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Thursday
Jan222015

A Few Unsung Supporting Actors

I dive headfirst into 2015 cinema tomorrow at Sundance but tonight I did some finalizing of my Supporting Actor ballot for 2014. I really should do these things earlier for advocacy purposes. For while the Oscar race was curiously composed of just five people essentially -- you could see tumbleweeds drifting across the communal hive mindscape whenever this category was mentioned -- there were several men giving fine performances out there. As with Best Actress, they were just ignored and everyone shrugged, "weak year".

It's almost never that simple. Though some years of cinema are better than others, it's rare to find a weak year in any acting category. The reason is simple math: with hundreds of movies coming out every year and each of those containing dozens of performances, there are always more than 20 commendable performances to be seen and discussed.

You can see my supporting actor ballot here. It's my closest match to Oscar this year I believe but among the just-misses are very fine performances. Some performers, for various reasons, just don't get talked about. Sometimes that's because the role is "thankless" like Kristofer Hivju's excellent juggling of tone as a perfect subplot foil for the A plot and characters in Force Majeure's. Other times it's because their role is "soft" -- romantic dramas tend to be tough for men to win attention for, hence nobody really considering Charlie Cox's work in The Theory of Everything as a performance just as the third point in a triangle. And in one case, hi Shia Labeouf, it's because the extracurricular celebrity circus overshadows the actually excellent acting from the sidelines. LaBeouf was fascinatingly intense in both Nymphomaniac and Fury, constantly suggesting things about his characters that are more complex than what's in the screenplay. What might he be capable of if someone actually handed him an awards-calibre role? 

 

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Reader Comments (33)

Mine:

Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Patrick D'Assumçao, Stranger By the Lake
Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
Jonathan Pryce, Listen Up Philip
Kang ho-Sang, Snowpiercer

Runners-Up:
Mikael Nyqvist, John Wick
Nat Wolff, Palo Alto
Ben Mendelsohn, Starred Up
Martin Donovan, Inherent Vice
Roman Madyanov, Leviathan

January 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I totally agree about Shia, at least when it comes to Fury. That look he gives Brad Pitt right before the final big set piece sent chills down my spine. Bonus points for his off-kilter presence at that bizarre central lunch scene. (I thought he seemed a bit lost among the madness in Nymphomaniac, but hey - not many of his peers would have been up for the challenge in the first place).

Other "unsung" supporting male players who deserve mention: Fabrizio Rongione as Marion Cotillard's exasperated but loving husband in Two Days, One Night; Paddy Considine's understated charm and innate goodness in Pride; Rupert Friend's laser-focused intensity shaded with empathy in Starred Up.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Great picks! Minus J.K. and Duvall, the Oscar lineup is surprisingly the strongest of the four. If anyone deems an acting category "weak" they might just be "lazy."

Here's my ballot:

Patrick D'Assumçao – Stranger by The Lake
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Tom Hiddleston – Unrelated
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
Roman Madyanov – Leviathan

Honorable Mentions: Jeff Goldblum – Le Week-end, Edward Norton – Birdman, Bill Nighy – Pride, Jake Lacy – Obvious Child, Sergio Hernandez – Gloria

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I love your Force Majeure pick!

A couple more to throw into the mix:
Andrew Scott -- broken but hopeful in PRIDE
Michael Fassbender -- broken behind the mask in FRANK
Luke Wilson -- comic perfection in THE SKELETON TWINS
Jake Lacy -- sweet and persistent in OBVIOUS CHILD

But this should be Norton's to win, at least on my personal ballot.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Some outliers who merit notice: Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler; Michael Caine, Interstellar; John Hurt, Snowpiercer; Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year; Luke Wilson, The Skeleton Twins; Mark Strong, The Imitation Game; and Nelsan Ellis and Dan Aykroyd, Get On Up

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Love your lineup, especially that you included Kristofer Hivju.

