Thank you for joining the Oscar conversation at The Daily Cal. More of our arts writers will be getting together for a podcast in the next few days to give you a more detailed analysis of the Oscars overall. So let’s devote some blogposts to some of the bigger categories, starting with Supporting Actor today.
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”
Fun Trivia: If you haven’t heard, this is the first acting category in Oscar history where all the nominees are Oscar-winners prior to the actual ceremony.
What do I think?
If I had to rank the nominees it would go 1) Jones, 2) Hoffman, 3) De Niro, 4) Arkin, 5) Waltz.
For the record, I thought Waltz was brilliant in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds”; but as much fun as he is in “Django”, I thought his performance was just modified repetition of the former. Is acting range really not an issue to the Academy? Arkin coasted to a nomination that should have been harder to get, given the impressive competition. I doubt many people think of this performance as an acting achievement per se, but “Argo” had to have at least one acting nomination, and Arkin was the most charismatic in a huge ensemble. De Niro received a lot of attention for finally giving us something worthwhile after years of pay-check work. But Oscar nominations should be more than just a pat on the back, and nothing about De Niro’s work in “Silver Lining Playbook” strikes me as more than formidable. Moving on, I loved what Hoffman’s performance wasn’t in “The Master”, but I still wasn’t hugely impressed with what it actually was. I thought he nicely underplayed some crucial scenes and memorably held back to greater effect, but I don’t think he’s that well served by Anderson’s script. Strong work but not my favorite. Jones, for my money, was the only one in this list that created a full person with his “Lincoln” performance. He earns my vote here.
Who got snubbed?
Based on their record with precursors and/or critics prizes, Matthew McConaughey, Javier Bardem, and Leonardo Dicaprio all had infrequent mentions throughout the season that gave them legitimate cause to hope for a nomination. As well-received by critics as his performance was, McConaughey’s Oscar chances were always questionable seeing that the Academy has always had a resistance toward eroticized men (see also Michael Fassbender’s snub last year for “Shame”). Despite scoring with the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics (two of the three most influential critics bodies, the other being LA), the signs started to point otherwise when the precursor awards halted his thunder. Javier Bardem always faced the problem of starring in a 007 film. No matter how many A-list elements saturated it (lots of Oscar winners and nominees in this one), no matter how big its box-office and no matter how well-reviewed, “Skyfall” was always going to be another James Bond movie, and, historically, the 007 agent has more often than not been given the cold shoulder by Oscar. Hey, kudos to Bardem, who got farther than anyone expected with mentions from the Screen Actors Guild, the Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA. As for Dicaprio, well, he always faced internal competition from Waltz and to a lesser extent, Samuel L. Jackson. If anyone fell in the dreadful sixth-spot, I think it was him.
Who will win?
Who knows? I thought Waltz was the only one that couldn’t win, but after he surprised at the Golden Globes two weekends ago, he’s just as game as the other four. If voters go gaga for “Argo” like the rest of the world, they might want throw a bone Arkin’s way. Then again, that Affleck snub might be telling, and voters loved De Niro’s movie even more, not just nominating it eight times, but also making it the first movie in 31 years to be nominated in all four acting categories (hint: this means they loved the acting. De Niro???). Then there’s “Lincoln” rolling into the race with a whooping 12 nominations, the highest tally this year, and that certainly bodes well for Jones. Still, all these four movies have big chances to win in other categories, and with “The Master’s” relatively small nomination count (only three acting mentions), “Supporting Actor” seems the likeliest place the Academy might want to reward such an auteurist, complicated film — that is if they want to reward it beyond its nominations. I’ll post my final predictions closer to the ceremony, but for now, I’m saying Hoffman.
My Ballot (In Alpha Order)
- Javier Bardem, “Skyfall,” because we can’t quite peg who he is, as he emanates the chilliness and cynicism of a rabid sewer-rat and the entropic terror of a cobra in attack-mode. Extra points for being moving.
- Mikkel Følsgaard, “A Royal Affair,” because he’s even more palpable and ace as a disgruntled, emotionally coiled child-adult than as an a-bit-bonkers-to-boot monarch.
- Samuel L. Jackson, “Django Unchained,” because in a film full of showy performances, his is the most electric, consistent and pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you kind of surprising.
- Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike,” because he mixes camaraderie with self-interest in his relationships to other characters and because he telegraphs a middle-age fear underneath that physical vanity and sexual delight.
- Ezra Miller, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” because he plays against the “flamboyantly gay high-schooler” stereotype and because the character’s compassion and genuine tenderness come across just as well as his overt snide and sarcasm.