I'll start with the supporting characters. While I can't argue with Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique hogging all the awards, there is a wealth of supporting talent. Three movies in particular (An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up in the Air) claim six of the ten supporting spots.
Best Supporting Actor
Almost Made It:
Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker: Jeremy Renner has been getting most of the acting
attention for The Hurt Locker, but Mackie is just as pivotal in his role as Sergeant Sanborn, the more stable, but no less conflicted, member of the bomb-disposal unit.
Fred Melamed, A Serious Man: His role as Cy Ableman is fairly small, but his scenes are probably the funniest of the movie. His smarmy performance perfectly captures the
indignity the main character feels when his wife leaves him for this man.
Peter Saarsgard, An Education: Saarsgard has probably the trickiest role in this film as David, the seducer of young Jenny. He has to walk a fine
line between charming and questionable, or the movie won't work. He does it perfectly, and makes a great counterpoint to Carey Mulligan's performance.
Paul Schneider, Bright Star: I've admired Schneider's supporting performances in Lars and the Real Girl, The Assasination of Jesse James..., and Away We Go. I hardly recognized him here
in his role as Charles Armitage Brown, the best friend of John Keats who attempts to keep Keats from his love Fanny Brawne. He creates a boorish character who nonetheless creates some audience sympathy with his obvious care for Keats.
Christoph Waltz, Inglorius Basterds: In his tri-lingual performance as Hans Landa, Waltz creates one of the most memorable villians of recent years. His interrogation
scene in the beginning of the movie is one of the most tense and gradually disturbing scenes I've see in a long while.
My favorite: Christoph Waltz, Inglorius Basterds
Runner-Up: Fred Melamed, A Serious Man
Best Supporting Actress
Almost Made It:
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Diane Kruger, Inglorius Basterds
Mo'Nique, Precious: Her performance as Mary, the abusive mother from hell, is astonishing.
Yes we hate her, but Mo'Nique also allows flashes of her character's warped thinking that allow us to understand what led her to her life.
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air: I've already blogged about this
performance, so check out my thoughts. Impeccable.
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air: As Natalie Keener, the counterpoint to George Clooney's Ryan Bingham, Kendrick is perfect at showing a young go-getter who comes to learn a
few new lessons about life, and becomes more human in the process.
Melanie Laurent, Inglorious Basterds: If Waltz's Hans Landa is the evil in the movie, Laurent's Shoshanna is the good. As a movie theater owner who plans a
comeuppance for the Nazis, Laurent is the pivotal ingredient in many of the best scenes in the movie. Running from the farmhouse, "waiting for the cream," and, of course, her gorgeous face on the movie screen. For all the love that Inglorious Basterds got from the Academy, I'm very surprised Laurent didn't get much recognition.
Rosamund Pike, An Education: As Helen, a friend of David, Pike is the portal to a new
world for Jenny. Easy to dismiss as vapid early in the movie, Pike adds complexity to her role as the movie continues.
My favorite: Mo'Nique (Precious)
Runner-Up: Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)