Friday, August 13, 2010

2009 Honorees: Best Supporting Actor

Start here if you're wondering why I'm only now getting to this. Otherwise, my selections for the Best Supporting Actors of 2009 were, and still are:

JAMES GANDOLFINI for Where the Wild Things Are, because it takes prodigious vocal and physical work to broadcast that much temper, pain, and complexity from within a huge woolly body suit;

STEVE MARTIN for It's Complicated, because he makes the pot scenes such pure joy and seems genuinely wounded, but maturely responsive, when Meryl's character lets him down;

SAUL RUBINEK for Julia, because his enabling takes almost as many forms as Julia's mania: sensitive, appalled, faux-casual, furious, manipulative, speechless...;

DARYL SABARA for World's Greatest Dad, because he's very funny and blisteringly hateful, without just riffing or auditioning for your dorm-room wall the way Jonah Hill would have; and

STANLEY TUCCI for Julie & Julia, because even when you're besotted with a world-class companion, you still have to step carefully around their oddities and their bruises.

Extremely honorable mentions to the three men who, on and off since January, have rotated in and out of what is finally the Martin spot: Benoît Poelvoorde, who is such an imposing, charismatic lover-patron-frenemy to Tautou in Coco Before Chanel; Woody Harrelson, who combines swagger and decency with just a bit of smugness in The Messenger, as he starts to show his cracks; and Sergey Makovetsky for 12, who saves his character from the usual high-minded, tension-deflating nobility by broadcasting more doubts and hinting at more potential motives behind his contrarianism. Admittedly, that might be a lead part, but he mixes beautifully with that florid Russian ensemble.

My next rung of contenders were haunted Ciro Patrone, quietly trying to beat the mob in Gomorrah, Red West's cranky but cliché-free work as a virtual co-lead in Goodbye, Solo, Fabrizio Rongione's inscrutable agent in Lorna's Silence, Rupert Friend's brittly appealing and very affectionate Albert in The Young Victoria, and Clifton Collins, so lived-in and humane in Sunshine Cleaning, and just waiting for the movie to lean more heavily on his character.

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Blogger Glenn said...

It's always in your supporting categories that we should really expect oddball contenders. What a crazy list!

Of all the names you mentioned only Poelvoorde would even come close to a nomination from me. And that's why this is awesome.

1:28 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Andrew Rech said...

I literally just re-watched It's Complicated and I found Steve Martin to be curiously bland. I thought he was indeed a delight in the pot smoking scene - though nothing compared to Meryl's initial "Heeeey" or the dashboard comment - but merely adequate everywhere else. But I so agree with James Gandolfini, the sad wounded spirit of the film, and such raw adroitness with his voice!

I can't even remember Saul Rubinek in Julia and there were so many vivid things in that film. And Stanley Tucci really is the definition of what supporting work does, and you never see him have to catch up with Meryl, he almost seems to be doing very little when he's doing quite a lot, love that Valentine scene.

I really should check out World's Greatest Dad even though I've heard very very mixed things about it.

Can't wait for supporting actress!

2:41 AM, August 13, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

Hurrah to all this, particularly to our one overlap in James Gandolfini -- though Stanley Tucci was in my #6 spot, and might well have made it in over Brian Geraghty or Michael Fassbender (for Inglourious Basterds) on a different day. (Indeed, my Fassbender inclusion was probably prompted by the fact that hewing to the Oscar timetable didn't permit me to nominate Fish Tank.)

In any case, though I never named winners, Gandolfini was quite easily mine. There's not a duff performance in that entire ensemble, for my money, but his is the most surprising and inventive: I love how he sees and raises Max's petulance, challenging the audience's affection, where he could so easily have opted for dull cuddliness.

I had no idea that you saw what I saw in Rupert Friend's performance, which also made my five. I'm so pleased that you did -- he's a life-raft of warmth and humour in that otherwise petrified film, and I'm mystified that a performer as (usually) game as Emily Blunt manages to remain so dour in his presence. That she's the one who ended up with token precursor mentions really makes one wonder how many people actually watch these oatmeal bait movies.

No Anthony Mackie, even on the third rung of honourees? Interested to know what's keeping him out there.

5:53 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Shtajner said...

Well, I suppose you consider Anthony Mackie a co-lead in The Hurt Locker... Because he was great and he's number one on my list (I really think he's a real supporter to Jeremy Renner's character)!

