The Academy Awards are happening in only a few days, and man, has it shaped up to be one of the most depressing in a very long time. From the unexpected success of a terrible musical biopic directed by a vicious sexual predator, to the ceremony itself seemingly being handled by producers who are ashamed of the Oscars and want to pander to people who have never been interested in it, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few of you reading this prefer to just write this whole damned season off.
But just because the “official” Oscar season has gone off the rails doesn’t mean we can’t honor our own personal favorite cinematic achievements of 2018! This week, CC2K columnists Terence Johnson and Robert Hamer are sharing and discussing who they would have nominated if they had the power of an Academy voter.
Starting with last year’s best supporting actresses…
Robert: I knew we’d share some overlap, but I wasn’t expecting consensus between us on Danai Gurira! The odds of anyone from that ensemble getting Oscar-nominated was slim, but it’s surprising that she didn’t get as much “buzz” as, say, Michael B. Jordan.
Terence: Yes, I am surprised as well. Jordan had the showier antagonist role but Gurira was kind of the emotional core for me.
Robert: I agree. One of the hidden pleasures of Black Panther was how, despite T’Challa being the central protagonist, all of his closest confidantes were women of different generations and perspectives that he had to navigate. Okoye’s stubborn adherence to Wakandan traditionalism rubbing up against a usurper she knew to be a destructive force was, for me, the best example of Black Panther‘s more ambitious thematic aims.
Terence: Ryan Coogler and his crew really understood that making the women equal in story weight to T’Challa would pay dividends and it did. Gurira gets to do so much more than what a man would do in a similar role. She’s funny, tough, and gets one of the most emotional beats of the movie when she stands up to W’Kabi.
I see we also overlapped with Debicki. I’m glad she got a role worthy of the talent I noticed way back when she was in The Great Gatsby. That character could have easily slid into cliché but she found every ounce of humanity she could.
Robert: In a way, Debicki had a similar tightrope to walk among the fraught relationships she’s forced into across the span of her movie, from the philandering David expecting a measure of emotional and physical availability that he’s in no way willing to reciprocate to Veronica’s harsh and sometimes hypocritical judgment of her choices and circumstance, but with no initial sense of self beyond her own survival, and her self-actualization as the heist is planned and executed was exhilarating to witness. I’m glad she received some recognition from other awards bodies (though definitely not enough), but it’s sad to see her a victim of the Academy’s desire to “punish” movies struggling to turn a profit last year. Though if we want to talk about women being expected to invest emotional labor by the men in her life, with no desire from them to understand her wants and desires, poor Jun Jong-seo gets it worst of all in Burning.
Terence: Hae-mi has been described as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl by many and to some extent I agree. But I thought that Jong-seo sold that character’s quest for life and naïveté really well. You could tell that with the cosmetic surgery she had growing up and her trip to Africa that she had a desire to break free but ultimately she was surrounded by people who didn’t see it that way.
Robert: Burning definitely exposed some of my cultural ignorance. Her one-line remark about getting plastic surgery solely because one boy called her ugly in elementary school seemed so bizarrely offhand that I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Then I learned that South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world and such a decision is not unusual at all. I don’t know if I would describe her as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at all, if only because Lee Chang-dong makes all of those characters deliberately hard to get a read on.
Terence: I’m interested on your thoughts on Regina King. I liked her performance and If Beale Street Could Talk but something kept me from ultimately embracing it.
Robert: You’re going to see a lot of performances from that movie cited by me. I understand, on some level, the criticism of it as “arch” or “emotionally cold” (though I disagree), but the film’s showcase supporting performances are unimpeachable to me. One of my major criteria for what constitutes a great supporting performance is how well they interact with the principal cast. Her flawless chemistry with Charlize Theron in Tully is partially why I knew I had to include Mackenzie Davis in my final five, for example. King’s own ability to not only play off of but elevate Layne, Ellis, and especially her onscreen husband Domingo’s characters and reactions to the driving conflict of Fonny’s imprisonment and what it brings out of them is about as effective as any performance you’d expect to fit the definition of “supporting.” And that’s on top of how well she holds her own during the film’s admittedly only shaky extended stretch — her desperate excursion to Puerto Rico. Of the five women who made the Academy’s shortlist, it’s a no-brainer to me who should win later this month.
Terence: That’s totally valid and I definitely think she is ahead of the other women in her category. Unless Marina rides the love of Roma into a win. Speaking of women playing mothers, Jennifer Garner, to me, was the standout of the year in the same way many felt about Michael Stuhlbarg last year. Her lines about Simon finally getting to breathe bowled me over.
Robert: I had… problems, with Love, Simon. But I won’t deny that Jennifer Garner provides a warm, supportive presence recalling how great she was in Juno.
My film mom of the year is not, in the strictest sense, a “mother,” but for me Sakura Andô explores so much of what the idea of modern “motherhood” means in Shoplifters and how they fit within a family unit – even one as patchwork and haphazard as theirs – without sacrificing Nobuyo’s own idiosyncrasies. The way she clips through her snarky comebacks with ease but paces her more vulnerable confessional lines with an uncertain queasiness. Her heart opening up to people she instinctively knows probably shouldn’t be fully trusted, particularly Osamu, was a big part of what made Shoplifters hit so hard for me. She might even be my own personal winner. Who’s yours?
