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The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor & Best Supporting Actress – 2008

I remember 2008. I did amazingly well in my picks this year. Mostly because I knew the Academy was going to ignore The Dark Knight minus the one obvious nomination and the other random one it got. I think I only missed like 4 of all the categories. Which is good, since I had a competition where I was going to buy dinner for whoever outguessed me and I think like ten people did. Go me. Anyway, these categories weren’t hopelessly competitive. One was the biggest landslide I think ever and the other was pretty locked even though I can’t see why. I guess all’s well that ends well.

Best Supporting Actor – 2008

And the nominees were…

Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Brolin — I like Brolin a lot, but I can’t really see where his performance stood out as being a great supporting performance. Unless of course they nominated him this year for forgetting him in No Country last year. In which case, I’m okay with it. Still, I can’t see voting for him here. Remember, Heath Ledger is in this category. Brolin does fine though. He’s the crazy conservative local politician guy who doesn’t like Harvey Milk being gay and doing what he’s doing. The one piece of legislature that he opposes is the building of a mental hospital in his district (which sort of hints at the whole mental problem thing). And they work together a bit and then eventually he gets upset and resigns over something and then comes back and shoots Milk. You know. It’s like Batman. He’s fine, but, the Joker is cooler than Batman.

Downey — Easily my second choice. An if Ledger weren’t so goddamn brilliant, this would be my vote hands down. Seriously, did you see this performance? It’s fucking hysterical. This is the most unlikely nomination since Depp in Pirates. One of those, he stole the movie so much and is so damn charming doing so they had to nominate him. Plus he’s in blackface, which is awesome. Think of it this way — the motherfucker plays an insanely dedicated Australian actor — the kind that double fists awards every Oscar season. The kind that goes to work in a Chinese silk factory for a year when researching a role. The kind who, for a movie set in the 60s, keeps himself isolated for three months and rids himself of any technological item that was not invented at the time — who, when playing a black platoon staff sergeant, undergoes a procedure to dye his skin black and starts acting and talking like a black man. That’s basicalyl his role. They get dropped in the jungle, for real, after the filming goes Apocalypse Never and they start getting into firefights with real heroin processors. Some of the actors think they’re still filming and its all fake, and Downey realizes its real and tries to be the voice of reason. However, he refuses to drop character the whole time, because, as he says, he doesn’t drop character “’til I done the DVD commentary.” It’s a brilliant, brilliant performance. I thought this was one of the funniest movies of the year when it came out.

Hoffman — This is really a lead role, but, in a year like this, he really wasn’t going to win in whichever category he was in. So I guess it’s better to have him classing up the Supporting Actor category, because, without him, there would only be two really strong presences, one good performance that was never going to win, and an admirable performance that was just that. So it’s nice to see him here, because it makes this category seem really strong. He’s also fucking incredible in this movie. It’s kind of a shame it’s in this year, because I might vote for him in another year. Now, he’s sadly the #3 (but a very strong one). He is fucking dynamite in this movie too. My second favorite performance of the film. Watch the movie, too, it’s some tour de force acting.

Ledger — How can you even try to argue against this performance? The man took over an iconic role in and of itself, in a franchise based on beloved source material, in a movie that’s incredibly anticipated, taking over for a man considered one of, if not the greatest living actor, who already put a very visible stamp on the role. It would be like somebody taking over Hannibal Lecter from Tony Hopkins. You can’t imagine anyone doing it, right? That’s what this looked like at the onset. And when they announced Ledger had gotten the role, everyone was like, “Why?” I never doubted that shit for a second. I immediately knew that motherfucker was going to do something great with the role. What he did in this role is nothing short of genius. All of the factors going into it and everything — I dare say this might rank as the greatest Supporting performance of all time (based on Oscar winners alone, a list I may try to create one of these days). Easily a vote, right here.

Shannon — I thought he was fine, but, not nearly in the movie enough and a bit too — he plays the son of the neighbors of DiCaprio and Winslet. They’re in 50s suburbia, where everything is white and everything is all right. And he’s a mathematician, or something, and he’s just come back from a mental institution after attempting suicide (I think that’s what it was). Big black eye for the proud neighbors, naturally. And they have to bring him around like everything’s all right, because, you know, he’s their son. However, after some electroshock therapy and a genuine anti-establishment disposition (ism), he goes around, making them look like idiots by bluntly speaking his mind and remarking on the whole hypocritical nature of the whole suburban existence. In a way, he’s the voice of reason of the whole film. Plus he gets to call people out on everything. It’s awesome. The parents are like, “Oh, isn’t that a lovely set of furniture? Don’t you think?” and he’s like “It looks like you bought it in a Thai whorehouse.” Shit like that. It’s a fun performance. I’m also one of the few who really liked this movie as well. So, I like the performance, but, I have to rank him fourth, just because he wasn’t in the movie enough for me to really consider it a great supporting performance (since he didn’t strike me as “electric” enough to really rank him higher. It’s no William Hurt performance.), but, it is very good and worth checking out.

My Thoughts: Ledger. Landslide. No one else comes close.

