Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Waltz

Like the Best Supporting Actress nominees, each of the Best Supporting Actor nominees has previously been nominated for at least one Academy Award.  One of the characteristics that sticks out among these nominees, though—these men have already accumulated a combined six Oscar wins and sixteen nominations prior to this year’s ceremony; moreover, each of these nominees has at least one Academy Award victory!  This is definitely an assemblage of actors with well-established careers in the film industry, and even though the lead actors usually get all of the hype, it is the supporting roles that steal the show this year.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

In Django Unchained, Christoph Waltz portrays Dr. King Schultz, a German-born bounty hunter that purchases a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), to assist him as he hunts down white slave-owners all across the South.  Ultimately, Dr. Schultz and Django go off seeking Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a slave-owner that took Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Just as he did in 2009, Christoph Waltz turns in an absolutely spectacular performance in his second Tarantino-directed production.  I have seen Waltz in a couple other American movies, and he truly does a great job; however, it seems Quentin Tarantino always gets the absolute best out of him for his movies.  I believe it has to do with the dialogue Tarantino creates for Waltz’s characters.  Just as in Inglourious Basterds, the character Waltz plays is exemplified by his specific diction and unwavering wit, along with a calm determination to always get what he seeks.  The opening scene of Django Unchained, just as in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds, is enough to rationalize awarding Christoph Waltz with this great honor of Best Supporting Actor.  Waltz was previously nominated and won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

In The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a religious cult known as “The Cause.”  Even though director Paul Thomas Anderson has not come right out and said it, it is highly inferred that Hoffman’s character is based off of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology; moreover, as the film plays out, “The Cause” begins to greatly resemble Scientology.  In the movie, Dodd and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) take in Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), and Lancaster attempts to make Freddie a believer and promoter of the philosophical movement.  Hoffman’s character seems to be calm and inquisitive in an almost calculated manner, and this behavior lends to the dark mystique surrounding Lancaster Dodd.  This film includes critically acclaimed showings from each of the three main characters, but Hoffman still finds a way to stand out in his own way.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Actor for his role in Capote (2005).

3. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

In Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones acts as Thaddeus Stevens, the real-life Republican Congressional leader and fanatical abolitionist.  Historically, Representative Stevens was one of the most influential figures in the Reconstruction Era.  He fought for the rights of all people in the United States, but his significant efforts towards abolishing slavery engulfed much of his political focus.  From the moment Jones appears on the screen, you are mesmerized by the passion and vivacity in his voice as he pushes President Lincoln to free the slaves, end the war, and unite the nation as one.  In a film that features Daniel Day-Lewis giving a superb performance as Abraham Lincoln, Jones holds his own and rightfully deserves this nomination.  Tommy Lee Jones was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fugitive (1993).

4. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

In Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro plays Pat Solitano, Sr., the father of the lead character, Pat, Jr. (Bradley Cooper).  When Pat Jr. returns home, he learns that his father has lost his job and is bookmaking in a desperate attempt to make some money with aspirations of starting a restaurant.  Pat Sr. suffers from OCD, and De Niro plays this disorder flawlessly, illustrating his character’s wild and crazy superstitions based around the Philadelphia Eagles football team.  In one of the year’s biggest films featuring bright performances from young stars like Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the veteran De Niro shows it does not take a serious, dramatic role for him to bring out the best in himself on the screen.  De Niro was previously nominated for six Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Best Actor for his role in Raging Bull (1980).

5. Alan Arkin (Argo)

In Argo, Alan Arkin portrays Lester Siegel, a film producer during the late 1970s.  Siegel, along with John Chambers (John Goodman) and CIA Operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), sets up a fake movie studio, creates full storyboards for the film and publicizes those plans, and makes the fictional film “Argo” seem like a full-fledged feature to help establish a credible story so that the covert operation to rescue six Americans stranded in Iran can be achieved successfully.  Even though Arkin gives a grand, witty performance in the film, I was surprised he received an Oscar nod because the character in my opinion lacked substance.  Alan Arkin was previously nominated for three Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Actors snubbed in this category: Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained) and Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 14 – The Master

The Master

The Master is a film written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson.  The movie follows Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a World War II veteran that returns home and struggles to establish a steady life outside of the military.  He eventually meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement, and Dodd, along with his wife Peggy (Amy Adams), accept Freddie into their group to help spread the word of “The Cause.”  Over time, however, the issues Freddie has with alcohol dependency and adapting to a post-war society create significant difficulties for the Dodd family’s advancement of “The Cause,” and Lancaster and Peggy attempt to use the ways of their teachings to help Freddie fix himself to become a disciple for their movement.

I have been a huge fan of P.T. Anderson’s films over the years, specifically Boogie Nights (1997) and There Will Be Blood (2007), so it was a given that I was going to go see this film in theaters shortly after its release during the summer.  Considering it took five years for Anderson to release his follow-up to There Will Be Blood, one of the most amazing movies of our time, I knew it was sure to be well thought out and intricately fascinating.  After the viewing the film, I instantly thought that Anderson had created a movie that was sure to receive some assortment of award nominations, but the over-complication of the plot made it something I, along with most viewers leaving the theater that day, was utterly confused by.

Given that the plot centers on the teachings of a post-war cult, it is no wonder that the film seemed rather disconnected and uninviting.  The beginning of the film started out strong—it truly seemed like P.T. Anderson’s latest film was going to be gloriously masterful, pun intended.  However, as the storyline fully came into focus, it only proceeded to drag on with exaggerated repetition.  Anderson created some downright complex characters, but by the end of the film, I did not feel like they had grown very much—it was like they all ended up right back where they began.

With all that being said, The Master is still a solid film.  In my opinion, the film is wholly carried by three stellar acting performances from the main characters.  In Phoenix’s first feature film since his fake retirement from acting a few years ago, he reminds us all why he has always been heralded as one of the best actors of his generation.  Philip Seymour Hoffman also turns in a fantastic performance in his role as the leader of the cult.  However, the brightest display of sheer acting ability came from Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd.  While she seems like an innocent and docile wife, the film, coupled with Adams’ amazing performance, reveals Peggy to be much more of a woman that pulls the strings from afar—I would argue that her character is the actual “master” that the title of the film implies.  If this film does not sound like it’s for you, at least give it a shot just to take in an astounding representation of acting by a stellar ensemble.  The Master is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.

Academy Award nominations for The Master:

Actor in a Leading Role (Joaquin Phoenix)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Philip Seymour Hoffman)

Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Adams)

The Master trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1O1vb9AUU