So my list looks like this:

1. Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker
2. Hristos Passalis in Dogtooth
3. Alfred Molina in An Education
4. Jeremie Renier in Lorna's Silence
5. Stuart Graham in Hunger

I am soooo glad that you mentioned Steve Martin in It's Complicated! I was tired of listening of Meryl's and Alec's "great performances" (I didn't really like them, especially Alec) and nobody mentioned Steve, who was great indeed! And what to say about Sergey Makovetsky in 12!!! He was really terrific (though he is actually on my 2008. list)!

Honourable mentions:
Paul Schneider in Bright Star
Steve Martin in It’s Complicated
Fabrizio Rongione in Lorna’s Silence
Burghart Klaussner in The White Ribbon
Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Clifton Collins Jr. in Sunshine Cleaning
Saul Rubinek in Julia
Paul Higgins in In the Loop
Zach Woods in In the Loop
Daniel Genoud in Headless Woman

I noticed there was no one from In the Loop on your list. Why? I remember you really liked the In the Loop acting in "The Fifties". So I expect to see Mimi Kennedy as one of best supporting actresses and also Tom Holander and (of course) Peter Capaldi as best actors.

Actually, the feature I'm mostly looking forward to is The Fifties for 2010. Since my champions for 2009. were Everyone Else and Dogtooth, I'd like to see if you loved the acting in it as much as I have.

And please, publish your lists faster! We really need to see 2007 Best Actor list and also more Best Atress year profiles (for example 1990-1996). And what to say about those missing lists before 1980? Guess I really like your choices (well, I can't say they are "For the ages", like Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine is, but they are atleast "Fantastic" as Ellen Page in Juno is ;))))))...

7:04 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

But Guy -- he's essentially playing the supporting boyfriend. And only supporting girlfriends make the list even in oscar bait movies (see also: Erin Brockovich). I just don't think people (generally speaking) can ever reject their sexual gender role rigidity when they look for greatness. The "soft" men just don't do it for awards voters, even if they have steel in them somewhere. I know Nick doesn't care for him in Chéri but I thought he did interesting work there too. I'm looking forward to see what else he has in him.

I've never quite understood the love for Gandolfini in WTWTA. It's just not something I "got" though people's descriptions of his performance never feel untruthful or misread so much as 'huh. it just didn't get to me is all.' but i did love the movie.

7:09 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Glenn: The Supporting Actress list is less off-the-radar, but then, I am almost always confused by Oscar's choices in Supporting Actor. Three cheers to being excited when lists don't overlap!

@Andrew: I'm giving Martin a lot of credit for being so subdued and not taking the approach to the character I fully expected from him; I agree about the blandness but think it's an inspired choice. Don't expect great things from World's Greatest Dad; the plot stops making sense about halfway through, but Sabara is just so vitriolic he survives a questionable vehicle. (And it's not as questionable overall as I had imagined it would be.)

@Guy: I did like Friend quite a bit, though I have to say I didn't think Blunt was as disappointing as a lot of folks did. A bit dour, but I could certainly see this girl growing up to be Mrs. Brown, and I found her pretty rousing when she needed to be. But Friend clearly walked off with the movie. As for Gandolfini, he'd have rough competition from Rubinek for the win, but it would definitely come down to the two of them, for all the reasons you said. And as for Mackie, I've always thought his performance was a co-lead.

@Shtajner: I'd love to generate lists more quickly; I really do get to them when I can. For some of the recent years, I was just writing so much for every category that it became prohibitive, and for the earlier years, I like to see a wider swath of movies before I bound ahead with a list. BUT, I'm really enjoying reading yours, with all the unexpected choices, and we seem to enjoy a lot of the same movies. Especially glad to see more love for Makovetsky here. Just can't agree on Molina, who (not atypically, in my experience) approached that role so broadly it was like cooking a vegetable too long. All the nutrients went out of it.

@Nathaniel: This does indeed seem to be a recurring blind spot for AMPAS. Re: Friend, he just seems released to be so much more creative when he isn't asked to make his beauty so important, though I disliked almost everything about how Frears was directing his actors in Chéri.

8:21 AM, August 13, 2010  
Anonymous Anders said...

I wholeheartedly support the Benoit honorable mention. He delivered an integral masculine-patron-adversarial dimension to Coco.