Rankings:

5. Brolin

4. Shannon

3. Hoffman

2. Downey

1. Ledger

Best Supporting Actress – 2008

And the nominees were…

Amy Adams, Doubt

Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis, Doubt

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Adams — I loved this performance. This, to me, is the apex of the Amy Adams persona. Back at Junebug, she was all naive and bubbly and adorable. Then she built on that, playing different variations on the theme. Then Enchanted was sort of the opposite side of this performance. It’s the over adorable Disney princess who slowly comes to grips with the real world (personally, I’d have nominated her for that too. But, maybe that’s just because I love her). This, is the dramatic flip side of the same role. She’s the idealistic nun who everyone likes, is the nice one who doesn’t discipline — all of that. And Meryl Streep is the old “Dragon lady” as they call her. And after she thinks she sees Philip Seymour Hoffman in a situation that may imply that he’s been “inappropriate” with a boy, she goes to Meryl, who immediately assumes his guilt and goes on a crusade to get him to admit his guilt and get the fuck off of her lawn. And Amy, over the course of the film, very quickly begins to regret saying her suspicions, because they immediately blow up into something big, and she’s not even sure something happened. And she starts becoming disillusioned about the whole thing the rest of the way. It’s really a mature performance that plays well on her persona. Plus, it allowed her to reach the high point of that persona and then move on from it (which she’s done in The Fighter, to which she earned a nomination but not a win. Trust me, in a few years, she’ll deliver a performance like this with that new persona and win a Best Actress for it). I loved it a lot, and honestly, am voting for it. No need to sugarcoat. This is what I’m voting for. Though keep reading to hear me praise the other actresses. Their performances are worth checking out too.

Cruz — Yeah, I don’t get why she won this. They just love giving it to Woody Allen females. She was fiery, but I didn’t think she did all that much. If they gave it to her for just being Penélope Cruz and/or for making out with Scarlett Johansson, then I’m all for it. I just can’t get behind her for winning it in this role, because I despise this movie,and I cannot vote for her because of that.

Davis — Really powerful in her one scene. She plays the mother of the boy who may or may not have had sexual relations with Philip Seymour Hoffman. And she basically comes at the behest of Meryl Streep, and when she’s told of the suspicions, rather than responding with outrage, is like, “Well, it won’t be a problem in six months.” And essentially, the whole performance is her being like, “I see the signs. I know he’s gay. His father abused him, he’s not very smart, but once we can get him into a high school, he’ll be home free. He’ll have a chance at a decent life. So I don’t care what that priest has done, if he even did it.” It’s kind of powerful, since she’s only on screen for like eleven minutes. But it’s powerful, those eleven minutes. And even though I’m ranking her third, I still liked Amy Adams’ performance better. But, she’s great, and she definitely deserves to be here.

Henson — Sadly, I have to rank this fifth, not because I didn’t like it, but because it’s really not that much of a performance. At least, compared to the others. Even Penélope Cruz, who was in a film I hate, at least was spirited and lively in a cold and lifeless film. Taraji was there and was solid, but I don’t think the performance is Oscar material. I am, however, happy she was nominated. I like her and I think it’s nice to see her get some praise. So, I’m glad she’s here, and I feel bad I can’t vote for her. But, that’s how it goes.

Tomei — I really liked this performance. In terms of Marisa Tomei Oscar nominations, this is clearly the weakest one. And maybe I thought Viola Davis gave a slightly better performance than Marisa did, but, it’s close, and tie goes to who I like better. Either way, Marisa is very good in this. She’s playing the archetype of the stripper single mom with the heart of gold. A staple of the wrestling picture. But, because this is 2008, it’s not the exact stereotype. Well, maybe it kind of is. But now it’s the variation of, she’s the aging stripper, who no longer gets the money she used to because now she’s 40. And Mickey Rourke is really the only one that comes to see her anymore. And he tries to start a relationship with her, because he’s now realizing the benefits of a lasting relationship. And she’s still trying to hold on to the fact that she can still keep stripping, but she slowly realizes how that isn’t feasible. And by the time she realizes she wants to be with Mickey, it’s a bit too late for that. It’s an example of something I like to see in movies — the converging character arcs. One character feels one way and another character feels opposite. And as the movie progresses, their feelings begin to converge toward each other, but not evenly. So, when the one character eventually reverses their feelings, the other isn’t quite there yet, so it blows up in their face. And then in a bit, the other character finally comes around, though by that point it’s too late, because either the other character has moved n or has given up on it and given in to fate. In terms of that model, that’s really why I like this performance. As pure acting, meh, it’s good, but I wouldn’t vote for it. But, with all that other stuff involved, I’d rank this #2. I mean, I’m voting for Amy anyway, and Marisa probably should have won in 2001. So, yeah, let’s give her a boost.

My Thoughts: I’m voting for Amy. I’m cool with Penélope winning, but not for the film she did. So, as long as Amy gets her Oscar one day, this will be okay by me. I just hate to think Amy Adams was deprived of an Oscar because of that performance.

Rankings:

5. Henson

4. Cruz

3. Davis

2. Tomei

1. Adams

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