The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Supporting Actor

by Dylan · February 13, 2008 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 9 Comments

Editor’s note: Welcome to the twelfth of a multi-part series dissecting the 2008 Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every weekday leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category (or more) of the Oscars (there are 24 in all). To read any other posts regarding this event, please just click on the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Wayward Jam of Reel Whore.

Best Supporting Actor. Unlike mysterious and obscure technical categories such as sound mixing, costume design and art direction, best supporting actor, at least to me, seems fairly self-explanatory. I like to think of this award as going to the person who gives a performance that is crucial in the development of the plot, provides flawless accompaniment to the major characters and contributes to the success of the film. I’d also like to think that this award is given to the actor most deserving, but as time has shown us, those who should receive the award and those who do receive it do not always coincide.

Using the Official Academy Awards Database I reflected on the contenders and winners of Best Supporting Actor from the last decade and frustration and aggravation washed over me. The list is as follows:

1997 Robin Williams Good Will Hunting
1998 James Coburn Affliction
1999 Michael Caine The Cider House Rules
2000 Benicio Del Toro Traffic
2001 Jim Broadbent Iris
2002 Chris Cooper Adaptation
2003 Tim Robbins Mystic River
2004 Morgan Freeman Million Dollar Baby
2005 George Clooney Syriana
2006 Alan Arkin Little Miss Sunshine

Each of the winners highlighted is someone I didn’t pull for that year. I am in no way saying these individuals were not deserving; in almost all cases I can see the brilliance of their portrayals. Personally, I just wished one of the other contenders would have won. Burt Reynolds’s Boogie Nights performance left all others in the dust in 1997; Robin Williams should have been a distant blur in the voters’ eyes. May he rest in peace, but how did James Coburn not lose to either Ed Harris (The Truman Show) or Geoffrey Rush (Shakespeare in Love)? And I say this as a huge fan of Coburn’s work. Conversely, I’m not a huge fan of Tom “Call me Crazy” Cruise, but his Magnolia performance ran circles around Michael Caine. The most neglected supporting performance of the past ten years is, without a doubt, Willem Dafoe for Shadow of the Vampire in 2000. Don’t get me wrong; Del Toro is an awesome actor but no one could touch Dafoe’s Max Schreck (“Oh. The script girl. I’ll eat her later.” The beauty of that moment alone should have sealed the deal for voters!). I assume Oscar voters’ snubbing of Freeman’s portrayal in Street Smart back in ’86, along with countless others since then, helped him win the ’04 Oscar despite the stiff competition from Clive Owen in Closer. I could continue with how Clooney picked up his award for growing a beard but I think you get the idea.

Using a bit of pseudo-statistics, I have deduced that three things hold sway over this award: age, coolness and snub factor. In addition to their great performances Coburn, Caine, Broadbent, Freeman, and Arkin were old. Similarly, who wouldn’t want the cool kids like Williams, Del Toro, Freeman and Clooney to join their exclusive club? The snub factor applies to folks like Freeman who have been repeatedly passed over despite numerous nominations, but it also applies to actors like Clooney who deserved kudos more for his direction and writing in Good Night, and Good Luck. Academy awarding is a complicated business!

Applying the appropriate weighting for coolness, snubbing and age, and accounting for the fact that I repeatedly back the wrong horse (2 out of 10) and, admittedly, seeing only three of the five performances in contention, here are my predictions for this year’s Best Supporting Actor.

Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) In one of the two films I didn’t see in 2007, Casey Affleck portrays Robert Ford. Based on the clips I have seen, he’s got the award in his sights. Throw in the major coolness factor of being part of Ocean‘s boys, plus the snub for his Gone Baby Gone role, and we may need to look no further for the winner.

Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) Bardem portrays hired killer Anton Chigurh in the heavily nominated No Country. The menacing growl in his voice, the coldness in his eyes, and that crazy hairdo all add up to a chilling character you won’t soon forget. But without the benefit of any coolness, age or snub factors, will his performance shine above all others?

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War) Sporting the retro vibe is Hoffman as Gust. This could be seen as a cumulative award for his spectacular work this year in The Savages and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. He is inarguably the most memorable character in Charlie Wilson’s War. But since he’s already a part of the exclusive club we have to wonder if this role will resonate enough to garner more award accolades for Hoffman.

Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) As the only other Oscar contender I never saw, Hal Holbrook does not enjoy the benefit of my critique since I’ve only seen a quick glimpse of him in the clips. Holbrook is the perpetual “that guy;” you’ve seen him in movies and TV shows for decades but may have never known his name. Lucky for him he doesn’t need my kudos because he gets the benefit of the age factor.

Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) I’m not sure how strong the snub factor will weigh into Tom Wilkinson’s nomination (denied the best actor award for In the Bedroom). However, I think his portrayal of Arthur is phenomenal. He swings between completely unhinged and startlingly coherent so quickly that it will make your neck snap. I would love to see him win for this.

There you have it. I’d love to see Tom Wilkinson win, but since the award doesn’t always go to the most deserving I have to admit that his chances are not so good. If you have an Oscar pool going, I would place my bets on Affleck or Holbrook to bring home the little golden buddy. Then again, it may be a time for a single film to dominate the Academy Awards. If that’s the case, way to go, Javier Bardem.

What I’m trying to say is if you want to know who’s going to win, don’t look at me!

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