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Supporting Actress: My Ballot & Yours

"Carrie Coon who in her screen debut steals Gone Girl from the much bigger names. Also can we just talk about how between Nora Durst and Margo Dunne that no one has as impressive a breakout in 2014 then Coon. " - Eion Daly

"Agata Kulesza blew my MIND in "Ida," so she easily gets my top ballot." - Lawson

"Keira Knightley. She just seemed like that rare person who can make you want to be better. So endearing, charming and she also has moments where she shows that she knows more about the world. A silent revolutionary." - MCV

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Entries in Supporting Actor (85)

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? 

 

Saturday
Jan172015

If you fused two Hulks together could they smash J.K. Simmons?

That's the question I keep asking myself about Best Supporting Actor. My Oscar-clogged brain works like that, taking flights of fancy when it finds true facts too boring to contemplate any further. J.K. Simmons could only lose the Oscar if he suddenly became a different person before ballots were due and was unmasked as a terrorist or a serial killer or what not. He's going to win because in addition to giving a big beloved performance, he is also very well liked. As with Patricia Arquette, it's churlish and unbecoming to root against a long time actor finally getting the role people will remember them by. 

In any other year, though, this particular Oscar race would be a weird superhero collision between two very fine famous actors who both happen to get green when they're angry. Former Hulk Edward Norton vs. Present Hulk Mark Ruffalo. Both would have tremendously strong narratives for a win in that "They haven't won yet? But they're always great!" kind of way. But they'll both lose.

Silver lining: Perhaps if you tally the final votes in a month's time, their combined totals would beat Simmons? No never mind. He's too far ahead even for that.

See the Best Supporting Actor chart here! Find out how they got nominated*, how many films they've made, and vote on the poll for who "should" win - it's Reader's Choice.

*theorizing for entertainment purposes only - we can't read voter minds

Monday
Jan122015

J.K. ("Just Keep-On") Simmons Still Leading. Final Predictions!

Last night's Golden Globes did nothing to change the long since frozen Best Supporting Actor race. It's so frozen that I think everyone even agrees on the order or support for each player (which is fairly unheard of). So get your place in line for the coronation parade for everyone's favorite shouty music professor. Especially after a strong acceptance speech. Barring a total shock on Thursday morning our line up will look exactly like it's been looking for some time now in the year's least contested acting category (seriously. People are still trying to make Best Actress that but it is SO not)

Best Supporting Actor Final Predictions
Robert Duvall, The Judge (5th place)
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood (4th place)
Edward Norton, Birdman (2nd place)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher (3rd place)
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (1st place)

So what happened to Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice)?
Paul Thomas Anderson's film came out too late. Though Brolin is by far the best thing in it, the material is "far out" enough to keep people talking about a ton of other elements for far too long for the hazy discussion and fog to clear and leave the buzz to coalesce around him. When it hits DVD and cable people will surely say "How did Brolin NOT get nominated for this?" and they'll probably say it for years to come. 

So what happened to Tom Wilkinson (Selma)? Heated objections to Selma, which came quite quickly and suspiciously given the lack of scrutiny of the other "true stories" in the race, ALL centered around its portrayal of LBJ.

So what happened to Chris Pine (Into the Woods)? It would have taken Into the Woods being a Best Picture sure thing rather than a 'bubble' film to pull the cartoon Prince in. People do love him in it but you need Picture buzz or a different kind of career than he has at the moment, to win a nomination for such a broadly comic part. Not that this particular category objects to comedy.

See the Oscar chart here.

If you're a Norton or Ruffalo voter in this category make sure to vote in the "Would You Rather?" poll. Hey, it was Tina & Amy's idea, not ours.

Saturday
Dec272014

Meet the Contenders: Chris Pine "Into the Woods"

Abstew continues the contenders series highlighting one performance per opening weekend

Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince in Into the Woods
Best Supporting Actor

Born: Christopher Whitelaw Pine was born August 26, 1980 in Los Angeles, California

The Role: After a labored development over the years (the musical opened on Broadway how long ago?!?) and much controversy before it was even released (they cut what songs exactly?!?), the film version of Stephen Sondheim's beloved musical Into the Woods finally made its way to the big screen courtesy of Disney and Chicago's Oscar-nominated helmer, Rob Marshall. The story interconnects classic characters from fairy tales (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel) and shows how the story continues after their happily ever afters. Joining in the colorful cast of characters is Chis Pine playing the charming Prince to Cinderella.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec262014

'happy birthday mr co-star... happy birthday to you...'

don't bother to knock

Happy Centennial to Richard Widmark today, the noir star who won instant fame (and an Oscar nod) for his film debut as dangerous "Tommy Udo" in Kiss of Death (1947). He almost made it to his centennial too but passed away in 2008. Other highlights from his filmography include: Night and the City (1950), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), Pick Up on South Street (1952), and that late career trio of all-star-cast Oscar darlings: Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), How the West Was Won (1962), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Any favorite Widmark performances? I have never seen (gulp) Kiss of Death. I suppose I should get on that given the Oscar nomination.

