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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Best Performances of 2010: Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress

Although there is always another movie I wish I could see before doing end of year awards, I think the time has come for Ben's Talking Pictures "Best of 2010." I'll start with the Supporting Actors and Actress, those gifted actors who make the most of every scene they're in.. In one of this year's categories, I even completely agree with Oscars lineup.

Supporting Actor

Almost made it:
-Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
-Miles Teller, Rabbit Hole

Christian Bale, The Fighter
The greatness of this astonishing performance is not that Bale lost major pounds to prepare for his role as washed-up boxer and crack user Dicky Edlund. The strength of his performance comes in his perfect calibration of delusional macho swagger, familial love, and, eventually, brokenness and shame. Whenever he's on screen, you cannot take your eyes off of him. A career best.

John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Teardrop, the Uncle to Ree Dolly, the heroine of the movie, is a character with nuance to spare. Is he scary? Vengeful? Loyal? Helpful? Yes on all accounts. Hawkes perfectly embodies an underlying current in Winter's Bone, how the characters call on the ties that bind, however corrupt they are, to survive through each day.

Jeremy Renner, The Town
Renner follows-up his great performance in The Hurt Locker with Jem, another character always on the edge of life and death. A Boston thief who doesn't take shit from anyone, Renner shows a fiery menace and loyalty that makes you wonder where his character came from.

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
It's a great supporting performance that adds layers to the script. As written, donor dad Paul could easily come across as a parody of a certain type of overgrown hippie. Instead, Ruffalo's natural charm changes him into a credible foil to the lesbian parents of the movie, so much so that I even felt the ending was a little too tough on his character.

Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
As Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, Rush is great. His natural charm is the perfect counterpoint to the awkwardness of Colin Firth's King George. I think it's Rush's best performance, even surpassing his 1996 Oscar-winning role in Shine.

My pick: Christian Bale
Runner-up: Mark Ruffalo

Matches with Oscar?: 100%! Nice work Academy. I can't think of another case where I've agreed completely with Oscar's choices.

Best Supporting Actress

Almost made it:
-Dale Dickey, Winter's Bone
-Mila Kunis, Black Swan

Amy Adams, The Fighter

Her role as bartender Charlene is a million miles removed from her wide-eyed sweethearts from Junebug, Enchanted, and Doubt. She brings humor, depth, and real humanity to a fairly traditional "girlfriend" role. While Melissa Leo as been winning all the supporting awards for The Fighter, I found Adams' performance to be much more convincing and engaging.

Rebecca Hall, Please Give

Hall might be my pick for most promising young actress, turning in great performances this year in both this and The Town. As Rebecca (go figure), a radiology technician and dutiful granddaughter, Hall gives a great portrayal of natural goodness in director Nicole Holofcener's delightful social comedy.

Lesley Manville, Another Year

I think the studio made a huge mistake campaigning Manville in the lead category. I think this is a supporting performance, I think she would have managed a nomination in this category, and I think she's phenomenal. Manville commands the screen as Mary, a pathetic alcoholic cared for my her happy and giving middle-aged friends. Her performance starts as comedy, but by the last quarter of the movie, Manville has turned Mary into a true tragic figure who is so utterly specific, yet embodies universal concerns.

Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are All Right

As Joni, the one who sets the plot in motion, Mia Wasikowska is more than just all right, she's great. I loved her wounded teen character on the first season of HBO's In Treatment, and she's just as convincing here as a more well-adjusted teenager. Wasikowska perfectly captures the conflicted emotions faced by her character, who in the course of a movie deals with gaining a dad, seeing marital pressures in her moms, deals with a possible budding romance, and heads to college.

Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

This is the performance most likely to raise a "Who's That?" on nomination morning. Animal Kingdom is a taut crime drama from Australia, and Jacki Weaver is fascinating as a mother bear watching over her seriously screwed-up cubs, somewhat similar to Melissa Leo's character in The Fighter.

My favorite: Lesley Manville
Runner-up: Amy Adams

Matches with Oscar?: Only 2 for 2. We both loved Adams and Weaver. I found Melissa Leo (The Fighter) interesting but a little too capital-A acting. I liked Haille Steinfeld (True Grit) quite a bit, but there's no argument for placing a character who is in every scene in the supporting category. Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech) was charming, but her role was fairly limited.

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