[Top 10 Snubs]
And here we go. From worst-to-first, here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. It should be noted that this order doesn't necessarily reflect who I think will win. It reflects who I think most deserves the Oscar.
5. Matt Damon - InvictusI may have mentioned this already, but it's worth repeating: Invictus was not good. Unfortunately for Matt Damon, that makes me dislike his performance more than I normally would. So I've gone over it many times trying to find the positives that I didn't notice the first time through. I guess I found a few...
Damon plays South African rugby player Francois Pienaar, so that meant he had to a.) get his body jacked up and b.) rock the very noticeable South African accent, and he did both perfectly adequately. And playing opposite Morgan Freeman's portrayal of Nelson Mandela gave him some good exchanges. But the movie was unnecessarily boring so I didn't care much.
You can blame Clint Eastwood's questionable direction for your spot on my list, Matt.
4. Stanley Tucci - The Lovely BonesI'm really glad I saw Stanley Tucci in Julie & Julia right after I saw him in The Lovely Bones. If I hadn't I'm pretty sure I'd hate him for the rest of my life.
Certain characters in cinematic lore are so offputting and creepy that you can actually hate that actor forever because of his performance (i.e. Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator). Usually it's something you're unaware of, but a when a talented actor meets an extremely evil character, the repercussions can be catastrophic.
Tucci was no different. He makes your skin crawl at the sight of him. His hair. His voice. His mustache. It all comes together into the psychotic character that is George Harvey. This unsettling feeling that you get with these characters usually means the actor did a good job, and Tucci was no different. He completely killed it (no pun intended).
3. Woody Harrelson - The MessengerThe Messenger centers around two soldiers who are stationed in the United States. Their sole job is to inform Next of Kin (NOK) that a family member has died in the war in Iraq. I give credit to Alessandro Camon and and Oren Moverman (the film's screenwriters) for showing something that I previously viewed as a tragic, but simple, process and breaking it down for my ignorant mind. The men who must break the worst news imaginable to complete strangers have a job as horrifying as any other soldier in the military. There are rules you follow. There are procedures that you cannot break. You have to hope for the worst reactions, and pray for the best (if there really is a "good" reaction).
Harrelson then brings the character together showing discipline, care and sympathy. He walks a fine line as well, for too much of any one of those elements could make the already terrible situation worse. I can't imagine doing this job for the military, but it looked and sounded like Harrelson had been doing it for years.
Side note: he's near the top of my list for Actor of 2009. He had two great roles last year, both in The Messenger and in Zombieland, which he owned.
2. Christopher Plummer - The Last StationThere's a certain swagger that some grizzled actors get when they're in their later years. And by "later years" I don't mean over 50 years old. I'm talking about the veterans that were around in the silent film era. I don't know if Plummer is senile and he actually believes he IS the characters he plays, but Captain Von Trapp can do no wrong at this point in his acting career. Everything he does seems to be as genuine as any documentary.
Plummer plays Leo Tolstoy in the last months of his life, when the decision of whether to give his inheritance to his family or to the Russian public was in question. Seeing him and Hellen Mirren banter back and forth was a pure joy to watch. Which leads me to why I love and hate the politics of the Academy...
If the Academy put Plummer in the running for Best Actor, that means he misses a nomination by a long shot. So I love that he finally got the recognition he deserves. However, saying that he is a supporting character while Hellen Mirren is a lead character is just plain stupid. If you take Plummer out of the equation, the movie suffers as much, if not more, than if you take Mirren out.
Most people don't have Plummer high on their lists, but the 80-year-old deserved to have his name finally in contention, and I'd pick him to win if not for the next guy on this list.
1. Christoph Waltz - Inglourious BasterdsIn all of this year's Oscars, you won't find a bigger lock than this.
Right after watching Inglourious Basterds, I found myself thinking "why did I LIKE that Nazi? Is there something wrong with me?" I thought about that for a good twenty minutes, and it turns out that when I went through the movie in my head I remembered that he was a psychotic killer who deserved much more than just a swastika carved into his head. There is no reason on Earth that any normal American should respect or like anything resembling a Nazi, but Christoph Waltz had me going for a second.
He spoke three languages in the film (German, French and English), and he speaks each language so smoothly and confidently that you begin to believe what he's saying. Waltz could have gone into this role as a crazed Nazi soldier who yells, swears, looks dominant and kills anything in sight, but instead he made his character well-mannered and subtle, one who views his job in the Nazi army as just that: a job. Because of that, viewers find themselves strangely accepting of him. Both Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz have been stressing the fact that "good people aren't always good, and evil people aren't always evil" and it showed in the character.
The only beef I have is that with an ensemble cast like Inglourious Basterds, everyone is a supporting actor even though they can all be seen as lead actors. If Waltz is a supporting actor in this movie, then I don't know who you would call the lead. But the ensemble cast is typical of Tarantino, so it's not really much of a gripe.
For the third year in a row, four of the five men nominated for Best Supporting Actor don't need to show up. If you can name the Best Supporting Actors from the past two years without Googling it, well done.
The Oscars are March 7th. Until then, watch for more of my previews. Peace.
One final note: Mom, do not watch Inglorious Basterds. Ever, ever, ever. No.