Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Fifties for 2013: Best Supporting Actor

Joe's Picks

Keith Carradine, Ain't Them Bodies SaintsEmory Cohen, The Place Beyond the PinesJohn Gallagher, Jr., Short Term 12Ben Foster, Ain't Them Bodies SaintsPeter Sarsgaard, Blue Jasmine

Nick's Picks

James Franco, Spring BreakersJohn Henshaw, The Angels' SharePeter Kazungu, Paradise: LoveYiftach Klein, Fill the VoidBen Mendelsohn, The Place Beyond the Pines

JOE: Nick, I came sooooo close to putting Ben Mendelsohn on my own list. For a movie I had a decent number of issues with, the uniformly strong cast went a long way toward keeping things on the right track for me, while Cianfrance worked his themes out. Of course I was highly tempted to once again throw my beloved Dane DeHaan some recognition, but ultimately, my surprise at Cohen's layered surliness won the day. Such a recognizable character for someone so closed off, and the friendship/bully axis he works with DeHaan unlocked a good deal of that movie for me.

I ultimately—and perhaps unfairly—disqualified Franco from my field because I was so disillusioned at how Spring Breakers became so enamored of him and promptly ignored the women whose story I thought we were following. He's certainly the performance from the first half of the year that people are still talking about. Buzz justified, I guess you'd say?

NICK: Weirdly, I wouldn't say that.  I actually don't like Franco's performance as used in the film.  Where you see it as pulling focus from the girls (and I don't disagree), I hate how it locks down the preternaturally mobile and expressive camera into a series of Behold the Master close-ups and medium shots.  As a formal element, Alien is my least favorite thing in Spring Breakers.  But as much as I associate Franco with cockiness and am therefore tempted to blame him for showboating, I think the performance itself is a pretty sensational act of self-transformation and witty repackaging.  He almost lost his slot to an opposite performance—Alec Baldwin's small and utterly unshowy part in Blue Jasmine, playing to me the most plausible human being in the film—and he'll probably fall out later.

Say more about why Cohen isn't "overdoing it," which is the same critique Franco's vulnerable to, and one I've heard lobbied against Pines in general and Cohen in particular.  Then I promise I'll reply about Mendelsohn!

JOE: I figured I'd get dinged for Cohen, as I have been for most of the year. I feel like I've observed enough of That Kid to know he's not overdoing it. And I think the subtleties of how he reacts to his dad vs. how he reacts at the funeral vs. how he acts at school—and within that, how he reacts when he wants something from DeHaan and when he knows he isn't going to get it—generate a lot of story within his shifting tones.  I think underplaying it would have been the wrong choice because we'd have missed a lot of this.

NICK: I'm totally open to a Cohen defense. He's not on my list but, as someone we both know said, "He was doing a weird thing, but the thing was so weird I eventually got into it."  As for Mendelsohn, even if he's in danger of getting trapped in decrepit-wrongdoer parts, he's always fascinating in them, and I like his blend of compassion and self-interest in hiring Gosling, his oscillations between eagerness and conscience regarding their endeavors, and the sensitivity he shows around DeHaan despite his inveterate shiftiness.  It's also nice to see such a dissipated, lower-class recluse show such tough, precise, no-guff mettle at pulling off an intricate task.  Zero condescension in his work.

Tell me about Sarsgaard, with his light riff on Gavin Newsom (even the hair!), and then we'll swap stories about your three nominees from movies that haven't opened yet and my three nominees from movies that disappeared in the blink of an arthouse eye.

JOE: I will take that subtle shade at my questionable business practices and run with it!

But first: citing Sarsgaard might partly entail a pre-emptive strike at the Critic Bros who will want to oversell Andrew Dice Clay's performance and create this comeback narrative around him for whatever reason. (Clay is fine. He plays a very Andrew Dice Clay part exactly how you would expect Andrew Dice Clay to play it, no more, no less.) In comparison, I thought Sarsgaard's task was much more complicated, having to be both object and subject, simultaneously Jasmine's life preserver and also a clearly terrible idea for her. The way he played it kept you from thinking Jasmine was being too much of an idiot by going for this guy, who clearly couldn't handle her shit; at the same time, he saves that ultimate reveal from seeming too unexpected. I'm a sucker for actors who do the attraction/revulsion thing well. 

So talk to me about your art house fellas. I take it Fill the Void is a keeper?

NICK: No shade.  I mean, did someone else just nominate ScarJo based on a pre-release screening?  It's all hugs here.  I love thinking about Sarsgaard as something more complicated than a deus ex machina for Jasmine.  You've made me want to watch him again.