Sunday
Dec212014

FYC: Josh Brolin in "Inherent Vice" for Best Supporting Actor

And so we come to the end of our individually chosen FYCs. Amir, our team coordinator, is off for a month long holiday (!) which leaves myself, Nathaniel, your immortal but ever running-late host to wrap things up. To recap: we asked each team member to write up a personal favorite longshot* from one specific category. Here's the final entry in the series, a performance I really love in a film I really don't.

Why highlight a film I don't care for? Because it's important to remember during all-or-nothing awards season that each individual element of a film is different than the big picture and ought to be treated as such for the purposes of awardage.

Which brings us to...

See, it wasn't just the eternal sunshine of California or the vast vistas of desert land and salt water. It wasn't even really the hazy hash-filled air that P.T. Anderson's troupe was breathing. But I was parched and hungry the whole time I was watching Inherent Vice. I needed a fresh water oasis in the salty Pynchonian desert and Josh Brolin came to my rescue as "Bigfoot". Repeatedly. Fortunately he was also hungry, orally fixated you might say, and an eager lunch companion.

Like many characters in the film he's introduced with wonderfully descriptive prose that one assumes is lifted from the novel for voiceover. Brolin's introduction is in glorious widescreen longshot. The V.O.:

Like a bad luck planet in today's horoscope, here's the ol' hippie-hating mad dog himself in the flesh, Lieutenant Detective Christian F. "Big Foot" Bjornsen, SAG member, John Wayne walk, flat top, of Flintstone proportions, and that little evil shit twinkle in his eyes that says 'civil rights violations'" 

Brolin just owns this, presenting as a black & white Western rectangle stiffly inserting itself into the movie's otherwise geometrically ragged and fringed array of colorful people. Of course you can't see an evil shit twinkle in someone's eyes in long or medium shot but you can hear it in their voice.

Congratulations hippie scum! Welcome to a world of inconvenience"

Immediately we move to Bigfoot's office where the detective taunts Doc Sportello with carefully chosen words and obscene self-lubricated hand gestures; he's always shoving things into his mouth: frozen bananas, fingers, diner food. Brolin's line readings aren't just well delivered but perfectly balanced and heaped, as if he's collecting the best syllables on a fork, whichever wons have the most condescending flavor. The actor captures how natural all of this comes to Bigfoot now, that its both performative for Doc and completely innate in Bigfoot's character (we instantly register that the performance is now the reality after numerous pre-movie variations of these same conversations between the two detectives) since he's even doing the same things when he's out of view on the phone or half lost in his own strictly business thoughts when he's eating.

BigFoot's buzzkill nature would be suffocating if Brolin didn't find so many ways to play the notes. And though Bigfoot is mean to stand in opposition to the movie's other characters, he'd be totally at odds with the movie's loose hippie daze tone if he also weren't so damn funny. There are a great many people who think Inherent Vice is a good time movie in and of itself. Whether or not that proves to be your experience know this: it's a far greater party every single time Josh Brolin shows up to crash it.

Motto pankēki!" 

*I selected Brolin before his BFCA nomination so perhaps he's not quite as improbable as expected in a low key supporting actor competition, so I'm crossing my fingers... or licking them in Bigfoot's honor.

RELATED
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR CHART  

Each Longshot FYCs In Case You Missed Any
Actor, Locke | Actress, Belle | Supp. Actress, Gone Girl | Supp. Actor, Inherent Vice
Picture, Obvious Child |  Adapted Screenplay, A Most Wanted Man 
Sound Mixing, Grand Budapest HotelCostume, The Boxtrolls 
Cinematography, Homesman | Prod. Design, Enemy | Editing, Citizenfour  

Short-Lived Longshot FYCs = Academy Thought Otherwise
Makeup, Only Lovers Left Alive (eliminated) | FX, Under the Skin (eliminated)
Screenplay, The Babadook (ineligible) | ScoreThe Immigrant (eliminated)