Oscar Redux: Best Supporting Actor

E: To begin our series looking back on 2012, the year that was, My Movie Going Friend and I talk Supporting Actor.  Were the right actors nominated, and in the right category?  Did the right actor win?  Look below for a wide roving conversation on the amazing movies, men and managing expections:

MMGF:  This was a crazy good year for supporting actors.

E: I know, just excellent.  Oscar picked  Alan Arkin ( Lester Siegel, Argo), Robert DeNiro (Pat Solatano Sr., Silver Linings Playbook), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lancaster Dodd, The Master), Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln) and Christoph Waltz, (Dr. King Schultz, Django Unchained) to nominate, and Waltz to win. Are these the five you would have picked?  I think it’s close to my five favorites, although I would certainly have substituted John Goodman in Flight for Alan Arkin.  (I made such a stink about not seeing Flight in the fall, do you remember, and then I turn around and love it.  You have to laugh.)

As for a winner, I think I’m going to go against my normal behavior again.  Much as I found Dr. King Schultz charming, and laughed at curmudgeon Thaddeus Stevens, I couldn’t help falling under the sway of Lancaster Dodd.  Weird, right, because I’m so not a PSH fan in general.

MMGF: You know, John Goodman is just a wonderful choice to bring up.  I thought he was simply excellent in Flight.  I wondered, when I saw the film, why I hadn’t heard much talk about him.  I figured maybe it was because he wasn’t in the movie much.  But, that didn’t stop Anne Hathaway from being able to not only be nominated, but actually win, and she was only on-screen for about 15 minutes of a 2 1/2 hour movie.  I wonder if he isn’t so very ubiqitous that he, ironically, goes unnoticed?  He’s in so many top films, and great in all of them.  I mean, look at this recent list – Argo, Flight, ParaNorman, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Artist.  It’s crazy.  But I do digress, talking so much about someone who was NOT nominated.

 E: No you don’t!  No such thing.  To co-opt his catch phrase from the film, he’s on my list.
MMGF: That said, I might agree – I’d have liked to have seen Goodman nominated for that great performance.  I was actually a little surprised to see Alan Arkin nominated.  He was perfectly fine in Argo, but kind of just a variation on lots of his roles – like the one he won for, in Little Miss Sunshine.  Although, if I was swapping out Arkin for someone, I probably would have nominated Dwight Henry from Beasts of the Southern Wild.  That character had such an unexpected arc, and stretched and challenged my understanding of who he was and who he could be and how he was who he was.
E: Dwight Henry was pretty fantastic, especially considering he was “non-actor” if there is such a thing.  If I had an issue with him it was more based on the writing – I didn’t feel like I knew entirely where they were going with his character.  Also, he’s a little scary to watch as a parent, the way he flows in and out of control of his emotions.  Really fascinating character and character arc, though.
MMGF: It’s funny, too, to hear your love for PSH in The Master (knowing your usual apathy toward his acting.)
E: I know.
MMGF: You know how I didn’t care for that movie at all.  I didn’t even overly love the performances.  I mean, they were fine, and Joaquin Phoenix was certainly worthy of his lead nomination.  But I would have left PSH off the list, too.
E: As far as The Master itself, I hated that movie too (thank heaven for your company, I don’t know how I would have made it through that ridiculous excuse for an ending), but I remain really really awed by the performances.  Dodd manages to enthrall you, just as a cult leader ought.  When he pulls Phoenix in, and then breaks him down?  Amazing.  (Such a shame he didn’t know what to actually do with him afterwards.)  The writing?  I never feel satisfied by Paul Thomas Anderson.
MMGF: And, I know this is an acting discussion, but I can never appreciate either of the Andersons, Paul Thomas OR Wes.  Not for me.  And I do agree – the performances in the film were good.  I just don’t have enough room for Hoffman in my top 5 supporting actors!  In his place?  The remarkable Tom Holland from The Impossible.  (I could argue that he should actually get a lead nomination, but, well, Hollywood doesn’t let their young male actors get lead nominations, and that’s another topic for another time.)  The way he balanced the innocence with the responsibility in that role was such a joy to watch.  And, to be honest, had he been nominated, he’d have gotten my vote, I think.
E: How did I forget Tom Holland?  He was outstanding.  As you say, however, he’s the lead in that movie; if I were to nominate a supporting actor from
The Impossible (terrific, underrated film) it would be Ewan McGregor.  Damn, that’s going to throw my calculus for re-jiggering Best Actor all to pieces.
MMGF: You know, you’re right.  If we’re doing this ourselves, there’s no reason why I have to go by the normal Academy conventions.  Tom Holland, congratulations on your Best Actor nomination!  And, good point, why wouldn’t I nominate Ewan McGregor, too.  Man, another eternally-overlooked actor.