Terence: My personal winner is Garner, whose reliable warmness added something really special to Love, Simon. I’d say that Blake Lively was a very close runner-up as I found her work in A Simple Favor just delightful. Every time she was on screen in a new suit I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do next. But Garner’s work as a mom just lying in wait like a lion to say the right thing was perfection.
Robert: Poor Blake Lively got no real citations, but at least as consolation, she had the opportunity to rock those outfits from Renee Ehrlich Kalfus.
And, now, our favorite supporting work from the men of 2018…
Robert: Everything I have to say about Yeun’s tremendous, unsettling work in Burning I already laid out in my 100% unsuccessful last-minute FYC push from a few weeks back.
Terence: You have said pretty much everything I felt about that performance and what made it so great. Although I have to mention, I have never been more interested in the motivations behind someone yawning than I was with Yeun as Ben.
Your Beale Street double dip in this category is really fascinating cause it gets to the root of what a genuine supporting turn is. Henry in particular gets one of the best scenes from a film in 2018, although I still found that scene to be emblematic of the issues Jenkins had trying to adapt If Beale Street Could Talk. But Henry rises above in that moment.
Robert: Brian Tyree Henry is so good in just that one scene. He had a great year in general, with his also-excellent turns in Widows and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but to convey so much with so little screentime is a sign of a truly gifted actor.
Okay, so I have to admit I didn’t actually see Rampage. Which I hear is the best movie based on a video game ever? Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the bad guy, right?
Terence: It probably is the best video game movie but that is an incredibly low bar to clear. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a government agent, not the bad guy, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone having as much fun with a role as he is in Rampage. Even in dumb movies, which Rampage is, I love when actors realize the type of movie they’re in and give it their all. He is never not chewing the scenery as a Texan agent but I laughed at every joke and foolish line.
Robert: Funnier than Winston Duke’s “AHOO! AHOO! AHOO!” shutting down of put-upon white guy agent Ross (he went over big with the audience I saw Black Panther with in the theater, by the way)?
Terence: Funnier than that but not as funny as “One more word and I will feed you to my children… just kidding, we’re vegetarians.”
Robert: I feel like that’s what the world needs more of: guys like M’Baku just shutting down nonsense.
“That was not me in blackface in the yearbook photo, but I do remember wearing blackface and doing the moonwalk for-”
“ARE YOU DONE? ARE YOU DONE!?”
Terence: Winston Duke is the perfect litmus test for how modern audiences look at movies and only focus on celebs. Everyone was so on Michael B. Jordan and I’m like… Winston is right there! I mean he nearly stole Black Panther from out under everyone (only Danai and Leticia made as big of an impact).
Robert: Luckily, with his starring role in Jordan Peele’s upcoming nightmare, Winston Duke has a bright future ahead of him. Sadly, we’ll never see Anton Yelchin in another movie again.
Terence: I believe Thoroughbreds was the second-to-last movie he filmed and it really is sad how he died. As a Trollhunters and Star Trek fan, I was bummed to not get to see him get to show off more of his range, but I’m happy he gets a good showcase in Cory Finley’s dark comedy. He starts out as the ne’er do well dropout drug dealer and gets ensnared into a murder plot. I never thought I would feel bad for a guy like that but Anton really made my heart ache for this guy to not be brought into the shenanigans.
I have a lot of young actors in my field, like Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. who had one of the funniest line readings of the year in Love, Simon. You have two people with long careers, Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Alessandro Nivola in Disobedience on yours. I was not familiar with Grant at all until this year and am now trying to find more of his work because I feel so behind! It’s great that he’s Oscar nominated cause now people like me can dig into his work.
Robert: He’s one of those consistently reliable, delightful actors you’ve almost certainly seen at least a few times in the past in small supporting roles (he was one of the villains in Logan, for example) and I’m so overjoyed seeing him finally recognized by the Academy after an over three decade-long career. Especially for what I would cite as another example of a performance that is terrific precisely because it plays so well off of the lead. That he’s so visibly having a blast on social media over just being nominated takes the sting off the near-certainty that he and Sam Elliott will probably lose on Oscar night.
Seriously, what is going on with Best Supporting Actor this year? How did it get to this point? Why is Mahershala Ali so solidly the frontrunner? He already has one (so there’s no “Overdue!” narrative for him), it’s not a supporting role, and he looks visibly uncomfortable and ashamed every time he wins an award! He doesn’t even want to win! Can you explain this? Because I sure can’t.
Terence: I think he’s riding the wave of a movie people really like (regardless of what Film Twitter will tell you) and people genuinely L-O-V-E Mahershala now that we all know who he is. The controversies surrounding the movie might be helping him in a weird way because he apologized and looks contrite every time he wins. Most people don’t fault him for taking the job so he’s moving through unscathed. If anyone were to snatch it from him it would be Grant though. His joy at the nomination is infectious and not forced like a certain Lead Actor contender’s admission re: their fired director…
We both have a lot to say about the Best Lead Actor race, and the leading ladies of 2018, later this week. But for now, who gave your favorite supporting performances from last year? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Robert Hamer, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert Hamer is CC2K’s resident opinion columnist. In addition to being a self-centered 30 year-old white man living in northeastern suburbia who obsesses over movies and nerd culture ephemera, he also works to ensure Donald Trump does not succeed in permanently destroying the United States.