Let’s address the elephant in the room right away: yes, for the first time in Golden Stakes history I’ve nominated two performances from the same movie in a single category. Normally I avoid this kind of thing and I strongly considered bumping Carell to Best Actor as a path of least resistance, but I do genuinely consider it a supporting role (contrary to some other awards bodies) and ultimately decided to stick to my guns on that point.
- Ethan Hawke- Boyhood: Like I said when I discussed Patricia Arquette’s work on the same movie, anyone working under these circumstances deserves some credit. Just being able to pick up again on a character year in and year out can’t be easy, and Hawke seems to be especially skillful at making his character slowly evolve over the course of the film. What’s more, he’s got a pretty difficult role that requires him to kind of seem like an irresponsible fuck-up while still being likable and then evolving into a mellower person later in life.
- Steve Carell- Foxcatcher: All performances have context and more often than not you need to have seen an actor or actress in other movies before you really get a sense of what they’re doing to differentiate themselves in a particular role. Steve Carell’s work in Foxcatcher is a good example of this because it’s a role that is definitely meant to be a variation on his existing persona. There’s definitely some Michael Scott deep down somewhere in John Du Pont, but it’s clearly meant to be an exploration of the dark side of that persona which places it in a much more serious context. Carell does a great job of exploring this man’s dark psyche and with or without the nose manages to channel him without getting too bogged down in imitation.
- Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher: Where Steve Carrel was doing a bit of a riff on an existing onscreen persona, Ruffalo’s work in the same movie is a bit more transformative. I suppose this does play into a well-established Ruffalo skill (playing likeable people) but he really looks different than he usually does and carries himself differently than we’re used to. He has the difficult task of playing a tender family man while also being very macho and able to sort of unintentionally dominate Channing Tatem’s character both physically and emotionally.
- Josh Brolin- Inherent Vice: Ever since breaking out in No Country for Old Men Josh Brolin has been a strong if somewhat inconsistent actor. Whenever he tries to be a generic movie star he tends to fall flat on his face, but when he finds just the right role he can really knock one out of the park. This is just the right role. Playing the “square” cop who acts as a foil to Joaquin Phoenix’s hippie P.I., Brolin injects the film with a sort of dry comedy without even trying and lights up the screen whenever he’s in it.
- J.K. Simmons- Whiplash: I can’t say I had a whole lot of preconceived notions about what jazz professors were like before I saw Whiplash but J.K. Simmons’ work in the film presents a pretty convincing scenario in which they can be dictatorial drill sergeants. Simmons, an actor who usually lingers in the background of movies, is given a great chance to really let out his inner bulldog here and has a ton of presence onscreen. Additionally, he does a great job of conveying this character’s musical aptitude and pretends to conduct in very convincing fashion.