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.)
Colin Firth in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as Bill HaydonHistorically, 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 KevinHe 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 Morrison 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?