Academy of One: Best Actor in a Supporting Role 2016

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

The year 2016 gave moviegoers a true wealth of ensemble casts. It’s always hard for me then to just pick one like the real Academy so often does, but I may just do that for one of my favorite ensembles this year.

For right now, here are the names we have to contend with.

  • Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

  • Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water

  • Lucas Hedges - Manchester by the Sea

  • Dev Patel - Lion

  • Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals

As I mentioned in my introduction, I was floored by the great ensembles of this year and so, I have some very good alternatives that I think could easily take the place of at least two of these actors. Here’s my list, which I will group together when in deliberations.

  • Stephen Henderson - Fences

  • Alex R. Hibbert - Moonlight

  • Russel Hornsby - Fences

  • Issei Ogata - Silence

  • David Oyelowo - Queen of Katwe

  • Trevante Rhoades - Moonlight

  • Ashton Sanders - Moonlight

  • Mykelti Williamson - Fences

Here’s the first grouping of my choices, The Men of Fences. All three of these actors played these roles in a stage production of the play, but here, they get their close-ups and individual scenes that give their talents a place to shine. Each one has the challenge of stepping to Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and each one does so with ease.

The next grouping of candidates, The Men of Moonlight. These actors embodied Chiron from grade school to high school to adulthood and it’s so fluid it’s hard to believe it’s not the same actor. Each one has a different task in their third of the film, but they all have the same core and essence.

It’s tough to play the guileless villain, but Issei Ogata takes on the role with just enough poison in his words. He’s so deft at playing a man who could care less what another man worships, but is so wrapped up in honor and the rule of law that he will enforce the suppression of Catholicism to the fullest extent of his powers. It’s a masterful turn.

I’ve praised David Oyelowo in the pages of this blog, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see his name pop up again. He takes to the role of impassioned teacher so well and really makes it his own.

O.K., with that list out there, I have my two to insert into the list. I will be swapping one confused, angry teen for another and one venerable actor with another. Here’s that original list again.

  • Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

  • Jeff Bridges - Hell or High Water

  • Lucas Hedges - Manchester by the Sea

  • Dev Patel - Lion

  • Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals

The first to erase is the sullen teen, Lucas Hedges. It’s a fine performance, but it’s just not quite there for me. Maybe because I found the character so insufferable even when I was supposed to find him sufferable in his suffering, but this performance is just not there in my mind as one of the best of the year.

The next to go is Jeff Bridges. This is the third time Jeff Bridges has been nominated for this role. You’re questioning my sanity at this point, but it’s true. He played a worn out, marble mouthed country star in Crazy Heart. Then he played a worn out, marble mouthed bounty hunter in True Grit. Now he’s here again, in Hell or High Water playing a worn out, marble mouthed Texas Ranger. It’s been done. He’s great at it, but let’s make a little room for some other actors to get a chance. If the trailers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle are any indication, he may be back next year for playing a worn out, marble mouthed spy master.

Plus, Michael Shannon’s already in this category as a worn out, gravel voiced lawman, and is the best part of Nocturnal Animals, so I think one’s enough.

All right, so here’s who I picked out of my deep bench of worthy candidates.

  • Issei Ogata - Silence

  • Ashton Sanders - Moonlight

And here’s what the field looks like with my two additions.

  • Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

  • Issei Ogata - Silence

  • Dev Patel - Lion

  • Ashton Sanders - Moonlight

  • Michael Shannon - Nocturnal Animals

Prognosticators always warn that two actors from the same film in the same category will always cancel each other out, but I’m not the Academy, so are two Moonlight nominees going to make me pick one of the others on the list? Short answer, no.

I will uphold the win of Mahershala Ali. He is so superior in his complex role as Juan. He could have been so one note. He could have been stereotypical, so much of a one note character, but this film is not about one note characters.

The scene that absolutely seals the deal for me is the last scene we see with Juan. He, Chiron, and Theresa sit around the table and Chiron asks the most heartbreaking question.

Ali’s face explains it all. It shows the gears turning in Juan’s head, the social, societal, and psychological answer to the question he’s been posed. He does what we’d hope everyone would do and he answers truthfully and diplomatically.

He doesn’t try and talk Chiron into something, or mislead him in anyway and it shows in his body language how devastated he is to be having to tell a boy he’s come to care about that the world is a cruel and unforgiving place, which he’d always suspected, but could never fathom the extent of.

It’s a pivotal scene in the film and it’s acted so superbly by Mahershala Ali.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit my website, www.zachyoungs.com for links to where you can buy my self-published works.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday with the nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role for 2016.

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