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:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

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!

Oscar History: 2012

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an Oscar History post (about two and a half years) and I’m at 2012. It was a year in which Seth MacFarlane hosted the show – fresh off his comedy smash Ted. Here’s what transpired in the major categories with some other pictures and performers I might have considered:

The year saw nine nominees for Best Picture in which Ben Affleck’s Argo took the top prize. Other nominees: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook (my personal favorite of the year), and Zero Dark Thirty. 

Many Wes Anderson fans would contend that Moonrise Kingdom should have made the cut. And I could certainly argue that The Avengers (perhaps the greatest comic book flick and the year’s biggest grosser) was worth a nod.

The nominations in Best Director were a huge surprise at the time. While Argo won the top prize of all, Affleck was not nominated for his behind the camera efforts. It was the first time since Driving Miss Daisy‘s Bruce Beresford where an Oscar-winning Picture didn’t see its filmmaker nominated.

Instead it was Ang Lee who was victorious for Life of Pi over Michael Haneke (Amour), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

In addition to Affleck, it was surprising that Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) was not included. And I certainly would have put in Tarantino for Django.

The race for Best Actor seemed over when the casting of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln was announced. And that’s exactly how it played out as he won his third Oscar over a strong slate of Bradley Cooper (Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), and Denzel Washington (Flight).

The exclusion of John Hawkes in The Sessions could have been welcomed, but I’ll admit that’s a solid group.

Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for Silver Linings over Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts), and Naomi Watts (The Impossible).

Again, no major qualms here. I did enjoy the work of Helen Mirren in Hitchcock (for which she did get a Golden Globe nod).

Supporting Actor was competitive as Christoph Waltz won his second statue for Django (three years after Inglourious Basterds). He was a bit of a surprise winner over Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Other nominees: Alan Arkin (Argo), Robert De Niro (Playbook), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Here’s a year where there’s a lot of others I thought of. Waltz won, but I think the work of Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson in Django was equally impressive. There’s Javier Bardem as one of the greatest Bond villains ever in Skyfall. Or John Goodman’s showy role in Flight. As for some other blockbusters that year, how about Tom Hiddleston in The Avengers or Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike? And my favorite comedic scene of that year was due to Giovanni Ribisi in Ted…

In Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway was a front-runner for Les Miserables and there was no upset. Other nominees: Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), and Jacki Weaver (Playbook).

Judi Dench had more heft to her part as M in Skyfall that year and I’ll also give a shout-out to Salma Hayek’s performance in Oliver Stone’s Savages.

And there’s your Oscar history for 2012! I’ll have 2013 up… hopefully in less than two and a half years!

Oscar Watch: At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe has received three Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor in his long and distinguished career: 1986’s Platoon, 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire, and just last year for The Florida Project. He has never gotten recognition in lead Actor, but that is likely to change with At Eternity’s Gate. Featuring Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in his final days, the Julian Schnabel directed pic has debuted at the Venice Film Festival. Early buzz suggests its star stands an excellent chance at a nomination.

Most of the critical reaction is encouraging, but the picture itself is certainly a question mark in all other categories. Schnabel has certainly received Academy love before. 2000’s Before Night Falls saw Javier Bardem get a Best Actor nod. 2007’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly garnered four nominations, including Best Director. Original Screenplay and Cinematography could be two additional categories where this is considered.

As far as Dafoe’s costars, Oscar Isaac is a possibility as fellow painter Paul Gauguin. Yet it’s also entirely feasible that CBS Films will focus the bulk of its campaign on Dafoe. They may not have to try too hard.

Bottom line: any other races are uncertain, but Dafoe looks poised for his first walk down the red carpet as a Best Actor nominee.

At Eternity’s Gate is out domestically on November 16. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Everybody Knows

This year’s opening selection for the Cannes Film Festival came with understandable questions about its Oscar possibilities. The Spanish language dramatic thriller Everybody Knows, after all, is from director Asghar Farhadi and he’s made two winners in the Best Foreign Language Film category (2012’s A Separation and last year’s The Salesman). It stars two Academy recipients with real life spouses Javier Bardem (Supporting Actor in 2007 for No Country for Old Men) and Penelope Cruz (2008’s Supporting Actress in Vicky Christina Barcelona).

Yet the buzz out of France likely quashed any notions of Academy recognition. Critics say Knows isn’t in the league of Farhadi’s previous works. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is just 46% as of this writing.

Bottom line: the director is one of the few who’s created more than Foreign Language Oscar winner, but Everybody Knows is in no position to be his third.

mother! Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! may leave you woozy, bewildered, and exhilarated and sometimes all within the same minute. It’s a film that many will despise for taking its Hollywood stars down this rabbit hole of Biblical allegories and celebrity culture mockery. Yet I’ll be damned if it wasn’t an experience to often behold, albeit not on the level as some of the director’s best works.

mother is Jennifer Lawrence, who lives in a remote sprawling home with her older husband who is known as Him (Javier Bardem). He’s a famous and acclaimed poet suffering from an acute case of writer’s block. She fills her days renovating their dwelling which we learned recently burned to the ground.