Mine:

Michael Fassbender, Frank
Logan Lerman, Fury
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher

I know most people see Lerman and Tatum, but I don't. Tatum is way too much in the background during the second half of the movie and I see Pitt as the sole lead in Fury.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

* as leads

Also, I really hope Erica Rivas gets at least a finalist mention for your supporting actress ballot.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Ahmed, Brolin, Goldblum, Nighy, David Oyelowo (A Most Violent Year), Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman), Jude Law (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Adam Levine (Begin Again), Chris Pine (Into the Woods), Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken)

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Seeing so many great suggestions on here is a reminder just how baffling and "fixed" this category was leading up to the nominations. Was nobody campaigning?

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

What did you think of the aforementioned Fabrizio Rongione from Two Days, One Night, Nathaniel? I thought he was fantastic, the perfect scene partner to La Cotillard.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

YAY for Kristofer Hivju's inclusion! That movie features some fabulous performances and none of them been recognized anywhere!

My ballot:
01. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
02. Edward Norton, Birdman
03. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
04. Jonathan Pryce, Listen Up Phillip
05. Kristofer Hivju, Force Majeure

... with Josh Brolin finishing at #6.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSid

Hawke, Ruffalo, and Norton make such an exemplary trio of supporting performances. It's often hard to see one A+ performance in Oscar's ballot, let alone THREE!

My ballot
1. Elyes Gabel, A Most Violent Year
2. Jeff Goldblum, Le Weekend
3. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
4. Edward Norton, Birdman
5. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Runners-up: Darren E. Burrows (Love Is Strange), Shia LaBeouf (Fury), Jake Lacey (Obvious Child), Adam Levine (Begin Again) Tyler Perry (Gone Girl), Anton Yelchin (Only Lovers Left Alive)

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

My #1 came early in the year and no one could knock him from that perch.

1. Tony Revolori - TGBH
2. Edward Norton - Birdman
3. JK Simmons - Whiplash
4. Toby Kebbell - DOTPOTA
5. Chris Pine - Into the Woods

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Co-sign all the comments re: how perfect oscar's choices are beyond Simmons and Duvall. Three impeccable performances is doing a good job.
I'd have Harvey Keitel in The Congress and Paul Jesson on my ballot with them.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

My ballot:

Michael Rooker, Guardians
Chris Pine, Into the Woods
Zach Galifianakis, Birdman (Thought he was just as funny as Norton and not cannibalizing his backstory to do it, but it was smaller and, thus, harder to catch attention for)
Will Arnett, The LEGO Movie (I know this is a voice turn and 60-70% casting, but it was still really good.)
Tyler Perry, Gone Girl

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Albert Brooks in A most violent year,I kept waiting for him to appear then realised after half an hour he was the lawyer.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

Nice to see more people remembered Patrick d'Assumçao, in Stranger by the Lake. To me, the best supporting performance, I've seen this year (maybe just the best performance in all cathegories and genders).

I'd like to include Randall Park's hilarious and still balanced and three-dimensional performance in "The Interview", probably the great redeeming point in a really flawed film.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

My favorites have already been mentioned in these comments - Ed Norton, Josh Brolin, Patrick d'Assumçao, and Fassbender in Frank. I'd strongly support Revolori too, if he counts as supporting (and I thought Abraham was perfect playing that character as well - but is that a cameo? or almost best line reading?). I would never have thought of Paddy Considine for Pride here - but now that RJ has mentioned it, well, I kind of like that idea too.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Patrick D'Assumçao was in my sixth spot but after reading all the love he's getting I might bump him to the top 5. If I did Lerman would get the cut.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Shia LaBeouf is definitely on the up-and-up. I feel certain he'll gain critical praise/awards some time soon because he's starting to choose interesting projects. I don't know if it will translate to Oscar attention-- it depends on how forgiving Oscar is with crazy-- but if Joaquin Phoenix can bounce back, maybe Shia can too.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Great picks overall but I'm surprised not to see the Pride guys. Schnetzer and Scott made my top five, and Constantine, West and Nighy weren't far behind. Love the Chris Pine mention though - he made my top 5 too.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Ben Kingsley- "The Boxtrolls" Funny and frightening, proud and pathetic, and based on a very real world motive i.e. the ugly side of social mobility within a closed off system.

