Academy of One: Best Actor in a Supporting Role 2017

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.

I often find the supporting performance categories more riveting to watch than the leading performance categories. There's always a good mix of antagonists, protagonists and those somewhere in that lovely gray area.

This year is far more gray than in the past with characters who learn to be better people or see the error of their ways or are just indifferent toward the ways of humanity. It's a fascinating group of actors that are definitely not the most fascinating performaces of the year. Here are the nominees as they currently stand.

  • Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project

  • Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water

  • Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World

  • Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

All but one of these men have been nominated in this category before, except for the criminally undervalued Sam Rockwell, but I still feel there are several other deserving performances that were missed. Here's who I think have a shot at taking over any vacant spot I make.

  • Armie Hammer - Call Me by Your Name

  • Lil Rel Howery - Get Out

  • Barry Keoghan - The Killing of a Sacred Deer

  • Jason Mitchell - Mudbound

  • Michael Stuhlbarg - Call Me by Your Name

Armie Hammer plays the outgoing, hunky grad student so well that to add to that his deft portrayal of the incredibly clumsy efforts of his character to get the attention of another man is a stellar performance culminating in a fabulous, sexy, and heart-breaking achievement.

It can be argued, I will argue it, that Lil Rel Howery's Rod is the hero of Get Out. The laugh out loud funny performance is imbued with more than just jokes, there's a genuine fear and concern for finding his best friend that Howery is able to balance on top of everything else.

So far in his career, I've thought of Barry Keoghan as a one speed actor. He rarely, in the films I've seen, makes an effort to hide his own mannerisms and expressions behind his performance, but in The Killing of a Sacred Deer it works as Keoghan is playing a remorseless sociopath out for revenge. His dead eyes and slow-methodical speech creates a terrifying portrait of a troubled man.

Jason Mitchell is able to bring something new to every role he undertakes. His portrayal of a lovelorn soldier returning from war with PTSD is excellent. His confidence and new found sense of who he is fights against the oppression and racism he faces back home and Mitchell is able to flourish in the balancing act of that sensibility with his embodiment of the character.

Michael Stuhlbarg is one of my favorite actors. In Call Me by Your Name he is the quiet stalwart presence in the background for most of the film, but when things between Elio and Oliver end, he becomes the one to speak with such kindness and empathy that it shifts the story from tragedy to an even, comforting peace.

O.K., with those five new names in mind. I'll take a look at the original list again and peel away any weak links.

  • Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project

  • Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water

  • Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World

  • Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I attempted not to do this. I thought of every possibility in which I could keep more than just one name, but this is the way my feelings flow and I have a feeling it's the right move to remove four names from the list, so let's rip this band-aid off quickly.

The first to go is Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is a good actor and his performance is solid, but with the wildly uneven tone of Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, his character becomes unmoored from what reality is set up. If he could have stuck around for longer, he may have been able to come out on top in my mind, but his inauspicious exit leaves me questioning the validity of the character's presence at all when he could have easily been an unseen benefactor because as he is he complicates the story beyond where it needed to be and Harrelson's performance is the lesser for it.

Which, because they're of the same film (don't make me write that all out again), leads me to remove Sam Rockwell as well. I saw a lot of praise for the character as he made the transformation from ignorant racist to... I really don't know what they thought had really happened for this character over the few days of the story.

He read a note from a man he respected and suddenly a switch was flipped? He gets a glass of orange juice from a man he savagely beat and tossed out of a second story window and he's cured? He is able to incur the pity of two (of only three!) black characters he has persecuted in his past and is able to understand that people are people and we all should get along?

Sam Rockwell is a good actor and I believed none of his character's arc in (sigh, I have to write it out again) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and thus can't believe any of his performance. It's artifice just like the character's "transformation."

Now, another strange performance from an actor I admire. Richard Jenkins plays a closeted gay artist in The Shape of Water who rejects the coldness and strife of minority groups around him because he's passing as straight to all but the mute woman next door.

Like Rockwell, above, Jenkins' character, with very staged circumstances, seems able to flip a switch, suddenly wanting to shed his isolation from the horribleness outside and want to help and I couldn't care less.

Jenkins is fine in this role, but everything about the character is circumstantial in the worst ways and doesn't warrant inclusion on this list.

The last role to cull from the list is Christopher Plummer who's inclusion here felt like the Academy turning to those who accused Kevin Spacey of abuse and saying, "See, we're with you. This is us giving the middle finger to your abuser."

Yet, maybe they should have just nominated a better performance than one jammed into a film only a few days before its release and with such bad CGI that it became laughable.

Plummer does what he can, but the part wasn't his and the seams were too easy to spot in the mess of a film that is All the Money in the World.

Now, here are the four performances that I will slip into these four open spots.

  • Armie Hammer - Call Me by Your Name

  • Lil Rel Howery - Get Out

  • Jason Mitchell - Mudbound

  • Michael Stuhlbarg - Call Me by Your Name

Here is what the field of contenders looks like with my additions.

  • Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project

  • Armie Hammer - Call Me by Your Name

  • Lil Rel Howery - Get Out

  • Jason Mitchell - Mudbound

  • Michael Stuhlbarg - Call Me by Your Name

So, with yet another winner torn from the category by me, the winner has to be one of the new guys I added to the list, right? Short answer, no.

Willem Dafoe has such an incredibly diverse resume that it fits that his performance of a normal motel manager is one of his greatest achievements and certainly the best of this year.

There are so many memorable scenes and moments where Dafoe embodies this character. He slips away from his own face and into the harried face and mind of Bobby wholly in every moment.

The scene that has stuck with me more than others is when Bobby is up on a ladder painting the building its signature pink color and he sees a man speaking with the local kids. Bobby knows, like we know, that this man shouldn't be here. His fear is on his face and as he stumbles over to get a good look at the man and to get him away from the kids it's palpable in his movements. He easily shifts it to the mask he wears for the children and he plays nice with the obvious pedophile as he gets him out of the way. Then we see the righteous anger as Bobby lays out the man, forcing him to leave the property.

It's an incredible scene that Dafoe pulls off flawlessly. His character as well as his performance is the stabilizing force in a chaotic film that every time it seems to slip, he is able to correct in just the right way.

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

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