1996 was one of the strongest years for potential nominees in this category in recent memory. As usual, most were overlooked by voters for some inexplicable reason.
Joan Allen ... The Crucible
Fine nominee who was gifted with a great role that was slightly underplayed. The Crucible had many facets that were overlooked -- such as the impeccable production and costume design, as well as the the volcanic lead performances of Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder-- so that Allen's supportive wife was the element singled out is a tad baffling. Even more baffling is how Allen would fail to get Academy recognition for her far superior work in The Ice Storm (1997), Pleasantville (1998), The Upside of Anger (2005) in relatively less-competitive years than 1996.
Lauren Bacall ... The Mirror Has Two Faces
Weakest performance of the bunch, it is unbelievable that this is dreck is Legend Bacall's first and to date only Oscar nomination. Completely insane that a) this dreadful turn from a dreadful movie was the favorite to win B) it was nominated in the first place in such a strong year for supporting actresses.
Juliette Binoche ... The English Patient
Riding a tidal wave of love for her film past the finish line, Binoche's sympathetic nurse was surprise winner this year, beating out the widely-expected and predicated Bacall.
Barbara Hershey ... The Portrait of a Lady
A cunning, commanding performance that landed Hershey in the race would have won in almost any other year. As Madame Serena Merle, the woman at the center of Jane Campion's visionary film pulling all of the strings, Hershey emotionally tortures Nicole Kidman with aplomb, spars admirably with John Malkovich and implodes like a crushed flower by the film's end, a result of her own bad planning and terrible judgment. She my personal pick as Supporting Actress this year and it is a miracle Oscar voters nominated such a tempestuous, savage character. Credit must be given to Hershey's impeccable career trajectory from the early 1980s through 1996, where her work in films such as The Entity (1981), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986),The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and her double Cannes-winning performances Shy People (1987), and A World Apart (1988); as well as her award-winning small-screen work in A Killing in a Small Town and Paris Trout received much notice. To say she was due is an understatement.
Mazur's Nominee Picks
Any of the women listed below could have made the cut for the top five, delivering some of the year's most fearless and memorable acting.
Drew Barrymore … Scream
Kathy Bates … The War at Home
Katrin Cartlidge ... Breaking the Waves
Julie Christie … Hamlet
Goldie Hawn … Everyone Says I Love You & The First Wives Club
Linda Henry … Beautiful Thing
Queen Latifah … Set it Off
Courtney Love ... The People vs. Larry Flynt
Elizabeth Pena … Lone Star
Annabella Sciorra … The Funeral
Kristin Scott Thomas … Angels and Insects & The English Patient
Marisa Tomei … Unhook the Stars
Special Mention to the female supporting cast of Flirting With Disaster: Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin & Celia Weston.