Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Supporting Actor Lineup (Now With More Psychological Problems!)

When I covered actor, supporting actress and actress, I combined all the competitors into one fictional composite character... but with this category, what's the point? The only thing you must know (if you don't already) is that this guy has serious psychological issues. Whether he's a mathematician, a pedophile, a super villain, a politician or an acclaimed actor, he's just plain nuts! Mental disturbances = your surest way into the Oscar race (if you have a penis. For actors with vaginas, the rules are a bit different)

Over at the Supporting Actor Page there's detailed silly theorizing as to how each contestant got nominated as well as a poll that pleads for your take on this race (preference wise. After all, we all know what to predict). Who do you think gave the best performance? Robert Downey Jr, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Shannon, Josh Brolin or the late and greatly missed Heath Ledger? Or here's a better question for the comments... who comes in second place for you?

Personally I was annoyed at first with PSH taking up space yet again but I think it's a very solid lineup when all is said and done -- any line up with three genuinely inspired performances (and two of them off preferred genres at that) is worthwhile. I wasn't completely sold on Michael Shannon's performance either actually (in Revolutionary Road) but I've loved him since he went completely starkers for the great play Bug here in NYC so I'm glad he's now winning mainstream attention.


Anonymous said...

There's no way he was best by a country mile for brokeback. I have to agree with the academy for going for PSH that year he was brilliant

Michael C. said...

I agree, this is a list they can be proud of even if I would change 60% of it.

I say, bump Hoffman to lead (move over Mr. Button) Keep Heath and Michael Shannon then add:

Fiennes - In Bruges
Marsan - Happ-Go-Lucky
Irwin - Rachel Getting Married

So I'd vote for Heath but my second choice would be Michael Shannon. He did what a great Supporting performance is supposed to do. He was like a hand grenade tossed into that film, he owned his time on screen and his presence pervaded scenes he wasn't in. I also think he wins points for originality. I've seen nutters before but never like him. When you do give out prizes for line readings I hope you remember his "What's obvious about it?" It was like watching a fuse being lit.

My actual second place would be Eddie Marsan but he took a drive with Poppy to Snubs-ville. Maybe if she would've just put on the right shoes...

Derek said...

My second choice is Michael Shannon, but this is a very solid lineup. Supporting Actor is stronger this year than in recent memory, and AMPAS didn't embarrass themselves like they sometimes do when there's a wealth to choose from.

One complaint, though: while grief may have had a role in Heath's nomination, I'd argue that it certainly wasn't 40%... the performance stands on its own without the outside circumstances.

cal roth said...

I second the first anon comment. PSH was brilliant, and deserved that Oscar. He was better than Ledger and AMPAS did it right. I like Ledger's performance in Brokeback Mountain, but it's far from perfection. PSH was perfect, and that has nothing to do with mimicry, as you like to say. He nailed every complicated and internal piece of the character, and the impact of the great last scene with Perry is beyond phenomenal. It's not only "showy". It's really deep - he has to deal with so much more than repressed love and frustration. His part is kind of evil, too, with funny spins. Very complicated part, and PSH was just perfect.

Howler said...

I think there are three leads in this category (Hoffmann, Ledger and Downey Jr) so I'm not completely sold.
Downey Jr comes in the second place for me, definitely.
I loved Hoffman's performance until he started his shouting, I loved Brolin's performance but I prefer Franco in "Milk" and I disliked Shannon's role so much that I ended up hating the performance. I can't believe anyone could do it right (for me, at least).
My lineup: Brolin, Fiennes, Franco, Irwin, Marsan.

cal roth said...

My pick for this category wasn't nominated: how long it'll take to Mathieu Amalric be recognized in America? He was brilliant, one more time, in A Christmas Tale.

This time I think Ledger do deserve the Oscar, and I'd vote for him. Next: Downey Jr. (Hoffman has a leading role)

Lee said...

Michael Shannon for the win! The most brilliant supporting performance of the year hands-down! I hope he spoils and beats Ledger.


Derek -- I 100% agree that Heath's performance stands on its own. But I'm theorizing about the Academy and that's just not the kind of film / performance they go for unless there are extenuating circumstances. Ever.

I'm not trying to be a dick. I just know that nobody takes these things seriously until they have to.

