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The Oscars are less than a week away and we’re taking a look at all the categories we care to. Today it’s Supporting Actor.

  • Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
  • Jeremy Renner, The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
  • Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

John:

He probably could have knocked down Sugar Ray.

This is a good group, but Christian Bale is an easy winner for me. He shines when he’s onscreen. It’s the line delivery, the manner of speaking, the body language, the way he walks: it’s so fully-formed. Not that it should be surprising; Bale is terrific in pretty much everything. And I think the dude seeks out movies that allow his body weight to swing wildly.

Hawkes is my second choice, and perhaps the nomination announcement that made me happiest. He may be the most memorable part of Winter’s Bone. It helps that his character is so important and interesting, but Hawkes is still great alternating between menacing and protective. Ruffalo is also a good choice. It’s not easy being both a douchebag but likeable.

And Rush and Renner are unmemorable picks in my mind. Why was Rush the front runner for so long?

Snubs: Two of my favorite supporting performances of the year, after Bale, had shots here but came up short: Andrew Garfield in The Social Network and Bill Murray in Get Low. At least I was able to vote for Murray in the Independent Spirits.

Jared:

I’d probably argue that, pound for pound, this category is the strongest of this year’s crop.  I don’t have anything bad to say about any of the nominees.  And honestly, the five nominees hew pretty darn close to my ideal ballot.

If one of the five has to be weakest, then I guess it would be Jeremy Renner.  Hampered by a relatively weak script, he plays a very familiar character, the screw-up best friend, but does so very well.  Obviously there are significant differences, but I was reminded a lot of Ed Norton’s Worm from Rounders.  I think Renner would have had a stronger case had his character been given a little more room to shine.

Geoffrey Rush has shown incredible range in his career, further extended by his role his as a speech therapist to a king.  Even held to a stricter standard, because (in my opinion) he really is a lead actor in the film, it is hard to find anything to criticize about his performance.

I was pleased as punch when John Hawkes’s name was read on nomination morning.  Regardless of what I think about Winter’s Bone, it is really neat to see a role like this one recognized.  Teardrop is an extremely interesting character, but he isn’t a hero, villain, or foil.  Kudos to the Academy for recognizing a very fine performance in a different sort of role

Christian Bale is a guy you want in your movie.  He always give a consistently superb performance, regardless of the genre of the film in which he’s appearing.  But he also seems to allow his co-stars to shine.  It is a rare talent indeed who can range from perhaps the ultimate straight man (Batman) to a showy, scenery-chomping character like this one.  Especially with this script, Dicky could have been obnoxiously, unbearably over the top.  But Bale reels the character in to something much more appealing.

So talented, he's also nominated for Animated Short.

Only since all these guys can’t be winners, I’m going with Mark Ruffalo as my favorite.  Though in all likelihood this order would have been different had I written this entry on a different day.  I’m repeating myself, but no actor makes playing a character look as effortless as Mark Ruffalo.  If you look over his career, maybe he tends to play a certain general type of character, but it is clearly wrong to suggest he’s just playing himself.  I usually hate to fall back on the cliche, but Paul just felt real.  As in, not a character, but an interesting person.  We’ll shortly get to what I think of the script, but suffice it to say that I’m laying just about all of that on Ruffalo.

Adam:

Says that this category is probably this year’s strongest and can’t decide between Bale and Rush.  I assume he also would have insulted at least one of us.

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Supporting Actor.

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • Christian Bale, The Fighter
  • Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

These two have been nominated in pretty much all Oscar precursors and split winning them.  Both have gobs of screen time; it is fairly easy to imagine their respective movies undergoing relatively minor rewrites to portray each as the main character.  Bale plays a loose cannon crack addict who can’t let go of the past, constantly reliving past fights, which is getting in the way of training his brother.  His performance is all kinds of showy, especially contrasted with Mark Wahlberg’s patented stoicism.  Rush, as a speech therapist tasked with helping a future king, is tasked with a more subtle role, playing mentor, friend, inferior to Colin Firth’s regal stutterer.

LIKELY IN

  • Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
  • Jeremy Renner, The Town
  • Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

The Academy has tendency to shower films it likes with lots and lots of nominations, so if it has caught the lovefest bug for The Social Network, we could hear Andrew Garfield’s name called.  He co-starred this year in the mostly-ignored Never Let Me Go and will be donning Peter Parker’s spiderduds in the upcoming Spiderman reboot.  Garfield’s character in the Facebook movie served an interesting and perhaps necessary counterpoint to the increasingly powerdrunk Zuckerberg.  The Town raked in a ton of dough and is generally well-liked, for reasons I can’t quite understand.  It boasts a strong ensemble, but awards buzz has focused on Jeremy Renner, nominated last year for The Hurt Locker.  Renner’s character doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the sidekick who is always looking for an edge even (or especially) when bending the rules.  Think Worm from Rounders, only from Boston.  But Renner is clearly quite talented.  In The Kids Are All Right, Mark Ruffalo plays a laid-back restaurateur who finds out that a sperm donation from nearly two decades ago has yielded two kids.  The idea isn’t novel to me, but I believe Ruffalo’s talent appears so natural that his work isn’t appreciated nearly as much as it should be.

