Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars 2009: Best Supporting Actor

The Best Supporting Actor category is usually my favorite every year. Whereas the lead categories tend to gravitate toward the same kinds of roles year after year, the supporting category tends to have a variety of roles, from dark serial killers (No Country for Old Men's Javier Bardem in 2007) to hilarious comedic parts (Little Miss Sunshine's Alan Arkin in 2006). This year's contenders offer no shortage of variety, featuring a Nazi, an Army Notification Officer, a serial killer, a rugby player, and Leo Tolstoy. Its a strong category this year. The breakdown is as follows:
  • Christoph Waltz's Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds is hands-down the most fascinating Nazi ever put to film. What's amazing about his performance is not just the role itself, but how Waltz manages to put so much character into every line-reading, every stare, every motion. Its a commanding performance thats more than just the best supporting one, its the best of the year period. Which is unfortunate for the other four guys in this category.
  • Its hard to believe this is Christopher Plummer's first Oscar nomination (not even for The Sound of Music). But its a well-deserved one, since his performance in The Last Station is excellent. He plays Leo Tolstoy with a twinkle in his eye, a man who tries to please both his friend and his wife while trying to be his own man, even if he's not quite sure what that means. Its a complex performance, and Plummer plays it wonderfully.
  • Woody Harrelson has made the most of his roles over the years, often providing comic relief but also depth to films that desperately needed it. 2009 was no exception, and his incredible performance in The Messenger as Capt. Tony Stone is the best of both Woodys. Stone is an Army Notification Officer, informing family members that their loved one has died in service, and Harrelson plays him with enough machismo to lighten up a situation, but also with enough gravitas to let us see the (very deep) flaws within this man. Its never anything less than riveting.
  • Poor Matt Damon. He really drew the short stick in Invictus, since his Francois Pienaar is the least interesting character in the group. On the plus side, Green Zone, which pairs him with his Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass and is in theaters March 12, looks fantastic.
  • Stanley Tucci has always been a reliable player, and he had a phenomenal year this year. I know that I liked The Lovely Bones more than most, but I don't think enough has been said about how astonishing Tucci is as serial killer/"friendly" neighbor George Harvey. From his schlubby frame to his mush-mouthed accent to his calm demeanor, everything about Harvey is spine-chillingly creepy, and I'm glad that Tucci has finally earned a nomination for this role.
And the ballot goes like this:
  1. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
  2. Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  3. Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  4. Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  5. Matt Damon, Invictus

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