E:  So true – I hope some day he’ll be acknowledged for his skill.  Well, it’s a very tough year.  If I’m booting Arkin to make room for Goodman, does that mean I have to excise Robert DeNiro for McGregor?  I think it does. No!  Wait.  I’m going to follow my own advice.  I leave DeNiro, because Waltz is really a lead actor.  And I think that means he misses out on a nomination all together in my world, because if I’m inserting Tom Holland and John Hawkes then there’s no room for him too.

MMGF:  That’s a fair point.  I’d consider Waltz a lead, too, not a supporting actor.  So, hmm, for me that makes it tricky.  I almost have the opposite problem – now I have Jones, Goodman, MacGregor and I’ll keep DeNiro in (I think, although he’d be behind the other three.)

MMGF: Out of the actual nominees?  Well, I actually have a similar feeling to yours, just for a different actor.  I normally find Tommy Lee Jones to be one-note and just a grouch – like a next-generation but humorless Walter Matthau.  But even with the outstanding work from Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, I think Jones was my favorite performance in that great, great film.

E: I would have been very happy to see TLJ win.  He was such a delightful collection of broken shards of glass.  And to see an ideologue of his moral fiber bend to promote his long term interests? I’m kind of desperate for that sort of inspiration, given all the inflexible talk of the sequestration this week.

MMGF:  Tommy Lee Jones’s character had the most wonderful progression.  Power, morality, acquiescence, fearlessness.  I was so hoping he would win.  Ah, well.

E: I wonder why things didn’t come together for him?  He did so well in the critics awards.  This was really a puzzler of a year.

MMGF:  So who fills out that category for me?  Does Hoffman make it back in?  I’ll have to think a little, see if I’m overlooking anyone.  The one supporting actor who does come to mind, who was largely overlooked, was Russell Crowe.  I was surprised to see him get so little recognition for Les Miz.  I kind of thought he was excellent.

E: Oh, wow, that’s very bold of you.  A lot of people really disliked Crowe, because he played that role in a very different way than we’re used to seeing it, more stoic, rational and controlled than passionate.  I liked his performance quite a lot once I understood what he was going for, but I can see why it didn’t have more support.  (Plus, his vocal range limited a lot of what he could do with the role, though personally I thought he sounded better than Hugh Jackman most of the time, something that completely shocked me.)

MMGF: I could make a case for Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson in The Avengers, too.  He’s so solid in everything, and one of those, “oh, there’s THAT guy again!” in so many movies.  He turned out to be sort of the heart of that movie, central to the one big emotional pull in the film.

E: I love that you brought up Clark Gregg!  He’s one of those incredibly likable character actors – and you’re right, he was absolutely the heart of The Avengers.
MMGF: In fact, if I’m going to focus on the blockbusters for a minute, I actually think I liked Ian McKellan better in The Hobbit than I did in any of the three Lord of the Rings movies.  And, heck, both Jonathan Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy (!!) were excellent in The Dark Knight Rises.
E: I think Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both pretty terrific actors, though of course too young and cute to get Academy attention.  (Hardy would have made my list last year for his work in the excellent, underseen Warrior.)  Not that this should affect us any more than the Academy’s inability to see blockbusters as real movies with serious themes.
MMGF: Speaking of hit movies, one actor who probably came close, but who does NOT make it in for me, is Javier Bardem.  I thought his character in Skyfall was so ridiculous – it only barely worked because he is such a talented actor.  In lesser hands you’d have had that one role possibly ruin what was a fantastic Bond film, one of the best. So, who rounds out my five?  Jones, DeNiro, Goodman, MacGregor and…?  I’m tempted to go with Gregg, but I think I’m picking Crowe.

