Best of 2011: Supporting Actor
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
... for being smug but also astute, a rich conduit of humor but not a hammy one, and a careful articulator of the veiled theme of anti-Semitism;
Chris O'Dowd, Bridesmaids
... for being raffishly un-typecast as the flawed prince we root for, helping us to balance our attraction to and exasperation with Wiig's Annie;
Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Leap Year
... for arriving subtly into the film, uncomfortably pushing the lead around, and signaling so many motives for and feelings about what they do;
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
... for showing us a good time and seeing fully and generously into his character, without selling him into cutesy comedy or milking the sadness;
Shea Whigham, Take Shelter
... for the subtlest, steadiest gaze by which we observe the hero, expressing friendship as guys do, even as tacit sympathy tilts into distrust.
Runners-Up: Brían F. O'Byrne as the patience-tested but unexpectedly loyal ex-husband in HBO's Mildred Pierce; Corey Stoll as a beacon of wit and a rough-patch of welcome texture in Midnight in Paris; Brad Pitt, playing a man aware of his shortcomings and expressive deficiencies but nonetheless mired within them in The Tree of Life; Niels Arestrup, so elegantly warm and so eloquently aggrieved in War Horse; Sergei Puskepalis, who passes from intimidating colleague to dangerous enemy in How I Ended This Summer; and Shima Ohnishi as the physically demanding, ethically unsalvageable husband in Caterpillar, bravely submitting himself to Wakamatsu's aesthetic of florid overstatement without losing the character inside the hyperbole.
For Distinguished Group Efforts: The colorful trio of henchmen that Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, and Mark Strong bring hilariously to life in The Guard; the vivid conclave of misguided but sympathetic managers, scouts, and board members in Moneyball, extending as well to Philip Seymour Hoffman's banked flame of inextinguishable animosity; and Peter Carroll, Chris Haywood, and Hugh Keays-Byrne as the unsettled and unsettling clients in Sleeping Beauty.
Additional Runners-Up: Marton Csokas for his believable spin on what is more or less the O'Dowd role in Julie Bertuccelli's The Tree; Kenneth Lonergan for nailing the desire for camaraderie but the helplessness at real intimacy as the cross-country dad in Margaret; Bryan Cranston, who's been limping around the borderlands of petty crime for so long in Drive that he's almost forgotten how quickly it can all end; Brian Cox for his fatigue, his knack for conciliation, and his weariness with a tone-deaf leader in Coriolanus; Patton Oswalt for bringing so much color and personality to Young Adult that you almost stop begrudging what a crutch his character is; Burt Young for blurring the line between a mental fog and a shocked reaction to shabby treatment in Win Win; Shahab Hosseini, for making us wonder and worry throughout A Separation just how unstable his character is; Guy Pearce for both his flaunted and his wounded vanity in Mildred Pierce; Markus Schleinzer for an unforgettable face and a failure to play his hunches correctly in The Robber; Kiefer Sutherland for half-tolerating and half-loathing Melancholia's effulgent wedding, perking up when something truly interests him, refusing to believe that his only source of pleasure might destroy him; Ezra Miller, giving his most plausible and well-shaded spin on his troubled-youth typecasting in the Sundance drama Another Happy Day; Nick Nolte for being so moving on the lawn and in the diner and in the dark of Warrior, despite some overshooting towards the end; Jamie Bell, for so concisely forcing us to ask whether St. John is a worthy partner or a hovering trap for the heroine of Jane Eyre; Goran Visnjic for his odd, impish boyfriend in Beginners, tempting us to question his sincerity before certifying his love past all doubt; Kevin Spacey for finally showing up to play ball again in Margin Call, after what feels like years; and Charles Parnell for taking a bemused interest in his daughter's rebel streak in Pariah until, suddenly, he doesn'tthough even then, he keeps re-drawing the line between empathy and aloofness.
Maybe one day I'll regret that I'm leaving out Albert Brooks and the whole Tinker Tailor crew, but as glad as I am to applaud their solid work, none of them truly interested me as much as all of these guys did.
Films I Hated to Skip Before Posting: Cold Weather, Of Gods and Men