2009 Honorees: Best Supporting Actor
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.