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