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Entries in Supporting Actor (74)

Tuesday
Oct212014

Lunchtime Poll: Multiple Acting Oscars

I was all prepared to list the most Oscar winning Actors for a quickie top ten list. Until I remembered there were only six with 3 or more Oscars (for acting)

Four Leading Oscars
01 Katharine Hepburn
Three Leading Oscars
02 Daniel Day-Lewis
Three Oscars (Lead/Supporting Mix)
[Three-Way Tie]
03 Ingrid Bergman
03 Meryl Streep
03 Jack Nicholson
Three Oscars (Supporting)
06 Walter Brennan

YOUR TASK: Make it a top ten by filling slots seven through ten. Name the four actors who most deserve to join them as three-timers or the ones who seem most likely?

Saturday
Oct112014

Meet the Contenders: J.K. Simmons "Whiplash"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, a hit at Sundance that just played the New York Film Festival.

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher in Whiplash

Best Supporting Actor

Born: Jonathan Kimble Simmons was born January 9, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan

The Role: Writer/Director Damien Chazelle's festival hit first came to attention with its screenplay that was featured on the annual Black List in 2012. The film follows a first year drum major (Miles Teller) at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music that joins the elite Jazz orchestra headed by a sadistic conductor named Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher is well respected and can make or break a young musician's career, although his methods of achieving perfection (violent outbursts, name calling, and physical abuse when he actually throws a chair at Teller) are somewhat unconventional.

To fund the feature length film, Chazelle first made an 18-minute short (an excerpt of the complete script) that was shown at Sundance in 2013, with Simmons as Fletcher, that won the Jury Award in short film. When it came time to make the full-length film, there was talk of re-casting Fletcher with a bigger name (Kevin Spacey, Kevin Kline, and Jeff Daniels were all considered), but Simmons ultimately was able to reprise the role he created. And the film received the Audience Award and top Jury Prize when it premiered at Sundance this past January. 

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep272014

NYFF: J.K. Simmons Holds Court, Boosts Supporting Actor Bid

"I guess I was a professional musician. I got paid tens of dollars," J.K. Simmons shrugged, getting the first of many big laughs at the press conference for Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. He was being grilled about his music background (he studied classical music in college) and what he brought to his big big role in this crowdpleasing drama. Whiplash is about the sweaty bloody foul-mouthed, humiliating and combative relationship of Andrew, a talented drummer (Miles Teller) and his sadistic mentor, Professor Fletcher (Simmons).

The movie is muscularly directed by Chazelle, like he's got as much to prove as Andrew (he'll direct another music related film next) and edited for maximum razzle-dazzle as if syncopated to the double time jazz rhythm -- or any other rhythm, really, that Fletcher demands during grueling rehearsals. Often stopping the action to scream "Not my tempo!" 

Whiplash than sometimes gives off the illusion that it's directed from within, as if the film is continually queued by, responding to, or enraged at Fletcher's barked orders, precise time signature hand movements, and threatening in-your-face closeups. The illusion than is that Professor Fletcher is demanding the movie conform to him, rather than the movie inviting him to be its antagonist.  

At the press conference the 59 year old actor was also the star of the show. In this case he had no competition for the spotlight. Miles Teller wasn't there and the film's young director was stuck in traffic allowing J.K. the bulk of the press conference to himself. Though his face is familiar from a long career of well received supporting roles he doesn't usually get this much of the screen (or stage as it were) all to himself. He took the opportunity to keep the press laughing, faux-mock his young co-star for being too busy "working" to be there with him, and for not making the short with him which was used to raise interest and funding for the movie (the short, which was a huge hit at Sundance in 2013, co-starred Johnny Simmons, no relation, who J.K. complimented adding that his take on the Andrew character was much different than Teller's work). J.K. reserved most of the good-natured teasing for his director who he continually referred to as an "adolescent" or "child". When the 29 year old director arrived toward the end of the event, and the questions began to flow his way, Simmons burst out laughing when a reporter began his question with the formal "Mister Chazelle..." 

A true scene stealer, that J.K. Simmons.

J.K., Damien, and Miles on set

It was deeply moving for me to work with musicians of that calibre and relive that part of my youth after having taken so many left turns in my career. It was really fun to work with musicians every day at work and/or scream at people which are two of my favorite things."

But for all his joking he managed to slip in thoughtful responses to questions, emotional hooks, and admitting that he wasn't sure how to unpack some of the provocative questions the movie raises about teaching and pushing people to greatness. This juggling act should serve him well in the quest for Oscar gold. The crowd was stunned to hear that they shot this tense intimate movie in just 19 days, a tiny blip in the amount of time they've spent promoting it since. As you'll recall the film premiered to rapturous response at Sundance 2014 and finally hits theaters in select cities on October 10th. Count on J.K. Simmons to spend the first two months of 2015 on red carpets and with cameras trained tightly to his face on Oscar night.

