Mike’s Favorite Male Supporting Performances of the Decade (80-71)
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:
80. Michael Shannon, The Night Before
I think we all know that Shannon is funny. But rarely does he do straight up comedy. He’s done a few in there. This is probably the best known of them. I keep saying it’s one of the most (if not the most) underrated comedies of the past decade. His character is also so great. He plays the guys’ gym teacher who used to sell them weed, who they go to again for weed. And he acts as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future, meeting each one of the guys at different times throughout the night and imparting sage wisdom along the way. The final twist to his character is also a stroke of genius that perfectly fits who he is and what his screen persona is.
79. Paul Walter Hauser, I, Tonya
This movie gave us this man. This broke him, and between this and Richard Jewell, this dude’s gonna have a career for a long time. Here, though… even in the trailers for this movie, you saw that he was gonna be one of the best parts of it. “I know a guy… I won’t say his name… Derek.” And the moment where they’re questioning him and he’s trying to lie but so obviously gets caught in it because he’s a moron… genius. Everything he does in this movie is funny, and he almost steals the entire movie, which is saying something, because Alison Janney is also in this movie.
78. Armie Hammer, Sorry to Bother You
The introduction to his character is him doing a line of coke from one end of the frame all the way to the other. And it really only gets better from there. I like when actors get to let loose and just go nuts with a character, and he certainly gets to do that here. It’s just clear he’s having fun with the whole thing, and that’s what I love about it. Plus it shows the amount of charisma he has and how compelling he can be on screen no matter the role, which I’m not sure we’ve fully gotten to see from the amount of films he’s made. I feel like he’s still waiting for that one role where it all clicks together. But, until then, we have stuff like this, where he gets to play the coked up billionaire maniac who is… well, I won’t spoil it. But what he’s doing is appropriate for this movie.
77. Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs
Love me some Jeff Daniels. I’ll watch him in anything, and him being part of the Sorkin universe is just a thing of beauty. He feels like he was made to deliver that dialogue. Here, in particular, though, he’s got one of the least showy parts in the film — he plays John Sculley, who acts as a father figure for Jobs, and shows up before each one of the launches. And it’s great to see him as both a mentor, advisor and also manipulator of some sort. He gets to play all those roles and he handles them really well. It’s nice to see Daniels use Sorkin’s dialogue to put little vocal and visual nuances in the performance that really highlight the subtext of all the conversations he’s having. Plus, like I said… few people sound as good delivering Sorkin dialogue as he does.
76. Stanley Tucci, Easy A
I love when great character actors get these kinds of roles — the sarcastic scene-stealer in the studio rom com. This, for me, was the big revelatory one. I think because it was the start of the decade, the rom com genre had basically all but died by this point, I assumed it would be shitty and then the movie was really charming and well-written (it made Emma Stone a star, that’s for sure), and then Tucci (who everyone loves and I’d always loved going back to Big Night and those early 2000s performances in stuff like Road to Perdition) came in and just stole the entire movie. He’s the perfect screen dad. I dare you to watch this movie and not love wha the does with this. The one moment that sealed it for me is when their adopted son (who is black and clearly adopted, even though it’s never explicitly mentioned) responds to something he says about inheriting family traits, “What does that have to do with me? I’m adopted.” And Tucci just goes, “WHAT? OH MY GOD! WHO TOLD YOU?!!” in the most dramatic way. From that moment, there was nothing more he could do to make it one of my favorite performances of his.
75. Steve Buscemi, The Death of Stalin
He’s so goddamn funny in this movie. I mean, granted, everyone’s funny in an Armando Iannucci film, but Buscemi in particular, with that haircut… he’s so good. That scene at the end where he’s trying to switch in place with Jeffrey Tambor is absolutely hysterical.
74. Robert Pattinson, The King
I’m no longer surprised by him giving good performance anymore, but I was surprised by this character. He’s so goddamn good as this king. What I love about it is… Timothée Chalamet’s character speaks perfect French, but Pattinson speaks English with that French accent because literally everything he does in this movie is done to piss Chalamet off and needle him just a little bit more. I couldn’t get enough of it. Pattinson is just being the ultimate dick, and that French accent on top of it all is just a thing of beauty.
73. Tracy Letts, Christine
2015/2016 were the years when Tracy Letts became one of our best character actors. He’d done almost no screen acting work outside of Homeland, and then in the span of a year was in The Big Short, Wiener-Dog, this, Indignation, Elvis and Nixon and Imperium. And then after that, The Lovers, Lady Bird and The Post (and now Ford v Ferrari and Little Women), and absolutely everyone knew him. But for me, it was those early films, because he always made an impression in all of them, especially here. This film is largely about Rebecca Hall’s performance as Christine, but Letts, as her station manager, is really the one who gets the most time front and center. He’s the one sparring with her most of the time, as she’s going on about ‘the whole operation!’, and he’s there, beleaguered and having to fight with her. There’s a whole scene where they’re just yelling at each other for like five straight minutes, and it’s just an acting showcase for the two of them. He’s delivered some great supporting turns in the past five years, but this is definitely near or at the top of that list.
72. Brian Tyree Henry, Widows
Another actor who made a large impression in a relatively short amount of time in this decade. He started on Atlanta and within two years, had become a staple character actor in things. Really, it’s two films in particular that did it, and both performances are on this list. I saw them both within days of each other, so he really left an impression.
Here, he plays a crime boss running for alderman on the South Side of Chicago, looking to unseat Colin Farrell, one in a long line of alderman from the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson and crew stole a bunch of money from him (and were killed in the process), so now he, in order to finance his campaign, goes after Viola Davis, Neeson’s widow, for the money. It’s a really interesting role — since he’s a criminal, but he also wants to unseat the rich white people who have historically run the predominantly black neighborhood. So he gets to be both aspirational and menacing at the same time. He’s got some really great moments in a film that is just so rich with characters and moments.
71. Seth Rogen, The Night Before
This might be his best piece of comedic work. It’s a really underrated performance by him. He gets to be the crazy one, on all sorts of drugs for the entire film, which gives him some very truly hilarious moments. Everything in the church is just genius-level comedy and you can’t stop laughing. Him high off his ass, talking to the nativity sculptures and petting the animals, thinking they’re real — amazing. The whole scene where he convinces himself (because he has someone else’s phone) that a dick pic was meant for him and that he’s gonna end up sucking a dick… amazing. Truly, this is one of those performances that will never get its proper due because people don’t respect comedy as much on lists like this, but it’s really an amazing piece of work.
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