Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Oscars Hindsight Project: 2005

Previously: 1990, 1995, 2000

This post is a continuation of a post Roommate Mark started over at The Critical Condition. If you haven't already been there, click on over to read about the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. I'll continue with the supporting categories below...

Best Supporting Actor
1. Jake Gyllenhaal – Brokeback Mountain
2. Matt Dillon – Crash
3. William Hurt – A History of Violence
4. George Clooney – Syriana (WON OSCAR)
5. Paul Giamatti – Cinderella Man

Joe: When these nominations were first announced, I remember thinking this category was especially uninspired. Here's an awards-watching secret from me to you: Supporting Actor very often is uninspired -- I'm sure there's something to be said that traditionally the strongest roles come in Lead Actor and Supporting Actress. But even given that general expectation, these nominees haven't aged especially well. Syriana is a good movie, one that boasts more than just one award-worthy supporting performance. Unfortunately, those are given by Matt Damon and Alexander Siddig. It's not that Clooney was bad, it's just that he was so obviously ushered up to that podium because of a dearth of better options and Hollywood's impatience to honor their new Cary Grant. The sad part is that if Academy members had simply held off for a few years, they could've rewarded him for work that truly was his best (Michael Clayton) or at least most representative of the movie star he is (Up in the Air).

I pretty much have to put Gyllenhaal up at #1, even if it feels like cheating considering he's not AT ALL a "supporting" actor in that movie. But his is the only character in this lineup who we'll remember in fifty years -- hell, he might be the only character we remember NOW. Matt Dillon's character is basically "Concentrated Racist, Just Add Water," but I'll give it to him that he managed to rise above the 35 other actors in that movie to get noticed. Crash may be known more in infamy (in some circles -- I realize it's got its supporters, misguided though they are), but it's still something of a cultural touchstone.

Even five years later I steadfastly DO NOT GET the fuss over William Hurt's glorified cameo in A History of Violence. This thin, thin slice of overly-accented ham swept the New York and Los Angeles critics awards? For taking what had been a tense, menacing movie and grinding the gears nearly to a halt? I feel like my own antipathy for the performance will keep it more prominent in my memory than some of the other performances in this category, but it distresses me that this gets to be the "critics' choice" of the group.

As for Giamatti, what can you say? This was so obviously a make-up nomination, it's barely worth mentioning. Snubbed for Sideways the year before -- for a performance that was actually challenging and interesting and impressive -- he instead got thrown a bone for this role that any number of actors could've pulled off to similar effect. What a shocker that nobody talks about this movie -- much less this performance -- today. Overall Grade in Retrospect: C-

Mark's response: We're agreed here, especially about Hurt. I remember that performance really vividly, but only because it felt so out of place. It was a grotesque clown show in an otherwise taut thriller.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Amy Adams --- Junebug
2. Michelle Williams --- Brokeback Mountain
3. Rachel Weisz --- The Constant Gardener (WON OSCAR)
4. Frances McDormand --- North Country
5. Catherine Keener --- Capote

If Amy Adams had gone the way of Kathleen Quinlan, then her nomination might be in last place. Instead, it retrospectively seems like one of the shrewdest decisions the Academy ever made, plucking an unknown out of a super-small indie and honoring her just months before she became a major star. You could argue, even, that this nomination made Enchanted possible, because it put Adams on everyone's radar. From there, of course, you get a star who's nabbed three nominations in six ceremonies, shown a rare combination of range and likability, and managed to slough off Leap Year like it was an ill-fitting beach wrap.

Just paces behind in second place, Michelle Williams' performance in Brokeback is still memorable both for its devastating honesty and for transforming the actress from Dawson's friend into a bona fide indie darling. I can remember walking out of the theatre and, after I stopped crying and loving every second of the movie, thinking that I really had to reevaluate my opinion of this Michelle Williams lady. Any nomination that predicts Blue Valentine and Wendy and Lucy is alright by me.

As for Weisz... I'd say this is the most forgettable of the last ten years. The movie itself is solid but uninspiring, and five years later, it hasn't done much to boost Weisz's career. It's only because she won the Oscar, in fact, that I can generally remember her performance, but when I'm staving off boredom by naming all the acting winners of the last twenty years, this is one I always have to struggle with.

Meanwhile, if I'm being honest, I can see putting McDormand's capable performance in a crappy movie in last place, but I must, must put Keener in the gutter because in all my years of Oscar-watching, this is one of the nominations I least understand. What the hell did Keener do as Harper Lee that was so damned interesting? She just stood around looking prim while Philip Seymour Hoffman and Clifton Collins, Jr. tore shit up. I'd nominate her for 2005's The 40 Year Old Virgin before I tapped her for this, because at least in that movie, her character had a strong point of view. When it comes to performances that deserve to be remembered, I can't even remember if I forgot Keener's take on Harper Lee. Overall Grade in Retrospect: B

Joe's Response: One of my favorite Supporting Actress fields ever, even with the Keener nod; I agree with everything you say about her performance, but I like her so much that I'm willing to let it slide. (Still, it's a shame that the likes of Maria Bello in A History of Violence, Shirley MacLaine in In Her Shoes or Laura Linney in The Squid and the Whale couldn't have gotten in here instead.) And while I agree that Adams and Williams are 1 and 2 in this field, I seriously love Rachel Weisz, both in The Constant Gardener and elsewhere (The Brothers Bloom, people!). No shade on my girl, y'hear?


Claire said...

Joe, I am SO glad to see you throwing some support behind Rachel Weisz; to this day, I still consider Constant Gardner one of the best-cast book to screen adaptations and she was a really big part of that.

RJ said...

Allow me to echo the love for Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener. She was hands down my favorite that year.

But I wasn't really over the moon for Brokeback Mountain like most people, so what do I know? Jake Gyllenhaal really didn't do it for me in that movie. I thought Ledger and Williams were miles above Hathaway and him. Hell, I thought Linda Cardellini was too.

Carrie Ann said...

Ugh, looking at that Supporting Actor category is making me mad on behalf of Clifton Collins, Jr. all over again. That performance is incredible, and PSH's performance is better for it.

What's worse is that it wasn't even a snub. His name was just never really mentioned as a contender, and he wasn't nominated anywhere - not even the Independent Spirit Awards. I feel like that was just a case of poor PR.

Anonymous said...

Rachel Weisz win was the best win of that year, in fact, her work on that film holds up better than the others in that category and still wows to this day.

"five years later, it hasn't done much to boost Weisz's career."

You have not seen much of Weisz's work then if you say that or you just might have a personal problem with her. Check out Agora, which she was amazing in and The Brothers Bloom which she should have gotten another nomination for.

Josh said...

It might sound weird, but I have to say I felt such relief reading your comments about William Hurt's performance. He garnered such praise for this roll and it made me feel crazy for hating it so much! His scenes completely ruined the entire movie for me. What a total scenery-chewing mess. It was like Laura Linney's weird out-of-place last moments of Mystic River, but 10x longer and with extra cheese.

Joe Reid said...

Shout out for Clifton Collins Jr.! He was easily in my top 5 supporting performances of that year, and I am similarly flummoxed that he got NO residual love from Capote's Academy run.

Bmo said...

Adding yet a voice at the general (and specific: Bloom) Weisz-love.