Mike’s Favorite Male Supporting Performances of the Decade (100-91)

I make ‘favorite performance’ lists every year, and I get that these lists, more than the rest, are the most subjective one can make. Because it’s really about what you see in each performance and what you respond to; There’s no objective way to truly rate a performance as better than another. With whole films, it feels easier to make that distinction. So with these lists, I’m just gonna focus on some performances from the decade that I really, really enjoyed, and the goal here is just to shout them out and maybe get some people to watch the films if they hadn’t or reevaluate each of the performances the next time they watch the films.

These are my favorite male supporting performances of the decade:

100. Jason Statham, Spy

He’s absolutely hilarious in this movie. It’s the perfect undercutting of his screen persona and a nice poke at the macho action hero persona. He plays it perfectly and gets some of the biggest laughs in the film with those exaggerations of his exploits and pure uber-masculine stupidity.

99. Tony Danza, Don Jon

He pretty much nails the Italian father. Some might say he’s a bit over the top, but that’s the trick to it. What I love about the performance is that it’s loud, but accurate loud, but also has a lot of subtlety in there to hint at how his characteristics have influenced the person his son has become. Truly, though — I have a very high bar for anyone portraying Italians, having grown up with them, but my god, does Danza nail it.

98. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Yeah, brace yourselves. There’s gonna be quite a few Michael Shannon performances on this list. He’s just one of those eminently watchable actors. And he’s, by nature, a character actor, so it’s mostly strong supporting parts for him, with the occasional lead.

Here, he plays a character within the story Amy Adams’ character is reading, a sheriff assigned to the disappearance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s missing wife and daughter, eventually finding them dead. He’s determined to see the culprits brought to justice and, upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer, decides to take matters into his own hands. It’s a strong performance. Then again, Shannon is always strong in everything, so that’s no real surprise, is it?

97. Ewan McGregor, The Impossible

This is the performance that turned me around on Ewan McGregor. I, for some reason, didn’t like watching him in movies, which I suspect is purely because some of the films he was in during the 2000s I held in contempt for one reason or another and held him responsible for. But after seeing this film, I realized, “Oh shit, he’s actually a really great actor.” Which I’m glad for.

The film is about a family on vacation in Thailand who have to survive a tsunami. McGregor disappears during the actual event itself, but is returned to afterward. Naomi Watts and Tom Holland are front and center during the sequence itself, but afterward, we follow McGregor and the family’s other two sons as they try to get back to safety and reunite with the other two. It’s a really strong performance, conveying the concern and helplessness and fear of a situation like this, where you have no idea if your wife and child are even alive and have to try to contact family members to tell them you’re okay and that you’re gonna do what you can to make sure they’re okay. It’s a great piece of work.

96. Jeremy Renner, The Town

Everyone loves a good psychopathic criminal performance. And Renner does that perfectly. It’s funny, because this is not the kind of performance he’s really played much of since, but this was the one he was known for at the time (aside from Hurt Locker, of course). He’s that one member of the gang most prone to violence and the one who will murder anyone if he needs to. And as such, he becomes the wild card of the film, where you never quite know how he’s gonna react at any given moment. Which always leads to a great character worth watching.

95. Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

Borderline lead, but he does disappear for long stretches when Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander are having their sessions. I think it’s okay to call him supporting. He’s always really good in everything, and he does a great job of playing the isolated genius who’s so much smarter and so far ahead of everyone else that there’s really not much else for him to do. In a way, the events of the film are confirmation bias for him, which is why he’s always drinking and sort of depressed the whole time. But honestly, I think we all why he’s really here. Any performance that contains this scene is worth a ‘best performance’ notice:

94. Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name

I was not expecting him to be so great in this movie. His character is ultimately the straight man, but apparently Wesley showed up to set and was like, “Oh fuck no, I’m not gonna be the only one not having any fun here.” And this performance is the result. And it is great.

He plays D’Urville Martin, who directed Dolemite, and Snipes plays him as an ac-tor, who is classy and has taste (he was in Rosemary’s Baby… as the elevator operator), even though he’s first spotted at a strip club. But he jumps at the chance to direct, and basically is indifferent and drinks during the whole shoot, openly mocking the film, the performances, the cast and the crew. But man, does it lead to some funny ass moments. His reaction when Eddie asks him if his kung fu was as good as Shaft is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. And his final speech at the end, when you think he’s finally gonna redeem himself or say something nice — nope. He’s like, “Yeah, I’m probably not gonna see you all at the premiere because there’s probably not gonna be a premiere. So, bye.” It’s great.

93. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

I think most people recognize this as a pretty great performance. He plays, essentially, Joseph Kony, leader of a squad of child soldiers. And it’s just a terrific piece of work by Elba, especially when you start to see the shades of complexity working their way in as the film progresses.

92. Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Shannon plays perhaps the most evil dude he’s ever played in this movie. And he’s half made a career out of playing bad guys. But the guy here is something else. The film is about Andrew Garfield as a man who is evicted from his home by Shannon, a slimy real estate man. He swears revenge, but eventually finds himself working for Shannon, under the promise of getting his home back after he helps him do his job — which is evicting other people from their homes. What he does is take advantage of legal loopholes in order to take advantage of struggling homeowners, which eventually allows him to take ownership of their houses and sell them at greater profit. And man… the dude’s just fucking evil. He’s a real son of a bitch. And he plays him wonderfully. You never like this guy, but you’re also fascinated to watch him. It’s one of Shannon’s best pieces of work.

91. Bill Camp, Dark Waters

This is one of those performances that 25 years ago might have gotten nominated/remembered well, but now, it’s an afterthought. The movie on its own is an afterthought, which is disturbing because it’s one of the best films of its year and is the kind of socially important trial movie we used to see a lot of. But I’ll focus on the performance.

Bill Camp is one of those actors who slowly came to prominence as one of today’s best known ‘that guy’s. He started popping up in big films like Lincoln and 12 Years a Slave and Birdman (and Love & Mercy and Black Mass and Midnight Special). I started recognizing him from all that. And other people said he’s really great on The Night Of, which I guess is what TV people know him from. Now, he’s like our J.T. Walsh, who was that guy that popped up in every great 90s movie and was just a really solid actor who never got his proper due because he was always the workmanlike guy.

Here, though, he’s outdone himself. You almost won’t know it’s him. He plays a farmer (based on a real guy) who lives in rural West Virginia on a farm and is having his cattle and land slowly poisoned by the DuPont company dumping chemicals in nearby land. Because he’s one small person, he can’t get anyone to pay attention to him, but because an old woman in town has a grandson who is a hotshot lawyer, his evidence finds itself in the right hands and thus, a major series of lawsuits starts taking place. But Camp in particular is vital to the first portion of the film, and is really terrific here. He does this sort of backwoods, gruff voice that is just perfect, and really just disappears into the character of this guy. Watch the film. It’s great. And I guarantee you’ll remember this performance.

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One response

  1. Wow that is a lot of work you put into this blog and info!

    March 28, 2020 at 1:30 am

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