8:54 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Good point re: Sabara - he was both frightening and frighteningly believable in a dog of a role - solid achievement.

Gandolfini was also excellent in Where the Wild Things Are, but so was the entire cast, and my pick of that litter was Catherine O'Hara for her great 'wild'ness and usual spot-on timing.

Similar case with The Messenger - Harrelson was excellent, but Samantha Morton was mindblowing.

So it seems, like every upstanding gay, I have a bit of a supporting actress bias.

In terms of my favourite supporting actors - I'd vote Niels Arestrup for Prophet, Matthew Goode for Single Man (he made the unattainable object of impossible movie love seem totally human and spontaneous, and I never even liked him before), Fassbender for Basterds, the main love interest in Beeswax whose name I will look up shortly, and now that you've pointed him out, I'd agree that Daryl Sabara belongs in there too.

9:28 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Anders: Glad for that endorsement!

@Goran: What a great list. I see your point totally about Goode, even though I responded less effusively to his choices. Still, especially within the Ford-constrained world of A Single Man, his understatement was an achievement. The Arestrup-Fassbender-Goode-Karpovsky-Sabara lineup is fantastic. Thanks for sharing! (I'll be considering A Prophet for 2010 Honorees, according to the calendar of U.S. releases, or else it would pop up in plenty of places on this roster.)

10:19 AM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Anthony Mackie is a co-lead to you? Phew! I was worried for a minute there...though I am curious, you put Harrelson on your Honorable Mentions list, but he had quite a lot of screen time in The Messenger. What makes him support but Mackie lead?

Another question: Between James Gandolfini in Where the Wild Things to Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings and probably some others I can't remember, do you see an Oscar nod for a CGI-heavy performance in the near future?

I kind of second the meh-ness of Steve Martin's performance, though I'd support ANY Oscar nomination for his work, past or future (Shopgirl excepted), at this point.

1:10 PM, August 13, 2010  
Blogger tim r said...

The only names I'd want to add to this discussion are Martin Starr, who to me did such a beautifully weary/funny job as the put-upon best friend in Adventureland, and Michael Stuhlbarg's slithery respectability as the polished, insincere principal in Afterschool. Did that even get a proper release, like it did in the UK?

Shameful though this may be to admit, I bought into Where the Wild Things Are so completely I all but forgot who was acting the Things. Which is hardly their fault. Carol was certainly one of the most memorable characters of the last year, and when I go back, as I hope I do soon, I'll possibly be more attentive to Gandolfini's achievement. Does Lauren Ambrose deserve a runner-up mention?

Finally, Michael Fassbender is so commanding in Fish Tank I'm keen to see he doesn't get forgotten by the end of the year. I had him in for 2009, but here I'll be, prodding your memories...

3:07 AM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger Jonathan said...

This may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but Waltz? Really a lead? Genuinely disliked his performance? Or maybe both?

5:21 AM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Another great list! My own looks like this:

1. Jim Broadbent - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Pitch-perfect comic timing that folds elegantly into the emotional gut-punch of his monologue near the end of the film. Is it too on-the-nose to say that I think Broadbent's work here is "such beautiful magic"?

2. Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds - What else needs to be said?

3. Woody Harrelson - The Messenger - For exactly the reasons you mentioned.

4. Anthony Mackie - The Hurt Locker - The perfect counterweight to Renner. Caution, worry, and world-weariness all subtly and soulfully rendered.

5. Robert Duvall - The Road - Sears himself into your memory with just a few minutes of screen time. Haunting.

10:46 AM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger Nick Duval said...

Gandolfini! Guy and Nick, that's awesome that you have him. His voice work was so under-appreciated it wasn't even funny. As you say, he was one of the reasons that "Wild Things" was so resonant.

I would also point out that Philip Seymour Hoffman did equally good voice work in "Mary and Max," sounding unrecognizable and, by delivering ridiculous dialogue, being the best part of an uneven effort in my opinion.

