Mike’s Favorite Male Supporting Performances of the Decade (60-51)

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:

60. Jack Black, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

This movie was a huge surprise. It’s rare to get a studio comedy that feels fresh and is legitimately funny, and that extends to all the lead performances. The idea of casting Black as a teenage girl is genius. Every moment he’s on screen is pure hilarity. Shout out to the moment where Bethany / Shelly learns how to pee standing up and marvels at ‘her’ penis and when he teaches Martha / Ruby how to be seductive. Black has never been better than he is here.

59. Colman Domingo, If Beale Street Could Talk

This movie is full of amazing performances, but Domingo’s is the one that stood out most to me. I love how he played the father in this. Everything he does in that living room scene, particularly the moments before the other family shows up and he slowly finds out his daughter’s gonna have a baby, is tremendous. And I like when he pops up later in the film too. His character, most of all, puts forth the notion of love that the movie is trying to forward above all else, and I love how he conveys it with his performance.

58. Stanley Tucci, Spotlight

This film is full of incredible performances, and we’re about to run down three of them in particular. Tucci was the one I wasn’t expecting. I went into the film not really knowing who was in the cast past the main leads, and when he showed up, as I tend to do in most movies, I got really excited and almost involuntarily shouted and clapped at the screen. His character is really well-drawn, too. He plays a lawyer the reporters go to because he states the church knew about the molestations and did nothing. And initially, you don’t see him on screen. Ruffalo goes to talk to him and is waiting in the hall for hours. And eventually we meet Tucci, who is one man representing all these people with claims against the church. He’s overworked, drowning in papers and working tirelessly for the people most affected by the issue for little or no fanfare. In fact, he doesn’t even want to help the reporters at first, but eventually relents and becomes a big help by pointing them in the direction to documents that prove the church knew. The best moment for him is, I believe, his final moment (well, before the obligatory cut at the end of him reading the article), when he leaves Ruffalo to go into a meeting room with a client, a very young girl who (it’s implied) is one of the molestation victims. And it’s just such a touching moment because you see that, even though the reporters have broken the story… it’s not over. It’s up to people like Tucci’s character to keep the fight going and get justice for everyone.

57. Michael Keaton, Spotlight

I love that Keaton is in this movie. Coming right off Birdman, it proved that film/performance wasn’t a one-off. He’s so great here in a semi-lead role (though I consider it all an ensemble with everyone supporting each other) as the head of Spotlight. He plays the voice of reason for most of the film, but when he chooses to let the character be vulnerable is when he makes the strongest impression. Particularly when he goes to see those running his former school, talking about how narrowly he avoided playing on the team coached by the priest who molested boys, as well as the scene where it’s revealed that he helped bury the story they’re currently breaking years earlier when he was editor of a different section of the paper. It’s a great piece of work that further reminds us that Keaton is one of the best actors we have.

56. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Ruffalo, I’m impressed by most in this film, not because he gets the big ‘dramatic’ moments (that Oscar clip scene where he’s shouting about how they need to go to print and how ‘they knew and they DID NOTHING!’), but because he does the most in terms of giving a realistic approximation of what it’s like being an investigative journalist. The scenes of him rushing to the county clerk’s office to try to get copies of records, waiting there for hours to get in and fighting to use the copy machine. Or the scene where he’s at home working, and John Slattery comes by with pizza because he knows he hasn’t eaten. It’s a great piece of work that largely goes unnoticed in that regard. I also like how Ruffalo always subtly adds little touches to all his characters Here, it feels like he’s doing some slight voice thing and posture thing I guess to approximate what the real guy is like, but it’s just present enough to not detract and also add a level of authenticity to the performance that really makes it work.

55. Dev Patel, Lion

He’s for sure supporting, while the little boy who plays him as a child is the lead. He gets a nice chunk of screen time, but really it’s only the latter stages of the film where he comes front and center. He gets the most dramatic scenes in the film, and his is largely an internal character in a lot of ways. But he really drives home that sense of a boy just looking to find out where he came from. There’s something missing in him, and he’s not quite sure what or how to find it, and eventually sets out to find his family. It’s a testament to Patel’s performance that the climactic moment of the film — which essentially takes place on Google Earth — lands as well as it does. There’s a real emotional culmination there, and it’s because of him that it works as well as it does.

54. Christopher Walken, Seven Psychopaths

Walken was made for Martin McDonagh. McDonagh had been putting him in plays for years, and finally gets him on the screen, in a performance perfectly tailored to Walken’s idiosyncrasies. The line deliveries he has — ‘no fucking cops!’ comes to mind, among several others — are just perfection. Plus, and people forget this, there’s the real emotional hook to his character as well, that you find out slowly over the course of the film. It’s a really strong performance that often goes overlooked (in a film that often goes overlooked as well).

53. Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick

It’s funny that everyone was quick to jump all over the McConaughey bandwagon during the first part of this decade, but then he won his Oscar and everyone just sort of forgot about him. Either that or they started taking him for granted. But it definitely feels like his performances from the latter half of this decade have not been nearly as noticed as the earlier ones.

This film in particular feels like it got a lot of short shrift for whatever reason. It’s based on the true story of a kid from Detroit who, by the age of 14 was a major drug dealer and FBI informant. McConaughey plays his father, who provides for his family by selling illegal guns and gun parts. He’s got some really great scenes, particularly when he meets his grandson for the first time. It’s just a really strong portrait of a man trying to make it in a fucked up world that’s not looking out for him, and it’s some of the strongest work McConaughey’s ever done.

52. Christopher Plummer, Knives Out

He’s really been delivering some of his best work this past decade. This performance in particular is one I really, really liked that no one seemed to be talking about. It feels like most of the other actors in the film got all the notice, but it’s his performance that really keeps the emotional elements of the film glued together. HIs role is entirely in flashback too, since his character is dead the minute the film starts. But it’s nice seeing his character and the central mystery unfold little by little, particularly in the scene with Ana de Armas in his study. It’s a really touching moment and everything you feel about her character and how much you root for her is directly proportional to that moment and everything that happens with Plummer’s character.

51. Craig Robinson, Morris from America

I loved this performance so much, and I’m not sure most people even know it exists. I’m not sure most people even know this film exists. It’s about a father and son living in Berlin. The boy’s mother was German and recently died, so it’s about this kid, about to hit high school, trying to fit in as an American black kid in Berlin (and aspiring rapper), and his father, trying to take care of him while also grieve the death of his wife. And there are some really terrific moments between father and son. Robinson never lets it get too light or too heavy, providing this really realistic portrait of single-fatherhood that I felt really worked. Even the moments in the film when the parent would get angry at the kid’s antics… Robinson never reacts the way I expect. And there are some really nice dramatic moments in there that you rarely get to see him perform, since he’s so often the comic relief figure of a film. It’s a terrific, terrific performance that I cannot recommend highly enough.

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