F. Murray Abraham- "The Grand Budapest Hotel" He describes Gustave H. as holding onto the nostalgia of a bygone era with a marvelous grace, but that applies to him just as well; and he does it through his table-setting and VO narration (which is a mini marvel) he really draws you into and makes you miss that beautiful and odd era.

Bill Nighy- "Pride" A quiet, kind and thoroughly unimpressive man with coal in his blood who find buried strength and inspiration in the strike and gay allies who come to his town. Particularly powerful are the scenes where he makes an appeal to the local bigot (his sister in-law) by calling on her dormant goodwill; and of course the sandwich preparing scene. He goes from just an old man in the village to being a voice and a leader of the village.

Kim Bodnia- "Rosewater" He thrives under the regime while never fully realizing how trapped by it he is; both a agent of evil and just a poor schmo. He's just as concerned with uncovering haram Western decadence and espionage as he is in fantastic tales of sexy massages. A perfect example of how totalitarianism is a system suited not just for the uncaring but more importantly for the unimaginative, whether they be the beatified dictators or the lowly working stiffs.

Stephan James- "Selma" Pretty such everyone of this cast could justify a mention here but I'm going with the young splinter group activist whose supercilious desire to be the tip of spear of civil defiance as well as his hero-worship of MLK get tested but not defused by reality. His scene with David Oyelowo in the car is one of the movie high-points.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

So many from "Pride," but Schnetzer was the standout to me. And he's American! Seriously, he's American. Let that sink in.

Regardless, a beautiful performance.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I'd considered Schnetzer's character to be the lead in Pride, but apparently everyone in that movie is supporting.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

Thank you for mentioning Charlie Cox (Theory of Everything).

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjc

I suppose Schnetzer is the closest there is to a lead in that film, but yeah, I'm kind of wary of calling any of them leads. It's such an expansive ensemble and nearly every character gets equal accommodation. So either they're all leads or they're all supporting!

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Mine would be:

1. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
2. Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
3. Paul Brannigan, Under the Skin
4. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
5. Chris Pine, Into the Woods

And I thought Kristofer Hivju was Seth Green at first glance. Zoinks!

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Great to see some mentions for Patrick D'Assumçao in Stranger by the Lake, Fabrizio Rongione in Deux jours, une nuit and Tyler Perry in Gone Girl.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I would have given Tyler Perry the "Duvall spot." I also really liked Revolori, Willem Dafoe in A Most Wanted Man (he was great in GBH as well) and Jaeden Lieberher in St. Vincent.

It's so hard for me to choose between Hawke and Ruffalo... both are outstanding. I hope they're back soon, to win.

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

For me: 1. EDWARD NORTON "Birdman"
2. TOM WILKINSON "Selma"
3. PAUL JESSON "Mr. Turner"
4. ETHAN HAWKE "Boyhood"
5. PATRICK d'ASSUMCAO "Stranger By the Lake"
milling around honorably just below them:
Henry G. Sanders "Selma" Mark Ruffalo "Foxcatcher" Vincent Piazza "Jersey Boys"
Antoine-Olivier Pilon "Mommy" Emjay Anthony "Chef" Keith Stanfield "Selma"
Addewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje "Pompeii" John Leguizamo "Chef"

January 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKen

In the end I couldn't choose anyone from Pride as you can see, but you'll see them in the film bitch BEST ENSEMBLE medals! TBA

January 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Thanks so much for mentioning Shia. I thought the promise of more provided NYMPHOMANIAC much needed texture and mystery. I just love how "normal" he can look and how "creepy" he can suggest. And he does have a certain twisted but very potent sex appeal in some of his scenes. And yes, he was quite good in a quieter way in FURY. I do hope people give him a chance. I think Shia could have done a very credible AMERICAN PSYCHO - maybe not then but now.

Thanks again for shining a light on him!!

January 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

LaBouef was excellent in "Fury"

January 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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