For live action, I would go with
Christoph Waltz (deserved the Oscar and would have with any other contenders)
Paul Schneider (the best of the pack in "Bright Star," clingy and witty)
David Rasche (Mr. "itty is NOT a word!," "S**T" from "In the Loop," a very well-done bit part as Linton Barwick)
Anthony Mackie (very affecting, as someone said he was "the heart of "The Hurt Locker"')

7:34 PM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Robert: I think of Mackie as leading you into Hurt Locker, then Mackie & Renner being a kind of primary helix through the middle, and then Renner leading us out. The whole film, even formally, strikes me as a constant sounding between the poles of their two characters. Whereas Messenger seems triply made up of Foster's scenes alone (admittedly, not that many), Foster with Harrelson, and Foster with Morton. It's a gray area, but I still think Supporting is the right place for Woody. (And yes, I assume some kind of CGI-ish or animated performance will get nominated eventually.)

@Tim: Afterschool played literally one day in Chicago, and I liked but didn't love Martin Starr, though I love hearing names like that singled out. As for Fassbender, don't worry about him going anywhere as I compile my bests for U.S. 2010, though categorization again poses a problem.

@Jonathan: Suffice to say, I do think Pitt, Waltz, and Laurent are all leads in Basterds. They anchor huge stretches of the movie, and the camera and the editing treat them as leads. But again, I concede that it's a gray area. Trust that you'll be hearing a little more about Waltz in the coming days.

8:14 PM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Steve-o: Since I've just addressed all the others, that leaves Broadbent (whose film I just couldn't force myself to see), and Duvall (who I found very moving, but maybe not enough for this list). Great choices, though!

@Nick: I also like seeing Rasche, who I thought was just perfect in Burn After Reading; he sure knows how to make himself felt within huge, vivid ensembles, without making it seem like he's lunging for attention. I did like Schneider, and it was a new side of him I hadn't anticipated, but I think his was actually the least interesting of the Bright Star performances because the film treated him rather overtly as a comic foil and audience surrogate, and he was playing pretty obvious story and character beats (though I'm happy to agree that he played them well).

@Everyone: Having seen Julia almost two years ago, I was thrilled when Tilda became such a cause célèbre of so many Oscar bloggers after Julia finally bowed... but I'm surprised nothing similar ever happened for Saul Rubinek, and I'm not seeing much love for him in these comments, either. Did nobody else really find him that special? I just thought he was superb.

8:18 PM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger James T said...

Nick - I liked him so much, I mentioned him as a FYC to Nathaniel when he was thinking about the Film Bitch Awards. I really believe he was great!

And I really hope you meant that you're going to say much about Waltz. All I can say is "he was great each and every moment" and I'd really like something more sophisticated than that. :p

I'm anticipating your supporting ladies! And everything else, of course.

9:23 PM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nick, give Half-Blood Prince a shot! It's really an incredible improvement over the rest of the series (except, arguably, Prisoner of Azkaban). And I promise this isn't fanboy talk; to give my recommendation some perspective, here's how I'd rank the films:

A - Half-Blood Prince
B+ - Prisoner of Azkaban
B- - Sorcerer's Stone
C+ - Order of the Phoenix
C- - Goblet of Fire
D - Chamber of Secrets

9:32 PM, August 14, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Steve-o: I'm entirely prepared to believe this about HP6, but having seen five movies about these characters, and realizing that I can barely remember anything about them from film to film, and I don't have even the slightest investment in any of them (they could live, they could die, whatever), I just didn't have it in me to go again to another one. I watched the first 10 minutes or so of Half-Blood Prince after it got that Cinematography nod, and I just switched it off. Not because it was bad, but the force of my Not Caring was just too prodigious. So, I'm taking your word for it!

1:40 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Nick Duval said...

I forgot Mr. Malamed and Kind in "A Serious Man," a film I know you dislike. Kind gave me one of the year's biggest laughs when he said "If you could bottle this air it would sell for a million dollars." Malamed smooth operated Larry Gopnik out of his marriage. Malamed is probably who would round out my 5, Kind was good though.

9:05 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...


Fair enough! At about 2.5 hours, it's a long sit if you just don't care. ;-)

10:33 AM, August 15, 2010  
Blogger Daniel Smith said...

Not a great year for Supporting Actors, but there were some memorable performances:

1- Sergei Makovetsky, 12
2- Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
3- JK Simmons, The Vicious Kind
4- Timothy Olyphant, A Perfect Getaway
5- Evan Martin, World's Greatest Dad

Also liked Sergei Gamash in 12; Woody Harrelson for The Messenger; Hans Zischler for Flame and Citron; Jeremie Renier for Lorna's Silence and Summer Hours; and Daryl Sabara for World's Greates Dad

4:11 PM, August 15, 2010  

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