Day two of my countdown to the Oscars will focus on the nominees for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. I know it’s more politically correct to say “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” but I’m really not very politically correct.
Best Supporting Actress Nominees
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) – Sally Hawkins is a fine actress. She has flown under the radar for years. Her performance in 2008 in Happy-Go-Lucky had a lot of Oscar buzz but her role as Ginger, Jasmine’s adopted sister is her first nomination. Ginger’s austere simplicity plays the ideal contrast to Jasmine’s refined sophistication. Hawkins plays it earnestly and her character’s swings in emotional response are genuine.
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) – What can be said about Jennifer Lawrence that hasn’t already been said? She’s a wunderkind. I really do marvel at how good she is at 23 years old and her performance as Rosalyn in American Hustle is no exception. She is electric every time she’s on screen. I was a little surprised when she won the Best Actress Oscar last year for Silver Linings Playbook. I thought she was better in Winter’s Bone, a role she was nominated for but didn’t win. But this might be my favorite Jennifer Lawrence performance of them all.
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – I had heard a lot about Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave before I saw it. I didn’t know who she was or anything about her. I didn’t even know what she looked like. When the movie was done I couldn’t figure out which character she had played. I thought there were a couple of strong supporting actresses in the film. At first I thought that the devastatingly distraught mother wailing for her lost child was Lupita Nyong’o. But it wasn’t. That was Adepero Oduye. Nyong’o had to carry one or two unbelievably difficult scenes. But for my money it wasn’t particularly noteworthy.
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) – Speaking of noteworthy. Julia Roberts turns in the absolute greatest performance of her extraordinary career. As Barbara, the eldest of the three Weston daughters, she is carrying the worst of the dysfunction this family has produced over the last 45 years. Every shade of hurt, fear, anger, disappointment and grief moves naturally from just under the surface to hidden in the depth of her being to erupting in bursts of exasperated rage. This entire film is a clinic on acting and Julia Roberts is arrestingly good.
June Squibb (Nebraska) – Hmmm… This is another “Nebraska Head Scratcher.” I don’t understand the nomination. From what I can tell, June Squibb was nominated for playing a kind of weird, pseudo-crass, old lady. Her character wasn’t very interesting. I certainly didn’t care about her or discern any level of emotion, thought or feeling on her part. I didn’t get the impression she cared about her husband or didn’t care about her husband. Her motivation was bland and her character unnecessary.
OSCAR WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o
SELBY PICK: Julia Roberts
Best Supporting Actor Nominees
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) – Barkhad Abdi is an amazing story. The link on his name takes you to his IMDB page. There you will find one single acting credit for Captain Phillips. By now we’ve all heard how this native Somali was plucked from obscurity into the Hollywood spotlight. His “performance” (I don’t use quotes to diminish in any way) is remarkable because he’s not trying to be an actor playing a Somali pirate. He’s just trying to be a pirate. I think Paul Greengrass could have gotten any number of professional actors to play this role. But Abdi’s nature is what makes it.
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) – I wasn’t sure Cooper would get nominated for her performance as the ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso stopping at nothing to make a name for himself. I didn’t find the character very deep. But I did find Cooper’s performance complete. It’s tough for these heartthrob leading men to make you believe they are regular guys. It’s silly when you see Ryan Reynolds playing a waiter. But Bradley Cooper has mastered the art of making you forget you are watching a guy who was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” And it’s not just the perm either.
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) – You know it’s a great performance when you hate the actor after the movie. This is the level of work Fassbender turns in as Edwin Epps, the repulsive and coarse plantation owner devoid of any redeeming qualities. I love a good bad guy. I really do. And Fassbender doesn’t disappoint. Now, to be clear, this isn’t the kind of villain that you can sort of root for. He isn’t a Hannibal Lecter who makes your skin crawl one minute but makes you smirk the next. Epps is all evil. It takes a skillful actor to manage that kind of a role. He never goes over the top and he never gives you a reason to sympathize with him.
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) – I would just like to point out that we live in a universe where Jonah Hill is a two-time Academy Award nominated actor. And deservedly so. Well, for The Wolf of Wall Street anyway. It’s hard to imagine anyone going toe-to-toe with DiCaprio in this one. But Jonah Hill knocks it out of the park. It’s an easy trap for a comedic actor to take a character like Donnie Azoff and turn him into a caricature, a Saturday Night Live goof ball. But Hill doesn’t let the shtick get in the way of Donnie’s anxieties and gives a performance that is much more than just funny.
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) – Dallas Buyers Club’s tale of transformative empathy and compassion wouldn’t be possible without Jared Leto’s delicate performance as Rayon. It isn’t just Leto’s physical transformation into a transgender HIV patient but the layers of this character that are painfully evident when he must face his past in order to help his friend are nothing short of brilliant.
OSCAR WINNER: Jared Leto
SELBY PICK: Jared Leto
I’ll continue tomorrow with my predictions for Best Director. In the meantime be sure to vote on who you think will win. I’d also love to hear your take on these performances. Comment below or tweet at me (@cmselby). And be sure to check out my other predictions here.