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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actor in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

BRIAN

My list of Supporting Actor couldashouldas is even longer than what I had for Supporting Actress– I could easily fill out a full batch of nominees for the category: Ben Kingsley for Hugo, Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Corey Stoll for Midnight in Paris, Patton Oswalt in Young Adult and Uggie in The Artist. Sure, the last one was a little bit of a stretch, but you never know.

I’ll start with everyone’s favorite nominee that I don’t really understand. Christopher Plummer plays a gay, dying old man. If he has been a Holocaust survivor then that’d have checked off all of the Academy’s weak spots. It helps his case that he’s in the same movie as a flaccid romance and a way-too-twee conceit. But I found his performance underwhelming.

Max Von Sydow falls in the same category as a “career achievement” nominee for me, though I appreciated his work as a mute in ELIC. (Yet another Academy weak spot — physical disability). Playing off the unbearable precociousness of Thomas Horn’s Oskar, von Sydow’s expressive face was a nice respite, but he was never able to transcend the strained premise.

Kenneth Branagh? Sure, whatever. Get him back to doing something that befits a man of his pedigree. He was as stuck in Marilyn as Olivier was inThe Prince and the Showgirl.

Jonah Hill’s nomination is the one that makes me angriest, mostly because I should be thrilled that a young, comedic actor is getting recognized. But Hill didn’t DO anything in Moneyball except wear glasses and play against “type.” There are many things about Moneyball that make me think I saw a different movie than the one others did (especially the folks at The Atlantic) — Jonah Hill’s nomination is a the top of this list.

Everyone should go see Warrior. I’ve been preaching the gospel far and wide on this one. Nick Nolte is one of many reasons why. His sons are MMA fighters — strong, brutal and merciless — but they are feeble when it comes to interacting with Nolte. It’s a multi-layered performance that can only improve with repeated watchings. Give the award to Nolte!!

JOHN

Supporting Actor elicits the opposite response from me than Supporting Actress. I have no pretty much no interest in three of the nods, a fourth is okay, and one is miles above the rest. I wish I had the Supporting Actress problem of having to parse great acting from the great written character for these uninspiring picks.

I generally like Jonah Hill but I don’t see what’s so special about this performance. I can see some improvement in his work – he’s no longer half-shouting his lines – but I wouldn’t rank it among the year’s best. Branagh didn’t entrance me, though he’s not helped by a total snoozer of a film, while von Sydow is meh. By the time I saw Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close I knew von Sydow had scored an Oscar nomination. I kept waiting for some scene that would show how he earned that nod… and then nothing materialized.

Nolte does kind of hit the same notes again and again in Warrior. Sad, angry, or thrilled the dialogue all gets croaked out similarly. But given his years of boozing you could say he’s been preparing for this role for years! He’s certainly memorable, though it is a little tough since Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton both stood out to me more in the film. Still, I think there would be a temptation to play up some of the character’s emotional moments – create an Oscar Scene, even – but Nolte keeps it realistic.

Not that I needed to eliminate the others to reach this conclusion, but Christopher Plummer is the obvious winner. There’s a lot of complexity to a the role despite its fairly limited profile. There’s the regret for all the years he suppressed his true self, the timidity of launching into a new life at an advanced age, the joy of new love, the support of a father for a son, and the contemplation of impending death. Plummer is marvelous in all these aspects. Whenever he isn’t on screen, Beginners seriously drags. Plummer is so mesmerizing and his subplot so interesting that the primary plot thread pales in comparison. I would love to see a whole film built around this character.

This category is so lackluster I can’t even name many other actors I wish were here instead. I wasn’t as taken by Drive‘s Albert Brooks as others, but his play against type as a psychopath made for a great story. Ditto for Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, whose unrealized nomination would have been a nice recognition for a terrific but underexposed film. Otherwise, some of the actors from the sprawling casts of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy orMidnight in Paris would have been nice: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Corey Stoll, or Tom Hiddleston.

ADAM

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

JARED

What an odd collection of nominees.  The next time someone tries to convince you there’s such a thing as an Oscar performance, point them to this category.  You can’t say the nominees came from “Oscar movies”, because two of the films weren’t nominated for anything else.  The nominees aren’t all old or young or handsome or ugly or rookies or veterans or dramatic or comedic.  And you can’t say any had an Oscar scene.  Heck, it’d be easier to argue none of them had a traditional Oscar scene.  Indeed, about the only thing the performances have in common is that they aren’t particularly near my top picks of the year.

I remain baffled as to how Jonah Hill secured a nomination for such a blank character.  I’m guessing Brad Pitt just went around telling people to vote for Hill.  Which, to be honest, is probably the most effective campaign strategy for anything that I’ve ever heard.

I love the concept of Nick Nolte getting a nod for portraying a grilled old dad/trainer in a fighting movie that was one of the best of the year.  Kudos to the PR team for turning that in an Oscar nomination.  What complicates the pitch is that I’m not sure Nolte was required to show any depth or range.

There has to be someone somewhere who can explain to me what’s so great about Christopher Plummer in Beginners.  I swear that I went in with an open mind and additionally have read multiple people’s takes on the role.  But, I dunno.  Nothing in particular stands out for me there.

Does Max von Sydow get in if this wasn’t the year where a silent picture rampaged through the awards circuit?  That’s a tough call.  I’d argue The Artist certainly made people more receptive to a character that doesn’t speak.  Though that film is also an example of how people in a movie can be so expressive even without any dialogue.  As opposed to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I seem to to recall the book giving the character more backstory, maybe that is what’s missing here.

So by process of elimination, that leaves…Kenneth Branagh?  Fine, whatever.  I think people are getting too caught up in the storyline about how Branagh is like Olivier, and so it is cute the former is playing the latter in the film.  Or how odd it is for this all to be happening in a relatively light movie.  But I think Branagh was solid.  More than anything, his character served as a way to explain to the audience what was going on with the movie in a movie and what should be going. Branagh rises to the occasion and turns the character into one worth remembering.

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