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Longlists to Nominees: Supporting Actor

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You cannot make bricks without clay, and we’ve got a shit-ton of clay to work with here; 14 actors representing 16 performances. I think I know what I want to do here…but there might be some surprises along the way.

Side note: Am I the only one who’s surprised NO ONE nominated Clooney for Gravity? Everyone goes nuts for that movie and they don’t they nominate the ONE other person in the cast? Not saying he should’ve been nominated, but the totality of his exclusion surprises me. (All he got was “Favorite Movie Duo” with Sandra Bullock from the People’s Choice Awards. Which…no.)

  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Daniel Brühl (Rush)
  • Chris Cooper (August: Osage County)
  • Paul Dano (Prisoners)
  • Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • James Franco (Spring Breakers)
  • John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Mud/The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • David Oyelowo (The Butler)
  • Sam Shepard (Mud/August: Osage County)
  • Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12)
  • Jiang Wu (A Touch of Sin)

First off, who are the locks? If you know me, you know it’s not even a contest.

Fassbender and Franco are on. They’re staying on. This is non-negotiable.

And…I’m going to say McConaughey, for Mud, should go on. It’s a great performance, and he had a hell of a year. For my money, this is the performance the Academy should’ve nominated.

Now, what do my past lists say?

Original: Abdi, Dano, Fassbender, Franco, Stanfield.

Intermediate: Dano, Fassbender, Franco, McConaughey, Stanfield.

So…I should really put Stanfield on. Because he was amazing. Which leaves me with two mortal locks and two critical-condition locks.

And 12 performances to consider for one slot.

No sweat.

  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

This is a performance I feel like I should like more than I do. Well before the film came out, just from the trailers, I figured his performance was one to watch. And the reviews and subsequent reception (namely, the Oscar nomination) would suggest that my hopes were borne out. But, the one time I saw the film, as impressed by it as I was…I wasn’t blown away by the performance. Abdi does a good job, no doubt, but I found it to be a one-note performance–always on the same level of low-key assurance (he repeats “Everything will be all right” so obsessively it’s almost a mantra), without quite finding the extra dimensions that his reflective moment in the trailer (“Maybe in America”) promised. As it is, that’s about all we see. To a degree, this might be an issue with the writing, and I wouldn’t deny that a second viewing might increase my appreciation of the performance. But as it stands now, it’s a good performance, one I support the Oscar nomination for, but will not presently be nominating.

(A shout-out, while we’re at it, to Faysal Ahmed. He was really good. Maybe better than Abdi, actually.)

  • Daniel Brühl (Rush)

SAG and the Globes nominated him, but though I think he does a good job, 1. he’s totally a lead, and 2. the performance isn’t quite good enough. It’s a fine performance, just…I don’t see quite how it’s an award-worthy performance. I like Brühl and I like the film, but it’s not happening.

  • Chris Cooper (August: Osage County)

I’m not nominating him, but I really liked his performance and wanted to recognize him. Because–that scene aside–he’s arguably the most good-hearted character in the entire film, patient and understanding with his fuck-up son (Benedict Cumberbatch), defending even to the point of threatening his beloved wife (Margo Martindale) with divorce. Cooper gives you the sense of a genuinely good person trying to stay sane in the midst of dysfunction, and were the competition not so stiff, he might have an outside chance at a nomination.

  • Paul Dano (Prisoners)

For a while, I was pretty convinced I hated Paul Dano. His work in Looper, especially…I really couldn’t stand him there. He was great in There Will Be Blood, but I guess between Looper and the trailer for Ruby Sparks, I decided “Paul Dano = fuck that guy”. But watching this, I thought, “Holy shit, he’s actually great here.” And he is. Most impressively, he takes a character that could have failed utterly (a grown man with the mental capacity of a child), and makes it work. So maybe, between him overcoming my loathing and him pulling the role off, I overrated the performance a tad, but I’m strongly considering him for the final slot nonetheless. Because it really is some solid work. (Also, Gyllenhaal is a lead here. If I consider him for a nomination, it’s in the lead category. There are some performances that can go either way. This really isn’t one.)

  • Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks)

I wasn’t hugely fond of this film, but Colin Farrell is incredible in it. He plays Travers Goff (P.L. Travers’ father), and he’s the sort of man who’s full of life, indulges his children, dreams big–and is ultimately a tragic, unfulfilled figure. However close to the real man the character comes (and this film is no documentary), Farrell brings him to life, cliché or not. It’s hard not to feel for him, as self-destructive as he is, because his love for his family (especially Pamela) is so clear. It’s a really, really good performance in a film that wasn’t totally worthy of it. So right now, it’s him and Dano duking it out for that last spot. Let’s see what else we have.

  • John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis)

For a while, I assumed Goodman would get on here without issue. Just from the trailer, he looked to be one of the best parts of the film. And he is. He’s just not in it very much. So, as much fun as he is here, I can’t really nominate him. But he is awesome here.

  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

(I wanted the goldfish scene, but this’ll do.)

I don’t really mind that the Academy went for him. He is good in the movie. But it’s not a performance that I think really merits a nomination. DiCaprio’s performance–yes. Hill, though…he’s mostly just smug and gross. Which he’s supposed to be. Which he does really well. But for a nomination? I’m not seeing it.

  • Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street)

This is like Goodman’s performance: he’s great, but it’s not a big role. In Mud, he has a complex character and an arc. Here, he’s just the 80s stock market personified. Which is great, but he’s in about 10 minutes of a three-hour film. So no dice. Love the hum, though.

  • David Oyelowo (The Butler)

Oyelowo’s really good here. Forest Whitaker too. They’re able to transcend the corniness of the script (especially where Oyelowo’s character is concerned), and have an effective dynamic in the midst of a history-parade soap opera. But is it so good that I need to nominate it? Probably not. Not when there’s only one slot left.

  • Sam Shepard (Mud/August: Osage County)

In Mud, Shepard is the mysterious old man who’s known Mud all his life, who ultimately proves (as the picture hints) to be a major badass. Shepard’s really good here, as he always is when he’s got a good role. And so he does in A:OC, where he’s the fatalistic poet whose disappearance sets the story in motion. He’s only in one scene, but it’s a great one, as he displays his erudition, his weariness, and his troubled relationship with his mad wife (Meryl Streep), all superbly, all in just a few minutes. There’s not quite enough to either performance to merit the nomination, especially not given the lack of space, but I wanted to highlight his work here. It’s some quality stuff. You might even say…it’s the right stuff.

(Also, a shout-out to Jacob Lofland in Mud. That’s a really strong performance I kind of forgot about.)

  • Jiang Wu (A Touch of Sin)

Wu’s really good as the gadfly-turned-vigilante. It’s a fairly low-key, but very effective performance. But, like I was saying in regards to Zhao Tao yesterday–the script is the real center of the film. The acting is excellent, but it’s such an ensemble that singling out performances feels weird. But he did a fine job. So did Luo Lanshan and Wang Baoqiang. (It’s an incredible film.)

So, who’s left to contend for the fifth spot?

It’s still down to Paul Dano and Colin Farrell. Which is a legitimately tough call to make.

Dano is in the better film and pulls off a difficult role well. Farrell is in the weaker film, but objectively, his performance might be a bit better. Dano also has his (very strong) work in 12 Years a Slave in his favor. So with that in mind, I’ll take Dano, leaving Farrell as a potential later replacement. It works for now.

(If you’re wondering where Jared Leto is…I just didn’t think his performance was that great. Plus, he’s a straight man playing a gay trans character in 2013. On some level, that’s not okay. So I have two good reasons.)

And so…

  • Paul Dano (Prisoners)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • James Franco (Spring Breakers)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Mud)
  • Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12)
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