E: Get down with your bad self!  To backtrack for a second, do you think that Ian McKellan is ever going to get an Oscar if he keeps making them?  It upsets me, because he is old and incredibly brilliant and consistently does wonderful work that they just won’t pay attention to because of the genre.  I certainly wouldn’t put Bardem on my shortlist like BAFTA did – heck, I’m still pissed off at him for Biutiful, one of the most awful Oscar movies we’ve ever suffered through – but I think you’re right on target to say that in the hands of a lesser actor, that role would have been ridiculous.

MMGF: I actually had to look Biutiful up, because I’ve both blocked it out, it was so bad, and have it confused with the equally as horrible A Better Life, with Demian Bishir.  Blech!
E: Oh, that’s funny.  I actually liked A Better Life, even if parts of it were agonizing, because it ended on a more positive note.  But Biutiful, ick.  That was really one of the worst viewing experiences of my life.
MMGF: Poor Sir McKellen.  So interesting how after years of doing so much art-house-y work, he suddenly ends up practically a superstar action hero, in TWO blockbuster franchises.  Heck, if it were up to me, his Oscar would be entering its teenage years, having been received for Gods & Monsters.
E: Which, going back to the age old fight of expectations vs. reality, I thought I would hate, and instead adored.  He was robbed blind.
MMGF: Curse you, Academy!  What could you possibly have been thinking, giving that year’s lead actor award to Roberto Benigni?!?)  You know, he’s certainly a good enough actor, and it just takes that one right role, that buzz to flow the right way, and there it is.  So, I have hope for him!
E: I think he still has it in him, that’s for sure – I just hope he gets the right role again.  And Begnini.  Ugh.  What a perfect example of someone’s exuberance and personal charms making their performance seem so much better than it was.  And I guess Russell Crowe is the opposite of that – people don’t seem to like him personally, so his great performances don’t get the same kind of acclaim.
MMGF: You know, Les Miz knocked down all of my preconceptions.  I expected to love Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Helena Bonham-Carter, but didn’t.  I expected to think Jackman, Crowe and Amanda Seyfried were out of their league, and they were the three that most impressed me.  And with Crowe, that’s exactly what I liked about his performance – he went somewhere else with it, interpreted it differently than we’re used to.  I liked the harshness, I felt like it worked, and I did think his singing was great.
E: Oh, crap, now you’ve killed me, because I loved Eddie Redmayne. I’ve never found Marius so heartbreaking – and I thought Redmayne had one of the best voices in the film, along with Hathaway, Barks and Seyfried.  Now I have to shift the list again, and DeNiro really does lose out.  Final slate – Goodman, Hoffman, Jones, McGregor and Redmayne.
MMGF: Ah, Redmayne, very bold choice!  So for me, I’ll lock it in, too  – Jones, DeNiro, Crowe, MacGregor and Goodman.  Pretty close to your list (although I do exclude your winner.)  Winner here, from my own nominees?  Hmm… boy, it’s tough.  Not DeNiro, not Crowe.  So hard to pick between Jones and Goodman for me, but, believe it or not, I think I’d pick John Goodman.  In a surprisingly good and gritty movie, full of well-inhabited performances, his is the one that stuck with me most, I think.

One comment on “Oscar Redux: Best Supporting Actor

  1. […] E: Here we are with the second in our series on the Oscar nominees, winners, and the performances that were unjustly forgotten.  To see our thoughts on the supporting actor category, go here. […]

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