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The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor & Best Supporting Actress – 2000

Here’s the first entry in our Oscar quest. I say our, because mine started a fuck long time ago. Now it’s ours.

Since the Oscars will be upon us within the next 40 days (and nominations will be announced in exactly 7 days), I figure this is a good time to start gearing up for that wonderful, wonderful night.

How this is gonna work is, from now until Oscar night, I will go over all the major 6 nominees for every year of the past decade, Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Director. I will go over who won, what I thought of the performances, who I would have voted for, who I thought should have won, all of it.

The purposes of this are educational (and expository). I want you to be able to know what I think are the worthwhile performances in 83 years worth of films, so that if you should ever come across one of them, maybe you’ll actually give them a chance based on some good things I had to say about it. Maybe you’ll discover something in here that ends up becoming one of your favorite films all because of me. And wouldn’t my ego love to hear that.

My other goal is simple — I’ve watched a shit ton of movies this past year. I want to document my watching them in some way. I want to be able to go back and remember what I thought of certain films, because, eventually, being the DVD hound I am, I will want to buy some of them, and I want to know which ones I liked and want to add to the collection.

So that’s that. Now, let’s start with 2000 and work backwards. I’m starting with the “least important” of the categories first, then working up to Actor and Actress tomorrow, and Picture and Director the next day. After that, we’ll go to 2001. After that, nominations are announced, so we’ll take a break and move onto those for a few days, and then come back to this. But, get used to this, there’s going to be a lot of it. It’s the reason I started the blog, so, it’s going to be here.

On with the Oscars:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 2000

And the nominees were…

Jeff Bridges, The Contender

Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire

Benicio del Toro, Traffic

Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich

Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator

Our first one. Exciting. Okay, let’s start with Jeff Bridges.

Jeff Bridges did a real nice job in this film. It’s mainly about Joan Allen being a female nominee for Vice President after the current one dies. She’s a Democrat, people, don’t get all bent out of shape. The Republican party decides to put her through the ringer for no reason other than to be difficult and do what they always do. This should come as no surprise to anyone. So, they have a huge hearing (kind of like what they did with that lady Supreme Court justice), and try to embarrass her as much as possible, try to discredit her, all that. And Bridges is the President. He essentially plays this role like Jeff Bridges playing the President. He’d make an awesome President, but as a performance goes, it’s the same laid back Bridges we always see. The kind of guy who will sneak away from the secret service to go have a cigar on the lawn. The guy who says “man” a lot. That guy. He’s cool. But as a performance goes, it’s not like we haven’t seen Bridges do this in a lot of his movies. So, entertaining performance, not one I see as awards worthy.

Willem Dafoe. Here’s a performance I really liked, in a movie I liked even more. It’s obvious why a film like this would appeal to me. It takes history, then has fun with it. It’s about the filming of Nosferatu, with John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau. One of those, “movie in peril” films. They need to cast a Count Orlok for the film, and Murnau disappears for several days and comes back with Max Schreck (Willem). The conceit of the film is that Max Schreck is so method during the making of this movie that people start to believe that he might actually be a vampire. In fact, he may actually be a vampire. When the cast asks him about it, he tells them this detailed backstory about how he became a vampire and how he can’t remember much of the old days because he’s lived so long — and then he does things like snatch a live bat out of the air and bite it and begin sucking its blood ecstatically. The cast just thinks he’s a brilliantly talented actor who’s throwing himself into the part, but other people are more wary. They think this motherfucker may actually be dangerous. That’s what’s so brilliant about the performance. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s a great way to end the movie (this movie, not the original). Dafoe is tops here.

Benicio del Toro. Here’s a performance I don’t really remember too much of except that I felt he was just another piece of a large ensemble. I remember thinking that the award was basically the Academy awarding the film and an actor they liked and respected. In case you’re unaware, Traffic is one of those Babel-like stories with many different narratives all revolving around the same theme. This one’s about the drug trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Benicio plays a Spanish policeman who is one of the few non-corrupt ones, and agrees to go undercover to nab a drug lord. He becomes part of the cartel, and eventually turns the guy over to the DEA in exchange for electricity in his village so the children can play baseball at night and not get into drugs and crime. I remember one scene in the film, where Benicio and his partner are made to dig their own graves. You think the boss has figured out his status as an agent and is having him killed. And as he and the partner (also a cop) dig their graves, the other guy is shot and then buried in his, but Benicio is left alive, since they found out about the partner but not about him. And I remember that being a really tense sequence, but other than that, I really can’t remember all that much about the performance that stood out to me as being Oscar-worthy.

