The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

by Rachel · February 2, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 3 Comments
Editor’s note: Welcome to the ninth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role has had some really memorable winners, but it’s the breadth of the nominees that is really impressive.  The youngest winner was 20 (Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People 1981), and the oldest was 80 (George Burns, The Sunshine Boys 1976).  This year brings us the oldest nominees, Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow, joining Hal Holbrook for the record at 82.  The youngest, I just watched myself this year – Justin Henry was only 8 when he was nominated for Kramer vs Kramer.  The Supporting category often honors the most memorable characters from a film: Heath Ledger for The Joker (The Dark Knight), Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint (The Usual Suspects) and Javier Bardem for Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men).  Leading actors have even been nominated several times for supporting and gone on to win a Best Actor award (2 nominations for Supporting Actor before a win for Best Actor: Robert Duval, 3 Times for Jeff Bridges and Al Pacino).  So these 5 men will take their place amongst the best actors and greatest characters with their nominations this year.  I’ve seen 4 of the 5 nominees and I’ll give you my thoughts on their performances and predict a winner.

Jonah Hill for Moneyball  – This takes the spot for a comedian showing off his dramatic chops. Robin Williams won an Oscar in 1997 for doing just that in Good Will Hunting.  However, it’s safe to say that Jonah Hill hasn’t the talent as a comedian or actor to belong in the same category with the others on this list.  His turn as Peter Brand, the numbers guy that convinces Billy Beane that a better team can be purchased for the Oakland A’s by buying players based only on their on-base percentage.  This definitely revolutionized baseball, and Hill’s performance is good – certainly his best so far.  But for a young (29) comedic actor, this definitely isn’t his Oscar-worthy performance.

Nick Nolte for Warrior – Until I was assigned this category, I’d never heard of Warrior.  But now I’ve seen it.  Nick Nolte supports Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as their recovering alcoholic ex-Marine father.  He trained them both as fighters in high school, but lost touch with them due to drinking and now due to heartbreaking circumstances of fate, the two sons are competing in a winner-take-all mixed martial arts competition.  Hardy has returned from places unknown (though they are revealed just in time for a dramatic ending), really, really pissed off, and asked his dad to train him again.  Edgerton has made his own way in the world and has a family to take care of.  The movie itself had so much potential, both from the strength of its cast and the originality of its story, but the shmaltzy way it brings the film together, I can’t recommend it.  Nolte really embraces his role with the grizzly voice and worn down look and attitude.  He’s really attempting to right the wrongs of the past, but some things can’t be forgotten.  A great opening with Nolte, but the weakness of the film overall means I doubt he’ll be getting the gold.

Christopher Plummer for Beginners – After winning the Golden Globe, Plummer is the man to beat.  He plays Ewan McGregor’s father who, after his wife’s death, decides to live the rest of his life as the gay man he always was.  We mostly see this through McGregor’s eyes – how awkward it would be to rethink your whole life imagining your father had been gay.  And then seeing him embrace this life with a new boyfriend (Goran Visjnic) and finding out he’s now dying of cancer makes Plummer’s role one of the most complex of the race this year.  Watching the former Captain Von Trapp embrace his homosexuality is at times extremely humorous, and at others particularly heartbreaking.  I think Plummer will walk away with the statue this year.

Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Perhaps the only performance that really rivals Plummer’s for complexity, von Sydow plays The Renter.  Oscar Schell (Thomas Horn – who deserved much more recognition than he’s getting) lives across the street from his grandmother who has rented a room to an old man.  After Oscar loses his father (Tom Hanks) on 9/11 he relies on his mother and grandmother to help him navigate the world.  One night when trying to communicate with his grandmother by walkie talkie, The Renter responds with Morse code.  This prompts Oscar to seek him out.  He finds a man who doesn’t speak – he has ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ written on his palms and carries a book and pen.  Because of this Oscar empties his soul, telling of his struggles to solve the last quest his father left.  The Renter asks to go on the journey with him, and attempts to protect him along the way. von Sydow is wonderful as an obviously broken man who finds a kindred soul in Oscar and wants to protect him from life.  If there was ever a year to win an Oscar for not speaking in film, the year The Artist has so many nominations seems a likely one.

Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn (2011) – This is the movie I haven’t seen, but you can bet Kenneth Branagh did a terrific job playing Laurence Olivier working with Marilyn Monroe.  Unless this is a huge surprise from a smaller film, I’d still say it’s just an honor for Branagh to be nominated.

Predicted Win: Plummer:
Dark Horse: von Sydow

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