Wednesday
Sep172014

157 days 'til Oscar

We're still five months and a few days away from Oscar night so is it possible that things are starting to lock up? Ehhhh yes but mostly no. Every year all over the web casual movie fans and awards nuts like to start shouting LOCK as early as May for various things (usually centered around something becoming a massive hit or winning something at Cannes). But that's not really how it works. So here we are in September. A lot can happen in the last three and a half months of the calendar year leading up to the nominations. We've still got a long way to go and, conceivably, brilliant or lazy campaigns and smart or clumsy moves and release date shifts can still change everything... even if things are looking terribly good or just dismal for whomever or whatever. While I don't technically like to call anything or anyone a lock before it's actually opened (and thus eligible) the closest thing we have within the four acting categories are two, both in lead races: Reese Witherspoon (Wild) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything). They have all the ingredients you could want in a lead push -- the right release dates, the right kinds of roles with the right kinds of hooks, the right level of quality in the actual acting, the right early critical response, the right time in their careers, and a release strategy already carefully mapped out by the right studio. 

There are other "likely!" contenders at the moment of course (Still Julianne, holla / Imitation of Benedict: The People's Choice) but I'd argue that Reese & Eddie are the closest to securing nominations.

And I'd argue that the Supporting Actress category is the most volatile where no one is particularly close It's easy to imagine my current predicted lineup being exactly right but it's almost as easy to imagine not one of the five of them making it if the films that still haven't screened or those that could yet gather more power or lose it, happen to shake up this category. Nobody is remotely safe yet. People like to claim that Patricia Arquette is a done deal for Boyhood and though I hope so I don't think so. We're still four months from nominations and pictures praised for being directorial visions are often where you end up with weird blindspots when it comes to the acting branch. 

MAJOR UPDATES, MOVEMENT, NEW PLAYERS ON ALL FOUR ACTING CHARTS

ALSO UPDATED

Who or what do you think locks up next?

Friday
Jul182014

Oscar Updates: Acting Pairs and Young Bucks

The chart updates continue. I've been thinking a lot about Foxcatcher and Love is Strange and whether or not Sony Pictures Classics will have the guts to campaign all four of those male leads as leads. Essentially they'd be asking for 80% of the category which would be extremely ballsy (no pun intended with four sets of them) but also honest. For these July updates I'm fantasizing that they will.

Eddie Redmayne, David Oyelowo, and Channing Tatum are just three of the fresh crop of leading men who might be competing for Oscar gold for real life roles

But the funny thing is: Best Actor is enormously crowded without any of that acclaimed quartet. Playing a real life character won't even get you very far because most lead actors are doing just that, thereby dulling its time-tested competitive advantage. I count at least 10 possibly major contenders this year in biographical roles: Cumberbatch, Redmayne, Oyelowo, Carell, Tatum, Spall, Boseman, O'Connell, Hill and Maguire. And that's not including Christoph Waltz who I'm now guessing will try his luck doing the co-lead as supporting thing again for Big Eyes which has worked well for him twice before; he's like the Poster Boy for Category Fraud.

The most exciting thing about the Best Actor Chart? Most of them have never been nominated so we're likely to have a real fresh quintet. With all these true stories in 2014 Supporting Actor may well be filled to bursting with real life, too, albeit without as many newbies in the mix. Good luck to the originals I say who have to create three-dimensional characters from whole cloth and the never nominated who are eager to be let in throughthe golden door.

Breaking Jack O'Connell?
On Emmy nomination morning this new trailer emerged for Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, a World War II drama which is likely to be a major breakthrough event for its lead actor Jack O'Connell, especially given that he's already shown true star charisma according to everyone who has seen his raw prison drama Starred Up (also due this year). But there are three potential obstacles to a presumed Best Actor run.

1. The man he's playing, Louis Zamperini, just died and those can be tricky waters to navigate in terms of film releases and campaigning without seeming exploitative about it (see Mandela's tip toe last year)

2. AMPAS is not as predictable these days with what we might well call 'classic Oscar bait'. They've been getting friskier with their choices for some time now (think of that 2006 win and then the entire 2007 lineup and so on through the now: Amour? Beasts of the Southern Wild? etcetera) . Old school 'triumph of the human spirit' epics and glossy WWII pics are no longer sure things. 

3. Jack O'Connell turns 24 next month. That's extremely young for Best Actor. For some context should O'Connell be nominated for this role with lots of hooks (crying, real life character, accent, weight loss, heroism) he will be the 2nd youngest nominee of the modern era, just a shade older than John Travolta was for his zeitgest 1977 blockbuster Saturday Night Fever. (Mickey Rooney and Jackie Cooper were even younger for their noms but that was back in the 30s and early 40s). Only one actor in his 20s has ever won the top prize and that was Adrien Brody for The Pianist, three weeks shy of his 30th birthday.

updated Oscar charts
BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESSSUPPORTING ACTOR, SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Thursday
May292014

First Round Oscar Predix Continue: Supporting Actor

Two things we have to acknowledge right up front before we continue our first round of Oscar charts which will be finished by Saturday. Yay.