Fill the Void is extremely well-acted.  I found the atmosphere and story structure a bit oppressive, but reader, I cannot tell a lie: I was also fighting sleep and occasionally slipping into it.  I can't file a full claim on the film until I take a second pass, but the actors are a good motivator to do so.  Klein plays an Orthodox Jewish Israeli whose first wife dies.  He is torn between marrying a new gal in Belgium (is her appeal about the opportunity to skip town and evade a suffocating culture?) or marrying his wife's younger sister (is he being creepy, practical, or earnest in considering this option?).  Klein keeps all those plates spinning in a terse, compelling, even soft way, without quite befriending the audience.  Kazungu, meanwhile, plays a Kenyan fellow who is clearly on the make in seducing an older Austrian tourist.  Then again, even more than love or arousal, she craves the feeling of being loved and sexually stimulated, so Munga is not convinced he's doing anything wrong by acting the part, stoking those feelings, and expecting payment.  Plus, he might even like her.  Kazungu's arguably a lead, but I think he belongs in this category, and he deserves the plaudits that somehow got lost amid the fully warranted admiration for the film and the actress.  More on her later.

Ben Foster has become a real pull for me, when I used to find him overbearing and out of his depth.  The Messenger sold me big time, and I know we both liked Rampart.  Tell me about him in Saints, which I'm really excited to see!

JOE: I was onboard even for the overbearing days (Alpha Dog and 3:10 to Yuma in particular), but the counter-programmings of quiet decency in movies like this one and The Messenger really hammer home what a capable and undervalued actor he is. He's an oasis of that very decency in Ain't Them Bodies Saints; in particular, he gets one monologue that makes sense of not only his motivations but his scene partner's as well. Granted, I could not have cared less about Casey Affleck's and Rooney Mara's characters, which probably left me grasping for someone in the movie to latch onto, so maybe I'm reaching a bit here, particularly where Keith Carradine is concerned. But I was riveted to whatever he was saying, even if it didn't matter a bit to me what that was. He gets just right the kind of dangerous/dad-like mixture in old dusty patriarchs, and his rare moments of action are genuinely surprising and visceral.

Now talk to me about The Angels' Share and then I'll swap you some John Gallagher Jr.

NICK: The Angels' Share was a not-entirely-welcome winner of the Cannes Jury Prize in 2012, deserving neither the prize nor the level of pushback it received.  It was an afterthought by the time it opened a year later in the US, as Loach movies usually become here, but it's quietly lovely, balancing a grim opening with a whimsical caper-comedy resolution.  Its anchor for me was Henshaw's turn as the supervisor of a bunch of Scottish youths sentenced for their misdemeanors to long bouts of community service.  Simultaneously firm but rascally, he introduces the whole crew to the pleasures of whiskey-tasting—an idea that is great but also not great.  Henshaw's performance is dramatic when necessary and lightly comedic, bringing paternal indulgence and bail-bondsman weariness to the part.  He's also the center of the year's sweetest ending so far, even better than Sandy Bullock with her yearbook.  He might be my winner at this point.  Is Gallagher yours?

JOE: He's not at the moment, but a week ago, he was outside the top 5 so talk to me in a few days and see where I'm at. Initially, I was so bowled over by Short Term 12's lead performance that I don't think I gave consideration to much else. But a huge part of what makes that film so lovely is the unfussy central relationship between Mason and Grace, and Gallagher and Larson both play it perfectly. For a character who spends so much of his time reacting to Grace, supporting Grace, and circling Grace, Gallagher gives Mason so many small moments where an independent character can  shine through.

And by the way, I'm fully aware of the dissonance that comes from having a Smash cast member and a Newsroom cast member in my top 5, but take it as a beautiful lesson in finding the right projects for the right people. Did you have a hard time making your cuts in this category? Or are you, as with Supporting Actress, waiting for the fall/winter to fill in some blanks?

NICK: These came pretty quickly to me.  I keep reading that Blue Jasmine is chock-a-block with good performances from its men, but if you're itchy about overpraise for Andrew Dice Clay, I remain irritated by the credit Bobby Cannavale continues to reap for overplaying almost all of his roles.  Besides Baldwin, the only other contender I really considered was Serge Kanyinda, who plays the heroine's antagonist and then her ally and, briefly, her beloved in War Witch.  I'm not sure who most intrigues me in the fall when it comes to this category, but I expect it'll get shaken up a fair bit.  You?

JOE: I've been down on Cannavale ever since he ham-sandwiched his way through the entire last season of Boardwalk Empire, though I have liked him previously. Besides Mendelsohn and DeHaan, it was tough to leave out The Bling Ring's Israel Broussard (is he a lead, though?) and Frances Ha's Michael Zegen. And at some point, I have to have a reckoning about Matthew Goode's performance in Stoker, which is so delicious up until a plot twist that I am pretty sure though not 100% he plays completely wrong.
As for the year to come, I'm really interested in seeing what Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum are up to in Foxcatcher, not to mention Michael Fassbender's third teaming with Steve McQueen in 12 Years a Slave. Also, sorry, shoot me, I'm dying to see what Tom Hanks does with Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.

