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?