Howler -- it was the shouting that did in PSH for me too. It seemed like he was crafting something delicate and unlike his two preferred acting modes: quiet/pathetic/miserable and shouty/angry but then it changed so i wasn't into it anymore.

I still maintain that Magnolia and Capote are the only award worthy performances in that filmography but I know I'm in the .009 % of the world and way off consensus ;)

never mind me. i'm the crazy Ledger loving / Hoffman averse guy in the corner scribbling on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Heath's was the only roll that left us repeating the lines. How can he not win ??


that was true also in BRokeback ;)

but yes he'll win this year, easily.

cal roth said...

I can't see what the fuss is all about?

Anonymous said...

I thought Michael Shannon was amazing in Revolutionary Road. It honestly reminded me a little of the crazy that Heath brought to the Joker. I think if Shannon had a little more screen time to show off that incredible performance, and if Ledger was still alive, it would be a close race between the two.

I definitely thought Hoffman was leading, but since he's already in this category, I liked his role a lot. I'm kind of a fan of screaming and yelling...maybe why I liked Revolutionary Road so much....anyway, I would vote Ledger, then Shannon, then Hoffman, then Brolin, then Downey Jr.

cal roth said...

Just kidding. I just wanted to repeat this line.

But Nathaniel, when did shouting was prohibited in acting? If it is necessary or it feels organic for a role, an actor must SHOUT. PSH did it wrong sometimes, but did it right, too. Many times. I can't see his character in Before the Devil... (in which he was very very good) without that expansive acting.

Actors today think good acting is just trying to be subtle, keeping their mouths shut and looking a little bit depressive. It takes cojones to go where PSH goes. It's not easy. Sometimes you can end up looking like that ridiculous Annette Bening you don' know how to be BIG.

cal roth said...


I did't read my last post again before submitting. Sorry.


cal -- it's not the shouting that's the problem. It's the shouting as one of only two real modes in his performance style.

I need more variety. At the very least I wish people would stop acting like he's a "character actor". He's a movie star in a character actor's body but he's definitely not a chameleon. It's always PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN.

that's ok and everything -- i love a lot of movie stars who only do a few things. I guess I just rail at the fact that he gets credit for doing 100 when he does 2.

Scott said...

Count me as part of the RDJ group.

And count me among the group that wouldn't have voted for PSH for Capote (in which I found him mannered and ***ACTING***!!! in grating ways).

Jack said...

I can't believe that you think Best Supporting Actor is usually the worst line-up. Admittedly, my favorite category is usually Cinematography, but out of the main categories, Supporting Actor is always consistently the strongest.

Criticlasm said...

To be totally nerdy here, you could look at the PSH/HL actor year as similar to the Streep/Lange year of 81. You had two indisputably brilliant perfs, but one that just really had to get the award. There's no doubt, I think, that PSH was brilliant in Capote, and he transformed the way Streep did for Sophie, but Ledger and Lange both did emotionally challenging, superb work in felt, brilliant performances which did not seem to be as transformational. I'm not expressing it well, but that dichotomy, between emotional, felt, real performances by an actor vs performances that seem completely transformational, is what I think that's about.

Frankly, that's why I hope Penn gets it this year-_I think he did both. He seemed to shift something inside himself and who we understood him to be as an actor/person, while not appearing to do so. Quite an act, I think.

As for my second in this race, from what I've seen I'd go for. Haven't seen Shannon; Brolin gets more diffuse for me as my time away from the film grows; PSH is almost a lead and I think upset the balance of the piece; so I'd probably go with Downey.

Garen said...

Michael Shannon is actually my second place. I had issues with RR, but I loved his performance. His scenes were my faves of the film.

Rebecca said...

My second place is RDJ.

I also agree with you on PSH. I always feel like I'm supposed to love him, but he just comes off so smug. He's always Philip Seymour Hoffman in every performance. I will admit that I've never seen 'Capote', and that's because I heard someone compare his performance to Milton in 'Office Space' and now I could never take it seriously.

RGM said...

What did you mean when you said that rewarding Heath is the "good/correct" way to honor "The Dark Knight"? Are you saying it deserves nothing beyond supporting actor? Techs? Or is that just the highest profile category for it to be rewarded in, and that's what the audience wants to see the most now. Is that also somehow validating the Academy's snubbing of it in best picture and best director (and for the awful "The Reader" of all things)? Can you clarify that meaning there?

Sam said...