NICK: Hanks is unbeatable casting as Disney, so from that standpoint I'm excited.  I can't believe how much Cumberbatch we'll be expected to tolerate this season; I think he's supporting in pretty much everything.  I'm not at all excited about The Wolf of Wall Street, but I'd like to see McConaughey continue his hot streak and to see, if possible, a new side of Jean Dujardin.

Also, I don't know why I said Henshaw was my winner, because it might just as well be Kazunga or Klein or Mendelsohn.  They're all great, and Place Beyond the Pines and Paradise: Love both came out this month on DVD, so readers, you can help me decide!

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Anonymous Liz said...

I briefly considered posting an FYC for Ben Mendelsohn in my comment yesterday, but I'm glad I didn't have to. He's by far my favorite supporting actor of the year at this point. But sorry, count me among those not enamored of Emory Cohen's Brando-as-freshman-drama-student thing.

Really looking forward to "Ain't Them Bodies Saints."

3:57 PM, August 17, 2013  
Anonymous BVR said...

My list:

Alec Baldwin, "Blue Jasmine"
Kyle Chandler, "The Spectacular Now"
Ben Mendelssohn, "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Tim Roth, "Broken"
Michael Zegen, "Frances Ha"

- I'm not a fan of "Spring Breakers," since I found every element in the movie too self-indulgent and off-puttingly shameless in its show-offy way.

- I originally loved Cumberbatch in "Star Trek Into Darkness," but now he seems like a Fassbender-a-la-Prometheus for me: totally skillful performance that doesn't really ring anything special.

-Bobby Cannavale always talks a lot in his films without actually saying anything about his characters, and "Blue Jasmine" is no exception.

- I have no idea how to categorize Cooper, Gosling, and Dehaan from "Place Beyond the Pines." Are they all supporting??? Help!

- Lastly, can someone please give Kyle Chandler a leading role. He's brilliant in everything, and he fully embodies his role in "The Spectacular Now" that you realize what a total cliche that character could have been in the hands of the wrong actor.

3:18 AM, August 18, 2013  
Anonymous BVR said...

Also, I'm posting an FYC comment for Cate Blanchett's impeccable work in "Blue Jasmine." Besides "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "The Aviator," and "I'm Not There," I'm not really a fan of Blanchett, but she blew me away in Allen's movie. I hope to see her in both your ballots (fingers crossed).

5:05 AM, August 18, 2013  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Liz: Glad to be on the same as you again. We're totally going to make a Sheleg-Mendelsohn vehicle happening. Maybe a remake of The Honeymoon Killers.

@BVR: Another Baldwin fan! Great list. I really did not like Chandler back in the King Kong days, when I never really understood what he was doing even with smallish, low-stress parts. It's quite a turnaround. I hadn't seen Spectacular Now yet when I hit the 50 mark or he'd easily have qualified here.

10:36 AM, August 18, 2013  
Anonymous BVR said...

Nick: Agree with you on Chandler. I actually thought Chandler, along with Black, was one of the elements that were dragging King Kong down. I think his turning point was "Friday Night Lights." That show brought the best out of him in every way, and ever since he's been on my radar.

3:29 PM, August 18, 2013  
Blogger Glenn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:54 PM, August 19, 2013  
Blogger Glenn said...

My choices would be...

Dane DeHaan, "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Rutger Hauer, "Il Futuro"
Ryan Gosling, "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Toby Irvine, "Great Expectactions"
Keith Stanfield, "Short Term 12"

3:58 PM, August 19, 2013  
Anonymous goran said...

I almost stopped reading at Emory Cohen (who -> FYC Worst Performance of the Decade), but that would have been silly. Very fun read! As always.

Franco and Kazungu are probably the only names mentioned that I would put on a ballot. But that evidently has a lot to do with how Blue Jasmine, Fill the Void and Short Term 12 haven't been released anywhere near me (I am very much looking forward to ALL of them.) Also I just have an instinctive dislike of Mendelsohn, based on associating him with execrable Australian 90s dramas - though I'll grant you he was best in show in Pines.

I was slightly more impressed by Bob Odenkirk in his cameo in Spectacular Now than I was by Kyle Chandler, who was good but I could see the Acting.

Otherwise beside Franco and Kazungu, I would probably vote for Jacob Lofland in Mud, Valeriu Andriuta in Beyond the Hills and okay, fine, Mendelsohn.

9:27 PM, August 19, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the only one that liked Canavale in Blue Jasmine? I thought he walked that fine line of being just aggressive enough to be a little scary and yet you know his anger and violence came out of a broken heart and not from misogyny. [SPOILER!] You understand Jasmine convincing Ginger to break up with him and yet it doesn't feel totally wrong when they get back together at the end, and it doesn't allow the easy answer of Jasmine's right/Ginger's wrong, he's bad/he's good.

And if he doesn't feel like a real person to you be verrrry thankful that you haven't met that kind of guy in your life. (Having said that, his character's not a total asshole, but just kind of annoying.)

9:40 PM, September 09, 2013  

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