Continuing my personal 2021 Oscar rundown, today I’m focusing on the men I would recognize for Best Supporting Actor.
Again, I have five runners-up who wold make fine nominees in their own right. Those are David Alvarez (West Side Story), Robin De Jesus (Tick, Tick… Boom!), Coleman Domingo (Zola), Mike Faist (West Side Story), and Ciaran Hinds (Belfast).
And the nominees are…
Jason Isaacs – Mass
Isaacs is heartbreaking as the father of a boy killed in a school shooting, bottling up his anger and grief behind a polite facade, afraid of where he’ll go if he sheds his armor.
Isaacs has dozens of screen credits, but before this I knew him only as Harry Potter‘s Lucius Malfoy. If only this extraordinary work could be seen by a fraction as many people.
Troy Kotsur – CODA
As the father in CODA‘s close-knit family, a deaf man who needs his hearing daughter as much as she needs him, Kotsur is delightfully profane and endearingly tender.
The authenticity he brings to this role is the best argument for inclusive casting. But, as he has pointed out many times in interviews, he is not a deaf actor, but an actor who happens to be deaf. A great actor, at that.
If all goes well, Kotsur will take home the Oscar for this role, following his recent win at the SAG awards.
Anders Danielsen Lie – The Worst Person in the World
Lie, a medical doctor who maintains his daily practice between acting gigs, was new to me before this year, when he impressed in both Worst Person and Bergman Island.
As the older boyfriend of Renate Reinsve’s Julie, Lie is alternately endearing, supportive and frustratingly obtuse.
Then, after an unexpected third act development, he delivers a devastating monologue that reduced this Gen X blogger to a gelatinous mass.
Woody Norman – C’mon C’mon
Great child performances have become more common lately, as young actors have shedded precocious staginess for something more heartfelt and genuine.
Even so, I can’t remember the last time a kid was as effortlessly natural as Woody Norman in C’mon C’mon. “Effortless” is the wrong word, of course (I just learned he’s a Brit who had to perfect an American accent for this part), but it sure feels that way.
Playing off of no less an actor than Joaquin Phoenix, Norman doesn’t miss a beat. I felt like these two were living on outside the frame of this movie.
Jeffrey Wright – The French Dispatch
Crazy stat: No actor has ever been Oscar-nominated for a Wes Anderson film. Not Bill Murray in Rushmore, not Gwyneth Paltrow or Gene Hackman in Rushmore, not Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
And this year, not Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, despite his lovely turn as the James Baldwin-inspired Roebuck Wright, who anchors the film’s third (and best) installment.
Wright delivers the film’s most poignant moments with quiet dignity, zeroing in on the soul of not just his character, but the whole movie. His presence here feels like a gift.
And the winner is… Jeffrey Wright. He and this film have been sadly overlooked, but he’ll get his due here.
Strange, I’ve seen that face before
Seen him hanging ’round my door
Like a hawk stealing for the prey
Like the night waiting for the day
Strange, he shadows me back home
Footsteps echo on the stones
Rainy nights, on Haussmann Boulevard
Parisian music drifting from the bars
Tu cherches quoi, rencontrer la mort?
Tu te prends pour qui?
Toi aussi tu detestes la vie
Dance in bars and restaurants
Home with anyone who wants
Strange he’s standing there alone
Staring eyes chill me to the bone
Dans sa chambre, Joel et sa valise
Un regard sur ses fringues
Sur les murs, des photos
Sans regret, sans mélo
La porte est claquée, Joel est barré
I’m team Kotsur all the way! I am glad Plemmens was recognized and would be happy if he won, though I prefer it be for a movie I liked more than Power of the Dog.
I’ve only seen one of your favorite five performances in this category, having abandoned The French Dispatch during the second chapter. Your praise of Wright makes me want to go back and finish it.
Of the films I saw, Mike Faist would absolutely have a spot. He commanded the screen in West Side Story despite much competition. His was perhaps my favorite performance in a film filled to the brim with amazing acting, dancing and singing.
Next, CODA’s Troy Kotsur would take a slot for all the reasons you note above. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, his desire to be the anchor for his family is palpable.
Third, I’d recognize Jon Bernthal for his role as the Williams’ sisters best and most patient coach. His interactions with both every member of the family but especially Will Smith’s King Richard earn him his spot.
I couldn’t stop raving about Caleb Landry’s work as the improbably human robot in Finch, so there’s no way I’m overlooking him for an “Amy.”
For my final selection, I’m torn. I could easily give it to Andrew Garfield for Spider-Man/Eyes or Ben Affleck in The Tender Bar or Timothy Chalamet who reminded me how good he is in Don’t Look Up or Adam Driver for his turns in either House of Gucci or The Last Duel (or, belatedly, any of the Star Wars films 😜),
Or, very nearly, to Kelvin Harrison, Jr for his portrayal of a tender and sweet Christian. That character is too often portrayed as stupid, and The kindness Harrison brings to the role adds such gravity to this “triangle.” I’d loved his work in Luce, The High Note, and, especially Waves, but none of those films prepared me for what he did in Cyrano.
Instead, my final nomination goes to… Alex Wolf for his understated but devastating performance in Pig.
Though I’ve confused him with his brother Nat more than once and haven’t seen his work in horror films such as Old and Hereditary, I was incredibly moved and sometimes annoyed by his character, just as I should have been. He held the screen despite sharing it with an actor (Cage) who could have easily dwarfed him. Together, they created one of the most unlikely and poignant friendships captured on screen.
All great picks. Bernthal, in particular, has never failed to elevate any movie he’s in.
Wow love this comment!! I haven’t seen Finch, but agree with everything else you’ve said here. 🙂
Having seen French Dispatch the whole way through, I’d be more inclined to nominate Brody than Wright. But I won’t die on that hill, I don’t think the movie was an acting tour de force for anyone :p
Also didn’t even realize Kelvin was the same actor from Waves!!! WOW
Interesting comments about fine actors. Guess I’ll go with Jeffrey Wright or Kotsur for all the reasons you outlined above and my own thoughts. Although I have to confess that if Ben Affleck wins I will have a huge smile on my face 😊