FIRST ALTERNATE

  • Matt Damon, True Grit

I haven’t seen the film yet, so I won’t comment on Damon’s role or performance.  Buzz has been waning some, but count out at a respected, well-liked guy in a critical and commercial success at your own peril.

DARK HORSES

  • John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
  • Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  • Sam Rockwell, Conviction
  • Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
  • Armie Hammer, The Social Network

In a just world, Hawkes would see a nomination here, he truly turned in great stuff.  I just saw Wall Street 2 on the plane to Vegas, and while the movie was nothing special, Douglas does have an Oscar scene or two, and is a beloved industry veteran who was just in the news for kicking cancer.  I don’t think anyone saw Conviction, including yours truly, but Sam Rockwell is supposed to be very good.  Since the inevitable backlash for The Social Network hasn’t hit yet, you can’t count out Timberlake or Hammer, especially since they both have memorable scenes and lines.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Michael Shannon, The Runaways
  • Tom Hardy, Inception
  • Vincent Cassel, Black Swan

Adam had a good comment in my earlier post about Christian Bale:

How can you be in “too many” movies? Most actors/actresses would kill to get as many great-to-decent roles as Bale. Ask one of our other Grouches if he thinks you can get “too many” job offers. And if you can swing it, and don’t mind the long hours, why turn down good money? Both the studios and Bale himself seem to be trying to cash in on his time in the spotlight. What’s wrong with that?
Also, your second point about the leading men in a franchise was completely under-thought. Mark Hamil was the “leading man” in Star Wars? Were you watching the same films as the rest of us? Is there any doubt that Ford was real leading man of those films? Ergo, Ford was able to pull off the double franchise deal.

I guess I didn’t make my first point too artfully. I don’t blame someone at all for taking on a lot of roles. I’m just amused at how suddenly Bale is everywhere. He’s one of the few actors who would be enough on my radar screen for me to at least give a second look at anything he’s in. But there’s no need to look forward to the next Christian Bale movie because a) nearly everything he’s in already interests me and b) a new Christian Bale movie comes along every few months. When does he have time to beat his mom and sister?

But I maintain the second. I guess I can’t fault the Terminator producers if they really felt like Bale could handle the role unlike anyone else. But is that really the case? It doesn’t seem like a terribly challenging part. Plus the guy just starred in another sci-fi/fantasy action thriller last summer that racked up the second highest box office in history. It just seems like they could have found another face that would have been all their own without a significant downgrade in acting quality. Now they share a lead man with Batman, which takes away the opportunity of making their lead man a unique symbol of the franchise and they have to adjust to Bale’s Batman schedule for future sequels.

It’s like as if Daniel Radcliffe starred in Twighlight as well as Harry Potter. Wouldn’t that be weird?

Anyway, it’s just a thought. I think Terminator Salvation‘s lukewarm box office results shows the rebooted Terminator franchise will never reach the top tier occupied by Batman so it becomes much less of a conflict.

aka summer is boring for awards blogs

Christian Bale is in every damn movie these days. He’s a good actor and I don’t dislike seeing him. But when does he have time to sleep? He was great in 3:10 to Yuma and The Prestige and perfectly fine in the Batman flicks. Dude did some ridiculous stuff putting up with certified crazy man Werner Herzog in Rescue Dawn, which was basically shot like the film-in-the-film in Tropic Thunder. And in Terminator Salvation, well, I have no intention of seeing it. Has any actor ever proliferated so rapidly into so many big name projects? He has Public Enemies coming out soon too.

Do you have a film with a nice mix of action and dramatic heft in the works? Christian Bale is your man!

But what really puzzles me is that he is now the star of two big movie franchises in Batman and Terminator. How does either franchise benefit when it shares its main face with another franchise? Successful franchise frontmen are iconic and unique for their time period: Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker. And now Christian Bale is John Connor AND Bruce Wayne.

Of course it’s not that stars shouldn’t be in other movies or even other franchises. But these are probably two of the five most successful franchises in film today and they both are using the same guy. No one else was available?

May 2017
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