My Favorite Male Supporting Performances of 2018
So here are (finally) my favorite performances of the year. We have our Oscar nominations already, so this will either be exactly in line with those or very much opposed to them. I generally figure this stuff out as I go, since it’s all about what I personally feel to be my favorite. That’s the point of the article (look at the title).
The point of these lists is the same as when I post the Underrated and Underseen films of the year — I just want people to discover cool stuff. I mean, sure, a lot of the time we’re all in agreement on what the best stuff is, but you might look at my list and see something you wouldn’t anywhere else. And then you seek that out and think, “That was really great. I gotta tell people about that.” That’s the goal. It’s all about seeing cool things and sharing cool things.
As I say, they’re in order, but they’re not really in order. The numbers don’t matter. I liked these efforts the most. And it’s just about what I liked, not about awards or anything else.
Here are my favorite male supporting performances of 2018:
1. Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
So when they interviewed Sam Elliott about getting his first Oscar nomination, his reaction was, “About fucking time.” He’s so good here. The role is such that was almost always gonna be in the Oscar conversation, and honestly, he totally deserves it. There’s so much emotion in this performance, and while it is very “on the nose” for the category, I don’t care. Elliott is a great actor who is finally getting his proper due. And honestly I hope he wins. His scenes with Cooper are tremendous.
2. Robert Forster, What They Had
This is the performance where I saw it and went, “Why is this not on every awards list I’m seeing?” This is an actor/acting-heavy indie movie that is designed to get people to see it because of Michael Shannon and Hilary Swank, with Blythe Danner in the most Oscar bait role of the bunch, and then thy come out going, “Holy shit, Robert Forster, though. Because yeah. Dude’s been delivering great performances for years. But also, this performance is so well-rounded and complete that I honestly am surprised it (and the film, to an extent) go so overlooked this year. This might be his finest performance.
3. Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick
The mistake they made with this was trying to push him as lead. Not that it mattered. The film go no traction anywhere and mixed reviews. But McConaughey is just as solid as ever. He’s always solid in things, and I find that either the movie is terrible (Dark Tower) or it’s just so under the radar that no one knows (Gold). This is, admittedly, the kids movie, but McConaughey as the dad is so fantastic that no one is talking about it, and they should be. The scenes with him and the family, trying to keep everything together, are great. And then the scene where he meets his grandkid for the first time is incredible. Dude’s one of the best actors working and seems to just have gone back to being taken for granted now that he has an Oscar.
4. Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give
He’s so good here. It starts from the first minute of the film, where he gives his kids “the talk.” And then continues all the way through. The scene of him being harassed and detained by the cops and the aftermath — that shit is powerful. He’s really fucking good here and deserved so much more praise than he got for this performance. It’s Amandla Stenberg’s movie, but he’s the heart and soul of this in a lot of ways.
5. Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk & Widows
My first (and probably only) two-fer this year. Everything else is a mention in the write-up. This is the one that felt like it deserved both to be mentioned. In Widows, he’s really good. It’s the kind of role that mostly goes overlooked next to everyone else, but it’s really strong work by him. That said, the one we’re really here for is If Beale Street Could Talk, where he delivers a showstopping ten minute monologue at its center, which is worth a nomination on its own. I think people are starting to come around on how good he is and now he’ll start to pop up in everything, which is awesome.
6. Colman Domingo, If Beale Street Could Talk
He’s so good here as the dad. Doesn’t get enough to do (most of the supporting cast doesn’t, in some ways, but also they just feel so perfectly crafted that it almost doesn’t matter). I just loved everything he did in this movie and I think this is the kind of father role I’m drawn to, because it’s never showy, but you get everything you need to know about who he is from how the actor plays it. I’m really impressed by his work here.
7. Armie Hammer, Sorry to Bother You
He starts by snorting a line of coke from one side of the frame to the other. That’s just a boss move to start. And then he’s just so entertaining every second he’s on screen. I love this guy. Not like, the character as a human within this world, but like, this guy, and the performance. He’s awesome. This is exactly who he’s supposed to be, and Armie Hammer is having so much damn fun with it.
8. Daniel Kaluuya, Widows
He’s so fucking good in this movie. It’s such a steady performance. You see this guy and immediately you’re both unnerved and afraid. Because you know this dude is dangerous. And it works. That scene in the gym where he’s just staring at the dude is just perfect. This is also one of those performances that will go unheralded because it’s not a showy performance. But man, this is one of the best I saw this year.
9. John Gallagher Jr., The Miseducation of Cameron Post
This guy is so fully created. I knew everything about this guy as I watched the performance. The obviously gay dude running the gay conversion center with his sister who claims to have been “cured” but so clearly isn’t and is fully in denial about it all. Absolutely perfect job by Gallagher here and one of the best under-the-radar performances of 2018.
10. Steve Buscemi, The Death of Stalin
He’s so fucking funny in this movie. How can you not love every minute of when he’s on screen? I almost cried laughing at the funeral scene. Also, seeing him with that haircut alone was enough to make me laugh.
11. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
I’m usually ambivalent about him. I like him, but rarely am I moved by any of his performances. But this one was awesome. He does a good job of getting the comedy out by being dry, but also does a good job on the dramatic elements.
12. Colin Farrell, Widows
This is the most underrated performance of this movie. Colin Farrell has been giving a lot of these lately. His role is the one that I like the most, I think. Because it’s Shakespearean. He’s the prince groomed to be king. And it’s built on nepotism and corruption, so he just inherits that as his modus operandi. But you also find out — he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want the throne but is still going for it. And there’s such an interesting dichotomy to that, especially given the ending of the movie. I love what he did with it, and even though no one else wants to shout it out — I see you, Colin Farrell.
13. Tim Blake Nelson, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
He’s the most entertaining part of this movie. I know most people would put Tom Waits here because he’s by himself for the majority of his short, I’m putting Nelson. Buster Scruggs is so goddamned entertaining. That moment in the bar with the cards and how that turns out, all the way to the song at the end — absolutely amazing. This performance is so spot on that people came out of this movie wishing there were more of him. That’s the mark of a good job.
14. Jake Gyllenhaal, The Sisters Brothers
I love what he did with this. The overly-affected way of speaking was just perfect. Gyllenhaal’s been turning in these interesting, weird performances the past few years (Okja, anybody?) and I am all here for it. He’s quickly becoming our single most underrated actor. One of these days it’s gonna click and he’s gonna get his statue. I’m just wondering what it’s gonna be for.
15. Lucas Hedges, Mid90s
Shout out to him in Ben Is Back and Boy Erased, but this was the performance of his that I loved. Because he’s the older brother. And that means you only see him in certain moments. And those moments are not only perfect for what the film is, they also give you such insight into this person, which is just wonderful. It’s crazy to think that since Manchester by the Sea, his performances have been: Lady Bird, Three Billboards and the three I just mentioned this year. This guy can act.
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