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Oscars 2012: Octavia Spencer deserved the Oscar, hands down

February 27, 2012 |  7:31 am

Octavia Spencer
As the deliciously subversive Minny Jackson in “The Help,” Octavia Spencer -- who won the Oscar for best supporting actress Sunday night -- stood out even in a cast packed with terrific performances including another supporting actress nominee in Jessica Chastain.

But as the maid who remade a chocolate pie in ways that will forever haunt that otherwise delectable confection, Spencer was unforgettable. Revenge has never been sweeter.

It was one of those risky bits — the role, not just the pie — that could have slipped into a level of caricature that would have made it less believable, less enjoyable. But watching her Minny huff and puff around the starched, sharp patronizing mistress played by Bryce Dallas Howard, an entire life of trouble took shape.

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Best & Worst | Key Scenes | Winners

In Spencer's hands, Minny was as layered as the cakes she taught a flighty newlywed to bake, as crispy as that fried chicken steaming on the table. The only one of her friends willing to rattle whatever cage tried to hold her, be it racism or an abusive husband.

Spencer is one of those classic types, a working actress who has been steadily refining her craft since she first stepped onto a stage.

There are moments that resurface on reflection — her breakthrough years ago as a nurse in another story of racial currents in “A Time to Kill,” a nurse again in “Seven Pounds.” Not always in uniform, but always in character, Spencer more than deserves this moment.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

PHOTOS: Best and worst dressed

Timeline: Eight decades of Oscar history

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Octavia Spencer at the 84th Academy Awards show. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times