What if I told you the following actors were nominated for their supporting performances this year?
Jacob Tremblay, Room
Oscaar Isaac, Ex Machina
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Nick Nolte, A Walk in the Woods
Before the nominations were official or #OscarsSoWhite started trending, the names above were at the top of my list. Not because they are older and whiter (which with the exception of Nick Nolte they are not), but because they surrendered themselves for their characters in ways that the personas of this year’s nominated supporting actors did not.
We’ve seen Sylvester Stallone play Rocky for DECADES. Moreover, we’ve seen Christian Bale as the flawed outsider (The Prestige, American Hustle, and The Machinist); Tom Hardy as the brooding dirt bag (Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road); Mark Ruffalo as the teddy bear (Avengers and Foxcatcher); and for those who have seen him on stage, the Tony & Olivier award-winning Mark Rylance as idiosyncratic in EVERYTHING. The point being, this year’s supporting nominees are actors playing the roles we expect to see them play and often enjoy, but let’s not confuse entertainment with artistic achievement.
While a similar argument can be made that Nick Nolte let himself go for Warrior and Off the Black, it’s hard for anyone who’s actually seen A Walk in the Woods not to concede that his performance isn’t hysterically funny and earnest in ways that Rylance’s repetitive attempts at levity in Bridge of Spies are not. Unfortunately, far more people saw Bridge of Spies than A Walk in the Woods. For similar reasons, more audiences saw Mark Ruffalo’s familiar turn as a vulnerable underdog in Spotlight rather than Idris Elba’s invincible warlord in Beasts of No Nation; Tom Hardy’s version of brooding rather than Benecio Del Toro’s; Christian Bale’s version of flawed rather than Oscaar Isaac’s; and aging Sylvester Stallone’s tiresome curtain call rather than Jacob Tremblay’s triumphant introduction.
It’s a shame. After all, supporting actors need support, too.
Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Who should win: Nick Nolte, A Walk in the Woods
Who should’ve been nominated: See Above