Monday, 5 March 2012

Encore Awards (2011 in Review): Supporting Actor

The supporting categories are notoriously difficult to decide on, for me. And, I’d assume for most people. For one, there are more supporting players in film than lead ones which means you have more performances to mire through. And then, this year both supporting categories had so many interesting performances to navigate through…for me, at the very least. This category was the one I had the most difficult time solidifying a ballot for (almost as much as the supporting actress ballot, forthcoming soon…ish).
               
I still look at this ballot and get sad, because not only am I having a difficult time deciding on a list of nominees, I throw my hands up in the air when it comes to picking a winner. Last year it was Mark Ruffalo all the way for me. There was no one else in contention (although, I loved my ballot here) this time around all seventeen men listed below are ace. (Random curio: as excellent as the Oscar supporting ballot was I still couldn’t make room for a single nominee in my ballot, madness! I know one of my nominees, maybe two, might come off as something odd…but, umm. Oddness abounds here. Good actor-ing ahead.

(As usual, click the photos and they take you to reviews of the films.)

THE NOMINEES

Colin Firth in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as Bill Haydon
Historically, I find that Firth has always been especially adept at finding the attractive quality in would-be prototypical villains, or conversely finding the danger in the boy next door. In keeping with the film’s overarching disinterest in who precisely is the mole and more in just a general observation of the careworn anxiety with comes with the territory Firth is suitably restless or boyish all underscored by an overwhelming note of sadness which adds so many peaks to the already multi-layered narrative.

(Key Moment: the breakdown at the end seems obvious, but random bits like him with his legs on the table or ringing the bicycle bell or the smile to Jim at the party.)
            
Shahab Hosseini in A Separation as Houjat
Most importantly he nails the unhinged core of the character setting up so many potential tragic outcomes when we’re forced to wonder just how unbalanced he may be. He disarms, you by presenting Houjat as just a stone’s throw away from Nader who may (or may not) be our “hero”. His greatest flaw, an emotional disparity, becomes something both admirable and terrible as his singular devotion to his family perseveres. And, the camera loves him – even if the role would seem to be more plot-point than character.

(Key Moment: Absolutely devastates in his final scene…is he hitting his wife, is he hitting himself? Is he angry? Sad? Disappointed? Ashamed? Nails the character’s issues.)
             
Ezra Miller in We Need to talk About Kevin as Kevin
He goes toe to toe with Swinton for control of the film’s narrative thrust when he’s on screen, so that even though he’s not the only actor playing Kevin he’s the one we think of foremost. He isn’t fearful of playing into the film’s concept of Kevin as a demonic existence and uses that very malevolent nature to evince a character that might be disgusting but is no less entrancing for it. Also, extra points for that penetrating gaze.

(Key Moment: It changes, the not-quite-scowl after the masturbation scene, overhearing his parents argument, the golf outing – but I’m partial to the errie calm of that bow-and-arrow scene in the gym.)
       

Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life as Mr. O’Brien
He completely takes hold of the somewhat elusive concept of “authoritarian father with issues” and exhibits a man who is unique to the film he exists in. Therein he manages to nail the film’s main dramatic thrust of the inherent dichotomy of adults – specifically parents and the weight on their shoulders in trying to do right by their children. We understand when he is at his most obstinate and feel for him when he is at his lowest, even as his placement on occasion seems to be something villainous.

(Key Moment: Uncertain, the piano scene or the phone call at the beginning both come to mind, but choosing a specific scene befuddles me.)
   
  
Anton Yelchin in The Beaver as Porter Black
I debated back and forth on if this would make my top 5, and then I thought the only reason I wouldn’t put it here is because it seems to emerge as a “teen-ish” performance…and so what? He’s playing a teen, after all. Most impressively, Yelchin succeeds at playing Porter’s issues with self-worth and his father without the tendency for over-exaggerated teenage angst such a role could easily fall into.

(Key Moment: The narrative stand of his romance is the film’s main problematic issue, but his cadence with Lawrence prevents it from feeling so. His movement from that tentative first “date” with her and subsequent arrest to that tense scene at the police station with Gibson is a favourite.)
         
FINALISTS: Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn for being responsible for the film’s only comedic thrust and being excellently bombastic and overwhelming; Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for playing it all close to his chest, the novice in name, but a master at observing; Tom Hardy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for turning up and adding some air to the film’s claustrophobia, and then distressing us soon after; Jude Law in Contagion for using the ambiguity of the script to excellent use and keeping the audience uncertain as to his alleigances; Christopher Plummer in Beginners for attacking the flaws in this gregarious man, finally at one with life; Mark Strong in The Guard for a slight (in terms of screen-time) villain, but no less intense, dangerous and obliquely hilarious

Honourable Mentions: Gerard Butler in Coriolanus; Martin Csokas in The Debt; Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Ides of March; Ewan Leslie in Sleeping Beauty; Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method; Goran Visnjic in Beginners

So, voila. My very specific supporting actor ballot and runners up. Were the supporting actors of 2011 as fine for you as they were for me? Would any of my citations make your own ballot?

7 comments:

Luke said...

Great choice for #1. I think Firth is so great in these subtle roles. And he tends to be so endearing, so for him to pull off this sneaky, sorta conniving role is all the more impressive. And I'm so glad you recognized Ezra Miller, as I couldn't squeeze him in. :)

MovieNut14 said...

Glancing at your finalists, I saw one name and recalling what you said about him, I thought, Could Andrew actually be softening up to him? (You know whom I'm speaking of, darling, don't you?)

Paolo said...

Colin Firth's performance is the most delightfully old white man I've ever seen this year if not ever. The way Bill waves at Smiley during the party? Priceless.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

luk it's probably my favourite performance from him, and i wish he'd have gained some traction coming off his one-two punch in 2010/2011. ah well.

anna but i've always liked brad pitt. :D

paolo ugh, yes! it's those little things that just make this character so real and sad.

MovieNut14 said...

@Andrew Wise guy. Seriously, you condemned him as "evil" because of one film? Your opinion of him didn't change even after seeing him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

anna i can't get atonement and paul marshall the chocolate giant out of my head when i seen benedict, so i still think he's sly here. at least he didn't have the moustache. i'm curious to see how his careers burgeons. (and someday i will see sherlock).

MovieNut14 said...

@Andrew Oh, darling, I will relish the day you watch Sherlock. And maybe, Just maybe, you'll look at Benedict in a different light than you do now.