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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Best Supporting Performances

Now that I've caught up with most movies on my list from 2015, I'll be using this week (Spring Break!) for my end of year run-down.

I'll start with the Supporting performances.  Lots of good supporting performances, but M\my top votes go to the two Ex Machina actors.

Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Hedge fund manager Michael Burry is an eccentric character that requires a big actor, and Christian Bale digs his actorly teeth right into this role.  As a social recluse fully committed to meticulously figuring out the financial crisis, Bale builds a performance of tics and habits that keep us glued to his every move.

Paul Dano, Love and Mercy

The best parts of Love and Mercy, bar none, are the scenes of the young Beach Boys creating Pet Sounds and other masterpieces.  As the young Brian Wilson, Paul Dano makes Wilson's internal musical genius apparent, as well as Wilson's developing mental health issues.

Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

As Nathan, a reclusive CEO of a software company, Oscar Isaac gradually teases the viewer (and Caleb, played by Domnhall Gleeson), by providing information bit by bit.  He's able to be seductive and scary in equal measure, an important task in this twisty movie. After Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis, and HBO's miniseries Show Me a Hero, I'm fully convinced there's nothing Isaac can't do.

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

A rare case where Oscar justly awards a performance that's mostly quiet and subtle. British stage actor Mark Rylance gives a impressively restrained performance as Russian spy Rudolf Abel.   His wry humor and grace are a perfect counterpoint throughout all of his scenes with Tom Hanks.

Benicio del Toro, Sicario

Like the other men on this list, Allejandro Gillick is a mystery. For a long time, the movie keeps you guessing about who he is working for and why he is working for them.  In the last third, he takes over as a major character in a series of stunning scenes that upend much of our understanding.  A great performance by a great actor we haven't seen this good in a long time.

My choice: Oscar Isaac
Second: Benicio del Toro

Runners-Up: Emory Cohen (Brooklyn), Nicolas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), Michael Keaton (Spotlight), Liev Schreiber (Spotlight), Stanley Tucci (Spotlight)

Matches with Oscar: Oscar also went with Rylance and Bale. I liked Tom Hardy (The Revenant) and Sylvester Stallone (Creed) quite a bit, but not enough to make my top 10. I also found Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) one of the weaker performances in a great cast.

Supporting Actress

Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria

Kristen Stewart (yes, the one from Twilight) gives an astonishingly good performance in Clouds of Sils Maria, fully matching the talented acting of Juliette Binoche. Stewart plays Valentine, an American assistant to a temperamental European actress. By playing every seen with integrity and depth, Stewart gives a deep and assured performance that carries us along through this movie of words, ideas, and images.

Tessa Thompson, Creed

There's no argument that Thompson is playing a stock role, that of the supportive female sidekick.  But just like Talia Shire in the original Rocky, Thompson permeates her character with a life of her own, a talented Philly native with her own dreams of greatness. One of my favorite scenes is when Creed goes to her concert and the two connect.

Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

Alicia won the Supporting Actress award for her very good performance in the so-so movie The Danish Girl. In a better world, she would have won for her great performance in a great movie, Ex Machina.  Vikander plays Ava, a robot create to test theories of artificial intelligence. The movie has much up its sleeve, though, and Vikander's performance is essential to making everything work. A performance that was only better the second time I watched Ex Machina.

Rachel Weisz, Youth

Winning my "where the hell has she been?" award is Rachel Weisz in the quite good, and very underseen, Youth. Weisz plays Lena, the daughter of Michael Caine's lead character Fred. She's recovering from a recent divorce and dealing with issues of her father.  She gives an incredible monologue that's the most powerful part of the film.

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Winslet is great as Joanna Hoffman, Steve Jobs' work wife and conscience. Winslet's intelligence and energy is a great match for Aaron Sorkin's typically wordy dialogue, and she plays her scenes with Fassbender as verbal ping-pong matches.  Steve Jobs is t

he best Winslet (one of my favorite actresses) has been in a long time!

My Choice: Alicia Vikander
Second: Kristen Stewart

Runners-Up: Elizabeth Banks (Love and Mercy), Rose Byrne (Spy), Marion Cotillard (Macbeth), Mya Taylor (Tangerine), Julie Walters (Brooklyn)

Matches with Oscar: Oscar and I both picked Vikander for the win, although for different movies. We also both picked Winslet.  They also went with Rachel McAdams in Spotlight, a performance I found serviceable but not especially impressive, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight, which I haven't seen. As for Rooney Mara in Carol, hang on for the lead categories (where she belonged!).

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