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Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei, “In the Bedroom”

Film: In the Bedroom

Previous wins for role: Best actress, Southeastern Film Critics Association

Previous Oscar wins/nominations:
Won for Best Supporting Actress, My Cousin Vinny (1992)

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Character bio: Tomei plays Natalie Strout, an almost-divorced-but-not-quite thirtysomething mother of two engaging in a summer fling with Frank, a college kid who’s home for the summer. Tomei’s Natalie is an effervescent, sassy, working-class woman whose sex appeal is so intoxicating, Frank delays his return to college to spend time with her–to his upper-crust parents’ stern disapproval. It isn’t just his family who disapproves, either–Natalie’s abusive, estranged husband doesn’t much like the fact that she’s running around their small Maine burg with another guy.

Oscar odds: Can you say “vindicated”? Tomei’s Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny in 1993 against such venerable actresses as Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Judy Davis raised more than a few eyebrows, and speculation arose that presenter Jack Palance had misread the envelope. Nearly a decade later, Tomei finally gets to prove to doubters her Oscar-worthiness, nailing her role in Bedroom with a performance that’s a hundred times better than in Vinny, and in a way better movie, too. She faces stiff competition this year (then again, she did in 1993 too), and chances are Jennifer Connelly, not Marisa Tomei, will be the one walking up to the podium in March. But just the nomination is enough to show the world Tomei’s a much better actress than anyone has given her credit for. —Stacie Hougland

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