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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2015 Oscar Preview: Best Supporting Actor


- Robert Duvall (The Judge)
- Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
- Edward Norton (Birdman)
- Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
- J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

WHO SHOULD BE HERE: Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

It's absolutely insane the snobbery The Academy has for actors who don't appear on screen. The Academy declared a film like The Adventures of Tintin was not eligible for the Best Animated Picture category because there was too much motion capture to the animation, yet those actors aren't deemed to be good enough to be eligible in the acting categories. Good acting is good acting no matter what medium you're using. Andy Serkis not only deserved to be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor back in 2011 for his work as Caeser in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but he deserved to win. The depth to that performance was incredible. Scarlett Johansson was so fantastic in Her that you actually believed the relationship the characters Theordore and Samantha had that she also deserved an Academy Award nomination. Johansson's performance also proved that not everyone can do great voice acting as she famously replaced Samantha Morton in the film.

The work that Toby Kebbell did this year and what Andy Serkis did prior is just so insanely good. These actors did more than just sit in a booth and record lines; these actors were doing the grunt work having those white bubbles taped to themselves while they actually acted their asses off. Just because VFX was used later to scrub out the actors doesn't lessen the emotional connection they forced you to have with these characters. Kebbell played Koba in the film and was the defacto bad guy. However, Koba was more than just evil, he was a character who felt genuine and passionately about how the leadership should be run and did what he had to do to advance his goals. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn't the critical and commercial success that it was without the acting of Toby Kebbell.


J.K. SIMMONS (WHIPLASH): I hate that I have to explain to people that J.K. Simmons is that bald dude from the Farmer's Insurance commercials because he's delivered so many great performances over the years. From his roles in "Oz" and "Law and Order" to his movie stints in Spider-Man and Juno, Simmons just knocks everything he does out of the park. That's the life of a character actor who wants to work, they have to be great. J.K. Simmons gives his best performance of his career as Terrence Fletcher, the foul-mouth, insult-hurling conductor of the best band in the best music school in the country. He may push people to tears, but he does it to push them to greatness. To make this comic-book villain of a character a true, three-dimensional person is just remarkable. He is going to win the Oscar and he deserves it not only for a lifetime of amazing work, but for giving one of the best performances of the year. J.K. Simmons is so good and so terrifying in Whiplash that I will never look at those Farmer's commercials the same way ever again.

Click here to read my full review of Whiplash

EDWARD NORTON (BIRDMAN): Another actor who is just great at everything he does is Edward Norton. While he tends to always play the bad guy, he does so with such conviction and heart that he elevates the quality of whatever movie he's in. Norton brings that same dedication and bravado to Birdman as he's just electric as Mike Shiner- the A-list actor who is going to save the play. Mike quickly devolves and sets to derail everything, but you never view his character as just a plot device because you're always glued to the screen to see whatever Mike does next. In almost every other year, Edward Norton would deserve to win for a performance like this. He was just incredible.

Click here to read my full review of Birdman

ETHAN HAWKE (BOYHOOD): I almost discount Patricia Arquette's performance in Boyhood because of how good Ethan Hawke was in the film. Part of the reason I liked Hawke's performance so much is because he had to play that step-dad that his kids always wanted to play with. In order to gain the affection of his kids he had to be charming as hell, and that charm also worked on me. There's nothing revolutionary or deep about what Ethan Hawke was asked to play considering he was just asked to play a step-father who loved his kids, but he played it with such realism and tenacity that I loved every second he was on screen. There's a narrative for this film that Patricia Arquette is going to win an Oscar because she had to put 12 years of her life into this film, yet for some reason that narrative isn't sticking to Hawke which to me is just mind-boggling. Ethan Hawke also had to work on this project for 12 years. Ethan Hawke doesn't deserve to win just because both Edward Norton and J.K. Simmons out-acted him, plain and simple. but Hawke did put a lot of hard work into Boyhood, and it shows.

Click here to read my full review of Boyhood

ROBERT DUVALL (THE JUDGE): The Judge currently has a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and was a commercial flop because of how bad it was. I'm not seeing a bad movie just because of one great performance in it. It's true that I might enjoy it, but there are just too many other films I'd like to see and too many other films that were nominated for more than just one Oscar for me to care about seeing Robert Duvall's performance. Also, if Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) had replaced Duvall on the Oscar ballot like how the BAFTA's did it and either Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) or David Oyelowo (Selma) took Carrel's Best Actor place, would anyone outside of Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. be upset? It probably would have been preferable!

MARK RUFFALO (FOXCATCHER): Speaking of Foxcatcher, we get to the great Mark Ruffalo's performance. Since the film was released at Cannes this summer, the initial Oscar buzz was that Steve Carell was going to get a Best Actor nomination and Channing Tatum was going to get a Best Supporting Actor nod (which is ludicrous because Tatum is the true star of the film and calling Carell a lead is shaky at best). But as more and more people started seeing the film, they started to notice Ruffalo more until he eventually earned this nomination (and poor Channing Tatum was left out in the dust). Personally, I thought Mark Ruffalo was fine in the film, but I think he's fine in everything he does. Whether it's a dumb teen comedy like 13 Going on 30, an action flick like Marvel's The Avengers, or a modern classic like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mark Ruffalo brings his A-game to whatever he does. Ruffalo brought that same level of professionalism to Foxcacther, which is good, but if you're not going to say his other performances I just listed off are not Oscar-worthy, I don't know that this one is either.  I don't mean to shit on Mark Ruffalo as I really, really enjoy him as an actor and I love the work he's doing, but I just don't know if I'd go so far as to say his work in Foxcatcher warrants this nomination.

Click here to read my full review of Foxcatcher


- Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
- Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)
- Logan Lurman (Fury)
- Edward Norton (Birdman)
- J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

WHO WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)



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