Albert Finney. Albert Finney is one of those actors who is always believable. I liked him in this. I thought he did a good job of not seeming like the Albert Finney we always see. He also does his job well in providing solid support for Julia in her big role. That said, I really don’t think he needed to win the category. The nomination alone is appropriate for me. Good, but not worth a win.

Joaquin Phoenix. Here’s a performance I liked in the context of the movie, but only there. In the movie, he plays his role well, you hate him, good job. When you think of the performance, all Joqauin seemed to do was act all emo and cry a bunch. He was like a Roman version of Draco Malfoy. Seriously, watch it again. That’s really what he’s like. So, I don’t really think he didn’t deserve to be nominated, but a win seems to be out of the question. He’s good in the movie, but for an Oscar, not so much.

My thoughts: I say this comes down to del Toro and Dafoe. Which I believe is what everyone else thought that year as well. I, personally, would have voted for Dafoe, but I have no problem with del Toro having won. None at all. I like Benicio a lot. Based strictly on the performances, however, I’d have gone with Dafoe. His seemed the most memorable to me.

If I were to rank these performances in the order I enjoyed them (As in, if I had to watch the movie purely just to see that person’s performance, this is the order I would watch them):

  1. Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
  2. Jeff Bridges, The Contender
  3. Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator
  4. Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich
  5. Benicio del Toro, Traffic

(The only reason del Toro is last is because Traffic as a film is so tedious to get through.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 2000

And the nominees were…

Judi Dench, Chocolat

Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock

Kate Hudson, Almost Famous

Frances McDormand, Almost Famous

Julie Walters, Billy Elliot

Judi, Judi, Judi. But seriously though, who wouldn’t want to fuck Judi Dench? Judi Dench in this movie is essentially playing the same Judi Dench character Judi Dench plays in every Judi Dench movie. The cooky old woman who is very sarcastic and very stubborn. Seriously, almost every movie (except the Oscar leading roles. And Bond.). Same character. And why not? it works. She’s entertaining as all hell here. It’s the classic, “curmudgeon that gets softened” role. And, she gets to die in a really emotional way. That’s bait and a half. That said, I can’t in good conscience vote for her to win. The nomination is beyond fine for me.

Marcia Gay Harden. This nomination and win surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t see what was so special about this performance. She basically acted all jew-y for 2 hours. You know, that really Jewish, New York accent? Like the secretary in Ghostbusters? She sounds like that. And it’s essentially a lead role. She’s basically the rock of the movie. The Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind role. She has to be steady so the lead can do his crazy shit. And she is steady. She’s even worth the nomination. She gets her two scenes where she cries and makes firm demands and has a shouting match. But it’s not a performance I feel should have won.

Kate Hudson. The fact that Kate Hudson did not win this award is one of the biggest travesties of the past 20 years. Seriously. Kate Hudson is beyond electric in this movie. Seriously, go back and watch it. And try to look at it objectively. What she brings to that role is beyond incredible. Here’s a character that is essentially a whore — sleeping with rock stars with the dreams of romance — and brings such empathy to it, such heartbreak, that you can’t help but feel bad for her when the inevitable happens. I think this is a brilliant performance and cannot understand (yes I can. Oscar loves veterans.) why she didn’t win.

Frances McDormand. A performance I really loved. Frances McDormand is pitch perfect as the mother in this movie. However, I felt she wasn’t on screen quite enough to earn the win (especially when Kate Hudson was her competition. Without Kate Hudson, I vote Frances all the way). She’s absolutely hysterical as the mother who is overprotective of her son, but also smart enough to know she needs to give him space — even though every inch of that space kills her inside. The scene where you know she’s made an impact in her role is when the band shows up at one of their hotels, and the doorman stops William and is like, “Your mother called.” And the second he says that, you know — this motherfucker caught one hell of an earful on that phone. We know exactly what she said and what she did without him having to say another word. That’s the sign of a great performance.

Julie Walters. Here’s a nomination that occurs purely out of love for a film. I do not share such love for the film, so I can see the performance objectively. It’s not a great performance. But, she didn’t win and probably was never going to. So, I really don’t mind it being here. Essentially, the movie is about a kid wanting to dance instead of play football or box and stuff. It’s one of those working class British films. She’s the dance teacher that takes him on. She’s the Mr. Miyagi of the film. I felt she wasn’t in it enough to make any kind of real impact. But, she’s Molly Weasley, so, that’s something.

My thoughts: I say this is really between the two Almost Famous nominees. Clearly they split the vote, as Hudson was the better performance, but McDormand was the veteran and got those votes. But, I say Kate Hudson clearly deserved this award, and she has my vote all the way.

My ranking of the performances:

  1. Kate Hudson, Almost Famous
  2. Frances McDormand, Almost Famous
  3. Judi Dench, Chocolat
  4. Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock
  5. Julie Walters, Billy Elliot
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