I agree that Philip Seymour Hoffman fully earned his Oscar for "Capote", and that was my choice that year too. Nothing against Heath in "Brokeback", but that was just a case where I liked one over the other.

I generally like this category, but I thought that "Tropic Thunder" was pretty much unwatchable, so Robert Downey Jr. making it in for that performance drags down the category considerably. Loved PSH in "Doubt", he's my second pick after Heath, who'll win this no problem and will be the pinnacle of my Oscar night. Michael Shannon was good, but there's many names that I'd replace with him. Josh Brolin wasn't even the best supporting actor in "Milk", let alone the entire field, so that nomination doesn't do much for me either. But Heath's Joker more than makes up for those deficiencies in the end.

Jamie said...

Robert Downey Jr was nominated 60% because of his performance?
I think the reason why he got the nod was because people really like him, and they were expecting to nominate him for The Soloist (more Oscar-y), but then it got pushed to 2009, and they still thought they had to give him something (and they weren't going to nominate him for Iron Man).

rawfish said...

#2 is definitely Josh Brolin. Just imagine how hammed up the performance would have been if done by any other actor. Brolin delivered it so perfectly subtle and haunting. The scene of him walking down the hall with the camera fixed on his face alone is worthy of the nomination.

#3 is RDJ. Bravest performance of the year. He really went all out on that one.

The rest is meh.


RGM... i don't mean to imply that the Dark Knight deserved the big snub. I just mean that the primary reason (and I truly believe this) that people love it to the depths that they do is because of Heath Ledger's work. Therefore that's the best category to give it a statue in. And it was the only one it was going to win (in terms of the top 8 categories) anyway...

I do think The Reader has been badly maligned due to this snubbing and that that's silly because the Reader is far more interesting as films go than Frost/Nixon.

I like the Dark Knight better than Benjamin Button, Slumdog or Frost/Nixon.

Deborah said...

I loved Milk, you know that. But I just don't get why Josh Brolin is singled out here, except that he plays the lone straight role. Is there all that much to it? Brolin is a very fine actor, and he certainly brought his own fine sensibilities to the performance, but I'm just not there with "Oscar nomination."


Jamie the reason for the high number there is that type of ballsy comedic turn is only nominated if the person is brilliant (see also Johnny Depp in Pirates)

you can give a subpar performance in a drama and be nominated if the timing / field / movie is the right one. But if you're a fully comedic role you'll never get anywhere close to a nomination unless people think you're freaking brilliant in it.

Anonymous said...

"The Reader" is an awful film that not only uses the Holocaust as a backdrop to this ridiculous love story and "shame" of poor Hanna not being able to read (yeah, that's more to be ashamed of than killing 300 Jews). Plus the film should have been done in German with German actors, not in English. The time frame should have been better managed too. "Frost/Nixon" was "Citizen Kane" compared to this trash.

cal roth said...

Nathaniel, you're looking at what's outside. PSH can scream every words he wants, but his turns in Mission Impossible, Capote, Before the Devil... and Charlie Wilson's War are totally different performances and make us feel different things. I agree he repeats the same tricks, but he always get different wonders.

RobUK said...

I'm really not crazy about this category, and even my adoration of Heath's work here is blighted by my general numbness for The Dark Knight.

I generally love Josh Brolin, and I loved Milk, but his nomination for me has the equivalent rationality that your podcasts level at "Frost/Nixon" for being the Best Picture race... i.e. I just don't get why it kept turning up all season in the precursors and seamlessly cruised to a nomination. I thought James Franco was infinitely more impressive in that movie, and I just don't get the love for Brolin. I can see that, before they started shooting, the role - on paper, or indeed if you watch The Times of Harvey Milk - would be the supporting performance you'd expect to see nominated, but I don't think the execution warranted the love.

Clearly I'm on my own in this, so I'll stop whining and move on...

...to whining about Michael Shannon, who I also don't get. Didn't he just sorta shout clever insightful stuff whilst providing questionable comic relief?

Meh. This category can just do the posthumous tribute thing and move on for me.

RobUK said...

P.S. Anonymous 2-above... I think, with respect, that The Reader is making the very same point you're accusing it of not making; that it is more ridiculous to be ashamed of being unable to read than it is of killing Jews. Further, that instance of tragic irony (in the Alanis sense) isn't the decision of the filmmakers, but one of the fundamental points of the adapted source material.