First. The supporting actor categories are often crazy foggy until people have seen the movies. Since men make up the bulk of film characters there is always a lot to choose from... even within the same film. Take Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice for example. I have yet to read the novel but literally every character in synopsis form sounds like a chance for actors to show off. That could result in a grandiose amount of overkill in scenery chewing for one film to handle- the acting equivalent of a rain of frogs, if you will. But it doesn't help us decipher which of the players will stand out. If you look at any of Anderson's early work -- the true ensembles before he started focusing on the journey of only one or two men (sigh) -- it was often hard to decide who was "best" because everyone was doing such strong work. I've gone with Josh Brolin as a prediction playing Joaquin Phoenix's old nemesis "Bigfoot" but it could just as easily be Benicio Del Toro as "Sauncho" or Owen Wilson as the musician "Coy Harlingen" or... well, you get the picture. The film has a huge cast.

Or it might be no one if the film is not well received. But the nominations for P.T.'s chilly weird The Master, not particularly "Oscar friendly" in the traditional sense, suggest that AMPAS is finally on this auteur's wavelength.

Second. There is no such thing as a line of demarcation between Lead and Supporting anymore. The two categories are fluid and mean nothing dissimilar at this point. It's like ten spots for men and ten spots for women. Period.

There are infinite ways to get away with category fraud in this day and age and the only time Oscar has ever rejected fraudulent campaigns is when a person leading the film has no other actor of stature around or of the same gender to pretend they are "supporting" them (Winslet in '08, Keisha in '03, etcetera). Otherwise they're always okay with it. Voters are especially forgiving of category fraud with male actors, perhaps subconciously reflecting heteronormative pack mentality --  some guy is always the alpha. So even if there is no way you can describe Fox (Collateral) in '04 or Affleck (Jesse James)  in '07 as "supporting characters" without sane people laughing at you, that's okay with Oscar because in no stretch of the Hollywood imagination are  Cruise and Pitt not alpha males. I think we can all agree on that.  

Which brings us to Foxcatcher. Here, things are decidedly more fluid. Carell and Tatum and Ruffalo are not big enough stars to pretend that all other men in any given movie would be supporting them. Hell, Tatum even has second billing to Jonah Hill in the 21 Jump Street series which I find... strange. (Was it the Oscar nominations? Is it the deferrence to alpha order? Tatum led more films before they joined up). Early word is that Sony Pictures Classics will campaign both Tatum and Carell as leads and Ruffalo as supporting. Whether this holds or not is anyone's guess. In Contention posted a piece on how rare double lead nominations are and cited the statistics (not since 1984 for men and 1991 for women) and called it "obviously stiff odds" and that's true, factually. But it's not true spiritually. The article left out the extremely crucial fact that studios don't try to win dual lead nods anymore. Who is to say that we wouldn't have had examples of dual lead nods since then if they had kept campaigning truthfully as they used to do? Maybe voters should check themselves before demoting lead actors to supporting and ask themselves the relevant question "would I vote for them as a lead?" If the answer is "no" than maybe you shouldn't vote for them in supporting. 

THE SUPPORTING ACTOR CHART 
INDEX OF PREDICTIONS 

Monday
Apr282014

Oscar Bait 2015 Alert: "Genius" With Kidman, Firth, and Law

Yes, dear concerned reader, I know I know. I'm supposed to be thinking about 2014 and who might be Oscar nominated 9 months from now. I'll get there. I will. But I can't let this latest dazzling dangling carrot of 2015 cinematic possibility pass without mention. Because a curious trend continues...

Thomas Wolfe, Aline Bernstein, and Max Perkins to be played by Law, Kidman, and Firth

We've already noted, with raised eyebrow, the shocking rapidity of Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth veritable obsession with working together. As previously mentioned they have THREE films together coming out this year. Add a fourth to the pipeline. They will co-star again in Genius which is based on the super acclaimed biography "Max Perkins: Editor Of Genius," by A Scott Berg.

The screenplay is by three time Oscar nominee John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo) and the cast is similarly Oscar-favored. Two time nominee Jude Law, Kidman's Cold Mountain "husband" (I will marry yoooo) has taken over the incredibly juicy role of the novelist Thomas Wolfe (which means a viable shot at a Supporting Actor trophy for Jude Law even though the best guess is that he's actually co-lead) which was once to be played by Michael Fassbender. Oscar winner Colin Firth headlines playing the influential book editor Max Perkins and Oscar winning Kidman plays Wolfe's lover, the multihyphenate writer/costume/set designer Aline Bernstein. The film takes place in the 1920s/1930s literary scene so stay tuned. Who will they cast as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? Both of those legends also have major roles in the book.

The big obvious question mark here is budget (can it get the lush period treatment it deserves?) and Michael Grandage in the director's chair. This is the 52 year old stage director's first feature gig behind the camera though he's acted in front of it before. 

Wanna read the book?