True to form, after the general summer appreciation for The Kids Are All Right passed Mark Ruffalo’s performance has failed to “stick its landing”. After hearing a tetchy commenter accuse him of playing the same hackneyed stoner in all his films I realised just how much of a pipedream it was for me to consider him a contender for the Supporting Actor trophy six months ago. It’s probably a tad supercilious of me because I like the performance, but everything that works for Ruffalo’s Paul depends on keen perusal something that’s not explicitly needed to appreciate the performance of the current frontrunner in the race – Christian Bale’s scenery-chewing brother in The Fighter. Reserving judgement on the veritable worth of either performance, one can appreciate how Bale’s Dicky has an edge. The Fighter is altogether more interested in forwarding Dicky’s agenda than Choledenko and Blumberg are with establishing Paul as any sort of fallen hero. And though Ruffalo, like Bale, is the type of actor yet to earn a nomination but constantly turning in films Bale’s is more peppered with the obvious and easily recognisable (which is not inherently bad). In theory Ruffalo is the only potential nominee I can see winning the statue, but for the fact its low-key nature makes it an unlikely contender.
If The King’s Speech were still holding onto its former frontrunner status I’d have entertained the idea of a Rush upset. There’s no one who has seen The King’s Speech that doesn’t seem to appreciate his charismatic turn. But it’s not the sort of fussy supporting turn that demands attention and Rush already has a statue. If The Town were a better film, or if more were smitten with it, Renner could have emerged as another candidate for an upset. He’s fresh off a best picture winner, he’s still at that age where he’s finally getting his dues but still young enough to be considered fresh and he’s easily the best thing in his film. But, even though The Town may be heading to a Picture nomination with a ten-wide field that isn’t that much of an accolade and maybe I’m underestimating the ability but I still don’t see it being indiscriminately embraced by all. Considering the year he had Andrew Garfield seems like someone to keep your eyes on – but I think not. A number have praised him effusively, and he is excellent in The Social Network but that one seems to be all Eisenberg’s show. And I don’t know if it’s mob psychology and all voters do it, but there’s a tendency for supporting actor front runners to be less “supporting” and more of a type of a stealth co-lead. That makes Bale resurface as the obvious one to beat here, and the critics seem to agree. Those five actors seem like a good bet for the eventual nominees, although I have an inkling feeling that there could be an upset nomination here. Perhaps John Hawkes who made an appearace at the SAG – I don’t know. I’m predicting these five, though.
Christian Bale in The Fighter
Andrew Garfield in The Social Network
Jeremy Renner in The Town
Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech
All things considered it doesn’t seem like a particularly bad roundup of nominees – especially considering the clunkers that often get nominated here. But, like with most things this season I’m particularly enthused. I can immediately think of three performances that I’d have loved seeing considered but the entire male ensemble of Animal Kingdom have gotten no love, and the same goes for everyone but Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole – so Miles Teller’s name has gotten no consideration. It's one of the things that you can count on - especially in this category. This is always the category where I'm nonplussed about the decisions that all the usual precursors go running with, but even though there are some contenders I could get behind that are getting no love, I’ll still maintain that the four performances of the lot I’ve seen are worthy of consideration – and Rush is always golden, so I’ll put my faith in that. It's a better batch of potential nominees than years gone by.
So Bale seems headed to glory, but who could you see pulling an upset?