Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

RIP Bill Paxton

Sadly, this morning I write a post I didn’t expect to with the news that Bill Paxton has passed away at age 61. For even casual movie fans, Paxton was a very familiar face that starred and co-starred in blockbusters such as Aliens, True Lies, Twister, and Titanic.

Upon hearing the news of his death, I began to realize just how present he’s been in my movie watching existence over the last three decades plus. I first knew of him as Chet, the bullying older brother in Weird Science. If that is a guilty pleasure pic, his performance is one of the best pleasures in it. It’s a terrific comedic performance.

Just one year later, his role in Aliens stuck out in that fantastic sequel with one-liners like “Game Over, Man!” That same year, he starred in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire cult classic Near Dark.

All told, Mr. Paxton has about a dozen DVDs and Blu-Rays sitting on my shelf. Like I said, he was truly a part of many of our collective filmgoing experiences from the 1980s on. He was alongside Tom Cruise just three years ago in the solid Edge of Tomorrow and was a rival tabloid cameraman to Jake Gyllenhaal in my favorite picture of 2014, Nightcrawler.

His TV credits include headlining HBO’s “Big Love” and just a few weeks ago, his CBS crime drama “Training Day” (based on the 2001 Denzel Washington film) premiered. His final movie will be The Circle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It opens in April.

Other notable onscreen efforts range from Predator 2 to Tombstone to A Simple Plan and U571. Today I wish to highlight a trio of lesser known titles worth seeking out:

Two are from 1992. Trespass finds him and William Sadler as firefighters who find a treasure map that pits them against drug dealers Ice Cube and Ice-T. It’s great gritty fun. One False Move is an intense crime thriller from director Carl Franklin and written by Billy Bob Thornton. Gene Siskel named it as his favorite movie of that year and it is impressive.

Paxton turned to directing himself in 2001 with Frailty, an underrated and effective thriller where the actor plays a religiously fanatical father. I just watched it again recently and it made me wish Paxton had directed more.

What Bill Paxton did leave us with is his own treasure trove of performances to enjoy. He will be missed.

Bad Santa 2 Box Office Prediction

Thirteen years after its predecessor opened over the Turkey Day weekend, Billy Bob Thornton’s booze fueled holiday cheer returns in Bad Santa 2. The original has hit cult status, but it’s worth noting that it did quite well in its initial theatrical run. In 2003, it debuted to $12.2 million over the Friday to Sunday holiday frame and $16.8 million counting its Wednesday and Thursday grosses. It eventually earned $60M domestic.

Mark Waters (maker of hits like Freaky Friday and Mean Girls) takes over directorial duties from Terry Zwigoff. Thornton is back in the title role alongside returnees Tony Cox and Brett Kelly, in addition to Kathy Bates and Christina Hendricks.

2016 has seen a consistent pattern of long gestating sequels not matching the grosses of the first. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bad Santa 2 followed the same trajectory. Reviews so far have been mixed to negative. I’ll predict this doesn’t match what we saw 13 years ago and struggles to top low to mid double digits for its five-day.

Bad Santa 2 opening weekend prediction: $8.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $10.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Moana prediction, click here:

For my Allied prediction, click here:

For my Rules Don’t Apply prediction, click here:

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Box Office Prediction

Tina Fey headlines the war comedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, out next weekend and the 30 Rock star hopes to capitalize on the goodwill audiences gave with her Christmas time hit Sisters. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love and Focus, are behind the camera with Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, and Alfred Molina amongst the supporting players.

The Afghanistan set pic could benefit with solid reviews (they’re not out yet). Even if Foxtrot receives them, it likely faces an uphill battle to open big out of the gate. Sisters started rather slow at $13.9 million, but eventually grossed nearly $90M domestically (it did open against something called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to be fair). However, that film had Fey’s partner in hilarity Amy Poehler alongside her.

