Hollywood Contenders – Cynthia Nixon is a possible Best Supporting Actress threat for “James White”

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I’ll be writing more in depth about this soon, but not all categories are created equal at the Oscars. Especially when it comes to the Best Supporting Actress race, you can almost always look at it as a thin potential lineup, but to me, that does the category a disservice. Sure, quantity may be less, but there’s usually plenty of quality seeking a nomination. Sometimes, you just have to look a little bit harder. This year, one of the films that could very well try to slip in with a nod there is this week’s James White, a coming of age story that’s anchored by a moving supporting performance by veteran actress Cynthia Nixon. She’s a dark horse in Supporting Actress, and could very well challenge for a nom.

The film is a look at the title character of James White (Christopher Abbott), an irresponsible 20-something forced to finally begin to come of age as his single mother (Nixon) deals with cancer. Initially just someone who loafs about, hangs out with his friend (Scott Mescudi), and causes trouble, the love he has for his mother and her insistence on him becoming an adult gets through to him. The movie is written and directed by Josh Mond and also has Makenzie Leigh, Ron Livingston, and others among its small but talented cast. Everyone is solid, but it’s really the aforementioned Nixon who shines brightest in this one.

Though not a perfect flick, it is a deeply realistic one, again buoyed by a touching performance by Nixon. She’s giving what I feel to be the best performance of her career so far in this somewhat small yet vital role. I’m not certain how Academy voters will take to this tender yet tough performance, but it definitely will have her on Oscar’s radar. Perhaps it won’t be this one that gets her nominated, but another one, though I now am of the opinion that it’s just a matter of time for her. Especially if she keeps up making challenging choices like this, it will happen for her. Nixon is potentially entering an exciting stage in her career, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Awards wise, James White probably has limited appeal, though it has done pretty well on the festival circuit, picking up citations here and there. What gives the film hope is that the Gotham Awards cited Mond in Breakthrough Director and Abbott in Best Actor. Those nominations are fuel for the long shot Oscar fire. Hypothetically, you could see Best Picture, Best Director (for Mond), Best Actor (for Abbott), Best Supporting Actor (for Mescudi), Best Supporting Actress (for Nixon), and Best Original Screenplay (also for Mond) campaigns mounted. It’s probably Nixon or bust with the Academy however, even if other voting bodies like the Independent Spirit Awards could be much kinder overall to the movie. I don’t currently have Nixon getting in to the Supporting Actress field, but if a couple of precursors go in her favor and that can change. Then, she could easily be a threat to crack the lineup.

It remains to be seen if the precursor awards will ultimately turn James White into a contender or just a pretender, but Nixon has a legitimate shot, that’s for sure. Audiences will be able to see this festival favorite starting this Friday in limited release, so that will help potentially start a discussion as well. We’ll have to sit tight and wait for things to develop a bit more, but Abbott and Nixon make Mond’s vision something well worth checking out. Stay tuned for plenty more on this one if the early awards make it a bigger threat than just Nixon in Supporting Actress…

Be sure to see James White, in theaters starting this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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