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My Favorite Male Supporting Performances of 2015

Every January, I make myself pick out specific performances I loved from the previous year. I spend so much time talking about movies, but I don’t actually give credit to specific performances. The only time I’ll talk about them is when I’m going over the Oscars. Which isn’t the same thing.

The great thing about lists like this is that it forces you to consider everything. You immediately start thinking of the performances that are nominated for the awards. But if you consider each and every movie you saw from the year (and I did. All 350 of them), and think about how you really felt about all the specific performances, you’re gonna be surprised which ones you actually liked best. (Especially if you can be honest about it and don’t think about what’s already out there, which few people are willing to be.)

Today I’ll be covering all the male supporting performances I loved. They’re in order, but they’re not really in any order. The numbers don’t matter. These are just the ones I enjoyed the most. We’re not talking about awards-worthy or whatever.

So here are my favorite male supporting performances of 2015:

1. Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

Never fails. Every year, at least one of my #1s isn’t nominated for the Oscar. This year, Benicio continues that tradition. I absolutely loved his performance. I thought he was stunning in this movie. The way he conveyed a whole backstory, of a person and even a country, with such subtlety was so great. He takes this mysterious side character and turns him into the most compelling character in the film. 85% of the movie is told through Emily Blunt’s perspective, yet his character is strong enough to break that POV. We just stop following her, our eyes and ears, and start following him for fifteen minutes, and nobody cares. It’s actually welcome, because we’re so interested in him.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

He’s so great. The ease with which his character operates. Agents bust into his apartment and he calmly takes them in and gets rid of the secrets without them knowing, right in front of their faces. And then all the scenes with Tom Hanks are so good. “You don’t seem alarmed.” “Would it help?” Every moment he’s on screen becomes the most interesting moment in the film, because you fully understand this man, and because of how much of a different wavelength he is on from everyone else.

3. Sylvester Stallone, Creed

It’s not the performance, it’s the sense of getting to spend time with an old friend. We all love Rocky. We love seeing him. Very quickly, you realize why you love him. And it’s easier to love him now because he’s not trying to fight at age 60. The scene at the cemetery is wonderful. And the storyline lends itself perfectly to the character (illness or no illness) for you to remember just why you loved this character the first time you saw him forty years ago. I truly love this character, so I love any time Stallone wants to bring him back, especially here, when you’re rebooting the franchise in such a fresh way that makes everyone feel satisfied.

4. Tom Hardy, The Revenant

He’s such a scumbag in this movie. It’s great. He also had a hell of a year, between this, Legend and Mad Max. What’s great about him in this movie is that he completely sells out for the role. He makes it so you hate this guy and see nothing redeemable about him. You want DiCaprio to fuck him up. And that “god is a squirrel” monologue is just great.

5. Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

How awesome is Oscar Isaac in everything? He’s especially great here because he gets to play the mystery card, even though there is no card. This dude is seriously just fucked up, lonely, and constantly drinking because he’s too smart for everyone else. Plus, that dancing scene…

6. Walton Goggins, The Hateful Eight

I’ve seen this movie three times now, and the more I watch it, the more I love his performance. He’s wonderful here. Plus, he may actually be the only innocent person in the entire movie, if you believe him. What I really love about him is how he sticks to his principles (the way he says “no” when Russell tells him to put the cuffs on is great), and it’s hilarious near the end when he keeps assuming that Michael Madsen is the one behind everything. He’s one of the unheralded character actors out there, and this is a chance where he really gets to shine.

7. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

He’s sublime here. He really is. He’s really great, and it’s kind of a shame he didn’t get the Oscar nomination, because he’s the best thing about the movie. What I like is how for most of the film he’s this larger than life, charismatic leader, but in the end, he’s just a guy with a boss, dealing with bureaucracy. It’s kind of wonderful.

8. + 9. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight & Michael Keaton, Spotlight

I’m torn between which to rate higher, so I’m just making it a double entry. They’re both really, really terrific here. Ruffalo gets the one big moment where he loses his shit, and Keaton gets the quieter moments. Both are equally sublime, and I may prefer Keaton a little more in the end, even though Ruffalo has the showier role of the two. The scene with him and his lawyer friend when he finally confronts him is a thing of beauty. And I really liked Ruffalo’s nose-to-the-grindstone reporting, going to the hall of records to get case files and such. Great acting in this movie all around.

10. Jason Statham, Spy

He is the best thing in this movie. He’s so fucking funny in this. The way he brags in this movie — “this arm has been ripped off completely and reattached with this fucking arm!” — there’s no way you come out of this movie and not think he was hysterical.

