|First-time nominee Bradley Cooper|
Two thoughts. First, it is to the Academy's benefit to nominate a large number of new people every year, to give a kind of official blessing to actors who have been working hard for many years and to enable them to get more and better work (like Jacki Weaver or Shohreh Aghdashloo or Octavia Spencer or Sophie Okonedo), and when they fail to do this, they really fail a whole bunch of good, hard-working performers. Second, what this small number of first-time nominees demonstrates even more fully is an absolutely astounding lack of imagination. Instead of nominating a bunch of truly amazing supporting performances, they chose to nominate in both supporting categories ten actors who have all been nominated before. All of them. For the men it's even worse. Every single one of the nominees for supporting actor has won an Oscar before. Each and every one of them has an Oscar. Robert De Niro, in fact, has two.
Now it is true that in Silver Linings Playbook De Niro probably gives his best performance in the last fifteen years. Broad love for the film meant that he was definitely getting a nomination. But is it really an astounding performance in any way? Tommy Lee Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman (who I think is always overwrought), and Christoph Waltz? All of whom already have Oscars? Why is it that 4 of the 5 nominations in this category come from Best Picture nominees? Last year that ratio was 2 out of 5. In 2011 only 1 out of the 5 was in a movie nominated for Best Picture (eventual winner Christoph Waltz).
My favorite performances of the year from supporting actors – apparently – had no shot of a nomination. Most have never been nominated for Oscars before, I guess, and so they're on nobody's radars. A true shame because there were some really wonderful performances by hard-working, excellent actors happening on the sidelines of this year's movies. I will stop complaining for the rest of this post and (instead) talk about some of these great performances.
Jutra Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Monsieur Lazhar.
can't seem to shut up about how good he is in that movie. In fact, Jackson steals the movie from all of his co-stars. Jackson's role, granted, is the best written role in the film, but the actor's skill at playing Tarantino's dialogue to the hilt, his genius at knowing just what kind of film he is in, and his way of making a role into something iconic illustrate that Jackson is not only one of the most exciting actors to watch onscreen these days, he is clearly also one of the most shrewd. The performance is over-the-top while managing to be empathetic and surprising, and it's completely, totally, perfect for Django.
And there are more. Anna Karenina's earnest farmer Levin is played with mannered intensity and timid passion by Domhnall Gleeson. His performance is eager and honest, and it is perhaps the most emotionally charged work in what I thought was a beautiful film. And Christopher Walken's sad, aging dog-napper in Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths also deserves mention. It's an excellent performance of a profoundly tired character dealing with great loss. There is also Irrfan Khan as the adult survivor of a great adventure in Life of Pi, and Javier Bardem psychopathic villain in Skyfall.
No matter how you look at it, there were some beautiful performances by supporting actors this year. Some of these performances were the best things in their films, and some simply made excellent films even better with their honest work. In any case, I had a great time watching these actors at the movies this year, and I hope they stay on all of our radars, Oscar nomination or no.