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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best Performances of the "00s": Supporting Actor

Continuing my look back at the oughts, here are my favorite supporting actor performances of the 2000s. I've also managed to find clips for most of these great performances online. If you're reading on Facebook, you may want to go to the blog to see the clips.

In alphabetical order, my favorite supporting actor performances of the decade....

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men (2007): Prince Valiant hair and all, Bardem's Anton Chigurgh is one of the most memorable characters of the decade. An evil character you can't quite explain.
-Also quite good in a very different role in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Steve Buscemi, Ghost World (2001): As Seymour, a lonely music collector and all-around misfit who connects with a recent high school grad, Buscemi brings depth and humor to his wonderful role in a wonderful movie. It's terrible he didn't receive an Oscar nomination for this movie.

Chris Cooper, Adaptation (2002): Cooper's blue-collar orchid hunter John Laroche is completely hilarious. As you watch Charlie Kaufman's wacked-out movie, it's easy to see how Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) becomes entranced by him. Fuck Fish....

Benicio del Toro, Traffic (2000): As Mexican police officer Javier Rodriguez, del Toro is the standout in a superb cast. He provides heart and soul to this interwoven drug tale.
-Also award-worthy as Jack in 21 Grams (2003)

Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children (2006):
Haley plays convicted child molester Ronnie, who sets off a string of events in the suburban mileau. He mixes just the right amount of creepiness and sympathy.

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild (2007): Holbrook's Ron Franz, who becomes a surrogate father to Christopher McCandless, provides one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the decade. Unfortunately, I can't find it on YouTube!

Bill Irwin, Rachel Getting Married (2008): As dad Paul, the most sympathetic character of the very dysfunctional family, Irwin is constantly on target. I think it may actually be harder to play a "good" character than a bad one, and Irwin did a great job. I especially love the scene where they have the dish competition.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008): Is there really anything else to say about this universally acclaimed performance? Ledger went to a very dark place in this performance and created an entirely iconic character that will live in cinema history. Ledger's death was an extremely sad loss for cinema-lovers.

Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds (2009): While I had some issues with Quentin Tarantino's WW2 fantasia, none of these problems had to do with Waltz's bravura, multi-lingual performance as Nazi Hans Landa. A chilling villain who will also live in cinema history.

Clive Owen, Closer (2004): Julia Roberts and Jude Law were the biggest stars in this rather nasty but highly engaging film, but Clive Owen and Natalie Portman gave the best performances, and won the Oscar nominations. Owen's doctor Larry is oh so mean in love, as are all the characters really.
-Also award-worthy as Robert in Gosford Park (2000)

Oscar did a pretty good job this decade with this category. 5 of these actors actually won supporting actor (Bardem, Ledger, del Toro, Cooper, and Waltz) and all but two (Buscemi and Irwin) were nominated.

I'm also surprised by how few of these actors have really "made it" as lead actors. The only one who managed a lead nomination was Heath Ledger, for Brokeback Mountain.


  1. Nice list! Mine would include most of these, but I would add William Hurt in 'A History of Violence' and Ben Kingsley in 'Sexy Beast'.

    It's interesting how, in this category, Oscar has tended to get the winners pretty right recently, but the category as a whole ranges from filler to terrible. Look at last year - I loved Christoph Waltz, but the other nominees were blah, and probably not many people even remember those performances now, 6 months after the ceremony. Plus, they skipped over some really great supporting performances, like Anthony Mackie in 'The Hurt Locker' and Paul Schneider in 'Bright Star'.

  2. Thanks! William Hurt was terrific in A History of Violence-he sort of slipped my mind. I honestly can't remember Sexy Beast that well.

    Totally agree about this year's category. Waltz was stupendous, Harellson good, Damon fine, and I didn't bother seeing the other two. I definitely loved both Mackie and Schneider.