Mike’s Favorite Male Supporting Performances of the Decade (70-61)
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:
70. James Franco, Spring Breakers
I mean… kinda has to be, right? You can’t list the most memorable supporting turns of this decade without mentioning this performance. Truly, this is one of those times I found myself watching a James Franco performance and going, “Well… shit, I can’t hate on that.” It’s so fucking memorable. I mean, yeah, he’s doing a Riff Raff impersonation for some of it, but still… he leaves an impression. He still has to create the character. That scene where he sings Britney Spears on the piano alone is worth a spot on this list.
69. Eddie Redmayne, Les Misérables
It’s funny… he’d been in things for over a decade (he’s Matt Damon’s son in The Good Shepherd, he’s in Elizabeth: The Golden Age), but this was really the performance everyone took notice of him. Sure, he’s the male lead in My Week with Marilyn too, but who remembers anything outside of Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh in that movie? This was the one where you realized, “Oh shit, this guy’s good.” He does some great singing in the early scenes, but he’s around the other revolutionaries for those scenes. It’s this moment that the performance really shines, when he mourns his fallen brothers in an amazing one-take song. There are four major songs where the characters get to shine with their acting/vocals — “I Dreamed a Dream,” of course, “Valjean’s Soliloquy,” “On My Own” and this. It’s impossible to watch him singing this song and not be impressed by how well he conveys every ounce of emotion within the words. You could watch this without having seen the rest of the film and understand everything about this moment.
68. Tracy Letts, Lady Bird
There’s Tracy Letts again. This is probably the one performance most people would remember of his. Maybe Big Short. But I suspect this is where most people would have known him from (though now it’ll probably be Little Women). He’s so great as the dad in this film. It’s almost a thankless performance, especially with the film largely being about Ronan and Laurie Metcalf’s characters, but he gets some fantastic moments to shine in there. There’s the whole bit about him having been laid off and being unable to find work, and then eventually losing out a job to his son. That shit is heartbreaking, and he handles it so well. And there’s the undercurrent of him having depression about not being able to provide for the family, but never having it be a big deal. And then he has these really tender moments with his daughter, getting to be the one who balances out all the fighting between mother and daughter. I really love how tender he is in those moments. He feels like a real dad.
67. Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk
I saw this performance about three days before I saw Widows, and he went from someone I didn’t know to someone I wanted to see in everything. This performance in particular is a real showstopper. The film literally stops around this moment, and there’s a ten minute sequence where he runs into Stephan James’ character on the street and comes over for dinner. And within that, there’s this amazing monologue he delivers that sticks with you for a long time after you see it. It’s basically about how scary it is to be black in America and the fear of living in a place where, at any moment in time, they could decide to throw you in prison on an unjust charge (something that happens to both characters), and you have no ability to fight it. It’s a really powerful moment of true vulnerability, and it’s one of the most powerful pieces of acting you’ll see.
66. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
He’s so good in this. I love characters that feel ‘free’ on the screen. Which is to say — I like watching someone and feeling that there are no limits to the performance. I don’t know where they’re gonna go next, what they’re gonna do, what they’re gonna say. That’s why they always say babies and animals are always the most interesting thing in a frame, because you can never predict what’s gonna happen from moment to moment. And that’s what I felt about this performance. He felt really unpredictable in the right way. He plays a criminal in the story that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is writing, and has that initial scene where they get into the auto altercation, which leads to the deaths of Gyllenhaal’s wife and daughter. But after that, he’s just sort of this dangerous beast that’s out there that they want to take down. And you’re always wondering how that’s gonna work, because this dude is clearly sadistic and also doesn’t give a fuck. I loved watching him in this.
65. Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths
This is his warmup to the Three Billboards performance. I just love him in Martin McDonagh films. McDonagh always casts him sort of off that screen persona he started with, the likable idiot. But there’s always some twists to it, and that’s what I love most about it. Here, he’s Colin Farrell’s best friend who makes a living by kidnapping dogs an then returning them to their owners for rewards. Only, when he kidnaps Woody Harrelson (a dangerous gangster)’s dog, the shit starts to hit the fan. There’s a lot of surprises that come with this character, but mostly I love that, at his core, he’s just a guy who really wants to be a good friend. And what makes it work as well as it does is Rockwell. He’s just so goddamn likable on screen and so charming that he makes it work.
63. Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace
It’s fun when Woody goes back and taps back into the ‘psychopath’ character he has. The Natural Born Killers one. This (and Seven Psychopaths, sort of, though in a more comedic way) is the first time he went fully there since then. This performance in particular is just… menacing. He gets the opening of the film, that scene at the drive-in, where he just beats the shit out of the other guy. He just commands the screen whenever he shows up and feels kind of like a wild animal — where he’s generally in check most of the time, but you never know when, to paraphrase Chris Rock, that tiger’s gonna go ‘tiger’. I love when he taps into that side of himself, because it reminds you that the dude can really play anything.
63. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
I’m so beyond impressed by everything he achieved with this film. Forget the fact that he wrote it about himself in the most brutally uncompromising way possible… he plays HIS OWN FATHER. I can only imagine what that had to be like for him to go through. But also… it’s a really great performance. It’s clear he’s trying to bring as much dignity to it and authenticity as possible, while also highlighting the character of this man and the influence he had on his (meaning Shia’s) life, for better and for worse. I said it at the time, and it’s a phrase I’m loathe to say about a piece of acting, but it does feel brave, just in the sense of… that’s some really intense therapy to have to go through, and to churn out a good performance in a good film along the way is just beyond impressive.
62. Sterling K. Brown, Waves
I’ll admit, I’m pretty new to Sterling K. Brown, since he’d largely been a TV actor until the past couple of years (I’m guessing This Is Us is what got him all these movie roles), but I’m impressed with what little I’ve seen him in thus far. This film in particular feels like a natural progression to what (I believe) is the type of stuff that show deals with. He gets to play that strict/overbearing (in some ways) sports dad who is wholly invested in seeing his son achieve the athletic dreams that he himself was unable to, and in the process neglecting both his daughter and his marriage. And then after the events of the first half of the film, we start to see the emotional fallout of all that. The first half of the film establishes him as one type of parent (though there are moments of sweetness thrown in to show he’s not just some one-dimensional character), but it’s the second half where he really shines. That moment with Taylor Russell at the end, and the scene with his wife… it’s a really affecting piece of work.
61. Sylvester Stallone, Creed
This is a situation where — we’ve spent 40 years with this character. So to see him come back and be something new — be vulnerable and actually have all the pathos that comes with experience with someone — that was the best part of seeing this character again. Having him sit in the cemetery and talk to Adrian (which, yes, he did in the last one) was really sweet, and then just seeing him be this old guy with no one who might be dying (giving him a different kind of fight than we’re used to)… it all really worked for me, and Stallone did a fantastic job with it. He’s often been criticized for his range, but this character will always be where he shines brightest.
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