magic 8-Ball.]
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age : Plays the infamous Virgin Queen who was tricked into war with the Spaniards. Also, harbors crush on Clive Owen (as Sir Walter Raleigh), who falls for her #1 lady-in-waiting and also knocks her up and marries her. In the end, England wins the war, but Queen Lizzie loses the man and a well-trained bitch. Verdict: Ask Again Later.
Julie Christie, Away From Her: Gets Alzheimer's, has to go to a nursing home, but then finds love. Too bad she's married! The story is sad, but good for her for finding some happiness. Also, isn't it not politically correct to call a person with Alzheimer's a "victim"? Verdict: Signs point to "no".
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose: Her mother was an alcoholic and she grows up to be one too, in addition to, you know, real-life French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Also, has string of bad relationships and loses her only child. But she's a star, people, a star! Does becoming one of the biggest talents of our time cancel out the tragedy? Verdict: Absolutely.
Laura Linney, The Savages: Has a bad temp job, wants to be a playwright, denied every grant she's ever applied for, involved with a married man, father is dying. But: she's the smart and sassy sister to Philip Seymour Hoffman's even more pathetic brother, which means we're willing to give her the big ol' Verdict: My Sources Say No
Ellen Page, Juno: Has unprotected sex, gets pregnant, decides to keep the baby and give it up for adoption. By movie's end, she's landed her dream man (her dorky best friend), learned that childbirth is painful, makes a woman who wants to be a mom happy, grows closer with her own parents, and even manages to slink back down to original svelte teen-aged self when it's all over. Here's a girl who gets pregnant and refuses to play the victim, which somehow heightens the unavoidable sadness and gravity of the situation. Verdict: Outlook Not So Good