As of Monday, Oscar ballots have been sent out, online voting (for the first time ever) is underway, and the endgame of the 2012 awards season approaches. And thanks to the cottage industry of awards predictions and precursors, the narrative is already in place. If you've been talked up as an Oscar contender for the last several months, if you've already been anointed by critics groups or the Golden Globes, then you're seriously in the race. If not, then you should probably make other plans for that Sunday in February.
The Academy is not great at thinking outside the box; there's a sense that a vote for a curveball candidate is a vote wasted. But we wish that wasn't the case, as there's plenty of films and performances that deserve a second look but may not have the money or momentum behind them to get noticed. And so, over the next few days, we're going to highlight some of them, starting today with the supporting performances. If you're an Academy voter, we'd urge you not to overlook the names below, and if not, and you haven't seen the films, it's just one reason to check them out. Let us know who'd be on your own ballots in the comments section below. And follow all our 2012 For Your Consideration pieces here.
Probably because of the deadpan, understated nature of most of the performances, no actor has ever been nominated for appearing in a Wes Anderson film. No Bill Murray in "Rushmore," no Gene Hackman in "The Royal Tenenbaums," no Willem Dafoe in "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," no Adrien Brody in "The Darjeeling Limited." For the first time, it looks like Anderson has a chance of cracking the Best Picture field with "Moonrise Kingdom," but despite the film's pitch-perfect cast, including both Anderson veterans and newcomers, it doesn't look likely that any actors will follow. Which is a shame, because we think that two of those first-time visitors to Wes World, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, are particularly deserving. Between this and "Looper," Willis had a good year, but his lonely, lovelorn sheriff in "Moonrise Kingdom," who finds a new lease on life as a surrogate father to the orphaned Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), is one of the best, warmest and most atypical performances he's ever given. Meanwhile, Norton, who's had a quiet couple of years ("Leaves of Grass," "Stone," "Pride And Glory" -- all disappearing without much of a trace) featured as Scout Master Randy Ward, another lonely soul who, while a touch priggish and uptight, cares more than anything about his charges and finds himself at the risk of being relieved of his command. Again, it's a very different kind of performance from the actor, but easily his most memorable in years. If rumors are correct, Norton will be back for Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel" next year, and we hope that Willis finds his way into the director's rep company soon as well.
We have to say, we weren't quite sold last year on "Another Earth," or on the idea that its co-writer/star Brit Marling was the next great force in American cinema, as some predicted after her double bill of offbeat sci-fi movies debuted at Sundance in January 2011. Not that she wasn't good in the film -- she was -- but it didn't quite seem to suggest the greatness we'd been promised. But we were eating crow by the time that we caught up with the other part of that dual salvo, the Zal Batmanglij-directed "Sound of My Voice" earlier this year. In the taut, firmly original little sci-fi picture (which the actress co-wrote), Marling plays Maggie, a mysterious young woman confined to a California basement (seemingly to protect her weakened immune system from diseases), who has something close to a cult springing up around her. Maggie claims to have traveled back in time from the year 2054 to help prepare a select band for the terrible future that comes, and much of the film hinges on whether she's telling the truth, or on whether she, as leads Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) suspect, is delusional or deliberately lying. And aside from her excellent script, Marling is absolutely terrific in the role, expertly picking up the charisma and the force of personality that inspires strangers to follow her blindly, while keeping the reality of Maggie's world smartly ambiguous. The film made virtually no box office impact, so the chances of it being on Academy voters' radars are absolutely zero (though Marling was nominated for a Spirit Award). But if we had our way, it's certainly a performance that would be on our ballot.