The Supporting actor category is typically the domain of character actors playing either sidekicks or villains, and sure enough there are two villains nominated here, but there’s another trend as well. This year we’ve seen a surprising number of good supporting performances from people playing fathers, father-figures, and mentors. I’m not sure why this is but it’s an interesting trend just the same.
- Christopher Plummer- Beginners: Christopher Plummer is one of those Shakespearian type veteran actors who can be easy to give a pass to and just as easy to take for granted. Often these actors will play wise men of authority, but here we see Plummer playing a frail dying man who is looking back at the mistakes he made in his life. Usually characters like this are depressed King Lear types, but in this case Plummer is playing a character who is relieved to finally be finding some happiness.
- Viggo Mortensen- A Dangerous Method: When playing historical figures, actors often go out of their way to imitate the mannerisms and appearances of their characters, but Viggo Mortensen bravely chooses not to do that in A Dangerous Method. Instead he makes the character of Sigmund Freud a character all his own; he turn him into a brilliant but prideful man prone to snap judgments and egotistical errors, yet still the one who’s usually right.
- Choi Min-sik- I Saw the Devil: Choi Min-sik rose to prominence in the west as the protagonist of the awesome Park Chan-Wook film Oldboy, where he played a troubled but mostly sympathetic man seeking revenge. He does a 360 here, playing a psychotic killer. Min-sik doesn’t play this killer as some kind of icy murderer; rather he plays him like a sort of blue collar everyman who just so happens to think that murdering and dismembering women is a fun thing to do. The result is that he manages to simultaneously seem human and monstrous.
- John Hawkes- Martha Marcy May Marlene: John Hawkes is kind of a funny looking guy, and you’d think he would have type-casted himself by now, but he continues to show an amazing amount of range. In 2009 he gained acclaim for playing a similarly blue-collar villain type, but he’s really much different here. While Teardrop was more or less a thug, Patrick is more of a spidery schemer, one who may or may not believe his own hype. Hawkes does a great job of keeping the character ambiguous rather that a clichéd slimeball.
- Brad Pitt- Tree of Life: For all his esoteric touches, Terrence Malick has never shied away from casting major celebrities in his films. In fact every single one of his movies is loaded with A-list celebrities or young actors who have gone on to become A-list celebrities. This time his celebrity of choice was Brad Pitt, who rises to the occasion perfectly playing a larger than life father figure to the film’s main character who is played by a variety of actors at different ages.