Monday, February 22, 2016

Supporting Actor

I'm hitting the point that I do every year in my Oscar blogging that I just kinda start breaking down. My feeling was that is usually comes in around 10,000 words and 15 articles. I checked, and sure enough I'm at 12,222 words and 16 articles so far this year. Plus 27 feature films and 17 short films. This last week is always the hardest, and I'm a couple days behind. As such, my favorite category foreign film might get left out this year so that I can finish out the rest. We'll see.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
  • Christian Bale in The Big Short
  • Tom Hardy in The Revenant
  • Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Christian Bale provides in Dr. Michael Burry not simply one of the best supporting actor performances this year, but one of the best performances period. Bale provides a depth to the character allowing him to be immensely intellectually capable and confident while also being terribly socially inept. A fantastic scene which wonderfully encapsulates this happens when he is hiring in new talent who is both surprised by Burry's quirkiness and his work demands. However, it isn't simply that he captures these two extremes, but that he does so believably instead of playing eccentricities off as cartoonish caricatures. This depth and believability of character is a tall task that Bale achieves with seeming ease.

Tom Hardy did a convincing job of portraying a human without a mask who doesn't sound like a Speak & Spell? It's almost amazing what he can do when he gets to play a character who hasn't been isolated from humankind for years. In those two linked films, Hardy's characters have been deprived of their humanity by circumstance, but here, he is a violent, visceral man with no concerns save his own. The gruffness and gutturality that he imbues into John Fitzgerald is strikingly frightening as you can quickly tell he will do absolutely anything to take care of his own interests. 

Okay, we have to have a little talk. I don't like Mark Ruffalo. I didn't like him last year for Foxcatcher. I didn't like him in 2011 for The Kids Are Alright. And I don't really like him here. Ruffalo gives us an energetic, over-excitable puppy of a character who comes off like he just landed his first reporting gig. Instead, what we're supposed to believe is that he's a veteran on an investigative journalism team. In my ideal future, we'll have less Ruffalo and more Gruffalo.

The lone bright spot in Bridge of Spies is Mark Rylance's extremely dispassionate portrayal of Rudolf Abel. Despite his flat, monotone manner, Abel was the only character who could draw me to the screen. He provides an aching portrayal of a man seemingly thoroughly unconcerned about his surroundings. Part of me wonders if he's not acting at all, because he also seemed thoroughly unconcerned about being in the bore that was Bridge of Spies.

Guess what. Rocky got old. Now he's mumblier and grumblier. He's like that racist guy who frequents the gas station you manage and drunkenly stumbles around asking your black coworkers if they're cousins in an ill-fated attempt to be your father figure. Or am I the only one that had that experience? Rocky is more than a little punchy now. Stallone does a great job with the portrayal, but he lacks much in the way of nuance, much like my high school friend who would pretend to be drunk but everyone knew he wasn't because that's not really how drunk people act. While enjoyable, it's not terribly convincing.

Christian Bale is, hands-down, my favorite among the nominees here. His character, though, was so overshadowed in The Big Short with so many other actors sharing space, that I doubt he'll manage to win. I suspect the Oscar will go to Mark Rylance or Sylvester Stallone.

Should win: Christian Bale in The Big Short
Will win: Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

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