11. Michael Shannon, 99 Homes (and The Night Before)

First off, The Night Before, he is hilarious. It’s a credit to him that he could be as good comedically as dramatically. Also shout out to his work in Freeheld. The way he plays the scene where he finds out Julianne Moore is a lesbian is wonderful and not how that scene would normally be played. But 99 Homes is where he truly shines. He’s such an unscrupulous person that you have to marvel at it. The man is completely open about who he is and you have to respect him for it.

12. Paul Giamatti, Love & Mercy

This seems to be the year of the unlikable supporting character. There’s something wonderfully menacing about him for half of the film. Then you start to see who he really is, and that he’s nothing more than a con artist. The scene where he comes to the car dealership to get all mad and backs down the second Elizabeth Banks opens the door is wonderful. It’s who the guy is in a nutshell. Bully until he’s confronted. Giamatti plays it really well, and it’s another example of someone who could have just as easily been nominated this year but wasn’t.

13. Stanley Tucci, Spotlight

Stanley Tucci is great in everything. I wasn’t expecting him to show up in this movie, so the minute Mark Ruffalo snuck into his office and I saw him I actually let out a little cheer, because he actually makes every movie better. He’s also really terrific here as the one person who’s down in the trenches for the entire movie. These reporters come in for their story and he’s like, “I don’t have time for this shit. I tried giving you this story years ago and you ignored it. I have hundreds of clients I have to deal with.” And even when the story is printed, he smiles, knowing a difference was made, and goes back to his giant caseload. This character, like Tucci himself, is one of the unheralded heroes of the screen.

14. Seth Rogen, The Night Before

What I loved about him here is how he portrays all the different layers of fucked up over the course of the film. You see a lot of it in the trailer, but there’s a bunch you don’t see at all. The scene of him leaving himself the video message is absolutely hysterical. He goes all out with this, and I appreciated it, even though not many people did and no one really saw it.

15. Kevin Bacon, Cop Car

Just saying Kevin Bacon says enough. But him in this movie was so perfect. The range he has to show, from menacing to conniving, to fucking crazy — he’s wonderful. The scene with him opening the car door with a piece of string is spellbinding.

16. Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight

He’s such an asshole here, it’s wonderful. The point of his character is to be strong enough that when what happens happens, it’s a big moment. Which it is. You have to wonder, “How is this movie going to maintain a head of steam?” and that’s a credit to his performance.

17. Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk

Just watch his monologue toward the end of the film about the flea circus. He’s so great in the film, and in everything, really.

18. Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs

I like Jeff Daniels in any part that requires Aaron Sorkin dialogue. He does a great job here. The time he really shines is in the middle portion, when he has that argument with Jobs. He manages to layer in a complex relationship between these two, a pseudo-father-son/mentor-protege relationship where no matter how angry they get at one another, they’re always cool in the end. Plus, the man really knows how to deliver Sorkin dialogue well.

19. R.J. Cyler, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

It took one word for me to love this character: “titties.” Cyler is so wonderfully understated in this movie. He’s also the perfect friend character, because you completely understand his relationship with Greg. That moment at the end when the fight is going down and he just shows up and beats the shit out of the other guy — that’s a friend.

20. Emory Cohen, Brooklyn

He’s believable. That’s the important thing. He never overdoes it. He just is. Everything about this movie is understated and beautiful. And Cohen really nails this character in a way that’s not showy, which is why I wanted to single him out because it’s a part that probably wouldn’t get a lot of notice.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we’ll list my favorite female supporting performances.

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3 responses

  1. This is a pretty great list and it shows that Best Supporting Actor is the best category year in, year out. There’s just always tons of tremendous actors and performances throughout the year, more so than the other acting categories.

    January 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm

  2. I didn’t know Mark Wahlberg was in Spotlight. :)

    January 30, 2016 at 7:22 pm

  3. Also, it’s a damn shame that none of the actors from The Big Short made this list. :(

    Steve Carell not only was my favorite performance from the film, but he’s also my favorite supporting performance of 2015, full stop. He’s my #1, while Del Toro (in my favorite film of 2015) is my #2. Why Carell has been playing second fiddle to Bale all awards season long kinda baffles me. Mind you, Bale as Dr. Mike Burry is cool too (and I’m kinda wrestling between him and Hardy for my personal Oscar vote, given the category), but Carell as Mark Baum simply astounded me.

    January 30, 2016 at 7:28 pm

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