Their quiet existence is interrupted when a stranger known as man (Ed Harris) shows up at their door, claiming he thought the house was a bed and breakfast. mother’s natural and understandable instinct is to send him on his way. Him curiously invites him to stay. Shortly after, his wife credited as woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives. She’s a prying firecracker who rubs mother the wrong away while her husband’s health issues come to light. Their two sons join the joyless party as well and that’s when some tragic results occur. If you’ve noted I’m not saying the names of the characters, it’s for a reason. They don’t have them.

It’s a bit of a chore to discuss mother! without venturing into major spoiler territory. I’ll say this – their family drama has an ending. When Him and mother finally get the place to themselves again, she becomes pregnant and we flash forward to her due date approaching. This is when more people turn up. Lots of them.

What transpires after gives us multiple instances of WTF moments that also showcase Aronofsky’s remarkable visual style behind the camera. He’s a filmmaker unafraid to tackle religious themes (Noah was his previous effort) and mother! certainly bludgeons us with them. It also has plenty to say about fame and those who follow famous people, well, religiously.

By the time Him and mother’s “houseguests” number on the scale of innumerable, I found myself staring at the screen in disbelief at some of what’s onscreen. Part of this may be because a major studio clearly let their writer/director do whatever he wanted here. Another reason is Aronofsky’s technical skill at shooting what occurs within the home’s walls.

Lawrence often represents the audience here. She’s as confused as we are with her husband’s eagerness to welcome others in. In a typical horror flick (especially those of the haunted house variety), you’d be screaming for her to just get the hell out. You may do that here, but credit Aronofsky for going out of his way to explain why she doesn’t.

Black Swan, which stands at the director’s best along with Requiem for a Dream, shares certain themes. A drive for artistic perfection no matter the cost is a trait shared by Natalie Portman in her Oscar winning role and the character of Him. It takes us to even darker places here, but it didn’t leave me as satisfied as Swan. That one got Aronofsky awfully close to cinematic perfection. mother! doesn’t leave that kind of impression overall, but its scenes of expertly made depravity should leave his fans enthralled while it’s happening.

*** (out of four)

 

mother! Box Office Prediction

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! received quite the splashy debut at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend and stateside audiences will render their verdict on September 15th. Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem headline the psychological horror thriller with a supporting cast including Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kristin Wiig, and Domhnall Gleeson.

Critical reaction from mother! has been something to witness, with some reviews labeling it a masterwork from the Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan auteur. Other notices haven’t gone that far, but all seem to agree it will push the audience’s buttons with its out there approach. The pic stands at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes currently.

Here are the pluses as I see them when it comes to potential box office performance. First, it’s headlined by Jennifer Lawrence and that should be a draw for some. Second, the buzz surrounding it could create a “you have to witness this thing” for yourself type of vibe.

One minus is a considerable one. The It factor. The Stephen King adaptation is riding its own higher decibel wave of chatter and should still be garnering big grosses in its sophomore weekend. It could easily divert some moviegoers away from this.

I’ll predict mother! begins with a low to mid teens output and it’ll be fascinating to see how it progresses or regresses from there (its Cinemascore rating could be an interesting indicator).

mother! opening weekend prediction: $14.7 million

For my American Assassin prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/09/06/american-assassin-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: mother!

One of the more eagerly awaited titles has screened at the Venice Film Festival as Darren Aronofsky’s mother! has seen its first reactions. The psychological horror pic debuts stateside next weekend and early word-of-mouth indicates it’s quite a head trip.

One could see from the effective trailers that mother! looks bizarre and pretty out there. It’s a tale of a couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) whose remote home is visited by various strangers, including Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. The Venice reaction was reportedly all over the map – a mix of wild cheering and boos. This could indicate how audiences may feel about it. mother! is said to be in the vein of the director’s earlier Black Swan (which received multiple nominations and a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman) and Rosemary’s Baby. 

While mother! currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, its apparent divisiveness could stand as a hindrance for a Best Picture or Director nomination. That said, it could also benefit from some voters ranking it as their #1 or #2 picture on the ballot.

As for the performers, Jennifer Lawrence would be gunning for her fifth nomination. She won in 2012 for Silver Linings Playbook, got lead nominations for Winter’s Bone (2010) and Joy (2015), and was nominated for Supporting Actress for American Hustle (2013). It’s been discussed a lot on this blog recently, but the Actress category is looking very strong right now and her inclusion could be a long shot. The best chance at recognition could belong to Michelle Pfeiffer, a three-time nominees whose last nod came 25 years ago. It should depend on the strength of that category, which is yet undetermined.

Bottom line: mother! has rather unsurprisingly garnered acclaim, but how it plays with audiences remains to be seen. We shall know soon enough and that may be a determining factor as to its Oscar viability.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…