Margo Martindale

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series in which two Life & Arts staff writers discuss big releases that are garnering buzz for the awards season. 

Lee Henry: In our past discussions, it seemed like we’d covered everything, but we somehow managed to completely miss talking about supporting actress in any sort of depth. Let’s start that off by discussing a film packed with potential candidates, “August: Osage County.” I’m assuming The Weinstein Company will be running every member of the cast in supporting categories and just hoping one or two stick. Besides Meryl Streep, the most likely nominees seem to be Julia Roberts and the superb Margo Martindale.

Colin McLaughlin: Streep is the obvious nominee here, but Martindale elevated the best role in the play to be almost on Streep’s level. “12 Years a Slave’s” Lupita Nyong’o looks to be the frontrunner in the supporting actress category, unsurprisingly. She was one of the strongest parts of one of the most well-assembled films this year. Do you see any potential upsets that could take the statue from Nyong’o on Oscar night?

LH: Oprah could run a campaign that would win her an Oscar for Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” but it’s not likely. Still, expect her to show up in that category. Martindale’s part in “August” was a Tony-winning one, and she’s a well-respected character actress, even winning an Emmy recently for her work in “Justified.” Plus, she’s just brilliant in this performance. The film is full of over-the-top characters trying to blow each other off screen, but Martindale succeeds in being hilarious, terrifying and painfully quiet all in the same film. Roberts, in the latest of the season’s category frauds, is also going for supporting actress, which completely dashes the chances of my other favorite in the film, Juliette Lewis.

CM: I don’t see it as a case of category fraud. The theatrical nominations have always recognized Violet, Streep’s character, as a lead role. Julia Roberts also plays a lead in the film, but Weinstein probably figured that she’ll have a better chance for a nomination as a supporting actress. I’d be surprised to see Roberts make it into the race at all. She was better than I expected but she wasn’t up to snuff against the other more deserving members of that cast. Still, she’s the other big name in the movie. “August,” “12 Years” and “The Butler” are the only movies I’ve seen that look to have serious supporting actress possibilities. What else is there to look at?

LH: There are plenty of other candidates to consider here. Octavia Spencer has been the benefit of a second wind of recognition for her work in “Fruitvale Station,” and she may be the film’s last chance at a high-profile nomination. Jennifer Lawrence should be considered a contender for “American Hustle,” Carey Mulligan was funny in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and Naomie Harris’s compelling work as Winnie Mandela was the best part of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” I would like to throw my hat in the ring for Sally Hawkins, who should be nominated for her work in “Blue Jasmine.” She’s funny and poignant, providing a perfect emotional counterweight to Cate Blanchett. It may be a long shot, but if the voters like the movie enough, anything is possible. Who’s your dream pick or must-have in this category?

CM: I’ve said my piece on Nyong’o and I don’t see myself changing my position on her deserving the win. For dream picks, I actually have two: Amy Acker and and Julianne Nicholson. Nicholson, who plays middle sister Ivy in “August: Osage County,” is probably the least-known member of its sizable ensemble, but she is incendiary in the few moments the film gives her. The supporting nominations for “August” are likely going to better known players. Amy Acker plays Beatrice in my favorite movie of the year so far, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Though she’s arguably the lead actress, the film’s ensemble cast would likely see her listed as a supporting actress if there was any chance of her being nominated. “Much Ado” won’t see much attention this year, but the way that movie makes Shakespeare’s language feel so effortless and natural is a feat unto itself, and Acker is a large part of what makes that succeed. 

LH: I hate to crush your spirits, but “Much Ado” won’t get anywhere. 

CM: I’m curious to see where “August” goes for the rest of the year; It won’t see a theatrical release until Christmas, and it’s rumored that the Weinsteins plan to change the horrible ending scene. It’s continually seeing positive reception on the festival circuit, but it will be overshadowed by “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” also opening on Christmas. 

Photo courtesy of Prashant Gupta/FX.

Editor’s note: This review contains plot details from tonight’s season premiere of FX’s “Justified.”

“Justified,” which begins its third season tonight at 9 p.m. on FX, is a show typical of the FX brand. After all, it’s a stylish, testosterone-driven crime show with plenty of “Deadwood” alumni rounding out the guest star roster (not to mention star Timothy Olyphant, who barely had time to change his wardrobe between the two shows). And after a shaky first season, it blossomed with an astounding sophomore season. “Justified’s” most appealing feature has always been its deep-fried Southern setting, and its best use of that to date has been Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett, last season’s antagonist and one of the best seasonal villains to ever grace the small screen.

Obviously, “Justified” is entering its third season with big expectations, and so far it continues to impress. Much of the season premiere is spent dealing with fallout from last May’s violent finale, which saw several main characters shot and others dead. The premiere is smart in the way it parcels out the information about what’s happened since we last saw Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant).

Without giving too much away, things aren’t great in Harlan. Raylan is slowly recovering from his bullet wound and the Dixie Mafia is still after his head, represented by the consistently entertaining Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), who enjoys more screen time than usual this season. Meanwhile, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Raylan’s friend/nemesis, has big plans of his own, which include going into business with Raylan’s father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry).

The show’s main cast remains as impressive as ever, especially Olyphant, who manages to be the most badass man on television every single week, often without lifting a finger. Even though they only share a handful of scenes together, Olyphant always works best with Walton Goggins. Their chemistry and the easy rhythms of the show’s Southern-tinged dialogue make for the best scene of tonight’s season premiere.

The biggest challenge facing “Justified” is finding a villain to equal Martindale’s terrifying, maternal Mags, and the show has doubled down this year, giving us two new season-long villains in Neal McDonough and especially Mykelti Williamson, whose introductory scene packs one of the best monologues the “Justified” team has ever written, and even better are the show’s episodic villains. While guest star information wasn’t available to the press, a sadistic gunman who doesn’t like to conceal his identity “because I’m too pretty” is one of the most memorable one-off villains the show has ever done, is impeccably acted and written. Almost as good is a maniacal drug dealer Raylan faces off with in the season’s third episode.

What really makes “Justified” a unique program, outside of its well-rounded cast and strong writing for its villains, is its elegant, winding dialogue, packed with Southern colloquialisms and sharp wordplay that makes it a delight to listen to Givens spar with enemies and friends alike. “Justified” is a show that aimed high last season and overwhelmingly succeeded and season three promises to be more of the same captivating television.