While the Best Actor category is generally where middle aged actors tend to thrive, supporting actor tends to lean more toward long-time veterans and young up-and-comers, and that is the case here except with a strong tendency towards the later. Four of the actors here are hip and trendy actors on the rise, while one is an under-appreciated veteran.
- Idris Elba- Beasts of No Nation: Idris Elba is a very trendy actor right now (which will be something of a theme among these nominees) but for good reasons. I don’t know that he’s necessarily been in his element in Hollywood blockbusters like Prometheus and Pacific Rim but having finally been given a better role he really thrives here. He nails his African accent and also shows a disturbing megalomania when coaxing children into becoming violent soldiers.
- Oscar Isaac- Ex Machina: Guillermo del Toro was recently quoted as saying “Oscar Isaac is a fucking gift from the gods,” which is a sentiment that a lot of the internet seems to be sharing this year. Honestly I’m worried that the dude might be veering towards over-exposure, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s shown some incredible range over the course of the last two years and some of his most fun work might have been as an arrogant tech mogul in Ex Machina where he initially seems like a bit of a douche but soon reveals himself to be a dangerously callous individual.
- Walton Goggins- The Hateful Eight: I’ve been familiar with Walton Goggins going back to his work on the TV show “The Shield” and it’s been very enjoyable to see him become increasingly prominent over the last decade and a half, but this is the first time that he really seemed like a movie star. Goggins plays a character who is clearly a racist Southerner but he doesn’t come off like some kind of hick stereotype and he completely holds his own in a room full of film veterans. There’s a real energy to his performance and the movie picks up noticeably whenever he’s on screen.
- Tom Hardy- The Revenant: A year or two ago Tom Hardy was where Oscar Isaac is today: someone who was held up as something of a god among thesbians. People have cooled on him a little and I wasn’t thrilled by the way he sort of sleepwalked through Mad Max: Fury Road, but he rekindled some of my faith in the guy with his work in The Revenant where he is actually a bit more transformative than Di Caprio is in some ways in the way he makes himself into a raspy voiced mountain man who comes off a bit more nuanced than he might have on paper.
- Harvey Keitel- Youth: Harvey Keitel is clearly the oldest of the nominees here and he’s really been pretty underappreciated over the years. Part of that the result of him having taken a few too many parts where he needed to yell at the top of his lungs. In Youth he’s a revelation in part because he’s allowed to lighten up and play an optimist who’s almost like a comic relief figure in a movie that actually has a decent amount of comedy to begin with.