I agree with you that the timeframe was rather confusingly handled however.


what RobUK said.

I find reaction to Holocaust stories so troubling because people always want them to play as pure good and evil history tales but what do we learn from them if they're played that way? Nothing.

People are capable of these things. And whole swaths of people are capable of supporting systems that allow for atrocities as long as they don't have to commit the atrocities themselves and if you demonize other people long enough... well, to make a long story short:

I seriously don't get the point of any filmed treatment of the Holocaust that DOESN'T move into these really uncomfortable kinda yucky kind of WHAT'S WRONG WITH HER/HIM? areas.

so i liked The Reader.

It's far from perfect and I don't think it merited a BP nomination but they've nominated a lot worse films than that in the past.

Anonymous said...

Shannon would get my vote over Ledger. In fact, I think Heath's work is highly overrated.

It's been a year since his death so we can all be honest again, right?


Ryan said...

First, I must say the Supporting Actor field was quite rich this year. And even though Brolin’s performance has slipped a bit in my mind (though admittedly his distressed line reading of “You will NOT demean me!” was spot-on) and Hoffman never had me to begin with, this is overall a respectable lineup with two truly phenomenal, “Oscar-repellent” performances. I only wish Pitt had been honored here for BAR instead of BB.

In regard to echoes from the 2005 Best Actor race, I’ve ALWAYS perceived Philip Seymour Hoffman to be an abhorrently overrated actor- even before his grand theft of Ledger’s statute for “Brokeback”. My one succor having been that despite Hoffman’s near dominance that year, Ledger still snagged the most prestigious critics award; the NYFCC (as well as a Film Bitch prize). In light of all this, it’s somewhat irritating that Hoffman has now wheedled his way back into a lineup with Ledger’s name in the mix… but I ain’t gonna let that spoil the moment.

While my beloved Heath would have probably hated all this, it's still comforting for those of us he touched so deeply to know that on Feb 22, he will be honored with an Oscar; recognizing two already legendary- albeit very different- performances that will be placed among cinema’s greatest.

Sigh... we miss you Heath.


anon 6:14. I dunno. you didn't type your name so maybe we're not ready for full honesty ;)

Brodie said...

Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading. ohhhhhhhh thats right, everyone's stupid and he got a nod for arguably his worst performance in a brilliant career, when his best performance which was released in the same year went unnoticed!

of the nominees, this is how I'd rank them:
and I can't even believe that stupid performance got a nomination. eugh I really hate RDJ

ajnrules said...

Am I the only person who thinks that Philip Seymour Hoffman bears a striking resemblance to Curt Schilling? I think we know who to turn to if somebody ever decides to make a Schilling biopic.

Anyways, I've only seen The Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder, so Ledger/Downey are my 1-2 punch by default, but I'm getting to be pretty certain that the Academy will throw a hook and give us the upset of the century in this category. I'm not sure which of the other four will win, but the chances of it happening rises with each passing day.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Anonymous 2-above... I think, with respect, that The Reader is making the very same point you're accusing it of not making; that it is more ridiculous to be ashamed of being unable to read than it is of killing Jews. Further, that instance of tragic irony (in the Alanis sense) isn't the decision of the filmmakers, but one of the fundamental points of the adapted source material.

I didn't read the novel, nor should I have had to when it came to what was presented in the film. The big point that you think they made I thought they didn't, which was a fundamental flaw that made a promising premise into something poor and dreadful. "The Reader" is a terrible film, and it isn't worth any of the Oscars that it's about to get this month, especially for Kate Winslet.

Glenn said...

Hey, if books can be translated into English, why can't books be adapted into English-language movies.

In regards to supporting actor... Love Heath, Really liked Hoffman (oddly), but would put him in Lead, prefered Hirsch and Franco to Brolin, didn't care for Shannon and I haven't seen Tropic Thunder.

My personal top five at the moment is:

Emile Hirsch, Milk
James Franco, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Steve Le Marquand, Men's Group
Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading.

So, ya know, 1/5 is a good crossover, right?!

Anonymous said...

Hey, if books can be translated into English, why can't books be adapted into English-language movies.

B/c if the adaptation is inauthentic, dishonest, and half-assed, it should have simply either not have been made at all or done by people who could have brought some truth to it and done the story justice with actual German actors.