Daniel: For as stacked as the Best Actor category is this year, the Supporting equivalent is surprisingly bare. The nominees were exactly as expected. Sure there were a few other good supporting performances this year, but at the end of the day there are no real snubs here.
Tyler: Four out of the five actors here deserved this nomination handily. The job of the supporting actor is hard, and even though my pick stole the show from the star, going against what I think that the supporting actor’s job is, he easily deserves it and would accept nothing less.
ROBERT DUVALL, The Judge
Daniel: Four of the five nominees here were locks. Only the fifth spot could’ve realistically seen a different nominee. Yet, with a distinct lack of options, Robert Duvall received the nomination. The Judge lacked almost any originality. It was fine and all, but utterly unremarkable. Duvall is a legend, obviously. He’s an actor on another level. That said, the only reason he’s nominated is because he’s an aging legend who might have just had his last decent performance. Look, his role in The Judge was okay. He had some nice moments (and even some dark ones), but this is not an Oscar-worthy performance. What is unique here? What is surprising? Everything is good and nothing more. There’s not much more to say.
Tyler: I disagree with Daniel on this one, to a point. I think that Duvall really nailed this performance. It’s subtle, not intense as maybe expected. I think that he is probably being nominated largely because it’s time and he did a good job. Yet, there are some difficult moments, some potentially cliche moments, that were handled well. The bathroom scene is embarrassing and yet all too real. His moments with Robert Downey Jr. were filled with tension and history. He did a great job, though I don’t think that he deserves the win.
Tyler: I’ve always been a fan of Ethan Hawke, and even moreso when he’s collaborating with Richard Linklater. Hawke absolutely, completely feels like Mason’s father. They have great chemistry, particularly when they’re just one on one, and it just feels natural and right.
Daniel: Boyhood isn’t exactly a specimen of a perfectly acted film, but Ethan Hawke excels here. This is the ideal role for Hawke: realistic, friendly to improv, relatable. He nails it all. While J.K. Simmons certainly deserves the win here, I wish Hawke was getting more acting recognition from Boyhood. With Patricia Arquette dominating her similarly weak field, people aren’t talking about Hawke’s superior performance. He feels completely in the role. It doesn’t feel like acting. All this on top of the fact that he played this role over the course of twelve years. Twelve years. And over all that time he’s still seamless. Hawke isn’t in the film as much as Arquette or the others, but when he’s there, he’s committed. This is a great performance.
Daniel: My feelings on Edward Norton’s performance in Birdman are very similar to Michael Keaton’s. Norton’s Mike Shiner is a complex character. He’s arrogant, smug, annoying, and a class-A douchebag. He’s hilarious and so much fun to watch on screen. Norton’s a great actor, so that wasn’t surprising, but his portrayal was a surprise here. Just when you think Mike is nothing more than a conceited jerk, he opens up to Sam on the roof. Not in a cliche, “let’s talk about our feelings” sort of way, but in an honest human sort of way. This is a complex and endlessly entertaining role.
Tyler: Edward Norton is one of those actors who never ceases to surprise. He owns the role and shows us exactly what Keaton’s Thomson is trying to avoid, but maybe needs for his ill-fated Broadway debut. Thomson calls in a ringer to ensure that his show succeeds, but instead he gets a fully-formed foul-up whose ego overshadows everything possible. He’s a terrible person, but Norton’s ability allows him to dial it back appropriately to believable and earnest, while still allowing us to hate him whole-heartedly.
Tyler: When I finally got around to watching Foxcatcher I was underwhelmed by Ruffalo. Now, this is not his fault. This is the fault of the people who lauded this as the greatest role ever. It is not. He has done better, more standout roles. On reflection, Ruffalo does a great job, and he does the job he’s supposed to do: support. He holds up the actors surrounding him, through his steadfast goodness (in terms of both character and reliable acting ability). He does a good job, though he won’t win.
Daniel: Similarly to the way Hawke’s performance is overshadowed by Arquette, Ruffalo’s superior performance is under-appreciated in the light of Carell’s surprising turn. Carell’s a comedian; he’s well-loved, but an Oscar nom was unexpected. Ruffalo on the other hand already has a nomination in this category, and no one would be surprised and many more nominations in the future. Thus, since he’s not going to win here, his real, subtle, deep role receives little conversation. It’s a shame, because Ruffalo’s Dave Schultz is easily the best performance in Foxcatcher. He’s a truly supporting character here, serving to support his brother Mark and steal attention from Du Pont. Dave feels so real and vital. Ruffalo is a great performer. This may not be his year, but he’ll be back at the Oscars many more times in his career.
Daniel: J.K. Simmons’ performance grabs you and doesn’t let go. When he enters the room for his first scene, the tension is unbearable. He commands authority from beginning to end. When Simmons’ Fletcher directs the ensemble, you want to beg the musicians to give him what he wants. When Miles Teller’s Andrew screws up, your stomach drops. Fletcher’s swagger and imposing physicality demands respect even without saying a word. Of course, he does speak, and he moves from a simple correction- “Not my tempo”- to pure rage- throwing a music stand at a student- in less than a minute. He’s of course the villain in this story, but in the end, the film questions whether he’s completely wrong. He’s intense and horrific to be sure, but not without a sympathetic side. It’s a wonderful and surprising performance, and what makes Whiplash fantastic. J.K. Simmons has my favorite performance of the year.
Tyler: This was another film with an actor whose performance was built-up a lot. However, in this case, Simmons does not disappoint–he won’t let you be disappointed. He’ll throw something at you if he feels that you’re not blown away. Simmons is an evil bully, whose psychopathic philosophy of excellence drives the people around him to tears, bone-breaking-bloody loyalty, public brawling, and suicide. From his first moment on screen, J.K. Simmons owns the film and, like Andrew, we are simply his pawns there to laud him.
Daniel: J.K. Simmons
Tyler: J.K. Simmons
Daniel: J.K. Simmons
Tyler: J.K. Simmons
Should’ve Been Here:
Daniel: Tom Wilkinson, Selma. As I said earlier, there aren’t a lot of excellent options for a deserving nominee, but Wilkinson really captured LBJ well.
Tyler: Christoph Waltz for Big Eyes. Like Amy Adams, Waltz’s performance has been lost in the noise of others, but he does an excellent job of playing the smarmy salesman turned sociopath.