I believe this should manage to open higher than Fey’s Admission, which flunked out with a $6.1M opening three years ago. Whether it reaches double digits is a legit question and I’ll predict it falls a bit under that.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million

For my Zootopia prediction, click here:

For my London Has Fallen prediction, click here:

For my The Other Side of the Door prediction, click here:

Entourage Movie Review

Vince, Eric, Drama, Turtle, and Ari are back in action in Entourage, the film that continues the HBO comedy that ran for eight seasons and concluded in 2011. Creator Doug Ellin handles the writing and directing duties and even producer Mark Wahlberg cameos (the show is based loosely on his experiences and his posse). When the show premiered, it had a nice run of being an entertaining novelty that allowed audiences to feel like bystanders watching a megastar and his buddies living the high life in Tinseltown. By about the midpoint of its existence, the show kind of ran out of steam. Simply put, said novelty started to wear and many of the principle characters simply weren’t interesting or three dimensional enough to sustain an eight year airing.

Unfortunately, Entourage: The Motion Picture does little to seem any different than a padded episode in the series later weaker seasons. To catch up: huge movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is recently divorced after a nine day period of wedded bliss and looking to direct. His manager Ari (Jeremy Piven) secures $100 million plus for a strange looking sci fi/action rendering of Jekyll and Hyde dubbed “Hyde”. The fact that it goes over budget creates problems with the picture’s co-financiers, a wealthy Texas businessman (Billy Bob Thornton) and his sleaze bag son (Haley Joel Osment). Eric (Kevin Connolly) is still in his ongoing off and on romance with a very pregnant Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and sowing his oats during a break. Vince’s always struggling actor brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still struggling and living under his baby bro’s more attractive shadow. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is living the high life (literally and figuratively) from his thriving tequila business money and in a potential romance with Ronda Rousey.

We are treated once again to the glamorous life of this crew and their huge parties chock full of celebrity cameos, including a number of the New England Patriots. Like on the show, many of the genuinely funny moments do come from Piven’s always high strung Ari, including his therapy sessions with his long suffering wife. As for other performers, both Grenier and Connolly are a bit dull. Dillon’s Drama veers between humorous and annoying (as he did on HBO). Turtle is Turtle. And for those wondering about Haley Joel Osment after all these years, he doesn’t do himself many favors with this over the top Southern yokel part. If you truly loved the show, you might eat this up. Yet if you’re like me and believe it got long in the tooth, this will likely feel highly unnecessary.

** (out of four)

Our Brand Is Crisis Box Office Prediction

In her first live action role since her Oscar nominated turn in box office bonanza Gravity, Sandra Bullock headlines the comedic drama and political pic Our Brand Is Crisis, out next weekend. Supporting players include Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, and Ann Dowd. From the producers of Argo (Grant Heslov and Bullock’s Gravity costar George Clooney) and director David Gordon Green, Crisis was once looked at as a potential awards contender until it screened at the film festival circuit. Its mixed reviews put it at just 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Even Bullock’s legitimate star power may not save this from being a mediocre performer. Political movies are a tough sell generally, especially without critics praising it. Only positive buzz could turn this into a hit and it’s just not there. I believe Crisis may struggle to reach double digits and disappear rather quickly.

Our Brand Is Crisis opening weekend prediction: $7.8 million

For my Burnt prediction, click here:

For my Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Our Brand Is Crisis

On the last two occasions that Sandra Bullock has headlined a picture with dramatic elements, it’s resulted in a 2009 Oscar win for The Blind Side and a 2013 nomination for Gravity. Therefore, it is no surprise that her upcoming comedic drama Our Brand Is Crisis (out October 30) was garnering talk of a third nomination.

However, its screening at the Toronto Film Festival has mostly muted that chatter. The film, in which Bullock plays a political operative assigned to help a struggling Bolivian president win reelection, was met with mixed word of mouth at the festival. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 44% currently. While her performance has been received well, readers of this blog may be familiar with the recent theme of Best Actress being very crowded this year. That will likely leave Bullock on the outside looking in. In fact, one of the category front runners is Cate Blanchett for Carol, whose winning role in Blue Jasmine probably kept Bullock from a second gold statue. Costars including Billy Bob Thornton and Ann Dowd also shouldn’t be a factor and the picture itself has virtually zero hope in the big race.

Once again, that important festival in Canada has eliminated another Oscar hopeful from the mix. Look for more Oscar Watch posts following the same theme on the blog.