Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Early Fall Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

With only two more months to go before the end of the year and only a handful of films still to be screened, the Best Supporting Actor category is still very much anyone's game. But as exciting as that seems, in theory, I found myself struggling to even fill out my own picks of favorite performances from this year. Certainly there must be some great performance that I'm overlooking. But for now, what people have decided as our options for the 5 slots aren't really inspiring much excitement in me...

One thing we know for sure, J.K. Simmons will be nominated (and possibly win) for Whiplash. Playing a hot-headed jazz instructor with a short-fuse, character actor Simmons is a foul-mouthed spitfire. I had such anxiety watching this film as if I was being yelled at and ridiculed by him personally. Although I was never taken with the character and don't feel Simmons gets to play much in this other than to be a gigantic screaming asshole, which he more than delivers. But it's just the type of showy turn from a respected actor that the Academy couldn't possibly overlook. I loved the actual film (and especially Miles Teller's performance) and won't begrudge Simmons his moment, but I did want more from him and never found his insults (especially his endless homophobic slurs) as shockingly funny as it seemed others did. The film was already a hit at Sundance and is it continues to open in more locations, I think the support for Simmons will geo even more.  

It's also a pretty safe bet to include two-time Oscar nominee Edward Norton for his performance as difficult theatre actor, Mike Shiner, in Birdman. Norton, playing on his own reputation as a prickly performer that clashes with his directors, is absolutely hilarious in the role. As the ultimate serious actor, Norton completely commits to the role, not afraid to show the pettiness of Shiner, relishing in how unlikable he can be. But then in quieter moments, (his rooftop scenes with Emma Stone crackle with silent, pulsating energy) he gets to show a gentler side that save the character from being a one-dimensional jerk. Norton hasn't been nominated in over 15 years (and not in this category since his film debut in 1996), but Birdman is already a hit with critics and has potential to hit big with the Academy. It seems that a nomination for Norton is definitely secure.

This summer when Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood was released, it seemed that the early Oscar buzz for an acting nomination was only on Patricia Arquette. But as the months have passed, former nominee Ethan Hawke (nominated in 2001 in this category for Training Day) began his slow burn and his name started coming up as often in regards to awards talk. And now he's already gained an acting nomination from the Gotham Independent Film Awards for his work as Mason, Sr. Hawke has steadily built a strong reputation within the film community over the years, even branching out from acting and garnering 2 screenplay nominations for his work on the two beloved Before Sunrise sequels. Even the people who didn't necessarily love the movie still admired the commitment it took to complete. Honoring Hawke here could be seen as a way of honoring the movie itself and his 12 year dedication to his performance.

After Foxcatcher finally made its debut at Cannes this past May, proving that the delay was worth it, the debate began on how Steve Carell and Channing Tatum would be campaigned for Oscars. It seems that, for now, both men will go lead. But there was no question that Oscar-nominee, Mark Ruffalo, playing real-life murder victim and Olympic wrestler David Schultz, would always be in the supporting category. And it looks like Ruffalo is most likely scoring his second Oscar nominations for his work in the film. However, if things start to shift and Carell feels he could win in Supporting, Ruffalo's chances of a nomination get a little bit tougher. Ruffalo has had some other well-received, high-profile work this year in Begin Again and an Emmy nomination for HBO's The Normal Heart. A nomination could be seen as reward for a successful year, which could also weigh heavily on receiving the nom.

But what to make of the 5th position? Right now everyone from Tyler Perry in Gone Girl to Robert Duvall in The Judge (I'm very surprised people are still holding on to that one considering how poorly received the film was critically and financially) to Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice (he has the best chance of a nomination from the movie, but it's not the contender I think we initially thought it was) to Tim Roth and Tom Wilkinson from the unseen Selma have all been mentioned. But I have a hunch that the 5th nominee, like in the Best Actor line-up, will come from Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. But with all the names that could potentially breakout (Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, Finn Wittrock), my feeling is that Japanese pop star Miyavi playing an officer in the POW camp that Jack O'Connell is held prisoner and the main antagonist of the hero has the kind of baity part that wins awards attention.

My Predictions
Ethan Hawke Boyhood
Miyavi Unbroken
Edward Norton Birdman
Mark Ruffalo Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons Whiplash

My Favorite Best Supporting Actor Performances (of what I've seen so far)
Ben Mendelsohn Starred Up
Bill Nighy Pride
Edward Norton Birdman
Christophe Paou Strangers by the Lake
Sam Rockwell Laggies

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