‘Precious’ to ‘Basterds’: Sinister Villains to Make Mark This Oscar Season

Oh, look. Awards! Bestowed by a tight-knit coterie of L.A.-based film critics! And, lo! More awards! This time, conferred by some folks in Boston. A common thread among the breakout winners? A dastardly streak that makes Heath Ledger’s Joker seem warm and cuddly. This awards season, it pays to be a ruthless villain. A few obvious and unlikely picks after the break.

Mo’Nique. Originally, there was some speculation about whether the comedienne was being too precious about where she chose to hawk Precious. But her searing, hairy armpit performance as mortifying matriarch Mary was enough to silence such concerns, and she’s already started racking up honors.

• Alan Rickman. Probably afflicted with the same kind of curse that plagued Lord of the Rings until its last installment scooped up a healthy lot of major awards, Harry Potter may finally be an Oscar candidate. The latest film’s overwhelmingly positive reviews, for Rickman as the cruel Severus Snape in particular, and the fact that Oscar viewership spikes whenever blockbuster movies end up nominated, makes a nod for Rickman more likely than ever before.

• The Manhattan Media Complex. Sure, the implosion of print media means that not many New York based magazines are taking awards home, but that doesn’t mean R.J. Cutler’s The September Issue can’t. Issue, about the making of one installment of Vogue, is an excellent documentary, though its 2009 release date made it work best as a cruel anachronism, or unintentional dark comedy, reminding us of insanely flush times of a not-so-distant-era before the meltdown. Putting Anna Wintour at the heart of the film is an excellent way to win Oscar sympathies–voters are suckers for morally complex protagonists.

Christoph Waltz. Waltz’s Colonel Landa from Inglourious Basterds was the exact opposite of Mo’Nique’s Mary. He was slow-burning to start, but when he pulled the trigger, he proved to be just as explosive. Even more dastardly, he’s a Nazi. Hollywood reverse-likes those.

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