Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Guide to Best Supporting Actor 2013

In anticipation of the Oscars on Sunday, March 2, I'll be taking a closer look at the 4 acting categories throughout the month.

Campaigning in this category got off to an interesting start with the early-release ads touting James Franco's turn in Spring Breakers asking voters to Consider This Shit. Another name in the running came about in sad way. After the sudden death of beloved Soprano's star James Gandolfini in the summer, popular opinion was that his work in Enough Said would make him a sentimental favorite with voters. But when the nominations were announced, neither were on the list and the only real surprise was that Jonah Hill managed to make the fifth slot over Daniel Brühl's lead turn in Rush (he seemed poised for a nom after scoring nominations from both the Golden Globes and SAG). The 5 names that emerged are a mix of Oscar first-timers and couple of guys looking for their first win after previous nominations. But one name seems to have emerged as the clear favorite to win– I just never thought that person would be the man forever to be known as Jordan Catalano. Here are the Best Supporting Actor Nominees for 2013.

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Barkhad Abdi Captain Phillips

Age: 28
Previous Oscar Nominations: Film debut
The Role: Abduwali Muse, a Somalian pirate that hijacks the cargo ship that Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips is the commander of
Why He's Here: It seems almost everything written about the Somalian-born Abdi seems to focus on his life before winning the part of Muse at an open-call audition. At the age of 14, he moved to Minnesota and previously worked as a limo driver before holding his own on-screen alongside Oscar winner, Tom Hanks. And while his backstory is the sort of Cinderella-story that Oscar buzz thrives on, his powerful performance of a man just wanting something better in life is the real reason for the nomination. The newcomer is commanding in his early scenes ("Look at me. I'm the captain now.") and equally as heartbreaking as the film progresses, where his story is given just as much weight as Phillips'. Abdi has since moved to LA and is now working with an agent to see how far he can take a career as an actor, but it seems it may be hard to top this cinematic introduction.

Bradley Cooper American Hustle

Age: 39
Previous Oscar Nominations: A nominee last year for Best Actor Silver Linings Playbook 
The Role: Cooper plays Richie DiMaso a hothead FBI agent that teams up with a couple of cons to bring down corrupt politicians
Why He's Here: I have to admit that I'm not quite understanding the newfound love of Bradley Cooper as "serious actor". His performance in last year's David O' Russell film seemed like a manic, one-note Ben Stiller impression. And his work in this film just seems like a reprise of that performance, but with a home perm. I can never get past the fact that it feels like he's trying to make every moment and line as funny and intense as possible without regard to the story or situation at hand. But clearly I'm in the minority as he's now a back-to-back nominee and a member of the Hollywood A-List.

Michael Fassbender 12 Years a Slave

Age: 36
Previous Oscar Nominations: Despite Oscar-worthy performances in previous films (including 2011's Shame) this is his first nomination
The Role: A sadistic, religious-spouting slave owner in 1840's Louisiana named Edwin Epps
Why He's Here: After campaigning hard a couple years ago for an Oscar nomination that never came to be for Shame, Fassbender said that this year he would not be going about it in the same way stating "It's just a grind and I'm not a politician. I'm an actor." Luckily the work speaks for itself and he was able to land his first nomination for his third collaboration with director Steve McQueen. As Epps, Fassbender plays a conflicted man. He truly believes it is his god-given right to own slaves but his general love of his slave Patsy (Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o) is at odds with how he feels about himself and what he's been taught. This category has always looked favorably on villainous performances and Fassbender is menacing and malicious, but the performance is far from a stock character as we see the complexity of what makes the monster.

Jonah Hill The Wolf of Wall Street

Age: 30
Previous Oscar Nominations: Hill was previously nominated in this category for his work in 2011's Moneyball
The Role: As Donnie Azoff, Hill plays the right-hand man of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort, a scamming, hard-partyting financial worker on Wall Street
Why He's Here: Who would have guessed that the star of gross-out comedies Superbad and Knocked Up would be an Oscar nominee, let alone a two-time nominee now? But here we are as Hill makes his second bid to score the ultimate acting prize. Despite some strong critical disdain for the film (saying that the film glamorizes the wicked-ways of its characters), it was none the less a hit with the Academy where it received 5 nominations. And Hill gives the kind of showy performance that's hard to ignore. It isn't long before he's introduced that he's already smoking crack. That's only the beginning of a performance that includes swallowing a live goldfish and, perhaps his most talked about scene, at a pool party where he, um, pleasures himself in front of everyone. After admitting on Howard Stern that he only received $60,000 for playing Donnie, he said that he would have done anything to appear in a Martin Scorsese film and judging from the end result, that certainly seems the case.

Jared Leto Dallas Buyer's Club

Age: 42
Previous Oscar Nominations: First nom
The Role: Rayon, a transgendered, drug-addicted, HIV-positive patient that teams up with Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) to sell non-FDA approved medications.
Why He's Here: Having already scored wins from the Golden Globes, SAG, and countless critics awards, it seems safe to say that Leto has this award wrapped up. After some early controversy that his acceptance speech at the Globes was too jokey and didn't pay enough tribute to those that died from AIDS, he seems to be going out of his way now giving the same speech each time, dedicating the win to "the Rayon's of the world". But you can tell that he was definitely honored to play the character. And much has been said about the actor's return to film after a 6 year hiatus and how he lost 30 pounds, waxed his entire body (including his eyebrows), and stayed in character for the duration of filming. In addition to the physical transformation he went through to play the character, Leto is not afraid to chart the emotional journey of Rayon as well–particularly in the scene where Rayon dresses in a suit to see her estranged father. Leto has said that he has no immediate plans to act again (he seems to be concentrating on his music career in the band 30 Seconds To Mars), but even if he never does, we'll at least have his compelling work in this film.

Who Will Win: Jared Leto
Who Should Win: Michael Fassbender, but I'm okay with Leto

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